19 Jan 2006

Fiji Citizens Constitutional Forum urges government to withdraw amnesty bill

9:17 am on 19 January 2006

The Citizens Constitutional Forum of Fiji has called on the government to withdraw its controversial Reconciliation and Unity Bill in the interests of national security and peace.

The call comes just as the prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, has announced that the Bill is likely to be further delayed because of amendments currently being made based on public submissions and objections.

Mr Qarase says the amendments will be further scrutinised by all stakeholders including the military before the revised Bill goes back to parliament.

A spokesperson for the Citizens Constitutional Forum says provisions of the bill empower the Amnesty Commission to cancel court martial sentences, release prisoners, grant amnesties, stop court proceedings, wipe out criminal records and decide on token compensation to victims.

Jone Dakuvula says such provisions will make a mockery of the court martial system.

He says the commissioner of prisons and the attorney general have already undermined the judgements and sentences of the courts by granting remission of sentences and extra-mural sentences to whose convicted of coup related offences.

Mr Dakuvula says the purpose of the Reconciliation and Unity Bill appears to be to prevent any further prosecutions and to enable some released prisoners to stand in the coming general election because their criminal records will be wiped out.

He says passing a bad law because an election is near is not a wise approach and the Bill should be withdrawn.