THE suspension of Section 8 of the amended Public Order Act must be seen for what it really is – an initial step towards the removal of restrictions on the freedom of expression placed on all Fijians.
Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF) CEO Reverend Akuila Yabaki stresses that, “Critical to this process is the opportunity for Fijians to be able to speak freely about their aspirations and dreams and their fears and frustrations about past, present and future governments.”
“If the discussions on the constitutional process are to be transparent and in order that all people may be apprized of the views of others, the media must be permitted to provide unfettered coverage of discussions, views and consultations,” says Rev Yabaki.
The recent amendments to the Public Order Act covers the period July 18, 2012 until the Constitution Commission hands over a draft document to the President and does not cover the period of the deliberations by the Constituent Assembly.
To this, Yabaki stated that, “It is at that point in our history – when the draft constitution is available – that the people must be allowed to comment and debate the finer points of the document which will be their supreme law.”
“The deliberations of the Constituent Assembly must be open not only to public scrutiny but also to comment and debate and this must be allowed even after the President’s assent and subsequently the Bainimarama Government must take immediate steps to ensure that there is debate in all sectors of the community throughout the entire constitution making process to
allow the legislators to hear the views of all Fijians and, hopefully, respond to these opinions by assuaging fears, removing doubts and amending policies.”
Rev Yabaki stated that, “CCF reiterates that for free discussions to eventuate, two important steps must be taken by the administration and these include, firstly to repeal the legislation which requires permits for public gatherings of more than two people and secondly, to remove the Media Industry Development Decree.”
“We recognize the need to ensure that people do not abuse their fundamental freedoms of expression and association and urge all Fijians to act responsibly when discussing matters of national interest.”
“We call once again on the Bainimarama Government to remove these restrictions to enable a true and inclusive dialogue.”

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