Bits on Ratu Tevita Mara and My Take on the Situation

ONE PICURE IS SAID TO BE WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS. Australian readers, Do your TV channels, like ours, show old 2006 film footage of soldiers, Bainimarama in uniform and barbed wire roadblocks with almost every item on Fiji? This is what we have seen on TV1 and TV7, government channels. and the "independent" TV3 when covering the Ratu Tevita affair. I'm sure that any survey of popular opinion would show 95% of New Zealanders think this is what Fiji is like today.

TV3 NEWS
tonight asked Nik Naidu, Rajesh Singh and Peter Williams QC debate whether Ratu Mara should be allowed in NZ. The answers, in order, were no, yes, yes. The story as usual was accompanied by old film footage but this time the broadcasters obviously did not know that the woman they showed with a brace on her neck had been beaten up by Ratu Tevita! As for the story there were "thousands like her", what utter poppycock. No one previously has made such an outrageous claim.

BIZARRE MICHAEL FIELD, referring to the MOI release I published yesterday, thinks "The statement on the website is so completely out of kilter with previous Fiji Government statements that it raises questions over who now is in control in Suva."Out of kilter? Good old Michael. Always a one to speculate. He'd bet on a horse with only no legs. The only difference to an earlier statement by Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabole is that it was far more direct, and pulled no punches. But since Ratu Inoke spoke, the Australian government has granted fugitive Ratu Tevita Mara a visa, knowing full well that he would be speaking to an anti-Government rally in Canberra.** This runs counter to normal protocols, even between countries that are not enjoying a normal relationship.

** I'll publish  a full article on the aims of  this meeting and its organisers later in the weekend
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MY TAKE ON THE SITUATION
In granting a visa to a known fugitive such as Mara it would seem that the Australian Government cares little for the due process of the law in Fiji.  If it has problems about the rule of law, as it claims, it should cite instances of political interference in judicial judgments. It has not done so because it cannot cite a single case. One wonders what the case would be if Fiji gave refuge to an Australian criminal, and the authorities assisted him to evade capture and extradition.
 
Fiji and Australia, along with many other countries, have for a long time had mutually beneficial arrangements for dealing with issues of fugitives from each others' jurisdictions. Australia's actions in granting a visa to a known fugitive risks jeopardizing these arrangements.  It is hard to see how can justice will be served and what Australia can possibly hope to gain by this action.
 
The Australia government  is now permitting a fugitive into the country, a fugitive against whom an extradition order still awaits a decision from Tonga. These are not the actions one would expect from a country that respects Tongan jurisdiction or one that genuinely wants to help Fiji  back to democracy. Their action, unfortunately,  can only be seen as another slap in the face that will do nothing to lessen tensions and improve dialogue between the two governments.
 
The Australian government must know this man's record and what he hopes to achieve. His calls for a peaceful uprising echo strangely against those of his followers who have put a bounty on the heads of senior government officials and threatened to put bullets though their heads. These are the words of people who, in another situation, Australia would label as terrorists.  They are certainly not democrats. Yet these are the messages who, thanks to an Australian visa, will soon be spread to his supporters in Australia. Fiji needs engagement with Australia to assist it towards democratic elections.  It does not need underhanded politics aimed at toppling the country's de facto government.
 
Many will think the Australian government is applying double standards in issuing  visas. It will not allow spouses or relatives of anyone in the military into Australia. Entry has even been refused for a child seeking fully paid medical treatment for cancer. But Mara, who is the brother-in-law of the President of Fiji and who was instrumental in the coup, seems to have been welcomed with open arms.
 
I cannot see how this can help anyone concerned with justice, dialogue between governments, or democracy in Fiji
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Comments

Disappointed said…
Croz, your take on the situation, like so many of your recent takes on so many situations, is mis-informed.

Your defense of this government appears to be reaching sad new heights. What used to be a level-headed, fair blog dedicated to providing appropriate, balanced analysis has become a portal against "pro-democracy blogs" like CoupFourPointFive. You constantly refer to the idiocy of 4.5's reporting (which might be true) but has no relevance in the larger scheme of things.

People are emotional about this topic because they want democratic rule and fairness in Fiji. You now appear to ignore that emotion, standing up to defend a corrupt, dangerous and lost government in Fiji valiantly fighting against strong regional oppressors (Australia and New Zealand). Yes, I've seen you make some critical comments of the regime but as of late, it's all about how bad everyone else is.

The reality is that you're an armchair "journalist", Croz...sitting in New Zealand without any financial or life interest in what happens in Fiji. That's not to say you're not qualified to comment...you are. That is your right as a free citizen. Ironically, the very people who you claim to be supporting have no such right. Until that wrong is righted, nothing will be good out of Fiji and Mara's visa approval to Australia really doesn't mean all that much.

