Bainimarama in breach of Political Parties Decree - UFDF
UFDF says Bainimarama should be held accountable for his apparent breach of the Political Parties Decree.
Fiji's main political grouping says it will be asking police to investigate Rear Admiral Frank Bainimarama's apparent breach of the Political Parties Decree.
The coordinator of the United Front for a Democratic Fiji, Mick Beddoes, says Rear Admiral Bainimarama should be held accountable for campaigning and appointing candidates before his party has been registered, in contravention of the decree.
Mr Beddoes told Mary Baines a different set of rules apply to Rear Admiral Bainimarama - and the planned media monitoring unit is unlikely to do anything to change that.
MICK BEDDOES: They've got immunity from prosecution. They're still operating under the decree that kind of gives them parliamentary privilege, even though we don't have a parliament in place. With this parliamentary privilege they can criticise, make up false statements, make outrageous and false accusations about any of the opponents, but the opponents can't challenge them in any court of law. They've also got coverage for all of the crimes and associated breaches of the law since the coup of 2006, up until today in their immunity decree and their immunity provisions. And they're also covered for anything they're about to say until the elections. And then they've created these set of laws which we continue to call draconian, the Political Parties Decree. The other political parties who have been long established had 28 days to form or register their parties. The SODELPHA took a little longer because it had to change its name, but essentially they only had a limited time in which to do this and collect 5,000 signatures each. But here we have the regime who's got all of these added protections, 381 days later and they still haven't collected their 5,000 signatures and now they're going around passing themselves off as a political party, in direct breach of decree number four.
MARY BAINES: Under the Political Parties Decree, one cannot purport to be part of an association or political party without being registered. So is Rear Admiral Bainimarama in breach of the Decree by announcing that Luveni will be running with him in the election?
MICK BEDDOES: Well, absolutely. In fact section 3, the amended section, clearly states that. It says any media organisation reports, represents or holds out an association or person or an organisation of a political party when that organisation or person is not registered under a party under the Decree, then they're in breach. And even the media organisations who are promoting this fact are also committing an offence. The question is, so what is the media watchdog doing about this? Here we have some organisations in clear breach of the Decree, that's decree number four, 2013. And nothing's happening.
MARY BAINES: So who should ensure that this Decree is enforced?
MICK BEDDOES: The police, and the media watchdog, whoever they are, should enforce the law. That's basically all that should happen. I am planning to lodge a complaint against the parties involved with respect to their breach of decree number four. And I'm going to lodge it with the police and then let them come in and do their job.
MARY BAINES: And the Electoral Commission has so far been silent on this, could it be that it is unaware of the apparent breach?
MICK BEDDOES: Highly unlikely. The Electoral Commission are all local residents, they know what's going on, they see and read the same things that we see and read. So they know exactly what's going on. The fact that they are remaining silent continues to build a case of the lack of independence of the commission and it's looking more and more as if they are simply an arm of the Attorney General's office, because they are obviously not acting as one would expect an impartial and independent Electoral Commission would act. And so far, they have been very, very disappointing in their silence.
MARY BAINES: So if Bainimarama is in breach, what should the consequences be, considering the Decree threatens those violating it with prison?
MICK BEDDOES: As far as I'm concerned, the police need to investigate the breaches that Bainimarama and the other members of his cabinet who have also held out to become part or candidates of that same party, that still hasn't been registered, and they should face the full brunt of their own Decree, and therefore they should be convicted and fined $50,000 or five years or both. That's what it says. Now if they're going to apply that to anybody else, they need to start applying it to themselves as well. And that's the one thing they perhaps did not consider when they were creating these draconian decrees, they were looking at us as the opposition and thinking, now this will fix it. But at the same time, in order for them to contest their elections, they need to register their parties and therefore they need to comply with the very same draconian laws that they've imposed on our members.
MARY BAINES: So do you think the setting up of this media monitoring unit is a significant step, do you think that it will ensure equal access to all political parties in the lead up to the election?
MICK BEDDOES: Absolutely not. The media organisation, I'm not even sure of their actual title, that's how significant they are as far as I'm concerned, their job is so manage or mediate or look over the media to ensure a free, balanced and level playing field. The playing field has been anything but free and fair. All of our comments continue to be ignored by 90 percent of the media - and that is not free, and neither is that fair. The only reports that you get in any of the media outlets is everything to do with Frank Bainimarama and the regime, and very little if any commentary from the opposition. The media is not performing in accordance with the media decree. Instead of worrying about the monitoring body, I don't know what they want to monitor, the first thing they need to do is invoke the law, make sure that the media organisations comply with the Decree.
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