MELBOURNE (Radio Australia News/Pacific Media Watch): In Fiji, a large number of spray painted anti-regime graffiti slogans appeared around the capital, Suva, on Wednesday morning.
A group calling itself the Viti Revolution Forces has reportedly claimed responsibility for the slogans.
This follows the government's cancellation of the annual conference of the influential Methodist Church, after it refused to accept a government ultimatum not to allow three church leaders to speak at the gathering.
A prominent fugitive senior Fiji military officer turned pro-democracy activist, Ratu Tevita Mara, who fled to Tonga recently, says tensions are rising in Fiji, and he intends to go to the Pacific Islands Forum in New Zealand next week to speak to regional leaders about the situation.
Presenter: Bruce Hill
Speaker: Ratu Tevita Mara, former senior Fiji military officer turned pro-democracy activist
MARA: This is certainly a new thing that's happened in Fiji the graffiti is that's appeared. I think it's the frustrations of the people are now beginning to show. As you know, it's five years down the line, we still under the military junta and all things are coming to a head now with the unions earlier on, now with the Methodist Church, I think people are beginning to vent their frustration.
HILL: How significant do you think the shutting down of the Methodist Church conference was?
MARA: It only brings out more resistance from the people and this is typical of Bainimarama's control over all aspects of society in Fiji. We've seen him do it to the GCC [Great Council of Chiefs], the unions, different religious groups and now the main religious group for the indigenous Fijians, the Methodist Church.
HILL: There have been a number of Methodist churchmen who in the past have been quite strongly involved with ethnic Fijian nationalism and talk of Fiji being declared an officially Christian state, so the government is not entirely without some sort of backup in suggesting that there are aspects of the church that could be seen as political, rather than religious?
MARA: Yes, you do see that in other Pacific Island countries as well, Tonga, Samoa. The church does have a significant part in politics of the country. You're correct - in 1987 the church played a part in the events that happened in '87. We've come through that and the church also has come through that and it certainly turned out to the benefit of the church being involved in the politics of Fiji. We've seen that throughout the years.
HILL: The Pacific Island Forum is going to be held in New Zealand shortly. You've been travelling around the Pacific. You've just come back from Samoa, you're now in Australia. Are you lobbying Pacific leaders to do something that's specific on Fiji yourself and would you be at the forum?
MARA: What we intend to do is just see if we can the Pacific Island country leaders individually and talk to them about the reality on the ground in Fiji and in particular to the MSG countries. As you know, they still support the current junta in Fiji and it's something that they ought to know, the reality of the things that are happening in Fiji.
HILL: Are you getting more support from the Polynesian countries than you are from the Melanesian countries?
MARA: With regard to the Melanesian countries, as you know Papua New Guinea has just gone through a change of government. In Solomon Islands, I'm in contact with certain government officials in Solomon Islands as well as leaders in Solomon Islands as a whole, and in Vanuatu, I've also managed to get in touch with leaders in Vanuatu as well. It's now on an individual talk basis between myself and hopefully soon they will come around.
HILL: Are you expecting the Pacific leaders at the forum to take a specific set of actions towards Fiji or are you expecting them to maintain the stance they already have?
MARA: I expect them to maintain current terms that they have; if Fiji comes up on the agenda, then they may have further things to say about Fiji.
HILL: And have you been invited to speak to some of the leaders on the margins of the Pacific Island Forum yourself?
MARA: We've requested to have a one on one individual discussions with the individual leaders and if that is approved, then we'll go ahead with it.
(cc) Creative Commons