2 Nov 2007

Fiji NGO criticises treatment of convicted naval officer

11:21 am on 2 November 2007

There's strong criticism in Fiji of the military's decision to keep the jailed navy commander, Francis Kean, on full pay despite his 18-month prison sentence.

The Citizens Constitutional Forum says a person who has pleaded guilty to manslaughter cannot be retained as Fiji's navy commander.

Its executive director, the Rev Akuila Yabaki, says Kean's guilty plea should have been enough for his termination from any senior military position.

Justice John Byrne has given Kean leave to appeal against his sentence and will decide next week whether he should be released on bail pending that appeal.

The Rev Yabaki says regardless of the outcome of Kean's appeal, he should be treated like any other citizen who has pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

He says any attempt to treat him otherwise will be seen as a sign that the military does not respect the rule of law within its own ranks.

But the former prime minister and military commander, Sitiveni Rabuka, has told the Fiji Times Kean can still be on full pay because a stay order was issued on his conviction.

Mr Rabuka says a stay order is legal and legally Kean still holds a military rank.

A military spokesman says Kean's salary has to be paid in full because it is money owed for his outstanding leave.