12 Jul 2002

NGO Coalition questions ban on ACP protest

4:55 pm on 12 July 2002

Fiji's NGO Coalition for Human Rights is questioning why it has been denied a permit to hold a protest during next week's sumit of African, Caribbean and Pacific countries in Nadi.

The District Officer in Nadi, Anand Gounder, denied the permit, saying the protest march would be unprofessional, that there could be a threat to the protestors and that the march would be an obstruction to the free movement of guests along the road.

But the chairman of the NGO Coalition, the Reverend Akuila Yabaki, says the group is not a threat to security, public safety, public order or public health.

Nor do they plan to infringe the rights and freedom of others.

The Reverend Yabaki has told the district officer that these are the only lawful reasons under which he can refuse a permit to demonstrate or march under the Public Order Act.

He says "unprofessional" is not a legitimate reason, and to say that there is threat to the NGO group is an illegal reason.

Reverend Yabaki also says that the group will not obstruct the movement of the nation's guest by road.

He has asked the district officer to reconsider his decision.

The NGO Coalition wants to demonstrate against the Qarase government's failure to abide by the constitutuion and against human rights abuses in some ACP countries.

A group of cane farmers also says it will protest the plight of farmers whether or not it gets a permit.

But the home affairs minister, Joketani Cokanasiga, says no demonstrations of any kind will be allowed at the ACP summit.