Cases Show Everyone Is Equal Before The Law

But accused have rights too. They are innocent until proven guilty This is an edited version of Nemani Delaibatiki’s  My Say in FBC TV’s 4 The Record programme Who said
07 Dec 2015 10:30
Cases Show Everyone Is Equal Before The Law
Pita Matairavula outside Court after he was granted bail by Naisnu Magistrate Court yesterday. Photo: RONALD KUMAR.

But accused have rights too. They are innocent until proven guilty

This is an edited version of Nemani Delaibatiki’s  My Say in FBC TV’s 4 The Record programme

Who said members of the military operate with impunity?

Recently we have seen some of them being hauled to court to answer a raft of charges from alleged assault to alleged bribery.

It corrects a wrong perception that members of the military are a law unto themselves. At the same time we need to respect the normal processes of the law  and the fact that all accused have rights too, especially the right to a fair hearing and a fair trial.

They have the same status as other people who have been charged and brought to court. They are innocent until proven guilty. This principle is a legal concept which guarantees that the guilt of an accused person cannot be presumed.

Consequently, a defendant must be assumed to be innocent until proven otherwise. This is a fundamental protection for all persons accused of a crime.

The notion of innocent until proven guilty is widely held point of view in many legal systems across the world. It is protected in our Constitution. Basically it gives the accused the opportunity for a fair trial and legal representation.

That is the reason why the Government has set up Legal Aid assistance offices throughout the country to boost services in family law, maintenance, custody, domestic violence cases.

This is in addition to traditional criminal cases that have been the forte of the Legal Aid Commission since its inception in 1998.

From next year the commission is expected to handle conveyancing, as part of the Commission’s work to make law accessible for all Fijians, particularly in relation to the transfer of property titles.

These developments show that our legal and justice system is fulfilling its role within the democratic framework of our Constitution.

The Police, under the new leadership of acting Commissioner Brigadier-General Sitiveni Qiliho, is working towards ensuring that everyone is treated equally before the law including those from the military and the Police.

FICAC must also be commended for carrying out its role admirably in the fight against abuse and corruption. The number of cases that come before the courts  prosecuted by FICAC, indicates the size and seriousness of corruption in our country.

But we need to be reminded that all those people charged are innocent until proven guilty. We must not subject them through trial by social media which from time to time carries unlawful commentaries on matters that have serious legal implications and could prejudice cases.

We should allow the law to take its own course and for the courts to carry out their duties. There are checks and balances now in our new democracy that ensure good governance, transparency and accountability.

Two of the agencies that ensure there is integrity in the system and the law is followed are FICAC and the Police. They are guardians of the law. That is why proposed changes in the Police by Brigadier-General Qiliho will improve services and restore confidence.

Talking about improving services and restoring confidence four Naitasiri MPs deserve recognition for the great work they are doing in their province.

Minister for Immigration, National Security and Defence Timoci Natuva, Alifereti Nabulivou (also chairman of the Naitasiri Provincial Council) and SODELPA Opposition MPs Ro Kiniviliame Kiliraki and Aseri Radrodro have put aside their political differences to help their Naitrasiri people.

These are the people who voted them in Parliament and they need help. They have recognised that Naitasiri needs to lift its performance in education and develop its land and forest resources.

The unity shown by the MPs in supporting the provincial fundraising drive for an education scholarship fund has motivated the Naitasiri people.

Organisers say it was one of the biggest gatherings of Naitasiri people in a long time. It shows that good, strong leadership will bring people together. It also shows that parliamentarians can put aside their political differences and come together for a common good.

Other MPs would do well if they emulate the four.

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