Pacific Media Watch

16 September 2016

FIJI: Government finance investigations could be behind weekend arrests, says academic

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Dr Wadan Narsey...“People are horrified they can’t discuss anything without being arrested.” Image:PMC

SUVA (ABC Pacific Beat/Pacific Media Watch): A Fiji academic has suggested the police detention of six prominent figures in Fiji over the weekend could have been spurred by investigations into government finances.

Dr Wadan Narsey, who now lives in Australia, told ABC's Pacific Beat the arrests could be a result of concerns around the Auditor-General report.

“The report had pointed out that for the years 2010,2011 and 2012, minister salaries, including that of Bainimarama and Sayed-Khaiyum, were paid through a private account in a company related to the Attorney-General.”

Dr Narsey said requests for further information from the prime ministers office have been refused.

‘Atmosphere of intimidation’
He added that people are too afraid to talk about these matters in fear of being arrested and said there is an “atmosphere of intimidation in Fiji”.

“Some people aren’t political people, they are just people that want to discuss matters of national concern.”

In a separate Pacific Beat interview, Sam Zarifi, the Asia Pacific Regional Director of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), said the arrests had had a “chilling effect” on the whole nation.

Zarifi said the arrests also put Fiji in breach of its international obligations for freedom of expression and democracy. 

“They are very much the embodiment of the fears and the criticisms from many inside and outside the country about how the Constitution would end up restricting political speech and the ability of critical voices to be heard.

“Freedom of assembly requires the government to allow people to gather to express their own opinions unless there’s a clear reason to stop that.”

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Pacific Media Watch

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Pacific Media Watch is compiled for the Pacific Media Centre as a regional media freedom and educational resource by a network of journalists, students, stringers and commentators. (cc) Creative Commons