January 01, 2012

Michael Field: Samisoni accused of inciting violence

Updated: 2.30 pm 31 December 2011
Michael Field

A leading Fiji business figure is in custody over allegations she is inciting political violence against the country’s military regime.

The seizure last night of Mere Samisoni, 74, coincided with the leaking of photographs of a rare protest by Fijians against military leader Voreqe Bainimarama, who seized power in a coup in 2006.

Other unspecified people have also been taken in and are being held.

Samisoni, who runs a nationwide chain of bakeries, was a member of Fiji’s last democratically elected parliaments.A longtime critic, she has been threatened with arrest before (earlier reports).

Family sources say Samisoni was taken into custody yesterday after she returned from Lau Islands, her home.

Bainimarama operates under martial law and anybody can be held for up to seven working days without charge.

Samisoni is being questioned by police in custody over what they say is her "incitement to political violence".

It is far from clear what is going on as she has not been particularly prominent in dissent recently although the regime did act and detain a number of trade unionists last month.

By taking her into custody on a long weekend, police can extend the time they can hold her.

Suva social worker Peter Waqavonovono spoke with police at midday Saturday with an Inspector Ropate confirming Samisoni had been detained over allegations of "incitement and cyber activity trying to bring government down".

Ropate told Waqavonovono that they could do nothing about her age: "We cant do much, call coming from the top, there are other people here too, they all arrested with Mere."

Under Fiji’s martial law people are not allowed to gather without authorization and all media faces tough censorship.

But its been revealed that in the Namosi highlands west of Suva villagers have protested against a planned gold and copper mine operated by Australia’s Newcrest Mining Ltd.

The protest on December 14 was not reported at all in Fiji but witnesses say the people of Namois “staged a quiet protest against the proposed mining project on their land…

“(The) women and children sat outside holding banners calling for their land to be left alone. Witnesses say some women were crying as they sat outside.”

So far the regime has not responded to requests for comment on Samisoni, or the mining protest.

31 December 2011

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