#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: 2010-03-07

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Leading by example or flogging lies?

It's been a time of  preaching by the interim government.

Top brass and Commodore Frank Bainimarama have been quick this week to both remind Fiji citizens of the virtues of staying on the straight and narrow and to say they lead by example.

In the aftermath of the conviction and the sentencing of the Guilty Eight, Land Force Commander, Brigadier-General Pita Driti, said people should never interfere with the rule of law.

Referring to former special forces soldiers Feoko Gadekibau, Barbados Mills, Eparama Waqatairewa, Kaminieli Vosavere and Pauliasi Ramulo, Driti said: “This group of men had wronged their loyalty to higher command in 2000 and they have again wronged but this time with misdirected loyalty, in other words, they were loyal to the wrong group”.

Driti said “forgiveness is always there for these boys, especially if they had proven to us that they were remorseful”.

Fiji Military Forces Chief-of-Staff Brigadier-General, Mohammed Aziz, was another at pains to present squeaky clean. In confirming that ten Fiji Military Forces instructors had been sacked for having sexual relations with female cadets, Aziz said they had to go because the military must lead by example. “We will make sure that we maintain discipline in the force,” he said.

Self-appointed prime minister and military leader, Frank Bainimarama, was quick to jump on the bandwagon saying any civil servants found engaging in extra-marital affairs would also be sacked:  “We will not tolerate such behaviour from those employed by Government."

Not to be outdone, police hierarchy sought to persuade the rank and file to apply the Jesus standard in their work. The Jesus Strategy was introduced last year by Police Commissioner, Commodore Esala Teleni.

Two senior officers this week said officers should strive to be like Jesus, saying the Son of God was not lazy and did not lie. One of them attributed the drop in crime to Teleni's strategy and Christian Crusades. 

In the case of VitiFM and its talk back show on the Crime Degree and gay marriage, the Information Ministry is clearly out for blood. Lieutenant Colonel Neumi Leweni wants an investigation and broadcast media must also submit talk show topics a week ahead.

No doubt VitiFM will be in for severe flogging for 'misleading the public and causing instability.' All very Old Worlde and Talebanish falsities from people with feet of clay.

Leweni says talk backs still violating PER

The Fiji Broadcasting Corporation says a new edict has come down from the Ministry of Information and it's that all broadcast media teams now have to forward their talkback show topics one week in advance of the show going to air.

FBC says the edict came from Lieutenant Colonel Neumi Leweni (pictured  left) on Thursday. Leweni is quoted as saying the government continues to have concerns over talkback shows hosted by local radio and television stations, as some of the topics selected have directly contravened the Public Emergency Regulations.

The new edict follows a news item on same sex marriage aired on VitiFM, which Leweni has asked the police to investigate.

Leweni believes the item wrongly stated the new Crime Decree had approved gay marriage and says the station could've easily created instability.

Coupfourpointifve understands print media is working under similar restrictions. One paper was this week kept waiting as censors went through copy wth a knife, slashing even letters in support of the gay community and a piece on population economics by Wadan Narsey.

Reports say Rinakama released

It's being reported Peceli Rinakama has been released from custody.

Coupfourpointfive has been unable to verify the report for itself but a Fiji police spokesperson is being quoted as saying he was held for five days and was charged with violating public emergecy regulations before being allowed to go home.

The military and interim government have both refused to say anything else about Rinakama's release or the reasons for him being taken into custody in the first place.

Coupfourpointifve revealed on Tuesday that Rinakama was taken the Friday before after he'd gone to the home of his high chief from Naitasiri, Ratu Inoke Takivekata, following his sentencing for being found guilty of conspiring to kill Frank Bainimarama.

It's believed Rinakama could not hold back his emotions and anger at the way his chief was arrested, charged and sentenced to prison, that he verbally lashed out at soldiers gathered outside the Suva High Court complex following the sentencing.

He was arrested a short time later at the home of Takaveikata, in Toorak, Suva.

More of the US Dept's human rights report

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The law provides for an independent judiciary, but during the year the government interfered with judicial independence in practice.

The judicial structure is patterned on the British system. The principal courts are the magistrates' courts, the High Court, the Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court. Except for the Family Court, Employment Court, and various administrative tribunals, there are no special civilian courts. Military courts try members of the armed forces.

