Born Ilikini Naitini, George Speight's father Sam was an opposition MP. Sam worked with Sitiveni Rabuka, who took power in a coup 1987. George Speight had a marketing business, but many contracts were lost after Mahendra Chaudhry came to power in 1999.
Fiji has had a long history of fighting between Indians and native Fijians. Rabuka took power to protect native Fijians against the Indian minority.
Mahendra Chaudhry was an Indian who sacked Speight as chairman of two firms involved in the country's lucrative timber trade. In May 19, 2000, the situation in Fiji turned into a nightmare when Speight kidnapped Chaudhry and 35 other government officials. Speight became prime minister and effective dictator of Fiji.
Fifteen soldiers and two of their officers defected to the rebels. George Speight built up a strong private army. On June 9, Speight abolished Fiji's multi-racial constitution. Three days later, Speight's car was strayed with gunfire, but the army denied that soldiers were in an operation to kill him. On June 25, four woman hostages were released. On July 13, Chaudhry returned home.
The next day, Speight was arrested with 369 of his followers and charged with treason. In August 2001, democracy was restored and Speight was elected MP. In December, Speight was expelled from the parliament because he never attended. In February 2002, Speight was sentenced to death, but President Ratu Josefa Iloilo commuted it to life imprisonment.
See also: Fiji Coup of 2000.