8 Jul 2009

Pacific Youth Festival to go ahead in Fiji despite groups dropping out

1:02 pm on 8 July 2009


The Pacific Youth Festival in Fiji is still to go ahead despite some groups withdrawing after participants were vetted by Fiji's military.

Last month, the interim regime set up a committee made up of security forces to work alongside festival organisers, who have since undertaken a vetting process of all speakers, facilitators and presenters.

Those banned from the festival include the Reverend Akuila Yabaki, the former vice-president Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi, Jaque Koroi of the Young People Concerned Network and Imrana Jalal, who is a board member of the Fiji Women's Rights Movement.

The Movement's director, Virisila Buadromo, says it decided to withdraw from the Festival because they couldn't be part of a process that didn't encourage free speech.

She says the festival is no longer a safe space for dialogue for the youth of the Pacific.

"We feel that in this current political climate it's going to be extremely difficult for these young people to be able to express their views openly and without any fear of repercussions or intimidation.

Virisila Buadromo says holding the Pacific Youth Festival in Fiji feels like a wasted opportunity.