Pacific Scoop

‘What we did in Fiji was illegal,’ Mara tells Matangi Tonga

Ratu Tevita Mara

Ratu Tevita Mara talks to Matangi Tonga ... seeking united "pro-action" by Fiji opposition groups. Photo: Matangi Tonga

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Pesi Fonua in Nuku’alofa

Fugitive colonel Ratu Tevita Mara, one of four Fijian senior military officers who with Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama overthrew the democratically elected government of Fiji on 5 December 2006, has confessed that what they did was illegal.

“I want a democratic government back in Fiji. I know it is strange coming from me, since I was part of the military that overthrew the democratically elected government in 2006, but that is what I would like to see happen in Fiji,” Mara has told Matangi Tonga in an interview.

“It has also been finally realised that what we did was illegal. We have to go back to democratic rule, there are no two ways about it.”

Ratu Mara, who along with Brigadier-General Pita Driti has reportedly now been decommissioned from the Fiji military, is talking about uniting the groups that are opposing the military regime of Voreqe Bainimarama and Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and “in the coming weeks we will take a more pro-action stance”.

Mara told Matangi Tonga editor Pesi Fonua only one of the military officers remained beside Bainimarama who “no longer listens to the Military Council”.

Suva court
Ratu Tevita, now on the run from the Fiji military regime, was “rescued at sea” and brought to Nuku’alofa by the Tongan Navy on May 13.

Commodore Bainimarama said Ratu Mara remains a fugitive who jumped bail and was scheduled to appear in court in Suva tomorrow charged with sedition.

Ratu Tevita told Fonua he had decided to leave Fiji because he believed the judicial system in Fiji was corrupted and he would not get a fair hearing.

“Myself and Pita Driti are both senior military officers, and our case should be heard in a Military Tribunal, but of course Commodore Bainimarama doesn’t want that to happen, and the Attorney-General, Sayed-Khaiyum, advised that we should be tried in a civilian court.

“In fact, both Bainimarama and Khaiyum should be charged with sedition, for they are the ones who are going around making seditious remarks, saying that the President should step down,” alleged Ratu Mara.

He said the Military Council, made up of the officers who staged the coup in 2006, had begun to question some of the decisions that were implemented by the regime toward the end of 2007 and early 2008.

Up to the courts
In Suva, the Fiji Sun reported that  the future of Ratu Mara, commonly known as Roko Ului, would be decided by the courts.

Prime Minister Bainimarama yesterday reaffirmed his stand that Roko Ului was not a top priority in the government’s daily operation.

Nanise Loanakadavu reported him as saying the case was with the courts and legal proceedings on the extradition of the former military officer from Tonga were underway.

“Let the courts do their work on Roko Ului,” Bainimarama said.

“Let the legal procedure run. Let’s not interrupt.”

Ratu Mara has been firing accusations against Commodore Bainimarama from within the comfort of the Tongan royal family protection since he escaped there three weeks ago.

The extradition papers for Roko Ului reached Tonga on Thursday.

Tonga’s acting Attorney-General, Samiu Vaipulu, said the application papers to extradite Ratu Mara had been received. However, they would not be in a rush to examine it, the Fiji Sun reported.

The application was a “large box”, which would take some time to sort through and he was working with the Solicitor-General’s Office to deal with the application.

In an earlier interview, Bainimarama accused Mara of trying to “create distrust and disharmony” in the community and rejected Mara’s allegations.

Source: Pacific Media Watch 7478

Read the full Matangi Tonga interview

Fugitive colonel accuses Bainimarama of assaulting women dissidents

A tale of two chiefs: Mara, the father, and Mara, the son