FIJI RULING PARTY DEFENDS AMNESTY FOR CONVICTS

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, July 1) – The granting of amnesty to convicts serving prison terms is constitutional and should be an integral part of the justice system, the ruling Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua Party says.

In its submission on the government’s Reconciliation and Unity Bill yesterday, party director Jale Baba said the amnesty provision of the Bill would "allow the people of Fiji to hear and come to terms with the truth of the events that led to and followed the May 2000 crisis. Only then can the nation develop meaningful strategies for long-term peace and stability," he said.

Mr Baba said allegations the Bill was developed to keep the Coalition government intact could not be further from the truth.

"We heard the Fiji Labour Party offered amnesty and Cabinet positions in 2001 to entice Conservative Alliance Matanitu Vanua members to join them in government," he said. "If that was the truth then why does FLP find the Bill so unacceptable as part of nation-building when they considered it for political expediency?"

Mr Baba said many opponents of the Bill opposed amnesty, believing the crisis of 2000 happened because of the immunity provisions in the 1990 and 1997 constitutions.

"SDL does not share this view," he said. "We believe that 2000 happened because we failed to learn from the events of 1987. The main actors of 2000 were not the same as those in 1987.

"This means that even if Rabuka and his conspirators faced the full brunt of the law and served life in prison for treason, 2000 would have still happened."

He said some countries where coup-plotters were executed still experienced coups.

Mr Jale challenged legal institutions to work outside the box.

"Our Coalition government wants to build a future that all citizens can own and be proud of," he said.

July 1, 2005

Fiji Times Online: http://www.fijitimes.com.

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