Release of case details in the interest of the public: Police

Although no charges were laid, Fiji’s Police Commissioner Brigadier-General Sitiveni Qiliho chose to outline particulars of the dismissed sexual-offense-related case against Professor Biman Prasad, insisting that it was of public interest, an attempt by the Fiji Police to save face.

Expressing concern about the decision by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions not to lay charges against Professor Biman, Mr. Qiliho said it not only undermined “the confidence of the ordinary members of the public, in particular women and children, who are generally the victims of sexual impropriety, to report such matters”, but also felt it was in the interest of the public that the specific nature of the complaint was told to “to ensure we do not lose trust with members of the public.”

“We reiterate we are doing so because we want the public to have confidence that the police force will do its utmost to help the victims of sexual impropriety. We are also doing so because a segment of the public are accusing the Fiji Police Force of political bias. We have dealt with this matter just as we deal with all complaints of sexual impropriety.

“Given as per the Constitution and the law, we can no longer proceed with the matter since the DPP has the final say in all criminal prosecutions. However, we will in the public interest and in particular to ensure we do not lose trust with members of the public, highlight in this media conference what the specific nature of the complaint was and the basis we had decided to lay charges.”

He also raised concerns about what he described as inconsistencies in the manner the DPP dealt with the case.

“We are also concerned about certain irregularities. As you and we have read in the DPP’s public statement, he had sought representations by the lawyers of Prof Biman Prasad.

I note with grave concern that the same courtesy of hearing from Mrs. Ari Taniguchi was not extended to her. Mrs. Taniguchi has confirmed that no one from the DPP’s office contacted her after we handed over the file to the DPP’s Office. The DPP’s office, however, contacted Prof Prasad through his lawyers.

“I also note with even more concern that an ordinary Rajesh or Pauliasi would not be given this opportunity by the DPP to have their lawyers make representations directly to the DPP’s Office. It would be extremely rare and in particular when it involves such allegations. In the recent past such like matters have been brought before the Courts but no such prior representations have been sought from the lawyers of accused persons.

In this instance, the DPP sought to seek representations from Prof Prasad through his lawyers but did not see it fit to speak to Mrs Taniguchi.

In the case of every other Fijian, lawyers make their case before the Court but here we see a deviation.”

Mr Qiliho said it would appear that despite evidence given by the complainant and corroborative evidence given by a witness, the DPP was trying to usurp the powers of the Court.

“Why was it different in this matter which involved Prof Prasad? We are of the view that the DPP’s decision deviated from the principle of assessing each case on its merits devoid of personality, social status or politics. We are also of the view that the matter was assessed from a political prism and not in the best interest of the victim or the public.”

The ODPP had dismissed the case citing lack of evidence.

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