17 May 2005

Fiji PM defends controversial proposed bill

9:56 pm on 17 May 2005

Fiji's prime minister has used the immunity given to the leader of the 1987 military coups, Sitiveni Rabuka, to defend his government's Reconciliation and Unity Bill.

The Bill will set up a commission with powers to fast track amnesty for coup convicts like George Speight, erase their criminal records and give immunity to those not yet prosecuted.

Laisenia Qarase has told Radio Legend that the immunity decree for Mr Rabuka and others enshrined in the 1997 Constitution was passed by the very same people who are rejecting his Bill.

Mr Rabuka, when head of the 1987 military government, conferred immunity on himself and others which was later made part of the post-coup 1990 Constitution imposed by decree.

During the negotiations for the 1997 Constitution when Mr Rabuka was prime minister, that immunity was transferred to the current constitution.

Mr Qarase says the Rabuka immunity decree was passed in parliament by many of the same people, including Mahendra Chaudhry, who are attacking his Reconciliation and Unity Bill.

Mr Qarase says the amnesty provision in the current Bill is nothing compared with the immunity provisions in the 1997 Constitution.