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Bainimarama denies allegations in Court

Former Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has denied the charges brought forward by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution.

He made the comments when he took the stand in Court today.

Bainimarama said that he never at any time told or directed the Commissioner of Police Sitiveni Qiliho to stop the investigation into USP, relating to the charge against it.

He said during his tenure as the Prime Minister, he never stopped any investigations that were being handled by Police or any other agency.

The former Prime Minister said he and Qiliho attended a briefing held at the Ministry of Health, where some Government Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, doctors were present.

He said this meeting happened in June 2020.

The meeting was to provide initiative to stop the spread of COVID-19, also when the borders were closed and emergency hospitals were being put up in strategic locations around the country.

Bainimarama said this meeting was to put in place policies that ensure that people followed the COVID-19 protocol – Road blocks in designated areas were also erected, in order to limit movement of people and curb the spread of COVID-19.

Bainimarama told the Court that after that meeting, he heard a commotion and that an incident had happened at the University of the South Pacific – where a protest was happening, and that students were involved.

He said Police were worried that a breach of COVID protocol was prevalent.

Bainimarama told the Court that he has suggested to Qiliho to stay away from that investigation, and to focus on the bigger picture and to allow Police to handle the matter.

Defence Counsel, Davanesh Sharma asked whether Bainimarama was aware of the case of financial mismanagement that was happening at USP, Bainimarama said he was not aware of the situation at that time.

Bainimarama said  that during the National Security Council Meeting held at the Office of the Prime Minister on 17 September 2020, Bainimarama said the Acting COMPOL Rusiate Tudravu asked about the ‘USP thing.’

Bainimarama said that he had suggested to Tuks (Qiliho) to stay away from that investigation – referring to the USP protest that happened in June 2020.

Bainimarama said he never suggested to Tudravu to stop the investigation into USP that was related to the charge.

He further said that at that time, he was lost and for one thing he did not know what investigation Tudravu was referring to.

When pressed by Sharma whether he knew that the Government grant was stopped, Bainimarama said he learnt of this later and not at that time.

Bainimarama said he knew that Government grant from Australia and New Zealand were also stopped, which was payable to USP from Member Countries.

Bainimarama said it was embarrassing for an Acting COMPOL to lie in Court, because he thought I said to stop investigations.

He said his opinion was different from reality or what was happening on the ground.

Bainimarama is charged with one count of attempt to pervert the course of justice, while Qiliho is charged with a count of abuse of office.

It is alleged that Bainimarama sometime in July 2020 as the Prime Minister directed the Police Commissioner to stop the investigation into a police complaint, in the abuse of the authority of his office, which was an arbitrary act prejudicial to the rights of the University of the South Pacific, which is the complainant.

It is alleged that Qiliho on the 15 July 2020 as the Police Commissioner directed the Director of the Criminal Investigations Department, Serupepeli Neiko and Inspector Reshmi Dass to stop investigations into the police complaint by the USP, in the abuse of the authority of his office, which was arbitrary act of prejudicial to the rights to USP.

The suspended Commissioner of Police is expected to take the stand later today.

Ilaitia Ravuwai
Ilaitia Ravuwai
Journalist | news@fijilive.com

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