NATION

Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Director Suggests Dialogue On Public Order Act

Mr Raj said the right to express different democratic opinions needs to be balanced with the maintenance of public order and national security.
19 Aug 2019 13:52
Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Director Suggests Dialogue On Public Order Act
Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission (HRADC) director Ashwin Raj.

There is a pressing need for dialogue in upholding and balancing the constitutional right to freedom of association, assembly and freedom of speech and expression.

The Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission director, Ashwin Raj, made the remarks after the Fiji Trades Union Congress could not get an approval for a permit to march and rally for workers’ rights.

Mr Raj said the right to express different democratic opinions needs to be balanced with the maintenance of public order and national security.

“Striking the right balance between these rights and the responsibilities that come with those rights is important because we have a history,” he said.

“In 2000, what started as a peaceful assembly and protest descended into violence.

“At the same time, it is equally important that people are able to express their concerns in a democracy.”

Whether it is on workers’ rights or any other issues, Mr Raj said people should be able to express themselves in a safe environment, but without threatening or compromising the safety, security and rights and freedoms of others.

He said though the permit to march was rejected, trade unionists and their supporters including politicians and academics were able to assemble in Suva, Lautoka and Nadi and freely express dissent without any obstruction from the Police.

He added such forms of peaceful assembly do not pose security risks.

Mr Raj said if people were unable to secure permits then they could perhaps think of new constructive ways in which citizens could gather and freely express their views on critical issues such as panel discussions and meetings in a hall.

He added there were countries with advanced democratic systems where people gather in a safe space to express their dissent, as opposed to marching on the streets.

Edited by Percy Kean

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