Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dictator Bainimarama Accused of Repressing the People of Fiji

former senior member of the Fiji Military regime has accused interim Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama of repressing the people of Fiji.

Lieutenant Colonel Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara fled to Tonga last week.

He was facing charges of mutiny and accused of trying to overthrow the military government of Commodore Bainimarama.

A Fiji magistrate has issued a warrant for Ratu Tevita Mara's arrest .

Commodore Bainimarama says Tonga carried out "an illegal extraction" when a Tongan patrol boat picked up Ratu Tevita Mara in Fiji's territorial waters last week.

Ratu Tevita Mara says one option he is thinking about is the possibility of seeking political asylum away from Fiji.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts
Speaker:  Ratu Tevita Mara, former member of the Fiji military regime
Listen:  Windows Media

MARA: As I've mentioned in my previous interviews, I was out fishing and I got into trouble. I put out a distress call and a common naval ship happened to be near to the area, and they picked me up.

COUTTS: So why didn't that Tongan vessel return you to Fiji? Why did it take you to Tonga?

MARA: Well I asked them to bring me to Tonga.

COUTTS: Why did you ask them to take you to Tonga rather than Fiji?

MARA: I saw that as an opportunity to get away from Fiji, so as I've mentioned in my previous interview, I asked them to bring me to Tonga because I knew Tonga
  to Fiji, they'll continue trying to put me into jail.

COUTTS: Alright we'll get back to the details of the charges against you in just a moment, but I just want to stay on this particular point at the moment, who gave the order in Tonga to allow you to be picked up, and then once it was established who you were, to be brought to Tonga?

MARA: I didn't ask the Tongans.

COUTTS: Yes but the Tongan navy would have had to ask for permission to transport you on a Tongan vessel, sovereign vessel from Fiji waters back to Tonga?

MARA: Yes I know that but that's for them to answer.

COUTTS: So you don't know who gave that order?

MARA: No, I don't.

COUTTS: So since you arrived in Tonga have you had an audience with the King?

MARA: No, the King is out of the country at the moment.

COUTTS: So there's been no dialogue between yourself and the King?


COUTTS: Where are you staying in Tonga?

MARA: I can't disclose it at the moment for obvious reasons.

COUTTS: Now the legal question of your political immunity as we understand it you haven't sought that or it hasn't been given yet?

MARA: No we haven't got to that yet.

COUTTS: When will you and whose decision will it be?

MARA: It's the government of Tonga's decision.

COUTTS: So who have you discussed your situation with?

MARA: I'm having discussions with officials from Tonga, that's confidential at the moment.

COUTTS: Now have you been in touch with anyone in Fiji who are seeking to have you extradited back to Fiji?

MARA: No I haven't heard anything of that, just been in touch with my family back home. The extradition proceedings, I've only heard of it through the internet and tv, and apart from that no one's got in touch with me.

COUTTS: So how long will it be before you get this legal situation sorted out?

MARA: It's a process, so I think it will be known out to the media soon.

COUTTS: What exactly are you asking the Tongan government to do for you?

MARA: I'm not able to disclose that at the moment.

COUTTS: Now we mentioned earlier the charges that are against you. What specifically are they?

MARA: The charges against me are for sedition, when I was in South Korea last year with another military officer he alleges that I said something seditious against the government, something along the lines of this is a f'ed-up government, and then they turned that into a charge against me.

COUTTS: And what do you think is f'ed-up about the government?

MARA: Well if you've been reading my interviews I've been revealing some of it and I'm due to reveal more, so

COUTTS: So can you give us an insight now, particularly for the people who haven't heard your previous interviews?

MARA: Well it's clear that people outside don't really know what's happening, first of all the media control. They are not allowed to speak out in Fiji, nothing against the regime. If you say something against the regime, in particular against the PM and the AG, you're picked up for using seditious language.

COUTTS: And is that restricted to military personnel only, are civilians still included in that?

MARA: Every single person in Fiji.

COUTTS: Can you give us a specific example, were you called in before, what were the circumstances after this alleged seditious comment that you made, what happened after that, and who was the person that informed on you?

