Hindu Vivek Kendra
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No contact with Nata, Chaudhry tells court

No contact with Nata, Chaudhry tells court

Publication: The Daily Post
Date: November 29, 2002

Deposed Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry yesterday said he had no contact with treason suspect Josefa Nata in his 56 days of captivity.

Mr Chaudhry told the High Court he had to make tough decisions at the height of the 2000 attempted coup despite his life being under threat.

Testifying in the treason trial of Josefa Nata and Timoci Silatolu yesterday, Mr Chaudhry said: "I had to make a choice as the Prime Minister to either give in to these thugs and terrorists or stand my ground. I stood my ground and upheld the virtues of democracy."

He spoke on how the gunmen entered the complex and dragged him onto the floor of Parliament.

He said seven armed gunmen entered the complex and they were led by George Speight.

He said that after declaring their intentions of removing his government, "amending" the constitution  and installing a Fijian government, they dragged him  and his fellow Cabinet members to the floor after  tying their hands with plastic strips.

Mr Chaudhry said Speight then made calls to MPs, in particular to Ratu Isireli Vuibau and Ratu  Tu'uakitau Cokanauto to join him.

He said Ratu Isireli flatly refused the invitation while Ratu Tu'uakitau said he needed time to think.

Mr Chaudhry said Silatolu was asked to join Speight, and he did after a few minutes.

He said Silatolu had many times asked him to resign while he was being held hostage.

He, however, said he had no direct contact with Nata during his 56 days in captivity.

He said there were times when his life was threatened just because he would not consider resigning as Prime Minister or tendering the resignation of his People's Coalition Government.

One of these incidents occurred on May 22, 2000, when Mr Chaudhry was dragged to the lawn of the Parliamentary Complex and had a gun put to his head.

He was then told if the army tried to break into the complex, he and his MPs would be used as human shields.

Mr Chaudhry said he suffered verbal and physical abuse and in one incident on May 20, six youths dragged him out and physically assaulted him.

Ironically, Mr Chaudhry said George Speight appeared and ordered the youths to leave him alone. He was then helped by Speight to get back to his room.

He said his religion was insulted and he was called a heathen at times.

"I had faith in my religion, their idea was to break me down but they couldn't."

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