Board of Inquiry Report on beatings of George Speight and other Nukulau bound prisoners
LOCKED UP - From Kalabu to RFMF Military Cells
On Thursday morning, 13 July 2000, after 54 days in captivity, the hostages, including FLP leader and Prime Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, walked slowly down the path from the parliamentary compound before boarding the trucks that drove them to safety.
Their release followed a deal, when the army, led by Frank Bainimarama, agreed to scrap the 1997 Constitution, depose Chaudhry, and grant George Speight and his rebel group an amnesty under the Muanikau Accord. As the hostages returned to their homes, for Speight and his group their own captivity loomed large under the Fijian sun.
But the first group the military targetted was the fleeing remnants of Speight loyalists from the parliamentary complex who had made the Kalabu District School their temporary home and from where they had begun terrorizing the surrounding neighborhoods. A Bainimarama loyalist, Lieutenant Colonel Jone Baledrokadroka and his Zulu company, stormed the school and arrested the Kalabu gang on 27 July 2000.
Lieutenant-Colonel Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara, on the other hand, was assigned to capture the ring-leader of the hostage-takers-George Speight-whose actions had seen the ignominious removal of Ului's father and President of Fiji, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara during the hostage crisis. His sister, Adi Koila Nailatikau, Chaudhry's Minister for Tourism, had also been held hostage by Speight and his group.
It seems family anguish, humiliation, and military duty became a deadly cocktail in the quest for Speight's capture, and as I will reveal in the next installment, also the unleashing of a spate of violence on Speight, Jo Nata and others by predominantly Lauan military officers. Tribal blood became thicker than the waters around Nukulau prison.
Since the Board of Inquiry (BOI) focused on the beatings of Speight, Jo Nata, Tevita Bukarau, Metuisela Mua, Jo Savua, Rusiate Korovusere, Timoci Silatolu, Samu Konataci and Ilisoni Ligairi, we will concentrate only on their testimonies.
On Wednesday 26 July 2000 Ratu Ului got his man-Speight-when he captured him at Laqere bridge checkpoint. Also arrested with Speight were Nata and Bukarau. They were hoping to beat the curfew. A few shots were fired at them before they were taken to the military barracks. Ratu Ului escorted them to the military cells.
Contrary to media reports about his health, Mua was sick at home when he was arrested on 28 July. On Sunday 23 July he was at Kalabu attending a church service and later in the week he was doing some work for his church. He was picked up from home and was taken to QEB at about 5pm. A day before, on 27 July, Savua was brought from Kalabu to QEB. Ligairi also joined them.
Driti takes charge of transporting prisoners to Naval Base
At 3.30am on the morning of 29 July Lt Col Pita Driti, commanding officer, Logistic Support Unit was given the task to transport the detainees from QEB to RFNS Stanley Brown. He was ready for the job. To be continued