Why Did Qarase Send Ridgway Packing?
" There is next to zero knowledge about things like the plan to burn down Suva in 1999. Crooks like Duvuloco were even able to stand for election in 2006 when it's clear he should have been locked up with Speight. Something was very wrong with the Qarase Government when they were preventing Peter Ridgeway from completing his investigation." - No Escaping the Truth, a comment on this blog.
This interview between ABC's Paula Kruger and Peter Ridgway, former Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions says something about the type of democracy that existed in Fiji between 2000-2006.
The World Today - Friday,17 June, 2005 12:38:00. Reporter: Paula Kruger.
TANYA NOLAN: A senior Australian prosecutor who has spent the past four years in Fiji, winning convictions against key figures in the 2000 coup, has been denied permission to continue working in the country. Peter Ridgway is the former Deputy Director of Fiji's Department of Public Prosecutions. His contract expired last month, but he had requested a 10-week extension from the Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, but it was turned down. Mr Ridgway's imminent departure comes amid increasing pressure on the Fijian Government, over its proposed Reconciliation, Tolerance and Unity Bill. The bill would free people jailed for their involvement in the 2000 coup, if their crimes are deemed political and not criminal. Paula Kruger spoke to Peter Ridgway as he was packing up his home in the capital Suva.
PETER RIDGWAY: The sticking point or rather the unsticking point seemed to be the Prime Minister, whose consent was required, but was being withheld.
PAULA KRUGER: So we're not talking of an administrative error here. We're talking that you weren't given permission by the Prime Minister to continue staying in Fiji?
PETER RIDGWAY: That seems to be the case. But what the motivation for that is, perhaps is not clear. The information that's been reaching me is to the effect that the Prime Minister was more than a little piqued at not having been consulted a good deal earlier on the matter, as protocol seems to require. His response seems to be as much the product of pique as anything else.
PAULA KRUGER: There's been some criticism within certain groups in Fiji like the Law Council about the upcoming Reconciliation, Tolerance and Unity Bill. Can any connections be drawn between you not given permission to stay in Fiji and this bill?
PETER RIDGWAY: It's hard to draw a direct one, there are inferential connections, obviously.When I set about this process of prosecuting those responsible for the 2000 coup I knew that it wasn't going to make me the most popular man in town, with at least half of the population. And that's proven to be the case.
You'd be naïve if you went into this believing that you were going to be winning friends and influencing people. It was a hard job, and had to be done. So I never expected to be loved or even for that matter greatly thanked for it.
PAULA KRUGER: Is it frustrating, though, that you've spent four years prosecuting people over that coup?
PETER RIDGWAY: Oh yes it is, of course it is. Of course it's frustrating to see the process salvaged, virtually, from the wreckage of 2000, and made to work as it was properly intended, only to find that it's being unravelled for reasons which have very little to do with justice.
PAULA KRUGER: So those reasons would probably have to do with the election coming up in Fiji next year?
PETER RIDGWAY: Well, again, that's speculative, Paula, and to be honest, in my former position as Deputy DPP, I stayed out of politics. It was inappropriate to engage in the political debate. And it's the same thing with this bill. It is now part of a political process.
PAULA KRUGER: You're packing up today. When are you heading out of Fiji?
PETER RIDGWAY: Well, all being well we're expecting to fly out on Sunday week, the 26th of June. Now, that is a date of my choosing – it's not a date of the Government's choosing, it's not a date that's being forced on me.We're not being kicked out in that sense, we're merely… we have no further business here, and the time has come to go.
PAULA KRUGER: Would it be sad to leave?
PETER RIDGWAY: Oh yeah, very much so, because I have, in the last four years, I think, with all due false modesty aside, I've had a lot to do with resurrecting the rule of law and the criminal justice process in this country. I take a lot of pride in that, and I'm going to be very sorry to leave it behind me.
TANYA NOLAN: The former Deputy Director of Fiji's Department of Public Prosecutions Peter Ridgway, with Paula Kruger.