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Public Order Act criticized by youth organization

By Nasik Swami SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Jan. 17, 2012) – If you do not want to engage in racial or religious vilification or create public disorder, then you should not feel threatened by the amendment to the Public Order Act says Fiji government.

Permanent Secretary for Information Sharon Smith-Johns made the statements following comments by the Young People's Concerned Network, or YPCN, leader Peter Waqavonovono who has always been a vocal critic of Fiji’s government.

Waqavonovono said there are several limitations under the amendment decree.

On this, Smith-Johns said if the YPCN seeks to represent the leaders of tomorrow, it will need to do a better job of understanding recent Fijian history and of assessing government provisions, such as the Public Order (Amendment) Decree—which it misreads either out of a desire to manipulate public sentiment or simply because of ignorance.

"The amendment is an enabling statute—one that creates a safe place for open discussion and critical thinking across Fijian society for the formation of a true liberal democratic state," she said.

Smith-Johns said this is because throughout Fiji’s history demagoguery and religious, racial and ethnic vilification has been used openly to harass and intimidate, and at times hold Fiji for ransom.

"Politicians and religious leaders have used race and religion, not just to denigrate others but as a political tool of ascendancy. In the process, they created public disorder, inhibiting true democracy to flourish," she said.

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