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Pay up $62,000, Fiji marine firm tells fugitive colonel Mara

Ratu Tevita Mara

Renegade Ratu Tevita Mara ... now accused of unpaid ship repair bills in Fiji. Photo: PMC

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Nanise Loanakadavu

Fiji fugitive Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara has yet to clear a debt of $62,462 to a marine engineering company based at Walu Bay in Suva.

Documents obtained by the Fiji Sun yesterday revealed that Genserv Industrial Marine Engineering has issued two statements to:

  • Lau Shipping Office, for an outstanding payment of $15,762.
  • Ika-Vuka Enterprises Limited- $46,700.

The company wrote a letter to the Fiji Prime Minister’s Office on June 2 seeking government assistance in recovering its money from Ratu Tevita, who reportedly made both agreements with them.

Ratu Tevita – a former lieutenant-colonel and one of four key officers in the 2006 coup –  made a dramatic escape from Fiji to Tonga last month after being released on bail on a sedition charge against the military-backed regime.

He is now in Australia on a Tongan passport and is due to make a controversial two-day visit to New Zealand to speak to pro-democracy movements.

The unnamed  company director said he had first worked for Ratu Tevita as the chief engineer of the vessel Lau Trader.

Ship conversion
“Mr Mara knew that I was managing a family engineering business. He asked me to quote some of the work to be carried out on the vessel Lau Trader to convert into a cargo and passenger vessel,” stated the letter.

“Mr Mara awarded me the renovation work as per my quote … An agreement was not put into pen and paper but a verbal agreement with the Yatu Lau chief executive officer Michael Makasiale and Jone Naceba of Majolo Associates was finalised during the meeting.”

The director stated later he was told by Ratu Tevita to inspect another vessel, MV Maan, and was then transferred to become the fleet maintenance manager and repair the vessel while at the same time look after the MV Lau Trader.

The director said while working he kept reminding Ratu Tevita that he still owed him $15,762 and it has been more than a year so he began sending him statements.

“Mr Mara kept promising me bigger and better things for 2011 but failed to keep his words.”

The letter stated that on January 11 Ratu Tevita had told the director to prepare his receipts on the work done on MV Maan and to take them to his wife.

“The following day (January 12), Mr Mara paid me a cheque of $10,000 under the name of Seru Vilitati T/A Crown Imports (Fiji).”

Estonian friend
The letter stated that at the end of January Ratu Tevita had told the company director that he had an Estonian friend who came with the vessel from Germany and could translate the starting procedures.

Teleki Tokelau beacon 2011

Teleki Tokelau navigational beacon .. rebuilt by Tonga amid Minerva Reef dispute with Fiji. Photo: Tongan Minfo

“Since them Mr Mara got abusive towards me but later apologised on the phone. After one week I left work but he kept calling me and coming to my place.”

Meanwhile, Taimi Media Network reports the Tongan government is standing firm on its claim to Teleki Tonga and Teleki Tokelau in the disputed Minerva Reef between Fiji and Tonga, having successfully re-erected a navigational beacon on Teleki Tokelau last week.

“With regard to the dispute between the Fijian military junta and the Kingdom of Tonga on the issue of sovereignty over Teleki Tonga and Teleki Tokelau, there is ample provision under international law for the settlement of disputes between civilised societies,” Chief Secretary Busby Kautoke said in a statement yesterday.

Nanise Loanakadavu is a reporter on the Fiji Sun.