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SUVA, Fiji Islands (November 19, 1999 – Fiji’s Daily Post)---The spate of bombings that rocked Suva immediately after the May general election were politically motivated, the Suva Magistrates Court heard yesterday. And more arrests are likely since convicted bomber, Tui Vunibola, 31, has given police the names of those he claims were involved with him.

Marie Chan, Vunibola's lawyer, told Chief Magistrate Salesi Temo that Vunibola's actions were politically motivated and he was influenced by others involved in the ‘operation.’

"He was used as a tool by certain people to carry out acts that are the subject of these charges," the court heard. Vunibola is originally from Nasekula village in Macuata.

"Even though no one was hurt and there was only property damage, in my view, I need to take time in considering the appropriate sentence," Magistrate Temo stated.

Vunibola, a technical officer with the Ministry of Labour at the time of the bombings, pleaded guilty to possessing explosives without a permit and attempting to destroy property using those explosives.

Ms. Chan told the court that Vunibola had cooperated with police and was sorry for what he had done. She asked Magistrate Temo to consider not sending Vunibola to prison but allow him to do community service instead.

"What about the potential loss of lives? Will community service act as a deterrent?" Magistrate Temo asked Ms Chan. She replied that a prison sentence suspended for two or three years could be a solution to his concerns.

The maximum sentence for the possession of explosives is one year imprisonment while the maximum for attempting to destroy property is 14 years. But Magistrate Temo pointed out that the law prevents magistrates from sentencing convicts to more than five years imprisonment.

Vunibola has three children aged eight months, three and six years and is the sole breadwinner in his family. He looks after his children here in Suva and his wife is in Labasa. Vunibola moved to Suva five months ago when he got the job at the Ministry of Labour.

"If you look at the circumstances of this offence, he (Vunibola) was influenced greatly and played very little role in the offence," Ms. Chan told the court.

The court heard that Vunibola had given police the names of others who were involved in bombing the Blueline buses at Edinburgh Drive in Suva.

Police prosecutor Bhawani Prasad told the court Vunibola had been caught because his fingerprints were found on the masking tape that was used to stick the explosives onto the fuel tanks of the two buses.

Magistrate Temo will sentence Vunibola on November 25. Vunibola will remain in police custody until then.

For additional reports from Fiji’s Daily Post, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Resources/Fiji Live.

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