From the World Today, of the ABC
Ex the Paula Kruger report Wednesday, September 22, 2010 12:20:00
ELEANOR HALL: As Immigration officials deal with another rooftop protest, there are reports that a former Fijian prime minister tried to intervene in the asylum claim of Josefa Rauluni. Mr Raulini jumped to his death from the roof of the detention centre on Monday morning. The Immigration Department says it can't confirm any of the details of his case other than that he had exhausted all his rights of appeal. But friends of Mr Rauluni say he had a fear of persecution because of his support for a pro-democracy group. Paula Kruger has more.
PAULA KRUGER: The Australian newspaper is today reporting that deposed Fijian prime minister, Laisenia Qarase (pictured), wrote a letter to the Refugee Review Tribunal last year, stating that Josefa Rauluni faced danger if he returned to Fiji.
This morning on AM the Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, could shed little light on that claim.
CHRIS BOWEN: No I can't confirm it, and I can't comment on the individual case - there'll be a police investigation. What I can say, is that the gentleman's concerned, the gentleman concerned, had exhausted his right of appeal.
So there's an extensive appeal mechanism, he'd been through all the relevant tribunals, and then processes were put in place to deport him back to Fiji.
I understand that emotions run very high when it comes to asylum claims, but it is down to our officials and our tribunals to determine the cases on all the facts before them, and there will be from time to time people making representations - quite senior people - to the Department, to the tribunals.
And the Department and the tribunals have to weigh that up based on all the facts that they have before them. Over and above that I can't comment on any individual case.
PAULA KRUGER: The Minister also says he will not intervene in the case of Mr Rauluni's nephew who is also reportedly in the Villawood Detention Centre.
A spokeswoman for the Refugee Tribunal says it could not confirm whether it had received a letter from Laisenia Qarase because it is legally bound not to comment on individual cases.
There has been relatively little coverage of the case in the Fijian media, but an editorial in the Fiji Sun newspaper today expressed sympathy over the death of 36-year-old Josefa Rauluni.
But it also said that life is normal in Fiji and the man's life was not in danger.
FIJI SUN EDITORIAL (voiceover): What makes it sad is the untrue picture the Australian media is trying to put out about Fiji. There were claims that Mr Rauluni, who was an advocate for democracy, feared for his life if he was to return to his homeland. These claims are not true at all. Life in Fiji is normal. People are going about their daily lives without any fear of attacks, or any form of victimisation.
PAULA KRUGER: The editorial also says there was no need for the Government to go after anyone because its focus is on useful issues that bring about nation building. But it seems that is not what Mr Rauluni believed.
Before his death he had confided in Usaia Waqatairewa, the Sydney based president of the Fiji Democracy and Freedom Movement. He says Mr Rauluni had a reasonable fear of not only persecution, but also prosecution, because he had joined the Fiji Democracy and Freedom Movement.
USAIA WAQATAIREWA: There is a certain decree that now exists in Fiji that the military regime has introduced called the decree number 44 of 2009, which criminalises making statements against the Government, and anybody who has been, who is suspected of having committed that offence of Decree number 44 will be summarily charged, and there's a mandatory sentence depending on which offence they've been found guilty of, of either seven or 15 years in jail.
It doesn't matter whether it's made in Fiji or in an overseas territory, they will be prosecuted - not persecuted, they’ll be prosecuted - under this decree if they return to Fiji.
PAULA KRUGER: Mr Waqatairewa says Josefa Rauluni was only seeking temporary asylum because he believed it would be safe to return to Fiji at a later date.
ELEANOR HALL: Paula Kruger reporting.