8 Nov 2013

Silent protesters arrested and held in Fiji after budget announcement

5:52 pm on 8 November 2013

Fiji police have confirmed a group of protesters has been arrested and held for questioning after gathering in a public place and silently protesting against the budget.

The 14 were wearing t-shirts demanding more openness from the regime about the recently-released budget.

The Executive Director of the Fiji Women's Rights Movement, Virisila Buadromo, says they were mostly women and young people.

She spoke to Alex Perrottet:

VIRISILA BUADROMO: 14 people, mostly young people and women, were arrested after midday today. They've just been moved to the Criminal Investigations Department. They continue to be questioned and no charges have been laid as of yet.

ALEX PERROTTET: And where were these people gathering when they were protesting and what were they actually doing?

VB: And where were these people gathering when they were protesting? What were they actually doing?

AP: They were having brunch today outside the Inland Revenue Department on Ratu Sukuna Road. It was an informal brunch and all they were doing was really having lunch, sitting on the sea wall. The only indication that they were together was that they were all wearing t-shirts which were calling for more transparency and accountability in relation to the budget process.

VB: Were they chanting and making a bit of a show, or is it just that they were wearing the t-shirts?

AP: No, it was a peaceful, quiet gathering. They weren't actually chanting. It's because they were all wearing the same t-shirt and the t-shirt had statements on it.

VB: And have you spoken to any of the members that have been taken in for questioning?

AP: We haven't been able to have direct contact with them. We also know that four lawyers are in negotiations or are talking to the police as we speak.

VB: There was another gathering a couple of months ago where people again were taken in for questioning, but I think within an hour or so they were released. Are you expecting something similar to happen again and this is just a way for the police to warn dissenters not to show too much dissent, or do you think there might actually be charges laid this time?

AP: What happened the last time, what happened this time we don't know if it's the same thing. We're hearing rumours they may be detained over the weekend. So it's quite difficult to figure out whether they're going to be released. They've been there now for at least an hour. We're hoping that they will be released, but, again, they could be used as an example to anyone else who showed dissent or opposition to the state.