Fiji Police investigating Bainimarama for decree breach
Fiji police say they are investigating Rear Admiral Frank Bainimarama for breaching law pertaining to the election.
The Fiji police say they are investigating the prime minister, Rear Admiral Frank Bainimarama, for being in breach of a regime decree and a law pertaining to the election.
If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in jail, a 27-thousand US dollar fine, and would not be able to contest the election planned for September.
Mary Baines reports.
Rear Admiral Bainimarama is being investigated for campaigning without having his party registered, in contravention of the Political Parties Decree. He is also being investigated for allegedly displaying Fiji's coat of arms on his campaign bus, in breach of the Coat of Arms of Fiji Act. The complaints were lodged by Mick Beddoes from The United Front for a Democratic Fiji. A police spokesperson, Ana Naisoro, says investigations are ongoing.
ANA NAISORO: We can confirm that another report was lodged by Mr Mick Beddoes, and currently investigations are ongoing. Similarly, to the one that was lodged a few weeks back. Investigations are continuing, once that is completed, then we will be able to release a statement on the outcome.
Ms Naisoro says police cannot give a timeframe as to when their investigations will be completed. She would not comment on whether Rear Admiral Bainimarama can choose candidates or keep campaigning while the investigation is pending. Mick Beddoes says the police are obliged to investigate any complaint they receive, and his complaint against the prime minister should not be treated any differently.
MICK BEDDOES: Now I've lodged those complaints, it's up to the police and it's for the police to investigate and determine whether or not in fact the law has been breached. And if they're saying it hasn't, I'm sure I, and I'm sure the rest of Fiji are interested in knowing how come.
Mr Beddoes says for the election to be transparent, free and fair, all political parties must abide by the rule of law. He says the Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, has outlined the very stiff penalties that any potential candidate or voter breaching the law will face. But he says the regime is breaching its own decrees on a daily basis.
MICK BEDDOES: They're making a mockery of the rule of law. The idea of my complaint is to expose the shortcomings of the administration in enforcing the rule of law. They're either going to enforce the rule of law equally to everybody, or they are not. And either way, the way they handle my complaints will tell us all exactly what we can expect.
An Auckland University academic, Steven Ratuva, says depending on the outcome of the investigation, Rear Admiral Bainimarama may want to defend himself and the case could end up in court. Dr Ratuva says the outcome of the investigation needs to be announced soon.
STEVEN RATUVA: It would need to be investigated pretty early, and whatever decision they're going to make has to be quite early because it has implications in relation to the formation of a new party and also in relation to campaigns before the election.
The election supervisor, Mohammed Saneem, has said he wants to have the names of candidates by August the 18th and then check if they are allowed to stand. The Electoral Commission, which is tasked with supervising the process leading up to the polls, is yet to comment. The Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, has rejected claims that the use of the emblem on Rear Admiral Bainimarama's Fiji First party bus is in breach of the Coat of Arms of Fiji Act, saying the UFDF is trying to seek publicity.
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