There was widespread condemnation over the inclusion of convicted rapist and Fijian rugby sevens star Amenoni Nasilasila in a local tournament last weekend.
He was jailed for eight years in 2019 for raping a 24-year-old woman in Olosara, Sigatoka on December 22, 2018.
Nasilasila was reportedly seen training with the Namosi rugby teams in Suva in July 2021, despite only serving less than three months in prison.
Fijian human rights lawyer Shamima Ali called for Nasilasila’s “immediate removal” from the Wardens team, saying it was “incredible” that he was allowed to represent the government department.
She said she was appalled at the convicted rapist’s inclusion in the team competing in the Super 7 series at Prince Charles Park in Nadi.
“We demand his immediate removal from the team and totally condemn the inclusion of Nasilasila,” Ali said.
“He’s a convicted rapist and it’s unbelievable that the Fiji Prison Service has allowed him to play on the guard side – he’s not a guard, he’s an inmate,” she said.
Ali also demanded answers on why Nasilasila was allowed to play when he was sentenced by a court.
“It sends a terrible message to rapists and would-be rapists,” she said.
“Rape is a heinous crime and once a person is convicted they must serve their sentence – not be allowed to play rugby as they please.
“We demand a response from the Fiji Prison Service Commissioner and the courts on how this was made possible.
“The government has a strong plan to eliminate violence against women and a national action plan in the works – this kind of incident actually undoes all the good work done by the state and NGOs in this domain”.
The government denounces the participation of Nasilasila: “A continuous disregard for the law”
The Fiji Women’s Ministry also condemned Nasilasila’s participation in the rugby tournament.
Minister Rosy Akbar said Nasilasila was not a guard but someone serving a prison sentence for rape.
“It is shocking that the Fiji Correctional Service team even considered their involvement,” Akbar said in a statement posted on the official Fijian government Facebook page.
“This is a continued disregard for the law and in effect a travesty of the justice system of this country.
“Rape is a very serious crime and such privileges given to those convicted of such a heinous crime are simply not worthwhile. It needs to stop. It sends the wrong message to the community.”
Akbar said Nasilasila was still a convicted person and was still serving a sentence.
“The Department calls on the Fiji Commissioner of Corrections to intervene immediately and remove Nasilasila from any further involvement in rugby until he has fully served his sentence.”
Fiji Correctional Service has been approached for comment.
Appeal against conviction
Last September, Nasilasila appealed his conviction and filed a bail application pending appeal which was also denied by the acting resident judge, Judge Chandana Prematilaka.
Nasilasila had appealed on a number of grounds, including that the judge had erred in law in overturning the evaluators’ unanimous not-guilty decisions, the grounds for how her case had been handled and the inquest interview. in custody with the police in 2018.
Judge Prematilaka pointed out that Nasilasila’s disapprovals and motives were due to the incompetence of his lawyer and “therefore, there is no need to consider the other two factors under Article 17(3 )”.
“Section 17 provides that the Court of Appeal may not entertain an appeal under the provisions of this Part unless the appellant has fulfilled all the conditions for appeal prescribed by the rules of court.”