SODELPA’s Youth Wing today made a submission on the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Bill to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights.
In their submission, SODELPA Youth Member Samuela Savu says that this bill violates the foundation of democracy on which our nation was founded on.
Savu says subsection 2 of this bill protects members of parliament who have committed a criminal offence from arrest within the parliamentary precinct and this projects them as superior over ordinary citizens.
He adds that they do not see why any MP should be exempt from any arrest just because they are within the parliamentary precinct.
SODELPA also believes the defamation clause in section 24 is outright oppressing in its nature.
Leanda Gonevinaka says this violates the core cause of democracy and freedom of expression.
Gonevinaka says the lack of meaning provided of the words demeaning and sanctity of parliament is also a concern.
She recommends this clause be taken out as it is undemocratic as it makes a mockery of basic human rights.
Gonevinaka says people elect MPs and pay their salaries, and questions why shouldn’t they hold them accountable through criticism.
The Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights has already stated that the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Bill does not stop people from criticizing members of parliament and the government.
Ashneel Sudhakar who is leading the committee which is now taking public submissions, says Section 24 of the bill regarding defamation of parliament is very clear.
Section 24 of the proposed law says that any person whose words or actions defame, demean or undermine the sanctity of parliament, the Speaker or a committee commits an offence and is liable upon conviction in the case of a natural person, to a fine not exceeding $30,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or to both.
If a body corporate is found guilty of doing the same, they can be fined up to $100,000 or face prison terms for each director and manager not exceeding 5 years, or face both penalties.
Sudhakar says there is no special protection to Members of Parliament in the section.
The Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission will make its submission today.Listen to the latest news on our 5 radio stations Legend FM, Viti FM, Radio Sargam, FM96 and Navtarang.