Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry has expressed deep disgust at the 15 Labasa businessmen who wrote to the court martial asking for lenient sentencing for soldiers involved in the takeover of the Sukunaivalu Barracks at the time of the 2000 coup.
Media reports yesterday said the men led by Labasa Mayor Charan Jeet Singh has written to the trail judge in the court martial proceedings seeking leniency for the soldiers because they had provided protection to these businessmen.
In a statement issued from Australia, an angry Mr Chaudhry denounced the businessmen as “traitors in the community”. He called for them to be investigated because several of them had actively assisted the rebel elements in Labasa with food and cash.
“Have they forgotten the terror these soldiers had unleashed on the Indian community in Labasa and outlying areas at the time of the coup?” Mr Chaudhry asked.
Buses carrying innocent Indian men, women and children were hijacked by these soldiers at the time and taken to the Sukunaivalu Barracks. They were kept there for hours as a form of harassment of the community.
“These soldiers had cut off the arm of an innocent Indian supporter of the Fiji Labour Party and the man had to receive treatment in Australia.
“The terrorism unleashed against the defenceless Indian community in the rural areas by unruly mobs was all part of a terror campaign launched by these rebel soldiers. How can these businessmen forget the atrocities committed against the Indian people in those days of terror?
“Families were driven out of their homes by fear, some hiding in ditches all night to avoid the mob. Their homes were taken, vehicles confiscated, shops plundered, livestock butchered and crops pillaged. Women were raped and subjected to all forms of indignities.
“I am appalled that these businessmen can now call for leniency for the perpetrators of such villainous crimes against a community. The soldiers should, in fact, be given the severest sentences for crimes against humanity, Mr Chaudhry said.
Mahendra P Chaudhry