#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: 2012-02-26

Friday, March 2, 2012

Bainimarama's dirty coup secrets revealed

Beaten to death: CRW soldier. pic Truth for Fiji

Truth for Fiji has at last revealed some of Frank Bainimarama's dirty secrets, thanks in part to statements from senior officers and the military Board of Enquiry Report (BOI), commissioned by the illegal leader himself. Reprinted here are excerpts from  the very detailed story posted on Roko Ului Mara's website and several of the photographs that accompany the sordid tale of why Bainimarama can never relinquish his stolen power. 

For the full article see:
The 2000 Coup
Bainimarama was unexpectedly appointed Commander RFMF in February 1999, over the heads of more qualified and senior officers.

The coup deposed the Labour Government of Mahendra Chaudhry on 19 May 2000 with the world being led to believe that it was being carried out by George Speight and his followers.

Extensive rioting and damage occurred. For 56 days Speight held hostages at the Parliament Buildings that included the Prime Minister. Subsequently Speight was deceived into surrendering himself and Bainimarama took full credit for ending the coup and freeing the hostages.

On May 29th Bainimarama carried out a second coup and announced to the nation that he was assuming executive authority from the President and declaring martial law.  Then after the conclusion of the George Speight coup he reluctantly ceded civil authority to Laisenia Qarase.

Bainimarama has always represented himself to be the hero of 2000, the person who at that time saved Fiji.  The truth is, however, just the opposite.

Bainimarama's Pre Knowledge of the Coup
In the months leading up to the coup Bainimarama received regular military briefings of an impending coup. He was fully aware of the threat to Government. He had also built up intelligence on the impending coup through a military intelligence unit. In addition, soldiers from a specialist unit called the Counter Revolutionary Warfare Unit (CRW), which had been created by Government, and members of the Third Fiji Infantry Battalion (3FIR), were gathering information on the coup and informing Bainimarama.

The sad fate of the CRW soldiers, who were either murdered by or incarcerated or otherwise silenced by Bainimarama, is also outlined in this document.

Despite all the information that Bainimarama had received regarding an impending coup, Bainimarama arranged to attend a conference in Norway in May 2000. This was a United Nations conference on Peacekeeping (the irony of the subject matter of this conference will rapidly become apparent).

Before he was due to leave for the conference, Bainimarama was informed by the Commanding Officer 3FIR, Lt Colonel Viliame Seruvakula, that the coup would be held on 19th May 2000. This warning was given one week before the coup. Bainimarama's response to this warning clearly shows his guilt in the matter of the coup.  He said: "OK set you know what to do I have to attend this meeting it is very important for the RFMF."

Bainimarama clearly planned to be out of the country when the coup occurred so that he could avoid blame for it.

Bainimarama's Guilt
Clearly, Bainimarama knew all about the impending coup but took no step to stop it. He was prepared to stand aside and let it happen. This failing was especially serious because as Commander he had the power to stop it. He was therefore a crucial participant in the coup. His guilt was as great, and in fact greater than that of any of those who carried out the destruction and violence that accompanied the coup.

Despite the Commander in Chief and President Ratu Sir KKT Mara questioning the wisdom of Bainimarama leaving the country at an unsettled time, Bainimarama insisted that it was alright for him to go. The President yielded to Bainimarama’s view.

Bainimarama departed for Norway on May 12th with full knowledge that the coup would occur on May 19th 2000.

Events of 18th May 2000
The events of 18th May, the day before the coup, were described to the RFMF Board of Enquiry by Lt.Colonel Seruvakula. They were as follows.

Sergeant Filimoni Tikotani requested the CRW troop leader Lieutenant Charles Dakuliga to meet him at the Laucala Bay hangar in Suva to receive orders from the Officer Commanding CRW Units, Lieutenant Penaia Baleinamau. At that meeting Tikotani told Dakuliga that Bainimarama had issued orders through Lt Baleinamau, Major Ilisoni Ligairi and Lt.Colonel Philipo Tarakinikini that they were to take over Parliament the next day. Those Counter Revolutionary soldiers who queried the order were told that Bainimarama knew about the plan but had to be overseas.

Lt.Colonel Seruvakula stated that he and Lt Baleinamau were in direct daily contact with Bainimarama throughout his absence from Fiji. He also stated that Bainimarama told him not to tell other officers that they were talking to each other.

Events of 19th May 2000
The coup occurred on 19th May as planned when CRW personnel entered Parliament and took Government members hostage. Live weapons were held and used by those CRW personnel at that time. Bainimarama was the only person who could have authorized the CRW personnel to act as they did and to employ live weapons.

Bainimarama had recalled Major Liqairi to head the takeover of Parliament.

