The Fiji’s Women’s Rights Movement’s (FWRM) retreat and planning at the Pearl Resort in Pacific Harbor was shut down by police. Two staff members were taken in for questioning. It was noted that another NGO was holding a strategic planning event at the same venue and this event was not interrupted or by the Police.
At around 9.30am, a police officer, from the Central Investigation Department asked the hotel event coordinator whether FWRM had a permit. The information was relayed to the FWRM Executive Director, Virisila Buadromo, who informed him that the event was an internal FWRM planning. 25 representatives of the FWRM staff, management board and partners were spending three days reflecting on their achievements over 25 years.
Despite assurances from Buadromo that the gathering was part of FWRM’s annual internal planning of which a permit was not required, the police insisted that she be taken in for questioning to the Pacific Harbor station. He reiterated that FWRM had contravened provisions of the Public Emergency Regulations (PER). When Buadromo agreed to accompany him with a lawyer, he insisted that a lawyer’s presence would not be needed.
However Buadromo insisted that it was within her rights.
At the police station, Buadromo was accompanied by FWRM lawyer, Roshika Deo, and were told to wait while “he consulted his superiors.” During that time, Buadromo called several women human rights defenders to inform them of what was happening as well as a human rights lawyer. She was advised by the lawyer to request that her statement be given in Suva in his presence. However this request was denied by the police.
After half an hour of phone calls between the police officer and someone at the Suva CID headquarters, Buadromo and Deo, were informed that charges would not be pressed, the meeting had to be dispersed and that this should be viewed as a “warning.” Whilst waiting at the station, a police officer told Deo “it’s because you are an activist that is why they have brought you in …..to check!”
Buadromo and Deo returned to the Pearl Resort with the police officer to confirm the FWRM planning was shut down. In the last 10 minutes (11.30am Fiji Time), the police have returned stating that a senior intelligence officer from CID HQ was on his way to ask further questions. When inquired whether this was an official investigation, he was hesitant to confirm or deny.