Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ratu Tevita Remains "a man rescued at sea"

Matangi Tonga News  - 17 May 2011
The Lauan chief, Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara, is believed to be staying at Consular House on Vuna Road on the Nuku'alofa waterfront, as a guest of his kinsman, King George Tupou V while exchanges fly between the Fiji and Tonga governments.

Cmdr Bainimarama has declared Ratu Tevita a fugitive who jumped bail without surrendering his passport as ordered by a Fijian court on May 3, and who was also expected to appear in court in Suva on May 30 to face charges of sedition. 

Ratu Tevita Mara's entrance into Tonga with the Tongan navy, raised the question if he had used his Fijian passport to enter the country. Today no one in the Immigration Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs knew anything about the legality of how he had entered the country, but a senior officer in immigration said he would check and come back with an answer. But when government closed for the day it was not clear whether or not Ratu Tevita Mara had been subjected to the usual Tongan immigration procedure.

The Chief Secretary and the Secretary to Cabinet Busby Kautoke said that Ratu Tevita Mara's status in Tonga remains to be "a man rescued at sea."

As of this afternoon, Busby said they had not received any request from Cmdr Bainimarama for the rescued man to be extradited back to Fiji.

Under Tonga's Extradition Act 1988 Fiji is one of the designated countries that an individual could be extradited back to, and the Act clearly sets out the procedure of how an individual could be extradited to a designated country. 

An extradition process can be authorised only by the Tongan Prime Miniser, Lord Tu'ivakano, on a request made by the Prime Minister of Fiji or an official on the behalf of the government of Fiji. 

Consular House

Meanwhile Ratu Tevita Mara is staying at the Consular House on Vuna Road on the Nuku'alofa waterfront, the residence of the British High Commissioner in Tonga and now a property of the king. It is frequently used as a guest house for visiting dignitaries and friends of the royal family.

Ratu Tevita, so far, is inaccessible, despite the fact that he stressed in his YouTube video that he wanted to come to Nuku'alofa so that he can speak freely and tell the truth about what is going on in Fiji.

The Fijian strongman, Prime Minister Commodore Bainimarama, has accused Tonga for an infringement of Fiji's Sovereignty when the Tongan Navy last week responded to a distress call and rescued Lieutenant Colonel Ratu Tevita Mara from sea and brought him to Nuku'alofa.

Tongan Navy rescues fugitive Fijian chief
A top military officer and high ranking Fijian chief from Lau is under the protection of Tonga's king today after being brought to Tonga in a top secret rescue mission believed to be conducted by the Tongan navy last week.

Lieutenant-Colonel Tevita Uluilakeba Mara, a former Royal Fiji Military Force (RFMF) Army Chief-of-Staff, said in a statement on YouTube on Satuday May 14 that when he was rescued by the Tongan navy he asked for protection from a Fijian regime that he described as "a hateful dictatorship" .

The son of the late Ratu Sir Kamasese Mara, Lt. Col. Mara commanded the third infantry Regiment of the Republic of Fiji Forces at the time of the December 2006 military coup.

It is not clear whether Lt. Co. Mara was rescued from land or from sea, and the nature of the distress call has not been explained by the Tongan authorities.

In a cryptic item posted on the Tonga Ministry of Communication and Information website on May 13 the authorities stated that the VOEA Savea had responded to a distress signal from south of Ono-i-Lau and "rescued a passenger" and brought him to Nuku'alofa and ". . . arrangements have been made for his accommodation by the Royal Household Office in deference to his rank . . ." The rescued individual was not identified and there were no details about the situation of the rescue.

The duty officer at the Tonga Navy Headquarter at Touliki yesterday was clearly aware that the Patrol Boat VOEA Savea had gone out on a rescue mission, but said, "they came back, there was nobody on board".

At the Tonga Police Headquarter, Officer Faletau said yesterday that they had heard about the rescue mission and had been ringing the navy to find out about it but they had not been told what happened or whether anybody was rescued.

Fear of retribution

However, the rescued individual revealed himself on YouTube on Saturday May 14, as Lt-Col. Tevita Uluilakeba Mara - "When I was rescued by the Tongan Navy, I asked to be brought to Nuku'alofa where under the sure protection of King George's government I shall be able to tell the truth, without fear of retribution, about the tragic oppression which stifles my beloved land . . ." he stated.

"Friends and contacts in the army, as well as the police, warned me of a plan hatched by Khaiyum to utilise the provisions of the Public Emergency Act and Crimes Decree 2010 in order to incarcerate [Brigadier] Pita Driti and I for at least a year on trumped up charges of sedition and attempted mutiny without the opportunity to defend ourselves in open court.

"Considering the state of corruption of the judicial system and the extent to which it is controlled entirely by the political frivolities of the Attorney-General, I was obliged to take these warnings seriously.

"For inexplicable reasons, Commodore Bainimarama, weakened by ill health, morally and intellectually bankrupt, is no more than Aiyaz Khayum's [sic] hand puppet. The advice which we, as senior officers had offered the commander in an attempt to soften the regime's approach to public dissent were seen by Khayum [sic] as a direct threat to his person and his megalomania is inspired entirely by the self importance of a lonely and inadequate man.

"Endowed with no leadership qualities and incapable of understanding the simplest principles of decency and respect even in a society that is grounded on such virtues, he is the sole architect of the cruelties which have sadly become common in our daily life.

"When I was rescued by the Tongan Navy, I asked to be brought to Nuku'alofa where under the sure protection of King George's government I shall be able to tell the truth, without fear of retribution, about the tragic oppression which stifles my beloved land.

"When this hateful dictatorship has been eradicated, all of us who once served it shall answer to the Fijian people for the part we played and I will gladly submit to their verdict,"

 Lt-Col. Mara stated.

Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Ratu Mara has been declared a fugitive under the Extradition Act by interim Fiji Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama.

The FijiLive website reported that at a press conference, Cdre Bainimarama confirmed an illegal extraction of Lt Col Mara, who faces sedition charges, by the Royal Tongan Navy Patrol Boat Savea took place one nautical mile northwest of Cape Washington in Kadavu.


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