18 May 2011

Fiji's Mara revisits Tonga rescue

1:41 pm on 18 May 2011

The former Fiji military commander who is now in Tonga, Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara, has made further comments about his rescue by the Tongan Navy.

In a message on youtube, Ratu Tevita says in an emergency the Brotherhood of the Sea demands that the saving of life temporarily supersedes bureaucratic considerations of sovereignty.

He says he was rescued after problem on a fishing trip.

Fiji wants him to return to stand trial on sedition charges.

A spokesperson for Tonga's Prime Minister says an application from Fiji for the extradition of Ratu Tevita has been received.

Ratu Tevita likened the Tongan involvement in his rescue to the role of the New Zealand airforce which is permitted to overfly the waters of South Pacific Islands once an emergency transmission has been received.

New Zealand's rescue co-ordination centre says in the situation Ratu Tevita was in it did not receive a distress signal.

Its operations manager, John Seward, says the Ono-i-Lau group, where Ratu Tevita says he was, is not part of New Zealand's search and rescue jurisdiction.

"Distress signals come in various forms, he could have activated a distress beacon. We did not receive a signal from a distress beacon, but if he is where he said he was, then we need not have received that signal. He may have used flares, he may have put out a radio call which was not detected in New Zealand."

John Seward from New Zealand's Rescue Coordination Centre.