19 Jul 2007

Fiji official defends appointing Shameem as ombudsman

1:58 pm on 19 July 2007

The chairman of Fiji's Constitutional Offices Commission has offered to take an oath on the Bible, the Koran, the Gita or the holy book of any faith to prove that its decisions are not influenced by politics.

Rishi Ram made the offer after criticism of the appointment of the director of the Human Rights Commission, Dr Shaista Shameem, as the country's new Ombudsman.

Mr Ram says the Commission acts as an independent body that makes impartial and transparent decisions in the best interests of the public.

He says Dr Shameem's appointment was based purely on merit taking into account her academic qualifications, experience and other capabilities.

The co-ordinator of the Women's Crisis Centre and human rights commissioner, Shamima Ali, has described Dr Shameem's appointment as unconstitutional and said she would not recognize it.

The former opposition leader Mick Beddoes, says the appointment was inappropriate given Dr Shameem's public bias in favour of the events of December 5 and questions would be raised about her impartiality.

But Dr Shameem says people should be allowed to judge for themselves as she is firmly on the side of human rights irrespective of the government in place.

Dr Shameem says she has invited Mr Beddoes to a cup of tea to clear up misunderstandings.