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Martial law lifted in Fiji

Published: 12:46PM Saturday October 06, 2007 Source: Newstalk ZB/ONE News

The military has loosened its grip a little in Fiji, lifting the state of martial law after 30 days of emergency regulations put in place by Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

At the time the military chief claimed there was a threat to public security from ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase.

Opposition leader Mick Beddoes says the restrictions were in place to stop ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase from making comments the country's military didn't like and the easing of the situation comes as a relief.

Beddoes says there are repercussions and consequences when there is martial law and unfortunately those who impose it don't suffer the same fate as ordinary people. He says now the restrictions have been removed, tourism and investment activity can return to normal.

The move comes just ahead of the Pacific Forum and follows the European Union's decision to scrap aid to Fiji's sugar industry.

The EU agreed to a $NZ336.5 million aid package in April which was conditional on Fiji moving towards democracy, including ending martial law and holding elections before March 2009. Another $111 million worth of EU aid is on hold until democratic elections are held.

But the EU has said it will continue to work with Fiji despite the Pacific country not meeting its commitments to restore democracy.

Fiji lifted martial law on May 31 but reimposed the public emergency regulations on September 6.

Since April, Fiji has come under fire from various governments for a crackdown on freedom of speech, including attempts in May to stop people posting and reading information on weblogs.

During that crackdown, a number of journalists and other people were detained by the military and interrogated.

Last month Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters accused Fiji's military strongman of lying to the United Nations. In a speech to the UN General Assembly in New York Bainimarama outlined what he said is progress being made in Fiji.

Peters said the commodore gave a tendentious account of Fiji's recent political history and avoided referring to the current situation.

Peters said he hopes Bainimarama does not turn up to the Pacific Islands Forum in Tonga because the commodore will not be welcome there. Peters said Bainimarama needs to get real and show he is serious about democracy by holding elections.

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