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Frank was not Pro Democracy in 2006

Laisa Digitaki’s story

One of the stories you won’t see in Fiji’s well-controlled media is the story of the regime’s brutal crackdown on pro-democracy activists in the wake of military commander Frank Bainimarama seizing power in December 2006. Suva businesswoman Laisa Digitaki, who was pregnant at the time, converted her office building into a pro-democracy shrine in the wake of the coup, but it was demolished by gunmen, whom Digitaki accused of being military personnel, although she was not present at the time. Ground floor windows were shattered and a television satellite dish was damaged. According to Wikipedia, Digitaki and a number of others protesting outside the Great Council of Chiefs venue in Suva on 21 December 2006 were arrested by the Military, which claimed that they had no permit for a protest. They were released on bail pending a court appearance on 29 January 2007, but Digitaki never appeared. When the magistrate was told she was in hiding and heard the reasons why, he declined to issue a warrant for her arrest. She was subsequently granted UN protection. Following is Digitaki’s story about what happened to her at Christmas 2006. It is not new, having been posted first on Fiji Village in February 2007 (link broken) and then on other blogs, but it is worth repeating and corroborates the story of Peter Waqavonovono, which FMW published yesterday.

LAISA DIGITAKI’S STATEMENT & SEQUENCE OF EVENTS RE – PRO-DEMOCRACY GROUP OF FIVE ROUNDING UP AND BASHING BY THE RFMF ON DECEMBER 24th‑25th, 2006 On Christmas Eve night of 24th December, 2006, a group of soldiers came to our home at 12 Kavika Place, Muanikau,Suva at around 11.20 pm in a rental car registration number LR627.Members of the family who were at the property at that time were myself, Laisa Digitaki, my partner, Sitiveni Weleilakeba, our son, Mosese Qionibaravi (19), and three daughters, Susana Qionibaravi (17), Fiona Weleilakeba (13) and Natasha Weleilakeba (8). A security guard was also on duty. According to the guard, Marau Vakaloloma, of Matrix Security Company, the soldiers advised him through the closed electronic gate that they were there to take me to the camp. The guard told them to wait outside the gate so he could advise us. He rang the door bell which was answered and opened by our son Mosese. My partner Sitiveni, who was asleep with me heard the door chime and also went downstairs to the front door to check. He said the guard told him of the soldiers’ presence and he told our son to go back to his room and that he would talk to the soldiers. He walked over to the closed electronic gate and was informed by the soldiers that the order from their superior was to take me to the camp for interrogation. My partner then came back into the house, to our bedroom, and woke me up saying that a group of soldiers was outside waiting to take me away. I went downstairs in my sleeping gown and asked them why they wanted to take me at that ungodly hour. One of them said that I needed to be taken to the camp immediately. I told them that I needed to speak to my lawyers at Munro Leys as I wanted to be escorted by them too. The guy mentioned that I need not speak to my lawyers as it would only complicate matters and that they needed to take me peacefully and that I should not fear as they claimed that we were all related anyway. He also said that another group of soldiers was on their way and their job was to forcefully remove me from my home if I resisted. The gentleman who seemed to be their spokesman looked familiar to me as the SDL Nasinu Branch Secretary. I do not know his name. I asked their spokesman if I could change into decent clothes of which he said yes. I went back to our bedroom and changed into a mustard Marcs three-quarter pants, a “Fiji Me” bright green round neck T‑Shirt, pink golf cap, and brown leather Hush Puppies slippers. Before I walked out of the house, I called my Munro Leys lawyer, Mr Richard Naidu, to advise him of what was happening. I then walked out peacefully and into the yellow rental car with the soldiers. I was introduced by the spokesman to each of them and he mentioned that the one sitting on my left was from Vanuabalavu, Lau, and the one on my right was from Namosi. The Namosi lad looked like the person who headed the Namosi soldiers who presented an apology to Commodore Bainimarama for their part in the 2000 coup. I do not know his name. The other two soldiers were calling him “Sir” so I can only assume that he is a high ranking officer. Their spokesperson did not elaborate on the driver, who was also an indigenous Fijian. They mentioned that they were also after Imrana Jalal, Virisila Buadromo and the rest of our pro-democracy youth group. Imrana’s home is two houses away from mine and I told them to leave her family alone and that there was no point in going to Imrana’s home since she was away overseas for business anyway. The four soldiers were very friendly and we were even cracking some jokes on our way to the camp. They said that most of the soldiers were SDL supporters and that I shouldn’t be afraid.I told them that even-though I helped with the SDL election campaign, I was totally against most of the things they came up with soon after the election and that I was not supporting SDL but was doing what I was doing not for the restoration of the SDL government but for the restoration of democracy and law and order in Fiji. As we arrived at the camp, I was told to walk into a room situated on the left hand side of the main gate which I will call the guardhouse. The Namosi soldier gently requested that I hand over my cap, Sony Ericsson mobile phone and Raymond Weil watch, which I did. They told me to sit a while on a white plastic chair and after a few minutes, I was led into a passage way from where I was sitting and realised that they were cells. On my left, I noticed two young men asleep in the first cell in their underwear snoring and noticed another figure in the same cell but couldn’t figure out whether it was a person as it was quite dark. On my right, I noticed my business partner, Imraz Iqbal, lying on his back on the cold cement in his red underwear. I greeted him before they locked me in the cell opposite Imraz’s. After a few minutes, they opened the cell again and led me further down to the last cell where they locked me up again. The cell was darker than the one before. An indigenous Fijian soldier in civilian clothing came to me and started accusing me of talking against the army takeover. He ordered that the mattress I was sitting on be removed so that I could sit on the cold cement floor. More indigenous Fijian soldiers walked over to my cell to peek with some saying their “bulas”’ while the others did not utter a word. Overall, the soldiers at the guard house were pleasant and not intimidating except for that gentleman who was angry about my pro‑democracy stand. After about 20 minutes in the cell, the Namosi soldier came and freed me and asked if we could go together to get Pita Waqavonovono, another pro‑democracy advocate.

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Posted by Marc Edge at 9:26 AM

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