At the takeover shots were fired. But the CRW soldiers had been tricked into thinking that it was only a training exercise. Once they had realized that it was a trick they still continued, on the understanding that they were following orders from Bainimarama.

Occupation of Parliament: Bainimarama's attempts to take Leadership of the coup
The CRW in Parliament were supplied directly by the Army with food, fuel and weapons.  This would have been impossible without Bainimarama's support. In fact Bainimarama gave direct orders for such support. He stated: "RFMF supports the cause." He also repeatedly expressed support for Speight.

After the coup and during the 56 days in which hostages were held at Parliament, Bainimarama made repeated efforts to take over leadership of the coup. There came a time when he realized that he could not succeed in this aim.

Bainimarama had hoped that with Major Liqairi and the CRW soldiers holding hostages in Parliament the rest of the Army would follow in support.  However, the Army stood firm and the President condemned the takeover and declared a state of emergency.  The coup did not receive sufficient support.

Bainimarama therefore had to adjust his strategy and to appear to oppose Speight. He cunningly gave the impression that he was loyally besieging Speight at the Parliament buildings in order to free the hostages and to save the nation.

Bainimarama then tricked Speight into signing the Muanikau Accord, which ended the coup and provided for the return of CRW soldiers to barracks. Speight was convicted of treason and incarcerated. He is still held incommunicado to this day so that he cannot expose Bainimarama's role in the coup. 

RFMF Board of Enquiry
The events of the coup were carefully examined by the Board of Enquiry. Bainimarama was given the opportunity to give evidence to the Inquiry but he refused to do so. The conclusions of the Board were so unfavorable to him that he ordered all copies of the BOI report destroyed except one to be held by his favorite and sycophant Major Aziz Mohammed. But, another copy has survived which tells the raw truth.

Major Aziz, the person who carried out, at Bainimarama's behest, the removal of the Chief Justice was later appointed as Acting Commander.

Bainimarama also deliberately withheld the report from the Police who had requested it to assist them with their investigations.

Bainimarama transfers blame to CRW
The CRW were now being blamed for the coup as Bainimarama intended. Many were now being beaten, charged with treason and sent to jail. Bainimarama was hunting them down and torturing them. This was part of his plan to transfer the blame.

Accordingly the CRW staged a mutiny on 2nd November 2000, which Bainimarama ruthlessly reacted to, but only after it had been suppressed by gallant officers and soldiers. Bainimarama abandoned his men at the start of the mutiny to save himself by running away down through the casava patch.

Five CRW were beaten to death on his orders after the mutiny. Others languish in prison until this day. All those CRW who could tell the truth as to Bainimarama's involvement in the coup have been silenced.

Post 2000 Coup
A new Commander was being appointed by Government to replace Bainimarama so in December 2003 Bainimarama sought to rally Army support to remove Government.  However he failed at that time to gather enough support. But he did blackmail Government, with threats of force, to renew his contract.

By November 2006 the Government had decided that enough was enough and Bainimarama was facing the following charges:
  1. Disobedience to a lawful order by the Minister of Home Affairs, the Prime Minister's office and the office of the president
  2. Sedition in threatening to remove the Minister of Home Affairs and the Prime Minister
  3. Treason in plotting to overthrow the Government
  4. Unlawful aborting of a Commission of Inquiry (not the  Board of Inquiry)
  5. Illegal removal of the President in 2000
  6. Murder of CRW soldiers in 2000
  7. Abuse of office.
Bainimarama reacted by staging the 2006 coup to save himself.

Bainimarama's biggest lie has been and continues to be that he saved Fiji in 2000.
Bainimarama continues that lie even in his 6th January 2012 speech seeking to justify substituting new drastic measures for those previously in the Public Emergency Regulations. In that speech, written by his expensive and discredited cover up agency, he mourns the devastation of the 2000 coup and says that such must not recur. This he seeks to use as a justification for his new despotic measures.

Bainimarama's regret, however, represents crocodile tears. He more than anyone is responsible for the fires of 2000. Bainimarama knew of and supported the events which led to those fires and all the other pain and sufferings of 2000.
The lesson of 2000 is that to avoid a recurrence of 2000 and to end the fast deteriorating human rights situation in Fiji it is necessary that the current regime be replaced immediately by a fully democratic government and that the Army immediately return fully and permanently to barracks.

Bainimarama must go, in the name of humanity.  The exposing of his biggest lie leaves no alternative.

This article reveals the truth about Frank Bainimarama and his lies and treasonous activities against the democratically elected Government of Fiji, its people and the Royal Fiji Military Forces (RFMF).  Bainimarama did not save Fiji.  He is the problem.

