27 Jan 2011

Tuvalu government says threatening letter behind ban on public gatherings

2:50 pm on 27 January 2011

The Tuvalu Government says the public order regulations brought in two weeks ago were prompted by a threatening letter sent to finance minister Lotoala Metia by his Nukufetau constituents, who'd demanded he resign from parliament.

The regulations have banned large gatherings and Opposition leader Enele Sopoaga says they've caused chaos in the country, because traditional marae meetings are fundamental to the communication process.

Annell Husband has more:

"The government, in a statement written in response to concerns raised by the Pacific Freedom Forum, says it respects the right to freedom of assembly and expression, but says such rights are not absolute. It says the threats conveyed in the letter emphasized that if Mr Metia hadn't resigned by 4pm on the 12th of January the community of Nukufetau would do all it could to fulfill that demand. The government has also raised concerns about the Opposition's links with the people of Nukufetau and their efforts to bring a vote of no confidence. The current prime minister, Willie Telavi, a former police commissioner, assumed power late last year after a successful vote of no confidence in the government of Maatia Toafa. The regulations were imposed for 14 days and that period is due to expire this afternoon, but there has been no word from Tuvalu on whether they will be lifted."