A Seminar on ?The Proposed Promotion of Reconciliation, Tolerance and Unity Bill (PRTUB)?, was organised under the aegis of Antar Rashtriya Sahayog Parishad (ARSP), Bharat (Indian Council of International Cooperation) at Constitution Club, New Delhi recently.
The Bill (PRTUB) has recently been introduced in Fiji Parliament and it seeks to grant Amnesty to the people who staged a coup in Fiji in May 2000 when George Speight stormed into Fiji Parliament with armed gunmen and took hostage of the then prime minister Mahendra Chaudhary and his ministers. The Bill is a contentious one and has generated much debate in Fiji and abroad.
Shri Baleshwar Agrawal, Secretary General, ARSP, welcomed the guests. Shri Shashank, former foreign secretary, GOI, introduced the subject by giving a brief background of circumstances in which indentured labour from India went to Fiji as plantation workers. Praising Fijian Prime Minister, Mr. Qarase for inviting debate on the proposed Bill, he explained the nature of various conflicts in this multi ethnic society.
Shri Mahendra Chaudhary, former prime minister of Fiji, and presently leader of Opposition dismissed the Fiji Government'sview that the Bill seeks to promote reconciliation, tolerance and Unity between the two ethnic groups in Fiji, Indigenous Fijians and Indo Fijians. He recalled that when he was the prime minister, he had 12-Indigenous Fijians as cabinet ministers as against only 6-Indo Fijians. He lambasted the Bill as a farce, which seeks to benefit Qarase and his party at the expence of victims of May 2000 coup. Terming the Bill as a direct interference in the process of justice he called upon the Indian Government to take a clear and firm stand on the issue. He expressed hope that during the coming visit of Prime Minister Mr. Laisenia Qarase in October this year, the Government of India will be able to prevail over him to withdraw the Bill.
The High Commissioner of Fiji, Mr. Luke Rokovada, put forward the Fiji Government'spoint of view. He said that the proposed Bill is a new ?problem solving approach? and emphasised that ?when some thing new which challenges conventional thinking is introduced, controversy and debate are to be expected?. He assured that the Government of Fiji has an open mind on the issue and he promised that he will convey the feeling expressed by the speakers at the seminar to the Government of Fiji.
Prof. I.S. Chauhan, former Indian high commissioner in Fiji gave a detailed background of a present political situation in Fiji. He said that the coup of 2000 had caused as much damage to the Indigenous Fijians as it did to the Indo Fijians.
Shri Vijay Jolly, MLA, Delhi felt strongly that the Indian Government should take a firm stand on the proposed Bill. ?The Government of India'ssilence is deafening? he said.
Shri Lakhan Lal Mehrotra, in his concluding remarks said that while efforts for reconciliation should go on, no healing is possible without giving justice to the victims of the coup.
Shri Narain Kumar, convenor of the seminar emphasised that the bill is designed against the people of Indian origin. He said the proposed bill aims to benefit Fiji Prime Minister Mr. Qarase in the name of reconciliation, victimises Mr. Mahendra Chaudhary in the name of tolerance and seeks to grant amnesty to Speight in the name of Unity. (FOC)