NEWS

PM HITS BACK AT ARREST CRITICS

  Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama says it is disappointing that elements of the international community, without any objectivity, have issued statements of concern about the detention and questioning of Fijians
13 Sep 2016 12:13
PM HITS BACK AT ARREST CRITICS

 

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama says it is disappointing that elements of the international community, without any objectivity, have issued statements of concern about the detention and questioning of Fijians who have allegedly contravened our laws.

The six who were arrested, questioned and released were: SODELPA leader Sitiveni Rabuka, SODELPA official Tupeni Baba, National Federation Party leader Biman Prasad,  Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry, Fiji Islands Council of Trade Unions general secretary Attar Singh and Pacific Dialogue executive Jone Dakuvula. They were questioned over a panel discussion on the sugar industry.

Mr Bainimarama said: “The Public Order Act, amongst other provisions, requires any group wanting to hold a public meeting to apply for a permit from the Police before the proposed event. In this case, no application was made so the Police are entirely within their rights to question those who have allegedly contravened these provisions.”

 

“Those who attended this gathering were lawfully detained for questioning and there have been no allegations of any of their human rights being breached while in detention. These included the right to legal counsel. They were released within the 48 hours that the law prescribes as the limit at which they can be detained without appearing in court.

 

“A notable double standard is being adopted by certain countries in relation to this matter. They either suspend certain rights themselves when incarcerating their citizens or other nationals and in some instances, even on the mere suspicion of a remote threat to their national security. They have adopted practices and laws that are abhorrent to internationally accepted human rights values and principles.

Other nations turn a blind eye to or are mute on similar behaviour on the part of their friends and allies.

 

“Fiji has a sovereign right to make its own laws and in the case of the Public Order Act, it exists because of our colonial past and an unfortunate history of civil unrest in post independent Fiji which cannot be repeated. The statute in question is to ensure law and order, protect our people and maintain the health of our economy on which the welfare of every Fijian depends.

 

“Apart from having a plethora of human rights provisions, the Fijian Constitution goes further to state that the interpretation of these human rights shall be referred to international human rights law and standards.

 

“His Excellency the President has today announced a review of a number of laws in his speech opening the 2016 session of the Fijian Parliament. These include the Public Order Act. But until that review takes place, the current provisions of the Act remain and must be like all other laws enforced. The Police are carrying out their independent duty and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions will similarly carry out its own independent assessment as to whether these individuals should be prosecuted or not.

 

“Any objective assessment of what is happening on the ground in Fiji in respect of this matter requires an understanding and appreciation of the separation of powers between the independent institutions of the State. “The Fijian Government respects the independence of all these institutions, which are essential for maintaining the rule of law.”

The Delegation of the European Union for the Pacific says it “is concerned about a series of recent arrests and detentions of political, trade union and civil society leaders who attended a meeting on the Constitution on 7 September in Suva.”

“The Delegation of the European Union for the Pacific urges full respect for freedom of speech and freedom of assembly in Fiji.”

New Zealand Foreign Affairs minister Murray McCully told Radio New Zealand anything that constrained free speech and space for legitimate political debate would be of concern to the New Zealand.

 

NZ Prime Minister John Key, who was also at the Pacific Islands Forum, said he was keeping a watch on the situation.

 

“We hope that it’ll be calm and sensible there,” he said.

 

The New Zealand High Commissioner in Fiji was providing updates to the government, Mr Key said.

 

A Fijian academic in New Zealand said the arrests and detention of the five men was a blow to the nation’s morale.

 

Canterbury University professor Steven Ratuva said the police actions would have serious implications for the future.

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