Fiji’s PM ticks off Archbishop over his comments on the constitution

Fiji’s Prime Minister, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, has told religious leaders that they have a special responsibility not to spread misinformation and must uphold that responsibility.

He was reacting to a comment made by the Catholic Archbishop of Suva, Peter Chong, which, he said, “clearly had the potential to inflame public opinion.”

Bainimarama said that it was very disappointing that someone of the Archbishop’s stature does not appear to have read the provisions of the Constitution in their totality.

“We fear he is relying on the advice of some who may be deliberately misleading him.”

Chong is reported to have  expressed concern about the provisions of the Fiji Constitution because it says that “religious belief is personal.”

The Archbishop said although religious belief or faith was a personal matter, it also had a public nature.

He said the government had somehow silenced the church and deprived the people of the right to pursue religious truth in the public sphere.

Chong said as a church leader the issue was of major concern because it would limit the church on a personal level, thus rendering it voiceless and giving it no opportunity to make contributions to society.

Chapter one of the 2013 Constitution states religious liberty, as recognised in the Bill of Rights, is a founding principle of the state.

It also says that religious belief is personal.

Bainimarama has denied there is any curtailment of freedom saying, “Nowhere in the 2013 Constitution is there any limitation on expressing religious belief publicly, individually or in a group.”

He said the Constitution protects the right of all Fijians to freedom of expression in all aspects of community life, including in the practice of religion. This right is only limited to prevent the spread of hate speech or incitement to violence.

“What’s more, the fact that the Archbishop is able to freely discuss the role of religion in public life, as he did in the media today, contradicts the very premise of his argument.”



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News category: Asia Pacific, Top Story.

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