14 Apr 2005

Lalabalavu supporter says convicted Fiji chief should get his Cabinet post back

8:23 pm on 14 April 2005

There are calls in Fiji for a prominent chief released just days after being jailed for coup related offences to be reinstated to cabinet.

The government's junior coalition partner, the Conservative Alliance Matanitu Vanua, says the former lands minster, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, deserves to return to cabinet after being released to serve his eight month sentence extramurally.

The brother of coup frontman George Speight, Samisoni Tikonisau, who recently took over the lands portfolio after Lalabalavu resigned, says he wants the chief back in power, even if it throws his own future into doubt.

He says the Conservative Alliance maintains Lalabalavu and fellow convict Ratu Josefa Dumiri, also released early, did nothing wrong.

"We still stand by the fact that their jailing was quite unfair. The chiefs are very important people. We do not believe they were in any way trying to create instability."

The Attorney General, Qoriniasi Bale, says he doubts it would be legal for Lalabalavu to rejoin cabinet and he doesn't believe he would seek to return.