28 Nov 2002

Former Fiji Prime Minister gives evidence in treason trial

5:03 pm on 28 November 2002

The Prime Minister deposed in Fiji's May 2000 coup, Mahendra Chaudhry, has started giving evidence in the treason trial of two accomplices, Timoci Silatolu and Josefa Nata.

Silatolu was at that time a member of Mr Chaudhry's Coalition Government.

Radio Fiji reports that Mr Chaudhry has told the High Court that at about 11.45a.m. on the morning of May 19th, a group of men armed with automatic weapons and pistols, stormed into Parliament.

Mr Chaudhry says George Speight began yelling that it was a civilian coup and they wanted the Government removed.

Speight also said they wanted an indigenous Fijian Government installed.

Mr Chaudhry said Speight called out Silatolu's name and asked if he was on their side.

Speight also called out to the Assistant Minister for Fijian Affairs, Isireli Vuibau, who refused them, while another Government MP, Ratu Tuakitau Cokanauto said he needed time to think.

Speight also called out the name of the then Labour Minister in the Chaudhry Government, Ratu Tevita Momoedonu, who was absent.

Mr Chaudhry said Silatulo joined Speight's men who led the Government MPs out of the Parliamentary Chamber.

The ethnic Indian MPs were detained at the Government office while indigenous Fijian MPs were kept in the chamber.

Mr Chaudhry said on the first day the former Prime Minister and then Chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs, Sitiveni Rabuka, came into Parliament saying he was a mediator between the President and Speight's group.

He said during that time a lot of people had gathered in the Parliament grounds.

Mr Chaudhry is still giving evidence as the trial continues.