On April 9, a panel of three judges of the Court of Appeal ruled that the 2006 military coup was unlawful, and that the appointment of Bainimarama as prime minister in 2007, and the appointment of his interim cabinet, were unconstitutional.

In response, on April 10, President Ratu Josefa Iloilo signed a decree that abrogated the constitution and terminated the appointments of all judicial officers appointed under the provisions of that constitution. The courts closed for three weeks and reopened on a limited basis at the end of May after the government made initial appointments to the lower courts. In June and July, high court judges were appointed. Due to a shortage of judges, some high court judges also were appointed to serve concurrently on the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, with different individual justices hearing a case referred from one of these higher courts to another. Sittings of the higher courts were deferred, leading to an even greater backlog of cases. The chief registrar also was dismissed and replaced by an army lawyer who was made a magistrate in 2007.

The Administration of Justice Decree of April 16, which reestablished the courts, prohibits all tiers of the judiciary from considering cases relating to the 2006 coup; all acts of the interim government between December 4, 2006 and April 9, 2009; the abrogation of the constitution on April 10; and all government decrees. The military-appointed chief registrar issued termination certificates for all such pending cases.

The government had difficulty reconstituting the judiciary, leading to complaints those appointed after the April dismissal of the existing judiciary were not properly qualified, especially in such complex areas of the law as commercial and contract law. Women's NGOs also asserted that some new magistrates made inappropriate comments and exercised poor judgment in domestic violence and sexual assault cases, and that because of media censorship under the PER, the public was not informed about the mistakes made by these magistrates.

On July 16, the government dismissed the chief magistrate after he protested the firing of another magistrate earlier the same month. On December 2, the government appointed the chief registrar to serve concurrently as chief magistrate. On December 30, the government dismissed as "threats to national security" the assistant director of public prosecutions (DPP) and three more junior prosecutors. Also on December 30, the government dismissed the acting DPP and replaced him with a former soldier and FICAC prosecutor. On the same day, the government terminated, with 24 hours' notice, the contracts of three magistrates it had appointed after the April abrogation of the constitution. While the government gave no reasons for the terminations, there were media reports that one of the magistrates had criticized FICAC for prosecuting a critic of the regime for an alleged restaurant licensing violation (see section 4).

After the constitution was abrogated, the chief registrar also assumed responsibility for prosecuting lawyers for disciplinary breaches before a government-appointed judge. Civil society organizations criticized these additional duties as infringing on the independence of the judiciary.

The government continued to prohibit an International Bar Association (IBA) delegation from visiting the country to evaluate the independence of the judiciary. The government also reiterated its refusal to allow the UN special rapporteur on the independence of judges to visit the country for the same purpose. On March 3, the IBA's Human Rights Institute released a report criticizing the government for taking measures "to influence, control or intimidate the judiciary and the legal profession."

Trial Procedures

The abrogated constitution provides for the right to a fair trial. Defendants have the right to a public trial and to counsel, and the court system generally enforced these rights in practice during the year. The Legal Aid Commission, supplemented by voluntary services of private attorneys, provided free counsel to some indigent defendants in criminal cases. Most cases were heard in the magistrates' courts, but a case cannot be tried in a magistrate's court without the defendant's consent. Absent such consent, cases are tried in the High Court. Trials in the High Court provide for the presence of assessors, typically three, who are similar to jurors but only advise the presiding judge. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and may question witnesses, present evidence on their own behalf, and access government-held evidence relevant to their cases. The right of appeal exists but often was hampered by delays in the process.

The law extends these rights to all citizens.

The military court system provides for the same basic rights as the civilian court system, although bail is granted less frequently in the military system.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of political prisoners or long-term political detainees. Police detained for short periods and questioned a number of journalists and others critical of the government.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
lthough the law provides for an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, the judiciary is prohibited by decree from considering lawsuits relating to the 2006 coup, subsequent actions by the interim government, the abrogation of the constitution, and subsequent military decrees. In the event of a human rights violation, under the constitution an individual also could complain to the Fiji Human Rights Commission (FHRC). Although the government decreed that the FHRC could continue to exist following the constitution's abrogation, it issued a decree on May 20 prohibiting the FHRC from investigating cases filed by individuals and organizations alleging government violations of the constitution and of human rights.

