Court martial: Judge delivers sentencing remarks

Ensign Mike Brown and Lieutenant Ben Salacakau during a break at the court martial at the Queen Elizabeth barracks in Nabua earlier. Picture: JONA KONATACI/FILE

IT is important to note the different degree of involvement of the four navy officers who caused the grounding of Fiji’s Naval ship (RFNS) Kiro.

Judge advocate and former High Court judge Lieutenant Colonel Jiten Singh highlighted this in his sentencing remarks yesterday during the general court martial hearing at the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) in Nabua.

Lieutenant Commander Saula Tuilevuka, Lieutenant Samuela Cikaitoga, Lieutenant Ben Salacakau and Ensign Mike Brown were convicted of causing the wreck of RFNS Kiro at Belcher Reef on July 14, 2016.

He said the officers faced a penalty of two years imprisonment of charges of neglecting to perform a duty contrary to Section 29 A(b) of the Army Act 1955.

He said the accuseds’ mitigation and also the character witnesses who took the stand to mitigate on behalf of the accused person must also be taken into account.

Judge advocate Lieutenant Colonel Jiten Singh said the officers had clearly articulated how they suffered severe emotional stress after the incident.

He said Fiji was situated in a maritime zone and the RFNS Kiro was an asset to the Fiji Navy as it assisted them to deliver their service more efficiently.

The judge advocate stated the Fiji Navy suffered a total loss because of the grounding of the vessel.

Lt-Cdr Tuilevuka, while holding the appointment of Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM) failed to submit a report to Headquarters Navy on the Operational Sea Check of the RFNS Kiro.

Lt Cikaitoga while holding the appointment of commanding officer, failed to train the navigation officer, Ensign Brown, to be familiar with the ship’s navigation equipment.

While holding the appointment of commanding officer, he failed to fill his order book as his duty required him to do so.

While holding the appointment of commanding officer, Lt Cikaitoga gave approval to the navigator to proceed with the initial plan without paying attention to the requirement of regulation on safety clearance for coastal navigation.

Lt Salacakau while holding the appointment of executive officer, failed to ensure that the RFNS Kiro night order book was handed to the commanding officer.

This was his duty as the most senior watchkeeper prior to briefing the rest of the officers of the watch onboard.

Ensign Brown while holding the appointment of navigation officer neglected to alter its course to avoid grounding the vessel on Belcher Reef.

The four will be sentenced on July 20.