7 Mar 2003

Prosecution in Fiji treason trial claims parliament's deputy speaker was part of May 2000coup

8:26 am on 7 March 2003

The Suva High Court has been told that the deputy Speaker of Fiji's parliament and government MP, Ratu Rakuita Vakalalabure, was an integral part of the coup.

Radio Fiji reports that the state prosecutor, Peter Ridgeway, made the statement in his summing up of the treason trial of coup accomplices Josefa Nata and Timoci Silatolu.

Mr Ridgeway said Ratu Rakuita was as much a part of the George Speight group as Nata and Silatolu.

He said evidence showed that Ratu Rakuita was seen in a lot of video footage and identified in a lot of meetings that came as evidence.

Mr Ridgeway rejected statements made by Silatolu's state-funded lawyer, Sevuloni Valenitabua, that prosecutors had failed to prove that Silatolu was part of the planning for the coup.

Mr Valenitabua had said all evidence, including video footage of the swearing in of Silatolu as a minister in Speight's failed administration, and transcripts and drafts of decrees signed by him only related to the execution of the coup.

Mr Valenitabua said a speech which Silatolu gave three weeks before the coup in a central Suva park was merely his exercise of the constitutional freedom of expression and no more racist than those made by other politicians.

The summing up will continue today.