Foster tells Victor Lal his side of story:
"Commander Frank Bainimarama was at this time the acting President, having only removed the Qarase government a week earlier. He asked me if I had thought about what Colonel Mara said and if I was prepared to assist him expose the corruption that was suffocating Fiji.
We spoke for about 10 minutes. He was very polite and had a gentle manner on the telephone. He was prepared to listen and fully understood my fears for my safety and the safety of my family if I became involved and was exposed.
It is hard to explain why, but something told me he was genuine. He was sincere in his desire to demonstrate to the world just how crooked the Qarase government had been. I knew it, he knew it, we just needed others to know it.
I decided to take one step and see how it panned out. In may respects I was motivated by my own self interest as I wanted to clear my name, and I wanted to know why [Mohammad Salamat] Ali had lied about me altering my work permit. To do that I needed to speak to Jale Baba.
The following day I arranged under the instructions and guidance of Fiji Military Intelligence to covertly video record Jale Baba who was still the high profile National Director and Campaign Manager of the deposed SDL party.
Video camera hidden in cabinet at far left
In my room at JJ's Hotel technicians from the military installed a video camera in a television cabinet, which they could monitor from the adjoining room. I invited Jale up to my room that evening to discuss the coup and get an update as to what was happening with Qarase and the ministers.
Jale arrived at about 9 p.m. after visiting with several former ministers of the government and speaking on the telephone with deposed Prime Minister Qarase.
We sat in front of the TV cabinet and I poured wine liberally and we ate leisurely from an elaborate cheese platter. Jale was very talkative and although exhausted from the events of the military takeover, seemed in no hurry to leave.
In more stunning revelations than I could ever hope for, he firstly admits that I was not responsible for falsifying the work permit, which was the offence with which I had been charged and granted bail.
Jale admitted his partner, Mohammad Salamat Ali, forged the criminal history without my knowledge and that Ali had told him to lie in a Police statement in an attempt to frame me. Jale would eventually sign an affidavit confirming that he lied and I was innocent of the allegations. (See copy of the alleged affidavit)
He was not apologetic. He was not in the least bit sorry for his actions. The fact that I could have gone to jail meant nothing to him. It was just business. Dirty business. That's the way the government did things. You were either with them, or against them. When I chose not to pay the kickbacks, I was against them, and the assistance and guidance I gave them during the election meant nothing.
"I could have gone to jail," I said.
"So what, we all could go to jail. Qarase, me, Navi, the bloody cabinet, we all could go to jail," he replied.
He then went on and said when speaking of the Qarase cabinet, "all of them are corrupt". When I asked about Qarase, he said, "He's the biggest crook of the lot."
He explained that is why they were chosen to be ministers, because they were corrupt. They were selected solely for their ability to be dishonest. After all, Navi was the Chairman of the SDL Candidate Selection Committee.
This was stunning evidence to obtain as this was the face of the government speaking, and it was all captured on video.
He was not only Prime Minister Qarase's right hand man, but he was his official spokesman, and was the national director of the party and the campaign manager. Next to Navi, and the Attorney General Bale, no one else was more influential or a bigger insider.
Later that evening Lieutenant Patti (Ereivati) and other military personnel sat in my room and watched the video be played back. It was dynamite. They knew that I was the key to getting all the evidence against Qarase and his cronies.
The following morning I spoke again to the Commander on the telephone. He congratulated me on capturing Jale Baba on DVD and thanked me for being involved. I said that I was prepared to continue to assist him, however I was on bail to the hotel and couldn't leave the premises. If I was to try and covertly tape up the other members of the former Qarase government I needed to be able to move around and meet them in their own environment.
He said to leave it to him and he would get back to me. That afternoon representatives of the military went and saw the Magistrate in chambers and advised him that they were going to take me into their custody. Operation Free Fiji was born and I was its main operative.
That evening I was escorted on the three hour drive from Suva back to my home at Denarau, near Nadi, by a mini van with six police officers and two carloads of soldiers. I was told that I would have eight armed soldiers protecting me 24/7. Lieutenant Patti became my Team Leader in this covert operation and the liaison between the Commander and me and would stay by my side for the next four weeks.
He positioned two heavily armed snipers outside my house day and night. I would be accompanied by soldiers every time I stepped outside the house.
Once home I was able to telephone Navi and tell him that my lawyer had my bail varied to allow me to return to Denarau. He was delighted and we agreed to meet the next day for lunch.
Hilton Hotel at Denarau
We chose the Hilton Hotel at Denarau for our luncheon.
Lieutenant Patti went and saw the manager of the hotel and arranged for his soldiers to dress in hotel security guard uniforms.
This in itself posed problems. The security guards were mostly Indians, and were of a tall slim build.
The Fijian soldiers were barrel chested with arms like coconut trunks. To see them try and squeeze into these tiny uniforms was one of the lighter moments of a very intense and stressful time.
Navi and I sat at the top left hand table near the pool. Two soldiers dressed as civilians were at the table nearest to us. Four others were disguised as hotel security.
Navi and I would spend the next five days together, having every lunch and dinner. I had a mini DVD camera sewn into a man handbag which I carried.
