Fiji reneges on promise to allow more open society

Fiji’s government stepped back from a promise of a more open society yesterday just a day before it was supposed to lift more than two years of emergency rule.

Commodore Frank Bainimarama’s government had announced on New Year’s Day that it would lift the emergency rule today, but the new rules indicate that the military government will still maintain tight control.

“This modernisation (of public order controls) is necessary to effectively address terrorism, offences against public order and safety, racial and religious vilification, hate speech and economic sabotage,” Bainimarama said in the capital, Suva.

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Bainimarama, who seized power in a coup in late 2006, imposed the emergency regulations in mid-2009 after the South Pacific nation’s Court of Appeal ruled his military government was illegal.

The self-appointed prime minister said the latest public order laws are not extreme when compared to other countries.

While the previous detention rules were loosened, a ban against public meetings was not relaxed, as had been expected.

Bainimarama said his government seeks to empower Fijians, modernise the country and strengthen the economy.but he has broken earlier pledges to return Fiji to democracy.