5 Apr 2005

Fiji government ranks affected by jailings

2:01 pm on 5 April 2005

The jailing of more and more Fiji government MPs for their involvement in the May 2000 coup and associated army mutinies is taking its toll on the Qarase administration.

Already three members of the House of Representatives and two senators have been jailed and more are awaiting trial.

The latest to go to prison are the lands minister, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, and government senator, Ratu Josefa Dimuri, who have been sent to prison for 8 months each for their role in the Labasa mutiny.

A third member of the pro-coup Conservative Alliance Matanitu Vanua and former deputy speaker of parliament, Ratu Rakuita Vakalalabure is in jail for six years to taking an illegal oath to join George Speight's failed administration.

Another government senator appointed by Laisenia Qarase, Ratu Inoke Takiveikata, is serving a life sentence after being found guilty of inciting the November 2000 mutiny which claimed eight lives.

Although Takiveitaka has already missed two sessions of the senate and under the rules should lose his seat, its president Taito Waqavakatoga has ruled that he can retain his membership of the Upper House and his salary from Suva Prison.

The minister for transport, Simione Kaitani, will also go on trial in the High Court in May for taking an illegal oath to join Speight's failed administration.

Speight himself was elected as a government MP in the 2001 post-coup election but lost his seat after he missed two sessions because he could not attend parliament from jail on Nukulau Island.

The former vice president, Ratu Jope Seniloli, was also jailed for four years last year for taking an illegal oath to usurp the presidency during the coup.

But Seniloli was prematurely released by the attorney general, Qoriniasi Bale, although the conviction against him still stands.