Use your position to apply pressure to drop the PER and restore democratic rule in Fiji. Anything else you do now appears to be one-sided. It's a real shame.
The Civilian Future of Fiji said…
Justice? Dialogue? Peace in Fiji?

How can this be assisted by permitting a purported felonious, violent and profligate man into Australia to meet with others who share his predilections? A man whom we know to be associated with people who have chosen to engage in corruption and illegality over many years? Do you need witnesses? There are many prepared to produce the evidence. There is evidence whih is documentary and in person.

The only basis on which this might be useful would be to identify all his inter-locutors and to investigate them for incitement to further acts of terror? Does terrorism have other definitions within Australian Borders? We think not. We would expect to see anyone now residing in Australia or New Zealand, the United States or the United Kingdom who has promoted violence, killings and terrorism over the internet (CYBERCRIME) to be immediately investigated and charged. The brutalisation of civilians, the nurturing of violence and sadistic attacks within any country are indictable offences. Move on these people and do so unequivocally so that we may all see no double standards are applied. Where they are brought to account makes little difference to Fiji's women and children. All that matters is that the beatings, the threatened killings end and that justice is served: served NOW.

New Zealand will do itself a great favour not to harbour a man of this calibre. Unless, it chooses to administer due process of its own? Failing this, the International Criminal Court at The Hague will be approached by us, the women of Fiji who choose to have lasting Peace and security and for our children and grandchildren to receive respect with their futures assured in the Land of their Birth.

This cannot, surely, be too much to ask? We are counting on Australia to now make good on what has appeared to us an often ambivalent approach to our plight. We do not, of course, include the many honourable, dedicated and generous Australian individuals and Australian taxpayers who have tried to assist us through expert channels of help. We have met with some just two days ago.

Take out the terrorists from our midst and allow us to live free from fear of the immediate future. We are the CIVILIAN FUTURE of Fiji!
Thumbs Up for Democracy said…
Your double standards are showing once again. The Government and Pro Government supporters just have to make a statement and you accept it as fact. The Pro Democracy movement makes a statement and you question every little thing.

You say and underline it no less. “Obviously did not know that the woman they showed with a brace on her neck had been beaten up by Ratu Tevita”

At least you should have put allegedly in front of that statement. You are quoting an unnamed source who admits they can’t reach the people attacked. Ratu Mara is an eye witness to the beatings and has stated he saw Bainimarama land the first blow. He is on the record as saying that he will stand up in court, under oath and say that. Who has more credibility?

You say “If it (Australia) has problems about the rule of law, as it claims, it should cite instances of political interference in judicial judgments.” This regime was founded on political interference in judicial judgments. The Government lost an appeal court case and abrogated the constitution. If that is not political interference then I don’t know what is.

You say “The Australia government is now permitting a fugitive into the country, a fugitive against whom an extradition order still awaits a decision from Tonga. These are not the actions one would expect from a country that respects Tongan jurisdiction” The Tongans gave Ratu Mara a passport knowing full well he intended to travel. He has said so many times on YouTube. Tonga was obviously happy about the situation so I do not see how Australia interfered with Tongan jurisdiction.

With regards to extradition. No bilateral agreements exist between Tonga and Fiji. Extradition agreements existed under the umbrella of the commonwealth and the Forum. Both organizations have expelled Fiji. Therefore there is no extradition treaty. If it ever comes to court in Tonga, which I seriously doubt for the above reasons, it will not get very far. Saying this Government is F All is allowed under Tongan law and is not a crime. You can only be extradited if the crime with which you are charged is a crime in both countries.

I could go on highlighting the inaccuracies in the MinInfo statement but it is too wearisome.

Croz one thing you should know. There is hope in Fiji now. There has not been any for a long time but people believe the end of the regime is in sight. Ratu Mara has given us hope.

You can question his motives. You can question his role in the illegal regime. You can accuse him of beatings.

You cannot deny he has transformed the pro democracy movement. He has generated more publicity in a few weeks than in all the previous years. Daily he gets a reaction from regime that appears on the front page, He is making an impact on the people of Fiji and you can see it daily with the thumbs up campaign. The military is splitting as seen by fights in the camp over the past few weeks.

