Raj: Par­lia­men­tary Process In­suf­fi­cient to stop Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans from Mak­ing Hate Speeches

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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

Ash­win Raj.

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