Editor's Note: The full report can be found at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/index.htm

Friday, March 12, 2010

US State Department releases report on Fiji Human Rights Practices

The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor has released its 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. The bureau filed reports on a number of countries; the following is the first part of the lengthy document it released on Fiji.

Fiji is a republic with a population of approximately 837,000. The 1997 constitution provided for a ceremonial president selected by the Great Council of Chiefs and an elected prime minister and Parliament. However, in 2006 the armed forces commander, Commodore Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama, overthrew the elected government in a bloodless coup d'etat. In 2007 the interim military government was replaced by a nominally civilian interim government headed by Bainimarama as prime minister. Bainimarama and his Military Council controlled the security forces.

On April 9, the Court of Appeal declared the coup and the interim government unlawful. On April 10, the government abrogated the constitution, imposed a state of emergency, and began to rule by decree.

Bainimarama's de facto government denied citizens the right to change their government peacefully. In April the de facto government dismissed the entire judiciary and replaced it with its own appointees. It censored and intimidated the media and restricted freedom of speech and the right to assemble peacefully. Other problems during the year included police and military impunity; poor prison conditions; attacks against religious facilities; the dismissal of constitutionally appointed government officials, as well as elected mayors and town councils; government corruption; deep ethnic divisions; violence and discrimination against women; and sexual exploitation of children.

Public Emergency Regulations (PER), initially promulgated April 10 for a three-month period, were repeatedly extended and remained in effect at year's end.

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings during the year.

In March trials were held for military personnel and police officers charged in the 2007 deaths of Nimilote Verebasaga and Sakiusa Rabaka. Eight soldiers and one police officer were convicted of manslaughter in the Rabaka case and sentenced to four years' imprisonment. The lone soldier charged in the death of Verebasaga also was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to three years and three months in prison. However, in May all those convicted in the Rabaka case were released from prison after serving only six weeks of their sentences. The soldier convicted in the Verebasaga case also was released, after serving only two weeks of his sentence. All 10 subsequently were reinstated in the military and police forces. The permanent secretary for information, Lieutenant Colonel Neumi Leweni, asserted that the Prisons Act gave the commissioner of prisons the discretion to allow release of prisoners under compulsory supervision orders for good behavior.

b. Disappearance
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
While the abrogated constitution prohibits such practices, the security forces did not always respect this prohibition in practice. The PER authorize the government to use whatever force is deemed necessary to enforce PER provisions.

The military in some cases assisted the Fiji Independent Commission against Corruption (FICAC) to investigate allegations of corruption, and there were reports members of the military detained and assaulted civilians to obtain evidence in corruption cases.

Amnesty International reported that security forces beat politician Iliesa Duvuloco and several other men detained in April for distributing political pamphlets critical of the government (see section 2.a.) and forced them to perform military-type drills.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions did not meet international standards. The national prison system was seriously underfunded, with deteriorating infrastructure and poor delivery of essential services. The system had insufficient beds, inadequate sanitation, and a shortage of basic necessities. There were a large number of prison escapes during the year. The pretrial detention facility at Suva's prison remained closed due to its substandard condition.

There were approximately 1,000 inmates in the country's 14 prisons, of which approximately 100 were pretrial detainees. Of the estimated 900 convicted prisoners, approximately 25 were women and 120 were juveniles. The prisons had a total capacity of 1,080 inmates.

In some cases pretrial detainees and convicted prisoners were held together. Courts released pretrial detainees, including some facing serious charges, on bail to minimize their exposure to an unhealthy and overcrowded prison environment.

The government permitted prison monitoring visits by independent human rights observers. During the year the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visited official detention facilities and interviewed inmates; such visits were permitted without third parties present. Family members were routinely permitted to visit prisoners.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but the government did not always respect this prohibition in practice.

