22 Aug 2011

Fiji govt won't replace Methodist Church leaders, says military spokesman

3:42 pm on 22 August 2011

Fiji's military spokesperson says the interim government has no plans to nominate the replacement of three Methodist Church leaders - including the president of the church.

The Church's deputy general secretary, Tevita Banivanua, says police phoned the church last week singling out the reverend Ame Tugaue, the reverend Tuikilakila Waqairatu and the reverend Manasa Lasaro to stand down before the church's national conference starting tomorrow.

The conference is the first Methodist Church gathering in three years following a ban imposed by Commodore Frank Bainimarama's regime in 2009.

Lieutenant Colonel Neumi Leweni would not confirm that the government had asked church leaders to stand down.

Instead, he said a call for change was made within the church at a meeting with the military last year.

"Most of the members of the meeting themselves did state that they would like to see a change in the Methodist Church hierarchy. But unfortunately whilst these three people are still in office they manipulate the system and will not allow for the change."

Lieutenant Colonel Leweni says it is up to the church to replace the leaders - not the government.