By Victor Lal
The all powerful Military Council has sent one of its very own on military leave pending an investigation into various allegations against him.
Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara, the youngest son of the late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, and chairman of the Lau Provincial Council, and Commanding Officer of the Third Infantry Regiment, has been sent on leave according to highly placed military sources.
Uluilakeba Mara had a key position in the Fijian military, as he controlled the infantry division and its 500-strong gun-carrying soldiers.
In recent weeks, Coupfourpointfive has revealed how Uluilakeba Mara, while acting as chairman of the Lau Provincial Council, has also been involved in different business companies. He is one of the directors of Lomaloma Resort Limited, which owed the collapsed National Bank of Fiji $187,000.
Uluilakena Mara also holds 9,000 Class A Shares in the Lauans only Yatu Lau company, whose chairman is his sister, Adi Koila Mara, the wife of the President of Fiji.
Uluilakeba Mara, on 21 September 2007, also formed with his sister Ateca Ganilau, the wife of the illegal Minister of Defence and former army commander Epeli Ganilau, the Ika Vuka shipping company, and along with other Mara siblings holds 16% shares in the company.
In 2009, Uluilakeba Mara’s Lau Provincial Council and Ika Vuka were behind the purchase of the MV Lau Trader, a million dollar vessel with a capacity for 300 passengers. We were told the vessel was bought through a newly-formed Lau Shipping Company through its three stakeholders, two already mentioned above, and the district of Lakeba. To date, no records have been found on the Lau Shipping Company in the Registrar of Companies.
RFMF Act and Military Officers Engaged in Business Dealings
We may also recall that the former Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase has been charged with eight offences, including allegations he abused his position as Director of Fijian Holdings Ltd, and as member of the Fijian Affairs Board and advisor to the Great Council of Chiefs.
We wonder whether Uluilakeba Mara, by engaging in business dealings while simultaneously leading the Third Infant Regiment, can be charged for any offence. Has he violated the Fiji Military Forces Act? Has he violated the Public Servant Act? Or does not Uluilakeba Mara come within the definition of Public Servants? If not, can he, however, be charged under S(106) of the Penal Code and related Decrees, over his business activities?
Unlike the Public Service Act, the penal code definition of persons’ employed in the Public Service includes all personnel belonging to the Military Forces of Fiji. S (106) says the charge of official corruption can be laid against a public servant who corruptly asks for, solicits, receives or obtains or agrees or attempts to receive or obtains any property or benefit of any kind for himself or any person on account of anything already done or omitted to be done or afterwards done by the discharge of the duties of his office.
Ratu Epeli Ganilau and RFMF Act
The same questions can be raised about Uluilakeba’s brother-in-law and present Defence Minister Epeli Ganilau who, while serving as Commander of the RFMF, had established the Cakaudrove Provincial Holdings Ltd. According to company records, CPHL was formed on 5 October 1995. The two directors named were as follows: Ratu Epeli Ganilau, FMF Commander, Director of Cakaudrove Provincial Holdings Ltd, and Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, Cabinet Minister, Director of CPHL. Sitiveni Weleilakeba was listed as secretary to the company.
Epeli Ganilau had formed CPHL while simultaneously holding down the position commander of the Royal Fiji Military Forces. He resigned his army post effective from 28 February 1999. Again, why is Epeli Ganilau not in Court along with Weleilakeba, whose charges have been consolidated with former Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase?
The prosecution claimed in its grounds for consolidation that
Qarase and Weleilakeba used their positions in Fijian Holdings Limited to cause unlawful allotment of FHL shares to their companies, namely, Q-Ten Investments Limited owned by Qarase and Stiks Holdings Limited owned by Weleilakeba, and to companies held by other individuals who were ineligible at the time to purchase FHL shares.
Weleilakeba, while acting as secretary of Ganilau’s CPHL, was also CEO of Fijian Holdings Ltd, with no voting right on FHL. Why, one may ask, is the DPP only focusing on Qarase and Weleilakeba? Moreover, what about the shares that Qarase bought in the Mara-Ganilau controlled Yatu Lau Company, of which he was the original founders.
For the charge sheet reads that between 1992-1995 Qarase as director of FHL, member of the Fijian Affairs Board and advisor to the GCC, bought 200,000 Class A shares from FHL for his family company Q-Ten Investments Limited.
Count two: As director of FHL, member of FAB and advisor to the GCC, Qarase in 1992, applied for shares from FHL for Q-Ten Investments and, in his capacity as director approved the allotment of shares without declaring his interest to FHL, FAB and the GCC.
Count three: As director FHL, FAB member and GCC advisor, Qarase between November 1991 and June 1992, applied through Cicia Plantation Co-Op Society Limited for Class A shares in FHL and approved the allotment of shares to the company in his capacity as a director FHL. He carried this out without declaring his interest in CPCS to FAB, FHL and GCC.
Count four: Qarase as director FHL, advisor to the GCC and FAB member applied for Class A shares at FHL through Mavana Holdings Limited. He approved the allotment and at the same time failed to disclose his interest in Mavana Investments Limited to FHL, FAB and GCC.
Coupfourpointfive's special investigation (still more to come) on Yatu Lau Class A shareholders had yielded surprising results. Among others, it has been revealed that the very years Qarase is being accused of abuse of office, he had bought two shares in Yatu Lau; his Q-Ten Investments had bought 7,000 shares; Mavana Investment Limited 15,000 shares, and Cikia Plantation Coop Society owned 48,867 Class A shares in Yatu Lau. Why, then, is their selectivity in the framing of charges on the part of the DPP?
What about Uluilakeba Mara and Epeli Ganilau and the RFMF Act and their business activities?
Coupfourpointfive could not obtain comments from Uluilakeba Mara and the Ministry of Defence regarding Uluilakeba being sent on leave by the Military Council. It's believed, however, that Mara has been sent on leave for three months effective from September 8.