Since the 2006 Military Coup, Fijians visiting Australia have shown a strong interest in “getting their papers” for Australian permanent residency by lodging a Protection Visa application with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. Since the 2014 election in Fiji, it has been harder for Fijians to succeed with Protection Visa applications, because Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) have reported that Fiji is now ruled by a democratic government and that military abuses no longer occur there.
More recently, in August 2015, Fiji’s Prime Minister “Frank” Bainimarama has declared his intention to prosecute people involved with high profile activists in Australia who have been encouraging sedition in Fiji. A lot of people who are here in Australia are nervous about returning to Fiji after seeing all of the arrests that have been made this year.
The resignation yesterday of Mr Ben Groenewald as Fiji’s Police Commissioner and the appointment of the Land Forces Commander Lieutenant Colonel Sitiveni Qiliho as Acting Police Commissioner signifies a big change in attitude to showing that the military still controls the police force in Fiji. Previously, Mr Groenewald’s appointment gave a sign to the outside world that the military was no longer the driving force in the police. This idea can no longer be supported.
Lieutenant Colonel Qiliho’s appointment, particularly if it proves to be an ongoing one rather than just a short-term measure, and particularly in tandem with last week’s reports that the military have recruited the three police officers charged over the infamous “video” assault of 2013, undermines suggestions by DFAT that the military have receded in power and control following the 2014 election. Lieutenant Colonel Qiliho was appointed by the Fijian President “following advice from” Prime Minister Bainimarama. Lieutenant Colonel Qiliho has reportedly been involved in military abuses in the past, including the well-publicised case of Australian/Fijian academic Brij Lal.
Any Fijian who has applied for their Protection Visa should point out to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection or the Administrative Appeals Tribunal that life in Fiji is still controlled by the military and that under the Public Order Amendment decree 2012, military and police personnel who abuse Fijian citizens will enjoy immunity from prosecution for any harm they cause. In those circumstances, it cannot be said that Fiji is safe for people opposed to the current government or the Fijian military.
Migration Agents Registration Number 0957773
NSW Legal Practitioner 55486