Role of the Police and Security Apparatus
The Ministry of Home Affairs, headed by the minister for defense, oversees the Fiji Police Force, which is responsible for law enforcement and the maintenance of internal security. After the 2006 dismissal of the police commissioner and his deputy, deputy army commander Captain Esala Teleni was appointed commissioner. Historically responsible for external security, the Republic of Fiji Military Force (RFMF) has maintained since 2005 it has a broad constitutional responsibility for national security that also extends to domestic affairs. Many constitutional scholars in the country rejected that assertion. Under the PER soldiers are authorized to perform the duties and functions of police and prison officers. The RFMF also participated in the awareness campaign to gain support for the People's Charter for Change, Peace, and Progress, a domestic policy initiative of the Bainimarama government.
Police maintained a network of stations and posts throughout the country. Policing of more remote and smaller islands was done through regularly scheduled visits. There was a joint military and police command center based at the Suva Central Police Station. Military personnel were assigned to accompany police patrols and jointly staff police checkpoints.

The police Internal Affairs Unit is statutorily responsible for investigating complaints of police misconduct. FICAC continued to investigate public agencies and officials, including some members of the police and military forces. However, impunity and corruption remained problems. The PER provide immunity from prosecution for members of the security forces for any deaths or injuries arising from use of force deemed necessary to enforce PER provisions.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment While in Detention
By law police officers may arrest persons without a warrant for violations of the penal code. Police also arrest persons in response to warrants issued by magistrates and judges. Under the constitution arrested persons must be brought before a court without "undue delay," normally interpreted to mean within 24 hours, with 48 hours as the exception. Detainees have the right to a judicial review of the grounds for their arrest. However, these rights were not always observed by the police and military after the constitution was abrogated. The PER permit the government to detain for up to seven days without charge persons suspected of violating PER provisions.

Following the April abrogation of the constitution, the government detained without charge journalists, lawyers, and nongovernmental organization (NGO) activists for periods up to two days. At least 20 journalists were detained overnight before being released. On April 14, the authorities detained Dor Sami Naidu, president of the Fiji Law Society, after he and other lawyers appeared at the Lautoka High Court to pursue their cases and expressed support for judges and magistrates dismissed by the government; he was released without charge on April 15. Another 20 critics were also arrested, detained overnight, and then released without charge.

There was a generally well-functioning bail system.
Detainees generally were allowed prompt access to counsel and family members, but some journalists and others detained for short periods after criticizing the government were denied prompt access to a lawyer.

The Legal Aid Commission provided counsel to some indigent defendants in criminal cases, a service supplemented by voluntary services from private attorneys.

The courts had a significant backlog of cases, worsened by the government's April dismissal of the existing judiciary. Processing was slowed by, among other things, a shortage of prosecutors and judges. As a result some defendants faced lengthy pretrial detention.

Editor's Note: More to come on the report, plus the link

Bainimarama attacks Commonwealth, silent on assasination plot

Pacific Beat, March 11 2010: Fiji's Military backed leader Commodre Frank Bainimarama has repeated his threat to drop Commonwealth membership, if the group of nations continues to question his plans for the island nation's future. Commodore Bainimarama first made the threat last month, saying that if the Commonwealth did not decide to help Fiji, then his Government had no use for it. Speaking on radio in New Zealand, the Commodore was happy to take aim at the Commonwealth, but avoided talking about the recent trial and sentencing of eight men found guilty of plotting his assassination.
Presenter: Campbell Cooney
Speakers: Commodore Frank Bainimarama, Fiji's interim Prime Minister; Peter Willams QC, New Zealand lawyer

COONEY: In 2008 Ballu Khan and his legal team were able to get a permanent stay of proceedings against him granted in relation to the alleged assassination plot, and after that he left Fiji for New Zealand. But repeatedly during the recent trial of the remaining eight men, Fiji High Court Judge Justice Paul Madigan made it clear he believed Mr Khan was the assassination plot ringleader, and that led Fiji�s Department of Prosecutions to tell local reporters they were looking at what could be done. So far there�s been no confirmation if a decision has been made. Speaking on New Zealand Indo Fijian radio station, Radio Tarana this week, Ballu Khan was a topic Commodore Bainimarama was avoiding.

BAINIMARAMA: (inaudible) information between his office will be (inaudible) The last thing we want is for anyone to start speculating which in turn will cause confusion.

