Mutiny Fiji soldier rescued by Tonga

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 19:55 14/05/2011

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A top Fiji soldier facing mutiny charges has been "rescued" by the Tongan navy and taken to Nuku'alofa.

Colonel Tevita Uluilakeba Mara, until recently commander of the Third Fiji Infantry Regiment, has now vowed to rid Fiji of the "hateful dictatorship" of Voreqe Bainimarama.

In an action, if true, that would amount to a declaration of hostilities on Fiji, Mara says he now is "under the sure protection of King George" of Tonga.

It is the most dramatic attack on Bainimarama since he narrowly survived during a 2000 mutiny in Suva.

The affair began earlier today when, in a statement to Stuff, Tonga's Lord Privy Seal, Va'inga Tone said Tonga's patrol boat Savea was "attracted to a distress signal", south of the Fiji's Ono-i-Lau islands, 365 kilometres west of Nuku'alofa.

"The rescued passenger has been brought to Nuku'alofa where arrangements have been made for his accommodation by the Royal Household Office in deference to his rank," he said, without naming the person.

King George Tupou, travelling in Central Europe was being "fully informed of events by the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal."

Tonight Mara issued a statement to Stuff and a YouTube video purportedly from Tonga. While the video is of Mara speaking, it is not possible to verify where he is speaking from but must have been filmed in the last couple of days.

A week ago, he and former Land Force Commander Pita Driti were arrested and accused of plotting mutiny to overthrow the Bainimarama regime which came to power in a 2006 coup.

His passport was seized and he was released on bail.

Mara, the youngest son of Fiji's founding prime minister and president the late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, was critical of Fiji's military-appointed Attorney General, Aiyaz Khayum.

"For inexplicable reasons, Commodore Bainimarama, weakened by ill health, morally and intellectually bankrupt, is no more than Aiyaz Khayum's hand puppet," Mara says. 

"The advice which we, as senior officers, had offered the commander in an attempt to soften the regime's approach to public dissent were seen by Khayum as a direct threat to his person and his megalomania is inspired entirely by the self importance of a lonely and inadequate man.

"Endowed with no leadership qualities and incapable of understanding the simplest principles of decency and respect even in a society that is grounded on such virtues, he is the sole architect of the cruelties which have sadly become common in our daily life."

Mara said when he was "rescued by the Tongan Navy I asked to be brought to Nuku'alofa where under the sure protection of King George's Government I shall be able to tell the truth, without fear of retribution, about the tragic oppression which stifles my beloved land.

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"When this hateful dictatorship has been eradicated, all of us who once served it shall answer to the Fijian people for the part we played and I will gladly submit to their verdict."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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