Independent Parliamentary Committee needed to investigate cases of police brutality and breaches of human rights

The National Federation Party will move a Motion in Parliament during its next sitting from March 20-24 calling for the establishment of a Special Committee of Parliament to independently investigate cases of alleged police brutality and barbaric breaches of human rights because the current procedures for investigation is thoroughly compromised.

 

Such a Special Committee will be an independent body with no links whatsoever to either the Fiji Police Force or the victims of alleged police brutality and violations of their rights.

 

This is absolutely vital in the absence of an Ombudsman. Previously an Ombudsman was a retired judge and under the 1997 Constitution, the Ombudsman was also Chairperson of Fiji Human Rights Commission.

 

Under Standing Order 129 of Parliament, a Special Committee can be established by resolution of Parliament and it has the same powers as that of other parliamentary standing committees where it can conduct its hearings in public, summon people to give evidence and compel the production of such evidence.

 

This even includes summoning a Minister as per Section 91(3) of the Constitution. A Special Committee has the powers of a High Court as prescribed in Section 112 of the Standing Orders of Parliament.

 

It has become painfully evident that victims who have been either tortured, abused or had their fundamental rights breached have lost faith in the current process of investigation involving the Internal Affairs Unit of the Force as well as the Human Rights and Anti Discrimination Commission.

 

We have received several complaints of alleged police brutality, ill treatment of citizens, suppression of their complaints and even allegations by family members of their relative being tortured to death while in police custody, as in the case of 19 year old teenager, Vikarant Chandra, last week.

 

A case where a 36 year old from Kulukulu, Sigatoka, was allegedly victimized and humiliated by police after a traffic accident in late August 2016, caused the victim severe mental trauma leading him to commit suicide in January. According to the victim’s family and friends, before he died he would often state that he was a genuine victim of injustice.

 

Normally, as in the above two cases of the Sigatoka resident and the 19 year old teenager who died in police custody, there is an inquest to determine the cause of death if investigations prove inconclusive.

 

Yet another incident case has been bought to our attention, where a female victim who was allegedly stripped naked in public view by police in January, is still crying for justice a month later. She suffered cruel and degrading treatment but the police response has been lackadaisical and has even gone to the extent of accusing the victim of manufacturing her sorry saga.

 

No amount of denial of the existence of alleged serious breaches of human rights and rubbishing findings of international human rights watchdogs can remove the tarnished image of this Government and the security forces until it is seen to be doing right and transparently so, by the people of this land.

 

The onus on this issue of recurring serious human rights violations by organs of the State is on the Government. It must show its sincerity as a measure of its worthiness of recent ratification to the UN Convention on Torture, and prove that to the nation that it is ready to be considered by the world as an upstanding candidate for the UN Human Rights Council seat.

 

Supporting a Motion to establish a Special Parliamentary Committee would be a good start.

 

Authorised by: –

 

Professor Biman Prasad

NFP Leader

 

 

Encl: Standing Order 129 of Parliament

 

  1. Special Committees

(1) A special committee may be established by resolution of Parliament to carry out the assignment specified in the resolution.

(2) A special committee continues in existence until—

 

  • (a)  it completes its assignment; or
  • (b)  Parliament resolves to discharge the committee.

(3)  Members of a special committee must be appointed as part of the resolution of Parliament that establishes the committee.

(4)  A special committee has—

  • (a)  the powers of a standing committee conferred by these Standing Orders; and
  • (b)  any other powers specified in the resolution of Parliament that establishes the committee.

 

NFP Leader calls for parliamentary special committee- Media Release Feb 2017

Messenger of Truth or Paddler of Lies.

February 23, 2017

 

Ms Jyoti Pratibha

Managing Editor (News)

The Fiji Sun

SUVA

 

Dear Ms Pratibha

 

Erroneous, Malicious, Unbalanced Reporting and Editorial

 

We refer to your Editorial on page 10 of The Fiji Sun and Analysis on page 12 of The Fiji Sun, both on Wednesday 22nd February 2017.  We find both the Editorial and the Analysis demeaning of the Party and of the Leader of the National Federation Party Honourable Professor Biman Prasad.

 

Editorial

 

You stated in the Editorial “It is a real shame that these so called political leaders chose to look at this event as an opportunity to question the motive of the Fiji First Government. But it is not the Government who saw this as an opportunity to earn a brownie point event”.

 

You further said, “National Federation Party Leader Biman Prasad was at the funeral of a young man who is alleged to have committed suicide while in police custody. One can only imagine the conversation taking place there”.

 

This is an example of downright gutter and scandalous journalism.  Neither you nor anyone from the Fiji Sun, unlike two broadcast media organisations, had the courtesy to call Professor Prasad to find the truth.

 

And your comment  “One can only imagine the conversation taking place there” in reference to the funeral of the 19-year-old teenager is treating the death of Vikarant Chandra as a non-issue.  You have turned the death of the teenager and the grief and mourning of the family into a conversation. This is despicable and shows your absolute lack of sympathy towards the family.

