16 Jun 2005

Fiji government defends Reconciliation Bill

10:23 am on 16 June 2005

The Fiji government is seeking to deflect criticism that its controversial Reconciliation and Unity Bill will result in a culture of coups and legalise future overthrows of elected governments.

Radio Legend reports that the attorney general, Qoriniasi Bale, has told a public awareness seminar on the Bill that the government is seeking to add a clause making this the last amnesty ever granted.

Mr Bale says "there will be no future reprieve or amnesty for those implicated in any future uprising."

The Fiji Law Society, the military, trade unions and NGOs have all said the Bill will promote a culture of coups in Fiji provided perpetrators can claim political motivation.

In presenting the Bill earlier, the prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, justified the amnesty provisions of the current Bill by saying it was nothing new as immunity was given to those involved in the 1987 Rabuka coups.

Meanwhile, the former opposition leader, Mick Beddoes, is questioning how decriminalisng treason and making it legal to overthrow a government so long as one can prove political motives, can lead to reconciliation and unity.