Fiji Labour leader critical of Carr over new constitution | Pacific Beat

Fiji Labour leader critical of Carr over new constitution

Fiji Labour leader critical of Carr over new constitution

Updated 28 August 2013, 16:43 AEST

Former Fiji prime minister and Labour Party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, has criticised Australian foreign minister Bob Carr for welcoming the release of Fiji's new constitution.

Senator Carr said the interim government's release of its draft constitution is an important step forward for Fiji's commitment to hold elections by September 2014.

He said Australia stands ready to support Fiji in making credible steps towards a return to democracy.

That's drawn the ire of Mahendra Chaudhry, who tells Bruce Hill Senator Carr should have read the constitution first.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker: Former Fiji prime minister and Labour Party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry


CHAUDHRY: Frankly, I'm disappointed with the statement by Senator  Carr welcoming the release of the regime's Constitution. I think Senator Carr should have read the Constitution before welcoming its release. As you know, all political parties here rejected the Constitution and they're quite appalled at its content and it's very unusual that a Labor government should welcome a Constitution which is lacking in human rights and in trade union workers rights and which has a number of repressive provisions entrenched in it, of course, compounded by the fact that the repressive decrees which have been enacted have been promulgated between two oh nine and right now, will remain in force. So it negates the whole thing when we talk about bill of rights. There are a number of restrictions which derogate from the rights under that particular chapter, the judiciary is also it's independence, it's authority is seriously undermined under this Constitution. The Public Service is politicised and it's just two man who are going to run the whole country. They've taken all the powers into their hands, the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General and I'm sure that this kind of Constitution  would certainly be condemned by the people of Australia.
HILL: What kind of attitude do you think the Australian Foreign Minister should have taken to the announcement of the new Constitution?
CHAUDHRY: Before agreeing to commit resources to assist in the process, they should have insisted that the Constitution should meet the internationally recognised values and principles of human rights and civil and political rights of citizens as well as workers rights and basic freedom.
HILL: Well, what's the alternative for Australia to actually working with the defacto government in Fiji to try and get it back to democracy?
CHAUDHRY: We're not talking about Australia assisting Fiji to get back to democratic rule. I'm talking about welcoming this particular release of this Constitution and I think  the Constitution doesn't satisfy the expectation for the international community.
HILL: In foreign relations, countries have to work with the facts on the ground and the facts on the ground are that the current interim administration is the defacto government and so I suppose from the Australian government's point of view, they have to work with what they have?
CHAUDHRY: I disagree, I think it's a question of calling a spade a spade. If the Constitution does not meet the requirements of a democratic state, then one should be brave enough to say so, but that's a different issue the events that has compared to what it is prepared to do in the circumstances in dealing with an illegal state here.
HILL: Do you think that this new Constitution will be able to return Fiji to some form of democracy at some point in the future?
CHAUDHRY: It is fatally flawed. One can see it very clearly, I mean to say you don't have to be a rocket scientist to see that this Constitution is fundamentally flawed and it is just an instrument which will incline to the military rule. We're all, the people of Fiji were assured that the process would be transparent, consultative, to achieve a Constitution that accords with Commonwealth and internationally-accepted standard for democracy, good governance in the rule of law, which genuinely enjoys the endorsement of the people of Fiji. None of these components is there. The process of drafting or writing up  the Constitution wasn't consultative, nor was it participatory. Nobody was asked, it doesn't have the peoples input, it's being imposed on the people and it is fundamentally flawed.

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