Last edited: April 16, 2005

PM Rejects Gay Criticism

Fiji 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 imprisonment.

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 Constitution”.

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.

[Home] [World] [Fiji]