2000 Fiji coup leader George Speight applies for presidential pardon

Prisoner George Speight speaking to inmates in 2011
Prisoner George Speight speaking to inmates in 2011 . . . he and his rogue gunmen seized then Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and his government hostage in a 2000 crisis that lasted for 56 days. Image: Fijivillage News/YouTube screenshot

By Vijay Narayan in Suva

Fiji’s 2000 coup leader George Speight, who has been serving time in prison for more than 20 years, has applied for a presidential pardon so he can be released.

When questioned by Fijivillage News, Attorney-General and Chair of the Mercy Commission, Siromi Turaga confirmed that Speight had made an application and the consideration process was underway.

According to the 2013 Constitution, on the petition of any convicted person, the commission may recommend that the President exercise a 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.

The commission may 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.

Fijivillage News has received information that the process has gone through the Fiji Corrections Service, the case management process for George Speight has been done through the judiciary, the commission has had its meeting and a decision is expected from President Ratu Wiliame Katonivere.

Next batch release?
Based on the processes followed under the Constitution, Speight could be released in the next batch of people to be given mercy by the President.

Speight was arrested and taken into custody on 26 July 2000.

In February 2002, he was convicted of treason and sentenced to death — the sentence was later commuted to life in prison by the President.

George Speight led a small group of armed men to the Parliament complex in Veiuto on the morning of 19 May 2000, and seized then Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and his government hostage.

The hostage crisis lasted for 56 days.

In 2020, the then Leader of Opposition, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu urged the President and the then government to also consider the release of prisoners like 2000 coup leader George Speight and Naitasiri high chief, Ratu Inoke Takiveikata.

When questioned by Fijivillage News, Ratu Naiqama said there were more than 3000 people that were charged and incarcerated in relation to the events of 2000, and all including George Speight should be released.

While speaking in Parliament at the time, Ratu Naiqama said this was not to create another coup but to take a step forward.

Vijay Narayan is news director of Fijivillage News. Republished with permission.

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