The FF government is calling for written submissions to 6 new Bills BUT this times around, public consultations on the Bills are to be highly restricted – both in terms of the time allocated per person/organisation and those allowed to make public submissions.
It seems that the open consultations held for the two Sugar Reform Bills last month produced too much criticism and frank talk for the FF to stomach. It made it very clear that there was absolutely no support for the so-called sugar ‘reform’ Bills.
So a new approach has been formulated , which by the way is characteristic of the Bainimarama government’s style of restricted democracy . Here is the procedure:
FIRST: one has to make a written submission to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice Law and Human Rights which is scrutinising the Bills.
SECOND: On the basis of the written submissions received, the Committee will decide WHO to “invite” to make oral presentation.
THIRD: Oral submissions will be limited to just 15 minutes per person/organisation. It is not clear whether the time limit applies to all 6 Bills or whether it means 15mins per Bill.
This process is, no doubt, engineered to ensure that those making critical submissions are not allowed to air their views publicly with open access to the print and electronic media. Of course, submissions made at public consultations are privileged and can be printed or broadcast without being censored or restricted
This is yet another instance of how the FF government shackles freedom of expression and suppresses criticism.
Isn’t it ironical that the very Bills which are designed to ensure that the public can hold the government accountable and transparent, are being subjected to such surreptitious tactics in the public consultation process.
The 6 new Bills include the Code of Conduct, Freedom of Information , Parliamentary Powers and Privileges, Public Order (Amendment) Bill.