9 Feb 2006

Confirmation that Fiji government delaying amnesty law

7:27 am on 9 February 2006

It's been confirmed the Fiji government has been forced to delay tabling its controversial Reconciliation and Unity Bill in the next session of parliament, which begins on Monday.

Fiji TV reports that the prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, informed the opposition of this in Tuesday's meeting of the House of Representatives business committee.

The secretary general to parliament, Mary Chapman, had earlier confirmed that the revised Bill would be tabled in the new session.

But Mr Qarase says urgent amendments to the current Bill mean they don't have enough time to bring it back to the Lower House.

The opposition leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, has welcomed the decision, but says he is still waiting for a definite answer on when government will table it.

At least 272 submissions were received from the public on the Bill, most of them fiercely opposed to it.

The International Bar Association is the latest international body to criticise the legislation, saying it gives too much emphasis to amnesty provisions which undermine the judiciary and not enough to victims of the coup.

In its original form the Bill was designed to set up a Commission to fast track amnesty for coup convicts like Speight, erase their criminal records, give immunity to those not yet prosecuted and ask the courts to suspend proceedings against those facing charges.