State Proceedings (Amendment) Decree 2012 granting privileged protection to the prime minister and his team in the lead up to general elections is another blatant assault on individual rights and freedoms.
Together with the Public Order Decree 2012, it will undermine any chance of the next elections being free, fair and credible. Nor will it “facilitate open and frank discussion between Government, the public and other stakeholders…”, in the dialogue process due to begin soon, as claimed by the regime.
The primary aim of the Decree is to protect the prime minister and his cabinet colleagues by providing a privileged environment in which to fight the elections.
The Decree gives them immunity against defamation. Likewise, the media is free to publish any statements they make without fear of being sued for libel, no matter how defamatory and slanderous.
The Decree further circumscribes the powers of the judiciary and denies the individual the right to redress, if wronged. It also violates the most fundamental principles of the Media code of ethics – that of honest, accurate, balanced and fair reporting.
The move by the regime to seek protection via parliamentary privileges is preposterous and a ‘sick joke’ when Fiji has no parliament in place.
Parliamentary privilege only applies to statements uttered in the House or Chamber. The same statement made outside the House is not covered by privilege.
The regime is, therefore, incorrect in claiming that privileges accorded to its ministers under the Decree “is consistent with Parliamentary privilege as was applicable in Fiji and which is applicable in countries throughout the Commonwealth”.
The claim that the decree provides “a level playing field” is equally ridiculous considering that it gives an unfair and unjust advantage to the prime minister and his ministers in the upcoming election campaign.
One fears that with the two recent decrees, the State Proceedings (Amendment) Decree 2012 and the Public Order Decree 2012, Fiji is becoming more and more of an authoritarian State rather than returning to democracy and the accepted tenets of international law.