21 Jul 2009

Amid stand-off with Methodists, Fiji police take in top cleric

10:53 am on 21 July 2009

A senior figure in the Methodist Church in Fiji has been taken in for questioning as tension grows between the church and the interim regime.

The interim Prime Minister has banned the annual gathering of the church, which is the biggest religious group in Fiji.

Philippa Tolley reports:

"The police in Suva have confirmed that the Secretary General of the Methodist Church, the Reverend, Tuikilakila Waqairatu, has been taken in for questioning. The Methodist Church is Fiji's largest Christian denomination with members comprising nearly three hundred thousand and there have been struggles over the past months as to whether the annual gathering can go ahead. The meeting is a major event with choir competitions and important fund-raising activities. But the Commodore cancelled the annual conference saying it could only go ahead if the Church sacked two ministers and removed politics from its agenda. However despite a series of meetings with the regime and a constant message that the conference will not be allowed, the church is understood to be planning to go ahead with the conference in Rewa province next month."

Another three ministers have been taken into custody this morning.