Army queries pension payment to convicted VP

  • 12th January 2005
  • 2005
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The army has questioned the SDL government’s decision to pay a pension to the former Vice President Ratu Jope Seniloli who was convicted and imprisoned for coup-related charges but later released by government.

It also questioned government’s decision to grant early release to Seniloli on a special ministerial order (Compulsory Supervision Order) after he had served less than two months of a three-year jail term.

The Fiji Labour Party had earlier also objected to the payment of a government pension to the former VP convicted of criminal activities relating to the 2000 coup.

The army has been very critical of what is obviously government’s sympathetic stance towards all those complicit in the 2000 coup and the army mutiny of the same year.

In a strongly-worded 8-page statement, army spokesperson Captain Neumi Leweni said the military’s now well known standoff with the government was caused by the state’s support for high chiefs involved in the coup.

The past four years had been a testing time for Fiji’s criminal justice system in the face of political interference and obstruction by an authority littered with elements who supported the May 2000 coup,” Capt. Leweni charged. .

He demanded an explanation from the Attorney General’s Office, the Finance Ministry and the Public Service Commission on how a state prisoner continued to collect a pension.

The statement says the premature release of former vice president Seniloli was a concern and did not auger well for the criminal justice system questioning “the manner and process that was secretively employed to arrive at such a controversial decision.”

The Public Service Commission should have certified that being a convicted prisoner, Seniloli was not eligible for a state pension.

Seniloli held on to the office of vice president and received continued to receive a salary while in prison until late November. On his release under a Compulsory Supervision Order he resigned but now collects a tax-free vice-presidential pension.

The military has warned that the release of political prisoners who have not been reformed or rehabilitated could unleash anger among indigenous Fijians.

“Anger among supporters of the coup in areas where the prisoners come from has not subsided but only gone underground,” he warned.

This was why the military was so opposed to the release of former vice president Seniloli.

And warned that the boastful behaviour and mannerisms of pro-coup Fijians could once again ignite political fires within their own community and that any upheaval this tinme around would develop to an unprecedented level surpassing what happened in May 2000.

It would condemn Fiji to everlasting instability of the sort found in countries like Colombia which cannot find their way back to normal governance.

Meanwhile, Home Minister Josefa Vosanibola who met with the army this week said the military’s allegiance to the Government remained unquestioned