March against violence banned in Fiji | Pacific Beat

March against violence banned in Fiji

March against violence banned in Fiji

Updated 8 March 2013, 11:34 AEDT

The Fiji Police have cancelled the permit for the annual "Reclaim the Night" march in Suva organised by the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre as part of International Women's Day.

A Police statement says the march may represent a significant security risk both for the wider public and those involved.

Shamima Ali the co-ordinator of the women's Crisis Centre says this is payback from the police.

Presenter: Richard Ewart

Speaker: Shamima Ali, co-ordinator, Fiji Women's Crisis Centre

ALI: Of course, I am very, very livid, very disappointed. This is just not on and this is for us, there is no reason for them to do this. We have done it for years, we've never breached the permit and I believe, frankly I believe that this is payback time for the statement we made on the brutality case.
EWART. Indeed, in a week where the Fiji authorities have been accused of presiding over indiscriminate violence really based on what we saw on the video that was published widely on the internet a couple of days ago. It does seem somewhat ironic that the march, which is aimed at ending violence should be prevented. I mean is there anything you can do about this situation now? I mean will you march regardless?
ALI: No, we will not put people at risk, because one doesn't know. We can't hold these people accountable, the security forces, so really we can't do that, but we will have other activities throughout the day and we might do something this evening, but in a private place, within our office premises. We just can't do that and we are also, we negotiated yesterday and there's some very good police officers who talked to us the other (inaudible ??) day and seeking reassurances that we will not breach the permit and so on. And we thought everything was good until yesterday afternoon. We also hear there are other marches in Pavua organised by us in Pavua, and Lambasa and in Nadi. I'm hoping that nothing will happen there. But already, the district officer in Pavua has warned our project officer from the Ba Office that put the march on hold and they were having a day time march at 10 o'clock walking against sexual assault and she's been told to put it on hold till further notice. So this is just ridiculous on our day on "International Women's Day".
EWART: Now, in terms of the permit that's been cancelled. Would the fact that you no longer have that permit, prevent you, for example, from holding some sort of gathering or would it cover that to? In otherwords, what I'm saying is, if you all got together and made your point without necessarily marching through the streets, would the police tolerate that?
ALI: We will not do it in a public place. If we did it in a public place, we will be arrested I'm sure. There was repercussions, but we will need a permit for a public place and they did offer. Some of the officers were very nice and they did offer. They said look, if you put in a permit for just a gathering, not a march, just a gathering somewhere, we will consider it and we'll give it to you in the next day or so, not like by today. But we just couldn't be bothered. Because the whole point of the "Reclaim the Night" march is very different from having a public, from having a small gathering and talking, so it misses the point, so we did not bother with that. But because there was so many people and people who don't usually come to these marches, because of the public outcry about sexual assaults in recent months, they were really keen to come and there were schools that had said they were going to come, there were banking institutions who had already had T-shirts made and they said they were going to come. So we do not want to disappoint them, therefore we can have seminars and things within our own building and that is what tending to have today.
EWART: So your suspicion I would imagine is that the police or more likely government authorities were concerned that a march dedicated to "Reclaiming the Night" and really protesting against violence against women would be turned on the authorities as it were, that the incident this week involving the escaped prisoners would become part of the protest?
ALI: Yes, because many people who would march or would have marched tonight would have been human rights activists, in various fields of human rights and people. I think they would have used the Anti-Rape March to raise our voices also against the police brutality and violence by the state authorities. I think that is their fear and at this point in time, this regime just cannot take any criticism and they've had I think enough of it this week as far as they're concerned.


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