COONEY: Ballu Khan�s legal representative, New Zealand QC Peter Williams told Geraldine Coutts his client had nothing to answer for.

WILLIAMS: How can you extradite anybody who�s been acquitted? So that�s just propaganda. Anyway how could they extradite? They haven�t got a legal government over there, and there�s no merit in their evidence anyway. Of course there are a lot of rumours about the veracity of this last trial over there as well, and the way that the assessors were selected and whether or not the person who selected the assessors was in fact a member of the military. But I understand that they�ve demanded a blanket to be placed over all that information.

COONEY: Over the past 12 months New Zealand�s Radio Tarana has often been the way Fiji�s military regime has tried to reach the large expatriate Fijian community there. And while this time Commodore Bainimarama was avoiding talking about Ballu Khan, he was more forthcoming about the Commonwealth. Last month he told local media in Fiji if the Commonwealth continues to meddle in his regime�s attempts to move Fiji forward, in particular repeatedly demanding a return to democracy, then Fiji would drop its membership. When asked about this, his reply made use of the nation building language, including a call for understanding from the international community, which Commodore Bainimarama often uses when he talks to international media and international events. In public relations talk, he was staying on message.

BAINIMARAMA: It is focused on achieving its goals as contained in the roadmap to democracy and sustainable socio-economic development. This is the path of reform and modernisation that we have now taken and which we will pursue until we achieve our stated intentions. We are more confident of what we want now and the organising strategies we are currently implementing are meant to help achieve our goals for our people now and in the future.

COONEY: But that didn�t mean his threat of dropping Commonwealth membership was left out.

BAINIMARAMA: My invitation for the international community to consider the issue from Fiji�s perspective in this case. That�s all we ask of them and to choose otherwise, then our choice will be whether to leave the Commonwealth or not. It�s obvious.

Bainimarama: Political upheavals won’t happen again

Fijivillage, March 11 2010: The events of 2000, which saw loyal soldiers killed by the rebel group when they tried to take control of the Queen Elizabeth Barracks (QEB), will be the last time any political upheaval will happen in this country.

Speaking to the 14 villages in Koro, Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama said people were led to believe false promises in 2000 which resulted in most of them going to parliament to support the actions carried out by failed politicians.

Bainimarama said the event that happened at QEB in 2000 was the first of its kind where Fijian soldiers were killed on their home soil and the Army promises the people that it will never happen again.

He told the people of Koro this is one of the reasons why they took control of the government in 2006 because politicians were lying again and the events that happened in 2000 could have been repeated where there was bloodshed and lives were lost.

Bainimarama said the land reform which the government is talking about will benefit the landowners and they have been visiting rural areas to urge them to work with the government in moving the nation forward.

Commodore Bainimarama reiterated that only the military can change the political leadership.

He said his government is not in place to please anyone in particular but to carry out the development work which past governments have failed to deliver.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Movement worried about Rinakama and lack of coverage by local media

The Fiji Democracy and Freedom Movement says it has grave concerns about the lack of news and coverage by Fiji’s local media of the whereabouts of former parliamentarian, Peceli Rinakama.

Rinakama, who is from the highland province of Naitasiri, was last seen on Friday March the 5th following the sentencing of the Province’s Paramount Chief, the Qaranivalu, Ratu Inoke Takiveikata. Takiveikata was charged and found guilty by the illegal regime’s appointed court, of conspiring to kill Commodore Bainimarama.

In a statement, the Movement says it has confirmed with Rinakama’s family members in Fiji that he has not returned nor do they know of his whereabouts since he was arrested by the Military last Friday.

It's believed Rinakama could not hold back his emotions and anger at the way his chief was arrested, charged with trumped up charges, unfairly tried and sentenced to prison, that he verbally lashed out at soldiers gathered outside the Suva High Court complex following the sentencing.

A few minutes later, he was arrested by soldiers at the Suva home of Takiveikata and has not been seen or heard from since. Rinakama was part of group that had gathered at Takiveikata’s residence in the Suva suburb of Toorak. The Group had gone there following the sentence hearing to console Takiveikata’s family and were just about to partake in a social kava drinking session.

