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Fiji Time: 12:35 PM on Tuesday 29 July

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Activist attacks rights body

Sunday, December 17, 2006

THE Pacific Centre for Public Integrity says the appointment of Rodney Acraman as Acting Ombudsman and chairperson of the Human Rights Commission is illegal under the Constitution.

Centre executive director Angie Heffernan said Mr Acraman should have the moral and legal conviction to decline the illegal appointment.

"The centre asks him to effectively resign as he has no legal or moral right to the critical position," she said.

Ms Heffernan says under Section 163 of the Constitution, the Ombudsman was supposed to be appointed by the Constitutional Offices Commission.

"The military commander, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, whether he says he is acting President, has no legal authority to appoint the Ombudsman," she said.

Ms Heffernan questioned why the Director of the Fiji Human Rights Commission, Doctor Shaista Shameem, had remained silent over the illegal appointment, particularly as Mr Acraman would be chairperson of the commission.

"Ms Shameem should publicly denounce and reject this appointment on the basis of its illegality and by not doing so, gives the public impression she supports this illegal appointment and as such it calls into question the integrity of the office of the of the Director and that of the FHRC.

"If the director of the commission is not able to undertake the full remit of the directors job terms of reference than this need to be made known to the FHRC Commissioner," she said.

The Fiji Women's Rights Movement said it was concerned at the commission's apparent acceptance of the military-appointed Ombudsman.

But Mr Acraman said people were entitled to their own opinions and refused to comment further on the appointment.

Fiji Law Society president Devanesh Sharma said Mr Acraman's appointment was not constitutional.

"Only the Constitutional Services Commission is empowered under the Constitution to make that appointment and in this case they did not so it makes the appointment illegal," he said.


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