2 Jun 2005

Security tight as Fiji PM speaks on Reconciliation Bill

10:14 am on 2 June 2005

Fiji police have tightened security around parliament as the prime minister gives a speech at the second reading of the Reconciliation and Unity Bill.

Laisenia Qarase says the legislation doesn't signify a wholesale amnesty for 2000 coup convicts such as the frontman, George Speight.

"There is no general pardon for everybody - that's not going to happen. The legislation is drafted in such a way that it will focus only on people who can prove that their participation was purely for a political purpose."

Mr Qarase says amnesties would be for those who can prove their participation was for political purposes.

He says the aim of the Bill is to improve relationships within the country.

It's the clash of tradition and cultures with Western values that has been the problem in Fiji; and we are trying to find ways of resolving some of these issues, so that we can move forward as a united country.

Demonstrators have gathered to protest outside parliament during the speech.

Present in the public gallery inside are uniformed army and navy officers who are demonstrating the military's opposition to the Bill.

The NGO Coalition on Human Rights has called on demonstrators to wear black and put gags over their mouths.

The coordinator of the Fiji Women's Rights Movement, Virisila Buadromo, called on people to come in numbers to demonstrate their opposition to the Bill.

The police commissioner, Andrew Hughes, says they are closely monitoring the security situation around the country because of fears that sharply divided views on the Bill could precipitate the mobilisation of people and create the potential for violence.