A-G talks on human rights

By JYOTI PRATIBHA Fiji’s laws and decrees do not restrict human rights, says Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. Responding to a statement released by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) after their
18 Apr 2012 16:08


Fiji’s laws and decrees do not restrict human rights, says Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.
Responding to a statement released by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) after their 37th meet in London on Monday, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum criticised the group saying that such comments on alleged restrictions on human rights were unfounded.
“Political parties, non-governmental organisations and other organisations have had full freedom to meet,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.
Given the fact that people were able to air their views to overseas and local media, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said this was testament to the fact that no restrictions were forced on people.
The CMAG met in London and received an update on recent developments in Fiji. Although the group – which includes foreign ministers of Australia and Vanuatu – welcomed the Government’s announcement of the constitutional consultation process prior to the promised 2014 elections they were urging the Government “to restore full respect for human rights, including freedom of expression and assembly, and access to justice”.
Commonwealth Secretariat communications advisor Geraldine Goh said in a statement the CMAG further noted the undertaking made by the Government that the process would be inclusive, transparent, and conducted with integrity and honesty.
“Ministers noted that the Commonwealth will be looking forward to seeing progress in the implementation of these commitments.”
The group also welcomed the lifting of the Public Emergency Regulation, but they “expressed …concern”, about what they say are “restrictions on human rights” that “remain in place under the Public Order Amendment Decree and other decrees”.
“Comments made about the restrictions of human rights are misplaced,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.
“The Public Order (Amendment) Decree 2012 is an amendment to the Public Order Act which existed previously. If you want to go down and have a march through the streets of many of the Commonwealth countries, they will ask you to have a permit to be able to carry that out.”
The Attorney-General also questioned which other decrees stated by CMAG were violating and restricting human rights.
“We would love to know which other decrees they are referring to. The only one we can think of is the Essential Industries Decree which some of the trade unionists have been going around and talking about.
“The Essential National Industries Decree, however, does not prohibit the formation of trade unions nor does it restrict any form of human rights.”
The Attorney-General said that while Australian Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, advocates adherence to the rule of law, he does not want people to be prosecuted, when they breach the law.
“If we see comments made by people like Bob Carr on Radio New Zealand, he is saying that certain members of certain organisations had been detained.
“What he fails to acknowledge is that these persons have been charged under the laws of Fiji. If there is any allegation of people breaching the laws and they are appearing before independent judiciary, there is a process that has been followed.
“I am sure whether a person is trade unionist or not, if they breach the law or there is an allegation of breaching the law in Australia, they will be charged under the law.  Similarly, we have had people who have been charged under the law, it would appear that on one hand, Bob Carr talks about the rule of law being adhered to but he does not want people who breached the law to be charged under the law.”
CMAG has also expressed its support for the Commonwealth’s continued engagement with the Government and other stakeholders
Ministers who were part of the meet, welcomed the talks with all principal stakeholders in Fiji held during the visit of Commonwealth deputy secretary-general Masire-Mwamba to Fiji in March 2012, and encouraged the further strengthening of such high-level interaction.
The group reaffirmed the Commonwealth’s readiness to provide technical assistance for constitutional consultations and election preparations, and other appropriate support, and requested the Secretary-General to remain engaged with Fiji in that regard.
This was the group’s first regular meeting following its reconstitution by Commonwealth Heads of Government at their meeting in Perth in October 2011.

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