22 Dec 2015

Fiji AG out of line - law expert

12:43 pm on 22 December 2015

A New Zealand law expert says Fiji's attorney general violated the founding principles of democracy when he interfered in a parliamentary committee looking into allegations of torture by security forces.

Fiji Finance Minister, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum

Fiji Finance Minister, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum Photo: Supplied

Last week, Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum called the chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on foreign affairs and defence and told him its investigations into allegations raised by local lawyer Aman Ravindra-Singh were illegal, resulting in the committee suspending its investigations.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum later told Fiji media that the committee members were not suitably qualified and that the investigation should be carried out by police.

He also insisted he had acted within his rights in advising the committee.

But the University of Auckland's Bill Hodge says Mr Sayed-Khaiyum overstepped the boundaries set out by the original British bill of rights of 1689, which governs the separation of powers in democracies and parliaments all around the world.

"The attorney general is actually part of the executive and the original privileges for parliament were designed to prevent the executive from interfering. That is exactly why we have these privileges to keep the attorney general out of it."

Dr Hodge also says the speaker of parliament despite being the head of the house has no power over committees, and only a motion by the whole house can limit or terminate standing committee functions.

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