Regime strengthens Public Order Act in lieu of martial law

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Jan. 6, 2012) – The Fiji interim government has lifted its public emergency regulations from today but warns it will not tolerate an iota of disruption to the peace, safety and stability of the country.

Today’s step was announced by the interim prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, in his New Year’s address.

In further comment yesterday, he said the emergency powers provided stability to allow for reforms and change which he says have been for the betterment of society.

His regime imposed the restrictions, which gave police and the military extensive powers, after the appeal court ruled in 2009 that his post-coup interim administration was illegal.

Yesterday, Commodore Bainimarama also announced that the Public Order Act had been modernised.

He says it limits the arrest period to 14 days before a suspect is to be brought before the court, which he says contrasts to provisions in the US where people can be held for undefined periods on suspicion of terrorism.

[PIR editor’s note: A story in the Washington Post reported that under the revised Public Order Act military censors would no longer be present in "media newsrooms, but stiff 100,000 Fiji dollar ($50,000) fines for breaching content regulations come into force for media organizations. Journalists face fines of up to F$1,000, and publishers and editors can be fined as much as F$25,000 or jailed for two years for some breaches." The same article noted that "while the previous detention rules were somewhat loosened, a ban against public meetings was also expected to be relaxed, but that was not the case." also reported that the Act "outlaws malicious rumour and inciting racial antagonism."]

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