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Why Roko Ului Mara Will Not be Extradited from Tonga by the Illegal Regime in Fiji?

May 17, 2011


To Extradite or Not to Extradite Colonel Roko Ului Mara?


1. As the illegal regime in Fiji begins the process to extradite Colonel Roko Ului Mara from Tonga, there are a number of reasons why such a venture is doomed to fail from the outset. This article briefly summarises some of them.
Legal Basis for Extradition

2. One of the basic principles governing extradition is that the alleged crime must be a crime in both jurisdictions – in Tonga and Fiji.
3. Colonel Mara has been charged with ‘uttering seditious words’ according to the draconian Emergency Regulations currently in place in Fiji and the creation of the much hated and illegal Attorney General Aiyaz Khaiyum. In simple terms, it is a crime against merely criticising the illegal regime of Bainimarama. It is unlike other crimes such as rape or murder where there is a victim who has personally been affected.
4. Uttering seditious words merely wounds the illegal regime’s pride and Bainimarama and Khaiyum’s egos – no more no less. In essence, it is a political crime which we all know it is, and Bainimarama has stated at various times the need to clamp down on dissent in order for him to push through his so called “reforms”.
5. Fijian authority lawyers who will have to argue the case in an independent Tonga court, will also have to point to the existence of such an offence in Tonga and I very much doubt there is. Even of there is, the context for its existence, let alone manner in which it is being enforced will be different.
6. One such context the Tongan court may consider is the state of the judiciary in Fiji which we all know is in a sad and parlous state with the wholesale sacking of judges and abrogation of the Fiji Constitution. In fact one reason cited by Colonel Mara for escaping to Tonga is the doubtful state of the Fiji judiciary in providing no assurance of a fair trial.
Political Imperatives
7. Tonga has made admirable steps to emerge from its feudalistic mode of governance with the  its recent and first general election. This sense of pride in their new found democratic zeal is very evident in the statement by its PM in affirming the legal process that needs to be followed for the extradition. These are admirable decisions by a young democracy putting faith in the due process quite unlike Bainimarama, who has trashed the Fiji constitution and suppressed freedom and civil liberties in order to remain in power. It will therefore be important that Tonga is seen to be upholding democratic values and principles in dealing with a potentially tricky political problem.
8. For the same reason Tonga must be seen to be upholding the rule of law and democratic principles, it cannot afford to lose face in any political tit for tat with Fiji. Tonga will be mindful not to be portrayed as a minnow given unresolved and hostile claims from Fiji over the Minerva Reef territory. What Tonga may lack in size or economic might, it could easily make up by standing up to Fiji and thumbing its new found democratic nose at a dictatorial regime that is hanging on to power through the barrel of guns and draconian emergency regulations.
9. Complicating all the above is the existence of close family ties between Tongan royalty and Colonel Mara. While Tonga has been careful not to be overplay this link, others have already pointed out that “blood is thicker than politics” and that Tongan authorities will be mindful that Colonel Mara is accorded the support and recognition befitting his link to the Royal Family.
10.  It will be intriguing to see lawyers for the illegal Fiji regime arguing the legalities of its laws in an independent Tongan court. Unlike Fiji where Judges cannot be trusted to be fair and  impartial, Tonga’s court will no doubt apply itself solely to the legal questions surrounding the extradition.
11. And as stated above, those questions will more than expose the illegalities that are widespread in Fiji, and perpetrated by, the current regime there just to hang on to power. As such, it does not augur well for any chance at successfully extraditing Colonel Ului Mara.
Author Sai Lealea – Posted on SWM by Rusi Varani
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