20 Jul 2005

Fiji opposition leader attacks PM's claims about reconciliation bill

10:10 am on 20 July 2005

Fiji's opposition leader has categorically rejected a claim by the prime minister that the government's Reconciliation and Unity Bill will not interfere with the independence of the courts, the director of public prosecutions and the police.

In his second open letter to Laisenia Qarase, Mahendra Chaudhry says the truth is that the government has repeatedly interfered with the coup prosecutions and effectively overturned a number of important court judgements.

He says there were premature releases of the former vice president, Ratu Jope Seniloli, who was jailed for taking an illegal oath to usurp the presidency, and of Viliame Savu who was jailed for misprision of treason.

Mr Chaudhry says more recently the former minister for lands, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, and government senator, Ratu Josef Dimuri, were released to serve their sentences extra-murally after only ten days in prison.

Mr Chaudhry also says says the Reconciliation and Unity Bill exacerbates this blatant political interference by vesting authority in a politically appointed commission to overturn a court decision and allow a convicted person to walk free.

As well, Mr Chaudhry says the prime minister's decision not to extend the work contract of the former deputy director of public prosecutions, Peter Ridgeway, was a thinly veiled attempt to obstruct important coup prosecutions.

He says the Bill seriously undermines the constitutional independence of the DPP's Office by empowering a politically appointed commission to suspend criminal proceedings.