Chaudhry withdraws challenge to constitutional provision, but…

  • 26th July 2017
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As far as I am concerned, the matter is still very much in the public domain. The constitutional provisions in question constitute a violation of our fundamental rights and were decreed by a group of people simply to protect their political interests: Mahendra Chaudhry  

Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry and trade unionist Karam Bidesi yesterday withdrew their application to the High Court challenging the constitutional provisions which bar them from contesting the 2018 general elections.                                  

The defendants in the action (the State and the Attorney General) had filed an application to have the action struck down.

The decision to withdraw the matter was taken when the Judge declined to grant an adjournment to the plaintiffs to enable them to file amended summons.

Commenting on the proceedings, Mr Chaudhry said he was disappointed that their request for an adjournment was denied.

Under Section 56 of the imposed 2013 Constitution, anyone convicted of an offence punishable by a term of imprisonment of 12 months or more, is barred from contesting the elections for 8 years ( two parliamentary terms).

Section 57 defines Trade unionists as holders of public office and bars them forever. Under no stretch of the imagination can trade unionists be described as holders of public office.

Section 56 is peculiar in that no previous constitution carried any such provision. Even the Electoral Commission in its 2014 annual report recommended that this provision be amended as it was too severe. However, the government has taken no action in the matter.

It is clear to all that Section 56 was deliberately inserted to bar former Prime Ministers Mahendra Chaudhry and Laisenia Qarase from contesting future elections. It was a pre-meditated “dirty tricks”plan hatched by Bainimarama and Khaiyum.

Readers may recall Bainimarama’s oft-repeated public pronouncements that neither Chaudhry nor Qarase will be in parliament in 2014.

In 2012 Mr Qarase was convicted on a matter that went back 20 years and sentenced to one year imprisonment.

In Mr Chaudhry’s case, he was charged for a matter that he had been completely cleared off by an independent inquiry in 2008. He was not jailed, but the offence under the Exchange Control Act carried a sentence of more than a one year jail term.

Speaking on the injustice of the situation, Mr Chaudhry said, “It is an anathema that those who have committed the most heinous crime of treason – not once but several times – and have granted themselves immunity under a tailor-made constitution are free to contest the elections while barring others who they perceive a threat to their hold on power. ”

“As far as I am concerned, the matter is still very much in the public domain. The constitutional provisions in question constitute a violation of our fundamental rights and were decreed by a group of people simply to protect their political interests,” he said.