Ratu Mara's Latest Accusation: The Evolution of his Phonetapping Story

Internet spy technology
Email from Radio NZInternational to Vodofone,  Fiji  4 November 2011


Hi, I spoke to the former Fiji army colonel Tevita Mara this morning.
 
He says that the internet and phones including mobiles are tapped across Fiji and he named Vodafone as the main company involved in it and says CEO Aslam Khan is a close associate of Mr Bainimarama.
 
He says he was present for Bainimarama reviewing transcripts of Fijians' private conversations.
 

He says IT technicians from India and China have been assisting.
 
Questions:
1.  Is Vodafone involved in internet or phone tapping for the Bainimarama regime?
2.  Does Vodafone provide transcripts of conversations?
3.  Are IT technicians from India or China assisting in phone tapping technology?
4.  Has Vodafone Fiji ever been involved in phone tapping?
 
 Thanks, Bridget (Radio New Zealand journalist)

Reply from Vodafone 4 November 2011

Bula Bridget,

The claims made are false and baseless and are being vehemently and emphatically denied by Vodafone Fiji Limited. No military personnel in the history of Vodafone Fiji, throughout Fiji’s history of political instability, has ever been permitted to enter our exchange nor monitor calls.  Client confidentiality is priority number for Vodafone Fiji.

Vodafone Fiji does not and we emphasize DOES NOT have the technological capabilities to allow mobile phones to be tapped or intercepted. Neither is there any legislation in Fiji that permits the Interception or monitoring of calls by state agents. Unlike  countries such as Australia which has Telecommunication [Interception and Access] Act 1979  and New Zealand Telecommunication [intercept capability] Act 2004  which mandates operators to have this interception capabilities .

Regards,
Liga Gukisuva
Manager – Public Relations
Vodafone Fiji Limited

Email from Vodafone CEO to Vodafone Public Relations Manager
From: Aslam Khan
Date: 4 November 2011 15:07:45 GMT+13:00
To: Ligavatu Gukisuva
Cc: Public Relations Team
Subject: Re: Tevita Mara claims

In this abbreviated email from Aslam Khan, CEO Vodafone, to Liga Gukisuva, Khan asked where Ratu Tevita got his information and repeated: "We don't have any tapping facility."  He also denied any close relationship with Bainimarama, as Mara claimed : 


" I am not a close associate of the PM .. last time I spoke to him was Mpaisa launch .. and hellos  at various cocktails .. but it was an acknowledgement and a nod. Boy, Roko Lui (Ratu Tevita Mara) must be desperate to cook up all these stories.".

But  publishing a denial to unsubstantiated information  is still a story for RadioNZ International.  And they can even appear moderate and reasonable by publishing "both sides" Mara v. Vodafone Fiji.  But I'm  left wondering why they so often only publish one side— the anti-Bainimarama government side — on other Fiji stories, or what's so fresh and newsworthy with Mara's increasingly dubious pronouncements.

Radio NZInternational's Story —
Phone company rejects claims it’s involved in phone bugging in Fiji   Posted at 03:24 on 07 November, 2011 UTC

Vodafone Fiji is strongly denying claims made by a former army colonel that the company is involved in phone tapping.

Ratu Tevita Mara, who fled Fiji in May while facing sedition charges, says phone and internet tapping started in early 2007, under the interim prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, and Vodafone is the main company involved.

He says he was present when Mr Bainimarama read over transcripts of private conversations and says IT specialists from overseas have been brought in to help.

“It obviously has increased more and now with the IT technicians from India who came in and I’ve heard also that they’ve got technicians from China also who are there assisting in this." The former army colonel Ratu Tevita Mara.

Vodafone Fiji insists it does not have the technology to allow mobile phones to be intercepted and says no military personnel have ever been permitted to enter its exchange nor to monitor calls.

News Content © Radio New Zealand International
PO Box 123, Wellington, New Zealand

But it doesn't stop there.
 The blog Fiji Today published the RNZI story with the comment:

"Vodafone Fiji insists it does not have the technology to allow mobile phones to be intercepted. Vodafone Australia and Vodafone NZ with the same equipment in Australia and NZ regularly action police phonetap court orders."

And my "two-bob" bit
It is unclear what technical knowledge Fiji Today has to support this claim.They did not say. Even less clear is Ratu Tevita's technical knowledge or the sources of his information about phonetapping and Chinese and Indian technicians.

