19 Dec 2006

Fiji military confirms plans to close Nukulau Island prison

10:37 am on 19 December 2006

Fiji's prison island of Nukulau which has housed the May 2000 coup convicts is to be shut down and the prisoners relocated to the mainland.

The military commander, Commodore Bainimarama, says he has approved the decommissioning of Nukulau as a correctional facility because it is costing too much.

He says all inmates of the island, who include treason convicts George Speight, Timoci Silatolu and Josefa Nata, would be moved to other prisons as decided by the Prisons Department.

Commodore Bainimarama says Nukulau Island will now be returned to the children for picnics during the festive season.

He has also warned that if the deposed prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, tries to return to Suva, he would be arrested and sent to an island near Nukulau known as Makuluva.

But the Fiji Sun quotes a spokesman for the Fijian Wing of the Labour Party, Maika Moroca, as saying the relocation of coup prisoners to the mainland would be a threat to national security.

Mr Moroca says Speight, Silatolu and their friends deserve to be shut away and abandoned because they had brought the nation to racial unrest, disorder, looting and financial crisis.