Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry has sent a strong note of protest to foreign governments against the release of convicted VP Jope Seniloli
The full text of the note follows:
“I write on the above subject. Last Friday 26th November 2004, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Senator Q. B Bale, announced that he had directed that the convicted Vice President, Ratu Jope Seniloli be released on a CSO.
The convicted Vice President has served approximately two months of his four year jail term for taking an unlawful oath in 2000. The sentence was imposed by the High Court of Fiji and subsequently affirmed by the Fiji Court of Appeal on.
I write to register with your government
- My profound concern and disquiet over the questionable action of the AG / Minister for Justice;
- The negative impact that his decision will have on law and order in this country; and
- The implications for the global fight against terrorism. The Vice President was convicted for his role in the unlawful overthrow of an elected Government and for aiding and abetting the taking of hostages.
I accept that the Minister for Justice is empowered under the Prisons Act (s.65 (1)) to exercise his discretion on the subject of release of prisoners on a CSO. My concern is based on the fact that the decision was exercised arbitrarily, and is biased and unreasonable under the circumstances, for various reasons inter alia
- The Attorney General / Minister for Justice has an apparent conflict of interest. He is the legal advisor to the Government, Great Council of Chiefs, and the President and Vice President, and should have distanced himself from taking the decision to release the Vice President personally.
- In the exercise of his discretion, he unduly compromised his obligation to consider issues of public interest.
- He has allowed the integrity and independence of his office to be called into question by seemingly favouring the convicted Vice President.
- He has caused the respect for, and/or confidence in the integrity of the Government to be diminished, as well as for the principles of good governance and the rule of law.
- He has undermined the judiciary by effectively overturning a lawful sentence imposed on a person implicated in domestic terrorism.
The Attorney General / Minister for Justice purportedly granted the CSO on medical grounds. He has refused to release the details of the medical report on the spurious grounds of patient/doctor privilege.
The decision to grant a CSO appears to be consistent with previous actions that are equally questionable, for example the refusal to advise the Vice-President to resign following his conviction. In turn, the payment of full salary and allowances to the convicted and incarcerated Vice-President has continued in the face of public outcry.
By this unjustified premature exercise of CSO by the Attorney General / Minister for Justice, he has sanctioned the release of a prisoner who is implicated in domestic terrorism.
The security forces, particularly the military, have also voiced their objection to this premature release. The military has considered amongst other things that the release of the convicted Vice President is a threat to national security.
I have to note an unfortunate feature of the present Qarase Government. There are several members of the Senate and the House of Representatives who have tainted record on human rights and for their active part in hostage taking. These people in spite of their blemished record appear to be acting with impunity and find refuge under the purported legal umbrella of the government. The government appears to condone and give sanctuary to these people.
I ask that this latest action of the Attorney General and Minister for Justice be noted by you and appropriate action be taken by your government as you continue your own fight against terrorism and for the promotion of good governance and other principles enumerated above.”