Fiji opposition MP Biman Prasad says government using police to 'intimidate' rivals

The leader of an opposition political party in Fiji has called his detention and questioning by police an example of intimidation by the government. 

National Federation Party leader Biman Prasad was among several MPs taken into custody for criticising plans to change land rules - all while COVID-19 continues to run rampant in the community. 

On Monday Professor Prasad was getting back to business, after an unexpected interruption at his home last night.

Detectives turned up in an unmarked car outside his front gate.

He was taken away by detectives over what he says was his party's criticism of proposed changes to land legislation. 

"This is a government which uses police powers to intimidate opposition political figures," he says.

Seven MPs including former Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka were detained.

Prasad called the proposed changes "arrogant and disrespectful", comments the police told him could be "malicious" - and that's why he was taken in.  

He says he believes police were only acting on orders. 

"This is a government which is completely dictatorial and we've seen that in the past. This is not the first time that I have been arrested." 

He says police have indicated they'll need to question him further. But the most pervasive threat in Fiji right now is not from divergent political views, rather, it's from the Delta variant of COVID-19.

"Fiji's seven day rolling average of cases per million, per day, remains among the highest in the world," said Dr James Fong, Fiji Health Ministry's Permanent Secretary.

Fiji's last update noted 626 new cases and nine deaths. Among those who died was an unvaccinated 44-year-old pregnant healthcare worker whose baby was safely delivered by cesarean. 

The virus is out of control in the Suva-Nausori corridor, and with labs overwhelmed, the ministry's stopped testing everyone in this area to focus on emerging clusters in the Western Division. 

"This means that if you develop symptoms in Suva-Nausori you should just assume you have COVID-19 and self-isolate for 14 days, said Dr Aalisha Sahukhan, the Ministry of Health and Medical Services' Head of Health Protection.

If you're over 50 and get COVID symptoms, the advice is to still seek medical help. 

But with changes in testing priorities, the true extent of Fiji's COVID caseload will now be much higher than what the official figures show.