9 Jun 2005

New Zealand foreign minister says Fiji bill cannot be basis for legal coup

10:45 am on 9 June 2005

The New Zealand foreign minister, Phil Goff, has rejected the assertion that there can be a legal military coup in Fiji if the Reconciliation and Unity Bill is passed.

The Fiji government Bill calls for a commission that can give amnesty to coup convicts who can prove that they had acted out of political motivation.

A Fiji politician, Filipe Bole, says the Bill has to be thrown out because it could create the basis for a legal coup, with the military being able to defend any move as a political act.

Mr Goff disagrees with the claim.

"This is a matter that needs to be determined civilly. It can't be determined by the military and certainly there aren't circumstances where we would regard it as acceptable that the military overthrew the government even for the best of causes."

Mr Goff says while New Zealand can encourage reconciliation, it isn't possible to excuse violence.

Those who act criminally need to be dealt with within the criminal law but those who overthrow a democratically elected government for political purposes, they are also committing criminal offences and really can't be seen as constituting a separate category and something that is more acceptable.