MARA: It was a military officer and I'm surprised that he didn't report it when we came back from Korea, it was only reported towards the end and the beginning of this year.

COUTTS: And who was that person, who is that person?

MARA: It's a junior officer, a
 Major Manasa Tagicakibau

COUTTS: Now I'm speaking with Ratu Tevita Mara, who has got charges of sedition against him and who has, would it be a correct description to say that you've fled to Tonga?

MARA: Not exactly, not exactly fled to Tonga, I went somewhere where I could voice my concerns about the country.

COUTTS: Which means that you don't feel that you'll be going back?

MARA: Not in the short term, I think maybe when these things are sorted out, but I'm hoping to eventually go back.

COUTTS: There have been also been questions, legal questions raised about how legal this is for Tonga, the navy to have picked you up in this way. Have you been involved in those discussions as well?

MARA: No, not at all.

COUTTS: And I'd also like to go back to that point where you were saying you're not happy with the way things are unfolding in Fiji, you've mentioned the media and the fact that people can't speak freely. What other points are you concerned about?

MARA: There's a lot of other things that, I'll be revealing all of them in due time.
 The second thing is human rights, we have the police and then we have the military taking people up to the barracks, and that's still happening. This is happening in this part of the Pacific, and I'm sure other countries don't know about this.

COUTTS: There has also been a question of the Pacific way, some feel or are saying in the media that this kind of pickup by the Tongan navy of you from Fiji waters and taken back to Tonga is not the Pacific way, in fact it's contrary to the Pacific way? What do you say to those people?

MARA: Well the question asked those people,
 what is happening in Fiji, is that the Pacific way? I'm sure that is not the Pacific way that's happening in Fiji. You've got a regime that's picking up its own people, you've got a regime that's oppressing its own people, is that the Pacific way? That's the question I ask them.COUTTS: Alright and just finally you will seek political asylum in Tonga?

MARA: Maybe, maybe.

COUTTS: And just briefly there's very close family ties between Fiji and Tonga, do you think that they'll be damaged in any way by this action you've taken?

MARA: The actions I've taken...
 I've put my life on the line here. What I'm doing is not trying to get out of Fiji, I'm trying to reveal what's happening to Fiji to the outside world, in particular Australia and New Zealand, who seem to be turning a blind eye to what's happening back home.

COUTTS: What do you think that Australia and New Zealand can do, because Commodore Bainimarama just says anything that they do is interfering or they're bullying Fiji?

MARA: No they're not, there's a man who thinks, has been given the right to do whatever he wants in Fiji, he's been given the right to govern the Fiji people, and
 he need to be punished, he illegally overthrew a government. Is that acceptable to Australia and New Zealand? The question is here there's a dictatorship in Fiji, happening in Fiji, a man who illegally overthrew a government and Australia and New Zealand are letting that carry out.

COUTTS: What can Australia and New Zealand do?

MARA: Well you're having regime changes all over the world. I don't have to bring your attention to that.

COUTTS: Ratu Tevita do you think that the elections scheduled for 2014 will in fact take place then?

 I know that Bainimarama wants elections to happen and I know that Khaiyum doesn't want elections to happen, so I have my doubts on that. But if elections do happen I hope it'll be free and fair elections possibly to be run by the United Nations or an outside organisation, not by Fijian authorities themselves.

COUTTS: So you think there's a split in the leadership in Fiji, that Commodore Frank Bainimarama wants elections, but you're alleging that the interim Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum does not, why?

MARA: I can't answer fully to that question, what I think is because the PM has spoken, he's told the Fijian people that elections are, he's told the international community that elections are due to be held in 2014.

COUTTS: And when the elections are held in 2014 do you think that Commodore Frank Bainimarama will be the prime minister?

 I don't think he has a chance if he stands for elections in 2014, so I think he'll be gunning for a more secure position.

COUTTS: The elections, we're sort of hearing at this end that Commodore Bainimarama is virtually assessing who can and who cannot run in those elections. How free and fair do you think the elections will be?

MARA: That's exactly why I say they have to be run by an outside organisation. They're saying that they can dictate who can run and can't run in that election, but they themselves can run in
that election.

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