December 21, 2012

Fiji draft constitution to be submitted to president

Updated 21 December 2012, 7:52 AEST

The Fijian Constitution Commission is due to hand over its final report on a proposed new constitution to the president.

The Fijian Constitution Commission is due to hand over its final report on a proposed new constitution to the president.

The report ill be delivered to President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau on Friday.

Fiji's military has already indicated its forces will continue to play a custodian role after the proposed 2014 elections.

Leaked copies of the draft report, which has heard from more than 7,000 Fijians, has already appeared on several blogs.

The document proposes the same number of seats for Fiji's Parliament, a term reduced to four years and no Senate.

It says the prime minister's job should be limited to two terms.

The report also suggests a review of land laws and measures to address poverty and corruption.

Fiji's military has vowed to ensure that the country's new constitution will incorporate what the interim government sees as the achievements of its 2006 military coup
Post-coup changes
The military says it has its own ideas on what the constitution should contain.

Land Forces Commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga, told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat that the military government remained determined "to integrate the Fijian society as one, make everybody patriotic to Fiji".

"That is our biggest target and its the biggest challenge that we've had in the last couple of elections, and we want to see that carried through before the next election comes," Colonel Tikoitoga said.

"And it has to be incorporated in the constitution for that to happen."

Colonel Tikoitoga says that unlike previous coups of 1987 and 2000, which he claims gave rise to governments that supported discriminatory policies, the 2006 military takeover was an attempt to support an integrated society.

"Even though it will be argued that the process [of the 2006 coup] was not right, but nobody else could have righted the wrongs that have been done in the past," he said.

"And we've done all the reforms that's been necessary for a true democracy.

"We're changing it for the better and I think it should be appreciated.

"I always tell the people here, maybe historians 50 years from today will write that it was actually the military that actually changed the face of democracy in Fiji and made it better."

Colonel Tikoitoga says the military has made it clear to other groups that it would not support them in any personal, ethnic or political agendas if they were to be elected.

"We want to leave the governance of the country to a proper parliamentary role," he said.

Fiji historian Dr Brij Lal, from the Australian National University, said the military statement contained "all kinds of contradictions and ironies".

"The military is 99 per cent ethnic Fijian and you are entrusting the military, this indigenous Fijian institution, to create and sustain a multiracial democracy - seems to me to be a bit problematic," Dr Lal said.

"It sounds very nice - the military committed to creating a genuine multiracial democracy, religiously tolerant, new Fiji and so on - but the fine print is problematic."

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