Decision on Bainimarama and Qiliho's appeal case on March 14th

Decision on Bainimarama and Qiliho's appeal case on March 14th

By Rashika Kumar
Thursday 29/02/2024
Former Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and suspended Police Commissioner Brigadier General Sitiveni Qiliho.

The Suva High Court will make a decision on the 14th of March in the matter where the DPP had filed an appeal against the Magistrates Court decision to acquit former Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and suspended Police Commissioner Brigadier General Sitiveni Qiliho.

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

They were found not guilty and acquitted accordingly by Magistrate Seini Puamau last year.

While responding to the DPP's submission during the hearing before Acting Chief Justice Salesi Temo, Bainimarama and Qiliho's lawyer, Devanesh Sharma says the court had sufficient material to make the decision and there is nothing unreasonable or perverse about the Magistrate Court's decision.

He says this appeal seeks to create very unhealthy precedences where in a subtle way, the counsel who is appealing is undermining the strategy of the prosecution counsel to lead the prosecution's case.

Sharma says the prosecution also attempts to put the onus on the court to recall further witnesses for further examination.

He says the DPP could clearly have recalled any witness to review anything that the defence had raised but he chose not to do so.

Sharma asks why then is the court being blamed for this.

He says there is a very clear possibility that the DPP accepted the evidence, explanation and the exhibits of the defence.

The lawyer says it is not the role of the prosecution to secure a conviction at any cost and they need to be fair to the accused person as well.

He says this is the hallmark of the late Ratu David Toganivalu and he was not going to secure a conviction because he was a fair prosecutor.

Sharma says the breach of COVID restrictions at USP case was not a recent invention and is refuted by a news article and the defence was available from June 2020.

He says the Magistrate was fair and gave every opportunity to rebuttal, and the court does not step into the shoe of the prosecution to decide.

He says the then Acting Police Commissioner Rusiate Tudravu was the only witness to give evidence against Bainimarama.

While quoting the transcript of Tudravu's cross examination, Sharma says that Magistrate Puamau had asked Tudravu that what he heard was a statement, 'Oh I suggested earlier to Tuks to stay away from that investigation' and Sharma says Tudravu took that to mean to stop the investigation.

Sharma says Tudravu was asked if he had been a part of the conversation between Qiliho and Bainimarama to which he had responded that he had heard it from the Chairman of the National Security Council.

He says without the minutes of the National Security Council, Tudravu would have gotten away with it.

The lawyer says Tudravu's last comment in the meeting was that he will bring the investigating officer to discuss with the Prime Minister.

He says if Tudravu was not party to the conversation between Bainimarama and Qiliho, then how can he comment about it.

He says when Bainimarama was questioned, he had said he thought the USP issue was about the other COVID investigation and did not know about the USP finance and audit case.

He says it was never put to Bainimarama that there was an investigation into protests into USP and if the DPP wanted to object he could have brought someone from CID to prove this.

Sharma says that Magistrate Puamau said Tudravu has an axe to grind because he came out of the National Security Council meeting ready to tell former Chief of Intelligence, Investigation and Prosecution Biu Matavou to stop the investigation in 2020.

He says the fact is that the investigation never stopped.

He submits that the appeal should be dismissed.

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