Grant of Presidential Pardon
March 9, 2023 State House
??• The Acting Chief Justice Your Lordship Justice Salesi Temo;
• The Attorney-General and Chairperson of the Mercy Commission, Honourable Siromi Turaga;
• Honourable Government Ministers;
• Members of the Mercy Commission;
• Acting Commissioner of the Fiji Corrections Service, Mrs. Salote Panapasa;
• Members of the Media;
• Today’s Pardonees and family members;
• Ladies and gentlemen.
Miau Sa Bula Re! and a very good morning to you all. This morning, I am greatly honoured to officiate in this inaugural ceremony to Grant Presidential Pardon to a few of our very own citizens. While pardons have been made in the past, there are no historic precedents to which such an event we can refer to.
At my inauguration as President in 2021, I promised to uphold and safeguard the Constitution of the Republic of Fiji, to do what is right and just as God grants being guided by the Constitution and one such duty is the granting of Presidential pardon. The grant of Presidential pardon is made possible by the guidance and advice of the Mercy Commission, which exists by virtue of section 119 of the Constitution of the Republic of Fiji.
On the petition of any convicted person, the Commission may recommend that the President exercise a power of mercy by either granting a free or conditional pardon; postponing the carrying out of a punishment, whether for a specific or indeterminate period; or by remitting all or part of a punishment.
The process begins when there is an application of pardon made to the Chairperson of the Mercy Commission. Applications are submitted from the Fiji Corrections Service with the following supporting documents:
a. Commissioner Fiji Corrections Service report
b. Police report
c. Medical report
d. Psychologist report
e. Social Welfare report
g. Other supportive documents (from the family or from the Church community or other community support statements).
Furthermore, the Secretariat of the Commission also writes to the Chief Registrar for case reports. After which there is a rigorous system of scrutiny made by several key stakeholders, before the final deliberation of the Commission. The Chairperson of the Commission then recommends the pardon of successful applicants to the President.
The President’s role is guided under section 119(5) of the Constitution. “Upon the grant of pardon from the President, thereafter the Fiji Corrections Services through its Commissioner is informed of the decisions pertaining to the application of pardon”. The Mercy Commission is a unique constitutional body that provides the opportunity for convicted citizens, giving them hope of applying for a review of their sentence.
For instance, applicant one had committed the offence when he was 17 years old, raised by a single mother, and was a class 8 school dropout. Whilst serving, he had undertaken various upskilling courses including the Vakatawa course in the Fiji Methodist Church, vegetable farming and wet trade. All the reports, I mentioned earlier endorsed his application for pardon. Thus the Commission takes into consideration the number of years served, the circumstances of the applicant at the time of committing the offence and the recommendations in the reports. The Mercy Commission, since 2000 has received sixty five (65) applications for pardon, and has recommended thirty seven (37) grant of pardon to the President.
At this juncture I wish to acknowledge members of the Commission, the Chairperson and Attorney-General, Honourable Siromi Turaga and the esteemed members, Ms. Sitamma Venkatappa; Mr Ben Hazelman; Brigadier-General Apakuki Kurisiga and Magistrate Shageeth Somaratne. On behalf of all Fijians I commend and applaud you for your impartiality and dedication in your considerations, deliberations and decisions that has led to our gathering here today.
As President, my primary concern is also the motto for my office which must always be the pillar of national unity by carrying out my duty keeping in mind the greatest good of all the people of Fiji. As a citizen, a traditional chief and a father and grandfather, my first concern is to be true to my own convictions and my own conscience.
Ladies and gentlemen, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the wives, children and family members of those being pardoned today. Your faith and prayers are now being finally rewarded; you get to return today with your husbands, fathers and family members after years of separation.
To the Pardonees, on behalf of all Fijians, I welcome you back into society with the trust that you will treasure this moment and this act of forgiveness. I hope that today’s public Grant of Presidential Pardon shall be the catalyst for reconciliation, national progress and healing.
The Grant of Pardon ceremony is to show acceptance from the society and all citizens of Fiji, as our Pardonees have served their time. The programmes carried out by the Fiji Corrections Services to up skill an incarcerated person so they come out with skills that they will be able to utilise in order to assist them and their families livelihoods through the Yellow-Ribbon programme is applauded.
To conclude, the Pardonees and their families have suffered enough, and in reality shall continue to suffer given that they will have to make up for time lost together. In the true spirit of mercy to be compassionate towards those who are within our powers to punish, I with all Fijians convey our message of forgiveness and acceptance to the Pardonees and congratulate your successful appeal for pardon.
With those few words, May God bless us all and May God Bless Fiji!