30 Jul 2003

Fiji court martial told of covert operations during and after coup

10:53 am on 30 July 2003

A court martial in Fiji has been told that soldiers of the unit which carried out the coup and army mutiny three years ago, burgled government offices and spied on diplomats and trade unionists.

The Daily Post reports the allegation was made by defence lawyer Kelemedi Bulewa who said the covert activities were carried out on the orders of senior officers.

Mr Bulewa is defending 21 soldiers charged with mutiny.

Prosecution witness, Corporal Navitalai Luvuiwasa initially denied knowledge of covert operations but later admitted them.

These included the surveillance and observation of homes of politicians, trade unionists, prominent business people, members of NGOs and diplomats from Australia, New Zealand, Britain, China and the United States.

Corporal Luvuiwasa admitted taking part in some covert operations but said he and other soldiers were simply following orders from their superiors.

He said members of the unit were taught never to question orders and he did not know if the covert operations had the approval of the National Security Council, a body which at that time would have been headed by the now deposed prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry.