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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

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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Over ruling the environment report

The NFP Whip, Hon Prem Singh rose to make an End of Week statement.

Below is the text of his intervention. (Please check against delivery) ~ Sigatoka Totoka

In response, the Agriculture Minister bellowed for dramatic effect, a shoddy response obfuscating the law, knowing full well that NFP had been in communication with the Minister’s Permanent Secretary as well as the Permanent Secretary for Environment and his Director, who responded with delays and silence.

===================================

Madam Speaker

I rise to make an End of Week statement requesting that this august House, in the spirit of bipartisanship, call on the Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development and National Disaster Management make publicly known the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the extraction of sand-ore (magnetite) in Kulukulu in line with the High Court Order of 2016 pertaining to the public’s entitlement to access and obtaining copies of EIA reports without restrictions.

Madam, during the business committee you will recall that there was confusion about the exact site that I wanted to speak about.

I intend to clarify that here and now.

We understand that the Australia parent company “Dome Gold Mines” has been granted SPL 1495 for the Sigatoka Ironsands Project where sand ore (magnetite) is the target mineral. We have seen the maps projected online and they are being transmitted on the feed now.

We also understand that SPL 1495 was inching towards a full mining license as at November 2016.

But Madam Speaker, we have been inundated with calls of concern from angry residents and communities who are situated near where the mouth of the Sigatoka river meets the sea, because of what looks to be like aggressive dredging happening there.

The public SPL 1495 documents provided by Dome show that part of their project includes dredging and this is our concern. There is no clarity on who is doing that dredging and what their parameters are.

The residents and communities that we have spoken to are outraged because of the environmental devastation that they see on a day to day basis.

The eyewitness accounts say that China Railway is doing the dredging for which the machines operate day and night, pausing for only 2 hours in a day causing sleepless nights for those in the immediate surrounds.

The Muasara wetland was an idyllic rivermouth environment with a natural beachfront and abundance of fish and thriving marine biodiversity. The local residents used to welcome surfers and locals who enjoyed that beautiful beach front. It is now a very sorry and ugly site. Environmental devastation Madam Speaker, and you don’t need to be a scientist to figure that out.

There are deadpools of still salt water stagnating there. The residents and local communities said that baby fish were seen dead along the shoreline. Dead fish floating in the river mouth have been sighted upstream in Lawai village and in waterways along the Coral Coast.

A Kulukulu farmer said his farm was totally destroyed because the dredging waste blocked the natural water drainage during the last heavy rains. His entire crops were swamped with the muddy slush and could not be saved.

Madam Speaker, every mining company knows the importance of a SOCIAL CONTRACT. When mining companies seek interest for investors to get on board, the first thing investors will look at is whether or not there is a SOCIAL CONTRACT. From the documentation that we have seen provided to the Australian Stock Exchange for transparency purposes, we know what Dome Mining has strong Japanese backing, with additional investment from China.

But Madam Speaker, the SOCIAL CONTRACT for SPL 1495 does not exist regardless of how effectively the regulators think they can manipulate consent, as we know they have been doing.

Madam Speaker, the Honourable Minister responsible for the EIA document for this project, is our Climate Champion. We commend that however we ask that it be proven here, first. In Fiji.

The importance of thriving marine ecosystems can not be understated and it is a crying shame that easy money is being sought through extraction, at the cost of the life of our environment and the livelihoods of the local community.

Madam Speaker, in order for Fiji to realize the potential of the micro-life we need to understand not only the minerals but the life and the genetic resources that we have. The muasara flats was teeming with life!

That is why, also related to this is the need for this House to see the draft laws that we know that is sitting in the Solicitor General’s Office related to “Traditional Knowledge Cultural Expression” to ensure that the genetic resources related to the Nagoya Protocol is understood and protected from pharmaceutical and such like interests. Those are also multi-billion dollar industries Madam Speaker, and our thriving biodiversity is a gold-mine — we just don’t know what we have.

If the Minister see’s fit to make the full EIA report publicly available, we — us and the people out there — can help him ensure that laws and regulations are upheld.

Fiji must come first.

I thank you Madam Speaker.