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Fiji's Amnesty Bill 'Dangerous' Message To Youth

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SUVA (Fiji Times Online/Pacific Media Watch): There is no doubt that the majority of people in this country would like to see some statement of reconciliation, tolerance and unity.

In fact, most people would probably support efforts to make amends to those who became victims of lawlessness in 2000.

However, the fact of the matter is that in the period after the chaos, the people of this country were assured that justice would take its course.

In election campaigns throughout the country, every party said they would stand by the law.

Even the Government asked citizens to be patient with its own members who were suspected of involvement in the 2000 crisis ‹ saying they were innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

That proof has occurred in some cases, with resulting convictions.

While some people may not believe that the punishment went far enough, others are satisfied simply to see that justice is done ‹ and recognised as such.

In the period when investigations were delayed ‹ for various reasons ‹ the people were asked to be patient.

They were ‹ and still are.

So it is no wonder that there is so much anger, outrage, shock, bewilderment on the part of many people that the Government should suddenly talk about amnesty provisions for certain budding "politicians" involved in the 2000 lawlessness.

The Fiji Law Society says that if the Government pushes the Bill into law ‹ without dropping the amnesty provisions ‹ it will be left with no choice but to mount a legal challenge to the entire document.

By pursuing this issue, the Government is showing disregard for concerns about the unconstitutionality of certain aspects of the Bill ‹ specifically those that refer to amnesty.

It is showing disregard for the fact that if the Bill is so controversial now, it may well be even more controversial when the time comes to begin granting amnesty to "politicians".

By allowing for amnesty for certain people involved in 2000, the Government is allowing certain people to escape legal punishment involved with their actions.

But by doing so, the Government is passing on a dangerous message to youths of this country.

It is saying that for certain types of crime ‹ involving the overthrow of the wish of voters of this country, political control, and hunger for power ‹ it is all right to be a criminal.

That is a dangerous statement for any nation's Government to make ‹ to anyone.



PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH is an independent, non-profit, non-government organisation comprising journalists, lawyers, editors and other media workers, dedicated to examining issues of ethics, accountability, censorship, media freedom and media ownership in the Pacific region. Launched in October 1996, it has links with the Journalism Program at the University of the South Pacific, Bushfire Media based in Sydney, Journalism Studies at the University of PNG (UPNG), the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (ACIJ), Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, and Community Communications Online (c2o).

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