CJ: It’s not about politics

IMPROVING prison conditions for inmates and investing in better and more modern facilities for remandees should not be political issues.

This was the view expressed by Chief Justice Anthony Gates during the opening of two brand new remand centre blocks at the Lautoka Corrections Centre worth $2.9 million.

“Carrying out such works is unlikely to win votes,” he said.

“Providing dignified detention or correction facilities must be done by society because it is right to do so.

“Everyone is entitled to the protection of the Bill of Rights in Chapter 2 of the Constitution. For these reasons I commend the Government for providing the funds for the remand centre in Suva and now for carrying out substantial construction and improvements at the Lautoka Remand Centre also.”

The Chief Justice highlighted instances where he played a significant role in ensuring remand and corrections facilities were habitable. He made the comment in reference to his term as a High Court judge in the early 2000s in Suva when he ordered an inspection of the Suva prison.

“After initial non co-operation, we were granted access together with the Human Rights Commission, prosecution and defence counsel.”

Mr Gates recalled the disbelief and shock expressed by the legal fraternity when they saw first-hand the deplorable conditions of the Suva Remand Centre.

“Whatever wrongs these remandees may have committed, they ought not to have been asked to live in a pigsty — for that was as close to what it was like.”

He added several sections of the 1997 Constitution which were repeated in the 2013 Constitution ensured people held in detention were housed in conditions that were consistent with human dignity.

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