The illegal government's latest attempt at controlling social order in Fiji has run into trouble.
Its spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel Neumi Leweni, is having to 'correct' misleading media reports about the proposed new village bylaws and how much they will try to control village life.
He told the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation today that people who are saying that's the case are deliberately misleading the public.
“There has been some misinterpretation or people have been sending some wrong messages across in relation to females in villages being disallowed to wear shorts or long pants or other issues relating to young women.
Leweni told FBC those who are promoting the misconceptions are working against the government.
"I’d like to state here there is nothing of that sort - it's only people who are trying to discredit government or discredit the Fijian community and are trying to create these type of issues to bring about divisions in the villages or settlements.”
Another government official was also forced to clarify another misconception about the controversial village by-laws.
It was also originally suggested that flogging would be introduced but the The Indigenous Affairs Ministry has now told Fiji Village that there will be no flogging or public whipping of villagers.
Deputy Permanent Secretary, Colonel Apakuki Kurusiga, is quoted as asying the Ministry is concerned about the misinformation that has been publicised by one of the dailies, which also headlined the village by-laws as Jungle Laws.
Colonel Kurusiga conceded the by-laws had proposed caning but says the idea had since been dropped.
Scope of the new bylaws
The new by-laws are aimed at controlling social order in the villages and consultations - spearheaded by the Indigenous Affairs Ministry - are being held with provincial councils.
The new bylaws are not intended to cover serious crimes; it's believed these will still be handled by police. According to some reports tresspass, drug use, drunk and disorderly behaviour and larceny are the sort of offences that'll be dealt with at village level.
Reports have suggested that under the bylaws a villager found harbouring a prisoner for example will be dealt with accordingly. Dress codes will also result in women no longer being able to wear long and short pants or short dresses. Men will not be allowed to wear headgear unless approved by the turanga ni koro.
Men who plan to marry will also first have to build a house and maintain a plantation to avoid relying on relatives. Students will be required to be home by 6pm and parents will be responsible for supervising their studies from 7 to 8 pm.
The village headman will enforce the laws and have powers to appoint assistants to monitor criminal activities. Offenders will answer to the bose vakoro which will be chaired by respected elders.
According to the Fiji Times, the new bylaws are expected to come under the umbrella of the Constitution and will be introduced at the end of next month.
Footnote: The attorney general, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, told Radio New Zealand the proposals have not come to his office, but it was unlikely that public flogging would be acceptable. He said: "Village by laws were introduced way back in 1870 when we were colonised. So the colonial government put in place bylaws. And some of those bylaws in those days were actually quite oppressive. Obviously any suggestions of any bylaws would not be oppressive and we can only comment once we see what has been proposed.”
Picture: Proposed by-laws to take the fun out of village life?