#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: 2011-04-10

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Goundar allows withdrawals

From FICAC website
Written by Administrator | 15 April 2011

An Application for retrial and the presiding Judge to recuse him has been withdrawn from the Suva High Court this morning.

Tevita Peni Mau’s lawyer Devanesh Sharma sought the courts leave to withdraw the applications that he filed on Wednesday this week. He said that he was withdrawing in light of the sentence delivered yesterday by Justice Daniel Goundar.

Justice Goundar allowed the withdrawal and dismissed the applications.

Mau and Mahendra Motibhai Patel were both sentenced to 9 months and 12 months imprisonment respectively yesterday. They were found guilty on one count each of Abuse of Office. Mau was convicted for approving the purchase of an external Seiko clock for $75,000 from Prouds Fiji without following proper procedures and without the approval of the Post Fiji Board while Patel was convicted for allowing the purchase of the Seiko clock from Prouds, a company owned by him and for failure to disclose his interest and relationship with the company. At the time of the offence, Mau was the Managing Director while Patel was the Chairman of the Board.

On Thursday, Sharma and Hemendra Nagin had asked the court to consider releasing the men on bail pending an intention to file an appeal.

FICAC Prosecutor Madhawa Tennakoon objected to the application saying bail pending appeal can only be granted if an appeal was filed.

Judge Goundar refused the application stating that there is no appeal before the court and their application lacked justification for bail pending appeal. He added that he had only heard of their intension to file an appeal in the future.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Mau's lawyer drops plan to challenge Goundar decision


Mau seeking retrial but hardline judge unlikely to budge

"Goundar says both Mau and Patel expressed no remorse.

Goundar considers Patel to be more culpable than Mau as Patel financially gained, although the amount of profit is relatively small."

Peni Mau's defence lawyers are back in court this morning seeking a retrial and recusal of Justice Daniel Goundar.

Fiji Village says Mau’s defense counsel Devinesh Sharma said in court yesterday that architect and FICAC witness Adish Naidu was negotiating with Motibhai on the Seiko clock on his own accord and there is no evidence that Mau was involved in the discussions.

Sharma said that the judge has convicted Mau but according to the constitution there is a statutory protection for a fair trial.

Mahendra Patel has been sentenced to 12 months imprisonment while Mau has been sentenced to 9 months imprisonment.

Justice Goundar said Patel’s age and health condition do not constitute exceptional circumstances to justify suspending the sentence.

The judge said both Mau and Patel express no remorse.

Justice Goundar said Mau’s written mitigation makes a reference that he apologizes if his actions have caused loss or prejudice to Post Fiji Limited.

However, the judge said it is evident from the other parts of his written mitigation that he is not accepting the findings made against him that he acted despotically with improper motive, causing prejudice to Post Fiji.

He said a total absence of remorse even after finding of guilt is another factor that operates against suspending of sentences.

Goundar said those who hold high public office must realize that the institutional procedures exist for good reasons and those who blatantly disregard these procedures at their whims must be deterred.

He also said he considers Patel to be more culpable than Mau as Patel financially gained, although the amount of profit is relatively small.

In other reports on the case, Patel's defence lawyer, Hemendra Nagin, told Radio Australia's Stephanie March, his client played no part in the purchase of the clock.

Presenter: Stephanie March
Speaker: Hemendra Nagin, Fiji lawyer
NAGIN: The purchase of the clock is a management matter with the architect, and therefore did not come to the board for any approval. The board they'd actually approved capital expenditure budget, and this clock was within that budget.

MARCH: Now that defence was obviously not accepted by the court. What was the reason given by the judge?

NAGIN: The judge apparently made up his own mind about it when the clear assessors were sitting in the trial all returned a verdict of not guilty. And yet the judge overturned that. Assessors appointed are ordinary people appointed by the court to sit in and give their opinion. Their opinion is not hundred per cent binding on the judge, but usually when there's an unanimous decision, then unless a decision is perverse or unreasonable by the assessors, it must be accepted by the judge.

MARCH: In sentencing today the judge sentenced Mr Patel to 12 months in prison. I understand that that has been appealed, but bail was refused pending the appeal. What's the process from here forward?

NAGIN: We had indicated that we were appealing and we wanted bail pending that appeal, but the appeal has not been filed because it was only this morning that the judgement came out. So we have now prepared the appeal and most likely it will be filed tomorrow morning.

MARCH: And are you appealing against the sentence or are you appealing against the conviction?

NAGIN: Against both, we are appealing against the verdict and also the sentence, and we are also applying for bail pending appeal.

