I saw my neighbour Mr Chaudhry heading off very early this morning for his Court appearance.
Later at work, I asked my colleague and team leader, Tas, whether we at SOPAC had any special permission to conduct meetings. We do hold rather an excessive amount of them. He said not, but it did not matter because the Government was not interested in us. That is good because this week I attended a meeting with the CEO and top officals of the Fiji Water Authority, and SOPAC colleagues. Next week I shall be holding or attending several more meetings that will, I hope, have more than me and two others sitting around talking.
I was a little nervous that word of this might get out.
I took a look at the Fiji PUBLIC EMERGENCY REGULATIONS 2009
I could not get a clear idea of what the definition of a meeting that requires Government permission is, because it is defined in a decree made under these regulations as far as I can determine:-
(4) Any person who organizes or assists in organizing any procession, meeting or assembly, held or intending to be held, in contravention of an order made under the provisions of this regulation, or who incites any person to take part in such procession, meeting or assembly, or who takes part in such a procession, meeting or assembly shall be guilty of an offence.
– and I have not yet found the decree. I understand a meeting as a gathering of three or more people. But surely there must be more to it than that. For example I hope it says “except family” somewhere. But then if it did, a political cell of cousins might be able to plot over dinner…
Take a look at this:
(3) Any police officer or any member of the Armed Forces, if in his or her opinion such action is necessary for the public safety, after giving due warning, may use such force as he or she considers necessary, including the use of arms, to disperse the procession, meeting or assembly and to apprehend any person present thereat, and no police officer nor any member of the Armed Forces nor any person acting in aid of such police officer or member using such force shall be liable in criminal or civil proceedings for having by the use of such force caused harm or death to any person.
(italics and bold mine) Scary. Note any person – including me if I just happened to be passing. Anyone here old enough to remember Kent State?
Note that it just requires an opinion, no mention of reasonable anywhere. I am glad the officer must give due warning to someone before he misses them and kills me.
It seems that the matter that really makes these unlawful meetings of interest (as much as the names of the attendees), is whether the subject of the meeting, or the statements of the attendees, might make people disaffected.
There is a lot of use of the word DISAFFECTION bandied about here, and it is mentioned several times in the regulations:
Any person who attempts or does any act calculated or likely to cause mutiny, sedition or disaffection …..
There goes free speech… because it has already been established here that any criticism is likely to disaffect someone. Especially the person or organisation being criticised.
I understand that here, disaffected means “not in agreement”.
So I will just shut up.