The former Police Commissioner Ben Groenewald after exiting Fiji but we must not shed too many tears for his sorry plight; every time Fijileaks exposed criminal wrongdoings and asked for his response, his standard reply was "I don't talk to Fijileaks" - he had absorbed "Fiji regime speak"
We were accommodated in a Government Quarter, infected by mould and declared unfit by the Suva City Council for human occupation. Both my wife and I suffered with side effects and nothing was done about it. This was but one of the reasons why I submitted my request for an early release to the Office of the Constitutional Offices Commission.
I submitted my annual report ( as part of my contractual obligation) end May this year to the Secretary of the Constitutional Offices Commission, copied to my line Minister. In this report I highlighted issues that makes it difficult for me to act in accordance with my mandate as stipulated in section 129 of the Constitution and requested an audience.
The Commission was suppose to do a performance evaluation, linked to a performance based bonus payment. Until date no evaluation was done.
My first priority was to secure the 2014 General Election and to implement organisational and operational changes.
Unfortunately, internal resistance to change, a lack of political support to address critical shortage of recourses were some of the obstacles in not achieving all goals. I introduced more than 20 organisational and operational best practices of which most are not yet implemented.
Fiji’s past legacy and the reality that the Fiji Police Force was managed by Military Officer for more than 10 years, resulted in the Fiji Police Force being labelled as a brutal force by International and local Human Rights Organisations and Amnesty International.
I believe in the principles of modern policing set by Sir Robert Peel the founder of the British Metropolitan Police in 1892.
Peels most important proposition was that disorder is largely the result of ineffective policing and that the preservation of security and the maintenance of individual rights should be entrusted to specialist police officers rather than to military forces.
Prominent incidences such as the brutal assault on recaptured escapees, (the so called You-Tube case in 2012, victim, Iowane Benedito), the Vilikesa Soko murder in August 2014 and the illegal arrest of the songwriter, Mr Bilitake, in September 2014, indicated the unconstitutional involvement of individual military officers as main perpetrators.
In fact, Pita Matairavula, a previous body guard of the Prime Minister, was involved in all three cases.
During the investigation of the Bilitaki case I publicly announced that I will not tolerate any brutality or further Military interference in peacetime policing. This announcement was not well received by the Military management and after discussion with the then Commander and our line Minister we reached an agreement, how we would deal with future involvement of the Military in accordance with the applicable acts.
With reference to an incident of obstructing the police in arresting a military officer on a bench warrant we also reached an agreement, (however, not necessary in accordance with the law) that in future cases, where it would be necessary to execute an arrest in the military camp, the FPF would inform the Military operational room and they would assist through the Military Police.
An incident that played a prominent role in my decision to request my earlier release was indeed the way the Military command obstructing or perverting the course of justice in the You-Tube case.
On Monday 19 October, The Director Public Prosecutions (DPP) announced to charge three police officers and two military officers with sexual assault on Iowani Benedito (an indictable offence that authorised arrest without a warrant).
During an official meeting on Tuesday the 20th, where the Prime Minister, the Minister for Defence and the acting commander, RFMF, Brig. Gen. Mohammed were present, I informed about the decision by the DPP and that the FPF will arrest and process the five suspects for court appearance the next day.
With the exception of Pita Matairavula the other four suspects turned up at CID Head Quarters. They were criminally charged for an offence of sexual assault and produced in court on the 21st Oct.
Enquiries indicated that Matairavula was harboured in the Military camp and the investigation officer was informed by a senior officer at the military operational office that if he wanted to arrest Pita he must first call the Land Force Commander, Colonel Qiliho.
This was a breach of the agreement mentioned earlier, but being aware of the sensitivity of the case and the absence of the RFMF Commander I called Colonel Qiliho twice on the 21st, without answering or returning my call. I was later informed that he was also abroad.
As a second option I called the acting commander, Mohammed [Aziz] on three occasions on the 22nd and 23rd without any response. My PA left messages with his PA to contact me urgently. I also spoke to her on two occasions and informed her about the urgency of the case. During our last discussion she told me to speak to the RFMF legal advisor. We spoke on four occasions and he indicated that he has no authority to make any decision.
During the last discussion he informed me that Act. Commander Mohammed left the country and that I must speak to Commander Fox. I phoned him on two occasions on the 24th and 26th without any response.
I also phoned Min. Natuva on two occasions to update him on what is happening.
I consulted with the office of the DPP and requested a bench warrant, but was informed that Matairavula must appear in the High Court in Lautoka, for the Soko case, on the 29th and his office will arrange that he can be handed over to police after his court appearance.
At the court in Lautoka, Pita was accompanied by other military officers and the IO was refused to speak to Pita. To avoid confrontation, the IO decided not to arrest Pita.
He was again escorted by the military contingent and was harboured in the Suva Military camp until the 3rd of November. On Tuesday 3rd of November Matairavula was handed over to CIDHQ,, processed and taken to court. This was obviously done after the first four accused received bail.
This sequence of events constitute an offence of obstructing or perverting the course of justice in terms of section 190(b) of the Crimes Decree.
Taken the above into consideration both Col Qiliho and Commander Naupoto publicly denied that they were aware of incident.
• Would the newly appointed Commissioner of Police, Brigadier-General Qiliho, open a criminal investigation and allow an independent and objective investigation against the military officers who obstructed the course of justice?
• Would ALL the implicated officers and other persons hand in their mobile phones for technical evaluation?
• Will the Government act in accordance with the Constitution and does not discriminate or take unlawful steps against those officers who investigate and perform their constitutional duties to uphold the rule of law.
In conclusion, I would like to thank all my loyal FPF colleagues, regional and international policing friends, other government departments and especially the community based crime prevention committees and individual members of the community for their support in our fight against crime.
I would also like to wish the acting Commissioner of Police all the best but as a word of caution, he must remember that a police force has much more disciplines to manage than the military and he must acquaint himself with all the decrees and regulations before making decisions. Peace time policing is a Police and not a military function!!!
May God bless Fiji and her citizens.
“WHERE THERE IS CRIME THERE CAN BE NO PEACE” - PLATO"
Fijileaks: "WHERE THERE IS DICTATORSHIP THERE IS NO RULE OF LAW"