Friday, January 15, 2010

Fiji Clampdown Fuels more Opposition

by: RNZI, 15 January 2010

SUVA, Fiji ----- A political sociologist at Auckland University’s Pacific Centre, Dr Steven Ratuva, says this year’s clampdown in Fiji comes at a time when many were hoping for more flexibility on the part of the interim regime.

The Fijian administration has threatened to stop paying pensions to dissenters and banned the Methodist Church from holding its annual conference for another four years while the judiciary has had magistrates sacked without the public being given any explanations.

Mr Ratuva said the administration appears to be losing any willingness of cooperation.

“When the regime should be creating space for dialogue, creating space for bridge building, it’s actually doing the opposite. All the implications of what they are doing is creating a much bigger environment for opposition, much bigger space for confrontation within the country.”

Meanwhile, a church leader in Fiji said the latest allegations of espionage against four prominent members of the Methodist church, signal an increase in the administration’s tactics to destabilise the religious group.

Reverend Tevita Banivanua said the claims being made through a pro-government newspaper are indirect and aim to spread doubt about the church leadership.

He said there was no evidence that four people named have done anything to warrant banning the church’s annual conferences until 2014.

“We know that they are lying, you know that they are not telling us the truth, you know it’s part of their tactics. We know that because they did it previously with other people last year and they didn’t show any proof at all. So we need specification of the claims.”

The Fijian administration was willing to meet with the Methodist Church in Fiji only on the condition the church conference in not part of the agenda.

Fiji’s leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama said his administration was not changing its stance towards on the conference.

“Our decision still stands. There will be no Methodist Church conference until 2014 and that is final,” Mr Bainimarama told Fiji Sun

He announced a conference permit could be issued in 2014 following a planned general election but that as long as his government was in power, there would be no permit issued.

“If they need to meet with government, they will meet with officials from my office on other issues but not on the conference,” he said.

Methodist Church leaders met yesterday in Suva to discuss the state’s actions and statements against its senior leadership.

Church assistant general secretary, Reverend Tevita Nawadra said they would seek a meeting with Mr Bainimarama soon. A letter of request for a meeting at the earliest possible time will be delivered to the Prime Minister’s Office today.

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