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Police say no link between Mahogany and terrorists


PEOPLE'S COALITION GOVERNMENT, FIJI

Police say no link between Mahogany and terrorists

Issue No: 163; 1 November 2000

Terrorist George Speight did not act because of the Mahogany deals, say the Police.

Today's Fiji Times quotes Police Department as saying that it could not find any connection between George Speight's mahogany deal and his activities on 19 May. Retired Assistant Commissioner of Police, Savenaca Tuivaga told the Times: "From our findings, we conclude the allegations were not the reasons for the coup".

Interestingly, however, according to the police the allegations it investigated were that Speight used the money paid bi-monthly to him by the Timber Resources Management for his own use, and that TRM director Marshall Pettit bribed Speight to award Anglo Pacific Funding group the pine contract.

As can be seen, these allegations are on bribery and pine contracts, and not on Speight's motives in carrying out the terrorist acts. That the police department investigated two different allegations and concluded no link between mahogany and Speight's activities is not surprising as the Fiji Police have a record for bungling up investigations. The National Bank of Fiji investigations is one example where despite over $400m being siphoned off in shady dealings involving numerous SVT politicians, no conviction has taken place.

One lawyer stated that the way the police and the military are going on, they will end by blaming the victim and therefore justifying the terrorist activities.

Suspended Police Commissioner, Isikia Savua had, before 19 May, claimed on national TV that the Government should accept the grievances of the 1000 protest marchers. Later, the Fiji Sun speculated, allegedly on the basis of information from Tuivaga, that Savua will escape the commission of inquiry into his role in the terrorist activities. Savua had engaged Tuivaga for the mahogany investigation.

Already the soldiers taking part in the terrorist activities have had their charges of treason dropped, and have been freed from detention by the military. Earlier, one chief was freed from jail within days of him being sentenced to one year's imprisonment for taking part in terrorising farmers in the area. Another court freed, on suspended sentence, some villagers for their role in blocking roads during the hostage crisis. On Monday, the Tavua court freed 16 people, including a former journalist, Vasiti Ritova, of charges of seizing, through force, the multi-million dollar water bottling plant, Natural Waters of Fiji in early July. Magistrate Naomi Lomaiviti freed them after the prosecution withdrew the charges of forcible entry and unlawful use of motor vehicles because the property owners did not want to pursue the case. The judgment has drawn criticism from political parties, the legal fraternity, and the military. Dr. Tupeni Baba of the People's Coalition told the media that the withdrawal of the charges indicated that the owners of the factory did not feel secure enough to go to the courts. He added that this was a bad sign for investors.

End 1 November 2000


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