In February 1999, Bainimarama was promoted to Commander RFMF above other more highly qualified and experienced senior officers.  Then in 2000 he chose to play a game that he didn’t have the capability or the brains for.  To save himself, Frank Bainimarama did the well known Fijian “liumuri” (betrayal) and then cunningly portrayed himself as the savior of Fiji.  Indo-Fijians call this treasonous act “aage-peeche”.

Government was appointing a new Commander RFMF so Bainimarama ordered his officers to plan for the removal of Government.  The officers refused so he had them removed. Under duress the Government renewed Bainimarama’s contract.  There will be no escape from these crimes and Bainimarama knows it.  So he is now doing everything and anything he possibly can, including brinkmanship, to stay in power to avoid being arrested and prosecuted. 

The police were to arrest Bainimarama in November 2006 while he was in New Zealand.  It was aborted and Bainimarama was made aware of it. He returned to Fiji, and on 6 December 2006 removed the lawfully and democratically elected Qarase SDL Government.  The then Commissioner of Police was also removed.

Bainimarama told the world that he staged the coup, amongst other things, to rid Fiji of corruption.  But the world now realizes that it was all a ploy and that Bainimarama is now even more corrupt than the Qarase Government he removed.   He is also threatening and beating loyal Fiji soldiers, police officers, Church leaders, Fijian Chiefs, civil servants, citizens and defenseless unarmed women who disagree with his brutal and corrupt dictatorship.  He is also telling many lies, including:
  • Lying about the date on which he would hold an election
  • Lying about lifting restrictions which he has burdened the people of Fiji with for many years
  • Lying about holding democratic elections in 2014 when he cannot hold such elections without being arrested and charged.
We contend that Bainimarama staged the 2006 coup to save himself from being arrested and charged by the Fiji police.  The return of democracy to Fiji with free and fair elections will, no doubt, also return with the police charges against Bainimarama. Therefore, Bainimarama is doing everything and anything to ensure he remains in power and can prevent those charges from being laid against him in a truly democratic system with a free and independent court of law.

This article is far from perfect, but at least it will give the people of Fiji and the world a much clearer understanding of the true motives behind Frank Bainimarama’s actions, specifically how he is manipulating the Fiji military forces and lying to Fiji and to the world to save himself from prosecution and achieve his desire of becoming leader of Fiji.

What was done
This article covers three key periods of time:
  1. The 2000 Coup and Bainimarama’s involvement
  2. The Post 2000 lead up to 2006
  3. The 2006 Coup.
Information was gleaned from copies of documents (attached) that were made available to us from people inside and outside of the RFMF and Police force, civil servants and civilians.  The key information includes:
  • RFMF Board of Inquiry Report ― The Board of Inquiry led by Lt. Colonel Jackson Evans (from 21August 2000 to 24 October 2000) looked into the involvement of the First Meridian Squadron (CRW) in the illegal takeover of Parliament on 19 May 2000 and the subsequent holding of hostages until 13 July 2000.  Frank Bainimarama refused to be interviewed and he ordered the findings destroyed with only one copy to remain with Brigadier Aziz.  Please note, Brig.Aziz was a major at the time and later, like Bainimarama, was promoted over other senior and more qualified military officers.
  • Letter from Ratu Silatolu to Bainimarama
  • Article from Lt.Col Tarakinikini
  • Col Alfred Tuatoko's statement which clearly outlines Bainimarama's orders on 16 December 2003 for the Senior RFMF officers to plan for the removal of the Government
  • Col G Kadavulevu’s (05 January 2004) formal advise to Bainimarama against removing the SDL Government
  • CEO Ministry of  Home Affairs’ statement on Bainimarama's conduct 
  • Lt Col SV Raduva advise (19 January 2004) to the CEO, Ministry of Home Affairs about Bainimarama's threat to remove the SDL Government
  • Father Akauola's 2003 assessment of Commodore Bainimarama's performance as Commander RFMF ― It was requested by a senior Bainimarama military aid and done in consultation with RFMF soldiers and officers
  • Father Akauola's 2010 interviews with Ratu Tevita Mara 
  • Col JB Baledrokadroka’s interview with Lt.Col Seruvakula 
  • Court martial records 
  • Newspaper articles 
  • TV interviews.
02 November 2000 Mutiny
It is important to understand that the CRW mutiny of 02 November 2000 was not against the RFMF or the people of Fiji.  The mutiny was aimed at one person only, Frank Bainimarama, because he had used the CRW to do his bidding and then he (Bainimarama) betrayed (liumuri) them to save himself.

The Muanikau accord that helped end the hostage situation included an agreement that all CRW soldiers involved in parliament would return to RFMF.  The murderer Frank Bainimarama also told CRW soldiers that they were all forgiven and that they would be posted to other units. Meanwhile, CRW members were being arrested and charged for treason.