Lieutenant Patti created a panic signal in the event that Navi twigged that I was carrying a video recorder and microphone. If I was in trouble I was to accidentally knock the wine bottle over and hit the floor. That would be the signal for the soldiers to swing into action and take Navi down. I almost trembled every time I poured the wine, fearing I would accidentally drop it and cause all hell to break loose.
During those days we talked about everything. Navi is a massive drinker. Most probably an alcoholic. Lunch would turn into dinner and I would rarely get home before midnight. I would be up at 5 a.m. and start transcribing the tapes with two other military officers. At noon, I would meet Navi again and repeat the whole process.
Navi confirmed in these covertly video recordings that Prime Minister Qarase was deeply dishonest and corrupt, as were all his ministers. The election in 2001 was rigged against Dr Baba's New Labour Unity Party because they knew that a coalition would be formed with the Labour party to create government. Dr Baba had won his seat in Suva, Navi told me, but they had fixed the result against him.
Navi also confirmed that the 2006 elections were rigged with 10 seats targeted.
On the video recording, I act surprised at such a crude attempt to rort the electoral system.
"If I did it, I'd get 10 years prison," I said. "Why didn't anyone investigate it?"
Navi replied: "Because they're all into it - all of them".
I asked why the police didn't stop it. He replied it was the police who did it for them.
He also confirmed that Qarase had millions of dollars stashed in Australia and New Zealand bank accounts and with the Habib Bank in Pakistan.
His accusations of corruption included ministers from the Methodist church and the Great Council of Chiefs as well as virtually every minister in Qarase's government.
He explained that is why they were chosen by him in his capacity of chairman of the SDL candidate selection committee in the first place, because they were all corruptible.
Navi was dismissive of Qarase's ministers, as demonstrated by this extract from one transcript.
FOSTER Are there any of the ministers, if we put a company together with you involved, are there any one of them we can actually bring on board to give us credibility?
NAISORO I have more credibility than the whole bunch of them together. I never went through the same thing. These people are all unemployable.
FOSTER You think they are all finished?
When I asked if he (Naisoro) thought any of the deposed ministers were going to get into another government, he said: "I wouldn't use them, they are idiots, they are broke."
NAISORO They are all broke, they will be headaches, they are imbeciles.
FOSTER So why did you make them ministers if they are imbeciles?
NAISORO Because they are imbeciles and you can control them.
FOSTER So you can control them so you make them ministers?
NAISORO Because you can control them.
Most interestingly, Navi said the coup by the Commander was the best thing that could happen to Fiji. I asked why, and he explained, "He's an honest guy. Most men are too stupid to be corrupt, he's just too honest. He'll be good for Fiji, you need a cyclone to come along every so often and clear away the rubbish. This is it, cyclone Frank," he laughed.
Military's covert recording showing Navitalai Naisoro allegedly boasting about how they rigged the election. Peter Foster is audible.
Speaking of Qarase and the government, Navi said, "They went too far. Too greedy. Didn't care about the people. They stopped listening to what I was trying to tell them, they forgot who put them there. "
This was a staggering admission by a man who had been the power behind the throne for more than 20 years. Navi knew when the game was almost up.
After a few days Lieutenant Patti and I flew to Suva to meet the Commander to discuss face to face what I had obtained.
We arrived at his home about 2 p.m., just as five 4WD vehicles full of heavily armed soldiers pulled up. The commander was buried amongst them. He had travelled by road back from Nadi to Suva, having met his daughter at the airport after she flew in from New Zealand for Christmas. I counted more than 20 armed soldiers around him.
The Commander guided me into a very pleasant room which may have been a breakfast room. To my surprise, we were alone. No bodyguards followed us. It was just the commander and me sitting on a lounge chatting like old friends. I had been told he had allocated 15 minutes for our meeting. We would talk for closer to 45 minutes.
The Commander was the same, more of a kindly grandfather than a military man to be feared. He was keen to listen. I told him of what I had obtained from Navi and gave him a copy of the DVD and the transcript.
I said to him, "You were right all along. The world needs to know the truth. You have to get the message out so CNN, BBC, ABC, people all around the world know what you did was for the right reasons, that this was the coup Fiji needed to have."
The Commander asked me to suggest how we should release the information to the media. I told him that I had spoken to my friend, Matt Condon at the Brisbane Courier-Mail newspaper and he proposed that it should be released over several days, not all at once.
I said I should first go and see more former ministers, and if possible, Qarase himself. Then once I had covertly taped everyone possible, then he could release it. We agreed that New Years Day would be best.
The Commander said he had viewed the Jale Baba DVD recording which confirmed what I had stated to Police, that I was not guilty of falsifying my work permit or and that he I had been set - up by Mohammad Salamat Ali.
The Commander said that the military appointed Police Commissioner had agreed to ask the DPP for a nollie prosequi to be entered into, which effectively means I had no case to answer and the charges against me are withdrawn.
This never happened despite his promise. This is what I want resolved now."
Fijileaks Editor: We could not get comments from Jale Baba and others mentioned in Foster's account
Peter Foster reveals Bainimarama's role in "Operation Free Fiji" sting as he fights to have arrest warrant from 2006 set aside by Fiji Police Force
"...Secrecy is the keystone of all tyranny. Not force, but secrecy... censorship. When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, 'This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know,' the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives." --Robert A. Heinlein, -If This Goes On
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