By NIKHIL KUMAR
Former prime minister Voreqe Bainimarama and suspended Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho were granted bail by the Suva Magistrates Court today in a special court hearing after being charged with one count each of abuse of office.
They pleaded not guilty to the charges and were released on a $10,000 bail with two sureties. The matter has been adjourned to May 11.
Magistrate Seini Puamau ordered them not to interfere with witnesses, not to leave the country and to reside at a fixed address.
It is alleged that Bainimarama, in his capacity as Prime Minister in 2019, ordered Qiliho to terminate an active investigation in July of that year relating to alleged activities of former staff members of The University of the South Pacific.
The matter was stood down twice today, allowing for bail conditions to be heard. The state counsel requested for strict bail conditions for the pair which also included a strict curfew.
Magistrate Puamau questioned the logic of requesting a curfew.
The state prosecutor told the court that there is a likelihood of interferences with the witnesses as the pair held high positions previously.
Meanwhile Bainimarama and Qiliho’s lawyer Devanesh Sharma asked for a standard bail condition basing it on claims that the accused were seasoned and well-educated men and that there would be no interference from them.
While leaving the court premises, Bainimarama told the media that he “served as a prime minister of Fiji with integrity and everyone’s interest at heart”.
He said he would fight the charge not only because of his legacy and reputation but because of “democracy, and for all Fijians and for the Constitution”.
Qiliho did not provide any comments when leaving the Suva Magistrates Court.
Opposition members Premila Kumar, Faiyaz Koya, Viliame Naupoto, Jone Usamate, Parveen Bala, Naisa Tuinaceva, supporters of FijiFirst Party alongside Bainimarama’s wife and daughters were also present at court today.
In light of these developments, the Fiji Police Force yesterday reassured the public that there was no reason to be concerned about public safety following the laying of formal charges against the former PM and former police commissioner.
Police chief operations officer acting Assistant Commissioner of Police Livai Driu, in a statement, said the latest developments did not warrant the need to panic as the security landscape remained calm and manageable.
A/ACP Driu reiterated Minister for Home Affairs and Immigration Pio Tikoduadua’s statement that “no one should be apprehensive about the security of our nation, as police have everything under control, and we urge everyone to go about their business as usual”.
- Nikhil Kumar is a final-year journalism student at The University of the South Pacific’s Laucala campus. He is also the deputy editor for Wansolwara, USP Journalism’s training newspaper and online publication.