5 May 2005

Fiji opposition damns proposed reconciliation law

10:22 am on 5 May 2005

The Fiji Opposition leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, says a proposed new reconciliation law is nothing more than a political ploy by the Prime Minister, who's misled the nation.

Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase says he will introduce a Reconciliation and Unity Bill to Parliament in a bid to speed reconciliation following the 2000 coup, and earlier coups.

Copies of the Bill are not available, but the Government denies that it is designed to free coup convicts and to end all coup investigations.

But Mahendra Chaudhry says the Bill would introduce two standards of justice: one for common criminals, and another for those acting under traditional and community obligations.

Mr Chaudhry says Mr Qarase has misled Fiji and his Bill is not about genuine reconciliation.

"They're trying to get off the hook members of the Qarase Government and some chiefs who were actually responsible for what happened and who actually misguided and misled their people into committing criminal acts."

Mr Chaudhry says the proposed Reconciliation and Unity Commission is too late and the law must be left to take its course.

The Fiji Attorney-General Qoriniasi Bale has rejected suggestions that the proposed new law is designed to free coup convicts and end coup investigations.

And he denies that the Government has lost faith in the court process.

We respect the processes that have gone, but it's been hanging around for far too long now, and like I said, we would like to close that chapter as soon as possible of an unhappy past for this nation and move forward.

Mr Bale says the Bill will be tabled shortly and is expected to be debated in August.