So what were the CRW to do?  They were being blamed for the 2000 coup, arrested at their homes, beaten and then charged for treason and either sent to jail or imprisoned on Nukulau Island, which was setup as a detention camp.  Then Frank Bainimarama tells the CRW that their unit is going to be disbanded, further suggesting to the world that the CRW unit was guilty of staging the coup and could no longer be trusted and had to be dealt with.

The CRW soldiers saw their options as:

  1. just accept what was happening to them and move on
  2. kill Bainimarama for betraying them.  

Frank Bainimarama was counting on option one, with the CRW soldiers just rolling over and accepting their predicament.  But Frank Bainimarama was wrong! 

The CRW were not going to take the blame for following orders from their Commander, Frank Bainimarama, who had betrayed his men to save himself.  The CRW were all clear, in their understanding, that they had followed their Commander’s orders to go into Parliament and to protect the hostages.  And that is what they had done.

To accept what was happening to them and move on meant going to jail and their families would no longer receive their income and support.  How were the families to survive?  Who would pay the bills and put food on the table?  And their children… 

The CRW chose to kill Bainimarama for betraying them. However, this act to kill another Fijian went against their beliefs and inner being.  It was hard for them to contemplate.  So to help overcome this situation the CRW soldiers first consumed large quantities of alcohol before the operation got underway.  This move proved fatal. Their operation didn’t go according to plan and the rest is history, with Bainimarama setting a world record for the “casava-patch” dash.  Bainimarama had abandoned his men at the start of the mutiny and ran away to save himself. 

A Lt.Colonel commented that it was raining that day but there was dust in the air! The Lt.Colonel was dismissed from the army. It wasn’t raining that sad day of the mutiny but the Lt.Colonel’s comment aptly describes Bainimarama’s character and lack of bravery in deserting his post and men.  The Fijian word for this is lamusona!

Loyal Fiji CRW soldiers, who had followed their commander’s orders, were now being hunted down, captured, tortured and some murdered.  Even those CRW that were not involved in parliament were being hunted down and tortured.

There were over 60 tortured CRW soldiers held captive in Korovou prison, just across the road from the Suva yacht club.  The number of CRW soldiers being arrested was increasing daily and they were taken to Korovou prison.  Their families were not told of their whereabouts and they didn’t know if they were dead or alive.

Frank Bainimarama had given strict instructions that none of the tortured CRW soldiers were to receive any medical attention. But through the grace of God, a Marist Priest, Father Seluini Akauola, a specialist Moral Theologian and Counselor, was there in Fiji and he went out of his way to seek help for the CRW soldiers. They finally received medical attention and most of them are still alive today.

Fr. Akauola, who often visited the CRW soldiers in Korovou, recalled with tears in his eyes, that the CRW boys were treated like animals.  He said that they had been locked up in their dark cells for days, even weeks, with their injuries untreated.  The injuries included multiple fractures to the arms and legs and ribs, severe bruises and swelling, and open wounds and distorted faces.  Captain Steven, who had led the CRW operation against Frank Bainimarama, was near death.  Fr. Akauola said that he “could not believe that one human being could do this type of injury to another human being”.  
Here are a few photos of those tortured and murdered Loyal Fiji CRW soldiers. 
Beaten to death
Editor's Note: We apologise to the families of the men  pictured for any distress caused; the photos have been published only in the interest of ensuring the people of Fiji are informed about the true circumstances of their deaths.

    Fitness walk or intimidation rally?

    Army on the move in Nabua.
    It was billed as a fitness walk but it looked like a military rally.

    Frank Bainimarama this morning led more than 650 military personnel, naval officers and prison officers in a 15 kilometres route march around Nabua, taking in Suva Point and the golf course in Vautwaqa before returning to the Queen Elizabeth barracks.

    According to Fiji Live, the military Chief of Staff Operations Lieutenant-Colonel Amani Suliano said the march happened four times a year "and also whenever the military Commander Commodore Bainimarama calls for it."

    Bainimarama and top brass
    The 'fitness exercise' supposedly gave troops  time to 'talk and walk' with Bainimarama but he was the only one wearing anything close to sweats: everyone else was in full uniform and carried weapons. 

    There wasn't much mingling done either according to the pictures with top brass sticking together and rank and file falling into line.  

    Pictures: FijiLive today.

    Lots of sucking up but no progress on Constitution talks

    Smile - we're in the frame.
    No time for the all important constitution consultation process but time to press the flesh with visiting dignitaries, businessmen, and low key civic duties?

    And again...
    The illegal leader has failed for a second time to start the discussions as promised in the New Year when the Public Emergency Regulations were removed and replaced with the amended Public Order Act.

