27 May 2004

Evidence given about Fiji lands minister in mutiny

10:20 am on 27 May 2004

A coup-related trial in Fiji has heard that the lands minister, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, refused to leave the Labasa military barracks where an army mutiny was taking place.

The Fiji Times says this was part of the evidence given by the state witness, Corporal Iosefo Tamanisagarua in the trial of Ratu Naiqama, government senator Ratu Josefa Dimuri, and two Vanua Levu chiefs, the Tui Wailevu and Tui Nagodo.

The four have been charged, with illegal assembly, for their part in the mutiny by soldiers, at the Labasa Military Barracks, on orders from rebels in parliament, during the coup.

Corporal Tamanisagarua said he was among loyal soldiers from Suva, who made a traditional presentation to Ratu Naiqama, and asked that, he, and other chiefs, leave the army camp, where the mutiny was taking place.

But he said Ratu Naiqama refused, saying the chiefs were there, because that was what was decided, at the provincial council meeting.

The witness said later the mutineers, led by Lieutenant Vorsayaco, opened fire towards the loyal soldiers and told them to get out of the camp.

Corporal Tamanisagarua said he jumped out of the barracks window and fled.

The trial continues.