The Fiji Democracy and Freedom Movement says it is deeply concerned, given the Fiji Military’s reputation in handling people they have taken into custody since Bainimarama (pictured right and below) took over as Commander of the Military.

The Movement is concerned that it has been five days and the Military has once again reacted predictably to any voice of dissent against the illegal Bainimarama Regime and the Fiji Military.

In 2000, following the failed November Mutiny of special force soldiers known as the CRW Unit, and following their voluntary surrender, these soldiers were brutally beaten leading to the death of five and the hospitalisation of many others.

A post mortem report on one of the dead CRW soldiers, Selesitino Kalounivale, who did not participate in the Mutiny but was arrested by loyal soldiers later on anyway, read ‘He (Selesitino Kalounivale) sustained numerous blunt impacts, particularly to the head but also to the chest and abdomen. All compartments of the head – front and back of scalp, forehead, eyes cheeks, mouth has received multiple blows. These have resulted in bleeding around the brain. The pattern of injuries indicate that this man has been severely assaulted.’

Following the coup of December 2006, a report by Amnesty International last year, has claimed there has been an ongoing and systematic pattern of arresting, beating and detaining, and releasing without charge of thousands of people. The pinstripe suited Bainimarama that talks to the United Nations, is a facade. The real Bainimarama is the hardman, the dictator who has stripped citizens of their rights, a self-appointed prime minister, who has allowed Fiji citizens to be taken in the night and beaten, killed even

The National Director of the Deposed SDL Party of Prime Minister Lasenia Qarase, Kinivuwai has been arrested and detained by soldiers on more than twenty five occasions since the December 2006 coup.

The systematic arrests by the military has also resulted in the death of Mr Nimilote Verebasaga and nineteen year old Sakiusa Rabaka. There are even claims that the death of escaped prisoner, Josefa Baleiloa, was due to beating by soldiers upon his arrest. These soldiers were reportedly masquerading as police officers and were part of the Police Group that went to arrest Beleiloa.

The Movement says it's mentioned these deaths and human rights violations to highlight to the World that Rinakama risks suffering the same fate as those that has been taking into custody by the Military in the past and the deafening silence of the Fiji Military five days after Rinakama’s arrest is a major concern.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Army detains Rinakama

The former Fijian Association Party Parliamentarian, Peceli Rinakama, was arrested by soldiers last Friday (March the 5th) and his whereabouts remain unknown to even his family and friends.

Sources say Rinakama had gone to the home of his high chief from Naitasiri, Ratu Inoke Takivekata, after the high chief and his colleagues were handed their prison terms after being found guilty of conspiring to kill Frank Bainimarama.

Ratu Inoke's home is in Toorak, Suva.

Sources say Rinakama and other subjects and friends of Ratu Inoke went to the jailed chief's home to drink yaqona.  They confirm that as soon as the first tanoa of yaqona was mixed, soldiers arrived outside Ratu Inoke's residence and surrounded it.

Without even having a bilo of yaqona, Rinakama was arrested by the soldiers and ordered into a truck. Sources say the last time anyone saw him was at the Central (Totogo) Police Station late last Friday afternoon.

Since then his whereabouts has been unknown. Sources say family members fear he is being detained at the military camp in Nabua and could have been beaten up.

Almost two weeks ago ( Friday, February the 26th about 8pm) a group of men, including deposed Parliamentrians Samisoni Tikonisau and Mataiasi Ragigia, were taken to military barracks by uniformed soldiers from the SDL ofice, where they were drinking yaqona.

All were beaten and released 5 to 9 hours later.

Khan under Fiji police eye again

Fiji media are reporting local police are looking at the stay of proceedings that was granted to Ballu Khan.

The revisiting of Khan's case is not surprising, after Justice Paul Madigan declared in court last week, during the trial of eight men for plotting to kill interim prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, that Khan masterminded the plot.

Madigan said in his sentencing that he had no doubt the plot was “hatched by, orchestrated by, and directed by Mr Khan, probably in concert with his business partner, the first accused Naitasiri paramount chief Ratu Inoke Takiveikata”.

The writing was on the wall then for Khan, who told New Zealand media Madigan's comments were bizarre, reminding everyone he'd been cleared of any wrongdoing.