    No good reason was given in January when the discussions were supposed to have started and no good reason again from the look of things.  

    And again...
    Still, Bainimarama is using the floods and turning conveniently to the old bogey of wanting to make sure the constitution is not a 'racist document' to cover up for failing to deliver for a second time. As we said in our story on January 22 when we voiced our concern about the failure to meet that first deadline, the nation needs to keep tracking this treasonous regime to make sure it does right by the people.

    Bainimarama on constitution consultations

    Volunteer service launch

    Tuesday, February 28, 2012

    Law firm's claim puts former Natadola chair in the spotlight

    Were Fiji National Provident Funds mismanaged when Fiji Trade Union Congress officials, Felix Anthony and Daniel Urai, were on the board?  

    The answer may lie in a case the Fiji High Court is currently trying to resolve, involving the law firm Anand Kumar and Kohli and Singh, which says they were hired by Anthony to act for Natadola Bay Resort Company. 

    The law firm alleges it is owed F$481,078.43 plus A$64,410.00 for legal services "unliquidated, unproven and disputed" and wants "their bill of costs, charges and disbursements delivered to the aforesaid Natadola Bay Resort Limited referred to the Master as the Taxing Officer to be taxed..."

    The sticky point is that Natadola is disputing the claim which is being made by way of Originating Summons, maintaining "no such approval was submitted and the existence of proper authority to retain the Plaintiffs is an issue before the court."

    Master Deepthi Amaramatunga ruled last Monday the court award no costs but that Anand Kumar Kohli and Singh be given 14 days to file a writ of summons, which will allow the court to deal with the case, including establishing who engaged the firm and what the agreed terms and conditions were.

    In his ruling Amaramatunga said: " The affidavit in support indicate that Mr. Filix Anthony, who was the Chairman of the Defendant requested for the legal services, but was unable to submit a written request. Even if there was such a written request, was he authorized to do such an act is another issue, considering the Defendant is a limited liability company, quite distinct from the ex-chairman who was only an appointee by the government."

    Singh v Bay Resort Ltd (Feb 21 2012)

    Monday, February 27, 2012

    Fiji's self-appointed PM naps at the beach

    No idea where the picture was taken or what the occasion was - or even if there was one. But as they say, a picture paints a thousand words. We leave it to readers to draw their own conclusion. The picture ... and the caption .... has been printed as it was sent to Coupfourpointfive.

    Army officers who should've been investigated by Koroi

    Some of the soldiers who acted against the people of Fiji in the 2006 coup have already been named. Others haven't and can now be revealed in the following document - a compilation of complaints at CID headquarters - before Jim Koroi was appointed Police Commissioner and put a stop to all investigations. The procedural document - aimed at ascertaining "what laws were being broken" by the army in the takeover - will (along with many others) ensure the complaints can be revisited and the offenders brought to justice.

    Secret mission finds proof Fiji legal system being forced to comply with military law

    Covert trip reveals rule of law ‘lost’ in Fiji | The Law Gazette
    Graham Leung
    Thursday 23 February 2012 by Eduardo Reyes
    A secret fact-finding mission to Fiji has concluded that the rule of law ‘no longer operates’ in the country. The independence of the judiciary ‘cannot be relied upon’ and ‘there is no freedom of expression’, council member and Law Society Charity chair Nigel Dodds reports in Fiji: The Rule of Law Lost.

    Dodds visited Fiji on a tourist visa in late 2011. Following a 2006 coup, ruled illegal by its court of appeal in 2009, Fiji is ruled by decree through emergency measures renewed every 30 days. The Pacific country of 850,000 people is currently suspended from the Commonwealth.

    The report claims that Fiji’s attorney general, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, has been central to ending the rule of law by limiting the power of the courts and ending the independence of legal sector regulation. Fiji’s president, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, revoked all judicial appointments in 2009.

    Dodds’ report reveals the extent to which the government depends on the appointment of judges and senior law officers from Sri Lanka on short-term contracts. Chancery Lane’s human rights adviser, Courtenay Barklem, notes: ‘Judges have to have security of tenure. We don’t know how these judges are being selected.’

    Meanwhile, the  country’s largest commercial law firm, Munro Leys, once thegovernment of Fiji’s main provider of legal services, no longer receives government instructions, independent sources told Dodds.

    The 2009 Administration of Justice Act removed the jurisdiction of the court to hear or determine a challenge to any government action. This has now been supplemented with a practice direction, seen by Dodds, pinned to the walls of the courts, noting that the chief registrar will terminate any such case that slips through the net.

    Dodds told the Gazette: ‘I found a significant number of lawyers endeavouring to do the best for their clients in intolerable circumstances. They deserve tremendous credit.’

