Unions call on Fiji PM to explain draft police bill ‘crazy insult’

RNZ Pacific

Unions in Fiji say it is hard to believe the Prime Minister only found out about the controversial draft Police Bill after public uproar.

The draft legislation would have given police more surveillance powers if passed in Parliament.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama pulled the plug on the bill last week following widespread condemnation from civil society groups, individuals and opposition parties.

READ MORE: More reports on the Fiji Police Bill

The prime minister had said he only found out about the controversial draft legislation after the public uproar.

But the Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC) said it was surprised that Bainimarama had pulled the plug on the proposed Bill.

FTUC national secretary Felix Anthony said the whole country was aware of the draft bill because the consultations were launched publicly.

He said there was even a cake-cutting ceremony to mark the occasion in Suva with representatives from the New Zealand High Commission and UN development programme present.

NZ, UNDP funding consultations
Both New Zealand and the UNDP are co-funding the public consultations.

Anthony said the prime minister was obliged to tell the public how he was not made aware of it.

“Bainimarama needs to tell the public what actually happened and not only that, but we believe that there needs to be full consultation on any proposed Bill with the public and all parts need to be addressed,” the FTUC said in a statement.

The unions said it was “crazy and an insult” to the people of Fiji to ask them for their opinions on the proposed Bill which breached the Constitution.

“It is simply crazy that they know what was wrong with it, they know it was breaching the Constitution, yet they wanted to ask the people to tell them what is wrong with it, which is simply crazy and an insult to the people of Fiji.’

Following the prime minister’s retraction of the public consultations, his minister in charge of the police force, issued an apology.

Defence Minister Inia Seruiratu said he was sorry for allowing the draft Police Bill to go for public consultations.

Seruiratu said the ministry had overlooked the process the draft document needed to go through.

“I did the launching because of the work we had prepared,” Seruiratu said. “We have overlooked the process and we sincerely apologise for that.”

The Draft Bill is now under review, the minister said.

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