FIJI GOVERNMENT SHELVES CONTROVERSIAL ‘UNITY BILL’

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By Ana Tamani

SUVA, Fiji (FijiSUN, Feb. 9) - The Fiji government has been forced to shelve the controversial Reconciliation, Tolerance and Unity Bill because it did not have enough time to make the necessary amendments.

The revelation comes a week before the first session of Parliament for the new year begins.

Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase said yesterday that it was highly unlikely that the Unity Bill would return to Parliament for debate in this term.

Opposition Leader Mahendra Chaudhry said while the party welcomed the decision, it would like to see the Unity Bill completely withdrawn.

"We’ve always been opposed to this bill from the start," he said.

Soqosoqo ni Vakavulewa ni Taukei Party spokeswoman Ema Druavesi said the whole process was a waste of taxpayers’ money.

"The sector committee visited the public to get their views on the bill. How much of taxpayers’ money was used?" Druavesi asked.

She said the government had failed to honor its agreement with the Conservative Alliance Matanitu Vanua Party, which they had reached immediately after the 2001 General Election.

"The agreement was that the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua Party government would free all those implicated in the 2000 coup if the Conservative Alliance Matanitu Vanua Party were to join as a coalition," she said. "And all those implicated are Conservative Alliance Matanitu Vanua Party members. Now the Government has failed to honor that."

Transport Minister and Conservative Alliance Matanitu Vanua Party member Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu said he would comment only after a party caucus meeting.

The Parliamentary Select committee on Justice, Law and Order, headed by deputy speaker Manasa Tugia, received more than 200 submissions on the Unity Bill.

Among others things, the Unity Bill intended to: Provide for the establishment of a Reconciliation and Unity Commission and a Promotion of Reconciliation, Tolerance and Unity Council, their respective compositions, powers, functions and procedures; provide for mechanisms, measures, criteria and procedures for the promotion of reconciliation and the fostering of understanding, tolerance and unity of all people of the Fiji Islands; and provide for measures and mechanisms aimed at promoting and fostering tolerance and genuine unity among the people of the Fiji Islands, and them making recommendations thereto aimed at preventing the perpetration of politically-motivated violations of human rights in future.

[PIR editor’s note: A key point of contention in the controversial bill is its provision of a form of amnesty for those convicted of coup related crimes.]

February 10, 2006

FijiSUN: http://www.sun.com.fj/

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