MARCH: Are you confident that the appeal will be successful, or do you feel that the courts will come to the same finding?

NAGIN: If we have a good court of appeal I'm sure that we'll succeed.

MARCH: Frank Bainimarama has declared to stamp out corruption in public office in Fiji. Do you think that Mr Patel and his colleague are being targeted to show that the regime is tough on corruption?

NAGIN: Well I don't know why they're being targeted but when I look at the facts this is the weakest case for the prosecution I've ever seen.

MARCH: Do you think that his conviction is going to have any impact on his business as the head of Mohitibai Company Limited and also the proprietor of the Fiji Times?

NAGIN: I don't think it'll affect his business very much because the business, all different arms of business are operating independently, it doesn't require his personal day to day attention.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Patel and Mau Jailed

Former Post Fiji Limited Chairman Mahendra Patel and former Managing Director, Peni Mau have both been sentenced to jail for abuse of office.

Patel has been sentenced to 12 months in jail for allowing the purchase of the Seiko clock from Prouds, a company owned by him and failing to disclose his interest and relationship with the company.

Tevita Peni Mau outside Suva Hugh Court
And Mau has been sentenced to 9 months in jail for approving the purchase of the clock for $75,000 without following proper procedures and without the approval of the Post Fiji board.

Their lawyers immediately filed for an appeal and applied for bail but Justice Daniel Goundar denied it; they will start their prison sentences today at Korovou Prison.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

'Learned judge' or hanging judge?

High Court Judge Justice Daniel Goundar delivered his judgment in the FICAC trial against two former senior executives of Post Fiji Limited (PFL) yesterday.

Addressing a packed courtroom, Justice Goundar (pictured above) said that he had adjourned over night on Monday to consider the verdict of the three Assessors.

The Assessors delivered a mixed decision for first accused Tevita Peni Mau with two finding him guilty and one not guilty while they unanimously found Mahendra Motibhai Patel not guilty on the Abuse of Office charge.

Justice Goundar said while he took into consideration the opinion of the Assessors, he was not bound by their opinions. He added that the Assessors express opinion but the trial judge gives the verdict.

Making reference to the first accused Mau, Justice Goundar said that he had accepted the evidence of prosecution witness Luke Narara that the Logistics Management Procedures contained in the Post Fiji Governance Manual applied to the purchase of the clock. He added that it did not matter that the Board of Directors or the Ministry of Public Enterprises did not approve the Manual, what mattered was that the procedures were accepted to be applicable at the relevant period.

The learned Judge was also satisfied that the exceptions for the tender procedures did not apply in this case. “I do not think the need to install the clock before the South Pacific Games or the fact that Prouds was the sole agent for the Seiko Clock in Fiji were circumstances to justify the deviation from tender procedures” he said.

In the caution interview Mau had denied any knowledge of the existence of the manual that contained the tender procedures. Judge Goundar said the prosecution had produced a witness who verified that Mau issued the circular on 8th April 2003.

“I find the denial of knowledge of the existence of the Manual was a deliberate lie,” he said. 

The learned judge said he approached the evidence of Naidu with caution as he had made previous statements that conflicted with his evidence in court. He said that he found the inconsistencies arising from the previous out of court statement to be immaterial and insignificant.

Upon convicting Mau on one count of Abuse of Office, Justice Goundar said that the motive of Mau was clear, he wanted to confer a favour to the Chairman of the board of Directors.

“I feel sure that this was his motive when he deviated from the tender procedures to approve the purchase of the clock for $75,000.00 from Motibhai and Company limited.

Moving onto the second accused Mahendra Motibhai Patel, Justice Goundar said that he held significant regard to the fact that he holds good character.

Judge Goundar made reference to first witness Adish Naidu’s evidence stating that Naidu felt obliged to comply with the suggestions of the Senior Executives of PFL because he was given the tender for the renovation of the General Post Office building.  

The learned judge added that Naidu struck him as a genuine and honest witness although he appeared to be a person that pleased others.

“I accept Naidu’s evidence that the second accused expressed a desire to supply the clock and that he directed Naidu to one Bhupendra Patel of Motibhai & Company Limited,” he said.

He added that he found the evidence of the second accused that he only came to know about the clock from the company in June implausible.

Judge Goundar also accepted the evidence of two former board members. He accepted that Powell had questioned Patel on the purchase the clock and that she felt powerless to follow it up. The judge also accepted that Patel had told Kamikami that the clock was a gift from Motibhai & Company Limited to PFL to suppress the truth.

