11 Mar 2005

Former Fiji PM gives evidence in court martial of Fiji soldier

9:17 am on 11 March 2005

The prime minister deposed in the May 2000 Fiji coup has told a court martial that he never tried to suppress the indigenous Fijian people when he took up the country's top job.

RADIO LEGEND reports that Mahendra Chaudhry was giving evidence for the prosecution in the court martial of Lance Corporal Lagilagi Vosabeci, for his alleged role in the coup.

Mr Chaudhry told the court martial that he had in no way tried to undermine or suppress the indigenous community through his government's policies, or weaken chiefly links.

In answer to military prosecution questions, Mr Chaudhry also said he had in no way tried to make Fiji a little India, nor had he any intention to form a separate Indian army.

He said at 10.00am on May 19th, 2000, he was the prime minister but by 11.00am he and his government had been taken hostage and were held for 56 days.

Mr Chaudhry recalled that on the second night he was grabbed by six to eight youths who dragged him outside on the front lawn of parliament and assaulted him, resulting in severe injuries to his ribs and knee.

He said the youth accused him of trying to steal indigenous land.

Vosabeci's defence lawyer, objected to the prosecution's questions.

But the president of the court martial allowed the questions to go on after the prosecution said that the defence would argue that Mr Chaudhry was trying to suppress the rights of the indigenous people and that was the justification for the coup.