21 Sep 2004

Fiji police treat fire at court House in Taveuni as arson

8:15 am on 21 September 2004

Fiji police are now treating as arson a fire which completely razed the court house and district administration building on the island of Taveuni.

The fire occurred just as a team of police sent from Suva early last month completed an operation to bring under control rampant crime on the island and arrested and charged more than 60 suspects.

Court records, case exhibits and equipment were destroyed in the blaze.

A team of forensic experts has been sent from Suva to investigate the cause of the fire as at least one suspect facing serious charges remains on the run.

The former chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs, Ratu Epeli Ganilau, who lives on the island, says it has become difficult to control the theft of kava, taro and cattle on Taveuni.

Ratu Epeli says the burning down of the court house and district administration building has sent a disturbing picture of the community and could damage its tourism industry.