Wednesday January 18, 2012
FWRM maintains caution
The Fiji Women’s Rights Movement remains cautious, following the removal of the Public Emergency Regulations and the issuing of the Public Order Amendment Decree on January 7 2012.
“FWRM believes the only change that the decree brings in – is the granting of wider unfettered powers to the police and the military. This could be dangerous in this current political context because it allows for the potential abuse of power”, said FWRM Executive Director Virisila Buadromo. “What’s even more disconcerting is that like all other decrees of the regime, it also prohibits the general public from challenging any actions of the police commissioner, the Minister or any public official.”
“So while we may no longer be governed under emergency laws, the effect that the imposition of the Public Order Amendment Decree is still the same – freedom of speech, expression, movement, and association continues to be under threat as well as the right to a fair trial.”
Among other provisions, the decree states that an individual’s movement can be limited and curtailed if the police commissioner is satisfied that any person or persons is undermining or sabotaging public order and safety including the economic and financial integrity of the country.
“Freedom of movement is a basic human right and denial of it results in the violation of other rights such as right to work, liberty, education, to family, freedom of expression and does not encourage political participation”, said Buadromo.
“The State has announced that the removal of the PER is to enable the public to be able to meaningfully participate in the constitutional and electoral processes. We hope that this will be the spirit by which the law is interpreted and enforced by the State.”
"FWRM wishes to participate in legitimate constitutional and electoral processes. Legitimacy can only be achieved through the State’s protection of our basic human rights and our right as human beings to assert these rights. As long as there is limitation to these rights, the likelihood of meaningful public consultation is slim.”
While the police have briefed FWRM and other non-governmental organisations regarding events and meetings that do not require a permit and the permit application process, the Movement hopes that this will be implemented without prejudice and that the police ensure the protection of freedom of expression and opinion, and association for everyone especially for girls and women.
“On previous occasions we have been told that we do not require a permit, only to be shut-down later. It has been quite challenging for us for the last three years in facilitating dialogue with the women in the communities due to these restrictions and the fear of intimidation,” said Buadromo.
The decree should promote wider protection and promotion of human rights given that freedom of expression and opinion and association plays a critical role in democracy and public participation in political life.