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Fiji's Bainimarama to end martial law

Agence France Presse - January 2, 2012

Nearly three years of living under martial law in Fiji will end this weekend when the emergency regulations will be lifted, military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama has announced.

The tough regulations, introduced by Bainimarama in April 2009 after the Fiji Appeal Court ruled his 2006 coup to be illegal, imposed tight censorship on the news media and banned public meetings.

He also repealed the constitution, sacked the judiciary and gave the police and military power to detain people without charge.

But in his New Year message, Bainimarama said the regulations would be lifted on Saturday to pave the way for consultation on a new constitution.

"I will, over the next few weeks, announce the nationwide consultation process which will commence in February 2012," he said. "To facilitate this consultation process the public emergency regulations will cease from January 7, 2012."

Bainimarama, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 2006, said that even though the emergency regulations were being lifted "public order, protecting the vulnerable and safeguarding the economy, will always be paramount".

After failing to honour initial pledges for an early return to democracy, resulting in Fiji facing sanctions from many countries and expulsion from the Commonwealth, Bainimarama has promised elections in 2014.

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