23 Aug 2011

Fiji regime justifies cancelling Methodist Church conference

7:11 pm on 23 August 2011

Fiji's military has justified cancelling this week's Methodist Church conference, saying it was an internal security issue for the Military Council.

The Land Force Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga, says the church leaders, who have been accused of breaching emergency regulations, declined to step aside from chairing the conference.

Col Tikoitoga says the church leaders maintained that a person is innocent until proven guilty.

He says this was an important issue of transparency and accountability for the general population, adding that he knows it will be misconstrued by international organisations and international media.

Col Tikoitoga says some ministers in the church hierarchy still have not recognised the government and still have not recognised the Prime Minister.

Commodore Frank Bainimarama seized power in a coup five years ago and in 2009 abolished the constitution.

Meanwhile, the church leaders say they are disappointed about the military's decision.

The church's deputy general secretary, Rev. Tevita Banivanua, says leaders were summoned to the army barracks last night, in order to be told in person of the meeting's cancellation.

And says leaders were told that they'd be informed of other consequences too.

"Very disappointing. The government had asked us to, the president and general secretary, not to lead or to chair the meeting. Usually it's just the president that chairs, but then we had decided against that, in accordance with our constitution."

Rev. Tevita Banivanua