Sunday 226

Imrana Jalal

Filed under: Politics — Tags: — zundel @ am

Imrana Jalal

A friend from the mid 80s in Suva leaves Fiji after almost thirty years of constant work for civil liberties, especially the concerns of women and families. She co-founded the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre and the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement and has become a member of International Commission of Jurists.

I excerpt from her letter:

Sunday 8 August 2010

My dear friends and members of the human rights community, both in Fiji and internationally, who have been so terribly kind and supportive during this last horrendous year,…

Forgive me for writing this group email. There are so many of you that deserve better, but at the moment I am just trying to keep my head above water. Having to leave Fiji, my family, other human rights defenders, FWRM and beloved friends has been a traumatic experience for me.

Most of you have heard by now that Justice Priyantha Fernando of the Fiji High Court has “permanently stayed” the 7 Suva City Council charges against Saki and I, on the grounds of abuse of process, limitation of time etc. The decision is very revealing of FICAC/DPP’s malicious intention’s against us, and to get us at any cost, on anything. In any other country we would have brought an action on the grounds of malicious prosecution. One City Council charge remains against Saki, “giving false information to a public officer”. The DPP (former FICAC lawyer, Captain Aca Rayawa, a military officer), maintains that we tried to sell our fish and chip takeaway without informing the Council!! This, despite there being a large FOR SALE on the shop window, and seven Fiji Times newspaper advertisements, over a 9 month period. Of course, there is no legal obligation to tell anyone, except our bankers, if we wish to sell our restaurant.

Keep an eye out for the joint release by the European based, International Commission of Jurists and Advocat Sans Frontiers (Lawyers without Borders) which sent trial observers to Fiji, to observe the hearings. Also present as international observers, were, Women Living Under Muslim Law (WLUML), Asia Pacific Forum on Women Law and Development (APWLD) and several others who wish to retain their anonymity. I had many local women/human rights defenders also present of course. They were present at great risk to themselves and their organizations.

How can I adequately express my thanks to you all? Words seem trite and inadequate –– please know that I shall never forget your support, nor the comfort it brought me. Your letters, calls and emails meant so much to me. I would have broken down several times in the last 7 months had that support not been there.

A special thanks to those of you who were my guarantors for bail and who signed guarantees/sureties up to $10,000 each time I travelled. For every work related travel (about once a month) I had to file a motion and affidavit and have a hearing in the High Court. Once, Major Ana Rokomoti (then Chief Registrar, now removed by her own military masters) made me wait 7 hours in the lobby for my passporte to be released. Even after the Judge allowed me to travel, I still had to go back several times a day to attempt to collect my passporte. It became a game, on the part of the regime, to make me wait as long as possible. After one bail hearing, when the Judge allowed me to travel, I set up my own “temporary office” in the lobby of the Criminal Registry office, with my laptop, coffee cup, books, files and blackberry. People stared at me in astonishment when I asked the registry staff if I could charge my laptop in their office. That day I got my passporte released in 1 hour!! The multiple hearings in our matter have been very expensive and time consuming. What a waste of tax payers funds!

My relief and joy is overwhelming. I wished that I could have been cracking open a bottle of champagne with you all on Friday night, 30 July. I am of course jumping with joy that there is one less hurdle to face and that at the very least there will be one parent available for our 3 children, if Saki is unable to win the case involving the fabricated Airports Fiji Ltd charges against him. That was our constant worry, that we would both end up in prison. Two of the city council charges against me had been improperly “converted” to imprisonable offences under the criminal code.

I cannot reinforce how important it was to have the international scrutiny, international observers, as well as the presence of local human rights observers at the various hearings. I am convinced that all were critical to the outcome of our case. The observers all made a very powerful statement by their presence in the courtroom.

Letters from the UK Law Society to interim PM Frank Bainimarama, interim AG Aiyaz Khaiyum, and the interim Chief Justice Anthony Gates; numerous statements by Amnesty International, and AINZ, the New Zealand Law Society President, ICJ, WLUML, APWLD, AWID, ICWHRD, Human Rights Watch, the Fiji Law Society through President Naidu, FWRM, FWCC, etc and various press coverage in Australia, NZ and Europe were so important. FWRM and FWCC has been with me every step of the way as have my employers, and colleagues, at RRRT. I could not ask for better and more loyal women’s and human rights defenders and friends.

I also feel it is part of a newish strategy of the regime to file court cases to not only harass and persecute, but to financially cripple or ruin defenders. Human rights defenders are an easy target financially. The Singapore strategy is definitely in operation in Fiji. Our legal bills are huge even with the generous discount. It will take years to pay our legal bills. The cases against us also meant that Saki was not able to get steady employment for over 3 years, the restaurant was a financial disaster and all this has been very difficult on us as a family, forcing us to rent our house out etc. We have been ready for trial in Saki’s other case for over 18 months now, and each time we have fronted for trial, FICAC has sought another adjournment. Each time the Court has granted the adjournment. To date we have not been granted critical disclosures, necessary for the defence Team.

Filing charges that are not directly related to “human rights offences” is another strategy to ruin human rights defenders’ credibility. I could so easily have been charged under the Public Emergency Regulations Decree as I violated almost every single one of the regs, but that would have been too obvious and unsubtle. To prosecute us under city council and Penal Code offences, rather than the PER, has affected our credibility to those not in the know. We have also lost friendships and people have not wanted to talk to us publicly for fear of retaliation. Potential employers have called Saki and told him that he was ideal for various positions he had applied for, but they could not give him the jobs because of fear of retaliation by Frank, Aiyaz and others. They have been quite blunt about it. A few quiet consultancies have come his way by a few brave people but all have asked him to keep it quiet. Our true friends of course have remained that.

Having said all that, I feel very worried about the Judge now and am wondering about the consequences for him. Perhaps he has couched his decision in sufficient legalities/technicalities and will survive. I worry also about the overall independence of the judiciary. This case had so much local and international human rights scrutiny. One good, fair and impartial judge, does not an independent judiciary make.


This last 7 months has been a nightmare for me, for us. Insomnia, having no appetite, unable to be there for my 3 children, not being able to have any energy for my 6 year old, Roma…I feel that I can sleep through the night now….at least for a while….until the AFL trial against Saki. We have been granted a respite, albeit temporary, but a much needed one. Human rights in Fiji, is the real victim.

The very worst thing was that I stopped doing any serious human rights work/reporting etc for fear of further persecution, because I had no energy and lived in fear of further retaliation. I feel like I have been hounded out of Fiji. Now I hear that the DPP, Capt Rayawa, is appealing the “permanent stay” decision. I have been warned to stay away from Fiji – so stay away, for the moment, I shall. That is the regime’s victory, but I promise you, it is only a temporary one.

I am now working for the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Manila, in its Gender division. I am enjoying it so far, as well as the challenge of trying to teach my 50 year old brain new things! […]

Thank you all so much dear, dear friends; and my colleagues in the human rights community. You all have my eternal, deep and sincere thanks.

Imrana Jalal

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