Fiji: Bloggers continue tirade against Bainimarama

By Tamara McLean

AUCKLAND - Fijian bloggers have mounted an online tirade against the military regime as the government pushes on with harsh media censorship and wide-ranging reforms.

Frank Bainimarama's government has silenced Australia and New Zealand's radio transmitters in Fiji, thrown out international media and imposed tough reporting constraints on domestic media, leaving an information vacuum in the beleaguered state.

In the latest reports, international freelance journalist Pita Ligaiula has been detained and two Fiji Times newspaper journalists were summoned by government officials to explain "negative" coverage.

The censorship has pushed voices of dissent underground, onto several active blog websites that deride Bainimarama as an illegal leader.

A key blog, Intelligentsiya, said Fiji was in a mess and was scorned by the South Pacific.

"The self-appointed illegal leader defies the calls for elections and lies about the so-called 64 per cent support of his ideals and the normalcy of our current situation," the website said.

"Lo and behold we even detect some knee-knocking as Bainimarama now begins to fear another coup within a coup."

The blog site Raw Fiji News said: "Fijians in Australia and New Zealand are mobilising themselves to apply pressure on their newly adopted federal governments to adopt tougher measures on Frank's dictatorial regime."

"Protest marches, petitions, etc are expected to commence from as early as next week."

Meanwhile, news stories carried by Fiji's main media outlets continue to paint the latest developments in a positive light.

Bainimarama made his latest power grab last week after the Court of Appeal ruled his government was illegal.

In the wash-up, President Josefa Iloilo scrapped the constitution, sacked the judiciary and reappointed Bainimarama until 2014.

The developments have been roundly condemned by Australia and New Zealand, which are considering what sanctions to place on the troubled state for failing to go to the polls.

The United Nations, European Union and United States have also criticised Fiji, while the Pacific Islands Forum and Commonwealth have said they will suspend Fiji's membership.

Bainimarama has sacked several heads of department, saying they did not fit with his new order, and has been scrambling to shore up the country's finances by devaluing the currency and limiting bank withdrawals.

In the latest drastic measure, the military chief has issued a decree setting the new retirement age for public servants at 55 to save government money.

"Any person employed in the civil service, Fiji Police Force and the Fiji Prisons Service, who is already over the age of 55 years, shall retire on 30 April 2009," states the decree.

Bainimarama and his top civil servants are exempt from the order.

- AAP

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