16 Aug 2004

Fiji's Citizens Constitutional Forum says a pardon for jailed Vice-President would be abuse of power

6:57 am on 16 August 2004

The Citizens Constitutional Forum of Fiji has warned that a pardon for the jailed vice president, Ratu Jope Seniloli, would not only be an abuse of power but also seriously undermine the rule of law.

The warning follows confirmation that Seniloli has applied for a pardon of his 4-year jail sentence for taking an illegal oath to become the usurper president in the May 2000 coup.

The Daily Post quotes the CCF's executive director, the Reverend Akuila Yabaki, as saying that the prerogative of mercy commission "should not pardon criminals who happen to be friendly with the government of the day."

The Reverend Yabaki says the Citizens Constitutional Forum has "obtained legal advice that this appeal for pardon raises the fundamental constitutional principle of equality before the law."

He says "there are a number of people convicted for offences related to the May 2000 coup who are now in jail."

But he says " none of them has applied to the Prerogative of Mercy Commission for pardon or a shortening of sentence".

The Reverend Yabaki says the right course of action for Seniloli is to resign rather than force the Great Council of Chiefs to call an emergency meeting to remove him from office for misbehaviour or inability to perform the functions of his office.

The Attorney General and Chairman of the Prerogative of Mercy Commission, Qoriniasi Bale, says he will not say anything because "people have got enough information on the issue."