    Previously criticised by the Law Society in open correspondence, a professional accreditation regime remains in place whereby the government issues practising certificates, Dodds reports. In 2011 the government refused to permit Fiji’s Law Society to hold its annual meeting.

    Ana Rokomokoti
    Dodds’ subterfuge was deemed necessary following the refusal of the Fiji government to admit an International Bar Association delegation to the country in 2009. He funded the trip personally.

    Fiji’s High Commission did not provide a comment on the report in the time available.

    NZ Lawyer Online
    Rule of Law lost in Fiji says Law Society Charity
    By Darise Bennington
    The Rule of Law no longer operates in Fiji, the Law Society Charity (Charity) has found following a visit to Fiji in November 2011. 

    Christopher Pryde
    It also concluded that there is no peaceful and lawful way to challenge government decisions, no democracy, that the independence of the judiciary cannot be relied on, that the competence and independence of the prosecution service has been reduced to an unacceptable level, and that the government controls and restrictions make it virtually impossible for an independent legal profession to function appropriately.

    The Charity was set up by the Law Society of England and Wales in 1974 to fund and provide expertise to organisations whose work is related to the law and the legal profession with a view to furthering law and justice. In its January 2012 report, Fiji:

    The Rule of Law Lost, the Charity considers the effect on the Rule of Law in Fiji of the events of 2009 and beyond.

    Of particular concern was the Administration of Justice Decree 2009, which removed “the jurisdiction of the Courts to accept, hear and determine, or in any other way, entertain, any challenges whatsoever (including any application for judicial review) by any person to the validity or legality of any Decrees made by the President as from 10 April 2009” (at 5.5).

    Also of concern were the Public Emergency Regulations which were first imposed in April 2009, and which have been extended every 30 days by the Government since that date. Under the Regulations, the State has control over the movement of every person, the release of press statements, publications, and broadcasts of all media outlets, every gathering of three or more persons, and meetings or processions in public places.

    The Charity became involved in the issues affecting Fiji’s legal profession andjudici ary, and the Rule of Law, following a request by the Commonwealth Law Association for its support in enabling the attendance of former Fiji Law Society President Graham Leung at the Commonwealth Law Conference in Hyderabad in February 2011.

    Both Leung and the Charity were asked to address the Conference on issues relating to the Rule of Law in Fiji, with the Charity addressing the issue of the dismissal of the greater part of the Fijian judiciary and the removal from the Fijian Law Society of the registration of lawyers.

    Aware the Fijian Government had denied access to the UN Rapporteur to investigate matters in 2009 as well as a delegation from the International Bar Association,  the 3Charity took advantage of its Chair’s private visit to Fiji between 13 and 18 November last year to investigate the issues for itself. “The focus of the report was to be on what action could be taken by external law societies and bar associations to support the Rule of Law in Fiji,” it said at 3.3.

    The Charity noted that the Regulations made it difficult to investigate, as a permit was required for any meeting involving more than three persons. “[H]ence an interview could not take place with more than two individuals at a time,” it said at 4.1.

    The Charity also noted that a notice is posted to the walls of the Courts stating that “no proceedings challenging the constitutionality of the Government’s acts can be issued” (at 5.6).

    With respect to the registration of lawyers, the Charity found that the implementation of the Legal Practitioners Decree 2009 denuded the Law Society of the power to register lawyers, with the power given to the Chief Registrar, the first of whom under the Decree was a former Senior Legal Officer with the Fiji military. On 23 May 2009, Major Ana Rokomokoti removed the files of the Fiji Law Society after threatening to arrest staff if they did not hand over the files. “This was despite the offer of an orderly handover by the Society,” said the Charity at 8.3.

    Since 15 June 2009, all lawyers have to have the approval of a government official in order to practice. Rokomokoti’s lack of independence was underlined, said the Charity, when she was arbitrarily removed from office on 25 June  2011. Her replacement is a Sri Lankan on a three-year contract, although the Charity noted that her tenure “is entirely at the will of the Government” (at 8.4).

    Of the 300 or so legal practitioners practising in Fiji at the time the Decree was implemented, only one – Leung – took a stand and refused to apply for a practising certificate. “He is now an exile being unable to work as a lawyer in Fiji,” said the Charity at 8.6.

    Another area of concern to the Charity is the appointment of former High Court Judge John Connor as Commissioner of the Independent Legal Services Commission, which now holds responsibility for hearing complaints against lawyers. “Under the Legal Practitioners Decree, charges are brought before the Commission by the Chief Registrar,” said the Charity at 9.1. “The Chief Registrar can pursue charges of her own initiative even if withdrawn by a complainant.”

