27 May 2003

Fiji senator questions penalty change to fight sex crimes

8:13 am on 27 May 2003

Fiji's senate has been told that imposing tougher penalties for sexual offences and robbery with violence is not the answer.

Senator Asesela Ravuvu, who is a nominee of the Great Council of Chiefs, has agreed that the majority of offenders in prison are indigenous Fijians but has attributed that to the inability of the current legal system to take cultural differences into account.

Senator Ravuvu, who served as chairman of the former interim administration's illegal constitution review committee, says many of the problems in the current criminal justice system arise from the sudden introduction of foreign culture into Fijian society.

He says it is little wonder that Fiji's jails are bursting with indigenous prisoners who have little understanding of the new legal system.

Senator Ravuvu says indigenous Fijians, who compromise the majority population, would suffer most from increased penalties.

He says Fijian traditional and customary ways of life have been undermined by the introduction of foreign ideas of individual and human rights by those who stand to gain from them.

His views are stark contrast with those of government senator Apisai Tora who has called for sex offenders to be stoned to death or castrated.