The Commonwealth nation of Fiji has reportedly deployed the military to “crush” a plot by rebels to form a breakaway state following the arrest of more than 60 people on sedition charges.
About 140 soldiers have been deployed to assist police to investigate allegations that groups have been conducting paramilitary training and inciting political violence, according to local media reports.
Some of the 63 people arrested are accused of preparing to breakaway and declare the Ra Sovereign Christian State in the north...; the plot was allegedly led by a British army veteran.
Frank Bainimarama, a former coup leader who is now prime minister, vowed to “crush” the rebellion.
“Put simply, any insurrection will be crushed,” he said.
“It is not in the interests of the Fijian people as a whole, who are sick and tired of a tiny minority trying to sow division and insecurity and holding our nation back … There will be no so-called independent states established in Fiji. Anyone who swears an illegal oath will face the full force of the law.”
Photo: Getty Images
Fiji, a Pacific nation of about 900,000 people, has experienced continued political unrest in recent decades, including four coups since 1987. The most recent coup in 2006 was staged by Mr Bainimarama, a military commander who finally held an election last year and won easily.
The sedition arrests have occurred during the past month but few details have been released.
The veteran leading the revolt in Ra has not been identified – and authorities have not confirmed his role – but he is believed to be a Fijian national who served with the British army. The archipelago was a British colony until 1970.
Anam Ravindra-Singh, a lawyer for some of the accused, said the details of the arrests had been shrouded in secrecy and authorities had not yet presented any evidence of the alleged “military-style training”. He said local media reporting of the arrests had been heavily censored.
“What the police and prosecution have done very cleverly with the government of Fiji [is] they have created a climate of fear and insecurity over the people and citizens,” he told ABC Radio.