Former Fiji PM, suspended police commissioner in court tomorrow

Frank Bainimarama. FILE photo

Yesterday Fiji’s former prime minister of 16 years, Voreqe Bainimarama, resigned from parliament. Today he and suspended police commissioner, Sitiveni Qiliho were charged with abuse of office. And tomorrow, after spending the night in custody, they will appear in Suva Magistrates Court.

Chief of Intelligence and Investigations, Acting ACP Sakeo Raikaci,this evening said the two “have been charged with one count of abuse of office each, following the sanctioning of charges by the Director of Public Prosecutions Mr Christopher Pryde.”

Earlier today, Pryde said the charge related to a complaint laid with police by the University of the South Pacific in July 2019 relating to former USP staff members. The DPP says Bainimarama and Qiliho allegedly abused the authority of their offices in terminating an active police investigation.

Investigations into the case continue, and the DPP says more charges may be laid against other people in relation to the matter.

Bainimarama and Qiliho are being held at Totogo police station in central Suva tonight, with Acting ACP Raikaci saying bail was not possible, given the seriousness of the charges.

Meanwhile the police force has called for calm, and says there is no reason to be concerned about public safety.

Chief Operations Officer Acting Assistant Commissioner of Police, Livai Driu said the security landscape remains calm and manageable.

In a statement, A/ACP Driu said no Fijian should be apprehensive about security of our nation as Police have everything under control, and “we urge everyone to go about their business as usual.”

Yesterday’s resignation

Bainimarama resigned from parliament, in order for his opposition party to maintain “at all times” their 26 of the 55 parliamentary seats.

Bainimarama was suspended from parliament last month for breaching parliamentary procedure,  after he accused President Wiliame Katonivere of failing to protect the Constitution.

He would have been out of parliament for three years,in what he called an  “unwarranted and most certainly unjustified” decision. 

In a Facebook post on the FijiFirst party page yesterday, Bainimarama said he had tendered his resignation “with immediate effect”. 

At that point he said he would remain leader of FijiFirst. He nominated former minister, Inia Seruiratu, as the new opposition leader when parliament sits again on March 27.

Yesterday he said he is not retiring from politics, “I want to assure all our supporters and all Fijians that you will be seeing more of me on the ground as I engage with you to listen to your needs, wants and concerns,” Bainimarama added in the Facebook post.

Now whether he can fulfil that promise depends on the outcome of the court case and events tomorrow and beyond.