He must've known Fiji police would try to have a go at him. His lawyer, Peter Williams, QC, would've picked up very quickly on that, too, so there was sense in talking to the media. Publicity served Khan well in 2007, when he was beaten and put under curfew by the military regime. It didn't go unnoticed, that much was made of him being a "New Zealander". Great protection, otherwise he would've gone the way of the Guilty Eight.

Khan was charged with the eight men but was acquitted in 2008 by Justice Andrew Bruce on the grounds his rights were breached by Police and Military officers when he was detained for a substantial period of time after his arrest in November 2007. Justice Bruce also put a permanent stay on all proceedings against Khan.

Khan was ably represented by New Zealand lawyer, Williams, who whisked him back to safety in Auckland. Khan has wisely stayed out of Fiji since.

The Police Commissioner, Esala Teleni, is being quoted today as saying he would have to consult with the Director of Public Prosecutions to see if pursuing Khan was legally possible.

Picture credit: Khan arriving back at Auckland International Airport in November 2008. NZPA

Editor's Note: Peter Williams (right) told Radio New Zealand International a short time ago that there is no question of Khan being extradited, even if new charges were filed. He sys the extradition would only happen if New Zealand recognised the self-appointed government of Fiji, which it doesn't.

NZ acting head in Fiji

The new acting head of mission for the New Zealand High Commission, Philip Taula, has arrived in Suva to take up his post.

The Fiji Times says he'll be responsible for 55 staff, 48 of them  local employees.

There was some confusion about the post re-opening after an interview by interim prime minister Frank Bainimarama recently to the Auckland-based station, Radio Tarana, where he said senior diplomatic staff would not be allowed back in Fiji unless travel bans were lifted.

Mere Tora is Fiji's new acting head of mission and she, too, is already in the job haveing arrived in Wellington several weeks ago.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Guilty 8 Assessors Identified

Coupfourpointfive can tonight reveal the identities of the five assessors in the conspiracy trial of 8 men, including high chief Ratu Inoke Takiveikata.

All 8 were last week found guilty by the five assessors and Justice Paul Madigan
of conspiring to kill military commander and the regime's self-appointed Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama.  Their sentences ranged between 7 years and 3 years.

Coupfourpointfive can also confirm tonight the assessors were chosen by Ana Rokomokoti. Rokomokoti holds the rank of a Major in the army and is Chief Registrar as well as Chief Magistrate.

Sources say it is highly unethical for an army officer (who was appointed by the military in the first place to the position) to choose the assessors for a trial involving the military, in this case her boss, Commodore Bainimarama.

The five assessors are:

1. Sainimili Miller Smith (Date of birth 19/3/1956) F/N William Miller. She is the wife of Fiji hockey team coach Hector Smith.

2. Gabriel Bingwor (Date of birth unknown) F/N James Bingwor. He is believed to be in his late 30's and works for a shipping agency.

3. Ravuama Tuinavanua (Date of birth 28/10/1981) F/N Ravuama Tuinavanua Snr. He is believed to be an employee of Fiji National Provident Fund.

4. Salis Anita Devi (Date of birth 11/3/1967) F/N Dwarka Prasad.

5. Kushma Wati Dutia (Date of borth 19/9/1960) F/N Brij Mohan.

At least 3 of the assessors or their family have close acquaitance with Commodore Bainimarama, either through friendship or as a former student of Marist Brothers High School. Bainimarama is an ex-student.

Madigan's role in Fatiaki's removal

The Guilty Eight trial is not the first high-profile case Justice Paul Madigan has been involved in. As prosecutor and drafter of the FIRCA decrees, Madigan was instrumental in removing Chief Justice Daniel Fatiaki from his post. As High Court judge, he last week found Ratu Inoke Takaveikata and seven others guilty of conspiring to murder the  military dictator Frank Bainimarama. Historian Victor Lal wrote the following article for the Fiji Sun and it appeared on July 1, 2009.

