20 Apr 2005

Fiji lawyer scorns plans to give chiefs immunity

9:05 pm on 20 April 2005

The lawyer in Fiji who acted for MPs taken hostage in 2000 has criticised proposals to give chiefs immunity from prosecution.

Wendall Archibald dismisses suggestions the laws will recognise that the role of chiefs in resolving political, economic and social disputes is essential.

Rather, Mr Archibald says rather the chiefs have been instrumental in INSTIGATING the disputes themselves.

"It wouldn't hold water here, there were chiefs involved in the 2000 disturbance who were clearly on the side of the rebels, shall we call them, and there were chiefs who were clearly on the other side, and there were chiefs who wouldn't really take one side or the other; you know, they're human beings too."

However, Mr Archibald credits the recently convicted Vanua Levu chief, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, with having helped to stamp out corrupt practices in local government.

The government contends that chiefs, in general, should be accorded immunity for their ability to draw people together, for peaceful ends.