    The Charity noted that while there may have been dissatisfaction with the previous legal complaints regime  – over issues of delay, for instance  – there were problems with the current regime, especially with respect to cases involving the Government directly or indirectly, or where the lawyer concerned opposed the Government, or was involved in a case or had a client in which the Government perceives an interest.

    The Commissioner was also regarded as a supporter of the Regime, with the Society noting at 9.6 that “his acceptance of the post in any event calls into question his independence of it”. It also noted that the control of the prosecution system by the Chief Registrar makes it susceptible to government interference.

    The Charity also considered the role of prosecutors under the new regime, and the impact of the series of dismissals of prosecutors since the “long-standing and respected”  Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Josaia Naigulevu was dismissed along with the judiciary in April 2009.

    The most recent appointee to the role of DPP is Ayesha Jinasena, a Sri Lankan on a two-year contract. Said the Charity at 12.5, “The office of the DPP and that of FICAC became populated with the newly qualified and lawyers imported from Sri Lanka. The DPP was seen by her staff as largely an administrative figurehead and ineffectual in the control of casework.”

    Jinasena was sacked and ordered to leave Fiji on 24 November – due to “lack of confidence by the police” (at 12.8). She has since been replaced by New Zealand lawyer Christopher Pryde (who was previously Solicitor General).

    The Charity noted that the judges dismissed in April 2009 were given no reasons, no notice, and no compensation for loss of office. “It is apparent that their sin was to comply with their oath of office and to act independently rather than any misconduct,” said the Charity at 13.4. “It is difficult to conceive of a more obvious attack on judicial independence.”

    The Charity found that Chief Justice Gates had used his personal connections with Sri Lanka to recruit Sri Lankan judges in large numbers on short-term, renewable contracts. “The quality is held to be variable. Maintaining independence from government in their position must be difficult,” it said at 13.6.

    The Charity noted in its report that these appointments are now being considered by a subcommittee set up by the Commonwealth Law Conference.

    The purpose of the Charity’s report is to provide recommendations to the wider global legal community in order to ensure that Fiji returns to the Rule of Law. It has set out the following eight recommendations:

    “The Law Society of England and Wales and the Bar Council reaffirm their recognition of the Law Society of Fiji as the representative organisation of the Fijian Legal Profession and urges this position upon the International Associations on which they are represented.

    “The Law Society of England and Wales seeks British Government funding to provide capacity building to the Fiji Law Society in relation to the registration and discipline of lawyers such assistance to be offered on a government-togovernment basis.

    “The Law Society of England and Wales and the Bar intervene on behalf of individual lawyers whose human rights are impinged in Fiji and urge other
    national associations to do likewise. 

    “All national and international law society and bar associations urge their member firms to resist efforts to discriminate against individual firms in Fiji in transactions in which the member firms are involved.

    “The Commonwealth Lawyers Association pursues the investigation as to whether those accepting office with the Regime can have their conduct
    reviewed under home bar rules and urges its membership organisations to do likewise and further considers how the issue may be addressed in Sri Lanka.

    “The Bar Council in England and Wales and the Inns review the membership and qualifications of those holding office under the Regime and consider whether they continue to be justified and that other national organisations dolikewis e.

    “That Rule of Law issues in Fiji be monitored on a continuing basis with regular reviews of developments by the Commonwealth Lawyers Association and the International Bar Association. All national law societies and bars lobby their governments to press for measures to be taken by the Fiji Government to ensure a return to the Rule of Law.”
    NZLawyer \\ 24 February 2012 \\ Issue 178

    Editor's Note: The above articles are posted on the new website of the Council for a Democratic  Fiji(CFDF). The group launched the site just over a week ago. Hit the link below to take you to it.

    Sunday, February 26, 2012

    Smuggled papers show Bainimarama's lust for power

    Commodore Frank Bainimarama sacked senior officers who opposed his takeover plans. Picture / Greg BowkerFrank Bainimarama tried and failed three times to seize power in Fiji before his 200 coup. Victor Lal and Russell Hunter reveal how the warning signs went ignored

    It was February 2007 - two months after Commodore Frank Bainimarama seized power in Fiji - when Time magazine's Australian editor Steve Waterson arrived in Suva to assess the situation.

    The coup leader, aware that his image abroad needed serious repair, immediately granted an interview and launched a charm offensive.

    "Just call me Frank," he told Waterson, and later added, "I didn't want this job." He explained he was needed to clean up corruption and put the nation on a path to prosperity.

    A series of documents smuggled out of Fiji tell a vastly different story. Bainimarama not only wanted the job but had tried three times previously to seize control of the nation.

    His first attempt occurred during the negotiations to end the George Speight hostage crisis in August 2000.

