FIJI SOLDIERS WERE PROMISED MONEY, CLAIM DEPOSED MINISTERS

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (May 20, 2001 - FM96/PINA Nius Online)---Two senior ministers in the deposed Fiji government claim rebel soldiers involved in last year's May 19 coup were promised money for taking over Parliament.

Deposed Women's Minister Lavenia Padarath said the junior Counter Revolutionary Warfare unit officers she spoke to said they were promised F$ 10,000 (US$ 4,470) each.

"Some of the CRW officers who were guarding us actually turned out to become our own friends," she said. "You know they were people we could not hate.

"They did things for us and also I am sure that in the event if they were told to shoot us, I am not sure that some of them would be able to shoot, that was the closeness, the relationship that we had developed. But there ... stories coming from some of them that they were promised F$ 10,000 (US$ 4,470) each after they did the coup."

Deposed Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry said he also spoke to some of the soldiers guarding them in Parliament during the hostage crisis.

He said: "Indeed we were also told that some senior officers would be given F$ 60,000 (US$ 26,820) each and many of them told us that they were there simply because of money, that they were not there for the so called cause ... kind of a mercenary operation."

Meanwhile, the Fiji Military Forces legal director, Lt. Colonel Etueni Caucau, has been transferred to the Land Force Command Unit.

Military spokesperson Lt. Ilaisa Tagitupou said Lt. Colonel Caucau was transferred due to a claim that Lt. Colonel Caucau was one of the senior officers alleged to be linked to the coup.

Lt. Colonel Caucau will remain at the Land Force Command until investigations are completed.

Pressure is also mounting on the police force after Mr. Chaudhry claimed that Police Commissioner Isikia Savua and former Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka were allegedly also linked with the coup.

Mr. Chaudhry said coup front man George Speight's security adviser, Ilisoni Ligairi, revealed details to him about who were behind the coup.

Mr. Savua and Mr. Rabuka have both strongly denied any involvement in the coup and Mr. Savua was cleared of allegations by an inquiry.

Mr. Chaudhry said: "Ilisoni Ligairi certainly talked to me just two days before we were released and he did mention these names. And of course the businessmen, I believe the whole country knows. Some people are trying to hide this.

"Everybody in this country knows virtually who these businessmen were supplying goods and foodstuff to the rebels for 58 days when we were there. It was not possible without money."

In Suva yesterday, about 100 youths gathered outside the Parliament complex tying colorful ribbons on the fence area to mark the first anniversary of the coup.

The Gathering of Hope was organized by the Young Adults of Concern. It is an activity that is planned for young people to campaign for peace, hope and reconciliation in Fiji.

The Young Adults of Concern has also organized activities at Suva's Downtown Boulevard.

For additional reports from theFM96, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Fiji Village News (FM96/Navtarang/VitiFM).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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