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Fiji Newspapers Question The 'Price Of Treason'

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SUVA (Pasifik Nius): Fiji's Daily Post today challenged whether justice handed out over the George Speight attempted coup was a deterrent while the press counted the cost of treason.

And the Fiji Times warned that the ordeal was not over yet.

Coup front man George Speight, a near bankrupt businessman, was given a mandatory death sentence for treason that was within hours commuted to life imprisonment.

Ten of his accomplices were given sentences ranging between 18 months and three years for lesser charges while two - former journalist Jo Nata and politician Timoci Silatolu - have pleaded not guilty to treason and will go on trial on March 11.

"Fiji has had its share of coups but one wonders whether if the punishment dished out in this case is enough of a deterrent," the Daily Post said in an editorial headlined "The price of treason".

"Considering the damage they caused, many would be inclined to think that Speight and Company got off pretty lightly.

"Notwithstanding time off for good behaviour, the group have formidable political connections as well as supporters and sympathisers in prominent positions.

"There is already talk of a pardon for Speight. But all this can't happen overnight because of the international reaction."

The Daily Post said it was an opportune time to recount the "pain, misery and devastation" caused by the attempted coup.

"Twenty people lost their lives," said the paper.

"Thousands lost jobs

"Across the nation, many children dropped out of school.

"A good number of them went without adequate food.

"Women turned to prostitution to survive.

"Some people committed suicide, seening no way out of the quagmire of poverty caused by the upheavals.

"The economy, according to some estimates, lost around $200 million and was set back by some 10-15 years.

"All races, including indigenous Fijians, in whose name the attempted coup was carried out, suffered."

The Fiji Times said that as the court actions stemming from the coup drew to a conclusion, there was a temptation to feel that the ordeal was nearly over.

"It's far from over," the paper said.

"Uncertainty, unfortunately, still hangs over Fiji's future.

"The Speight affair is not finished. Nobody seriously expects that George Speight will serve a life sentence or anything remotely like it - even though he should.

"And the Speight gang sentenced yesterday are also unlikely to complete their prison terms.

"It's hard to escape the conclusion that certain people in positions of power are just waiting for the limelight to fade before quietly, or as quietly as possible, turning them loose while insisting that the law has taken its proper course."


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