Fiji Regime Warns Church to Keep Out of Politics
Fijian strong man, Commodore Frank Bainimarama warned the Methodist Church in Fiji to stay out of politics. The Methodist Church in Fiji has in the past stood up for democracy. A senior Methodist minister was arrested and detained while the military investigated his sermons. He has since been released.
Fiji has been enduring political instability and a series of governments over the past two decades.
The warning, the first of its kind since military chief Commodore Frank Bainimarama seized power at gunpoint in December 2006, came five days after the regime arrested Rev. Manasa Lasaro, a senior Methodist minister, and began investigations into a sermon he gave that called for peaceful protests to restore democracy.
The Methodist Church of Fiji, whose more than 200,000 members account for a quarter of the country's population, is strongly opposed to Bainimarama's regime. Its leaders have not been vocal amid the latest political turmoil, but they backed a nationalist coup in 2000 and could be a powerful force if they began to mobilize their members. Bainimarama quickly crushed that coup nine years ago.
The military's hold over the population seems to be nearly complete.
Under Fiji's military rule, all protests and public meetings are banned, censors sit in newsrooms and only "positive" news can be published. Already more than a dozen journalists have been arrested and interrogated for breaching the rules and at least three foreign journalists expelled from the country.
Strong man, Bainimarama, has stated that democratic elections will be held in five years time.