Fiji's draft constitution 'pragmatic', says expert

Fiji's draft constitution 'pragmatic', says expert

Fiji's draft constitution 'pragmatic', says expert

Updated 28 December 2012, 10:15 AEDT

Fiji's interim government has refused to respond to allegations it interfered in the work of the Constitution Commission, an independent body tasked with drafting the country's new constitution.

Fiji's interim government has refused to respond to allegations it interfered in the work of the Constitution Commission, an independent body tasked with drafting the country's new constitution.

The statement follows comments by Labour leader Mahendra Chaudhry, who told Pacific Beat he believed pressure was put on the commission to cancel a recent meeting with political and non-government groups.

Mr Chaudhry had said he suspected the interim government was "not too happy" with recommendations contained in the draft constitution, notably that a transitional advisory council be established to replace the coup-installed military government for six months prior to the 2014 election.

Electronic copies of the document have been available on various anti-government websites, but so far the printed copies have yet to be distributed within Fiji itself.

On Thursday, the government said it regretted that the draft constitution had been leaked.

"[The government] deems it inappropriate to make any comment under the circumstances," the interim government said in a statement.

The government said the draft constitution was currently with President Epeli Nailatikau, who will hand it to the chairman of the Constituent Assembly when that person is chosen by the Prime Minister in the New Year.

"We have always said that public discussion of the document will begin when the Constituent Assembly meets.

"It is therefore the task of the assembly, not the government, to release the draft when the time comes."

Professor Wadan Narsey, a Fiji economist and academic, has studied the leaked draft constitution and said it contained "pragmatic recommendations".

"The problem for the interim government may be this: the commission recommends a number of very clear transition arrangements for the September 2014 election," Professor Narsey told Pacific Beat.

"Six months before September 2014...the interim regime has to give way, they have to give way to a transitory advisory council."