3 Aug 2005

Fiji academic says referendum on bill possible

2:24 pm on 3 August 2005

A senior academic at the University of the South Pacific says Fiji's Constitution does not prohibit a referendum on the government's Reconciliation and Unity Bill.

The Fiji Times reports that Jon Fraenkel of the USP's Governance Institute made the comment after the prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, told a public forum that the Constitution makes no provision for a referendum.

Mr Fraenkel says while the Constitution does not specifically mention referendums, it does not forbid them.

He says there is no legal obstacle to the government holding a referendum on the Bill before its final passage through parliament.

Mr Fraenkel says a simple YES or NO referendum timed to coincide with the next general election would be a cost-effective way to resolve the issue.

He also says the government should consider removing the possibility of amnesty for those convicted of or charged with treason.

Mr Fraenkel says amnesty can be kept open for those charged with comparatively minor offences such as illegal assembly.

He says that way traditional leaders and others who entered parliament during the coup would be obliged to persuade the amnesty commission that they were not involved in conspiring to overthrow the elected government.

Mr Fraenkel says such an amendment might meet the needs of many of the critics of the Bill while continuing to meet the government's needs.