Fiji military given OK to shoot civilians

April 13, 2009 at 4:30 PM
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SUVA, Fiji, April 13 (UPI) -- Fijian soldiers have been granted the power to shoot civilians who express dissent over emergency rule imposed by the island's president, observers say.

President Ratu Josefa Iloilo has declared a 30-day state of emergency, expanding police powers and curbing the media after installing armed forces chief Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama as prime minister over the weekend, the Dominion Post reported Monday.

Iloilo has suspended the country's constitution, and reports indicate residents were being detained without charge under emergency regulations, which give soldiers immunity from prosecution for using weapons to break up processions, meetings or assemblies, the newspaper said.

Bainimarama insists he wants to cleanse Fiji's political system of corruption in order to create a society that is fair to both native Fijians and Indians, promising to hold elections in 2014, the BBC said.

"They further isolate Fiji from the international community, they run the very grave risk of Fiji's economic and social circumstances further deteriorating and, of course, to suggest that an election will be held in 2014 is nothing more than a sham," Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith told the broadcaster.

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