23 Feb 2004

Fiji coalition partner condemns Labour's call for freed coup convicts to be monitored

8:01 pm on 23 February 2004

The junior partner in Fiji's coalition government, the pro-coup Conservative Alliance Matanitu Vanua Party, has condemned calls for the three coup convicts released last week to be kept under surveillance.

The Labour Party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, made the call after the leader of the coup gunmen, Ilisoni Ligairi, said on his release that he had no regrets about overthrowing the Chaudhry government in May 2000.

MP Samisoni Tikonisau, brother of one of the released convicts, Jim Speight, says the men are no threat to society and suggesting they need to be closely watched is nonsense.

He says earlier suggestions by Mr Chaudhry that the three should have faced stiffer penalties were understandable but not justifiable.

"George took it upon himself to carry the whole burden. He was the major player and a deal was struck that the rest of the accused pleaded guilty to the lower charges, the prison terms of three years that were given. So they are free today and in that context, the prison terms given were justified according to the charges that were laid against them."

Mr Tikonisau says that the three have no plans to be involved again in illegal activities and should be given the chance to rebuild their lives.

He says that while the Matanitu Vanua Party is still fighting for indigenous Fijians' rights, it will do so within the parameters of the law.