George Speight, the 2000 coup leader who brought down Fijian Prime Minister Mahendra Pal Chaudhary’s government has applied for a Presidential pardon through the Fiji Corrections Service.
He has been serving time for over 20 years and wishes to be released from prison.
Attorney General and Chair of the Mercy Commission, Siromi Turaga confirmed to fijivillage that Speight has made an application and the consideration process is underway.
According to the 2013 Fijian Constitution, the Commission may recommend that the President of Fiji:
- exercise the power of mercy by granting a free or conditional pardon to a person convicted of an offence; remitting all or a part of a punishment
- dismiss a petition that it reasonably considers to be frivolous, vexatious or entirely without merit, but otherwise must consider a report on the case prepared by the Judge who presided at the trial; or the Chief Justice, if a report cannot be obtained from the presiding Judge;
- must consider any other information derived from the record of the case or elsewhere that is available to the Commission; and
- may consider the views of the victims of the offence.
The Constitution states that the President must act in accordance with the recommendations of the Commission.
In the 1999 election, Chaudhary’s Fiji Labour Part-led People’s Coalition had a landslide win with 58 of the 71 seats in the House of Representatives. Chaudhry was duly appointed Prime Minister on 19 May 1999 and appointed indigenous Fijians to two-thirds of all ministerial positions.
However, on 19 May 2000, Speight without any warning led led a small group of armed men that resulted in the takeover of the parliamentary complex in Veiuto. He took the then PM Chaudhry and his government hostage. The hostage crisis lasted for 56 days.
Last year, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the coup, Chaudhry told fijivillage this coup will never be forgotten as a lot of what is happening today in Fiji is the price we have to pay for the two coups.
Speight was arrested and taken into custody on 26 July 2000 and in February 2002 was convicted of treason and sentenced to death; the sentence was later commuted to life in prison by the President of Fiji.
It is believed that if Speight’s petition is accepted then he could be released in the next batch of people to be given mercy by the President.