Friday, November 20, 2015

Fiji: The military obstructed justice

Ten days ago the Fijian government forced out its police chief over his efforts to prosecute torturing, rapist soldiers. Naturally, the Fijian government lied and said he was departing for "personal reasons". But today, former police commissioner Ben Groenewald has made it clear why he left; because the military obstructed justice:

Fiji's former Police Commissioner has urged his replacement to open an independent criminal investigation against the military officers he says obstructed the course of justice.

In a statement published by Islands Business, Ben Groenewald says the way the military thwarted police efforts to arrest Pita Matairavula, a suspect in the brutal assault of Iowane Benedito, played a big role in his decision to resign last week.

Mr Groenewald, who's back in his homeland of South Africa, says during a meeting where the Prime Minister and the acting commander of the military were present, he informed them that the police were going to arrest the five suspects in the Benedito case.

Four were apprehended the next day but it took several days before Pita Matairavula, a former body guard of the Prime Minister, could be arrested.

The problem? Groenwald's replacement, Colonel Sitiveni Qiliho, is the very person who obstructed the arrests. And its hard to escape the conclusion that he has been put in place to stop the prosecutions and restore military impunity.

This is Fiji's new "democracy": a military regime under a democratic mask, run by the same criminals by all the same methods. Our government should not allow itself to be fooled. Unless the Fijian government demonstrates a clear commitment to human rights and the rule of law, we should restore sanctions on it.