13 Sep 2005

Two Fiji politicians jailed on coup-related charges expect early return to office

10:20 am on 13 September 2005

The former Fiji lands minister, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, and government senator, Ratu Josefa Dimuri, will return to parliament this month after completing their coup-related sentences.

Both men were jailed for eight months in April for their role in the Labasa army mutiny at the height of the coup but were released 11 days later to serve their sentences extramurally.

The secretary general to parliament, Mary Chapman, says both men are expected to take their seats in the Lower and Upper Houses when they meet this month.

There is strong speculation that the prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, will allocate a cabinet portfolio to Ratu Naiqama, who is the parliamentary leader of his junior coalition partner, the Conservative Alliance Matanitu Vanua.

Meanwhile, the commissioner of prisons, Aisea Taoka, has confirmed that he has released another coup convict, businessman Jioji Bakoso, to serve his sentence extramurally.

Bakoso, former army lawyer Tevita Bukarau and the former director of the Fiji Intelligence Service, Col Metuisela Mua, were sentenced for illegal assembly and consorting with people carrying firearms during the coup.