QARASE CUTS ‘AMNESTY’ FROM CONTROVERSIAL FIJI BILL -  November 6, 2006

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QARASE CUTS ‘AMNESTY’ FROM CONTROVERSIAL FIJI BILL

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, November 5) – Fiji Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase says the contentious amnesty clause in the Reconciliation, Tolerance and Unity Bill has been dropped.

"I want to say that quite categorically now that there is no longer an amnesty provision in the new Bill," he said. "I must say too that the Bill is outside Cabinet, we have to re-submit it to Cabinet and then to Parliament. It is a changed Bill; substantially changed."

Qarase said it was not done to please the military, which reignited the current stand-off with Government by calling for its resignation if it did not drop the Unity Bill and Qoliqoli Bill.

Military Commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, who returned to Fiji this morning after visiting his troops in the Middle East, has criticized the amnesty clause in the Unity Bill due to an assumption that it would release coup-plotters currently incarcerated.

[PIR editor’s note: Bainimarama has repeatedly warned Qarase to remove the amnesty clause from the bill or resign.]

Qarase said the removal of the amnesty clause "was due to the (un)constitutionality of that provision".

"It was not quite in accordance to the provisions in our Constitution," he said. "I have always indicated that that Bill must comply with the requirements of our Constitution."

Qarase said that based on the work of the sector committee, Government has revised that Bill "very substantially and there is no more amnesty clause in the revised Bill".

"The Bill will be taken back to the Cabinet by early next year," Qarase said.

He expects the Bill to be "quite acceptable" when it comes out "to even those who are opposing the Bills".

Qarase also asked the advisors of the Commander to "advise him properly" on the fact that the amnesty clause has been removed.

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