Fiji Leaks understands that Francis ‘Killer’ Kean, who brutally punched and kicked a man to death with “considerable ferocity” at a family wedding attended by brother-in-law Frank Bainimarama, will be officially confirmed this week as the new chairman of the Fiji Rugby Union following his appointment as the Prime Minister’s nominee to the FRU board.
For any right-thinking rugby fan celebrating this weekend as Fiji wins her first HSBC Sevens Series title in 10 years, the news will send a chill through the spine. Both Kean and Bainimarama will wrap themselves up in the success of Ben Ryan’s record-breaking performance and squeeze it for all the political mileage possible – even as they prepare to outlaw the Sky Blue flag under which the team competed and which fluttered so proudly in stadia all around the world.
But the news is also bound to send deep shock waves around the world of rugby politics – where rugby union chairmen are statesman-like figures, such as Michael Hawker of Australia, New Zealand’s Brent Impey or even Samoa’s Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi, people with respected backgrounds in finance, the corporate world, or significant leadership roles. By contrast he is known as a thug and bully and his only career achievements have been on the coattails of Bainimarama.
Kean and Bainimarama – plus their wives – will be expecting World Rugby, as is the convention, to invite them as chairman and president to attend the whole of this year’s Rugby World Cup 15s with hotels and business class flights picked up by the governing body.
Whether Kean gets a visa is less clear, especially as his manslaughter trial was told Kean “had to be dragged away” from his victim.
Kean’s appointment represents yet another step forward in the Bainimarama-isation of the FRU: Frank Bainimarama was confirmed as President at last month’s annual general meeting, Francis Kean (brother to Frank’s wife) is now chairman, son-in-law Sale Sorovaki is head of development and nephew Inoke Bainimarama is involved with marketing. Frank’s daughter Litiana Loabuka, who heads the Fiji Sports Council, is also one of the key players in the National Sports Commission which has funding and regulatory oversight of the FRU and other national sporting associations.
Bainimarama effectively staged a coup against the FRU in early 2011 when his government demanded new elections to the board in return for funding for the 2011 RWC. Since then the leadership has been reliably pro-military regime: Land Force Commander Mosese Tikoitoga from 2011 to 2013 and more recently PS Finance Filimone Waqabaca who stepped down last month.
Kean is currently permanent secretary at the Ministry of Works and Transport where he reports directly to the new Minister Parveen Bala, who himself is on bail awaiting trial in a causing-death-by-dangerous driving charge dating back to November 2013. When he first appeared in court, Bala was serving as special administrator for Tavua, Ba and Lautoka, reporting to acting Towns Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum who was also Attorney-General and Minister of Justice. Bala’s case was adjourned at least four times in 2014 which allowed him to stand for election as a Fiji First MP.
Just three weeks after Bainimarama’s December 2006 coup, Kean killed John Whippy in a drunken brawl at the Royal Suva Yacht Club. Both were attending the wedding of Bainimarama’s daughter Ateca. Kean later admitted a charge of manslaughter, serving 18 months. He was Navy commander at the time of Whippy’s death and although he was stood down while in jail, he immediately resumed his role on release. It’s understand he was on full pay the whole time.
At his trial, Justice Gerald Winter characterised Kean’s attack in brutal terms: "Your serious loss of self-control also aggravates this crime: "Kicking this man when he was down demonstrates to me that this was an attack of considerable ferocity. You lost your temper. You resorted to violence. You had to be dragged away from your victim."
"(Commander Kean) came up to John Whippy and punched him three times in the face," the judge said.
"John Whippy first hit his head against the taxi light then fell heavily to the ground on his back. While he was lying on the ground Francis Kean kicked him on the chest. The accused was dragged away by an unidentified woman but returned to kick John Whippy's head."