17 May 2011

Fiji's Mara extradition request sent to Tonga

1:40 pm on 17 May 2011

The Attorney General's office in Fiji says an application for the extradition of a former senior officer Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara from Tonga has been sent this morning.

Fiji's Solicitor General Christopher Pryde says the application has been sent to the Prime Minister of Tonga as he has the authority to proceed on such cases under the Tongan Extradition Act.

Mr Pryde has rejected Ratu Tevita's claim that the judiciary in Fiji is corrupt, saying it was the Fiji judiciary which granted him bail and he can be confident of a fair trial.

He says claims have been made by overseas media and others that the courts in Fiji are being interfered with but no one has given specific examples of this.

Fiji's Land Force Commander, Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga, says he is sure no army or navy personnel helped Colonel Mara escape to Tonga.

Colonel Mara denies he fled the country after appearing in court on sedition charges, but says he got into trouble fishing and was helped out by the Tongan navy.

Philippa Tolley has more from Suva:

"The Land Force Commander, Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga, has said he is sure any assistance would have come from civillians. He told the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation that neither Colonel Mara, nor Brigadier General Pita Driti, who was charged at the same time with inciting mutiny and sedition, have had further contact with the military. The police investigation is still going on into whether anyone helped Colonel Mara. In the meantime, interim Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, has not disrupted his plans because of the situation with Colonel Mara and Tonga; he is out of the capital touring Kadavu province."

A Tongan government minister says the cabinet has made it clear that any action taken against Ratu Tevita must be done in accordance with the law.

Tonga's Minister of Public Enterprises and Revenue, Clive Edwards, says cabinet members were briefed on the issue this morning.

Mr Edwards says they were told the government has not yet received a request from Fiji for Ratu Tevita's extradition.

He says there was no concern expressed that the issue could affect Tonga's relationship with Fiji, as it is a legal matter.

This has happened before with other countries and while Fiji might be clamouring about this issue but as far as we're concerned it will have to go through the normal procedure and handled in the normal way.

Tonga's Minister of Public Enterprises and Revenue, Clive Edwards