Fijian market seller assaulted by police, security forces for expressing criticism
"An ordinary citizen appears to suffer persecution for exerting ordinary rights," says PFF Chair Titi Gabi.
Reports that a market seller in Fiji was hospitalised after being arrested for making comments about the country's military regime are disturbing, says the Forum chair.
40-year-old Ram Chandra is alleged to have made some comments about the Prime Minister, the military and the government in Suva in June 2013.
In court on 2 July 2013, his lawyer Naipote Vere said his client was assaulted at three different locations by police and security officers and he is also an outpatient of St Giles hospital. He appeared again on 11 July and is committed to trial in October.
"The arrest and beating of Mr. Ram Chandra shows a descent by Fiji into petty police state activity," says Gabi.
Reports of the arrest and beating of the market seller were carried by Fiji Times, Fiji Village, and Fiji World News.
"PFF calls on the officers involved to be investigated, under proper due process," says Gabi, speaking from Port Moresby.
PFF joins the Fiji NGO Coalition on Human Rights in condemning the assaults, especially as they involve an attack on someone who has been a mental health patient, despite Fiji signing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and issuing a Mental Health decree.
Fiji police have a slogan of Salus Populi, a short version of a Latin phrase meaning “Let the welfare of the people be the supreme law".
However PFF co-Chair Monica Miller says the arrest and the beating of a market seller speak of a trend in the opposition direction for the people of Fiji.
"Targeting leading critics of the regime is not a new thing - arresting someone at a market reveals a police and security force more dangerously out of control."
She suggests that regime officials study the role of markets in society, including as a safety valve for expression of public sentiment.
"We ask that colleagues in Fiji monitor situations like this closely and, where they are unable to report themselves, inform domestic and foreign monitors, like the Pacific Freedom Forum," says Miller, based in Pagopago.