Rejection of peace march permit stifles Freedom of Expression

Postdate: 22/ 01/ 2009

The Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF) expresses concern at the refusal by the Commissioner Central to approve a permit for a peace march calling for a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestine conflict, due to be held today, 22 January 2009.

“The rejection of our permit application is an attempt to stifle calls from Fiji, for a permanent end to the horrific violence and humanitarian crisis in the Gaza strip that we witnessed on television since December 27,” CCF Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Rev Akuila Yabaki said.

“Protests are being held all over the world to call for lasting peace and an end to violence in Gaza. The Commissioner Central and the police are stifling our constitutionally guaranteed rights of Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Association by not allowing the march,” Rev Yabaki said. Representatives of NGOs, CSOs and individuals had become ready for the march, only to be informed late yesterday afternoon that the permit has not been approved.

According to Commissioner Central Mr Mosese Tikoitoga, the decision to decline the permit, “… was reached after consideration was given to multi ethnicity and religious diversity of our country”.

“This is ironic. If the government does respect ethnic and religious diversity, then they should have allowed the march. Palestinians are largely Muslims and they deserve the same human rights and respect as other religions and cultures of the world,” Rev Yabaki said.

At least 1300 Palestinians are dead and over 5000 were injured during a 22-day war-attack by the Israeli Army on the Gaza. A fragile ceasefire for one week in Gaza was announced by the Israeli government on Saturday 17 January. Israeli troops are withdrawing from the Gaza strip. Palestinians are now coming to terms with the loss of life and destruction of Gaza, which has been described as having been reduced to rubbles. According to Al Jazeera television, more than 22,000 Palestinian homes have been destroyed.

For further information, please contact CCF on ph: 3308379, fax: 3308380.

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Rev Akuila Yabaki

Chief Executive Officer

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