“I feel sure that the second accused deviated from the rules which required him to declare his interest when he authorized the purchase of the clock from Motibhai & Company Limited.”

Justice Goundar said that he felt that the second accused was motivated by corporate greed to increase his personal greed to increase his personal wealth by authorizing the purchase of the clock from Motibhai & Company Limited.

He added that he felt sure that Patel personally gained from t he transaction between PFL and Motibhai & Company and that Patel put the interests of PFL at a disadvantage.

The defence was then asked to deliver their mitigation.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Goundar is expected to sentence Patel and Mau tomorrow but it was reported late this afternoon by Fiji Village that Mau's lawyer was seeking a retrial and for the Learned Judge to recuse himself.

Fiji Times dodges coverage of its publisher being convicted of manipulating sale of clock

What should a newspaper do when its publisher is found guilty of abuse of office? Move on, it seems.

We may have to give the Fiji Times the benefit of the doubt (that it's marking time) but it's noticeable it hasn't covered one of the biggies of the week - the conviction of its publisher Mahendra Patel.

Patel has been found guilty, along with Tevita Peni Mau, of approving the purchase of a $75,000 Seiko clock from Prouds Fiji Ltd without following proper tender procedures. Prouds is owned by Patel's Motibhai & Company Ltd

Patel and Mau were originally found not guilty by three assessors but the decision was overturned by the High Court judge, Justice Daniel Goundar, who said he was satisfied the prosecution had provided enough evidence to convict.

According to Fiji Village's story, Goundar said Mau deviated from the tender process as a favour to Patel.

Regarding Patel, Goundar accepted evidence the business mogul directed Naidu to Bhupendra Patel of Motibhai & Company Ltd who owns Prouds Fiji Ltd to buy the clock.

He added that Patel was motivated by corporate greed to increase his personal wealth by authorizing the purchase of the clock from his own company.

Mau and Patel have both been allowed out on bail but have been ordered to surrender their passports.

This is the current story (as of 8.20am this morning) on the Fiji Times website:
 'Assessors have their say'
Shalveen Chand

Tuesday, April 12, 2011
ASSESSORS have unanimously found former Post Fiji chairman Mahendra Patel not guilty while two of the three found former managing director Tevita Peni Mau guilty in the High Court in Suva yesterday.

It was a two-hour wait after Justice Daniel Goundar delivered his summing up to the panel of three assessors.
Mr Patel was found not guilty after that.

Mr Patel and Mr Mau were charged with one count each of abuse of office where they were alleged to have authorised the purchase of a 1.2-metre wall clock for Post Fiji without approval of the board and had not followed proper procedure.

During his summing up, Justice Daniel Goundar told the assessors that they were the judges of the facts and his work was to guide them along the lines of the law.

He told them to approach the evidence of architect Adish Naidu with caution.

Justice Goundar said Mr Naidu may be regarded as having some purpose of his own to serve.
Both Mr Patel and Mr Mau opted not to make comments to the media yesterday.

Justice Goundar thanked and dismissed the assessors and will deliver his judgment today.

EDITOR'S NOTE AT 4PM: The Fiji Times has now reported on the conviction of its publisher. A story on the front page reads 'Mau and Patel Guilty.'

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

UN figures confirm regime shelling out far too much on military

COSTLY: Military sucking up the Fiji dollars. Time it stopped.

WORLD : Anti military spend.
Thousands of people worldwide are today marking April 12 as a Day of Action Against Military Spending.

Military spending in Fiji is not as huge as other countries but still over the top in light of its economic woes and level of poverty.

The military regime of Frank Bainimarama has not submitted its military spending to the United Nations Disarmament Committee in recent years but figures reveal that what it has been allocating to its armed forces is sizeable.

As has been revealed by researchers like Professor Wadan Narsey, with the convenient excuse of an attempted coup (by its own soldiers), the Fiji Military Forces has been illegally over-spending the budget approved by parliament every year since 2000.
It's thought the pre-2000 military budget of about $50 million, the inflation of military spending between 2000 and 2010 has cost the Fiji tax-payers an extra $450 million.

If the current trend continues until 2014, the military will have taken another extra $250 millions from the tax-payers and added it to the Public Debt.  Or some $700 millions over and above their normal pre-2000 allocations.

That's $700 million dollars less for education, health, social welfare, poverty alleviation and rural development not to mention the sugar industry!

Figures released by the UN Committee as part of Stop Military Spending Day show Fiji's allocation in April 2008 as $5,950,000143,226,500.

