22 Jul 2009

Warning of uprising after Fiji police detain High Chief

3:39 pm on 22 July 2009

Police in Fiji have detained the High Chief of the province of Rewa, Ro Teimumu Kepa.

The move has prompted the head of the Fijian Methodist Church in New Zealand Rev Ilaitia Tuwere to warn there could be an uprising in the island state.

Her province was due to host the Methodist Church conference next month, which the interim prime minister Frank Bainimama cancelled.

Radio New Zealand understands her arrest follows a letter she wrote to her people insisting the province would host the Church's conference, which attracts up to a 100,000 people.

It is understood Ro Kepa, who is one of the three highest chiefs in Fiji, was taken to the Central Police Station in Suva by 16 police officers about midnight on Tuesday.

The general secretary of the church, Rev Tuikilakila Waqairatu, was detained on Monday night, while six other ministers were taken in on Tuesday.

Police have declined to discuss the decision to interrogate the church ministers.

However, blogsites have been reporting the Methodist Church planned to proceed with next month's conference in Rewa, which is close to Suva, despite the order by the interim government not to meet.

The first minister to be taken in by the police had earlier written to Commodore Bainimarama warning of bloodshed if the Methodist Church conference was cancelled.

The Methodist Church is the largest Christian denomination in Fiji.

For the past couple of months, interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has been telling the Methodist Church it will not be allowed to hold its annual gathering this year, or any other meetings, unless it follows strict conditions.

These include that the church exclude two of its former presidents from meetings and that it agrees to remove any political discussion from the agenda.

In April this year, former Methodist president Manasa Lasaro was taken in for questioning after he called for the restoration of democracy and the inclusion of political issues on its conference agenda.