26 Nov 2020

Ex-Fiji PM calls out police over AG probe

3:48 pm on 26 November 2020

A former Fiji Prime Minister has called on the police to provide more information regarding investigations into the involvement of Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum in an alleged bombing incident over 30 years ago.

Acting Police Commissioner Rusiate Tudravu called for the public's patience saying it would take time to investigate any alleged crime committed in the last three decades.

Rusiate Tudravu.

Rusiate Tudravu. Photo: Facebook/Fiji Police

But the Fiji Labour Party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, said Tudravu's repeated assurances of 'a thorough investigation' over the last five months without producing any results were unacceptable.

Police confirmed they had received a complaint against Sayed-Khaiyum in July.

The complaint, police said, was lodged by Suva woman Veronica Malani who had accused the Attorney-General of being involved in the 1987 incident which she claimed left one person dead and another injured.

In 1987, Chaudhry said he was a member of the coalition government of the late Timoci Bavadra which was overthrown in a military coup a month after winning the general elections.

On 14 May, then Lieutenant-Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka deposed the government in the first of two military coups.

Rabuka is now leader of the country's main opposition party, the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA).

Then Finance minister Chaudhry said he was aware of a "couple of bombing incidents and some of them were investigated and dealt with".

Chaudhry went on to become Fiji's first prime minister of Indian descent in 1999, but was deposed by the George Speight-led coup in 2000.

He said Commissioner Tudravu's comments give the impression 'police are merely buying time before the case is swept under the carpet'.

Chaudhry said police need to "come clean as they have been very evasive in answering any questions on the state of the investigations in this case.

"There are two issues here: One is police have admitted that the matter is under investigation and there is some work on it and they had sent the files to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions who returned the file back to police for further investigation," he said.

"But questions put to them about whether they have questioned the attorney-general and what is the situation with the investigations are being answered in a very evasive manner.

"This is a matter of concern, now that it's been confirmed that the matter is being investigated by police, the attorney-general should step aside. He should step down to enable a credible investigation to take place. But of course, he's still there."

Mahendra Chaudhry.

Mahendra Chaudhry. Photo: Supplied/Fiji Labour Party

Chaudhry said if the investigations were thoroughly conducted in the first place, "why then was the file returned by the Director of Public Prosecutions to police for further investigations?

"A period of five months is more than long enough for a conclusion to have been reached.

"I see this as a case where the police are pretty slack and it's obvious they are just buying time to sweep the matter under the carpet in due course."

Chaudhry said police spokesperson Ana Naisoro's refusal to answer questions put to her by the media regarding how the A-G's statement was obtained "raises further doubts about the nature of the police investigations".

In response, Commissioner Tudravu said Chaudhry was "entitled to his own opinion".

Tudravu said the police would not be unnecessarily pressured.

"As I have earlier stated that any alleged crime committed in the last three decades and being pursued now takes time to investigate and we ask that he let the police do their job," he said.

"This is not the first investigation file that has been returned from the DPP's office and we often seek their advice and independent sanctioning on major cases and this case was no different.

"If Mr Chaudhry is not satisfied, my doors are open where we can meet to discuss matters, and I would be happy to enlighten him on investigation processes involved if it helps him understand police work.

"We will not be drawn into public exchanges on the matter and be used for the purpose of gaining political mileage."

But Chaudhry said Tudravu had been saying he needs more time.

"It's five months now."

Meanwhile, Chaudhry said a statement from the Prime Minister's Office should be issued now that a senior member of his Cabinet is under an alleged criminal investigation.

"A statement is well overdue from the PM's office of what he is going to do in terms of his Cabinet minister being charged on whether he should hold his office or step aside.

"Any government official under any police investigation should step down," said Chaudhry.

The Prime Minister's Office did not respond to a request for comment.

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama.

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama. Photo: Supplied