SUVA, Fiji - Fiji's premier has promised to jail for "many years" dissidents, including those based overseas, that he claimed were plotting to overthrow his government amid reports of attempts in the Pacific nation to set up a breakaway state.
Some 70 people have been arrested and charged with sedition in recent months, the Fiji Sun has reported, with Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama vowing to crush any attempt at insurrection as he highlighted the alleged role of nationals living overseas.
In a speech Saturday, Bainimarama said those allegedly plotting against the country included "certain high profile figures in Australia".
Bainimarama, who seized power in a 2006 coup, did not name any individuals specifically.
"If you encourage sedition, you are committing a serious offence," he said.
"The hand of the law is very long. And rest assured that the authorities in Fiji will not rest until you are brought to justice."
He added: "They will not succeed. And if you are foolish enough to join them, you will be severely punished and could spend many years in jail."
His comments came after Immigration Director Nemani Vuniwaqa confirmed to the Sun that Bainimarama had banned Australian-based Fiji-born Mereoni Kirwin from entering the country because she was "in attempts to form a so-called Christian state in (provinces) Ra and Nadroga".
Separately, authorities had also claimed a former British army officer, whom they say is a Fijian national, has been secretly running military-style training camps in several villages as part of a plot to form a breakaway Christian state on the main island of Viti Levu. The veteran has not been identified.
Fiji has a history of political unrest, with Bainimarama's FijiFirst Party winning a general election last year in the first public vote since he led a military overthrow of the elected government eight years earlier.
It was the fourth coup in 20 years in the island nation, and Bainimarama said he would not tolerate any challenge to his government.
"The current government was chosen by the Fijian people as a whole at the election almost a year ago. It is the only lawful government," he said.
"The people behind these insurrections don't believe in democracy, in listening to the will of the people. They want to impose their will on everyone else.
"They are enemies of the state and enemies of the Fijian people... and we are going to track them down and bring them to justice."