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Samisoni's family calls for US, Australia, NZ to help

Samisoni's family calls for US, Australia, NZ to bring Fiji regime to account


The family of a prominent Fijian businesswoman, who had to attend court eleven times in five weeks in order to win permission to travel overseas for urgent medical treatment, today (August 25) called on US secretary of state Hilary Clinton to bring Suva’s military regime to account for their violation of human rights and abandonment of the rule of law.

Dr Mere Samisoni, 74 and a member of parliament in Fiji’s last elected government that was deposed by military coup in 2006, was charged by the regime in January with incitement to political violence. Last month she applied to the courts for bail variation to seek urgent medical treatment linked to a dental condition.

Magistrate Usaia Ratuvili granted the request on 15 August, saying the Court was satisfied she would return to the country after her treatment. But when the State filed a motion of stay in the High Court, Justice Sailesi Temo criticised prosecutors that their complaint was not supported with strong factual foundation, adding that he was ‘sick and tired of lawyers coming to Court without studying or researching their cases.’

Justice Prabaharan Kumararatnam today denied the State’s application, saying it was a waste of time, and allowing Samisoni to travel to Australia where her condition will be treated in Brisbane. Kumararatnam is one of a growing number of Sri Lankan legal figures serving in Fiji since the regime removed most of the nation’s judiciary after abrogating the Constitution in 2009.

Samisoni’s family today criticised the Fiji regime’s treatment of their mother and grandmother, whose chain Hot Bread Kitchen operates in almost 30 locations and employs nearly 400 across Fiji.

They called for US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, reportedly planning to attend the Pacific Island Forum meeting in the nearby Cook Islands, and the governments of Australia and New Zealand to make Fiji’s regime account for human rights violations and the denigration of the rule of law.

“Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is expected to attend the Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Rarotonga later this month, where the situation in Fiji will be discussed. Australia and New Zealand have recently re-engaged diplomatic ties with Fiji, yet the regime continues to bully the people of Fiji and stifle opposing voices,” said a statement from the family.

“The governments of the US, Australia and NZ are in a strong position to call the regime to account for continual violation of human rights and the rule of law. We all hope the US, Australia and New Zealand are not encouraging Fiji at the expense of human rights and the rule of law under a fair court and judicial system,” said Vanessa Charters, Samisoni’s UK-based daughter.

“Fiji’s regime uses an active policy of Lawfare against prominent people, like my Mum, who are threats to them in a fair election. Lawfare misuses the legal process with the intention of discouraging people from standing up and speaking out against the regime. It keeps such people so busy fighting frivolous lawsuits that their time, money and attention is diverted away from opposing the regime.

“My family and I visited Mum in Fiji for a five-week holiday. During that time, the regime arrested her twice, the second time with eight officers and three police dogs. In both arrests she was released without charge. Also over our five-week visit she appeared in Court eleven times, including one appearance in the High Court where the State gave her less than 24 hours notice.

“Filing a motion of stay with less than 24 hours notice to appear in the High Court might look like clumsy ineptitude by the prosecutors, but it also a bullying tactic, well-known and much-used by tinpot regimes the world over.

“The real malice of Fiji’s Lawfare policy is that it intends to deter others from speaking out against the regime. Prominent and ordinary Fijians alike see how people like my mother, Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, trade union leaders Daniel Urai and Felix Anthony, community leader Keni Dakuidreketi, human rights lawyer Imrana Jalal, and even military officers like Lt Col Pita Driti, are dragged through the courts and they become frightened to speak out.

“Obviously our family is pleased that Mum is now able to seek necessary medical treatment in Brisbane. But the DPP made it as distressing and traumatic a process as possible: a shameful way to treat a 74-year-old woman who only wants to serve her constituents and speak up, in a climate of fear, on their behalf.

“After Mum’s return to Fiji we all look forward to her being able to clear her name. It would be even better if that could happen under a fair legal system,” said Charters.

Samisoni’s on-going case is being monitored by the United Nations Office of Human Rights, Amnesty International and other international and diplomatic organisations.

Ends

Notes:

1. DPP stay bid denied 24 August 2012 http://www.fijisun.com.fj/2012/08/24/dpp-stay-bid-denied/
2. DPP appeals Chief Magistrate’s rulings 18 August 2012 http://www.fijisun.com.fj/2012/08/18/dpp-appeals-chief-magistrate’s-rulings/
3. DPP seeks Samisoni ruling stay 17 August 2012 http://www.fijisun.com.fj/2012/08/17/dpp-seeks-samisoni-ruling-stay/
4. Samisoni granted leave to travel 16 August 2012 http://www.fijilive.com/news/2012/08/samisoni-granted-leave-to-travel-overseas/46768.Fijilive
5. Get your facts right, Judge tells DPP 13 August 2012 http://www.fijilive.com/news/2012/08/get-your-facts-right-judge-tells-dpp/46666.Fijilive

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