Government Offered Vuniwaqa Transport, She Refused

She said Mrs Vuniwaqa had informed her that Government had offered to send a vehicle to pick her up from the Hilton Fiji Beach Resort and Spa on Denarau. However she refused it and asked for Ms Reddy to pick her up from quarantine.
16 Aug 2021 15:47
Government Offered Vuniwaqa Transport, She Refused
Former Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Mereseini Vuniwaqa. Photo: Leon Lord. Inset: Varinava Tiko

A family friend has broken her silence to clear the air on ex-cabinet minister Mereseini Vuniwaqa controversy.

Geeta Reddy yesterday confirmed that Mrs Vuniwaqa was dropped off by pro-indigenous advocate Varinava Tiko at her place in Naitata, Navua on Tuesday morning.

She said Mrs Vuniwaqa had informed her that Government had offered to send a vehicle to pick her up from the Hilton Fiji Beach Resort and Spa on Denarau. However she refused it and asked for Ms Reddy to pick her up from quarantine.

This was contrary to claims that Mr Tiko came to her rescue because Mrs Vuniwaqa’s security detail and transport had been withdrawn when she resigned as Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation and quit Parliament and FijiFirst and there was no alternative transport.

“Mere is my best friend, her family are regulars to my home,” Ms Reddy said.

“Mere wasn’t sure what day she was going to come out of quarantine at Hilton Resort and Spa in Denarau, Ms Reddy said.

The Vuniwaqa family have often vacationed at Ms Reddy’s Navua residence, the two of them and their families have also vacationed together in Australia.

“She rang me on Wednesday (August 4) to say she was going to come out of quarantine on Friday. And then she called me again to say that the plan had changed. Mere told me that she would exit the hotel earlier because the media were chasing her. That was the only thing she shared with me.”

Ms Reddy left her Navua residence at 11am to go and pick Mrs Vuniwaqa.

“I went on Saturday (August 7) at 11am to pick her up, as I arrived at Kashmir, Lautoka at 5:30pm, she informed me that her pass was not ready. This is where I met Mr Tiko and Mere along with two other gentlemen who were drinking grog together.

“She introduced Mr Tiko to me and said it’s her friend. I returned to Navua that same evening.

“The pass she said was issued by the Ministry of Health and Medical Services.”

The next communication between the two happened on Monday was when Mrs Vuniwaqa reached out to Ms Reddy and informed her that their pass to enter the Suva containment zone was ready and that Mrs Vuniwaqa would meet her at her place in Navua on Tuesday.

At Navua

Ms Reddy confirmed that Mrs Vuniwaqa and Mr Tiko arrived at her residence in Naitata, Navua at 7:05am on Tuesday.

She has further confirmed that the photographs printed in the Fiji Sun Weekend Edition was authentic and was taken in her yard when Mr Tiko was taking bags out of his vehicle and loading it into Ms Reddy’s vehicle.

At around 7:30am the two ladies departed for Suva.

Ms Reddy confirmed that their conversation in the vehicle centred around the UN position for which Mrs Vuniwaqa had applied for and at no point in time had Mrs Vuniwaqa talked about any threats to her life.

Ms Reddy dropped Mrs Vuniwaqa at an accommodation in the greater Suva area.

The next communication between them took place on Saturday 14th August where Mrs Vuniwaqa gave her a heads up about an article that was printed regarding the former Minister.

On Saturday morning, Ms Reddy said: “Mrs Vuniwaqa messaged me saying that something was going to be out and that I must be careful and be safe. I don’t have much conversation with her now and I guess she got enough pressure on her shoulder.”

Ms Reddy said the picture on Fiji Sun Saturday’s front page was not normal.

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“The intimate hug was not right. I don’t know what relationship and closeness they have, but Mrs Vuniwaqa needs to come out and tell the people. I’m also scared about the COVID-19 protocols that you need to be in your bubble, and you should not invite people to your home.

“I was busy in my car. I didn’t see what they were doing, and I was shocked to see that the picture was taken. I knew from the angle of the picture that there was someone who was standing on the street.”

Sources have also confirmed Mrs Vuniwaqa was offered Government transport from the Hilton Hotel back to Suva.

Varinava Tiko

Mr Tiko on his Facebook page said: “Mrs Vuniwaqa was quarantined at the Hilton Hotel. On the evening of Friday 6/8/2021, Ms Vuniwaqa reached out to Mr. Varinava Tiko asking for an uplift from the hotel. A team of four bodyguards was quickly scrambled in a 3-vehicle operation, extracted Ms Vuniwaqa secretly from the Hilton Hotel at 04:30hrs on 7/8/2021.

“In accordance with her request, Ms Vuniwaqa was kept at a safehouse to await ‘Pass’ to cross the border at Wainadoi. She received her pass on the evening of Monday 9/8/2021 before being escorted to the Central Division for another pickup to drop her safely at her residence in Suva on the morning of Tuesday 10/8/2021.”

Edited by Nemani Delaibatiki

Feedback: lusiana.tuimaisala@fijisun.com.fj


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