|Chaudhry and members at March 24 meeting|
Labour Party members accused of holding a meeting without a permit in Lautoka last night have been arrested and are believed to still being interviewed.
The Fiji Labour Party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, says he was contacted last night about the arrests as they were taking place.He told FBC News: "When I received a call at about 9 o clock from Vyas Deo Sharma that police were arresting them and accused them of holding a meeting without a permit and after that the call was terminated because the police took the phone away from him."
Chaudhry says he was unable to contact Sharma until nine o'clock this morning.
"They were still at the police station and interviewed and I am not sure what is happening at the moment but I was told they were having a yaqona session at a private residence when police barged in.”
In a statement, the Ministry of Information permanent secretary, Sharon Smith Johns, says 'while Fijian Government respected the rights of citizens in this country to convene and hold meetings especially those of political nature, it is unfortunate that certain groups continued to disregard the laws of the country.'
“The Fiji Labour Party, one of the most informed political parties in the country, has chosen to hold a meeting without a permit. It begs the question; is the Fiji Labour Party doing this deliberately to draw attention to itself?
“We remind the FLP once again that they must operate within the laws of Fiji."
The SDL leader, Laisenia Qarase, has told Radio Tarana permits are only needed for public meetings not private ones. He says: "It's just harassment of the Fiji Labour party, people and their parties."
As with other political parties including, SDL, FLP have been holding meetings as part of talks for a new Constitution to replace the one the regime abrogated in 2009 and have all required permits.
The first FLP meeting was March 24 at which the above picture was taken.
All meetings of late, however, even those with permits (including the recent Anglican synod) have had military in attendance, albeit out of uniform.
Editor's Note Friday morning: Chaudhry says those arrested were released yesterday without being charged.
The president of the United Peoples Party, Mick Beddoes (above), has meanwhile described the arrests as counterproductive to the start of the Constitutional Consultations saying it was yet another example of the 'states abuse of citizen’s rights at the start of the supposed road map back to democratic governance.'