15 May 2011

Bainimarama seeks to extradite Fiji army officer

9:41 pm on 15 May 2011

Fiji's Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, will try to extradite a senior military commander who has fled to Tonga.

At a news conference on Sunday evening the Commodore confirmed the former head of the third Fiji Infantry Regiment was with the Tongan royal family after being picked up by the navy.

Commodore Bainimarama said Lieutenant Colonel Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara, who 10 days ago was charged with inciting mutiny, was collected from Fiji waters off Kadavu.

Earlier reports had said the Tongan navy had rescued Ratu Tevita after being attracted by a distress signal.

Commodore Bainimarama said he took strong exception to what he called a breach of Fiji's sovereignty.

The Prime Minister says extradition proceedings will get underway on Monday morning and he will be contacting the Tongan Prime Minister.

Ratu Tevita has issued a media release from Tonga and posted a video on YouTube called "regime change should happen in Fiji soon."

He accused Frank Bainimarama of being morally and intellectually bankrupt and of being no more than a hand puppet of the Attorney General, while speaking of a hateful dictatorship.

A spokesperson for New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister, Murray McCully, on Sunday said the minister was receiving a series of updates on the situation.