The FTUC is appalled and condemns Government`s actions in arresting Hon. Lynda Tubuya, Doctor Isireli Biumaitotoya, and Father Fabiano Dakai under the guise of being in breach of the Public Order Act. While the FTUC fully supports the lockdown of Lautoka to ensure that there is no further spread of the COVID-19 Virus, we however condemn the heavy-handed actions of the police. It is very apparent that Government does not want any criticism of its handling of the virus situation and in doing so is attempting to curtail the freedom of speech of people and instilling fear in people. At a time, when COVID is spreading like fire, the police is jeopardizing the health and safety of those arrested and that of their families and communities that they come from.
The decision of the police to hold these citizens in custody is an abuse of the law where they are allowed to hold detainees for up to 48 hours. In most cases they ensure that detainees are held for 48 hours as a punishment they are empowered to dish out. There is no reason why police cannot interview
people and release them without undue delay. Often interviews are taken for an hour and suspended until the next day just so that police can claim that interviews are incomplete and keep people in prison cells so as to use up the 48 hours. This is plain abuse of powers and gives no confidence to the public.
We call upon the Fiji Human Rights Commission to be proactive and address this issue.
The claim that post on social media is to attempt to create public unrest or anxiety is plain false. People must be free to state their opinion as much as we may agree or disagree. There is no unrest and that is a fact. There is certainly anxiety but that stems from the Government handling of the current Virus, our hospitals and their ability to deal with a Virus outbreak and the actions of the police.
We call upon the Government and the Police to stop this harassment and release immediately those arrested. We can understand that there needs to be some control in the movement of people to ensure that the virus does not spread. This does not call for an arrest and imprisonment of people. A more
sensible approach is desirable. The FTUC has called upon its affiliates to take the necessary precautions.