Magistrate Seini Puamau did not pronounce former Fiji Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and suspended Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho guilty this morning as directed by Acting Chief Justice Salesi Temo.

However, Puamau acknowledged the findings of the High Court in convicting Bainimarama for attempting to pervert the course of justice and Qiliho for abuse of office where they interfered in an ongoing investigation at the University of the South Pacific.

The matter was called before Magistrate Puamau this morning after Justice Temo overturned the non-guilty plea the Magistrate had initially handed down last year.

The argument in court got heated as Puamau tried to explain to acting Director Public Prosecution Nancy Tikoisuva why she would not be pronouncing the two guilty as per the directive of the High Court.
However, Tikoisuva argued that the state is bound by the directive of the High Court, which is for the Magistrate to pronounce the convicted persons guilty.

Magistrate Puamau then put to Tikoisuva that the two can only be convicted once, and this has already been done.

She, however, said that she acknowledges the findings.

Magistrate Puamau said it would be an error of law for her to convict the former Prime Minister and Qiliho the second time, stating it is a matter of common sense.

She said that she is trying to work according to the law in a way that is respectful of the High Court, and she is trying to find an elegant way of getting to the sentencing process.

According to the charges, 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.

For Qiliho’s charges, the charges say that Qiliho on the 15th of 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 an arbitrary act prejudicial to the rights of USP.

Bainimarama and Qiliho will be sentenced next Thursday.

Meanwhile, Attorney-General Siromi Turaga asserts that Fiji’s judiciary remains independent, responding to recent discussions regarding the confidence and autonomy of the country’s legal system.

Speaking to FBC News, Turaga acknowledged past governmental interference under the Fiji First administration but emphasised the Coalition government’s commitment to upholding the courts’ integrity.

“Perceptions may say otherwise but that’s a fact take it from me and that is the legacy we want to maintain.”

Turaga highlights concerns about the previous administration’s handling of institutions such as the Mercy Commission and the Constitutional Offices

Commission describing their operations as secretive with no documented meetings.

He confirms ongoing deliberations within the Mercy Commission which is reviewing applications for pardons and collaborating with the judiciary and Fiji Corrections Service on case management.

Despite these developments, Turaga notes that the Commission is yet to reconvene for a final decision on which convicts may receive pardons pending further case management updates.