The Fiji Law Society says the proposed Electoral Act Amendment Bill before Parliament unnecessarily attacks citizen’s rights to privacy, including legal professional privilege.
Society President, Wylie Clarke says the amendment gives power to the Supervisor of Elections to compel any person to provide all or any information or documents on virtually any pretext.
He said citizens must hand over information “notwithstanding the provisions of any other written law on confidentiality, privilege or secrecy”.
Clarke said the proposed changes are inconsistent with the international core values and principles to which Fiji has committed itself.
He said the proposed amendments unnecessarily extend the powers of the Supervisor beyond those necessary to fulfil his duties and powers under the Electoral Act.
According to Clarke, this will see the Supervisor’s powers encroach on and duplicate powers of investigation that are already vested in the Fiji Independent Commission against Corruption.
Clarke adds that the attack on legal professional privilege is particularly serious as the privilege exists to enable people to take legal advice on any action they wish to take or not to take, knowing that they have protection.
He said if this privilege is taken away, people cannot take advice on their legal rights and cannot exercise them to the fullest extent and may end up breaching laws.
Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the proposed amendments are based on the experiences of the Fijian Elections Office to support the delivery of the General Election in line with international best practices.
“The amendments earlier in the cycle in relation to the campaign period and the implication of the campaign laws has brought about requirements for the Fijian Elections Office to have the powers to obtain information necessary to determine issues in relation to complaints, prior to FEO determining whether a law has been breached and exercising its powers pursuant to the Act.”
Sayed-Khaiyum said the proposed amendments reflect better practical ways of implementing existing provisions of the Electoral Act.
He said it is necessary that such amendments are made expeditiously to avoid any potential procedural conflict under the Act.
SOURCE: FBC NEWS/PACNEWS