4 Mar 2003

Fiji opposition says country is becoming a police state

11:46 am on 4 March 2003

The Fiji labour Party has accused the Qarase government of turning Fiji into a police state following the detention of AFP journalist, Mike Field, at Nausori Airport yesterday.

The Labour leader, Mahedra Chaudhry, says the government is using deportation, intimidation and threats to silence critics.

Mr Field, who was flying in to cover the summing up in the Josefa Nata and Timoci Silatolu treason trial was detained for three hours when immigration officials at Nausori found his name on a list of prohibited immigrants.

But the government later admitted it had made a mistake, released Mr Field and returned his passport.

Mr Field says he is relieved the incident is over but he is still mystified as to why he was on the blacklist in the first place.

"The permanent secretary of the home affairs ministry told local media that it was all a big mistake and that I was on a watch list during the Rabuka administration and that this had stayed within the system."

Mr Field says he was in the United States during the Rabuka coup.

Fiji's secretary for home affairs, Col Jeremaia Waqanisau, has told immigration officials to delete Mr Field's name from Nausori Airport computers, something which was done at Nadi Airport years ago.