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Naval Officers Plead Guilty To Neglect Of Duty

Four officers from the Republic of Fiji Navy face a penalty of two years imprisonment upon conviction of charges of neglecting to perform a duty contrary to Section 29 (a)
27 Jun 2018 10:31
Naval Officers Plead Guilty To Neglect Of Duty

Four officers from the Republic of Fiji Navy face a penalty of two years imprisonment upon conviction of charges of neglecting to perform a duty contrary to Section 29 (a) (b) of the Army Act of 1955.

This was revealed yesterday by Judge Advocate Lieutenant Colonel Jiten Singh during the General Court Martial (GCM) at the Queen Elizabeth Barracks Court House in Nabua yesterday.

On trial are four accused officers who are charged in relation to the grounding of the Fijian Navy ship RFNS Kiro on Belcher Rock near Makuluva Island and Nukulau Island in 2016.

The four accused persons are 28726 Lieutenant Commander Saula Tuilevuka, 29962 Lieutenant Samuela Cikaitoga, 30594 Lieutenant Ben Salacakau and 33305 Ensign Mike Brown.

Lieutenant Commander Tuilevuka, Lieutenant Salacakau and Ensign Brown are charged with one count each of neglecting to perform a duty while Lieutenant Cikaitoga is charged with three counts.

All four men pleaded guilty to the charges before the Court Martial president, Commander Netani Sukanaivalu, Judge Advocate Lieutenant Colonel Singh, and panel members Lieutenant Commander Enele Ma’afu, Lieutenant Commander Jeke Vakararawa, Major Valu Raumakita and Lieutenant Colonel Jone Tavainavesi.

The charges state that while holding the appointment of Navigation Officer on board RFNS Kiro on Thursday July 14, 2016, ENS Brown allegedly neglected to alter its course to avoid grounding the vessel on Belcher Rock.

While holding the appointment of Commanding Officer on board RFNS Kiro, Lieutenant  Cikaitoga is alleged to have failed to train Ensign Brown to be familiar with the ship’s navigation equipment.

He is also alleged to have given approval to Ensign Brown to proceed with the initial plan without paying attention to the requirements of regulation on safety clearance for coastal navigation.

Furthermore, Lieutenant Cikaitoga also allegedly failed to fill his Commanding Officer’s Order Book, which is a duty required of him to do.

While holding the appointment of executive officer on board RFNS Kiro, Lieutenant Salacakau allegedly failed to ensure that the ship’s Night Order Book was handed to the Commanding Officer.

This was his duty as the most senior watchkeeper prior to briefing the rest of the officers of the watch on board the vessel.

Lieutenant Commander Tuilevuka is alleged to have neglected to submit a report to the Fijan Navy headquarters on the Operational Sea Check that was conducted on RFNS Kiro while holding the appointment of Allied Maritime Command prior to being deployed to Black Rock.

The officers right to counsel were put to them in court three times when they were given the options to represent themselves during trial, engage a private lawyer or engage the services of a Legal Aid Commission lawyer free of charge.

However, all four men waived their right to counsel and stated that they were prepared to represent themselves.

Commander Sukanaivalu said the charges against them were serious and taking into consideration the cost of the vessel in question.

Lieutenant Colonel Singh said Court Martials were unlike any criminal trial and there were certain rules to follow when asking questions and tendering documents in court.

Before their plea was taken Republic of Fiji Military Forces prosecutor Captain Aisea Paka tendered the medical report clearance for the accused men as Exhibit B.

The report stated that the Navy officers were fit to stand trial.

Following their guilty plea, Captain Paka sought more time to finalise the summary of facts in the case.

He said the prosecution did not expect proceedings to take a proactive course.

Accordingly, Commander Sukanaivalu adjourned the Court Martial to reconvene tomorrow morning. Captain Aisea Drodrolagi also appeared for the prosecution.

This court martial is the first to be held this year.

Edited by Percy Kean

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