19 May 2011

Fiji army commander says divisions appearing in Fiji military

9:56 am on 19 May 2011

The senior Fiji army commander, who fled to Tonga after being charged with sedition, says his wife was taken in and questioned by the Fiji military.

Lieutenant Colonel Ratu Tevita Mara says his wife and a female cousin were both interrogated at the Queen Elizabeth barracks in Suva.

From Suva, Philippa Tolley reports.

"Colonel Mara says his wife was detained when she was trying to send some clothes to him, and although she has been released, she is scared and has been told she will be questioned again. He says her cousin is still being held at the barracks, which Colonel Mara describes as a torture camp. Colonel Mara told Radio New Zealand he is receiving information from army officers everyday and it appears there are divisions in the Fiji military. He also believes the investigation into who might have helped him could involve the president, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, who is married to his sister, Adi Koila. The police in Fiji acknowledge there are rumours about whether anyone has been taken in, but they will not given any details of the investigation other than to say it is still on going."

Meanwhile, Colonel Mara also adds that Commodore Frank Bainimarama's regime will stop at nothing to keep its position.

It obviously doesn't scare me, of course I'm worried about the safety of my wife. But it shows people that what I am trying to say that the oppression of people continues.

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

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.