Published here is the speech former Attorney General JULIAN MOTI delivered at the launch of the book “Redeeming Moti” in Fiji last Thursday. Australian journalist Dr Susan Merrell wrote the book, which provides many answers to insistent questions that have previously gone begging in the controversial 'Moti Saga'.
Luckily for all of you and happily for me, the “Postlude” which I’m assigned to provide in this evening’s program is not of the musical variety.
That would be an impossible ask, and task, for someone who is both musically-challenged and born with two left feet.
My “afterword” might well be the last word on Dr Merrell’s book, but what I am going to say may not be music to many ears.
Before I do that though, I must thank each of you for journeying here – from near and afar – to find out for yourself exactly what the “Moti Affair” was all about.
For that opportunity and their bold initiative in organising this event, we need to pay tribute to the University of Fiji and, in particular, Professor Shameem and her colleagues at its School of Law.
This occasion and venue also lend me the perfect moment to express, publicly, my personal gratitude to four shining lights of the Fourth Estate in Oceania: the Fiji Sun; the Solomon Star; the World Socialist Web Site; and Blak and Black.
Without them, fact and fiction had no prospect of exposure in the telling of the true tale of my story.
With those humble acknowledgments, it’s my turn now to say what I must about the page-turner which Susan has written and Shaista has just launched.
Firstly, let me state here, for Susan to confirm publicly right now, that I have not paid nor will I receive any money for the book she has written and published.
Secondly, Redeeming Moti is not my authorised biography.
Thirdly, after reading what’s contained between the book’s covers, I can honestly tell you that it is not a hagiography either.
The halo that you can see above my head is less a reflection of my saintly virtues than of the residue of the full crop of hair that belonged there in 2006.
My hair was not the only thing that was plucked from my head since then.
Standing before you today is the battered remains of a clash between the Australian body politic and its citizen.
Yes, I have aged prematurely in the last decade and that’s not a confession of any vanity on my part.
One advantage of greying is that I no longer have to say, when defending my own career in the law, that “I may be young in years, but I am definitely older in hours!”
Lawyers tend to measure their success by reckoning time in hours, chronometrically translated if possible – in billable hours!
As the subject and object of so much vitriol in the demonization campaign that was orchestrated against me by the Australian Government and their Pacific proxies, I suppose I was only able to survive that ordeal by developing a thick skin.
Then again, being overly sensitive and prickly are not the defining traits of barristers who usually assume the mantle of an Attorney General.
When Susan decided to write this book, all I could offer her was encouragement.
I respected her right to say whatever she liked and her freedom to do so within the boundaries of laws protecting whatever privacy I had left under the threat of a defamation suit.
My “human rights-friendly” attitude to Susan’s enterprise was shaped, of course, by lessons taught and learned during a life of practice in constitutional and international law.
Back in 2007, I remember a news reporter in Honiara asking me pointedly: “How does Attorney General Julian Moti QC describe his brief?”
I assumed she might have been referring to the Wikipedia entry which someone unkindly inserted quoting what David Marr had written already.
All I could utter in reply was: “It’s so refreshing to answer a question regarding what’s in my mind rather than what’s in my drawers!”
Let’s talk about Redeeming Moti instead, shall we?
Susan’s book is essentially her story about covering, as well as uncovering, my story.
She has fulfilled that undertaking in elegant prose.
She has the gift of the gab as a story-teller.
Susan writes well.
You don’t need to take my word for it.
Shaista has already testified to that.
Redeeming Moti unravels plots which were known, unknown and even unknowable to me at the time Susan became professionally and personally involved in affairs only eponymously connected with me.
Like so much else that happened under the pretext of the “Moti Affair”, my four letter surname provided opportunities and excuses not only for the naked display of what I have termed “executive lawlessness” but also many other dalliances in which I was not even a fly on the wall.
Many careers have advanced at the expense of my own by riding on the coattails of the Moti Affair.
Susan is quite right in concluding, as she does in her book, about how unsuspecting and naïve I can be at times – even for my own good.
