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More Evictions

Issue No: 140; 22 October 2000

60 families have been ordered to move off the land where they are staying in Seaqaqa, Vanua Levu .

The Fiji Times (21 October) reports that the Native Land Trust Board has ordered the families to move out of the land for which each had paid the landowner between $100 and $200. The residents have refused to move out saying that they have permission from the landowner to stay on his land, and have paid him the money. The NLTB, on the other hand, says that it "is their problem because they should have paid us since we are legal guardians of the land".

The NLTB's Northern Division Director, Emosi Toga told the Fiji Times: "These families should have realised the risks they were getting themselves into when making the payments because now they will have to move out of the land". It further stated that the NLTB had plans to subdivide the land, lying opposite the Seaqaqa Primary School near the Police Station, and would do so "once funds are available".

The paper reports that the NLTB order was given after the interim regime Minister for Local Government Ratu Tuakitau Cakanauto stated that the problem of squatters must be nipped in the bud.

A school teacher from Seaqaqa confirmed that three families in the settlement are ethnic Fijians while the rest are ethnic Indians.


Regime Calls for Self-Censorship; threatens of violence

Issue No: 139; 22 October 2000

The interim regime has called on the media organisations in Fiji to self-censure their news items.

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In a press statement, interim regime Information Minister, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola stated: "No Government at all will subscribe and condone the media manipulation of the spirit of media freedom, especially [at] a sensitive time as this".

Kubuabola further called on all media outlets "to take a closer look at their role and put in measures that will guarantee balanced and factual reporting".

In another move, Kubuabola threatened the Fiji TV of violence if it proceeded to have the elected Prime Minister on its Close-Up program. In a letter Kubuabola wrote to the TV company, he stated: "recent Close Up broadcasts could possibly lead to the occurrence of another civil insurrection . [which] not only could place the Company's operations at risk but also pose danger to the general public at large". He went on further to single out the Close-up host, Riaz Khaiyum: "given the past slant against the Interim Government adopted by your programme presenter, it would not be too unreasonable to expect that the content will be laced with innuendoes and anti-Government rhetoric which will be seen by the indigenous people as racially biased."

Kubuabola's letter also threatened the TV company of what could happen to it if it did not agree to his command. It reminded "Fiji Television of the night of May 28 - where Fiji Television's studios were ransacked and Corporal Filipo Seavula was murdered reportedly after the airing of a Close-Up programme". And another threat of arrest, detention and charges was issued: "You are also very aware of the state of emergency that the country is facing at this time."

Under the National Emergency Decree, (s18(1)) a police or army officer can detain a person for a period not exceeding 24 hours if he reasonably suspects that that person has acted or about to act in a manner prejudicial to public safety or the preservation of the peace.


22 October 2000.

Iloilo can remain Commander-in-Chief - Rabuka Issue No: 138; 21 October 2000

The military should clarify whether it will accept taking order from Ratu Jope Seniloli, says the former Primer Minister and Chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs, General Sitiveni Rabuka.

In a media interview last night, Rabuka is quoted as saying that the President "remains the President" when he would be in Australia. This means he can still exercise his powers while out of the country. Rabuka also stated that there is nothing in the law which stated that the Interim President will have to appoint the Vice-President as Acting President.

Rabuka's comments revolve on who should be the Commander-in-Chief of the Fiji Military Forces while the President is away from the country. The Radio Fiji report which landed three journalists in military detention were also on the military taking orders from the Commander-in-Chief. Under S87 of the 1997 Constitution, the President is the Commander-in-Chief of the military forces.


Media freedom no more

Issue No: 137; 21 October 2000

The interim regime has curbed the freedom of the media.

Yesterday's arrest and detention of three Radio Fiji journalists - Francis Herman, Vasiti Waqa, and Maca Lutunauga - by armed soldiers has revealed that the regime can not tolerate an independent news reporting. This was preceded by a written directive to the Fiji TV not to get the elected Prime Minister on its popular Sunday evening Close-up program.

