FOR someone who masterminded and single-handedly devised homemade bombs with the aim of blowing up several public buildings in Suva at the height of the 1987 coup, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has done well for himself.
Really, from a home-grown terrorist to acting Prime Minister of Fiji this month, Khaiyum has achieved what many can only dream of.
When then Lieutenant-Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka walked into Fiji’s old parliament chamber at 10am on May 14, 1987 to hold Prime Minister Dr Timoci Bavadra and his cabinet ministers hostage, Khaiyum was poised for a promising career in television.
He was then a trainee television producer, with Carol Jalal at the Kerry Packer Channel Nine-owned Television Fiji office on Gordon Street.
The guy, son of a National Federation Party politician was full of hope. After training in Australia in acting and drama, a career in television had just opened up. The sky, it seemed, would be the limit for this young man.
Alas, fate had something else in store for him when Rabuka staged his coup that fateful Friday.
Little is known about how Khaiyum learnt the trade of bomb making. But he devised them in a little shed at his family home, then located at 10 Bakshi Street, off Moti Street in Suva.
Yes, that family house was later sold and the Khaiyums moved to their new home at 40 Lovoni Road in Tamavua. You can’t miss the new house now – it’s where the police tent is erected.
And guess who is the current occupant and owner of 10 Bakshi Street? None other than Dr Neil Sharma, Bainimarama’s Health Minister.
Small world, isn’t it.
However the young Khaiyum learnt how to devise home-made explosives, he was able to produce a carton full. And in no time, bomb runners were recruited; all young educated Indo-Fijians, and all studying that year at the Laucala Campus of the University of the South Pacific.
This information is by the way all public knowledge. Just ask Esala Teleni’s latest stooge Waisea Tabakau about the 18 students of the USP who were arrested for bomb-related charges in 1987.
Or perhaps your query would be promptly answered by Bainimarama’s yes-man, Pita Driti.
As a second-lieutenant then, he was head of the joint command centre and played a big role in the arrest and assault of the 18 students.
Interestingly of the 18, only one was a young woman. She is today the sister in law of none other than the bomb-maker Khaiyum.
Of the group, only two were charged and made to appear in court. Charges ranged from being in possession of explosives and of planning to cause grievous harm through the use of such explosives.
The two men were released six months into custody after they were both granted amnesty.
What happened to the Bakshi Street terrorist?
Well, he made a dash for freedom to Australia. After recruiting and training his runners, he abandoned them when the army came snooping and fled with his tail under his legs. Showing the callous streak in him, he had removed the carton of explosives from his home and asked an old lady, a mother of a friend, to keep it for him.
To save face, Khaiyum returned some months later and got the honour of being arrested during the first anniversary of Rabuka’s coup on May 14, 1988.
He had joined the real champions of democracy when they staged a silent protest at Sukuna Park that day, and all ended up at the Central Police Station.
So from a home-grown terrorist to acting Prime Minister, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has come full circle. Or has he? – fiji uncensored