13 Feb 2012

Fiji's Beddoes says new decree stifles broad discussions

7:10 am on 13 February 2012

Fiji's former opposition leader, Mick Beddoes, says the latest anti-defamation decree just before the country starts the process of developing a new constitution does nothing to inspire confidence that the debate in the process will be open, free, transparent or fair.

The regime made the decree public last week and in the face of strong criticism, the interim attorney-general says it won't be abused.

Mr Beddoes says over the past five years the regime exercised unilateral, absolute, unaccountable and non-transparent control over every aspect of life in Fiji.

And he says it has imposed a variety of decrees that in the main have denied the very people they have sought to rule their basic and fundamental rights.

Mr Beddoes says by removing the people's right to comment freely, the government also eliminates at the very least half of the natural reservoir of alternative thoughts and ideas that would come from an engaging population.

He says the regime will need to start issuing decrees and statements that encourage and not discourage people to look positively towards the future and be courageous enough to embrace change.