5 Dec 2002

Fiji coup plans discussed in opposition office on eve of overthrow

6:11 am on 5 December 2002

The Suva high court has been told that the final planning of the May 2000 coup in Fiji was held in the parliamentary offices of the Fijian Political Party, the SVT.

The claim is made in evidence given by a Fijian nationalist, Viliame Savu, who is charged with having prior knowledge of the coup but not informing the authorities about it.

In the police statement, Savu says at the meeting were Apisai Tora and Eroni Lewaqai representing the Taukei Movement, the SVT secretary Jone Banuve and a Major Turaga representing the SVT, and Timoci Silatolu and Josefa Nata representing the Fijian Association Party.

Savu says George Speight and his brother Jim briefed the meeting on the detailed plans for the coup the next day.

Mr Tora led a nationalist march through Suva the next morning to divert attention as the coup took place with the protestors then turning to rioting, looting and arson attacks whioch laid waste to the capital.

In his police statement, Savu says he did not inform the authorities about the coup because indigenous Fijians did not like the Chaudhry government.

Savu also says he knew it was an offence to overthrow the government, but the law was made by people and the same people could break it.

On being sworn in as a minister in the failed Speight administration, Savu says it was lawful because the Chaudhry government had already been overthrown by this time.