Prime Minister Qarase fools no-one with his statement that people should think again if they believe that the amnesty Bill means a general pardon for the perpetrators of the 2000 coup.
The proposed Bill is very clear in its provision that all those in prison for criminal offences related to the 2000 coup will be given first “priority” if they apply to the so-called Reconciliation and Unity Commission for amnesty.
Indeed, the provisions of the Bill dealing with pardon are deliberately left loose enough to accommodate a situation of general amnesty, Leader of the Opposition Mahendra Chaudhry said.
“It is the Prime Minister who must think again. He insults the intelligence of the people by persistently trying to misrepresent and hide the true purpose of this Bill. His assurances stand for nothing. It is what the Bill can do once it becomes law, that is dangerous,” Mr. Chaudhry said.
The entire nation as well as the international community know that the whole purpose of this legislation is to set free criminals who have been sentenced, and others still under investigation, for their part in the terrorist activities of 2000.
The Prime Minister keeps harping on political and criminal action relating to the activities of 2000. The unlawful overthrow of a democratically elected government is treason, the most serious criminal offence.
“The Prime Minister must know that enacting this Bill will mean licensing terrorism. That is the simple truth,” Mr. Chaudhry said.
Mr. Qarase again deliberately misrepresents facts when he claims that police investigations into the criminal activities of 2000 were delayed because people failed to come up with information.
We all know that the major stumbling block to investigations until mid-2003 was the former Commissioner of Police, Isikia Savua, himself deeply implicated in the overthrow of the People’s Coalition Government. Police officers themselves gave evidence against him at the Tuivaqa inquiry.
We also know that certain senior police officers who were involved in the unlawful activities of 2000 are trying to obstruct investigations even now.
The belligerent and aggressive manner in which the Bill is being bulldozed through in defiance of vigorous opposition from almost all quarters in the country, is not in the best interest of the nation.
“No amount of whitewashing will detract from the real purpose of the Bill. The Prime Minister must listen to reason and submit the issue to the Talanoa Talks for dialogue
“The Talanoa process will be an acceptable forum to mediate in forging a programme that will bring about genuine reconciliation and unity without allowing the perpetrators of the coup to escape justice for their criminal activities,” Mr. Chaudhry said.