20 Nov 2015

Former police boss: Fiji military perverted course of justice

2:00 pm on 20 November 2015
Fiji Police Commissioner Ben Groenewald appointed May 2014

Fiji Police Commissioner Ben Groenewald Photo: RNZI/ Sally Round

Fiji's former Police Commissioner has urged his replacement to open an independent criminal investigation against the military officers he says obstructed the course of justice.

In a statement published by Islands Business, Ben Groenewald says the way the military thwarted police efforts to arrest Pita Matairavula, a suspect in the brutal assault of Iowane Benedito, played a big role in his decision to resign last week.

Mr Groenewald, who's back in his homeland of South Africa, says during a meeting where the Prime Minister and the acting commander of the military were present, he informed them that the police were going to arrest the five suspects in the Benedito case.

Four were apprehended the next day but it took several days before Pita Matairavula, a former body guard of the Prime Minister, could be arrested.

Mr Groenewald says he tried to get in contact with the land force commander, Colonel Sitiveni Qiliho, who's since been appointed Acting Police Commissioner, with concerns that Mr Matairavula was being harboured by the military but he never returned his calls.

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.

In the Soko case, the original manslaughter charge has now been dropped.

Mr Groenewald has also urged the government to act in accordance with the Constitution and not discriminate or take unlawful steps against those police officers who investigate and perform their constitutional duties to uphold the rule of law.

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