Ligairi Saved Chaudhry
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SUVA (Pasifik Nius): Fiji's elected Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and members of his government held hostage last year would have been killed if it was not for the presence in Parliament of former British SAS soldier, Ilisoni Ligairi, the Sun reports.
The startling revelation was made yesterday by one of two civilians who accompanied gunmen that stormed Parliament on May 19 last year with coup frontman George Speight and held Chaudhry and his government hostage for 56 days.
The gunman, Ameo Sauvuni, said the original plan was for Chaudhry and all his government ministers to be executed.
He said heated debate erupted on several occasions inside the parliamentary complex as Ligairi stood up against plans by some coup supporters to kill the hostages, including Chaudhry.
Sauvuni labelled such supporters as "criminal elements" who were allowed into the complex at the height of the hostage crisis.
"Naqase (Ligairi) was the stabilising factor in Parliament. If it wasn't for him, all the hostages would have been killed," Sauvuni said.
"Most of the people in Parliament did not understand Naqase's decision and all they wanted was to lay their hands on the hostages.
"If Naqase and his CRW [now disbanded Counter Revolutionary Warfare Unit] boys had withdrawn from Parliament as was demanded by the military, it would have been a sad day for the country.
"There would have been more bloodshed and Fiji's reputation abroad would have been completely tarnished."
Sauvuni was a close aide of the late nationalist leader Sakeasi Butadroka and is originally from Nakula village in Ra.
He said he was summoned to the National Stadium on the morning of May 19 last year while he was in the middle of organising the nationalist protest march through the capital that day.
On arrival, he met a group of men whom he recognised as CRW soldiers and George Speight.
They travelled from the stadium to Parliament on board a white mini-bus.
Sauvuni was a familiar face in Parliament throughout the crisis and was seen by journalists armed with a gun inside the complex on several occasions.
He said he believed that a number of wealthy businessmen and politicians were behind the May 19 takeover because they were worried about Chaudhry's threat to crack down against corruption and tax evaders.