19 May 2005

Fiji political party seeks referendum on Reconciliation Bill

10:15 am on 19 May 2005

The National Alliance Party of Fiji has called for a referendum on the government's controversial Reconciliation and Unity Bill.

The Bill will set up a commission with powers to fast track amnesty for coup convicts like George Speight, erase their criminal records, give immunity to those not yet prosecuted and suspend court proceedings against those facing charges.

Radio reports quote the secretary of the National Alliance, Meli Waqa, as saying a referendum will obtain the views of the people on the proposed Bill.

Mr Waqa says the Bill should also be referred to the Supreme Court to seek its opinion on whether it contravenes provisions of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution.

He says when the Bill is finally debated in parliament, MPs should be given a conscience vote so they do not have to vote along party lines.

Mr Waqa says the prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, has made an unconvincing comparison between the proposed Bill and the immunity provisions of the 1997 Constitution covering Sitiveni Rabuka and others for the 1987 military coups.

Mr Waqa says there is a big difference between the two because the Constitution was passed after five years of consultations but the Reconciliation and Unity Bill has been drawn up in secret and sprung on the country without any consultations.