December 14, 2012

List of Fijians under police surveillance surfaces

Updated 14 December 2012, 10:36 AEST

A list of Fiji citizens allegedly under surveillance by the National Intelligence Bureau of the Fiji Police Force has been published on an anti-government blog.

Coup Four Point Five has posted a document showing more than 80 people were under some form of official surveillance from January til August this year.

The list includes the leaders of political parties, trade unionists, NGO figures and many others.

One of those named, Shamima Ali, a well known NGO leader, is critical of the coup installed interim government for having such a pervasive system of surveillance, but has also hit out at Coup Four Point Five for publishing the report in full, including often sensitive personal information.

She says the document appears to be genuine.Pacific Beat approached the Fiji government for comment, but they declined the opportunity.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker: Shamima Ali, a prominent Fiji NGO leader

ALI: It looks like that and also some of us do know that we are under surveillance and various people from within the force also tell us that we are under surveillance. So I would say that this could be a genuine document.

HILL: Assuming that it is, are you surprised by the extent of the surveillance and the type of people that the police intelligence unit appear to be monitoring?

ALI: Yes definitely, I'm quite surprised at the wide range of people they are looking at, and of all the people there's a tiny percentage who might be said to have committed some criminal offences and had appeared in court and have been charged with some offences deemed criminal by the regime. But the rest of the people are honest people going around their daily business, raising their voice every now and then. And to keep them as recent as this year, that is quite surprising.

HILL: And some surprising names, the wife of the President, head of the Employers Federation, I'm not sure these are seditious individuals?

ALI: Yes this is I think it's another case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing, so just following orders but really no clear direction given to them as to what's the criteria for surveillance, and I believe also some of the police officers are very careful about not losing their jobs, including anyone that the regime has ever had any issues with, but that as you say, there's some there who I don't think they've had any issues with.

HILL: There's another aspect to this of course, and that is the actual decision by this blog, Coup Four Point Five, to publish this alleged intelligence report.  It contains some very personal information, in your case, some very personal information. Should they have gone ahead and published this?

ALI: I don't think so. It's brought also a lot of people read this blog and a lot of people actually because we have such huge censorship, both self and otherwise of the media here, that they actually believe the blog. So I just think that personal information of that nature really is very inappropriate for any blog to be publishing that.

HILL: Is there anything that you're going to be able to do as a result of seeing this information, either against Coup Four Point Five or perhaps about the fact that you seem to be under surveillance?

ALI: Yes definitely the fact that I'm under surveillance hopefully I will speak to Mr Sayed-Khaiyum spoke to him yesterday but it was after last night actually who somebody called me from Vanuatu to tell me that I was on this list and to have a look at Coup Four Point Five. So definitely I will try to talk to the Commissioner of Police about the surveillance itself. But some of us are talking about what we can do about Coup Four Point Five and publishing such personal information.

HILL: Do you think they should have shown a little more restraint? Was there a way of getting this information about surveillance out there without embarrassing people or putting extremely personal details of their lives up for public scrutiny?

ALI: I think so, I think a summary would have been good, and actually taking out the personal aspect of people's lives. Already the surveillance is doing so much harm to us, that they're always around or something. But to then have people's personal lives exposed in this manner I believe there's some discretion there, a lot of discretion that should have been exercised.

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