PM Rejects Gay Criticism
Times, April 14, 2005
PRIME Minister Laisenia Qarase has
rejected international criticism of a controversial law that saw two men
jailed for homosexual acts.
He told a local radio station that other countries should
not interfere with Fiji’s legal process.
The case has triggered widespread debate and shifted
focus to Fiji’s Constitution and the Penal Code.
Among those closely monitoring the development of the
case involving Australian tourist Thomas McCoskar and delivery boy Dhirendra
Nadan are the Fiji Human Rights Commission, Women’s Action for Change and
the Citizen’s Constitutional Forum.
United People’s party president Mick Beddoes said
‘sexual preference’ should not be used as a reason for punishment or
He said the Constitution was the supreme law of the land
and any law inconsistent with the Constitution was invalid.
Furthermore, he said there were many laws in the country
that were yet to be updated and changed to become more relevant to today’s
social structure and to “come into line with the provisions of the
During the bail application hearing on Tuesday, Nadan’s
lawyers—Natasha Khan and her brother Faiz Khan—argued that Nadan did not
know that it was a crime to have sex with another man.
They said Sections 175 and 177 of the Penal Code Cap 17
contradicted Section 37 (1) of the Constitution, which protected an
individual’s “sexual orientation”.
However, Navinesh Nand of the Director of Public
Prosecutions office argued that Section 37 (2) of the Constitution limited the
interpretation of section 37 (1) because it states that the right to personal
privacy “may be made subject to such limitation prescribed by law as are
reasonable and justifiable in a free and democratic society”.
This section, he said, provided that section 37 (1) be
interpreted according to the values of Fiji’s society.
He said the jail term did not violate the Constitutional
rights of the men and they should remain in custody while the appeal could be
prioritised and brought forward.
Presiding judge Justice Kishor Govind released the men on
bail after admitting it was no ordinary case.
The case will be called for mention on April 28.
Human Rights Commission director Shaista Shameem said
they were likely to make a submission on the case as a friend of the court.
CCF has written a letter to Natasha Khan, the lawyer
defending Nadan, who has since appealed the conviction and been granted bail.
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