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Complaints of military abuse of permit requirements

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, July 2, 2011) – Fiji's interim government has defended the shutting down of a women's rights group meeting despite acknowledging the group had a legal right to meet.

Police closed an internal planning meeting of the Fiji Womens Rights Movement in Pacific Harbour on the main island of Viti Levu on Friday.

Under Fiji's emergency regulations, known as PER, public meetings are banned, but there are complaints from some groups that there is confusion about what is and is not a public meeting.

Shamima Ali, the Coordinator of the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre, has told Pacific Beat the police action shows the "ridiculous lengths" some security personnel go to in applying the emergency regulations.

"[There is] confusion around the PER and when one does need a permit and one when one doesn't need a permit," she said. "So there is this whole confusion and... we have seen this happening time and time again - use of the powers that they have and use of the PER in any way they wish to without paying much attention to legalities."

The government says the police action was appropriate, claiming the participants did not cooperate with police who were making routine inquiries.

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