Frank Bainimarama, former Fiji PM, charged with abuse of power

Stephen Wright
Frank Bainimarama, former Fiji PM, charged with abuse of power Former Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama is pictured after casting his vote in national elections in Suva, Fiji, Dec. 14, 2022.
Stephen Wright/BenarNews

Former Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama was charged with abuse of office, the public prosecutor said on Thursday, the latest setback for the strongman leader who held sway over the Pacific island country for nearly two decades. 

Bainimarama and Fiji’s top police officer are accused of stopping a 2019 police investigation into complaints of financial mismanagement at the University of the South Pacific, according to the prosecutor’s statement.

Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho, who was suspended in January, and Bainimarama “are alleged to have arbitrarily and in abuse of the authority of their respective offices, terminated an active police investigation,” said Christopher Pryde, the director of public prosecutions.

Bainimarama’s 16 years in power ended in December after his Fiji First Party dropped below 50% of the vote in national elections, allowing opposition parties to form a coalition government led by former Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka. Both men are former coup leaders – Rabuka in the late 1980s and Bainimarama in 2006.

A purge of Bainimarama appointees from important public positions has followed the first change in government in Fiji since Bainimarama’s coup, along with a slew of investigations into alleged abuses of office and a promise by Rabuka to remove restrictions on the media.

Fiji, a linchpin nation in a region increasingly contested by major powers, has a burgeoning relationship with China while maintaining close security ties with the United States and countries such as Australia and New Zealand. 

Fiji’s ties with China blossomed after New Zealand, Australia and other countries sought to punish Bainimarama and his government for the 2006 coup.

Bainimarama left office grudgingly and stayed in the official prime minister’s residence for several weeks after Rabuka was confirmed as Fiji’s new leader by a vote in parliament. 

Bainimarama was suspended from parliament in February for three years after accusing the country’s president of failing to follow the constitution, which gives the military a guardian role over the nation’s politics. 

On Wednesday, Bainimarama resigned from his seat in parliament so it could be filled by another politician from his party. He said he would return to grassroots political campaigning and would remain leader of Fiji First.

“We will engage more actively outside Parliament with our Fiji First supporters and the growing number of unsatisfied Fijians who are now questioning their decision to vote for parties that seem to be not delivering on their promises,” he said in a video address.

Pryde, the public prosecutor, said investigations into the university case were ongoing.

“The police have also been requested to undertake further investigations into other matters arising from this case and more charges may be laid against other suspects in due course,” he said.


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