27 Jan 2005

Fiji cabinet Minister defends his role in the army coup in 2000

4:32 pm on 27 January 2005

Fiji's lands minister, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, has defended his role in the Labasa army mutiny during the Speight coup.

Ratu Naiqama, government senator Ratu Josefa Dimuri and two other Vanua Levu chiefs have been charged with illegal assembly for their involvement in the mutiny.

All four have pleaded not guilty.

The Fiji Times reports that Ratu Naiqama has told Labasa magistrate Sunil Kumar that he entered the Labasa military barracks during the instability to ensure that law and order was maintained.

He said the former chief of Labasa, the late Ratu Joseva Ritova Qomate, had sent a herald to traditionally invite him to the barracks to ensure nothing unlawful was done.

Ratu Naiqama said as a chief, he had no choice but to agree to the request.

The defence case will continue today.

Earlier magistrate Kumar rejected a request for a further adjournment of the trial to allow the High Court to decide on a defence application that he should disqualify himself from hearing the case.