Mara stirs hornet's nest

According to one source, his name means ‘Sea of Bitterness.’ That was the initial, emotive appeal of Fiji’s runaway military officer Lt Colonel Tevita Mara among the people of Fiji and Tonga and for the past week, among the leaders of Australia and New Zealand as well.

While Mr Mara appears to have had somewhat ‘acceptable welcome’ in Australia, his pending arrival in Wellington for “talks” with officials, has had a rippling effect. Prime Minister John Key termed it ‘a temporary visit,’ saying there was no thought of granting him political asylum (which he has not thus far sought).

Mr Mara’s visit to Australia and New Zealand is likely to spark all sorts of debates, at the core of which would be the question, “Why should we entertain a man whose unsavory past precedes him?”

Our Columnist Rajendra Prasad said Mr Mara began his journey with distortion, deceit and lies.

“His escape to Tonga was simply to beat the justice system in Fiji and his so-called rescue by the Tongan navy is an indefensible lie. It was a discreet plan that became obvious to the international media at the outset,” he said.

Mr Prasad said Australia needlessly circumvented the legal process instituted by Fiji and it should have allowed Tonga to respond to Fiji’s application for extradition. Mr Mara’s mission exposes him as a naiveté and unworthy of being taken seriously,” he said.

In a petition sent to Mr Key on June 12, Spokesperson for ‘Coalition for Democracy in Fiji’ Nik Naidu said that the Prime Minister would be best advised not to grant a visa for Mr Mara to visit New Zealand.

“Mr Mara was directly responsible for the illegal arrest, detention, torture, sexual assault and abuse of hundreds of people. He is feared by people in Fiji and is known for his use of violent and inhuman sexual, physical, emotional and psychological torture techniques. There have been a number of deaths of ordinary Fiji citizens while in the custody of Lt Colonel Mara’s soldiers,” he said.

Mr Naidu said Mr Mara’s presence in New Zealand would be insensitive to the feelings of the resident Fijian community.

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