5 Nov 2009

Amnesty critical of Fiji treatment of Australian academic Lal

4:17 pm on 5 November 2009

Amnesty International has condemned the action taken by Fiji's military against a Fiji-born Australian academic, Dr Brij Lal.

Amnesty says Professor Lal, who flew to Sydney today, was told he would be killed if he returned to the country.

Professor Lal says the military authorities came to his house and took him to the barracks for questioning yesterday, giving him 24 hours to leave Fiji.

This followed media interviews about the interim regime's expulsion of top New Zealand and Australian diplomats earlier this week.

Amnesty International's Pacific researcher, Apolosi Bose, says the situation in Fiji is deteriorating.

"People were scared before, but the danger from Amnesty's point of view is that Fiji's situation will become worse as it becomes more isolated and away from all the scrutiny."

Fiji's immigration director is denying that Professor Lal was deported.

Major Nemani Vuniwaqa, says he was not expelled.

Dr Brij Lal was in Fiji on a visitor's permit and according to our records he had left the country on a flight to Australia. He was not expelled from the country as claimed by him.

Nemani Vuniwaqa would not make any comments as to whether or why Professor Lal has been taken in for questioning.

The Australian National University, the ANU, is considering making a formal complaint to the Fiji government over its treatment of Dr Lal.

ANU Vice-Chancellor Ian Chubb says he's considering a response but wants first to speak to Professor Lal.

Meanwhile Australia's National Tertiary Education Union has also condemned the expulsion.

Its spokesperson, Ted Murphy, says Professor Lal's expulsion is a direct violation of free speech and academic freedom.

Mr Murphy has warned that the regime's actions will destroy educational partnerships between Australia and Fiji.

He says it will ultimately be to the detriment of both Fiji and its future prosperity, but also to Australia's research and academic community.