28 Oct 2004

More details emerge on the role played by mutinous soldiers in the Fiji coup of 2000

5:02 pm on 28 October 2004

New details have emerged of the role of individual soldiers in the May 2000 Fiji coup.

The details relate to the first group of 22 soldiers who have pleaded guilty to mutiny in return for having charges of misprision of treason and wrongful confinement of the Chaudhry government dropped.

Their court martial has been told the success of the coup depended on the support of an elite band of soldiers belonging to the Counter Revolutionary Warfare Unit who decided to join George Speight in an illegal enterprise.

In the summary of facts, agreed on by both the military prosecution and the defence, it is revealed that the soldiers agreed to assist Speight in total defiance of the lawful authority of their commander and lawful instructions issued by the then commander-in-chief, President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.

The facts reveal that they colluded to act together to remove the commander-in-chief and the commander, guarded the Chaudhry government hostages and manned security checkpoints around the parliament.

The disloyal soldiers also supported Speight's attempts to set up an illegal regime and protected that regime from any interference by loyal soldiers of the military.

On an individual basis, Sergeant Vilimoni Tikotani assaulted the then captive prime minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, several times.

Lt Penaia Baleinamau, who took part in planning the seizure of the government, instructed the rebel soldiers to defy their commander and follow instructions only from those holding parliament.

Sergeant Malakai Cakaunitabua took weapons from Suva to Levuka to seize the Pacific Fishing Company's tuna cannery complex.

The court martial is continuing.