18 Nov 2005

Convicted Fiji minister says he did no wrong over Labasa mutiny

4:29 pm on 18 November 2005

Fiji's transport minister and Vanua Levu high chief, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, has made an unprecedented defence of his actions during the Labasa army mutiny for which he was convicted and jailed.

Radio Legend reports that Ratu Naiqama has told parliament that he was called in by police and the military to diffuse the situation at the Labasa army barracks where rebel soldiers had mutinied.

He said he used his traditional authority along with three other Vanua Levu chiefs to diffuse the volatility of the situation in Labasa.

Ratu Naiqama said had it not been for their positive contribution Labasa would have been looted and burnt and soldiers would have killed and maimed one another.

And yet, Ratu Naiqama said, after everything had been brought to normal, they were later charged and convicted for offences against the Public Order Act.

He said even though he was imprisoned for his actions, he believes he did nothing wrong and has no regrets or shame for what he did.

Ratu Naiqama also said he had sought a traditional reconciliation with the military commander, Commodore Bainimarama, and the Labour Party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, but he was turned away and his apology was not accepted.

Ratu Naiqama was given an eight-month sentence for illegal assembly which he served extra-murally except for the first 11 days.