Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Fiji: Criminalising the opposition again

The Fijian government has introduced a Code of Conduct Bill, ostensibly setting standards for politicians and public servants and a body to receive complaints about them. But when you read the fine print, it turns out that its just a trojan horse for punishing people who complain about the government:

The bill lays out codes of conduct for public servants, politicians and judges as well as rules for a new Accountability and Transparency Commission which would enforce the code.

Under the bill, the commission must refer complaints it believes are malicious or politically motivated to Fiji's Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) and anyone found guilty would be liable to a fine of up to $FJ10,000 or up to five years in jail.

The terms "malicious" and "politically motivated" were not defined in the bill, Mr Naidu said.

Here it is worth noting that any criticism of the government by the opposition is deemed "malicious" and "politically motivated" by the former. So, if they make a formal complaint, they can be jailed (and unseated, and barred from public office) for it. Which when you look at the actual power of the ATC - all they can do is report things to the Fiji "Independent" Commission Against Corruption, and they are not allowed to investigate issues which have been raised in the media or with anyone else first - then it seems that jailing people who make complaints is the whole point of the exercise. The net result? Rather than building trust and accountability, it erodes them.

There's more from Richard Naidu about the bill here.