11 Apr 2008

Fiji peace vigil groups set to defy regime

3:58 pm on 11 April 2008

The convenor of a series of peace vigils in Fiji says they will continue to protest, despite 17 people being arrested at a gathering outside the Chinese embassy.

The group was taken away by police from outside the Embassy in Suva yesterday afternoon, and detained until late last night.

Sharon Bhagwan Rolls, the coordinator of Femlink Pacific, which has been convening peace vigils in Fiji, says her colleagues that were held say the police were polite, but the action was unnecessary.

"Our concern in Fiji is that our interim administration has taken a position with the Chinese Government which, unfortunately, is not in line with what a lot of other political leaders are saying right now, which is there should be dialogue and a peaceful resolution to the concerns that are being raised by the people of Tibet."

Sharon Bhagwan Rolls says they are grateful for the legal support they have received, and the solidarity from other groups.

Meanwhile, New Zealand's Council for International Development says the Suva arrest of peaceful protestors bodes ill for the future of Fiji.

The Council's executive director David Culverhouse says re-building the damage done to Fiji's economy and society will require the active participation of the civil society groups that those arrested represent.

He says the Fiji government should drop any charges against these activists and guarantee that peaceful protestors will not be the subject of arrests in the future.