With over 2,500 pages of documents at her disposal in the form of affidavit materials I had filed in the Supreme Court of Queensland, Susan had to sacrifice a lot of detail to produce a readable condensation, punctuated with glimpses of her own life’s dramas, and spanning 280 odd pages “between the covers” so to speak in more ways than one.
If the pen is still mightier than the sword, imagine what an eraser can do in denying both space and credence to the ensemble of other characters and events not featured in an account of such brevity.
Redeeming Moti is after all Susan’s book, not mine; and I hold no brief to defend any charges for its alleged errors and omissions.
Today’s release of Redeeming Moti in my homeland is the right time and place for me to tell everybody about one act of redemption.
I am pleased to announce that the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia has settled my claim for redress and apologised to me for my unlawful rendition.
Under the terms of our Deed of Settlement, which we are obliged to keep confidential, I am permitted to reveal only the text of the agreed statement appended as Annexure A which reads as follows:
“On 27 December 2007, Mr Julian Moti QC was deported from the Solomon Islands to Australia to face criminal prosecution.
Following the decision of the High Court on 7 December 2011 that permanently stayed the prosecution of Mr Moti as an abuse of process, Mr Moti sought damages against the Commonwealth.
Mr Moti has resolved his claim against the Commonwealth and as part of that resolution the Commonwealth states that it regrets that Australian officials facilitated the unlawful deportation of Mr Moti QC from the Solomon Islands to Australia to face criminal prosecution.”
This statement, duly signed for and on behalf of the Australian Government, means a lot to me, only because Australia rarely apologises to anyone for its official misdeeds.
As we all know, it took 220 years for the Australian Government to say “sorry” to its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.
The terms of our Deed of Settlement forbid me to disclose anything else about its contents, including the quantum of compensation I was paid for quitting my claim.
What I am able to say to highlight its monetary insignificance is that I am still driving the same Mercedes Benz I drove before in Sydney and own the tiniest car in Fiji.
I firmly believe in giving credit when due.
Australia’s contrition says a lot about its Government’s commitment to the practice of principle.
Coming from me, after all the injustice I have suffered at Australia’s hands, this remark must mean something.
I don’t ingratiate myself with anyone.
Fourteen years of RAMSI’s reign over Solomon Islands has cost Australian taxpayers billions of dollars and made little difference to the ground reality of Solomon Islands.
Following my kidnapping from Honiara and delivery to Brisbane on December 27, 2007, the first thing Derek Sikua did after getting installed as Prime Minister of Solomon Islands was to immediately despatch himself to Canberra – for no officially acceptable reason than to ingratiate himself with his newly-elected counterpart, Kevin Rudd.
As we all know, Sikua was kept waiting for a very long time before Rudd finally found time to see him.
Sikua’s insecurity is his own problem.
What remains unforgivable is the fact that he lied to the National Parliament of Solomon Islands on December 24, 2007.
Sikua breached his undertaking to the people of Solomon Islands that my official removal from that country will take place in strict compliance with all applicable laws and procedures.
He can’t blame anyone else for what happened under his watch as Prime Minister.
Sikua might want to swallow his own pride and learn from Australia by eating humble pie.
Life is too short to carry grudges.
I can honestly say that during my entire term as Attorney General of Solomon Islands, I gave no reason for Sikua to begrudge me.
Prime Minister Sogavare won’t contradict that statement.
Fourteen years of RAMSI’s “governance” of Solomon Islands under Australian-policed “rule of law” has not transformed that country into a paradise of principle.
Ten years after my exit both from the office of Attorney General and the country, I still have not been paid what was lawfully due to me under my contract.
Prime Ministers Gordon Darcy and Danny Philip made public announcements, both inside and outside Parliament, giving assurances regarding the imminent payment of my compensation claim as approved by Cabinet.
My old friend Prime Minister Sogavare felt “vindicated” by the decision of the High Court of Australia in my case.
When we met across the road in his suite at the Grand Pacific Hotel last year, he assured me in front of His Excellency Patteson Oti that he will instruct Finance Minister Snyder Rini to immediately action payment of my long-outstanding compensation.
