Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Fijians Double Crossed by Dictator Bainimarama & Illegal AG Khaiyum

Sydney Morning Herald

Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum
Illegal Fiji AG- Khaiyum- Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum challenged claims the laws were intended to inhibit criticism of the government. 

THE lifting of emergency regulations in Fiji appears to have been little more than an international publicity exercise, critics say.

Laws created at the same time give the regime sweeping new powers of arrest, detention and repression, which they say are a clear breach of human rights.

While the military government has said the new laws are to ensure the people can debate their future ''without being threatened'' by dangerous elements, critics have told the Herald the laws enshrine - in some cases enhance - the controversial emergency regulations into law.

The laws are amendments to a 40-year-old public order act and were enacted on Friday - 24 hours before Voreqe ''Frank'' Bainimarama ended the public emergency regulations, which have banned public meetings and censored the media since 2009. The amendments allow people to be arrested without warrant and held for 14 days without access to the courts, if they are suspected of offences against ''public safety or preservation of the peace''.

They also allow soldiers to act as police officers for the purpose of arrest, and give legal permission for soldiers and police to use ''such force as he or she considers necessary, including the use of arms'' to disperse protests and effect arrest.

Fiji Dictator & Illegal PM

In a speech to about 2000 soldiers yesterday, Commodore Bainimarama said it was their job to help police maintain law and order. ''The military will come in to help the police avoid any of these things from happening. The military will always help the government in whatever plans they have.''

At the same time, the Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, challenged suggestions the laws were designed to inhibit criticism of the government.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum, who also holds eight other portfolios including justice, anti-corruption, industry and trade, said the laws had been created to prevent dangerous elements threatening the country's march towards democratic elections.

Last week Commodore Bainimarama said Fijians would be invited to participate in consultations for the new constitution, and the first national election since his 2006 coup would be held by September 2014.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said: ''The simple spirit of the amendment is to provide the right environment to allow people to truly discuss things freely; to be able to truly think outside the box; to provide a new paradigm.''
''You cannot run a modern state when you don't have common and equal citizenry.''
But some in the non-government sector have questioned the laws. The head of the Citizens' Constitutional Forum, a Methodist clergyman, Akuila Yabaki, said he had been optimistic about the lifting of the emergency regulations, but that had been dashed by the amendments.

''They have to give us a reason why we should engage in a constitutional consultation while at the same time allowing these restrictions.''

Another prominent member of society, who requested anonymity, said in essence the laws enshrined the emergency regulations in permanent law.

An expert on Fiji at the Australian National University, Jon Fraenkel, said: ''The early signs are not promising.''

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