We're unable to reproduce that data here because of the size of the graphs but you can view the full breakdown and the military spending of other countries by going to: Military Budgets

Monday, April 11, 2011

Rugby player reveals toll of being of a Speight

By John Paul Moloney of the Canberra Times

Henry Speight says he'd never consider changing his surname. But he's determined to change what that name is known for.

In a recent exercise in the team room players had to write a light-hearted epitaph for their teammates. The words for Speight's tombstone were simply, 'Went quietly'.

But while you have to lean in and listen closely to the Fijian 23-year-old pictured left with his sister Lusiana Speight-Work, he tells a story of loud family history.

It's a story of treason, violence, a couple of coups and the loss of loved ones. It's also a story of love, pride, loyalty and endurance.

Speight's family history is intertwined in some of the greatest upheaval in recent Fijian history.

And one relative stands apart for his fame and notoriety his uncle George Speight.

Many will remember the news in 2000 when the bald businessman Speight led a group of nationalist gunmen, including his younger brother Jim, into Fijian parliament and ousted elected Indian-Fijian prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry and took almost the entire parliament hostage for several weeks.

Even in a country where coups d'etat have been commonplace the country is currently under the rule of a military dictator Frank Bainimarama it was a shocking act, albeit one that had its admirers among the ethnic Fijian population.

Eventually justice was imposed on Speight and he was sentenced to death by hanging, although this was later commuted to life in prison.

Speight is now held in Naboro Prison, west of the capital Suva, and reportedly has few visitors. On Christmas Day last year one of those visitors was his nephew Henry, fresh from signing a contract with the ACT Brumbies.

Henry visits his uncle whenever he's in Fiji as a dutiful nephew would. He gave him a gift of a Waikato jersey last year when he was playing for the New Zealand province. Almost certainly on his next visit he'll take a Brumbies jersey to give to the prison's best-known inmate.

When he sat down this week to discuss his life and his family, Henry knew his uncle's name would be brought up. In truth, questions about "Uncle George" have been dogging him half his life.

"It's 11 years later and still often I mention my name to people, even when they're not from Fiji, they'll say, 'The name rings a bell'. People ask me all the time if I'm related to him and I've never denied it," Speight says.

"People make choices in his life that lead them on paths. He made choices and whether they were good or bad, I don't know. I don't see him as more than that he's my uncle, my Dad's brother and I've never avoided that question. If I did that it would be wrong of me."

Henry grew up in Suva, the second youngest of five children to dad Samisoni and mum Litia. For most of their upbringing Samisoni worked in Sydney as an aircraft engineer with Qantas, returning to Fiji to see his family about once a month.

Despite this disconnection, Speight says he and his siblings had a normal childhood, until 1996 when his mother fell ill with cancer and died. Henry was eight. With their mum gone and their dad working overseas, Henry and his siblings went into the home of their mum's father, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, a prominent tribal leader and, even in his 70s, an ambitious politician.

He raised them as if they were his own children, encouraging in them the qualities of humility and gratitude. He also tried to insulate them from the complicated world outside their home.

That world became one of chaos and conflict in May 2000, when George Speight marched into the parliament building and announced he was in charge. As a result of the coup, which was for a time effectively endorsed by the country's tribal leaders, Iloilo was promoted from vice-president to president by a council of chiefs.

Incredibly he was in a position two years later to commute the death sentence handed down to Speight his former son-in-law's brother after he was convicted of treason. Speight's younger brother Jim was also sentenced to jail for helping him during the coup.

Iloilo himself became a very controversial figure, chiefly for abolishing the constitution in 2009, a move that entrenched the rule of dictator Bainimarama. But to Speight he was just his grandfather, the person he loved and admired.

"We saw him as a father figure and that was it. We had a feeling but at home it was just normal, like any other kid would talk to his Dad. Nothing changed, even though as kids we knew he was much bigger than that outside the home," Speight said.

"With the situation with my uncle, my grandfather held us together and told us that despite what was happening and the criticism of my uncle, for us not to dwell on it too much."

Speight spent his high school years at Fiji's Queen Victoria School, moving to New Zealand for his final year on a part scholarship at Hamilton Boys High in Waikato.

He progressed into the Waikato senior ranks, where last year he met Brumby Christian Lealiifano, who played a season in the New Zealand domestic league.

It was Lealiifano who brought Speight at that time unwanted by any of the Kiwi Super Rugby teams to the attention of then Brumbies coach Andy Friend.

