The Prime Minister must resign says Chaudhry as the mounting public controversy on the Bill shows Church leaders were deliberately misled on it by the PM.
“It is disgraceful that the Prime Minister should deceive Church leaders to get their support for the Bill. He then had the audacity to mislead the nation by claiming that the Bill had the support of Christians,” Opposition Leader Mahendra Chaudhry said.
In a Fiji Times front page article screaming “Churches misled on Bill” Archbishop Petero Mataca, head of the Catholic Church in Fiji, alleged in a meeting with Church leaders, the PM had deliberately withheld information on the amnesty clauses of the Bill.
“The presentation by the Prime Minister painted the Bill in a very positive light and we voiced our support,” he said. The church leaders had not been given copies of the Bill to read for themselves.
He now wants the Bill withdrawn.
Following the meeting, Qarase told the nation that the Bill had the support of the Churches.
Chaudhry said the PM had deliberately deceived the Church leaders. “I suggest Laisenia Qarase does the honourable thing and resigns as prime minister. He cannot now command the respect and confidence of the nation,” Opposition Leader Mahendra Chaudhry said.
Chaudhry said the attempt to hoodwink the church leaders was simply another instance of how the Prime Minister has been lying and deceiving the nation regarding this highly objectionable piece of legislation and its sinister intentions to provide amnesty for those convicted of coup related offences.
Similar duplicity was exercised when Mr. Qarase introduced the Bill in the House of Representatives and the Opposition was forced to accuse him of lying and distorting aspects of the proposed Bill, he said.
“Furthermore, government must stop all this charade about consulting with various groups, take the advice of the Church leaders and withdraw this controversial and highly divisive Bill.”
Archbishop Mataca told The Fiji Times the overthrow of a democratically elected government was a serious crime and those affected must face the consequences or the coup cycle would continue to affect Fiji.
He made it clear that the May 2 meeting of the churches was not a consultation process but they were merely informed of the Bill.
In his Media statement Archbishop Mataca said national unity could be promoted through a Bill that had caused “so much opposition, division and confusion in the country. This is of great concern to me specially when that opposition comes from people who are experts in the field.”
He was critical that no “comprehensive consultation” had been held on the Bill and that it had been “hastily put together for political purposes… in view of the elections next year.”
Meanwhile, Ratu Epeli Ganilau, president of the National Alliance Party described the incident as “a monumental deception”. “It does not say much about the credibility of the Prime Minister for him to claim publicly that the Christian churches support the Bill after these deliberate acts of deception,” he said.