Fiji Opposition outraged at permit requirement
Fiji's opposition SODELPA party has hit a snag in preparing for constituency meetings.
Fiji's opposition SODELPA party has hit a snag in preparing for constituency meetings this week.
Police have told the party that it must apply for permits under the Public Order Act in order to hold meetings.
But SODELPA's Mick Beddoes disagrees, and told Koro Vaka'uta the requirement is a travesty of justice.
MICK BEDDOES: We received a call from the police to say that we have to apply for a permit to meet and we advised them that no we didn't have to because this is MPs going to have constituencies meetings with their constituents and we are starting this process now because parliament is in session. The long and short of it is that the Solicitor-General has advised the police that we have to get permits for these meetings and he is citing Section 8 of the Public Order Act. But if one looks at the Public Order Act, it is actually related to, the Public Order Act is for meetings in public places that is likely to prejudice the maintenance of peace and good order. Now we got MPs going to visit constituents who need to hear from their MPs. The other part of it is that the public place as defined in the act talks about highways, public streets, roads, parks, gardens, that type of stuff. Any land or open space or building or public resort but the venues that we've selected are church halls and community halls in the areas where the electorate are so it doesn't come under that. Therefore we believe this is basically a simple matter of harassment or an attempt to stop SODELPA from going to the people.
KORO VAKA'UTA: Have you sought to seek some clarification on this? Will you be going ahead with your meetings regardless?
MB: What we are waiting for is for parliament to have its recess and then the caucus will meet and then we will make that call at that particularly time. The other side of it, and certainly the opposition has filed a couple of notices in the house today in relation to privilege etc, but quite aside from that the Bill of Rights of members and the people as individuals. There's no fewer than six rights of individuals. Their political rights, freedom of movement, freedom of speech, assembly, freedom of association. All this is being denied. Therefore it's a big issue. One that we are going to look at in more detail but for the moment we have scheduled meetings and at this juncture it is our intention to proceed with that.
KV: Am I correct that the government are holding similar meetings?
MB: As we speak they are at it and of course the response by the Attorney-General in the house this morning saying well you can't compare the government business with political parties but yes, SODELPA are members of a political party but these are the members of parliament that are going. This is not the political party per se that is going. We did canvassing and scoping in the areas that we are going to have these meetings in to get the feedback of what are the current issues that the citizens would like to raise with us. If now we are required to go out and seek permits because we are going to the people, we feel that this is absolutely outrageous.
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