Alleged plot against Ratu Iloilo, 2000
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Police spokeswoman Sylvia Low announced on 25 August that they were considering opening an investigation into allegations made the previous day by the Military Commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, that Senator Apisai Tora and a number of others had approached him in the Fijian Holdings boardroom during the 2000 crisis and asked him to remove from office President Ratu Josefa Iloilo. "If he claims to be fighting for indigenous Fijian rights, then he should explain to the general public why he tried to remove the Tui Vuda who is a chief of his province," Bainimarama said. An interview was arranged between Bainimarama and Assistant Commissioner of Police Crime ACP Kevueli Bulamainaivalu. According to Bainimarama, the 2000 was instigated by "corrupt politicians", and the way to guarantee stability in Fiji was to remove them "from the equation."
Meanwhile, Police Commissioner Andrew Hughes rejected calls from one newspaper to charge Commodore Bainimarama with misprision of treason for not revealing the incriminating information earlier; Hughes said that to start charging people who wanted to come forward with facts would only create further obstacles.
It was confirmed on 27 August that the investigation would go ahead, and would be led by Bulamainaivalu. The police would tread cautiously, Bulamainaivalu said, but would look at the possibility of the investigation leading to the completion of other cases.
Tora denies allegations
Tora, meanwhile, denied the allegations. He said that the meeting to which the Commander referred took place before Iloilo's inauguration as President, not after. Commodore Bainimarama must be confused, he considered, and said he was preparing a written document to defend himself.
On 29 August, Attorney-General Bale challenged Bainimarama to come clean with everything he knew about the alleged plot to remove President Iloilo in 2001. "Like everyone else we want to know what happened and who was involved and what transpired," Bale said. "And if the Commander can answer these questions then he should do so."
On 29–30 August, the war of words between Commodore Bainimarama and Senator Tora appeared to be escalating. Referring to Bainimarama's allegations about his role in the events of 2000, Tora protested his innocence and accused the Commander of hypocrisy, saying that the Bainimarama himself had forced the resignation of the Iloilo's presidential predecessor, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara on 29 May 2000. Speaking on the floor of the Senate, he said that Bainimarama was calling the reputation of the Military into disrepute, and called on him to stand aside in favour of "a real army man" who could restore its honour.
Bulamainaivalu said on 29 August that it was up to Commodore Bainimarama to file an official report and sign it. Until then, the police could do nothing, he said. He added on 31 August that the allegations against Tora and five other Fijian Holdings board members were not new. Investigations into an alleged plot involving them had been opened in 2003, he said, following allegations from Labour MP Poseci Bune. The files had no expiry date, said Bulamainaivalu; investigations would continue as new evidence came to light. His comments were echoed by police spokeswoman Sylvia Low.
Tora's denial of Bainimarama's allegations was supported by Prime Minister Qarase, who said on 31 August that he had been at the meeting referred to by Commodore Bainimarama, and that the question of deposing President Iloilo had not been discussed. Bainimarama reiterated his allegations on 1 September, however. "The meeting took place and I will not change my stand on that," Bainimarama said. "It did take place."
Bainimarama made an official statement to the police on 5 September, Police Commissioner Andrew Hughes and Deputy Commissioner Moses Driver revealed. A team of Criminal Investigation Officers interviewed the Military commander at length, but both parties refused to divulge to the media the details of what was discussed. Bainimarama said after the meeting, however, that he was willing to testify in court against the people he had named.