18 May 2011

Mara says he will continue to speak out against Fiji's interim govt

10:40 am on 18 May 2011

The former senior military commander who fled Fiji for Tonga says he will tell Fijians the truth about what's happening under Frank Bainimarama's government.

Lieutenant Colonel Ratu Tevita Mara, who faces sedition charges in Fiji, used the internet last weekend to attack Commodore Bainimarama, saying the real power in Fiji is in the hands of its Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum.

Colonel Mara says he will continue speaking out, to expose what Fiji's media is banned from reporting.

"What the majority of people in Fiji don't know is that poverty has increased in Fiji by over 50 percent in the last five years. Everyone is having trouble feeding their families and sending their children to school but what they do not know is that unemployment is increasing, except for the many people who have lost their jobs, and they don't know that the national public debt is rising faster than ever."

Colonel Mara says Fijians will be paying off the debt for generations to come.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister, Murray McCully, has told the United States Secretary of State, that tensions between Fiji and Tonga show the situation is becoming more challenging for Commodore Bainimarama.

Mr McCully says Fiji was one of a number of topics discussed during his meeting with Hillary Clinton at the State Department in Washington, which has just finished.

He says Mrs Clinton was deeply interested in New Zealand's reading of the situation emerging between Tonga and Fiji.

They were happy to accept our interpretation that this showed that things had become more difficult for the Commodore inside Fiji, that one of his key players had deserted him for pretty solid reasons, but also we were going to need to see some common sense prevail to reduce tensions with the region.

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

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

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.

Police in Fiji are not releasing any details about their investigation into whether anyone helped Colonel Mara flee to Tonga, other than to say it is continuing.

The interim Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, launched the inquiry on Sunday saying someone is likely to have helped Colonel Mara to escape.

The police spokesman, Inspector Atunaisa Sokomuri, would not say how many officers were in the dedicated team.

But he said there were no military personnel involved.

This is solely a police investigation and we will leave it as that.

Inspector Atunaisa Sokomuri said all those in the team are seasoned investigators.