Fiji stresses importance to modernize Public Order Act after PER's removal

Updated: 2012-01-09 15:08:00

(Xinhua)

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SUVA, January 9 (Xinhua) -- The Fiji's authorities on Monday highlighted the importance to modernize Public Order Act after the Public Emergency Regulation (PER) was lifted on Saturday.

Modernizing the Public Order Act will ensure a stable and peaceful society and is a positive step towards democracy, stressed Fiji's Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

Fiji's Prime Minister Josaia V. Bainimarama announced in his New Year Message that the PER, introduced following the abrogation of the 1997 Constitution, has been in place in Fiji since April 10, 2009 after the Bainimarama government took power by 2006 military coup, would cease by January 7 to facilitate the consultations on the new constitution which will commence from next month to pave the way for general elections by September 2014.

Following the PER removal, Fijians can now be allowed to meet in groups, but "they will still need permits to meet in public places like any other countries" as the Public Order Amendment Decree 2012 still remains.

"We must all remember that public order, protecting the vulnerable and safeguarding the economy will always be paramount. We must also as a nation, be intolerant of those that seek refuge and political power in religious, ethnic and communal divisions," said Bainimarama.

In his Monday remarks, Sayed-Khaiyum echoed the prime minister by saying that the Public Order Act must be strengthened and the government wants to prevent a situation such as the 2000 coup, ever happening again.

Under the Public Order Amendment Decree 2012 section 17 C (1), any person who commits an act of terrorism shall be guilty of an offense and shall be liable upon conviction to imprisonment for life.

Also on Monday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay welcomed the lifting of the PER in Fiji as a step in the right direction towards the full enjoyment of fundamental human rights in the country.

Bainimarama's announcement that amendments have been made to the Public Order Act, she said, hoping that these amendments would be in line with international human rights norms and would not in any way replicate the restrictions in the Public Emergency Regulations.

"As Fiji begins its constitution-making process and prepares for elections to be held in 2014, I look forward to seeing an environment in which ordinary people and civil society organizations can participate fully," she added.