Nothing has happened yet.
Is the Government of Solomon Islands’ continued neglect simply a case of being “out of sight, out of mind”?
I challenge my friend, Prime Minister Sogavare to tell both the people of Solomon Islands and me why his Finance Minister continues to defy his instructions.
It is not only God from whom I am supposed to seek redemption when I also have a legal entitlement to sovereign redemption from the Government of Solomon Islands.
I challenge Sikua to follow the example of the Australian Government in calling upon Sogavare and Rini to settle my compensation immediately.
Whether Sikua is able to say sorry – to me for his complicity in the unlawful cooperative bargain he had struck with Australia to facilitate my kidnapping and despatch; and to the people of Solomon Islands for lying and breaching his undertaking to Parliament – are matters I leave for reconciliation by his own conscience.
The launch of Redeeming Moti here today gives us reason to be alarmed about the continued pursuit of politically-motivated prosecutions in this region and elsewhere.
More than a century after the “Dreyfus Affair” in France, its lessons remain unheeded by prosecutors in abusing the judicial process for political objectives.
Amidst rampant anti-Semitism, it was Emile Zola who famously penned J’accuse to protest the innocence of Alfred Dreyfus and ultimately secure his release from Devil’s Island on French Guiana.
Without drawing parallels between Susan and Zola, we need to recognise the value of advocacy journalism in holding prosecutors to account for the proper and lawful use of the criminal justice machinery.
Advocacy journalism, when ethically practised, is not licensed propaganda.
Our region’s media industry should be neither wary nor shy of recrimination for taking up the cudgels for those who are condemned to suffer injustice.
It was a supine Australian media establishment which never rallied to my cause when they should have, for reasons only they know and we can only guess.
A vigilant press, following their nose, would have tracked down the official source of the political justifications for cutting down a tall poppy by using the might of the Australian law and justice steamroller to crush a peanut.
Right from the very start, I condemned my prosecution as a “politically-motivated witch hunt.”
I wasn’t trying to be funny both then and now.
The Supreme Court of Queensland and its Court of Appeal couldn’t countenance that notion.
As did the High Court of Australia when it declined me special leave to appeal on that basis, preferring instead to decide my case on other grounds.
Remarkably though, after repeatedly denying that my prosecution was politically-motivated, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions decided to change tack after the High Court’s grant of special leave to appeal.
In their written submissions filed on June 6, 2011 (which is still accessible online), the CDPP finally admitted (at page 2) as follows:
“… the Australian High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands, Mr Cole, on a number of occasions requested the AFP to investigate the applicant, and that the motivation was largely based on his view that the appellant was unsuitable to be appointed Attorney General in the Solomon Islands.”
Had that concession been made at the outset, every court of Australia would have vindicated my claim by halting the pursuit of those politically-motivated charges.
To this day, I remain unconvinced by the High Court’s unappealing logic in sanctioning the payment of subsistence income to witnesses for purchase of their statements at trial.
The nature and quantum of those payments to some witnesses who were reluctant to testify for the CDPP without recompense “shocked the judicial conscience” of Justice Debra Mullins so much that she stayed my prosecution on that basis alone.
I fail to understand why the Australian Government felt compelled to make any witness payments at all in this day and age when clear provision existed in applicable legislation for evidence to be given via video conferencing.
My witnesses had no trouble using the same technology for testifying before Justice Mullins during the hearing of my permanent stay application in the Supreme Court of Queensland.
Something must be fundamentally wrong with any justice system when lawyers get themselves involved in the design and implementation of politically-motivated prosecutions for alleged extra-territorial offences against other lawyers and fellow citizens.
Before that illicit practice is allowed to flourish in our region, we must agitate for the adoption and refinement of appropriate ethical rules to put an end to further repeat episodes of the “Moti Affair”.
Redeeming Moti dramatizes what happens when lawyers turn a blind eye to executive lawlessness and why it is imperative that they don’t in Fiji.
I congratulate Dr Merrell on the launch of her book in Fiji.
Thank you, Susan (and Shaista as well), for all your efforts in Redeeming Moti.