Chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs, Ratu Epeli Ganilau, has made it clear that chiefs involved in the May 2000 coup cannot escape the arm of the law by hiding behind their chiefly status.
In an interview with Fiji TV (1April 2003), Ratu Epeli said chiefs were accountable to the law like any other citizen.
He was responding to a statement by close supporters of coup-maker Speight that they were prepared to apologise to the victims of the coup and the people of Fiji for what they had done, and the losses and suffering inflicted on them as a result. This would help hasten the process of reconciliation, they claimed.
But Ratu Epeli said he could discern the motive behind such a move. Those with complicity in the coup were hoping that they could escape penalty for their actions by taking the traditional Fijian apology.
Ratu Epeli said this was not on. All involved with the coup must first be brought to justice. Unless those responsible for the political mayhem faced the brunt of the law, there could be no real reconciliation, he said.
On chiefs implicated in the act of treason, Ratu Epeli said they could not hide behind the security of their chiefly status.
To preserve the respect and integrity of an institution like the Great Council of Chiefs, those chiefs with complicity in the coup should resign from the Council, he said.