An opinion piece by Mick Beddoes, of the United Coalition for a Democratic Fiji
When we fail to apply the rule of law equally to every citizen our moral & ethical compass as a society fails with it.
On May 1st Mr Chaudhry will be sentenced and if it involves a custodial term then he will be the second of our democratically elected Prime Ministers to be sent to prison for offences that can only be described as misdemeanors when we compare it to the capital offences committed by the usurpers of our democracy in 1987, 2000 and 2006.
|Speight serving time - but what of others.|
Both of our former Prime Ministers have already been disqualified from participating in the 2014 elections as a direct consequence of their convictions and Mr Qarase has already served his time. Yet two of their 3 usurpers, not only remain free, they are eligible to contest the general election that has been denied to the two Prime Ministers they over threw.
The third usurper, a civilian, was charged and sentenced to death, which was the penalty for treason at the time. His life was spared when the death penalty was removed for capital crimes by parliament and George Speight is still serving his life sentence for his part in the 2000 coup.
If the rule of law is supposedly applied equally to all, why is George Speight in prison while the 2 other coup leaders are free and able to contest elections? What was different about the 2000 coup from the 1987 and 2006 coups? How have we justified such an unfair application of the rule of law in this instant?
How can we as a society, think that it is somehow fair and just to punish our democratically elected leaders as harshly as we have done for their misdemeanors, which are unrelated to their term in office, while at the same time remain silent and just accept the imposition by the usurpers of a blanket immunity that protects them not only from the capital offences they committed against the state, the constitution and the people in the past, but which extends to crimes they are yet to commit in the future?
|Chaudhry: Waiting sentence.|
And if that is not enough, we even give them the freedom to take part in general elections, without having answered for their crimes.
There is something fundamentally wrong with us a society if we believe it’s ok to have the usurpers of our democracy, elected to our House of Representatives, where they can help make laws and dispense justice to the very people whose livelihoods, rights and freedoms they abused and suppressed, while all the time being protected from prosecution for overthrowing our previous parliaments.
Mr Qarase and Mr Chaudhry are now disqualified from contesting elections for their misdemeanors; every other citizen who is registered to vote and eligible to contest the elections is subject to disqualification for various offences as stated in Sec 56 of the 2013 constitution. It is only the usurpers of our democracy and those other citizens who have aided and arbited them in the removal of our elected governments who will not face the kind of scrutiny that other citizens will be subjected to because they enjoy immunity from prosecution.
This is what the regime means about everyone being equal.
The rule of law must apply equally to everyone from the law abiding citizen, the common thief to coup leaders and Presidents. But so long as we keep rewarding the wrong doers and try to make excuses for their actions as being necessary then we fail to apply the rule of law as we are obliged to do and consequently our moral & ethical compass as a society fails with it.
‘History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people’. Dr Martin Luther King Jr