WE'RE REALLY SORRY, REBEL FIJI SOLDIERS SAY

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (Fiji’s Daily Post – January 1, 2001)---An army officer who led the attempted mutiny at the Fiji Military Headquarters in Nabua on November 2 last year has written a letter from prison seeking forgiveness.

The letter, dated November 30, was written by Captain Shane Stevens and addressed to the military commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama. It was also copied to the President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, the Great Council Chiefs and church leaders.

Capt. Stevens, who was in charge of the Counter Revolutionary Warfare Unit after May 19, shocked military personnel when he led the mutiny on that fateful Friday. Eight soldiers were killed in the ensuing gun battle between those loyal to the commander and selected members of the CRW unit. Many more were seriously wounded. Commodore Bainimarama, who was having lunch at that time, was escorted to safety through the bushes behind the military camp.

The letter, which was co-signed by Lieutenant Penaia Baleinamau, said most of the CRW soldiers plan to resign from the military. It said they were also seeking forgiveness for the sake of their own families. "We admit we were wrong and we regret what we did and all that has happened," the letter stated.

"We made a bad move and we beg you for your mercy, love and forgiveness. We also ask forgiveness from the president, the chiefs and the people of Fiji.

"Most of us are prepared to step down from the force because our actions have spoiled the military's fine reputation."

Members of the unit had also staged the May 19 coup led by failed businessman George Speight and Ilisoni Ligairi, a former British special forces soldier.

Capt. Stevens and Lt. Baleinamau also quoted two verses from the Bible, Mathew 11: 28-30 and Isaiah 1:18, in the two-page letter.

More than 50 members of the unit, including Capt. Stevens, have been in custody ever since the failed attempt. Some members of the unit who were not directly involved were also detained for security reasons.

While some have been released, about 38 are still in custody at the Korovou Prison as investigations continue.

Commodore Bai-nimarama has since scrapped the unit, which was created by former Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka after the 1987 military coups.

For additional reports from Fiji’s Daily Post, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Resources/Fijilive.

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