Fiji Law Society president Wylie Clarke has called on the Government to transfer all the prosecution powers of the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
He made this plea while addressing the 2023 Prosecutors Conference at the Warwick Hotel yesterday.
Mr Clarke was stressing the importance of the independence of prosecutors in the process of fair trial, and how public confidence in the criminal justice system had been diminished by the lack of independence in prosecutorial agencies.
He said as a result of reports of arbitrary arrests, detention of journalists and human rights activists, opposition politicians, unionists, and people unhappy with government over the past 16 years had eroded public confidence in the criminal justice system.
“When the abuses occurred, public perception of the (judicial) process was already so coloured that by the time people entered the courtroom it did not matter if the trial was fair,” he said.
He said the DPP’s and FICAC’s independence as prosecutorial agencies was guaranteed by the Constitution, but FICAC’s was qualified by Section 115 (9) of the Constitution.
He said the section required the commissioner of FICAC to provide regular updates and advice to the Attorney-General.
“This opens up the possibility of the consultation between FICAC and the AG that is not conducive to independence.
“Since its creation, the reality of what is said to be an independent anticorruption institution has fallen short of its promise.”
Mr Clarke said a public perception had taken hold that FICAC was led by the former government in prosecuting Opposition politicians and people perceived as anti-government.
“This damages public confidence in public prosecution and I am not certain that trust can be regained if the status quo remains.”
Mr Clarke submitted that public confidence could be rebuilt by transferring FICAC’s prosecutorial powers to the DPP.