Saturday, December 15, 2007


KIJI Bavou had hoped to follow her father's footsteps into medicine.

But that was not to be as she soon discovered a love for law and the pursuit of justice. Hence, instead of clinical surroundings and white coats, she found herself in a classroom of outspoken individuals citing torts and penal codes.

She does not regret her decision to deviate from her long-held dream of becoming a doctor. And last week when she received the Best Prosecutor of the Year Award 2007, it was for her a reinforcement that she had made the right choice.

The 30-year-old is a principal legal officer with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP). She leads the constitutional office's Northern office. Having lived in Labasa for a year now, she has become accustomed to the challenges typical of a rural setting. It no longer troubles her so much and this, she says, is largely because of the warmth of residents.
"The friendliness of the people is such that there's always someone who is willing to help," she says. "We are geographically challenged, there is a lack of infrastructure, hampered by bad weather conditions and flooding, the roads are in a bad state, our resources are limited, (and) witnesses and victims are spread throughout Vanua Levu and are inaccessible at times," she explained.

Nevertheless, she admits that "it is in a place like this that I have been able to grow and develop not only as a person but in my career". "If you are willing to work hard and persevere and achieve results in a place that is challenged in many respects, then you should be able to work anywhere," she said.

She says the recent merger of the ODPP and the Summary Prosecution Office has considerably widened the scope of their work. "It was challenging initially being that much of my work was strictly prosecutorial but I thoroughly enjoy my role as manager and prosecutor in the North," she said.

Her work includes manage prosecutions in several districts, supervise summary prosecutors, and conduct training and lectures. She said staff of the north office should also be credited for ensuring the office meets its role. The team, she said, "have been a wonderful, committed group of people to work with".

Kiji believes formal education is an essential ingredient for success. Hers began in Yat Sen Primary School in Flagstaff, Suva. After eight years she moved next door to its secondary school.

Midway through her years at YatSen Secondary, she spent two years in New Zealand (intermediate). After completing seventh form in YatSen, she secured a Fijian Affairs Board scholarship and enrolled for the University of the South Pacific's Bachelor of Law (LLB) program.

In 1999, she graduated with an LLB from USP (Vanuatu) and in June the following year, she completed her Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice (PDLP). In September that year, she was admitted to the Fiji Bar as a barrister and solicitor.

Following this, she worked at a private law firm for two months before a position opened at the ODPP. In December of that year she started her prosecutorial career. Over six years, she worked her way up the ladder from a legal officer, to a senior legal officer and then as a principal legal officer.

It has not been all smooth sailing, she says. "We work on a daily basis with different people, and various personalities can create challenges at times," she said. "Many times, the work of a prosecutor tests you as an individual and (your) strength of character."

Case overload and resource constraints make it even harder, she said. But ultimately, "it is up to people to make the most of their situation and limitations if you want to progress and achieve maximum results as a prosecutor".

A prosecutor must be "a person who is dedicated, has an ability to work under immense pressure at times (and) yet be committed in your role and service to the courts, the country and its people". One of the most influential factors in her success is her family, particularly her parents, Paula and Resina.
"My parents focus has always been on education as a priority," she said.
"They sacrificed a lot to get us through school and tertiary." Her father is a consultant specialist at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital. Kiji's mother is Rotuman from Motusa and her biological father is Korean.

She said her mum kindly gave up job opportunities to look after her and her two siblings and provide a stable healthy environment for them. "My mother is particularly important in our family," said Kiji, herself a mother of a four-year-old daughter, Helena.

"Whilst dad provided financially for us, mum was the person who sacrificed so much of her time and energy to ensure that we were always properly fed, had good clean clothes and that there was nothing that could cause disturbances in our studies," she said.
She said her mother was very strict with her because she was the oldest. Her approach now has softened with age though, she said with a laugh. "My parents supported my career choice and gave me everything I needed in terms of support to achieve what I did," she said. "It was the fear of disappointing anyone who sacrificed so much and the embarrassment of failure that made me ensure that I completed my studies without hiccups."

Her parents' dedication have paid off. Her brother, Shem, recently graduated from the Fiji School of Medicine with an MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery) and her sister, Nina, is in her fourth year of studies, also at FSM.

Discipline, she says, is another important factor for her, career-wise and personally.
She says she tries not to repeat her mistakes and instead to learn from them. "I believe in the power of prayer and that the Lord is always looking out for me despite my failures or mistakes in life," she said. "I learnt that mutual respect is the key to peaceful relations."

Having fun is also important, she adds. It is important to enjoy life, she said. On the country's unstable political sphere, she said one must not let it affect one's work. This is even more important for a prosecutor, she said.
"The recent political events have not interfered with my ability to perform my work independently and fairly," she said. As for lawyers, she says it is important to constantly read and keep abreast of the developments in the legal sphere.


Adapted from Fijitimes Online