The Fiji Labour Party is relieved that good sense has prevailed and the regime’s decision to expel Catholic priest and social activist Father Kevin Barr, rescinded.
Nevertheless, the Party condemns in the strongest terms possible the earlier order to Father Barr to leave Fiji by Sunday January 27, causing him so much discomfort and inconvenience.
It was clearly vindictive and spiteful and no doubt connected to the muchpublicized incident about Father Barr’s quip on the Chinese flag replacing the British Union Jack in the design of a new Fiji flag.
The entire episode centred on the crack about the Chinese flag – the Commodore’s reported verbal abuse of Father Barr, the threat not to renew his work permit and the subsequent directive from Immigration ordering him to leave the country virtually within 48 hours – is indicative of the repressive, vengeful manner in which Fiji continues to be ruled.
Father Barr has been noted for his courageous and unequivocal advocacy of the rights and interests of the poor, the unemployed and the under-privileged in our society.
It is significant, that in declaring him a Prohibited Immigrant, Minister for Immigration Joketani Cokanasiga gave no reason except to say he had breached his work permit.
The FLP is appalled that a Catholic priest who had dedicated the best 32 years of his life to serving Fiji’s poor and needy should be treated in such a reprehensible manner.
It creates anxieties about the continued repressive environment in which the process to return Fiji to democratic rule is being conducted.