Monday, June 13, 2011

[pima.nius] FIJI: CDF condemns NZ over visa for fugitive coup officer

1:47 PM |



Title – 7496 FIJI: CDF condemns NZ over visa for fugitive coup officer
Date – 13 June 2011
Byline – None
Origin – Pacific Media Watch
Source – Coalition for Democracy in Fiji, 12/6/11
Copyright – CDF
Status – Unabridged
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CDF CONDEMNS NZ OVER VISA FOR FUGITIVE COUP OFFICER

AUCKLAND (Coalition for Democracy in Fiji/Pacific Media Watch): The Coalition for Democracy in Fiji has condemned the New Zealand government for granting a two-day visit to the country by a fugitive former Fiji colonel who helped lead the 2006 military coup.

Spokesman Nik Naidu called on Prime Minister John Key and Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully to reconsider the decision to grant a visa to Ratu Tevita Mara, youngest son of the late founding prime minister Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, because of alleged human rights abuses.

"Mara has been the chief-of-staff of the Fiji Military Forces, and until recently the head of the 3rd Fiji Infantry Regiment (3FIR), the largest division within the Fiji military, and was directly responsible for the illegal arrest, detention, torture, sexual assault and abuse of hundreds of people," Naidu said.

"He is feared by people in Fiji and is known for his use of violent and inhuman sexual, physical, emotional and psychological torture techniques."

The open letter to Key and McCully said:

"It is understood that the government of New Zealand has agreed to allow former Fiji military commanding officer, Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara, to visit New Zealand.

"The Coalition for Democracy in Fiji is very much opposed to this visit, and strongly requests that the decision be re-considered.

"The CDF was formed on in Auckland on 14 May 1987, on the day of the first Fiji coup d'etat.  We have since then been standing up for the rights of Fiji people, and for justice and democracy.  The group is made up of former Fiji residents, and concerned New Zealanders.

"Our focus is to assist in the return of democracy to Fiji, respect for the rule of law, and the upholding of the fundamental human rights of all Fiji's people.  These are the very things that Mr Mara has helped to usurp.

"Lt Colonel Tevita Uluilakeba Mara has been the chief-of-staff of the Fiji Military Forces, and until recently the head of the 3rd Fiji Infantry Regiment (3FIR), the largest division within the Fijian military, and was directly responsible for the illegal arrest, detention, torture, sexual assault and abuse of hundreds of people.  He is feared by people in Fiji and is known for his use of violent and inhuman sexual, physical, emotional and psychological torture techniques.  There have been a number of deaths of ordinary Fiji citizens while in the custody of Lt Colonel Mara's soldiers. 

"There have also been many reports of abuses that were carried out directly under orders and the command of Lt Colonel Mara, and these are available from Amnesty International and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  We are sure you have seen some of these.  He was specifically named in many of these victim reports and statements.

"We attach one such report from a victim, which was given to us late last year (we have blanked-out areas that may incriminate this person, and risk him further abuse from Lt Colonel's soldiers).  Note the statement:  'Mr … was very frightened and scared, said Colonel Mara was very angry and was abusing me on the phone to him saying they would kill me once they got me.'

"We have been in touch over the past few weeks with our associate pro-democracy support groups and people in Fiji and the unanimous view is that New Zealand must not allow entry for people such as Mr Mara.

"Some of the supporters of democracy in Fiji that we discussed this matter with have also been victims of Lt Colonel Mara's abuse.  They expressed concern and dismay at the message that will be sent to other current members of the Fijian military, and in particular that they could also one day 'escape' to New Zealand.

"The sudden turn-around of Mr Mara's convictions is questionable.  It appears this change was brought about shortly after his removal by the Fiji military and him subsequently being charged for sedition and embezzlement. This suggests that his opposition to the current illegal Fijian regime is motivated by self-interests and a possible ploy to deflect the alleged criminal charges laid against him.

"This leads onto the question of his credibility and genuineness, and whether any information he has to share or present is of any real value.

"It also begs the question as to why Mr Mara did not stand-up for justice and democracy any earlier.  And why did he not leave the Fiji military a long time ago, instead of continuing to order the harassment, abuse and torture of Fiji people.

"We are also concerned that the presence in New Zealand of such a person will send the wrong type of message to other criminals and human rights abusers around the world; that New Zealand could be a safe haven for such people.  It also implies that such people can continue to commit crimes against humanity, and when they feel it is time for a change in their lives, they can leave and start a new life here.

"Also, living in New Zealand is a very large Fiji Community, the majority of whom would not want such persons present among them.  And there are also many members of the NZ-based Fiji community that have had family and close friends suffer torture, sexual assault and abuse from the Fiji military.  In particular, we have living in New Zealand a widow, and children, and also a mother of men killed while in the custody of the Fiji military.  The granting of entry to Lt Colonel Mara would be very insensitive to their feelings, especially as they are still seeking justice for the loss of their loved ones.

"As mentioned in previous letters to government, we support and appreciate the Smart Sanctions that have been implemented and are in place against those people who have been part of this last Fiji coup.  We do see these sanctions as being part of a strategy to apply pressure to bring about positive change in Fiji, and that they can possibly be relaxed as and when there is movement from the Fijian regime in this regard.

"Therefore, it would be appreciated if you could also clarify the guidelines surrounding the Smart Sanctions that are in place against Fiji, and in particular those applying to the denial of travel to New Zealand of Fiji Military personnel and supporters of the Fiji coups.  Is there a softening of that position? 

"And when does a person get taken off a travel-ban list?  Is it as soon as they leave Fiji?  Is it when they relinquish their positions or roles?  Is it when they say 'they have changed or turned over a new leaf'?  Or is it when the rule of law applies and when they are found not guilty of crimes and participation?

"Mr Mara has shown no remorse for the acts of violence that he has committed, nor has he publicly apologised to his victims or their families.  This must be impressed upon him prior to any engagement or consideration for his request to visit.

"Also, to allow Mr Mara to travel to New Zealand will be detrimental to the already strained relationship New Zealand has with Fiji, and be a setback to any potential future opportunities to have a positive influence to move Fiji forward.

"We suggest the best course of action is for New Zealand to not allow Mr Mara to visit or live in New Zealand, and to advise him to return to Fiji and face up to the charges laid against him. 

"We urge you give our submission due consideration, mindful of the need for New Zealand and Fiji to be able to engage constructively, and to contribute towards an environment of peace and stability that is necessary to help take Fiji forward."


* Renegade Fiji officer farce questions credibility of anti-regime moves: http://pacific.scoop.co.nz/2011/06/renegade-fiji-officer-farce-questions-credibility-over-anti-regime-moves/

* Comment on this item pmediawa@aut.ac.nz 

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