22 Jul 2003

Fiji to ease restrictions on public marches imposed after 2000 coup

10:44 am on 22 July 2003

Fiji's new police commissioner from Australia, Andrew Hughes, is planning to ease restrictions on public demonstrations and marches which have been in place since the coup.

A series of demonstrations in 2000 resulted in the overthrow of the Chaudhry government.

After that the then police commissioner, Colonel Isikia Savua, stopped all public demonstrations.

Mr Hughes told Fiji TV that he will allow marches and demonstrations, saying it is the democratic right of all citizens to express themselves in whatever way they want.

But Mr Hughes, an assistant commissioner with the Australian Federal Police, has warned police officers not to align themselves with political parties or they face disciplinary action.

He says he wants to keep the police force apolitical so it can move forward.

Mr Hughes' predecessor, Col Savua, is now Fiji's ambassador to the United Nations but is still under police investigation for his alleged role in the May 2000 coup.