31 Jan 2005

Fiji military declares Lieutenant Colonel Tarakinikini a deserter

2:12 pm on 31 January 2005

The Fiji military says it is confident that its former spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel, Filipo Tarakinikini, will return from New York to help with coup investigations, now that he's been declared a deserter.

Lt Col. Tarakinikini had earlier resisted orders to return to Fiji by attempting to resign while in New York.

However, the military spokesman, Captain Neumi Leweni, says the commander-in-chief, President Iloilo, did not accept Lt Col. Tarakinikini's resignation and that decision was then supported by the courts.

Captain Leweni says the Lt Col has now been informed he is officially a deserter.

"Now the president, (he had applied to the president), but now the president has officially written a letter to the commander saying that he has rejected Tarakinikini's resignation, which means he'll have to come back and assist in the coup investigations."

Capt Leweni says if Lt Col. Tarakinikini continued to defy orders, the military may seek assistance from Fiji police and Interpol to bring him home.

He would not comment on what penalties Lt Col. Tarakinikini would face as a deserter.