The PER has been replaced by an amended Public Order Decree 2012 which is shocking and more repressive and draconian than the Emergency Regulations just lifted.
It is clearly a negative development which is hardly likely to provide the open and free environment that is necessary for proper political dialogue to take place so as to return Fiji to democracy and constitutional rule.
Not surprisingly, most observers see the move as a farce rather than any genuine attempt to restore to the people of Fiji the fundamental freedoms and human rights they lost under the PER.
To begin with, the so-called “modernized” Public Order Decree 2012 appears to be much more sinister in style, intent and purpose than the Public Order Act of 1969.
It is draconian in that under the 2012 Decree the Courts have no jurisdiction to deal with any challenge or redress to acts or powers exercised by the authorities under the Decree. The Chief Registrar has powers to terminate any such proceedings and this decision also cannot be challenged.
Even legitimate trade union activities can be targeted under the Decree if interpreted as “attempt to undermine or sabotage the economy or financial integrity of Fiji”. Fines are steep – $50,000 or a 10-year jail term or both for those found guilty. Participation in a meeting, assembly or procession without a permit can be liable to a $10,000 fine or a 5-year jail term.
The authorities have powers to deny or withdraw permits for meeting etc to any group or organisation deemed to have a past record of among other things having “undermined or sabotaged or attempted to undermine or sabotage the economy or financial integrity of Fiji”.
Under the Decree the Police Commissioner and Divisional Police Commissioners exercise extraordinarily wide powers of discretion while ordinary police officers and Army officers have sweeping powers of search, arrest and detention without a warrant on mere grounds of suspicion.
The Security Forces (police and soldiers) are allowed to use the force of arms to break up protests, meetings, processions etc for which permits have been withdrawn. The powers given to Army personnel to operate as police officers will result in further militarization of our society.
The Prime Minister (Minister) has powers to order detention beyond 48 hours and up to 14 days. “Terrorism” is widely interpreted to include even legitimate trade union activities – any act perceived as undermining or sabotaging the economy or financial integrity of Fiji”.
This Decree is bound to inflict further damage on an already ailing economy as it will continue to erode the confidence of the international community and investors that Fiji is moving towards democratic and constitutional rule.
Our brain drain will continue as skilled and professional people, likely to see this as a negative development, seek a secure future for themselves else where .
It is foolish of the regime to compare the draconian provisions of the Decree with similar legislation in other countries which are functioning democracies with a parliament, a free media and an unrestricted judiciary – all of which are absent in Fiji. There is absolutely no accountability for the actions of those in authority in Fiji.
More on the Public Order Decree 2012, after a more thorough analysis of its provisions.