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Fiji military moves to silence dissent

Monday, December 11, 2006

A senior executive of the Sosoqoso Duavata ni Lewenivanua party is among one of the many in recent days taken in for questioning by the military in its attempt to step up measures to curtail public utterances against the interim regime.

SDL National Director Peceli Kinivuwai was taken to the military camp in Nabua on Saturday in what party officials described as a voluntary effort on his part to surrender to the military's quest to grill him.

It has also been established that communication lines to the military camp have been jammed as a result of campaign launched by a group of non-government organizations to inform military commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama of the legalities of his actions in the military takeover, Human Rights Advisor of the United Nations Development Program Imrana Jalal said.

In a police statement she filed on Tuesday last week after she received a telephone threat to taint her modesty, Ms Jalal said the threatening telephone call was traced to a phone booth near the military camp in Nabua.

"I am not pro-Qarase. I am pro-democracy and for the rule of law," she said from Nadi yesterday.

This comes as a number of civilians who spoke out against the military were taken to the military camp in recent days where they were cautioned against speaking out against the current regime.

Fiji Women's Rights Movement Executive Director Virisila Buadromo and Pacific Centre for Public Integrity executive Angie Heffernan were not spared from threatening telephone calls as well also believed to be from the military.

Businessman and former journalist Imraz Iqbal and ousted state minister for Provincial Development Ted Young were amongst the many taken by the military for criticizing the regime.

A spokesman for Mr Iqbal said navy commander Francis Kean summoned and warned him following an article he published against the military in his magazine Fiji Living.

Fiji Living Editor Stanley Simpson said this would not affect the future content of the magazine whose office in Vugalei, Lami came close to being demolished during a 10-minute power blackout at around midnight yesterday.

Men dressed in civilian removed banners and damaged part of the property which belongs to businesswoman and public relations officer Laisa Digitaki. The property was used as a democracy shrine.

SDL officials said Mr Young was taken from the party office on Wednesday morning and returned only to have the military ransack the office as armed and uniformed officers secured the premises and ordered all staff members out.

In recent days, two correspondents to the Fiji Times' Letters to the Editor received similar treatment.

Unionist Kenneth Zinck was also picked by military after he publicly criticized Commodore Bainimarama. He was apparently made to run around a military sports field in Nabua late one evening last week before soldiers put him under a spotlight and warned him to watch what he said about the commander.

Military searches for Finance bosses

Meanwhile, the military did not mince its words yesterday when it said Finance chief executive officer Paula Uluinaceva was a wanted man, after he ordered the reduction from $20,000 to $10,000 the spending limit on the military and all Government ministries and departments.

Military spokesman Major Neumi Leweni said the military was still looking for Mr Uluinaceva but knew he was still in the country.

Major Leweni said the military operatives or intelligence had some information on his whereabouts.

"As far as we know he is still in the country, that's why we are looking for him," he said. Last week Mr Uluinaceva was believed to have fled the country. The Finance Minister Ratu Jone Kubuabola has also gone into hiding.

Last week Mr Uluinaceva sent a memo to the 23 chief executives and the 19 heads of departments.

The circular was also forwarded to the commercial banks in the country advising them not to honour cheques in excess of $20,000 that did not carry the chief accountant's approval.

Mr Uluinaceva said the temporary withdrawal of all financial authorities to Government CEOs and heads of department "is a necessary financial management control to be effective immediately until further notice".

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