FIJI GOVERNMENT BANS MASS RALLIES

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (May 5, 2000 – Fiji Times)---No further permits will be issued to Fijian groups to hold protest marches, says Home Affairs Minister Joji Uluinakauvadra.

He has ordered the police and relevant authorities not to approve any further protest marches around the country.

The final march, organized by the Vanua Tako Lavo Party, will be held in Suva on May 19.

"Their application was approved last week but as of today (Thursday) there will be no more approvals for protest marches,'' he said.

District Officer Margaret Chute said the march by the Vanua Tako Lavo Party would be between 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. from the Flea Market to Sukuna Park.

Mr. Uluinakauvadra said his decision was based on Police Commissioner Isikia Savua's concern that the police might not be able to cope with an increase in the numbers of people attending possible future marches.

On April 21, the Taukei Movement attracted about 500 people at a march in Lautoka. On April 28, members of the Soqosoqo Ni Vakavulewa Ni Taukei and sympathizers of the movement marched through Suva and handed a petition to the Great Council of Chiefs.

The petition highlighted concerns by indigenous Fijians over the Government's plans to introduce legislation on native land, the removal of provincial allowances and the attempt to weaken the position of the President and the Native Land Trust Board. It attracted between 3,500 and 4,000. A similar number watched or arrived later for a rally near the Civic Centre.

Mr. Savua later called on the Government to address Fijians' grievances to prevent further protests.

He was worried that future marches would not be as peaceful and that police might not be able to contain the growing numbers. About 150 extra officers were on duty during the Suva march.

On Tuesday, the Tui Labasa, Ratu Joeli Ritova, also announced that he was organizing a similar march at Labasa for the chiefs and landowners of Bua, Cakaudrove and Macuata.

He said he would lodge an application once he finalized details with the chiefs from the three provinces.

Mr. Uluinakauvadra said Ratu Tevita's application would now be rejected.

When asked whether the Government would address the grievances of the protesters, he said Mr. Savua made the comments because he was worried that the police might not cope the next time.

In an earlier statement, he said national marches against the Government were not conducive to building investor confidence.

He warned the army could be called in if the police needed more manpower during protest marches.

For additional reports from the Fiji Times, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Fiji Times. 

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