The arrest of the radio journalists was endorsed by the regime. Instead of seeking the release of the journalists, the regime, in a press statement, condemned the radio station for airing the item and hit at the journalists. The release stated that it "condemned as grossly irresponsible and mischievous a national radio news report" on the acceptability of the Vice-President as Acting President by the military.

The full text of the Radio Fiji report is appended to the text of this posting.

The regime press statement said that the Minister for Home Affairs, Ratu Talemo Ratakele believed that the "report was clearly designed to destabilise the existing status quo.. As the national broadcaster, Radio Fiji has acted in a manner which can be construed as seriously prejudicial to the national interest, public order and the national security of Fiji".

The regime went on further to propose what the media should report and what not. It stated: "Radio Fiji, and indeed the Fiji media as a whole, must begin to accept their crucial role in informing the people of Fiji in these trying times under a State of National Emergency, in a responsible, fair and accurate manner at all times".

It has also been revealed today by the Fiji Sun that the regime's Minister for Information has written to the Fiji TV asking it not to get elected Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry on its Close-Up program. The letter stated that having Chaudhry would promote "civil insurrection or disobedience. It further stated: "This is an event that must be prevented at all costs as it not only could place the company's operations at risk but also pose danger to the general public at large".

The regime also criticised the Close-Up program as one which "does not subscribe towards the fostering of the spirit of reconciliation that is needed at this time in Fiji".

It is believed that the attack on the Close-up program is designed to get the host of the program, Riaz Khaiyum, removed. Khaiyum, well-known for the anti-Peoples Coalition stories he ran during the early months of the Peoples Coalition reign, had later taken a relatively neutral stand. He also broke the Mahogany-Speight bribery story before Speight attacked the Parliament.

The regime's blatant move to curb media freedom come just as the EU has had a consultation with Fiji on developments here. The ACP-EU decision not to have sanctions on Fiji was based largely on the undertaking that the interim regime is sincere in its claim of returning Fiji to a democratic rule. The change in the Australian stand was also based on this undertaking. And just as the soft decisions have been made by Australia and the EU, the regime has begun to show its true colour.

"[Regime Information Minister Ratu] Inoke [Kubuabola] must be having a good laugh at the Australians and the Europeans at how easily they were fooled by the regime", quipped the Peoples Coalition Member of Parliament, Jag Narain Sharma, yesterday. Sharma was for long associated with the media industry in Fiji.

* Herman, Waqa and Lutunauqa were released last evening. They refused to divulge the source of their information after hours of interrogation. All media outlets in Fiji as well as the Fiji Media Council condemned the arrest.


21 October 2000.

Radio Fiji News Report on the Military:

The military is concerned about Ratu Jope Seniloli, the Vice President, taking up the position of Acting President when Ratu Josefa Iloilo goes for treatment overseas, later this month Once Ratu Jope is acting President, he will become the Commander in Chief of the Fiji Military Forces, a position reserved for the President or acting President. The Military does not want to take orders from Ratu Jope, who was nominated for President by coup leader, George Speight and his group, at the height of the hostage crisis.

When Ratu Iloilo goes for his regular check up for a heart condition, in Sydney, he can appoint any one to act in his position. The most likely candidate is Ratu Jope, his deputy. A reliable source says, although Ratu Jope will be acting President, he will not be able to make changes to any policy matters.

The source reveals that the military, which handed over executive powers to the interim President, still has a say in the running of the interim administration. The reliable source gave the example of when Ratu Iloilo wanted Bau High Chief, Adi Samanunu Cakobau, to be Prime Minister in the interim government, he was warned by the army.

According to our source, the warning from the military was, 'get a prime minister of our choice or else lose the presidency.' When asked whether the military was stopping the President from going for his regular check-up which is now overdue, the source replied, "No." The source says, the President has been refusing to go for the check-up because he is concerned about the current political situation in the country.

However, the senior army source says, under the emergency decree, the military can take whatever actions needed for security. This includes getting back the powers it gave the President and the interim Prime Minister for the administration of the country.

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