Fiji’s Resident Magistrate Seini Puamau is scheduled to deliver her ruling in the trial of former Fiji Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and suspended Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho next week, having made the decision during today’s court session, which began with a minute of silence in honor of Ratu David Toganivalu who died two days ago.
The judgment is set for 3 pm on Thursday, October 12.
Puamau will have the weekend to review closing submissions from both defense and state counsels, who have until this Friday to file their respective written submissions. She made this decision after consulting with both counsels, including defense lawyer Devanesh Sharma, following a request from the state, represented by Nimisha Shankar, for additional time to submit their arguments. It was noted in court that no one more senior than Shankar was present today.
The ruling next week will come after approximately 11 weeks since the trial began on July 17, during which nine state witnesses testified, including former Acting COMPOL Rusiate Tudravu, former CID heads Mesake Waqa and Biu Matavou, and the lead investigating officer in the complaint filed by the University of the South Pacific, Reshmi Dass. The defense then applied for a “No Case To Answer,” which was denied by the court in a ruling on September 7. The defense was subsequently granted time to present their case, during which both accused maintained their innocence when they took the stand in a one-day sitting last week. Bainimarama continues to assert that his words, specifically, “I told Tuks to stay away,” referred to a different investigation and not the USP financial mismanagement complaint. Qiliho also claimed that his words were manipulated and twisted with the intent to falsely implicate him, suggesting external pressures were at play.
Charged in the first week of March this year, Bainimarama is accused of attempting to pervert the course of justice, while Qiliho faces charges of abuse of office. These allegations stem from actions allegedly taken in July 2020 when Bainimarama, as Prime Minister, allegedly directed Qiliho, the Police Commissioner, to halt an investigation into a police complaint filed by USP. It is alleged that Qiliho, as the Police Commissioner, then instructed the Director of the Criminal Investigations Department, Serupepeli Neiko, and Inspector Reshmi Dass to cease their investigation into the complaint.