Laisa Digitaki

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Laisa Digitaki is a Fijian businesswoman, originally from Moala Island in the Lau Archipelago.

The democracy shrine[edit]

Digitaki came into the public eye in December 2006 when she converted her office building into a pro-democracy "shrine" in the wake of the military coup which deposed the elected government of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase on 5 December.

The Fiji Sun reported on 11 December that the so-called shrine had been demolished by gunmen, whom Digitaki accused of being Military personnel, though she was not present in the office at the time. Ground floor windows were shattered and a television satellite disk was damaged.

Great Council of Chiefs protest[edit]

Digitaki and a number of others protesting outside the Great Council of Chiefs venue in Suva were arrested by the Military on 21 December 2006, which claimed that she and her companions had no permit for a protest. The next day, Judge John Semisi released them on bail pending a scheduled court appearance on 29 January 2007, Fiji Live reported. On 24 December, the Fiji Sun reported her as saying that she had nothing against the Military Commander and coup leader, Commodore Frank Bainimarama personally, but thought he was becoming increasingly unbalanced mentally.

Digitaki failed to appear for the hearing on 29 January. Her lawyer, Tomasi Tuitoga told Magistrate Aminiasi Katonivualiku that she was in hiding and could not appear. The magistrate accepted that and refused to issue a bench warrant for her arrest, and adjourned the case to 19 February 2007.

Christmas detention[edit]

In the very early hours of 25 December, Digitaki and a number of other activists were summoned to Suva's Queen Elizabeth Barracks at Nabua; she appeared the next day wearing a neck brace and claimed to have been physically assaulted by soldiers. She and her colleagues were warned to dismantle the shrine permanently and discontinue attacking the Military regime, or else there would be further trouble. When she arrived home (after having been forced to run from Suva to Lami) in the early hours of Christmas morning, Fiji Television reported that she found it ransacked, with documents strewn everywhere. The Military, meanwhile, said it would conduct its own investigation into the alleged abuse.

Fiji Village quoted her as saying on 27 December that she had decided to forgive Commodore Bainimarama for the injuries she had suffered at the hands of his troops.

On 28 December, Elizabeth Clayton, an Australian to whom Digitaki and her husband loaned $50,000 to save her CHE furniture manufacturing business, questioned her motives for opposing the Military regime.

Military authorities directed Immigration Department on 28 December 2006 to prevent Digitaki and several other activists from leaving Fiji. On 30 December, when she attempted to board a flight to Sydney, Australia at 9am at Nadi International Airport, she was stopped, according to Fiji Television. Her two teenage children were allowed to depart, however, but her youngest daughter, according to a Fiji Television report, was sent home with her mother.

Under United Nations protection[edit]

The Military announced on 25 January that it was searching for Digitaki and fellow-activist Angie Heffernan for "inciteful" comments they had allegedly made. Fiji Live quoted what it called "a reliable source" as saying that the Military was angry about allegations Digitaki had made in a statement posted in the Fiji Village forum on 17 January, detailing her treatment during her interrogation at the barracks on 25 December. According to the unnamed source, the Military was annoyed that Pita Driti, the Land Force Commander, had been named in the statement, and the Military had contacted her on 23 January. Digitaki was reported to have fled her home and gone into hiding. Soldiers in civilian clothes were patrolling her home in Muanikau, Suva.

Digitaki announced on 26 January that she had requested, and received, the protection of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Fiji. She claimed to be dealing with the headquarters in Geneva directly, and to have been instructed not to divulge further details.

The police announced on 28 January that they had begun an investigation into Digitaki and Heffernan on the basis of a formal complaint from the Military.

Personal life[edit]

Digitaki is married to prominent businessman Sitiveni Weleilakeba. She has a son, Mosese Qionibaravi (born 1987), two daughters, Susana Qionibaravi (born 1989) and Natasha Weleilakeba (born 1998), and one stepdaughter Fiona Weleilakeba (born 1993). Digitaki once lived in Australia but moved back to Fiji when she had married Weleilakeba.