Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Fiji Police Presence at Political Meetings Continue Unabated

Australia Network News

Fiji opposition slams restrictions on political meetings

Mahen Chaudhry

The leader of Fiji's opposition Labour Party, Mahendra Chaudhry, has complained of restrictions on political freedom.

Mr Chaudhry claims that the coup-installed interim government is sending police officers to political party meetings. He told the Pacific Beat program that the interim government's claims that its moving towards the 2014 elections in a free and fair manner are untrue.

"Once you have assured the people that there will be a free environment for discussions than why are you wanting to have the police at these meetings?" "Even the small meetings of 30 or 40 people, they still insist there should be a police. "If you talk about a free environment, then let there be a free environment."

Mr Chaudry claims that the interim government is refusing to issue permits for gatherings unless strict guidelines are adhered to. They include allowing a police officer to attend and only discussing issues on a pre-approved agenda.

"They are keeping a very tight control on the process so at the moment we see these things as very discouraging in terms of engaging with the people because if people get to know there will be police present in the meeting, they are not likely to come in good numbers."
Mr Chaudhry says the chairperson of Fiji's Constitution Commission, Professor Yash Ghai, is on record as wanting these sort of restrictions lifted, and he wants him to act on that. Mahendra Chaudhry says that if these conditions on political meetings continue, the Fiji Labour Party might have to reconsider its involvement on the election process altogether.

Radio Australia has contacted the interim government for a response, and was referred to a press release put out by the Fiji Police on Friday, and told there would be no further comment on the issue.

The Director of Police Operations, Senior Superintendent Rusiate Tudravu said in the statement that the Fiji Labour Party should not worry about the police presence unless they have an ulterior motive. Radio Australia has invited a Fiji Police representative to come on the program to discuss the matter.

Fiji Village News

Mahen Chaudhry
Police have today stressed that the conditions set out for political party meeting permits will not be reviewed for now.

This follows concerns raised by the Fiji Labour Party.

Police Director of Operations SSP Rusiate Tudravu said police presence will remain during the meetings, the party has to stick to the agenda provided in the permit application and no intimidating language or threat must be uttered in the meetings which would cause alarm to the general public.

SSP Tudravu also said the Fiji Labour Party should visit the police station if they want to raise any concerns.

However, Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry said they should have the freedom to hold the discussions in the meetings.

Chaudhry said they will raise these concerns with the Constitutional Commission when it starts its consultations from next month.

SSP Tudravu maintained that the Fiji Labour Party should not be worried about the conditions if they do not have an ulterior motive.
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