31 May 2005

Fiji Labour Party to boycott parliament over Reconciliation bill

3:21 pm on 31 May 2005

The Fiji Labour party is to boycott parliament over the government's Reconciliation and Unity bill, which has just been tabled.

The party's vice-president, Krishna Datt, says they remain totally opposed to the controversial bill which proposes to fast track amnesty for convicted coup prisoners, provide amnesty for others, and suspend court proceedings against those facing charges.

Mr Datt says some groups are taking legal action against the bill so the Labour party will make its opposition known in parliament.

"The Labour party will sit out of the house for the duration of the second reading and will not take part in any of the work on that particular bill. So, in other words, the party decision is that we will not be a party to any discussion on the bill by any of the house committees.''"

Mr Datt says there is a groundswell of public opinion against the bill but he doesn't know if the government will be willing to listen to the opposition.

The military, the police and the Fiji Law Society have presented submissions over their concerns about the bill.

The attorney-general, Qoriniasi Bale, is to attend a conference this afternoon with opposition politicians over the controversial Reconciliation and Unity bill.

The director of Fiji's Human Rights Commission, Dr Shaista Shameem, says they've set up a conciliation conference after accepting a complaint about the bill.

She says the complaint alleges that if the bill goes through and becomes an act, it will violate certain significant sections of the constitution, in particular the bill of rights provisions.

Dr Shameem says the commission will only refer the matter to court if the conciliation with the attorney-general and the complainants fails.

The complainants puts their case to the respondent, and in this case, it's the attorney-general, and say the problems they have with the bill or with whatever action the government's taken. And, there is an opportunity for the respondents to answer to the allegations and to explain or justify, and we'll see whether, in fact, a settlement can be reached.

Dr Shameem says the two parties will work on what is the best way forward.