The Social Democratic Liberal Party or SODELPA Youth Council is calling on the Government to respect the views of the people of Fiji who elected them, and to respect their right to freedom of expression, which will be seriously curtailed by clause 24 of the Parliamentary Privileges Bill No. 28 of 2016.
SODELPA Youth Leader Jope Koroisavou led a delegation of youth, to make their views on Bill No.28 known, to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law, Justice and Human Rights, at the Parliamentary Complex yesterday.
The delegation included Amoni Kepa, Jane Gaunavinaka and Samuela Savu – as well as other members of the SODELPA Youth.
In their submission, the SODELPA Youth focused on clauses 4, 23 and 24 of the Bill.
They have called for the review of the Bill, and its withdrawal back to the drawing board.
“On Clause 4, the SODELPA Youth told the Committee chaired by Government Whip Ashneel Sudhakar, that the Members of Parliament’s privilege against arrest should not be extended to their travel between their home and Parliament or vice versa, and that instead, the police should be able to arrest them within the Parliamentary precincts, if they are outside of a meeting of the Parliament Chamber, or outside of a Committee room. This will ensure that the Police are not prevented from carrying out their work and ensures that the accused will not arrange by their phone or email for evidence to be removed or destroyed while police are excluded from the Parliamentary complex.”
“On Clause 23, the SODELPA Youth told the Committee that there is no definition of “disturbance” and that instead, members of the public should have the freedom to protest within Parliament, without being subject to draconian fines and jail terms. The Youth contended that since the people pay the salaries of MPs and Government Ministers, the people should be able to express their views, in a peaceful protest by for example wearing t-shirts or holding placards, but without shouting or causing a commotion.”
“On Clause 24, the SODELPA Youth expressed their most grave and serious concern that this would be the death-knell of free speech in Fiji, given the lack of definition of the terms in this new criminal offence. We recommend that this clause be removed. It is undemocratic and not healthy for a free society. This clause makes a mockery of democracy. We the people choose who to represent us in Parliament and we pay their salaries, so they should serve us, and be accountable to us, and yes, be subject to the views of the people on their performance. Why should we not be allowed to hold them accountable through criticizing and demeaning them, so to speak? If they cannot be criticized then they should not be here. There is no need to call them our representatives if we cannot keep them in line if they do not correctly carry out what we pay them to.”