It’s about time Voreqe Bhainimarama the self appointed prime minister got his comeuppance.
While it may not sound like much of a victory, as far as the law goes it is.
For many of us the fact that the Court of Law has found ole Piggy guilty of a gross offence and has fined him, is cause for High Fives all around.
Bullies eventually get their just desserts, and not before time.
Please read on…………………………………………………
Fiji’s military commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama has been ordered to pay a sum of $65,434.62 for damages sustained by Naitasiri man Senitiki Naqa who was beaten by soldiers in August 2000 over his alleged involvement in the Monasavu Dam takeover and missing firearms from the military armoury.
The ruling was made in the High Court this morning by Justice Thomas Hickie.
Naqa alleged that after he was charged by police for the unlawful takeover of the Monasavu Dam for which he appeared in Tavua Court on August 24 in 2000, and later on the 25th of August he was taken to Wainavua Camp where he was allegedly assaulted by military and police officers.
Taitusi Bulisuva, a prison officer of 13 years, gave evidence that on 26 August 2000 whilst waiting for the prison transport to depart Wainavua during a search for an escaped prisoner, he was standing about 20 metres away from a man he later came to recognise as the Plaintiff who “was beaten by army officers and police officers”. He stated that the Plaintiff was sitting in a creek beside the camp with “some of the soldiers surrounding him and some started beating him … using the sticks, guns and stones”.
After this, according to Bulisuva, he then left to join the search for an escaped prisoner. Later when he returned, he claimed he went to the Naqa who recognised him but “could hardly speak” and that he noted the following injuries on him – “swollen face, swollen leg and bruises on the face and swollen hands” and that the bruises were “a deep black” colour. In addition, as Naqa was apparently bereft of most of his clothes and very cold Bulisuva gave him a cardigan to put on.
“The plaintiff’s (Naqa) evidence is confined to assaults at Wainavau camp which was a military camp … I accept the plaintiff’s version of events in that he was assaulted at Wainavau military camp by being punched and kicked, hit with iron rod, of him having hot water poured over him and being hit with rifle butt. I accept that he was forced to eat horse manure.
“The plaintiff was alone among soldiers. Far from protecting him, they assaulted him. They subjected him to totally unwarranted indignities … The conduct of the soldiers in this case was extraordinarily undignified having no respect for the defendants’ right..”
Justice Hickie said the Court accepted the evidence of the Plaintiff (Naqa) that he was beaten on the morning of 26 August 2000 at Wainavua Camp.
“It further accepts the evidence of his wife, Luisa Tanumi that when she attended Wainavua Camp on 26 August 2000 and found Naqa sitting by a creek with “a cloth … tied around his waist and he was without the clothes that he had on when he left the village”, and that his body evidenced injuries consistent with his having been severely beaten.”
Justice Hickie said therefore, the finding of the Court is that the army commander is vicariously liable for the actions of unknown soldiers in relation to:
(a) the assault of the Plaintiff on 25 August 2000 whilst travelling in a vehicle from Tavua to Wainavua Military Camp; and
(b) the assault of the Plaintiff on the 26 August 2000 whilst being detained in the Wainavua Military Camp.
The sum of $65,434.62 ordered to the Commander to pay comprises general damages in the sum of $30,000, exemplary damages in the sum of $30,000 and an award of interest on the general damages at a rate of 6 per cent per annum for the period of three years and one week from 25 July 2005 until 4 August 2008, which the Court has calculated to total $5,434.62.
Justice Hickie said, “Even though this is a matter which, perhaps, could have been resolved soon after it occurred by way of an apology and an ex gratia payment, and, if not, then soon after the Statement of Claim was filed in 2005, by again, perhaps, an apology and an offer of settlement, rather than Naqa having to wait for some three and half years to be vindicated through the Court’s determination.
“Therefore, I see no basis as to why I should not allow interest on the $30,000 awarded for general damages and, accordingly, I will allow it. I do not believe, however, that interest is appropriate on an award of exemplary damages as this is only something which a Court could have awarded at the end of a hearing,” Hickie ruled.
Naqa had previously filed an application in the High Court on 11 September 2003 seeking Constitutional Redress arising out of alleged assaults on him by the police and military.
But the application was dismissed by Justice Jiten Singh on 24 March 2004 due to it being filed some three years after the alleged incidents took place whereas under the Constitutional Redress Rules such applications are to be commenced within 30 days of the alleged breach.
Over a year after the decision by Justice Jiten Singh dismissing the Plaintiff’s Constitutional Redress application, the Plaintiff then filed on 25 July 2005 in the High Court at Suva a Writ of Summons and Statement of Claim seeking damages for both personal injuries and trespass to the person as well as a breach of his constitutional rights.
The Commander of the Fiji Military Forces was the first defendant and the Commissioner of the Police Force and the Attorney General the second and third defendants respectively.
Justice Hickie dismissed claims against the Commissioner of Police and the Attorney General saying there was not enough evidence to hold the other defendants liable.
COURTESY OF FIJILIVE