24 Jun 2005

Australian lawyer doubts Fiji's Reconciliation and Unity Bill will get far

6:28 pm on 24 June 2005

A top Australian criminal lawyer forced by the Fiji government to leave the country says he doubts the government's Reconciliation and Unity Bill will get far.

The former deputy director of public prosecutions, Peter Ridgway, - who played a crucial role in winning convictions against key coup perpetrators - says that even if the bill is passed by parliament, it 's unlikely to become law.

Mr Ridgway predicts that any attempt to enact the amnesty provisions of the bill will be met by a constitutional challenge.

"The bill, certainly in relation to its amnesty portions, contains so many outrages to all constitutional principle, that I just cannot conceive the bill ever surviving a challenge before a credibly constituted tribunal."

Mr Ridgway says any talk of a military overthrow of the government is premature.

He also says the bill is more about amnesty than reconciliation and has very little to do with truth