The Citizens’ Constitutional Forum has been calling for the Public Emergency Regulation to be lifted since April 2009 and welcomes the announcement by Bainimarama that it will cease from January 7th, 2012.
“It is good as the PER fundamentally restricted people and ordinary citizens to be engaged in discussions on key issues which will dominate the next few years. Interestingly under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights these freedoms of assembly (Article 20) and opinion ( Article 19) were curtailed and violated with the imposition of PER, says CEO Reverend Akuila Yabaki.
“The lifting of the PER is a good sign by government as it represents a credible step in the right direction. But it is the first, belated as it is, and we may need to focus on this as an opportunity for the many more steps,” says Rev. Yabaki.
“The media Decree will now be allowed to be tested as the Duplication in Section 16 of the PER is covered by the Section 80 of the Media Decree which prohibits publication and broadcast of material which would give rise to public disorder. The PER , however, restricted assembly and this is the fundamental difference meaning that groups, political, social, church can now freely exercise their fundamental right to sit and discuss issues.”
“This freedom means that potential spoilers will also be allowed the same freedoms. They must be allowed to express their views so the debate and discussion on key national issues and the way forward represents the view of all citizens of Fiji, a country of diverse people stresses Rev. Yabaki.
“In a way the blogs will no longer dominate political discussion. The other concern area is if the media entities will quickly refrain from Self Censorship and adjust to practicing a freedom and responsibility that is fundamental to all.”
“Opinion makers offshore must also acknowledge that the lifting of the PER has a lot to do with the work by CSO’s over the last 3 years. The series of dialogues at the different levels allowing space for reasoning out the call for the removal of PER. CCF has rather been unrelenting in its call for the removal of PER and yet at the same time we have had to apply for Permits. Last year alone we had to apply for about 70 Permit Applications for each event and activity, 2010 about 80 permits applications” says Rev. Yabaki.
“The process is the first step and the real test if the current regime can shoulder the diverse opinion some of which will be negative and critical and allow the groups to assemble and talk freely without having to resort to the imposition of PER again. The fact is if this freedom is not practiced with responsibility we may find ourselves back to restrictions and this may delay the processes that promise to return us back to sustainable democracy” stresses Rev. Yabaki.
“Lifting of the PER must be understood in the concept that it allows us our fundamental freedom of expression. The work for Sustainable Democracy is in the Constitutional Work, the Electoral Reform, A legitimate Consultation Process, the preparation of the people for the polls and looking at the truth and reconciliation issues together with the exit strategy for the current regime” stated Rev. Yabaki.