|NAMOSI PROTEST: Samisoni's arrest reportedly linked to the anti-government stand.|
The family of Fijian businesswoman and former SDL MP, Dr Mere Samisoni, has been warned by her lawyers she might be charged with conspiracy by the country's military rulers when the courts reopen tomorrow.
The 74-year-old grandmother of 11 could be one of the last to be prosecuted under the Public Emergency Regulation, which Frank Bainimarama yesterday confirmed will be lifted on Saturday.
Samisoni was arrested on December 30 under the PER which permits the regime to hold someone without charge for 7 days and use whatever force is deemed necessary.
The decree also muzzles media reporting and most aspects of civic society.
Samisoni, who founded the popular 30-store Hot Bread Kitchen chain before turning to politics, has been held in Suva's infamous Central Police Station over the long New Year's weekend.
Her daughter Vanessa Charters, speaking on the family's behalf, says they had been told that her mother has allegedly made a confession:
"At this moment in time we aren’t sure what this alleged confession relates to but we do know for a fact, we have had it independently verified, that Mum's lawyer was not present at the time of this so-called confession.
"In any normal court of law this so-called confession should not be worth the paper it is written on."
The PER decree was introduced in April 2009 following a Fiji Court of Appeal decision that ruled Bainimarama's regime was illegal. In the aftermath of this, the country's 1997 constitution was abrogated, PER introduced, and Bainimarama now rules Fiji by decree.
The grip that Fiji's military leadership has on the country is being increasingly tested by severe economic hardship with GDP growth at the end of 2011 less than one percent and inflation at 9 percent.
According to the regime's own statistics, more than a third of the country live below the poverty line and in rural areas since the 2006 coup more than two out of every five of the population survive on less than F$5 a day.
In a recent World Bank survey Fiji was relegated 25 places in only two years and is now ranked 77th of 183 countries in terms of 'Ease of Doing Business'.
Increasingly the military-led government has tried to jump start the economy by focusing on a series of lucrative but deeply divisive initiatives including the country's first ever casino, a F$290 million project to be built near Nadi featuring 500 slot machines and more than 60 gaming tables.
Last month a controversial copper mine project in the interior province of Namosi - said to be worth a F$1 billion - prompted displays of public anger from many local villagers despite the ban on unsanctioned protests under the PER.