Fiji: Methodists say proposed law will prevent accountability


The Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Bill being considered by Fiji’s parliament will silence the essential independent accountability of agencies such as the media, civil society, religious organisations and others.

This is the opinion expressed by the Methodist Church in its submission to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights last Thursday.

The Bill was introduced in Parliament by the Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum last year.

It was sent to the Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights in June after the second reading.

Under the heading “Defamation”, clause 24 of the Bill says that “Any person whose words or actions defame, demean or undermine the sanctity of Parliament, the Speaker or a committee commits an offence and is liable on conviction.”

Methodist Church vice president Apisalome Tudreu said the proposed provisions would make it an offence for the electorate to hold their elected representatives and their leaders accountable and this was a basic requirement of democracy and good governance.

Tudreu said the church participated because of its role and that was to serve the needs of the society.

“What is considered thre­a­tening and defamatory sho­uld be left to the laws that apply to others,” he said.

The chair of the committee hearing submissions, the MP Ashneel Sudhakar, said the clause would only protect the institution.

“It doesn’t mention anywhere that you cannot criticise the government or cannot crticise the members of parliament,” Sudhakar said.

“The words of clause 24 are clear and all it’s saying is that you cannot criticise wrongly the institution of parliament, the speaker and the committees. That’s all that the clause mentions.”

The Citizens Constitutional Forum wants clause 24 removed. “Section 24 will further dissuade people from exercising their rights to critique Parliamentarians’ role and their performances for fear of being sued for defamation by Parliament,” said its Chief Executive Officer


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News category: Asia Pacific.

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