Final version of Fiji constitution released by Professor Ghai | Pacific Beat

Final version of Fiji constitution released by Professor Ghai

Final version of Fiji constitution released by Professor Ghai

Updated 14 January 2013, 17:27 AEDT

The final version of Fiji's draft constitution has been released by the Chairman of the Constitution Commission, Professor Yash Ghai.

He says he's done this because there were several earlier versions which have been made public and he wanted to clear up any confusion.

Printed copies of the draft constitution were seized by the police, and the galley proofs burned in front of Professor Ghai when he tried to argue that their action was illegal.

The Land Forces Commander of the Fiji military, Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga says the copies of the draft constitution were seized because it was illegal for the Constitution Commission to print them once the final draft had been presented to the President.

Professor Ghai explains why he's decided to release the final version of the document.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker: Chairman of Fiji's Constitution Commission, Professor Yash Ghai

GHAI: Because there has been some confusion as to what is the final draft of the constitution and there's certain earlier versions I think had been floating around, I have to say nothing to do with the commission, and there's been some confusion as to whether those versions are accurate or ones that we gave to his Excellency, the President. And it has confused the debate a little bit. So it seemed to me it would be useful for everyone concerned that the final version be made public.

HILL: In his interview on Pacific Beat a few days ago, the Land Forces Commander of the RFMF, Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga, basically directly accused you of leaking the initial copies of the constitution electronically. Was that you?

GHAI: Well no, as you now we have been sharing documents with others and … people at workshops and so on, and there was also a so-called earlier leak as a result of this workshop. We tried to be as transparent as possible, and so we have shared working documents with many people.

HILL: He also said that, referring to the incident in which the copies of the draft constitution were confiscated by the police and taken away and the galley proofs burned in front of you, he said that this action was taken by the Police Commissioner because in his words, you were acting illegally. He said once that you handed your copy of the draft constitution to the President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, that meant that the constitution went out of existence and you no longer had a role and therefore the commission printing these copies was illegal?

GHAI: Well I think his reading of the decree and some other people who have attacked me similarly is not accurate. The commission obviously cannot introduce a new draft at this stage. The attentive version is the one that goes to the President. But nowhere in the decree is there anything to say that the commission cannot distribute. In fact the assumption of the entire decree, with the emphasis on participation, people's engagement, getting ready for the Constituent Assembly, implies that our draft should be made available, and it's more so the case with the explanatory report, which is stated in the documents to be instruments to help people to understand the reasoning behind our proposal. And also if people read the decree carefully they will see that the commission does in fact continue until it has finalised the financial audit and wound up other outstanding business. It's hard to imagine that moment we give the draft to the constitution everything disappears like Cinderella. We have obligations to our donors, to account to them for the money. I think in this case we returned some money after all our expenses had been accounted for. We have to distribute our equipment to all the institutions, and there's a fair bit of work to be done, and the decree makes very clear that the commission will continue until the audit is over and the chair has a role in ensuring that all these things are done properly.

HILL: Well given that Colonel Tikoitoga takes the view that the commission no longer existed after you handed your final copy of the draft constitution to the President, might you perhaps be in a bit more trouble with the interim government now that you've actually released the final document without them having any input into that decision?

GHAI: Well they have no reason to have any input in that decision. The commission is independent and they will perform the remaining tasks also in the same way.


Bruce Hill

Bruce Hill


Bruce is one of the Pacific’s most experienced journalists with nearly 20 years covering the region and has won several international awards.

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