He continues to publish this sort of accusation once every one or two weeks (and the international media keeps publishing it) but why don't they remind him of his interview in Tonga with Barbara Dreaver when he said he had documents (stored safely during his "fishing" expedition)  that would reveal all about the insidious practices of the  Bainimarama government?    We have now been waiting months for the revelations.

The information he has obtained since he left Fiji is surely less reliable than that he took with him when he fled the country. If he doesn't reveal their content soon, I'll be led to believe they do not exist.

Comments

? questions ? said…
Croz,

You make a fair point about exposing documents. We should ask the same questions of the current government about the former PM's and ministers corruption. This was the main reason given originally for the coup yet none has been disclosed ? I guess we should also now believe none existed and that the reasons given for the coup where yet another lie and most likely for self interest on the part of the Commander ?

You raise a good point.
clean up clean up said…
I find it interesting that the main players facing the law for doing the wrong thing is not the former government but appointees of the current government. Think Mahen, Mara, Urai, Anthony. And this is the government that had to clean everyone else out first so they could put their "clean" folk in place ????
fracias said…
Croz,

I don't think it is too much of a stretch to imagine RFMF tapping various phones and monitor internet and email traffic. It is not a difficult thing to do. China would help at any rate. The real issue is having people to monitor.

As to Mr Khan he might be telling the truth about the PM but I can assure you he is close to the AG. And this extends beyond just his role at Vodaphone. Fiji is a small place and the Muslim community even smaller. To be successful in Fiji in business you need to keep a line open to government and the AG is the obvious person. Cross the AG or government and quickly find yourself out of business.
Croz Walsh said…
@ Questions ... The charge of corruption against the Qarase government was, as I recall, first made by the Fiji Times. You are correct in saying corruption was one of the reasons for the Coup and after December 2006 the interim Government talked often about its "clean up" campaign. Some say the reason for the Coup was that Bainimarama knew Police Commissioner Hughes, at Qarase's urging, wanted to arrest him on the charge of treason and his supposed role in the deaths during the mutiny when rebels sought to kill him. There has also been talk of nonaccountability over military funds.

I was in Fiji immediately prior to the Coup and the reasons Bainimarama then gave was Qarase's failure to withdraw three bills before Parliament: the Reconciliation and Tolerance Bill, the Qoliqoli Bill and a bill on Fijian land. He said the Reconciliation Bill excused those responsible for the 2000 Speight Coup and the Qoliqoli Bill would cause conflict between Fijians. The authors of all three bills were former racist CAMV party people who had joined Qarase's SDL. Several were given Cabinet posts.

Exposing the corruption that many said existed has proved harder than first thought, but the abuses of the Fiji Law Society have been curbed, a strong messsage has been sent about civil service corruption, others, as "Clean Up" says, have been replaced or charged, and Qarase still awaits trial for his alleged abuse of office way before he entered politics.
Croz Walsh said…
@ fracias ... I think readers would be interested in the qualifications you have to support your claim that phonetapping is not difficult. An imagination, however well stretched, is not enough.

Similarly, your claim that the Vodafone CEO is "close" to the AG. Your inference that this is because both are Muslims is not persuasive. The AG is Sunni and Aslam Khan is Admaddiya who Sunni say are not Muslim at all. All you have done is repeat the Coup4.5 claims of a Muslim conspiracy and the AG, and not the PM, being the real power in Fiji. Some facts, please, and less imaginings.
Monitor said…
Croz,

If you believe the RFMF don't tap phone and monitor the internet you are a great fool than I thought. 'Suspects' as you called union leaders are fair game and of course they are being monitored.
facias said…
@ Croz,

I have attended dinners at the AGs house where both men have been present. Note I said it is normal for business men to get to know the AG well so what not implying a Muslim theory. Apologies if it came across this way. For obvious reasons (fear of giving up my own identity) i can't say when and what for. I need to keep my business going.
yeay yea said…
Before we start attacking NZ media (yet again) of only publishing the anti-coup side of the story lets stop to reflect on how one sided the media in Fiji is ?