How Fatiaki’s tax case arose 1/7/2009
In December 2007, a high-level meeting took place in the conference room of the Attorney-General’s chambers in Suvavou House between the interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, the Fiji Islands Revenue and Customs Authority’s then acting CEO, Jitoko Tikolevu, Paul Madigan and Elizabeth Yang, the two Hong Kong based Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) prosecutors and a top FIRCA tax investigator. At this meeting it was resolved to conduct an investigation into the suspended Chief Justice Daniel Fatiaki (pictured left) with a view to prosecuting him for tax avoidance, even though Justice Fatiaki had paid his taxes during the amnesty period.

On 10 December, the tax investigator who had presented FIRCA’s case to that above meeting in or about the afternoon of 7 December, wrote to Justice Fatiaki as follows: “This letter is to notify you that the Fiji Islands Revenue and Customs Authority is conducting an investigation into an allegation that you have breached the Income Tax Act by omitting income from your tax returns for the years ended 31 December 1998 to 2005.”

He also attached for Justice Fatiaki’s information a copy of the relevant parts of section 44 and section 96 of the Income Tax Act. The tax investigator, who is no longer employed with FIRCA, gave Justice Fatiaki the opportunity of participating in a formal interview to answer the above allegations against the suspended CJ.

“The interview will be conducted under criminal caution. At this interview you may choose to have your legal representative or another person present. The interview will be at a mutually convenient place and time. This may be during or outside working hours, at FIRCA premises or another place. If you wish to be interviewed could you please contact the undersigned by phone within 14 days to arrange this? As an alternative to an interview you may choose to make a written, signed statement concerning the allegation,” the investigating tax officer told Justice Fatiaki.

Now, the former tax investigator claims that the interim government used the tax system to get people for political reasons. He also claims that the information he gave to Mr Madigan and Ms Yang was under perceived threat, paving the way for action to remove Justice Fatiaki under the 1997 Constitution of Fiji.

Looking back at my notes, the former tax investigator had written to me the following when I was preparing the $630,000 tax story: “During the course of my investigation into Fatiaki I made friends with two Hong Kong based investigators who were looking into Fatiaki for the sec 138 of the Constitution hearing about him being a fit and proper person to be a judge (to be heard in Feb 08) - Paul Madigan and Elizabeth Yang. It was they who persuaded me to complain to George Langman about [the consultant’s] blackmail attempt, because FICAC owed me a favour for helping them get Fatiaki.”

Two e-mails, one from Ms Yang dated 1 November 2007 (“This is Elizabeth from Hong Kong. We had a meeting about two months ago regarding a tax case”) and another from Mr Madigan dated 16 January 2008 (“It was go[o]d to talk to you this afterno[o]n. I have thought about your situation a lot over the last couple of months. I arrived back in Fiji yesterday to do more FICAC work and then to prosecute the Fatiaki case…I wish you loads of luck and happine[s]s and please ke[ep] in touch”) to the former tax investigator confirms his assertion that he assisted the two Hong Kong-based prosecutors.

Commenting on Ms Yang’s e-mail, the former tax investigator said he had a meeting with Mr Madigan, Ms Yang and Mr Tikolevu in September 2007 in which he (the former tax investigator) gave the FICAC lawyers a photocopy of Justice Fatiaki’s confession. “They were very pleased and this was the start of our cordial relations. Providing this information was illegal but it was done out of the state of fear previously described,” said the former tax investigator. Lest we forget, Justice Paul Madigan!

Editor's Note: For readers wanting more on this story, click on the links below. They'll take you to the stories Victor Lal did for the Fiji Sun in 2009, which signpost Justice Paul Madigan's involvement in the interim government's purge efforts.



Lawyers to appeal earlier than expected

Fiji lawyer Iqbhal Khan is expected to file an appeal for several of the eight men convicted of plotting to kill self-appointed prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, this week.

Khan told New Zealand media the appeal could be made as early as today (Monday) or tomorrow (Tuesday).

He says there are about eight to ten grounds for appeal and they are based on non-direction and mis-direction.

Khan says he's confident the appeal will be successful.

Khan represented Feoko Gadekibua, Barbardos Mills, Metuisela Mua and Pauliasi Namulo.

Fijilive. com last week said the lawyer for Ratu Inoke Takiveikata, Akuila Naco, would take a two-week break after a hectic four-week trial, before filing an appeal.

Radio New Zealand National reported over the weekend that Naco would now appeal earlier, probably the same time as Khan.