Cost of RFNS Kiro ‘not confirmed’

RFNS Kiro ran aground at the Cakauyawa reef near Makuluva Island last year. Picture: SOPHIE RALULU

THE cost of Fiji’s naval ship (RFNS) Kiro which ran aground at Belcher Reef on July 14, 2016 was not confirmed by the team who conducted the investigation.

Prosecutor Captain Aisea Paka highlighted this in his sentencing sentence submission to Judge Advocate and former High Court judge Lieutenant Colonel Jiten Singh and the general court martial panel.

He said the ship was rendered to Fiji by the Australian Government.

The officers Lieutenant Commander Saula Tuilevuka, Lieutenant Samuela Cikaitoga, Lieutenant Ben Salacakau and Ensign Mike Brown were charged contrary to Section 29 A(b) of the Army Act 1955.

The four had admitted that they caused the naval ship (RFNS) Kiro to run aground.

Capt Paka said the court martial could consider a suspended sentence in this case.

He then briefly outlined the scale of punishments and supplementary provisions of Section 72(1) of the Army Act 1955.

The punishments which may be awarded by the court martial that was outlined in the section included imprisonment, reduction to the ranks or any less reduction in rank,fine,severe reprimand, reprimand, detention for a term not exceeding two years and detention by virtue of a custodial order made under Section 71A(A )of the Act.

Below is a summary of the aggravating and mitigating factors that was outlined by Prosecutor Captain Aisea Paka.

Lieutenant Commander Saula Tuilevuka
Capt Paka said the aggravating factor in this case was that Lt-Cmdr Tuilevuka was the senior officer and he should have known better.
He said even though the accused was not on board, he should ensure the safety of the boat and the crew.
He said the mitigating factors was that the accused had pleaded guilty to the charge, he cooperated during the investigation and he was a first offender.
Lt-Cmdr Tuilevuka while holding the appointment of Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM) failed to submit a report to Head Quarters Navy on the Operational Sea Check of the RFNS Kiro.

Lieutenant Samuela Cikaitoga
The prosecutor said Lt Cikaitoga was the most senior and experienced officer on board and he had put his life and the lives of the crew members at risk.
He said it was fortunate that no one died or suffered an injury.
Capt Paka said RFNS Kiro was no longer operational and that the Fiji Navy had lost the service of the vessel.
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.

Lieutenant Ben Salacakau
Capt Paka said Lt Salacakau was not only a senior officer but was also an executive officer of RFNS Kiro
He said the accused had put his life and also the lives of the crew members at risk.
He said RFNS Kiro was no longer operational and that the Fiji Navy had lost the service of the vessel.
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 officer of the watch onboard.

Ensign Mike Brown
Capt Paka said the officer had put his life and also the lives of the crew members were put at risk.
He said RFNS Kiro was no longer operational and that the Fiji Navy had lost the service of the vessel.
Ensign Brown while holding the appointment of navigation officer neglected to alter its course to avoid grounding the vessel on Belcher Rock.

Capt Paka also advised the general court martial to consider the guilty plea that was taken by the four accused person and also their mitigation submission.

Lieutenant Colonel Jiten Singh will be delivering his sentencing remarks on Thursday.

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