5 Apr 2005

Fiji's PM to decide fate of jailed minister Lalabalavu on advice from his attorney general

8:20 pm on 5 April 2005

Fiji's prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, is expected to decide the fate of the jailed lands minister, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, after legal advice from the attorney general, Qoriniasi Bale.

Mr Qarase has told Radio Legend he expects the legal advice very soon and will act on it urgently.

Lalabalavu is the parliamentary leader of the Conservative Alliance Matanitu Vanua, the junior partner in Mr Qarase's coalition government.

He and the party general secretary and government senator, Ratu Josefa Dimuri, have been jailed for 8 months for their role in the Labasa army mutiny during the 2000 coup.

Lalabalavu's jailing means the Conservative Alliance now has only four members in the House of Representatives.

Another MP and former deputy speaker, Ratu Rakuita Vakalalabure, was jailed for six years last year for taking an illegal oath to join George Speight's failed administration during the coup.

Earlier, a family member of the lands minister sought his early release under a compulsory supervision order similar to the one granted to the former vice president Seniloli.

Lalabalavu's cousin, speaking from Taveuni, said the Vanua Levu high chief had already undergone four by-pass operations over the last few years and should be released.

She said the early release would be justified on health grounds.