26 Feb 2003

More concerns raised over deportation of Muslim cleric from Fiji

5:13 pm on 26 February 2003

Fresh controversy has erupted in Fiji over the deportation last week of Muslim cleric and Sudanese national, Abdul Majid, on grounds of national security.

The controversy follows contradictory statements from senior government officials.

Although the director of immigration, Joseph Browne, says the deportation was for security reasons, the secretary of home affairs, Colonel Jeremaia Waqanisau, says it was because Mr Majid was denying an employment opportunity to a local.

The minister for home affairs, Joketani Cokanasiga, says Mr Majid was deported because he was in the country illegally after his permit expired last December.

The National Federation Party says the contradictory statements are bound to create mistrust and suspicion and the minister owes it to the nation to disclose the truth.

The NFP's secretary, Pramod Rae says the government needs to explain what kind of inquiry was conducted or whether it was pandering to the United States phobia that Muslims everywhere were a threat.

Meanwhile the former director of the disbanded Fiji Intelligence Service, Col Metuisela Mua, has told the Fiji Times, security traces should have been carried out on Mr Majid before he was granted a work permit.

Col Mua noted that the leader of the US embassy bombings in East Africa who was arrested in Italy was carrying an address book which listed the names of ywo Fiji contacts.

Col Mua says the two were Fiji nationals who had absconded when the incident happened but he was not sure whether local officials were still observing their movements.