Tonga opposition say Mara may cause diplomatic problems | Pacific Beat

Tonga opposition say Mara may cause diplomatic problems

Tonga opposition say Mara may cause diplomatic problems

Posted 18 May 2011, 16:59 AEST

The leader of Tonga's opposition party thinks the rescue of a former senior Fiji military officer by a Tongan patrol boat could seriously affect diplomatic relations.

But Democratic Party leader Akilisi Pohiva believes Ratu Tevita Mara's presence in the Kingdom is justified on humanitarian grounds.

Ratu Tevita has called for regime change in Fiji after he was ostensibly rescued at sea by a Tongan patrol boat in what Fiji says were Fijian territorial waters.

Mr Pohiva isn't sure if he believes that, and that the issue has the potential to cause problems for both nations.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker: Akilisi Pohiva, Tonga's Democratic Party leader

POHIVA: Well our diplomatic relationship between Tonga and Fiji is very much affected in this case, because Bainimarama had already forwarded his request to Tongan government to send him back to Fiji. For the Tongan vessel to enter Fiji water to rescue someone who is alleged to have committed a criminal offence clearly breaches the international or the diplomatic relationship between Tongan government and Fiji. That is my first point.

The second point from a humanitarian perspective, the Tongan government is quite justified for accepting his request for help.

HILL: The Tongan government says that his status is that he was a man simply rescued at sea and they brought him there to offer him hospitality as they would anyone else. Do believe the story that he was simply picked up after issuing a distress call?

POHIVA: Well, I can't make any comment, because have to discuss that issue with some other people, because I would hardly believe that to me probably there was some sort of arrangement before they pick him up from the Fijian water. That is a speculation, but I have to..... someone or I have to prove.

HILL: Do you think that this was a decision taken by the Tongan government or do you think that His Majesty, King George Tupou the Fifth played any role in making the decision about picking Ratu Tevita up?

POHIVA: Well, may be and may be it was a collective decision or a decision of the prime minister, or Tongan government and that there may be it may be the monarchy, our monarch George Tupou the Fifth was behind it. But this is also a speculation that George Tupou the Fifth was possibly involved in trying to rescue or to bring him from Fiji to Tonga and he's now under the protection of the Tongan government and he's living together with the king in his palace.

HILL: What do you think should happen to Ratu Tevita now the Fiji government have issued an extradition request, do you think the Tongan courts should extradite him back or do you think Tonga should protect him?

POHIVA: No, the argument from Tongan government is that he has a good case. He has the right to request for help from whoever, whoever who can help and his request was directed to the Tongan government. And as I said earlier, yes, he has the right to do so, because he can't express or exercise his right to make a comment or to criticise the Fiji government. He has to look for somewhere else so that he could do it.

HILL: Do you think that he should stay in Tonga or do you think that it would be better for Tonga if he went to another country, Australia or New Zealand perhaps?

POHIVA: Oh, it is entirely up to him to make his decision. He can of course continue to live in Tonga if Tongan government is willing to protect him or he may choose to move out of Tonga and to another country. But the problem is his family is still in Fiji, so from now on, I don't think he can go back to Fiji and I don't think Tongan government can release him, because he made a special request to Tongan government and the Tongan government said according to the Minister of Police there's a good ground, there's a ground for the Tongan government to protect Tevita Uluilakeba Mara.

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