Two of coup frontman George Speight’s close conspirators, Josefa Nata and Timoci Silatolu, have been given lengthy jail terms by the High Court.
Justice Andrew Wilson, in a ruling delivered Friday, sentenced Silatolu to a mandatory term of 9 years and 7 years for Josefa Nata for their active involvement in the planning and execution of the May 2000 coup that deposed Labour Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and his coalition government.
Justice Wilson found that Nata and Silatolu, while not the ring leaders, were definitely “involved in the attempted coup, in the planning, final stages, co-ordination of events, formulation of the rebel government and the swearing in of the ministers of that government”.
Silatolu, a government backbencher at the time of the coup, was sworn in as prime minister of the rebel government. He later addressed the nation, persuading members of the deposed government to resign. As such, he had breached the code taken in 1999 as a Member of Parliament, the Judge said.
Reminding him that he left Parliament when everything appeared in readiness, signalling Speight to storm in, Justice Wilson said, “Your act can only be described as deliberate, ongoing and determined”.
Nata, he said, had played an active role during the duration of the crisis. Nata’s mobile phone numbers and the evidence seized from his home, showed that he was very much a part of Speight’s group.
Justice Wilson pointed out that the actions of the two had been destructive to the rule of law and could not be justified under any credible law.
Both Nata and Silatolu had been arrested along with Speight in late July, 2000 by the army. They have since been imprisoned at Nukulau Island along with Speight. However, in the treason trial last year the two had pleaded not guilty to treason charges after Speight accepted his guilt and was sentenced to life sentence.
Both conspirators had their mandatory sentences reduced by three years because of the time they have already served at Nukulau. They were found guilty of treason charges by assessors in March this year.