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Analysis: Who Duped These Ex-Peacekeepers, Claiming They’re Owed Thousands?

Analysis: Who Duped These Ex-Peacekeepers, Claiming They’re Owed Thousands?
July 19
10:32 2018

For a number of years ex-peacekeepers were flocking to meetings around the country to discuss what they believed were millions of dollars owed to them.

The issue can be traced back to the first decade of the peacekeepers time in southern Lebanon with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

I first heard about the disparity in allowances received by the Fijian soldiers and their colleagues from other countries who served in the same operational area in 1979 when I spent a few weeks as a journalist with the Fiji Battalion in Qana, southern Lebanon.

The soldiers complained that their allowance was lower than the allowance received by other troops because the then Fijian Government under then Prime Minister the late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara had deducted a portion to pay for their outfitting, equipment, training and general upkeep.

Even when Sitiveni Rabuka became Prime Minister after his military coups the allowance issue remained unresolved until Voreqe Bainimarama came on the scene as the RFMF Commander and PM and corrected the anomaly.

The lingering question among ex-peacekeepers was about those who missed out from 1978 to 2002.

A movement was subsequently formed and Suva lawyer Tevita Bukarau was recruited to take the matter to court.

A statement of claim was filed on April 7, 2014. But, it was 12 years after the cause of action arose.

The court held that it did not have jurisdiction to determine the matter because it was statute barred.

In October, last year, the Suva High Court struck out and dismissed for the second time a case brought by members of the Fiji Peacekeeping and Action Trustee Association saying their claims were statute barred.

Section 4 of the Limitations Act (Cap 35) states that actions shall not be brought after the expiration of six years from the date on which the cause of action accrued.

Noting that 32 lives were lost with numerous others injured between June 1978 and March 2002, the association claimed that the defendants (Government ministers) had misdirected, being negligent and/or unjustly enriched themselves and/or defrauded them and former peacekeepers of UNIFIL of their pay and allowances.

But, the court said the claim was scandalous, frivolous and vexatious in nature because the association had re-filed the same causes of action which was struck out previously.

Since then Mr Bukarau no longer acts for the group, which is being administered by a committee. The committee continued to hold meetings.

During one meeting at Nabua Village in Suva, it is alleged that  members were told that talks had taken place with Mr Bainimarama and the money could be paid out before the general election.

Mr Bainimarama has denied this claim and called on the Police to investigate and hold accountable those who had been spreading it.

At the Nabua meeting, it is alleged a figure of  $40,000 for each ex-peacekeeper was mentioned and they would receive it in two installments.

Many members of the group are pensioners and they contribute $10 a year as membership fee. But, they are also asked to contribute to the hire of the venue for meetings.

One pensioner, who is a former policeman and former soldier, said many really believed that they would get the money. He declined to comment further.

But the fact that this case had been highlighted before an election may suggest it could be politically motivated to force Government’s hands. Information uncovered by Police will therefore be interesting.

Who misled the ex-peacekeepers?

Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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