January 06, 2012

Michael Field: Bainimarama imposes new order rules

Michael Field

Six days after announcing the end of martial law, Fiji dictator Voreqe Bainimarama has came up with a new military decree controlling public order.

In the face of severe international criticism, Bainimarama on New Year’s Day announced his three year old Public Emergency Regulations (PER) would be lifted tomorrow.

Today he unveiled a military decree amending the country’s Public Order Act.

That act passed in 1969 ahead of Fiji’s independence so that any dissent could be controlled during the transition period.

Bainimarama said he was modernising it to provide stability.

“This modernization is necessary to effectively address matters such as terrorism, offences, offences against public order and safety racial and religious vilification, hate speech and economic sabotage," he said.

Since seizing power in 2006, Fiji has had no parliament and all laws are set up a military council through decrees.

Bainimarama said he imposed martial law in 2009 to bring stability. He did not say that this occurred because the country’s Court of Appeal had declared his government illegal and as a result he scrapped the constitution.

"We have sought to empower Fijians, modernise our country and strengthen our economy. We have sought to rid our institutions of behaviour and practises that discriminate - that spread prejudice and misinformation."

Bainimarama attacked the Fiji Times, the country’s biggest daily, and Fiji TV, saying they had shown “outright bias” against him.

This was why PER included censorship.

“Media is undoubtedly powerful. Personal, political and racial agendas can be allowed to take precedence behind the facade of a free press."

Bainimarama has retained the right to keep people in detention for up to 14 days without being taken before court.

"Know that we will not tolerate an iota of disruption to the peace, safety and stability and common citizenship we now enjoy. I caution those individuals and organisations who intend to abuse these freedoms, as they have done previously."

The new decree deals with a wide range of public gatherings and public order.

It also outlaws malicious rumour and inciting racial antagonism.

His move to scrap martial law will end the role of military censors in newsrooms from tomorrow, but Bainimarama has set up a Media Industry Development Authority which has strong powers over all Fiji media.

The authority’s deputy chairman Matai Akauola says they will be monitoring news items in print, broadcast and television media. 

“We should be glad that censors are being removed but in saying that, we are not out of the woods yet,” he said.

“It is just that according to the goodwill of … Bainimarama the PER has been removed.

“In removing the PER, the democratic process hasn’t kicked in yet. … The democratic process will only be up and running when we have general elections in 2014. From now until then, whilst the PM has announced the removal of PER, for the media, it is a matter of adhering to the code of ethics,” he said.

Fiji's Public Order Act 1969

6 January 2012

1 comment:

discombobulated said...

Matai , your name is now inked in dung together with your idol the despotic, self-obsessed, conceited, self-regarding, egotistical maniac that is clinging to power.

One day Mafatu.