    Several of those present confirmed that the Commodore - who had tacitly supported the Speight coup - declared that the military should lead the nation "for the next five, 10 or 50 years".

    A heated argument between Speight and Bainimarama ensued, ending only when President Ratu Josefa Iloilo said a democratic solution was the only way forward.

    Bainimarama proposed that banker and businessman Laisenia Qarase should lead an interim government with elections after one year. But to his frustration he found his "advice" to the interim government was routinely shunned.
    By December 2003 the Qarase government - tired of the Commodore's constant and often public interference - was reluctant to renew his term, due to expire in April the following year.

    When Bainimarama got wind of this, he flew into a rage and ordered his senior officers to start planning a coup. But he reckoned without senior officers who counselled against such action and finally refused to implement his orders.

    On January 5, 2004, secret advice to Bainimarama not to stage a coup warned of the chaos and damage that could follow.

    The document, composed and signed by Lieutenant Colonel Jeremaia Waqanisau, Colonel Alfred Tuatoko, Colonel George Kadavulevu, Colonel Samuela Raduva and naval commander Timoci Koroi, reads in part:

    "We feel that the interests of the RFMF (Republic of Fiji Military Forces) and the nation have been overridden by your personal wishes ...

    "Under the circumstances there is no way you can justify your intent and impending action. On the other hand the consequences of such action would be catastrophic for Fiji. The despair and suffering will be unbearable and longer lasting than that experienced after 1987 and 2000."
    None of the officers agreed to be interviewed.

    However, the later "redress of wrong petition" also contains a statement by Tuatoko, who wrote: "In my interview with [Bainimarama] he stated that he would forcefully remove the present government if his term as Comd RFMF was not renewed.

    "I advised him that such an act was illegal and amounted to treason. I advised him that there are legal ways to settle his disagreement with government and that he must follow that legal path. Comd said that doing so would take too much time. He said that removing the government would be legally wrong but was morally correct."

    This document was sent to the Minister for Home Affairs, Joketani Cokanasiga, and is likely to have been seen by Qarase. Incredibly, nothing was done. A senior minister told Hunter at the time: "We're not too worried about him [Bainimarama]. He doesn't have the support at the camp that he thinks he has."

    The aborted coup of January 2004 persuaded the Government that the soldiers would not obey their commander if he ordered them to commit treason by removing it.

    In December 2005, Bainimarama decided to try for a third time. He had been reappointed, so his job was no longer an issue, but he knew Police Commissioner Andrew Hughes had no intention of backing off a murder inquiry into the deaths of five members of the elite Counter Revolutionary Warfare unit, kicked to death by loyalist soldiers after the November 2000 mutiny.

    There was also anger in sections of the officer corps (by now mostly hand-picked Bainimarama men) that the Qarase Government was "soft" on those involved in the 2000 coup.

    Bainimarama had sacked the five officers who refused to carry out his first attempted coup and appointed Lieutenant Colonel Jone Baledrokadroka as Land Force Commander - effectively his deputy. He told Baledrokadroka to prepare plans for a military takeover.

    Like his brother officers before him, JB (as he was known) refused to be involved in treason. He was told to take leave and not come back but again the coup had to be postponed.

    JB told Hunter on the day of his dismissal: "I saw an order that I deciphered as treasonous and I could not accept it."
    By May 2006, in the full realisation that Bainimarama's reappointment had not bought off its troublesome military commander and with a fresh election victory under its belt, the Cabinet wanted him gone.

    There was talk of surcharging him for the blatant abuse of military funding in the army's "Truth and Justice" campaign that sought to influence voters during the 2006 election. It came to nothing - but Bainimarama was to hear of it and it fanned the flames of his fury.

    With the dismissal of JB he was able to surround himself with an officer corps that owed their positions to him alone. His coup would take place within a year.

    Claim strongman threatened to kill officer
    Fiji leader Frank Bainimarama threatened to kill a former top army officer who challenged his 2003 coup plan, according to the officer's written testimony.

    The late Lieutenant-Colonel Jeremaia Waqanisau refused to carry out the Commodore's coup order and took a new job as CEO at the Ministry of Home Affairs.

    In a file note at the time he recalled in January 2004 the Commodore barged into Home Affairs Minister Joketani Cokanasiga's office with several bodyguards, accusing Waqanisau of raising an army against him.

    "Bainimarama further said had it not been for the minister I would have been dead already, and next time the military came back to finish what they started he would personally lead [them] to town and make sure I would be the first to die.
    "I told Bainimarama when he came down next time he should come alone, without his weapon and his armed body guards and then try to kill me. He became furious challenging me to a fight taking off his [weapon] and posing for a fight... I said I didn't want to fight him and he should go away. The minister was holding him back and eventually pushed him out the door."