Tuvalu remains under emergency rule

The tiny Pacific Island nation of Tuvalu will remain under emergency rule until at least next week after protests prompted the prime minister to ban public meetings, a Tuvalu Government official says.

Prime Minister Willy Telavi declared emergency rule last Thursday after protesters marched demanding the resignation of Finance Minister Lotoala Metia.

The emergency regulations mean all public meetings, protest marches and community feasts are banned.

Radio journalist and government official Semi Lauti Malaki told NZPA the emergency regulations were enacted by Mr Telavi because it was feared the protests against Mr Metia could cause wider unrest.

The regulations would remain for two weeks after which the police would reassess the situation, Malaki said.

There had been no further protests and no arrests since the regulations were announced.

The initial protest was sparked after Mr Metia failed to meet with community elders, which was seen as breaching traditional protocol, Malaki said.

His constituent in the Nukufetau island community responded by staging a "peaceful" protest demanding his resignation.

Mr Metia had told local media he would stay in Parliament unless the law said otherwise, Malaki said.

Tuvalu, about 1100km north of Fiji, is the third smallest state in the world - after the Vatican and Nauru - with a population of about 10,400.

It was formerly known as the Ellice Islands, part of the British-owned Gilbert and Ellice group. The islands achieved independence in 1978.

Environmentalists fear the low-lying islands will disappear under the waves with rising sea levels.

- NZPA

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