Leave Roko Ului alone – says former Land Force Commander
25 May, 2023, 3:20 pm
Leave him alone.
Former Land Force Commander Piti Driti said this of Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara (more commonly known as Roko Ului) in the wake of scathing attacks on social media, calling into question the Coalition Government’s decision to cancel a border alert for the Lauan chief, and this week’s decision by the DPP’s Office that there is insufficient evidence to justify fresh charges against him.
Ten years ago, Mr Driti and Roko Ului were charged with inciting mutiny for allegedly planning the removal of the military-led Bainimarama government.
Mr Driti pleaded not guilty but was convicted and sentenced to five years imprisonment which he served. Roko Ului escaped to Tonga before his trial and remained in exile until the FijiFirst government was voted out in the 2022 General Election. The DPP subsequently entered a nolle prosequi in respect of his pending charge as the State was unable to continue the prosecution against Roko Lui while he was in Tonga, but the police placed a border alert requiring Immigration officials to notify police if he returned.
Roko Ului returned to Fiji recently and has been seen at the Great Council of Chiefs meeting on Bau Island this week. According to a statement issued this week by Acting Minister for Home Affairs Filimoni Vosarogo, the border alert had been cancelled. A subsequent statement by the Assistant DPP, Lee Burney, said that upon a review, it has been decided that there is insufficient evidence to recharge Roko Ului
When asked if there was any animosity or ill-feeling towards Roko Ului, given he was left to face the music alone – Mr Driti said there was none.
“I did not feel abandoned by him at all,” he said.
“I had my own nemesis to face.
“It was my personal music to face.
“He had a bullet to bite and I had one, but I bit mine.
“I have no ill-feelings towards him because we were always complaining about how (Aiyaz) Sayed-Khaiyum was trying to control the show from day one.”
During the trial, Mr Driti admitted he had made comments about then Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and asked intelligence cells to track Sayed Khaiyum and report to him.
He also said he told junior officers that Mr Sayed-Khaiyum was influencing the Prime Minister in government decisions.
However, Driti denied he told Lieutenant Colonel Tagicakibau that the Attorney General had to be eliminated by Christmas 2010.
He maintained his loyalty was to the Commander of the RFMF, but said Mr Sayed-Khaiyum, was leading Fiji in a different direction.
Three assessors found Mr Driti not guilty of two charges of inciting mutiny and uttering seditious comments but this was overruled by the presiding judge.
Mr Driti said the people of Lau should be proud of Roko Ului, that he was brave enough to risk his life and prove a story – “that we had a dictatorial government, led by the then PM and controlled by his AG.”
“I was charged via the information passed over to the Commander, the former PM.
“He (Roko Ului) took off because of the dictatorial rule that was at work then.
“He knew what was coming. He is not a deserter. We were both forced to resign.”
Mr Driti said instead of making comments on social media and calling for investigations, people should look at what happened to Roko Ului objectively.
“They should leave him alone.
“He also did a heroic act and what he did was not cowardice.”
The former Land Force Commander said there was so much focus on Roko Ului that many had forgotten a third party involved in their plan.
“I am surprised about people talking about Roko Ului and forgetting about the third officer charged. He is still walking around a free person.”