 

Furthermore, while the police have not commented on the cause of his death, you wade into it and allege that it was suicide. In doing so, you have broken all the cardinal principles of journalism and common decency.

 

Professor Prasad was invited by the late Mr Chandra’s family to attend the funeral. Unfortunately the timing of it clashed with the commemoration of the first anniversary of Severe TC Winston. It also clashed with the timing of a second funeral of a relative of a close friend of the Leader.

 

Professor Prasad conveyed his apologies to the National Disaster Management Office before 9am on Monday 20th February. Had he decided in the first instance not to attend the event at Albert Park, he would have conveyed his apologies days before when he received the invitation.

 

Most importantly, 50% of Professor Prasad’s salary is being deducted and directed towards relief work to rehabilitate the lives of victims of TC Winston. NFP Parliamentary Whip Honourable Prem Singh has also authorised deductions of 10% of his salary towards this humanitarian cause.

 

And both Professor Prasad and Mr Singh have decided to direct parliamentary emoluments increased by Parliament through a Motion introduced by Fiji First on 29th September 2016, towards relief and welfare work. They voted against the increase and have informed Parliament they will not personally benefit from the exorbitant increase.

 

These are not attempts to earn brownie points. It is genuine and personal sacrifice out of common human decency. No member of the Fiji First Government has made such sacrifices. All Government is doing is using taxpayer funds and aid donated by the international community for distribution.

 

All this is no secret to you and the Fiji Sun, but you deliberately and maliciously twist the facts to suit your agenda of denigrating the NFP and its Leader.

 

It seems genuine sacrifices by anyone opposed to Fiji First is unpalatable to you while exorbitant hike in emoluments (300% in the case of the Prime Minister’s allowance and also whose salary is 210% more than what was earned by the PM before the military coup), is totally acceptable to the Fiji Sun.

 

You might be interested to know that we have evidence of one Minister abusing donor aid by giving away school bags to children in the Suva-Nausori corridor, when these same bags were donated in March 2016 for distribution to children in areas affected by TC Winston.

 

But we don’t expect the Fiji Sun to highlight this and naturally so, because it is the beneficiary of millions of dollars of taxpayer funds paid to the company by Government through its exclusive advertising policy in the newspaper.

 

Analysis

 

Your so-called “fact checking” on statements made by the Opposition regarding amendments to the Electoral Decree controversially called an Act, are laughable.

 

Specifically, your so-called fact checking tries to rubbish statements by the NFP Leader pointing out the Attorney General’s conflict of interest as Minister for Elections while being the General Secretary and Registered Officer of Fiji First.

 

You attempt to dismiss this statement by pointing out that Laisenia Qarase was Elections Minister as well while being Leader of SDL.

 

Your analysis is obviously based on your warped logic. And you have not reported a single word of the NFP’s Leader’s statement sent to the newspaper last Thursday (16th February) pointing out why and how the AG is influencing the work of the Elections Office, based on conclusive evidence outlined in the statement.

 

This saga is exactly the kind of journalism that led to the Multinational Observer Group’s recommendations on the Media. And the Fiji Sun is a living proof of absolute unethical, unbalanced and inaccurate journalism.

 

Any journalist, irrespective of his or her repute, qualification and experience, must always strive for ethical, responsible and accurate reporting because they are supposed to be messengers of truth. If one cannot comply with these principles and unashamedly continues to pander to the interests of a single entity while peddling half-truths and lies, then they are doing grave injustice to their profession.

 

Firstly, we expect you to adhere to the ethics of balanced journalism and publish the NFP Leader’s Media Statement sent last Thursday (23rd February).

 

Secondly, an apology or retraction of your defamatory statements in your editorial is now due immediately and should be published as prominently as your Editorial, given your continued attacks on NFP, failing which we will seek legal redress.

 

Lastly, we expect the contents of this letter to be published in full as an article and not as a letter to the Editor.

 

 

 

Kamal Iyer

NFP Office

 

(Mob: 9995000)

 

 

c.c. Mr Peter Lomas – Publisher/CEO, Fiji Sun

       Mr Nemani Delaibatiki – Managing Editor (Training), Fiji Sun

Calling for Removal of Supervisor of Elections

OPPOSITION PARTIES’ JOINT STATEMENT ON ELECTIONS SUPERVISOR
AND AMENDMENTS TO THE ELECTORAL DECREE

17 February 2017

The Social Democratic Liberal Party, National Federation Party, Fiji Labour Party, the
Peoples’ Democratic Party and the Fiji United Freedom Party.

In a joint statement issued following a meeting on Thursday 16​
th
February, the leaders of the
five Opposition Parties called for the removal of the Supervisor of Elections and the
scrapping  of the elections portfolio assigned to the Attorney General.

“Free and fair elections are not possible in a situation where the ruling Fiji First Party is
exercising extraordinary control over the electoral machinery and the electoral process,” the
leaders said.

Supervisor of Elections

The Leaders said Mohammed Saneem’s initial appointment in 2013 had been questioned as
he did not meet the minimum qualifications required for the position, as advertised.