If we step back and look at it NZ media is a lot more balance compared to Fiji media. In fact in Fiji the media is only allowed to publish the pro-government line. Any alternative view is effectively illegal and could land the author in jail.
Croz Walsh said…
@ fracias ... Thanks for clearing up the Muslim part of your comment but why mention Muslims at all if it had no bearing on your accusation. Thanks also for the dinners information. But if this is your only evidence that the AG and Aslam Khan are "close," we must assume that you, who were also at the dinners, are also "close."
Croz Walsh said…
@ Monitor ... Facts or evidence please, or even just a polite expression of your personal opinion, not personal insults.
A Muslim said…
Fracias, How do we jump from being fellow Muslims to tapping phones at his behest? This is prejudice at its best!!! Let's demonise the Jews, gypsies and homosexuals, Hitler- style! The reasoning in Fracias's post was used by Hitler against the Jews.

As for knowing the AG, forget the religion, he is The Telecommunications Minister! Of course, Vodafone's CEO has met him socially.
And hasn't Facias missed the point? The point is that Ratu Tevita is untruthful. He alleged phone tapping by Vodafone. He is wrong. The story was not about the AG.
Changing the allegations does not change its untruthful nature.
Anonymous said…
Why would someone want to believe a women beating coward chief hiding in Tonga> I hope he doesnt go fishing in Tonga> lolz
Are you Listening? said…
It is not difficult to tap individual mobile numbers in an exchange. It is about having the right software and then having the hard disk capacity to store the recordings. As a terabyte drive is only about $500 the hardware costs are miniscule. The software is readily available and will be in Vodafone’s exchanges in the rest of the world. In today’s anti terror world mobile phone companies are regularly asked to tap individual numbers and they do it at the drop of a court order in the democratic countries.

Whatever Mr Khan’s denials the capability to monitor individual numbers exists in Fiji.

I am quite sure that Fiji does not have the capability to monitor all mobile phone calls searching for key words as the Americans do with the NSA and the UK do with GCHQ.

Mr Khan has a vested interest in saying whatever the Government wants him to say. His biggest customer is the government by a huge margin. In addition to being the biggest in terms of numbers, Government is paying Vodafone over 40c per minute. The business market is only paying 20c per minute post pay.

Mr Khan cannot afford to lose the Government’s business.

If you don’t want to tap someone at the exchange you can go to a spyware store in America and purchase equipment that allows you to pick mobile phone signals and to record them. So if you are within a few hundred metres of the phone in question you can pick up all their calls. You just them need the algorithms used by Vodafone to decode the messages. Not too hard for the military to get in a totalitarian state.

In a country where uttering a word against the government can get you locked up I am not going to risk it on the say so of Mr Khan.
Anonymous said…
Croz , I am an ex telecom enginner and I can inform you that neither Telecom nor Vodafone have any capability to monitor calls .I dont know about Digicel - they might or might not , I am not sure .
This facility to monitor , record and track calls is worth few hundred thousands dollar investment and its never been done during my stay till I took my retirement package early this year .
I also know aslam @ vodafone - he is a straight shooter and very much guided by vodafone group guidlenes and I will say he is one man who follows the rules properly .At telecom we call him 'vodaman ' and you have to be complaiant to survive that place . I know that Vodafone UK personel audits its network and its operations annually and they have a very high complaince standards and audits .

On his association with PM or AG , I must admit i know very little - just the AG is also the Telecommunications Minister and any interaction with memebrs of telcos will not be irregular .

I thought I add some facts to this discussion.
Anonymous said…
If nothing works, use "Muslim" to justify that which cannot be justified and to add fuel to the fire. Such approach is for the cowards who resort to use of emotion and not reason. It is the last refuge of the racists and those that were its benificiaries. I am not a Muslim but a Christian that proudly upholds the values on which Christianity is anchored not like the Methodists padres who behaved like raging bulls against the pagans for whom Jesus Christ laid his life on the Cross. They were the sponsors of racism in Fiji.
Coup 4.5 is malicious, racist and not for Fiji but for iTaukei elites. Wadan is a failed politician who threw in the towel after his first term and is little credit to the academia for his vicious and biased views expressed through a forum that is appropriate for such people.
The lowest common denominator? said…
@ Anonymous

You believe that coup 4.5 is for "iTaukei ELITES"? What kind of elite would resort to ingesting that? "The choice part or flower of society" (Shorter Oxford 1823) "The elite of the Russian nobility" 1848.

It is precisely this dearth of articulate, creative conversation that kills the very idea of anything democratic emerging from that quarter or any other like it. Democracy is not the political resort of the lowest common denominator. It might be inclusive of it, but surely not the progenitor?

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