Raj: Parliamentary Process Insufficient to stop Parliamentarians from Making Hate Speeches
The Parliamentary disciplinary processes are insufficient to stop Parliamentarians from making hate speeches and insufficient to remedy the harm done to society as a whole. The statement was made made by Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission director, Ashwin Raj. While making submissions on the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Bill in Parliament yesterday, Mr Raj said this was so because of Fiji’s political and social history.
He said Section 73 of the Fijian Constitution on Powers, Privileges, immunities and discipline provided that every Member of Parliament and anyone else speaking in Parliament had the freedom of speech and debate in Parliament or its committees subjected to the standing orders and parliamentary privilege and immunity in respect of anything said in Parliament or its committees. Mr Raj said Subsection 2 further provided that Parliamentary privilege and immunity in respect to anything said in Parliament or its committees. He said Section 73 however, must not be interpreted in isolation precisely because of the limitations set out under Section 17 of the Constitution. Mr Raj said they were also consistent with the principle of equality before the law under the Constitution. “This is because a person who is not a Parliamentarian can be prosecuted under the Crimes Decree for inciting communal hatred but when a parliamentarian utters the very same words in Parliament, Parliamentary privilege protects them. “The HRADC takes full cognizance that such limitations can have a chilling effect on a robust democratic debate in Parliament and therefore submits that the law enforcement agencies develop a consciousness of the international law on the relationship between rights and limitations and the proportionality tests, which defines the boundaries between the two,” he said. Mr Raj said they proposed that Section 73 (1) was to ensure that Parliamentarians are free to participate in robust debates, which protect democratic values. However, he said when privilege was used to incite hatred against communities such incitement couldn’t be considered to be consistent with democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom. “Privilege should not be used to protect an undemocratic exercise of speech, which encourages discrimination on the grounds listed under Section 26 of the Constitution.
“In principle, the freedom of speech of a Parliamentarian exists to protect and strengthen democracy and not to undermine it,” Mr Raj said. He said speeches under section 17 (2) of the constitution that was propaganda for war, incitement to violence or insurrection against the Constitution or advocacy of hatred based on a prohibited grounds of discrimination and which is an incitement to cause harm to any of the communities in Fiji should be an exception to the immunity from legal proceedings for parliamentarians under Section 3 of the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Bill 2016. Edited by Naisa Koroi