The Writer’s Story
I always knew I’d eventually write the book, I’m a storyteller and Julian Moti’s ordeal, played out over more than a decade, across four Pacific nations, was one of the most disgraceful stories of political scandal the Pacific has ever seen and is badly understood, often completely misunderstood. I had followed the case as it unfolded through the Australian courts after Moti had been unlawfully deported from the Solomon Islands and following his subsequent arrest in Brisbane. During this time, I had fought a battle, of epic proportions, to get details of the case published against a hostile Australian press that were not interested in anything but toeing the Australian government line. My successes were very limited. During those years, there was only one national newspaper in Fiji (Fiji Sun) and another in the Solomon Islands (The Solomon Star) that were game to publish the details of a scandal that exposed the immorality of the Australian government as they used heinous criminal charges, previously resolved in Moti’s favour, as a smokescreen for their agenda: to rid the Solomon Islands of Moti’s legitimate political influence. And while I considered I had a story that rivalled the ‘Watergate’ scandal in the USA (and I did), the Australian media were doggedly determined to abrogate their watchdog fourth-estate role and they would allocate no space to revealing what was really going on, although I had ample evidence. Ironically, someone coined the term ‘Motigate’ to describe the saga. But, in this case, it was not the Australia media that exposed the story – that was left to the High Court of Australia to recognise. It is down to the under reporting in the Australian mainstream media that the Moti saga is so thoroughly misunderstood and the reason writing the book took on its own moral imperative.
THE GENIUS OF THE LAWYER
While the world consists of many stories, there are just a handful of themes into which they fit – and the ‘theme’ to the Moti story resides in the biblical ‘David and Goliath’ battle. One man took on the might of the Australian government and won. And righteousness was on the side of Moti – just as it had been with David. Redeeming Moti acknowledges the genius of the lawyer and the magnitude of the battle he’d fought. For Moti turned the tables on the Australian government and put them on trial. He would not answer, for a third time, the allegations that two competent courts in Vanuatu (where the alleged offence(s) had occurred five years previously) had found so specious that the case had not even proceeded to trial. “How many more times must I prove my innocence?” Moti asked. At the centre of the Vanuatu charges that the Australian government were regurgitating, was an extortion demand by the father of a 13-year-old girl for $50,000 that would enable him to get the visas his family needed to stop their imminent deportation from Vanuatu. The father threatened that were
the money not forthcoming his daughter would allege that Moti had raped her – it wasn’t and she did. Documents uncovered post the Vanuatu decisions and during the later and subsequent Australian trial, attested to the revivified charges being politically motivated. In Australia Federal Police (AFP) minutes it was written that their informant – Patrick Cole, the Australian High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands, was urging Moti’s prosecution in order to curb Moti’s political influence which, by that time, included the mooted, and later realised, Attorney-General role. This sorry chapter of Moti’s life only ended when the full seven-person bench of the High Court of Australia, in a six to one ruling, recognised the excesses of the Australian government and granted Moti a permanent stay of prosecution on one of them – his unlawful rendition to Australia from the Solomon Islands. The Australian authorities, by their abuse of process and arguably of their power too, had lost the right to put him on trial. With only an abiding faith in the law, like the proverbial slingshot of David, Julian Moti QC had defeated the monstrous Goliath that the Australian government had become.
It has taken me almost six years to revisit the Julian Moti story, although, once I committed to writing the book, things moved along rapidly with a first draft of the book on paper after only two months. I know the subject well. The years in between covering the trial and tackling the subject again were necessary space to objectively and fairly revisit what was, for me, a fraught time. Moti’s was a case that had completely challenged some paradigms that I held dear. I had never before considered that the Australia, where I live and vote, had incumbent governments that were unprincipled and/or rogue; that would ruthlessly and blatantly flout laws and knowingly ruin innocent lives and use the courts and heinous criminal charges to effect a base political agenda - bordering on neo colonialism. This case shattered my illusions. Moreover, given that the saga crossed over the change of Australian government from a Liberal-Party-led government to a Labor-Party-led one, there was no chance of blaming a particular political ideology – it was bi-partisan. No longer could I be secure in the fact that an Australian government, that I live under, would treat me fairly. The precedent was established. It also made me sceptical of all the lip service the media industry gave to ‘ethics’. There were often times during the court process when the raw hostility that I encountered from newspaper editors in Australia – almost universally – when trying to sell (or even give away) copy, made me question my own perceptions. And while my crises of confidence were mostly shortlived, that sort of hostility takes its toll making it difficult to maintain any prolonged enthusiasm for the task. I was glad when the High Court decision was handed down and it was over. Yet, if this is the affect that the case had on me, how much more devastating must it have been for Julian Moti?
THE PHOENIX RISES
On that subject, I am happy to say that Julian Moti has proved himself to be resilient. This much maligned man is not bitter and says that, in many ways, it has renewed his faith in the rule of law while lamenting that the law has not managed, in Australia, to curb ‘executive lawlessness’ that had run rife through his case. During the launch of Redeeming Moti in Suva on May 11 (hosted by the University of Fiji) Moti announced that after more than five years the Australian government had apologised as part of the settlement of his claim for compensation. As he noted, it has not been often that the Australian government has made such a gesture, so it was significant. Yet, to me, it seems they have done the least they can do. His ‘apology’ states: “…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.” There’s not a lot of deeply felt remorse evident there. And while I’m sure they “regret” that they facilitated this unlawful act, I’d hazard a guess that they regret even more that they were caught out. Under these circumstances, and others that I’ve not mentioned involving the other two culpable nations, I’m not sure that there has been much redemption for Julian Moti. But I’m just the storyteller - perhaps redemption is not mine to give.