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Page last updated at 04:21 GMT, Wednesday, 15 April 2009 05:21 UK

Fiji devalues dollar in crackdown

Frank Bainimarama, 9 April 2009 (image from Fijian government website)
Army chief Frank Bainimarama has strengthened his grip on power

Fiji has devalued its currency by 20%, amid a continuing political crisis.

The new Reserve Bank governor Sada Reddy made the announcement soon after he was installed by the military-led government.

His predecessor, Savenaca Narube, was dismissed on Tuesday and is reported to have been detained.

Military chief Frank Bainimarama has strengthened his grip and blocked radio broadcasts since a court ruled last week that his rule was illegal.

Fiji's central bank also announced the introduction of exchange controls to prevent capital flight.

It said the devaluation would help boost Fijian tourism and exports - both badly hit by the political crisis and global economic downturn.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said the Fiji economy was in serious strife even before the last week's upheaval and the military did not understand the role of the central bank.

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith described Fiji as "now effectively a self-imposed military dictatorship".

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that its transmitters in Fiji have been disabled to prevent local broadcasts, but said its short-wave service continued.

The Pacific Islands News Association has called on the government "to immediately remove its security force presence in newsrooms and to stop its censoring of news items".

Free speech 'trouble'

In an interview with Radio New Zealand, Mr Bainimarama said he was determined to carry out what he described as reforms.

He defended the introduction of emergency regulations that include an edict that the local Fijian media publishes only positive news, saying Fiji does not need free and open public discussion about current issues.

"That was how we ended up with what we came up with in the last couple of days," he told Radio New Zealand.

"The circumstances have changed. We [the government] now decide what needs to be done for our country, for the reforms that need to be put in place for us to have a better Fiji," he said.

Fiji's Court of Appeal ruled last Thursday that the Bainimarama regime, in power since staging a 2006 coup, was illegal under the country's 1997 constitution.

In response, the country's ailing President Josefa Iloilo sacked the judges, dissolved the constitution and reappointed Mr Bainimarama, who then said there would be no democratic elections until 2014.



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