Protesting Indo-Fijians out on bail
Five ethnic Indian farmers were arrested for holding an illegal demonstration during the elections in Fiji.india Updated: May 12, 2006 15:44 IST
Five Indo-Fijian farmers were arrested for holding an illegal demonstration during the elections in Fiji but were later released on bail.
The five - Sushil Chand, 28, Shiu Shankar, 47, Ajay Kumar, 40, Suresh Prasad, 45, and Pusp Chand, 58 - were taken into custody at Vatulaulau in the province of Ba in northwestern Fiji.
According to media reports, the five, all supporters of the Fiji Labour Party led by former Indo-Fijian Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, held the demonstration after they found they were registered in the wrong constituencies.
They claimed that they were supposed to be registered in the Ba East Indian Communal and the Ba Open constituencies, but were instead registered in the Ba West Indian Communal and Magodro Open constituencies.
Polling in this Pacific island nation started on May 6 and will conclude on Saturday.
The elections have been marred by allegations of racial disparity in appointment of poll officials, printing of extra ballot papers and wrong registration of voters.
Chaudhry had already publicly criticised election supervisor Semesa Karavaki for the role of his office in this year's elections. Indo-Fijians constitute 44 per cent of Fiji's population of around 900,000.
According to the reports, the protestors in Vatulaulau who also held placards demanding the resignation of Karavaki, were grilled by the police after being taken into custody.
They later pleaded not guilty to a charge of unlawful assembly before a magistrate, who then granted bail to all five. The magistrate, however, warned against repeating the offence until the case was disposed of.
Caretaker Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase of the ruling Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua alleged that the farmers were instigated into holding the protest.
However, Chaudhry was quick to respond by saying that there was nothing wrong with holding a peaceful protest.