I happy to say that the regime you support so strongly is beginning to show cracks. For the first time it is worried about surviving. Well done Ratu Mara. Thumbs Up!
Croz Walsh said…
@ Disappointed ...So am I. I was half way though an article on PER when the FDFM meeting came up and took precedence. It's now obviously harder to argue that it be lifted, but I'll try again later. Sorry that I cannot support a "return to before 2006" and if you read back through the blog you will see I never have.
@ Thumbs up ... You repeat a question I have already answered. The women told CEDAW and Human Rights Watch that it was Mara who beat them. Thumbs up for aq better Fiji.
Morgan said…
If I recall correctly, an Appeal Court ruling declared the 2006 coup illegal. After that there was a wee bit of government interference with the judiciary: All judges got fired and the constitution was abrogated. But never mind everything else seems to be great in Fiji.
Croz Walsh said…
@ Morgan ...Lawyers and judges were appointed under the 1997 Constitution. When it was abrogated their appointments became void. Most lawyers applied for permission to practice and most were reappointed. As far as I know there has been no successful attempt at political interference that might have affected court decisions since then. In fact, as I pointed out, judges have thrown out a number of cases brought by the Director of Public Prosecution, e.g.,the Imrana Jalal case. If you know of any case of successful political interference, please let me know.
Anonymous said…
Well I would'nt trust Mara as far as I could throw him.Which being a bit old & feeble is not very far.
I mean love him or hate him Frank has bought a stabilising influence to Fiji , but his time is far over. There is a good cartoon in the making here...You have this woman Smith Jones...being a parrot for Frank & the AG. You have the Tongan Navy at Minerva reef. The Kiwis on the left of you the Aussies on the right all looking to Fiji with total derision.Roko will no doubt be giving the Australian foreign office the hard
intel on the inside track.This I imagine will result in Rudd bring Court action via the Hague and indicting members of the Government & Military there. This action will be paid for by Australia, I can see Australia armed with information seeking to freeze many overseas bank accounts
So none of this new is going to great for the illegal Gvt. Personlly I feel ambivalent as to when Fiji returns to Democratic Government...It could be next year or in 3. One thing I remaim pretty confident of though is, that there will be a lot of tears shed when this lot goes into checkmate.
Yours faithfully
Major Blank retired.
Nive said…
This is how I see it, Croz. The Australian govt want information from Tevita. They want intelligence. Things like how things are done in the Fijian army. Who supports Bainimarama. More importantly, who doesn't. Aussie govt will do anything to get such information. Basically they are shit-scared of Bainimarama. Of all the little Pacific Island nations, Fiji is the one that Aussie govt has least influence over. They want to change this. You do remember, the Julian Moti case. Aussie govt went so far as to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to prop up the girl and her family in Australia so she could be a witness in the case, which Moti ulitmately won. The best thing for a journalist like you to do is to get in touch with the ABC four courners journalists and ask questions like you have in your article.
Islands in the Stream said…
The tests to be applied for anyone standing for future office before Fijians will now needy to be these:

1. Have you ever received allowances or been remunerated in any form by any government or quasi-Administration in Fiji?

2. Have you been remunerated in any other capacity by the taxpayers of Fiji? If so, declare this fully and with transparency?

3. Do you know of any other reason why you should be disqualified from taking up any position of state? Have you been a member of ANY political party or held office in any political party?

4. Are you or have you ever been a member of either the Great Council of Chiefs or the Methodist Church of Fiji?

5. Have you ever taken part in activity of any kind which might be described as contrary to the best interests of All Fijians? Describe fully and with complete honesty what you understand as being "The best interest of All Fijians".

6. Are you prepared to make a full disclosure of your financial standing especially over the past five years since 1 January 2006? If not, why not?

Anyone unprepared for this minimal and compulsory disclosure should have no thought of putting themselves forward for future office in any government which might bmooeded for The future of Fiji.
Walker Texas Ranger said…
Croz:

Point 7 to be added to the list of questions to asked of anyone proposing to stand for office (of any sort)
Should be this:

Do you have any association of any description with persons or entities connected to Serious Organised Crime?
Have you bribed or received a bribe at any time from any person?

Bribe may, of course, be monetary but not necessarily so a 'Quid pro Quo, to be exact.
No Resting in Peace........ said…
We now expect Ratu Tevita Mara to reveal the role played by the late Commissioner of Police, Isikia Savua.

The man who died in his bed undisturbed by any investigations of his "standing by" (as reported elsewhere) in May 2000 while hundreds of Fijians were internally displaced and abused, their houses burned and their livestock slaughtered and hauled to Parliament.

Stood by? What is a Commissioner of Police doing to stand by in such circumstances? Wearing "Salus Populi" on his sleeves? Having taken an Oath to protect all civilians on his watch?

Should the dead be permitted to rest in peace? In this instance, No. His brother still lives? Has served time on Nukulau Island. He knows the story. Bring it all on. Ratu Tevita Mara had better make known what his take on the evidence is: now is the time and only the truth will do. Why not let Simione Kaitani put in five cents worth? He is fully cognisant of all the facts!

And let Geoffrey Robertson QC advise the Australian authorities of what he knows from ample evidence made available to him: too long ago.

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