The previous Electoral Commission has drawn attention to the impropriety of his
appointment in its Annual Report for 2014 (para 3.1) in which it pointed out that Saneem’s
name was submitted by the Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum after he had informed
the Commission “​ that overseas applicants who had applied for the position were either not
suitable or were not available due to the passage of time​ .

“However, the Commissioners expressed some reservations in the manner the position of
Supervisor of Elections had been allowed to protract for such a long period since
applications for the position had been advertised in 2013”​ .

The Commission then suggested to the Attorney General that the position be re-advertised.
This was not done and Saneem was appointed despite the Commission’s reservation.

Hence the Electoral Commissioned appeared to have no choice but to accept the
recommendation of the Attorney General as the Minister for Election for Saneem to be
appointed as Supervisor of Elections.

Subsequent rulings by the Supervisor particularly in relation to the eligibility of political
party candidates nominated for the 2014 election showed his clear bias towards the Fiji First
Party. He made decisions knowing that they were wrong and then defied the rulings of the
Electoral Commission on a mere technicality.

The recent Appeals Court ruling has only confirmed Mr. Saneem’s unsuitability for this
important constitutional office. The Leaders said that it is unprecedented for a Supervisor to
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boldly defy the Electoral Commission.

2017 Amendment to Electoral Decree

The Leaders also objected to the recent amendment to the Electoral Decree which was fast
tracked through Parliament last week, appointing the Supervisor of Elections as secretary to
the Electoral Commission.

The amendments also prescribe powers to the Supervisor to overturn the results of the count
of a ballot box by a Presiding Officer and to do a recount. The amendments also impose
limitations and impediments on the Electoral Commission in the conduct of its
constitutionally mandated work.

“The amendment compromises the Electoral Commission which is the appeals body from the
decisions of the Supervisor and is a subversion of the independence of both the Supervisor
and the Commission which are two separate bodies with separate constitutional functions.

“It was aimed at ensuring the newly appointed Electoral Commission remained subservient to
the recently disgraced Supervisor of Elections,” the Leaders said.

The current situation has the Fiji First General Secretary actually controlling and
commandeering the process and making the rules as we move towards the next general
elections.

The rushed amendment also subverts the parliamentary process and interferes with the work
of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice which is still reviewing the
report of the Multinational Observer Group (MOG) on the 2014 Elections. The Leader’s
maintain that th​ e bill should not have come to the House until the report of the Standing
Committee on the same issue was tabled.

The MOG report includes recommendations for improvement of the electoral processes, laws
and procedures, which many political parties agree with. The Attorney General has cherry
picked and decided to implement only three of the thirty-eight MOG recommendations in the
recent fast-tracked amendment to the Electoral Decree.

Minister for Elections

In calling for the Elections ministerial portfolio to be scrapped, the Leaders said:

“The portfolio has been held by Attorney General Aiyaz Khaiyum since 2008. It is wrong in
principle for the General Secretary of the ruling party to hold the elections portfolio at the
same time as being Attorney General drafting laws and changing the rules for elections in
which he will participate.

“The current situation allows the Fiji First General Secretary to actually control the process
and make the rules as we move towards the next general elections, a serious conflict of
interest that the Prime Minister must remedy to assure the people of Fiji that their right to
2
vote in free and fair elections is not being compromised by the Attorney General controlling
the electoral process.

“Free and fair elections require that all political parties operate on the same level playing
field, and have access to information about the upcoming elections at the same time.

“Both the Supervisor of Elections and the Electoral Commission are constitutional offices
and as such, should be independent of the executive arm. Besides, both the Prime Minister
and the Attorney General hold office in their political party and will likely contest the next
elections.”

The Leaders pointed out that in the past there was no ministerial portfolio for elections. For
necessary administrative accountability, the Prime Minister only tabled the Elections Office
submissions for budgetary allocations. ​ The PM’s administrative responsibility ended there.
He did not exercise control over the elections office or advise the Electoral Commission, or
otherwise interfere with its operations.

The Leaders also rejected several provisions of the Electoral and Voter Registration Decrees
promulgated unilaterally by the Bainimarama administration in March 2014 just 6 months
before the elections.

These matters will be pursued and more concrete actions deliberated on by the Party Leaders
in the coming weeks.

Authorised by:

➢ Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) Party Leader Major General (Ret’d) S.L.
Rabuka
➢ Fiji Labour Party (FLP) Leader Mr. Mahendra P Chaudhry
➢ National Federation Party (NFP) Leader Dr. Biman Prasad
➢ Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Party President Ms. Lynda Tabuya
➢ Fiji United Freedom Party (FUFP) Party Leader Mr. Jagath Karunaratne

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Citizens still waiting for proper piped water.

Meeting the residents of Upper Pritam Singh Road, Tuirara. Majority of the residents are farmers and they claim to have paid the Fiji Government in 2006 for piped water supply and followed up with a written a petition but nothing has been done so far. They also said that the main water pipe runs from there but they have not been given piped water. They survive on rain and well water which are risky sources as water gets contaminated very easily.

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