NGO Coalition on Human Rights

Towards a Fiji that respects and protects human rights

P.O Box 12882 Suva, Fiji Ph: 679-3313 300

Wednesday June 20, 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The NGO Coalition on Human Rights commends the State’s decision to issue a ‘one-off’ permit to non-governmental organisations undertaking civic education training and workshops around the country.

According to Coalition Chair Shamima Ali, NGOs will now save on the time, effort and resources spent on applying for permits since the Public Emergency Regulations (PER) came into effect in April 2009, followed by the Public Order (Amendment) Decree (POAD) earlier this year.

Under the PER, any event involving the general public had required a permit from the District Officer; under the current POAD, permit applications must be submitted to the Divisional Police Commander.

“Civic education is an important part of the democratization process and civil society organisations around Fiji have been preparing to work with communities for some time now,” she said.

Despite this progress, the Coalition is still concerned that any discussion of constitutional and electoral reform may not be open and free due to the enforcement of the POAD.

“We urge the State to consider removing the POAD as it impedes open discussions about the proposed democratic reforms,” she said.

Under the Universal Declaration on Democracy ‘individual participation in democratic processes and public life at all levels must be regulated fairly and impartially and must avoid any discrimination, as well as the risk of intimidation by State and non-State actors’[1].

“You cannot have meaningful discussion in a controlled environment. This is the time when women and men should be discussing, debating and openly questioning about the future of their country, without fear of any repercussions. How can that happen if people are afraid to speak openly?” she asked.

The Coalition recommends the State urgently repeal the POAD.

ENDS.

[1] Universal Declaration On Democracy - Declaration adopted without a vote by the Inter-Parliamentary Council at its 161st session (Cairo, 16 September 1997)