Fiji military government tightens control

April 14th, 2009 - 11:43 am ICT by IANS  

Wellington, April 14 (DPA) Fiji’s military government, which is ruling with emergency powers, has strengthened its hold on the country by taking over the Reserve Bank and ordering the Human Rights Commission office to close, according to reports from the capital Suva.
The Reserve Bank tightened exchange controls with immediate effect and deputy governor Sada Reddy said the move was in line with the bank’s core objective of safeguarding foreign reserves, Radio New Zealand reported.

Cameron Bagrie, chief economist for the ANZ and National Bank in New Zealand, predicted the Fiji economy would now implode, the report said.

The military government under Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, which has imposed strict censorship on the Pacific island country’s newspapers, radio and television services, ordered the Fiji Human Rights Commission not to open its office in Suva following the Easter holiday, the independent Fijilive website reported.

It quoted chairperson Shaista Shameem as saying: “My staff went to the office this morning and they were greeted by police officers guarding the premises.

“They were informed that they had orders that the FHRC office will not be opened.”

The Australian Broadcasting Commission’s veteran Pacific affairs reporter Sean Dorney and New Zealand TV3 reporter Sia Aston and her cameraman were escorted to aircraft leaving Fiji Tuesday after being ordered out of the country.

A local Fiji One television reporter, identified by colleagues as Edwin Nand, was arrested, reportedly for transmitting news material overseas.

Bainimarama’s government, which has ruled since a military coup ousted the elected government in December 2006, is back in power after being declared illegal by the Court of Appeal last week.

President Ratu Josefa Iloilo sacked the judges, revoked the constitution and enacted emergency powers before swearing in Bainimarama and his cabinet.

The governments of Australia and New Zealand have criticised Bainimarama as a self-appointed dictator and are consulting other countries on extending sanctions on the military administration while not hurting Fiji’s 837,000 people.

Census figures showed that 25,000 Indians left the troubled country from 1996 to 2007 while the number of indigenous Fijians rose by more than 82,000.

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