Vosarogo should focus on building his crumbling political party – Ashwin Raj

Vosarogo should focus on building his crumbling political party – Ashwin Raj

By Semi Turaga
Friday 19/03/2021
SODELPA’s Deputy Leader, Filimoni Vosarogo and Director of the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission Ashwin Raj

The Director of the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission Ashwin Raj says he does not need a lawyer-turned-politician to tell him what needs to be done.

SODELPA’s Deputy Leader, Filimoni Vosarogo had posted on his facebook page that the Draft Police Bill was out in the public and Raj could read it and form a view on it whether the powers violate the Bill of Rights.

In response to Vosarogo, Raj says Vosarogo should instead focus on building his crumbling political party.

Raj says the statement by Vosarogo is farcical and while this grandstanding does not warrant an elaborate response, it is imperative that the record is set straight.

The Director says he had issued a statement on 8th March 2021 which clearly stated that the Commission was going to make a submission on the proposed Police Bill once the bill is tabled in Parliament.

Raj adds it was categorically stated that the Commission in its substantive submission will call for alignment of the bill with the state’s human rights obligation under the domestic procedures and international conventions and treaties that Fiji has ratified.

He says the Commission had written to Parliament, seeking a date and time when it could make its submission but was advised that the Police Bill is yet to be tabled in the House.

Raj further says the Commission will, as it has done in the past, make its submission through the relevant parliamentary standing committee.

The Commission says it has made numerous submissions to the parliamentary standing committees since 2016 on Bills which have profound human rights implications, some of which includes: Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, Adoption Bill, Information Bill, Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Bill, Registration of Sex Offenders Bill, Online Safety Bill, International Covenants: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, ILO Convention 190 - The Elimination of Violence and Harassment in the World of Work, ILO Protocol of 2002 to the Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981, Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict and Cybercrime Bill 2020.

Raj also says beyond expressing opprobrium, a thorough submission to relevant parliamentary standing committee must deconstruct the law, examine which provisions of the proposed law interdicts rights and freedoms and what safeguards exist in our domestic procedures as well as international human rights law to resuscitate those rights under strain.

He stresses that this is the focus of the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission.

Raj adds we need to find solutions and he does not see the need to join the chorus of dissent.

He says there are enough people doing that in this country and that is their democratic right.

Raj further says as a national human rights institution, their focus will remain in finding solutions to these intractable human rights challenges and not grandstanding to appease the pathos of Vosarogo. He adds the Commission has called out police brutality openly and taken matters to court in relation to alleged violation of the rights of arrested and detained persons and freedom from cruel and degrading treatment.

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