Fiji Constitution Commission report handed to President | Pacific Beat

Fiji Constitution Commission report handed to President

Fiji Constitution Commission report handed to President

Updated 21 December 2012, 17:16 AEDT

Fiji's Constitution Commission has formally finished its work, with the handover of its final report to the President, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau,The ceremony took place at Government House in Suva earlier today.

The report now goes to a Constituent Assembly, with members chosen by the coup installed military ruler, Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

That Assembly can make changes, and they will send their version to a panel of judges who will check to see that the document complies with certain non-negotiable aspect laid down by the interim government, including legal immunity for the coup leaders.

I asked the Chair of the Commission, professor Yash Ghai, if interference from the interim government had had any effect on its work.

Presenter:Bruce Hill

Speaker:Professor Yash Ghai, Chairman, Fiji Constitution Commission

GHAI: Well yes and no, every process has its problems and I don't particularly want to get into that now, we've done our work and we are happy with our work, and that the people if they have a chance to debate the documents and the Constituent Assembly meets according to the decrees in the second week of January, and we hope the people will have a similar opportunity as we gave them to participate more directly of course in the work of the Constituent Assembly, but through consultations and seminars and so on.

HILL: Well now that you've completed your work, this document now goes to the Constituent Assembly, which is picked by the interim Prime Minister and they can do what they like to it, and then it goes to a panel of judges who have to make sure that it accedes to the coup-installed military government's wishes, especially it wants to make sure that there's immunity from prosecution for the coup. So to a certain extent what you've done now might bear little relationship to what actually becomes the new constitution at the end of that process?

GHAI: Well yes, I mean you're right, we don't know who the members of the assembly will be, how many, what rules and procedure they will follow. And it is unusual because mostly processes like this set out in advance every stage of the process and the rules of decision making, conduct. But we hope that the people will watch and there'll be transparency as is promised in the decree. The media is allowed full entry into the chamber and so on. So we hope that in this way it will be possible to monitor the work of the Constituent Assembly.

HILL: We did hear from the army yesterday, the Land Forces Commander, Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga, who was very, very strong in saying that the army wanted to make sure that what he said were the gains of the coup in 2006 are incorporated into the constitution, he was quite firm on this. So if there's a clash between what your recommendations are and what the army wants, might that be a problem?

GHAI: Yes well the government and the decree, that step of the process had stated certain principles, what are called non-negotiable principles, quite apart from the provision for immunity. And we have followed every one of those provisions. So we are pretty convinced that we are quite compliant with that part of the constitution.

HILL: Do you actually believe though that under these circumstances what will eventually be produced will be a good thing for Fiji, or are there still risks that things might slide backwards?

GHAI: Well I cannot say for the reasons that you mentioned earlier. We have nothing to do with the Constituent Assembly, and we have no idea who will be appointed and how sensitive it could be. So one cannot rule out the possibility that some of the provisions in our proposal will not be accepted, and some other ones introduced.

HILL: So there is the possibility that your work may in fact not necessarily see the light of day in the end?

GHAI: Well this won't be the first constitution commission whose recommendations have been rejected or altered significantly. My hope is that, my wish is that people will be given a chance to continue to participate in the process, that our draft constitution and report will be widely distributed, and people given an opportunity to read, discuss, debate them so that by the time the Constituent Assembly meets for doing its work, they would also benefit from the views of the people.

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