Publish date/time: 16/08/2012 [16:15]
Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama has today revealed that he has spoken to the chairman of the Constitutional Commission Professor Yash Ghai a number of times stating that there are no restrictions on people making constitution submissions.
Professor Ghai has said that certain laws should be reviewed if they are not conducive to a free environment.
He said any restrictions on freedom of expression, freedom of the assembly and media freedom should be removed.
He also said it is not fair for the government to criticize any submissions from anyone including political parties and NGOs.
Professor Ghai said it should be a free process and every Fijian must be heard.
Professor Ghai said the laws need to be reviewed to ensure that there is a truly inclusive process.
Commodore Bainimarama said Professor Ghai knows there are no restrictions on submissions in the constitutional process.
“I’ve said that the commissioners need to get on with the job. They have a mandate from the people of Fiji. They should listen to the views of Fijians, collate the submissions and draft the constitution based on the submissions along the relevant decree and hand the draft constitution to His Excellency the President. They should get on with the job. The comments by the Chair are unfortunately misplaced. None of the laws. He has been told that time and again and the people of Fiji have heard about this. None of the laws currently in place stop any Fijian or hinder any Fijian from making any submission to the commission on any topic.”Commodore Bainimarama also said it is clear that some people are trying to take over the process.
“What is happening is like a proverbial camel. They come in with their head into the tent and then their whole body comes in and they kick the owner of the tent out. That’s what him and the people they are listening to are trying to do. They are trying to get us back, bring back the old statements that they have been going on with for the last couple of months. The statement by the Chair also demonstrates the lack of fundamental understanding of our history, the influences at play that have for so long protected the elite of this country. On the contrary, the current laws provide for the safeguard of these unheard voices who have been marginalized to come forward and contribute.”
Commodore Bainimarama said Professor Ghai should know that the commission should be truly independent in its work.
“Comments that he is coming up with, I’ve heard that from people like Mick Beddoes, Shamima Ali and the trade unionists. I’d like to remind the Chair and the commission that at the swearing-in ceremony, the Chief Justice reminded the commissioners that they hold a quasi judicial position. This means amongst other things the commissioners should not be giving a running commentary on the proceedings. They should be completely independent. They should not give preferential treatment to certain segments or individuals in society who they meet privately and they should adhere to the laws in Fiji including the decrees that created the commission.”The Prime Minister said he knows there have been a number of private meetings with certain individuals.
“They have been meeting privately with this group of politicians, NGOs and trade unionists who are pressuring him to come up with this statement and he should get away from that. I’ve told him a few times that he should get away from these private meetings. If they have anything to give to him in submissions, give it in the constitutional commission setting, not in private settings. That is the problem that we have here. He is pressured by these NGOs and politicians. These are the same group of people that want to have a hand in the composition of the Constituent Assembly so that they can pressure him into doing this and to changing what they want done and in the Constituent Assembly, have it cemented before they move into elections.”
Commodore Bainimarama stressed that he will not let these people having private meetings influence what is supposed to be done.
Story by: Vijay Narayan