19 Feb 2004

Released Fiji convicts say they do not regret their part in the May 2000 coup

8:03 am on 19 February 2004

The three Fiji coup convicts released yesterday say they have no regrets about overthrowing the Chauhdry government in May 2000

They are the leader of George Speight's gunmen, Ilisoni Ligairi, Speight's brother and Australian national, Jim Speight, and the former police commissioner's brother, Major Josefa Savua.

The Fiji Times reports that speaking on behalf of the three, Mr Ligairi said they knew they had broken the laws of the country, but they did so for the sake of the nation and their duty to it.

Mr Ligairi said they have come out fully focussed on their mission in life and it was up to God to judge them.

But the Labour Party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, who, along with his government, was held hostage by the group for 56 days, says the actions of the men had set Fiji back 20 years and brought enormous pain and suffering to the people.

Mr Chaudhry says of the 19 people killed during the coup and afterwards, 18 were indigenous Fijians.

He says thousands of people lost their jobs and many parents still cannot afford to send their children to school because of the actions of George Speight and his accomplices.

Mr Chaudhry says the men's sentences were very lenient compared with the seriousness of their crimes.