Fiji’s Vice President Ratu Jope Seniloli along with five others including a government Minister appeared in court yesterday charged with involvement in the coup of May 2000.
They face charges of taking an unlawful oath to commit a capital offence ( treason) and taking an unlawful oath to engage in a seditious enterprise.
Ratu Jope was sworn in as Fiji’s unlawful president by coup maker George Speight one day after he stormed Parliament and took captive Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and 42 other members of his government on May 19, 2000.
Ratu Jope was later appointed vice president by the Great Council of Chiefs in March 2001 when the interim administration of Laisenia Qarase was appointed by President Josefa Iloilo after he sacked Mahendra Chaudhry as Fiji’s lawful Prime Minister in a move that was clearly illegal. .
Four other prominent citizens charged with Ratu Jope are Sports Minister Isireli Leweniqila, former MPs Viliame Volavola and Peceli Rinakama, and politician Viliame Savu.
All five have been released on a $10,000 bail each but have had to surrender their passports. Chief Magistrate David Balram adjourned the hearing to June 11 to give him to decide whether to go for a preliminary hearing or a paper inquiry.
The Fiji Labour Party has expressed satisfaction that the wheels of justice are finally moving to rake in prominent people involvement in the coup. The Party has time and again expressed dismay that the Police were not charging high chiefs, politicians and prominent businessmen involved in the coup.
Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry says the DPP’s office must also bring Fiji’s High Commissioner to the UN, former Police Commissioner Isikia Savua and High Commissioner to PNG, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola (former Leader of Oppostion) to answer to charges on their complicity in the coup.
Mr. Chaudhry said George Speight himself had mentioned that the Opposition SVT Party had played a leading role in the plotting of the coup, meeting for which had been held in SVT’s parliamentary offices.
He said the FLP had managed to tape some of these meetings. The tapes had been handed over to the police but are now reported missing. “
Mr. Chaudhry said as a hostage in Parliament he used to see Ratu Inoke as a prominent and frequent visitor to George Speight.