30 Jan 2003

Fiji court martial describes convicted mutineers as a menace to society

11:29 am on 30 January 2003

The 56 Fiji soldiers sentenced to jail for mutiny have been told they were a menace to society who must be restricted in every way.

The president of the court martial, Col Ilaisa Kacisolomone, made the comment as he sentenced the two leaders of the mutiny at the Labasa barracks to life and 54 other troops to terms ranging from four to ten years.

The mutineers had seized the Labasa barracks and its armoury at the height of the May 2000 coup in support of the overthrow of the Chaudhry government and terrorised the people of the north by detaining many ethnic Indians.

The court martial heard that the mutineers had been involved in shoot-outs, had threatened the public and set up checkpoints to control movement in and around Labasa.

Col Kacisolomone said the mutineers had caused a lot of suffering and devestation to the country during one of its most trying times and acted in a cowardly way with the use of illegally seized weapons.

He said the incitement to mutiny and mutiny were the most serious offences which had shocked Fiji's military.

He called for an investigation into what he called the disloyalty virus within the military which has the potential to become an epidemic.

Col Kacisolomone said three high ranking chiefs who had turned up to support the mutineers, including a current government senator, Ratu Josefa Dimuri, should also be investigated and charged.