20th November 07:34 AM
FLP and SODELPA criticise DPP decision, NFP to comment later
By Vijay Narayan and Naveel Krishant
Friday 18/10/2019
SODELPA Leader Sitiveni Rabuka , NFP Leader Biman Prasad and FLP Leader Mahendra Chaudhry

Two political parties have come out criticising the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions not to charge the Prime Minister while the National Federation Party is expected to release a statement later today. 

Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry says he is shocked by the decision of Director Public Prosecutions Christopher Pryde that no charges will be laid against the Prime Minister in the Pio Tikoduadua case.

Chaudhry says the disciplinary rules referred to by the DPP are meant for Members of Parliament who commit a breach of parliamentary privilege.

The FLP leader believes it is not meant for those who are alleged to have committed a criminal act.

Chaudhry says Parliament is not empowered to deal with criminal acts committed by its members.

Section 20 (j) of the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act 1965 that the DPP refers to, states: “any person who threatens or assaults a member or an officer of Parliament on account of his conduct as such member or officer …. shall be guilty of an offence and liable to on conviction to a fine not exceeding four hundred dollars or, in default of payment thereof, to imprisonment not exceeding two years or to such imprisonment without the option of a fine or to both such fine and imprisonment.”

Chaudhry says offences listed in Section 20 of the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act are matters for the courts to decide, not the privileges committee or the Parliament.

The FLP Leader says by his own admission, the DPP agrees that had the Privileges Committee and Parliament not dealt with the case, there was sufficient evidence for the matter to proceed to court.

Chaudhry says Pio Tikoduadua has been denied justice in this particular case.

Rabuka says he is disappointed but not surprised to note the decision taken by DPP  (Friday 18/10/2019)

By: Vijay Narayan and Naveel Krishant

Leader of Opposition, Sitiveni Rabuka says he is disappointed, but not surprised to note the decision taken by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Rabuka says despite the DPP’s assessment that there is sufficient evidence for the laying of charges, he decided against charges based on section 14(1)(b) of the Constitution which provides that “a person may not be tried for an offence in respect of an act or omission for which that person has previously been either acquitted or convicted.”

Rabuka believes in Fiji and in other jurisdictions, the matter of double jeopardy, the accused person is charged, and then he raises a plea of autre fois acquit in court, after he is charged, adding yet here the DPP has pre-judged the matter and assumed the Court will set charges aside at that stage.

Rabuka says it is important that they revisit Parliamentary Privilege which is provided for in section 73 of the 2013 Constitution whereby all Members of Parliament and any person speaking in Parliament enjoy parliamentary privilege including freedom of speech and debate. He says he emphasises that section 73 of the Constitution does not authorize assaults or other breaches of criminal law.

He further says a dangerous precedent has been set here where a Member of Parliament, no less than the Prime Minister can commit an assault and plead privilege and get off with a simple apology.

Rabuka says although the Opposition was represented on the Select Committee on Parliamentary Privilege, their Members did not endorse the recommendation that the Prime Minister apologize or face six months suspension, in the spirit of good governance, transparency, accountability, consistency with precedent set and the position the Party has taken.

Rabuka noted the precedent set by Parliament in three previous privilege matters, for mere words spoken in the House, was 2 years suspension for Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu and suspension until the end of the parliamentary term for Ratu Isoa Tikoca and Tupou Draunidalo.

NFP to release a statement in relation to the decision by the DPP not to charge the PM (Friday 18/10/2019)

By: Vijay Narayan and Naveel Krishant

The National Federation Party says they will be releasing a statement today in relation to the decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions not to charge Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama.

Leader, Professor Biman Prasad is expected to reveal what the NFP will do next after the decision announced by the DPP.

Director of Public Prosecutions, Christopher Pryde has decided that no charges will be laid against Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama in relation to allegations that he assaulted a Member of Parliament, Pio Tikoduadua in the parliamentary precincts on 9th August this year.

Pryde says under section 73 of the Constitution, Parliament has the power to discipline members of Parliament. He says those powers are further particularised under the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act 1965 which provides for the prosecution of offences such as assault committed by one member against another member.

Pryde says under section 20 of that Act, a person found guilty by Parliament for the offence of assault is liable to a fine of $400 or to imprisonment not exceeding 2 years or both.

He says as the altercation occurred within the precincts of Parliament, the Speaker exercised his authority and referred the matter to the Privileges Committee to hear evidence of the matter and to make findings on the allegation.

The DPP says those findings were accepted by Parliament which then endorsed and implemented a penalty.

Pryde says the constitutional separation of powers doctrine applies to prevent the courts and the executive from interfering with a decision made by Parliament in the exercise of its constitutional authority.

He says, therefore, as the matter has now been dealt with by the Parliamentary Privileges Committee and those findings and recommendations have been accepted by Parliament, it would not be in the public interest for a second hearing to take place before the judiciary in the criminal courts.

Pryde says this would, in effect, be subjecting the Prime Minister to double jeopardy contrary to section 14 (1) (b) of the Constitution after his matter has already been adjudicated on by the Privileges Committee and a decision made by Parliament after hearing the evidence from witnesses.

The DPP says had the matter not been heard by the Privileges Committee and dealt with by Parliament, there was sufficient evidence for the matter to proceed to court.

Pryde says for these reasons, there will be no further action on this file and the matter is now closed.

The police docket has been returned to the police.

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