Last month police seized draft copies prepared by the country's Constitution Commission were seized by police, despite widespread calls that they be put out for public consultation. interim Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama and President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau have said a new version will be released at the end of the month, and it will speak to Fiji's current social and governmental needs.
Presenter: James Oaten
Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, Fiji President
OATEN: President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau says inter-racial conflict has divided Fiji in the past, causing misery and economic hardship. But he said the nation is now on a path of growth, with a steady increase in job opportunities and infrastructure. He says any new government must continue this policy as it's number one priority.
NAILATIKAU: It is also critical that the Constitution that we adopt must have the fundamental principles of democracy, good governance, accountability, human rights and transparency. We need a small non-corrupt, but efficient and responsive government that is accountable.
OATEN: The government had tasked Professor Yash Ghai in his capacity as Chair of the Constitution Commission to draft a new Constitution for Fiji. The police seized all the copies of the draft from the printers last month. However, the document had already been leaked online, recommending a 71 seat Parliament, no Senate, and restricting the Prime Minister to two terms. Interim prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, says the new draft will now be released at the end of January with a view to finalising it by March, after community consultations. But it's expected to differ considerably from Professor Ghai's version, which was criticised by both Commodore Bainimarama and President Nailatikau.
NAILATIKUA: We as a country, must breakaway from the shackles of the past or any reminense of them. Unfortunately, many of the provisions of the Ghai draft positions us in the past. It has unfortunately, perhaps, succombed to the whims of the few who have had an interest in perpetuating divisions within our society.
OATEN: President Nailatikau says Professor Ghai's recommendations were overly bureaucratic and would undo good work of the past.
NAILATIKAU: The Ghai draft can led to financial and economic catastrophe and ruin. The Ghai draft also proposes a transitional Cabinet following the issuance of a writ for elections which will allow former senior civil servants to become ministers of Cabinet. How is this possible, when some of the former senior civil servants were corrupt and possible criminal charges are pending against it.
OATEN: The government will advertise for companies to bid to produce election material. It will also set new standards for political parties on Tuesday.