August 06, 2012
Fiji begins public hearings on new constitution
Updated August 06, 2012 09:51:52
The chairman of Fiji's Constitutional Commission says there will be no government interference in the public consultations on the new constitution.
The commission is beginning its first week of public hearings to allow people to put forward what they would like included in the country's new constitution.
The commission began public hearings on Friday and has already received more than 30 submissions.
The commission's chairman, Professor Yash Ghai, has told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat the submissions they've received so far show many people are unhappy with the country's history of repeated coups.
"A number of people have made comments on what they call the 'culture of coups' and people are rather unhappy that they put so much effort into submissions and so on and then a new constitution is established and not long after it is overthrown," he said.
"People have also talked about the immunity which is given to coup-makers in the past and they think that this probably also encourages military, and in some cases civilians, to try to overthrow duly established governments. We're engaging with them on how they think the 'culture of coups' could be eliminated."
Professor Ghai says some submissions have also outlined concerns about the independence of the legal system.
"The independence of the judiciary has come up in submission and indeed one of the terms of our Commission is to ensure that the new constitution has adequate provisions to ensure independence of the judiciary," he said.
Professor Ghai says many people feel that a constitution which deals with the realities and concerns of the public will ensure that it stands the test of time.
But concerns have been raised that people will not be able to participate in the process effectively as restrictions on public gatherings and the media remain in place.
Professor Ghai says these concerns have been raised with the government to ensure that people are free to express their views freely.
"It is early days and we have taken up with the government the need to review all the laws that restrict freedom of people or freedom of the media," he said.
The Commission will submit a draft of a new constitution to a Constituent Assembly in January.
It will be drawn up before the country's national elections scheduled for 2014.