23 Jun 2005

New Zealand expert says Fiji's Reconciliation Bill unconstitutional

8:14 pm on 23 June 2005

The former New Zealand prime minister, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, has warned that Fiji's Reconciliation and Unity Bill is unconstitutional and a recipe for division and constitutional disaster.

The Fiji Times quotes Sir Geoffrey as saying the truth and reconciliation commission of the type proposed in the Bill is not appropriate, given the legal and constitutional situation in Fiji.

Sir Geoffrey, who is a constitutional lawyer, made the comments after the Fiji Law Society sought his opinion on the Bill.

He says Fiji's situation cannot be compared with that of South Africa because there was legal and constitutional continuity in Fiji while South Africa made a new constitutional beginning when its truth and reconciliation commission was set up.

Sir Geoffrey says any criminal behaviour can be characterised as "political" by altering the character of criminal acts and describing them as "political."

Sir Geoffrey says "essentially, the law of treason would be rendered inoperative in Fiji for the designated period if the Bill is passed."

He says enabling inquiry into the coup and providing measures to promote reconciliation and unity should not come at the expense of the rule of law.

Sir Geoffrey's comments come weeks after the New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said her country is offering to analyse the proposed law.