"Christian was always saying after training, 'Hey bro, we're short on wings at the Brumbies, want me to put a word in for you' ... It was like a joke and I said, 'Yeah, yeah, say a lot of good things about me' but he actually went and told Andy Friend and eventually they called me and asked if I was interested."

After moving to Canberra, Speight thought everything was going perfectly in the week of round one. He was named in the starting side to make his debut against his former teammates of the Waikato Chiefs.

But early in the week his grandfather died at the venerable age of 90. Speight rushed home to Fiji to be part of a funeral that drew an estimated crowd of 5000.

He only returned to Australia on the evening before the match and he admits he struggled to ready himself.

"On his 90th birthday he had planned to come over for the Hurricanes and the Western Force games. We had a really good talk about it. On the Chiefs game, throughout the day I was OK, but then to run up and see the atmosphere, finally say to myself that, 'Finally I'm here, I've reached one of my goals' and for him to have passed away a couple of days, it was really an emotional moment, but when we started the game I was able to clear my head and push those emotions aside and focus on the game."

That victory against the Chiefs had a special importance for Speight's grieving family back in Fiji. About 20 people had gathered in the home of his uncle Emosi and aunty Lusi to watch the game. For 80 minutes they stopped dwelling on the loss of their patriarch.

Their celebrations at the end of the game were so wild their neighbours complained.

Since then the core of that group has established a routine of sending text messages to Speight before games and calling him directly after. Virtually as soon as he walks into the change room, he takes their call and is put on speaker phone in that lounge room in Fiji's second largest city Lautoka.

"In the past few weeks it's something that usually picks me up after the losses we've been having. Every time they call they say, 'Hard luck, but no matter what happens, we're always here for you, we'll always be behind you and the Brumbies'. It's good to have a dozen loyal Brumbies fans back in Fiji."

It's undoubtedly harder for Speight to go about his rugby, separated from his family and with their safety on his mind.

His older brother Sam is a member of the British army, currently based in Portugal. Henry worries he might be sent to Afghanistan.

Then there's the plight of his father Samisoni, who several years ago returned to Fiji and became a cabinet minister in the deposed government of Laisenia Qarase.

The week before the Brumbies played the Queensland Reds, Samisoni was allegedly arrested and beaten by soldiers for circulating anti-government DVDs, an incident that drew condemnation from Amnesty International.

He fled Fiji and is reportedly seeking asylum in Australia. His dad's situation is the one topic about his family Henry says he won't comment on.

Since he began earning money through his rugby, he has sent what he can afford back to Fiji, particularly to help youngest brother Jerry "the smartest of the family" complete his university degree.

That one act shows how family is everything to Henry Speight. But what he hopes to do for them is more than just provide financial help.

He wants to redeem a family name that his uncle, supported by the family as he might be, has made notorious. He wants to make the Speight name known for something different.

"What I want to do is change people's perception of the Speight name from a coup leader to a rugby player," Speight says.

"Since I went to New Zealand and here for the Brumbies, I think the reference to the Speight name is changing to a rugby perspective, which I think is a good thing.

"Personally I'm enjoying being here at the Brumbies and it's got a positive flow on effect on my family, both sides of my family."

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Bainimarama's Indo schmoozing

Some noble issues have been reported by the local media about the benefits of  the illegal prime minister's visit to Indonesia, but the junket reeks of cheap showmanship.

Frank Bainimarama opened Fiji's new embassy in Jakarta, chewed Susilo Bamyang Yudyhoyono's ear about ASEAN, offered Fiji's jungles as a training ground to Indonesia's military and talked up his efforts to hold an election in 2014.

Regarding the elections, the Indonesian political system is quite complicated and would be hard to replicate in Fiji. If there is a unifying force, it's that both countries have experienced coups and military rule.

Still, even with the schmoozing at the Melanesian Spearhead Summit last week, Bainimarama isn't earning the $700,000 he is paying himself a year.

The dictator's salary for supposedly running Fiji with its population of 840,000 and holding five portfolios, is a crock. The president of the United States, arguably the world's most important leader, is paid $US400,000 a year. Regional leaders, John Key and Julia Gillard both earn $361,000 and $330,000 thousand for running countries far bigger than Fiji.

Much fuss will no doubt be made about the 'triumphs' of the Indonesian junket on his return but the illegal leader remains more of a wannabe karaoke singer than a statesmen, let alone a prime minister.

JAKARTA BLUES: Bainimarama with guitar tried to impress the Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudyhoyono (left in the above pic and the caricature in the top pic under Bainimarama), who is also a well-known singer who has released several records.