Bainimarama and others had planned the coup to take place on 29 May 2000 but CRW carried it out on 19 May; Bainimarama was in the loop
By VICTOR LAL
CAPTAIN Shane Stevens account of reasons behind the mutiny and his views on Bainimaramas conduct in 2000:
When GS (George Speight) and the CRW (Counter Revolutionary Warfare) conducted the coup on 19th May, 2000, the CRW unit was led by Lt Penaia Baleinamau who after a few days and under the direct orders of Cmdr. Voreqe Bainimarama, supplied logistical support for all CRW security operations inside the parliament complex, including those around the detained MPs. For example, daily reports were relayed to CL JB in operations; all hot rations were delivered directly from QEB at meal times into parliament for the CRW and the other FMF soldiers there. Extra arms and ordinances were transported in under Police escort from QEB. All soldiers were transported in on shift rotation and all pays carried on unhindered. Insofar as everyone was concerned, Cmdr. VB and his command were always in daily contact with GS and aware of the situation in the parliament complex. At times, GS was transported to brief Cmdr. VB and officers up at QEB officers mess on the progress and direction of the coup and VB even directed officers to support the coup.
This continued until the events of 29th May, 2000 when without the knowledge of GS, the President, Ratu Mara was forcefully removed by a group of senior ex and serving military personnel, including Cmdr. Bainimarama at Dakuibeqa. Cmdr. Bainimarama then proceeded to abrogate the constitution, pronounce himself head of state and duly appointed Ratu Epeli Nailatikau as his PM. That evening a military delegation of acting CMD CL Tuatoka, Lt Cl Etueni Caucau and led by Cl Filipo Tarakinikini entered the parliament complex to present to GS and his group a kamunaga from Cmdr. VB. They conveyed what he had done at Dakuibeqa and specifically that he was in agreement with the coup objectives of GS and later in the speech requested that GS hand over control of the coup to him (VB). He gave his assurances to GS that the objectives of the coup would be fulfilled and the I taukei will be happy.
GS and his group were shocked at the treachery which took place at Dakuibeqa and immediately rejected the kamunaga with the demand that Cmdr. VB and his PM resign immediately and hand power back to the President RT Mara. The delegation returned to camp to convey the message to VB and his “Think Tank” who were not at all happy.
Voreqe refused to step down and consequently it took 56 days for the GS group to force him to relinquish executive power and agree to the terms of the Muanikau Accord. What followed next was another act of treachery by VB and the rest is now history.
During the 56 day conflict between the GS group and VB, the CRW in parliament were led by Maj Ilisoni Ligairi and supported by Lt Baleinamau based up at the CRW complex in QEB. Lt SS sided with VB against the CRW “GS group” and he was not pleased with Baleinamau’s continued support for the operations in parliament. Upon Lt SS’s insistence, Cmdr VB duly promoted him to Cpt and gave him total command of the CRW complex at QEB. LT Baleinamau was stood down, sent home and placed under surveillance. Then on behalf of Cmdr VB, CPT SS proceeded to capture a cache of CRW arms stored at a secret location at Bilo. This caused a fracture in relationships between the CRW and CPT SS who was now being threatened from within.
Towards the end of the 56 days, Lt SS was directly in control of two caches of CRW arms (those in the CRW complex at QEB and the other in the bush at Bilo). However, the third cache of arms was used in parliament under the control of Maj Ligairi. After the signing of the Muanikau Accord and the release of the detained MP’s, Lt CL FT and CPT SS were also given specific orders by Cmdr VB to enter parliament and oversee the return of these arms to the CRW armoury at QEB as per MAccord. Immediately after that, everyone in parliament then dispersed and returned to their homes however a large group was convinced by the QV Takiveikata, to go to Kalabu and await the “qusi ni loaloa” ceremony. QV kept stalling this event to the suspicion of GS and others at the school.
It would become known at this time that when the arms from parliament had entered the gates at QEB, CL JB intercepted them by force and ordered that they be redirected to the main armoury. Later that day, when the CRW soldiers who were at parliament tried to return to the CRW complex to resume their duties as per MA, they were refused entry into the camp. After numerous attempts by Maj Ligairi and GS to speak to Lt JB and Cmdr VB over the phone, there was no response.
After observing that Cmdr VB was directly violating the MA, CPT SS, who was still in possession of the last cache of arms at a secret location in Bilo, refused to return these arms until he had personal guarantees from Cmdr VB that he would honour the conditions of the MA, where specifically all CRW would return to barracks and resume their duties as per normal. After receiving these assurances from Cmdr VB, CPT SS returned the remaining Bilo arms to QEB which was again forcefully commandeered by CL JB to the main armoury. All these sinister acts were viewed with unease by the GS group and MAJ Ligairi with those CRW at Kalabu and served to be an ominous sign of treachery against the MA.
The following day, 13 July, 2000 and after accounting for all of the arms from Bilo, the military proceeded with the arrest of the GS group including the armed raid on the Kalabu district school where Maj Ligairi and other CRW soldiers were arrested, badly assaulted and detained at Nukulau, QEB and the Nabua /CPS police stations. CPT SS viewed this act by Cmdr VB as the ultimate treachery against him but was still in two minds after it was announced that GS group had violated the MA with the revelation of missing arms. However, Maj Ligairi and his group disputed this because they were adamant that with the help and verification of CPT SS and Lt CL FT, all arms from parliament were returned and others (personal arms) were accounted for. The CRW parliament group had kept an immaculate and highly accurate record of all arms used within the complex during the 56 days including their return to QEB.
To validate the “missing arms” claims of Cmdr VB, CPT SS set about with the collaboration of Sgt Morris, the chief armourer at the time to inspect and record the details of all the ‘CRW parliament arms” in the main armoury. He discovered that the chief armourer was well aware that the “missing arms” claims were lies and that all arms were indeed returned and even accounted for. He would later learn from casual remarks by Cmdr VB and senior officers like CL JB that it was a fabricated story for the purpose of dishonouring the Muanikau Accord and they had already set in place a plan to arrest GS and all those in his group once all the arms were returned and accounted for. This was the final act of treachery and was the catalyst for the Nov 1 mutiny.
I have in my possession, the signed and original Chief Armourers report on the audit of all weapons that were returned from the parliament complex at the time. The report concludes that all weapons had been returned and others accounted for and that the so called, “13 missing weapons” were old SLR’s that were never in parliament at any time but kept in the main armoury.
CAPT SS’s account as to the real reason of the mutiny was not to kill Bainimarama but to replace him as he was seen as unfit for duty. At no time during the court martial was CAPT SS allowed to divulge the above information because of how the evidence was presented before the court.
The above statement is a true account by CPT SS and it highlights the fact that Cmdr VB has a history of carrying out treacherous acts so that he can progress his own personal interests and agenda for power. He has no qualms about deceiving people and even those who assume that they are close to him because of their long standing social and working relationships.
This article was published in response to a statement made by Bainimarama on Saturday 15/07/2017 titled ‘We must never forget our soldiers that died in the 2006 coup’.
Source – Victor Lal, Fijileaks; Posted by Rusi Varani for SWM