By Timoci Vula in Suva
Fiji lawyer and former human rights activist Imrana Jalal has offered a “warning” to her motherland that should people be investigated, prosecuted or dismissed, it must be done within the rule of law.
In a social media posting on her Facebook page, Jalal wrote: “A WARNING to ourselves in Fiji — it’s very important that if people are going to be investigated, dismissed, prosecuted or asked to resign voluntarily (without coercion) whether in a State-Owned Enterprise (SOE) or otherwise; or a commission of inquiry be set up, example, to look at the judiciary, that this all be done within the rule of law.
“There should be no victimisation or targeted prosecutions unless there is genuine evidence by independent investigators.
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“I speak with authority on this having been targeted by the former regime personally.
“If we do otherwise, then we are no better than the corrupt regime [that has been] in power for the last 16 years.
“We need to start off the right way or we are tainted from the beginning.”
Jalal, a former Fiji human rights commissioner and previously a gender specialist with the Asia Development Bank, asked those calling for heads to roll to “be careful”.
She is the first woman to be appointed as a special project facilitator of the ADB.
‘Give our fragile democracy a chance’
“Be cautious. Refrain from this type of diatribe. No good will come of it. There can be no restoration to the rule of law like that,” she said.
“Let the government slowly make its way. Give them a chance: step by step we can restore our fragile democracy.”
Prominent Suva lawyer Graham Leung voiced similar sentiment, calling on Fijians to be patient and follow the law. He added that due process must be followed in dismissing or removing people from office.
“Arbitrary and unlawful dismissals must be avoided at all costs. There are constitutional processes for removal for some posts,” Leung said on his Facebook social media page.
“In some cases, there are legally binding contracts in place. Negotiations for early termination of contracts can take place by mutual agreement. These should be carried out professionally without malice or bad faith.
“We would be no better than the last government if we did this. Due process will take time.
“You cannot rectify and address 16 years of bad governance overnight. The change we all voted for will not happen at the press of a button.
“I urge the people of Fiji celebrating the new government’s victory and the removal of the previous authoritarian government to be patient. We will get there eventually.
“Let us not, in the excitement of the change, lose our sense of reason, fairness and logic.
“I completely accept that those [who] have broken the law must be held personally accountable, whether in the courts or according to law.”
Timoci Vula is a Fiji Times reporter. Republished with permission.