By Hayley J. Campbell
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Oceania
SUVA, Fiji – A Fiji court has stopped two Fiji Methodist Church Ministers and the paramount chief Ro Teimumu Kepa from holding meetings for at least the next 21 days, after they were arrested for defying Emergency Regulations set up by the interim government.
In April, Fiji Interim Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, implemented emergency regulations which makes it illegal for groups that have anti-government views to organize.
Matelita Ragogo, a reporter for Radio New Zealand International, said, “In the next 21 days, they are not allowed to have any meetings, they are not allowed to be seen in public or conduct anything that might be construed to be a meeting. They had to surrender all their travel documents, and Ro Teimumu in particular, she is not to publish any other material pertaining to the annual conference of the Methodist church.”
Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key have condemned the arrests of the Methodist Church leaders, saying those actions are indicative of the type of power the interim regime has held over the Fijian people since the military coup in 2006.
“We absolutely condemn what has occurred. It does show a consistent course of conduct so far as Commander Bainimarama and the interim military is concerned. This is just another very regrettable example of the regime further isolating itself from the international community and further stepping back from democracy and civil and human rights,” Mr. Smith said.
Ro Teimumu, Reverend Ame Tugaue, who is the church president, and the Reverend Tuikilakila Waqairatu, who is the secretary general, are awaiting their court appearances in three weeks.
For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International – Charges silence Fiji church conference organisers – 23 July 2009
Taiwan News – Australian FM condemns Fiji church arrests – 23 July 2009
Stuff.co.nz – Wave of Fiji arrests alarms Key – 23 July 2009