19 Nov 2015

Former Fiji police chief tells his side

9:28 pm on 19 November 2015

The former head of Fiji's police force says military interference in efforts to prosecute those involved in vicious assaults, played a big part in his decision to walk away.

Fiji Police Commissioner Ben Groenewald appointed in May 2014

Former Fiji Police Commissioner Ben Groenewald. Photo: RNZI/ Sally Round

Fiji's Department of Information said Ben Groenewald's sudden resignation a week ago was for personal reasons but the former Commissioner of Police, who's now back in his homeland South Africa, has a different version.

In a statement published by Islands Business Mr Groenewald says the way the Military obstructed the course of justice in the brutal assault of Iowane Benedito, which was captured on video nearly three years ago, played a prominent role in his decision.

Mr Groenewald says other high profile cases such as the Vilikesa Soko murder in August 2014 and the illegal arrest of Joseva Bilitaki a month later indicated military officers were the main perpetrators.

He says Pita Matairavula, a previous body guard of the Prime Minister, was involved in all three cases but attempts to arrest him were thwarted by the military, before they finally handed him over earlier this month.

The then land force commander, Colonel Sitiveni Qiliho, who's since been appointed Acting Police Commissioner, has denied that he was aware of the incident.

Mr Groenewald however says Mr Qiliho didn't return his calls when he contacted him with concerns that Pita Matairavula was being harboured in the Suva Military camp.

The former commissioner also says internal resistance to change and a lack of political support to address critical shortage of resources hindered his ability to do his job.

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