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SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, May 4) – Fiji Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase today proposed a new commission that would have the power to recommend pardons for individuals who committed coup-related crimes.

[The proposal, to establish an independent "Reconciliation and Unity Commission," was immediately dismissed by parliamentary opposition leader and former Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry as a ploy to free officials convicted of complicity in the country’s 2000 coup]

"The commission will operate along the lines of a legal concept known as restorative justice, which is gaining increasing international recognition," Qarase said.

Those involved in the 2000 upheaval would get a chance to confess their crime before the commission, which would then make recommendations to the President on possible amnesty, he said.

"The main purpose is to help us to bring a greater degree of closure to what happened in 2000," Qarase said. "It will enable us to more effectively concentrate on nation-building, strengthening our economy and improving living standards.

"Another crucial function of the commission is to inquire into cases of the political and civil unrest of five years ago and make associated recommendations," Qarase added.

He said his government would submit a bill to create the commission at the next sitting of the House of Representatives, on May 16.

Chaudhry said Qarase is trying to circumvent the rule of law in Fiji.

"He is now trying to hide behind technicalities," Chaudhry said. "We are all aware of the true intent and purpose of this proposed Bill. The SDL government is threatened by this continued prosecution, conviction and jailing of key members of its Cabinet."

Mahy 5, 2005


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