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Police Probe Threatening Letter In Fiji Times

SUVA (PMW): Fiji's acting Police Commissioner Moses Driver has confirmed police are investigating a controversial letter published in the Fiji Times daily newspaper purporting to threaten pro-democracy advocates in the country, according to news reports.

Fiji Television broadcast on 22 September 2000 interviews with Driver and Citizens' Constitutional Forum (CCF) executive director Rev Akuila Yabaki, who complained to the police about the letter which alleged the existence of a "blacklist" of people who would be the target of violent acts if they continued to campaign for an early return to democracy.

The Fiji Sun on September 23 also reported that the citizens' forum had asked the police to urgently investigate the author of the letter which "threatened to kill or maim people who fought for democracy".

Pro-democracy activists believe the author of the letter is actually a prominent politician or civil servant using a pseudonym.

The controversial letter, headed "Fight for democracy", was published in the Fiji Times on September 19 under the name Taniela Balase.

In a letter to acting Police Commissioner Driver on the same day, Rev Yabaki said that the correspondent claimed he knew of "indigenous pressure groups" and "fundamentalists" who had drawn up a blacklist of "fighters for democracy".

According to the correspondent's letter, the blacklist was one of businessmen, politicians, trade unionists, academics, civil servants, prominent lawyers, judges, some NGO members and sugar cane farmers who would be singled out for attacks.

Yabaki's complaint quoted the Balase letter as saying: "What is being talked about has sent chills down the spines of some listeners to the point that some do not even dare speak about it."

Yabaki said: "The implication there is that people in this 'black list' will be murdered or horribly tortured etc because they are regarded as 'perpetrators of evil' for propagating 'democracy and human rights'."

He said that as the executive director of a group whose membership consisted of some people who came under the categories mentioned in the blacklist, he called upon the police to urgently investigate Taniela Balase and the Fiji Times for publishing the letter.

The motive of the letter was to "instill fear and hatred of organisations such as CCF".

Yabaki's letter reminded the police that Section 30(1) of the 1997 constitution guaranteed the right to freedom of speech and expression. However, the constitution was abrogated by the military regime on May 30 after declaring martial law.

This following a putsch on May 19 when the elected Fiji Labour Party-led coalition government was deposed by rebel gunmen and held hostage for 56 days.

+++niuswire

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