RECENT events in Fiji point to a widening gulf that has developed between Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s Fiji First Party- led government and the country’s Opposition political parties. Six prominent public figures, three of them leaders of Fiji’s three largest Opposition political parties were detained by police for 24-hours over a weekend in Suva in early September with varying explanations for the detentions.
By way of official government comment on the detentions, Prime Minister Bainimarama told the nation that the six men had been detained for attending a public meeting without the proper permit as required by Fiji’s Public Order Act. Police, on the other hand, explained that the detentions were to enable them to clarify whether some of the statements made at the public meeting "could affect the safety and security of all Fijians.
The detainees, Mr Sitiveni Rabuka - leader of the major Opposition political party, the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA), Dr Biman Prasad – parliamentary leader of the National Federation Party (NFP), Mr Mahendra Chaudhary – leader of the Fiji Labour Party (FLP), former academic and one time Deputy Prime Minister - Dr Tupeni Baba, and prominent trade unionist – Mr Attar Singh, were panelists at a meeting to discuss Fiji’s Constitution.
The sixth detainee was Mr Jone Dakuvula, chair of the non-governmental oganisation - Pacific Dialogue - which organised the meeting coinciding with Fiji’s celebration of its new public holiday - Constitution Day. Prime Minister Bainimarama and Fiji’s Attorney-General, Mr Aiyaz SayedKhaiyum had also been formally invited to attend the Pacific Dialogue forum on Fiji’s Constitution but, according to Dakuvula, had both declined.
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