Fiji lawyer alleges police raids over Facebook posts | Pacific Beat

Fiji lawyer alleges police raids over Facebook posts

Fiji lawyer alleges police raids over Facebook posts

Updated 11 January 2013, 11:38 AEDT

A prominent Fiji lawyer and Labour Party member, Rajendra Chaudhry, has accused Fiji police of acting like thugs.

He claims police have twice attempted to pressure him over anti-interim-government comments he made on social media website Facebook.

Mr Chaudhry, who is the son of Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry, says he is not the only person this has happened to recently.

He is starting an online petition to the President, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, asking him to take action.

Radio Australia has attempted to contact the Fiji Police and the interim government over the claims, but they have not yet responded.

Rajendra Chaudhry is currently in Australia, and he says in his absence police have turned up at his house and his housemaid's residence.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker: Fiji lawyer Rajendra Chaudhry

CHAUDHRY: About two weeks ago about five officers turned up to my house and were inquiring where I was and when I would be returning to Fiji. And when the person who answered the door asked why? They said oh he's been posting on Facebook. And the second incident only happened last weekend when two police officers went to my housemate's residence at her village at 8 o'clock at night on a Sunday, and they were very rude and aggressive to her, and after initially being a bit worried she then stood her ground and told them that she's not going to be bullied by them, and that I was away working on my appeal and I would be back shortly. And that they should come back and when I'm back.

HILL: Did the police have warrants for either of these raids?

CHAUDHRY: No they don't, as you know Fiji at the moment is lawless, if I can say it is as far as the police concerned. They break every rule of procedure in the police code and they're getting away with it, because they know they can get away with it by virtue of having a regime, which effectively allows these sort of things to happen.

HILL: Well you're the son of a prominent politician, Mahendra Chaudhry, the leader of the Labor Party, so I suppose to a certain extent you might be seen as someone who might be opposed to the current government in Fiji. Would that be the reason why they were targeting you?

CHAUDHRY: Yes absolutely, apparently they were getting offended by my Facebook postings calling for greater transparency, accountability, allowing the people really to speak, because people form the basis of any government and this is not happening in Fiji. And we saw what happened to Professor Yash Ghai, the report that he had prepared on the draft constitution, this was not allowed to be tabled to the public as per the original decree, and he was hounded and harassed for 48 hours before he left the country, and this why by elements of the regime and the military. So it could be and in a way I'm quite comforted by this because it shows that the regime back home is starting to crumble. They know the people's voice has really prevailed.

HILL: Is this sort of thing just happened to you or has this happened to other people as well that you know of?

CHAUDHRY: No it's happened to quite a number of people. I mean the police act like a bunch of thugs, going to people's residences, to their offices, to family gatherings, to relatives of people who speak out against the regime and threaten them openly. And they're getting away with it.

HILL: I understand that you're actually going to do something about this though?

CHAUDHRY: Yes I will, I have opposed the regime since the Court of Appeal ruling in 2009, which had declared them unlawful. That ruling has not been set aside and abrogating the constitution does not change anything in my view, and what I'm doing I'm organising an online petition to the President asking him to step in, to basically sack the interim ministerial persons and appoint a caretaker cabinet and to have elections under the 1997 constitution as soon as, because if we don't I foresee a lot of problems that would not be good for Fiji in the long run.

HILL: This government's not going to pay attention to your online petition surely?

CHAUDHRY: Well it is a start to getting people to think for themselves. I mean for the last seven years they've been bullied, but a constitution process has given them a voice, and now they realise the power of the voice if they collectively do things, and do it lawfully and peacefully. And that is what I encourage people to do.

HILL: It's ok for you to do this, you're safe and comfortable in Sydney, you're a long way away from Fiji at the moment, so you can kind of get away with this, what about other people in Fiji who might not feel quite as protected?

CHAUDHRY: Oh no I'll be returning shortly, I'm just here to do my appeal against my matter in court with serious aspect of a suspension of my practising certificate by the regime. That is being finalised and as soon as it's done I will be in Fiji because I need to be there. I mean to ensure that I will fight for democracy.

Contributors

Bruce Hill

Bruce Hill

Presenter

Bruce is one of the Pacific’s most experienced journalists with nearly 20 years covering the region and has won several international awards.

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