NINE FIJI PROVINCES, ROTUMA, SUPPORT ‘UNITY’ BILL

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, July 12) - Nine of Fiji’s 14 provinces as well as chiefs from the dependency of Rotuma have pledged their support for the Qarase Government's controversial Promotion of Reconciliation, Tolerance and Unity Bill, which would allow amnesty for coup-related crimes.

With the Great Council of Chiefs meeting scheduled for the end of this month, only five provinces are yet to air their views on the Bill.

Provinces that have backed the Bill include Ba, Kadavu, Lomaiviti, Namosi, Naitasiri, Nadroga/Navosa, Ra, Serua and Tailevu.

Provinces that will be consulted by a Government team before the end of this month include Bua, Cakaudrove, Macuata, Rewa and Lau.

Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, who will be in Bua today, said the people of Bua had pledged their support for the Bill during a Cabinet meeting there last week.

He said he would lead a team to provide consultation on the Bill in Bua, Cakaudrove and Macuata and Lau.

"The people of Bua have stated their support of the Bill even though we have not conducted any consultation on the issue," he said.

Qarase said the grassroots people were well informed about the Bill and its contents and this was a good sign.

Fiji Labour Party senior parliamentarian Poseci Bune said he would not be part of the consultation for his constituency of Macuata in Labasa on Thursday.

He said most Fijians do not support the Bill as shown by the number who have signed a petition against it.

"The number of Fijians who have signed against the Bill is more than those who are supporting it from the provinces," he said.

He said the provincial councils were manipulating the people and the Government should have consulted the Great Council of Chiefs before designing the Bill.

As well, he said the provincial councils should have consulted with the GCC before making their decisions on the Bill.

Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua Party national director Jale Baba said: "There is nothing sinister about the Bill and the timing fits into the scheme of things."

He said most of the provinces that were not sure of what the Bill was all about had shown their support after a presentation from the Government team.

July 13, 2005

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