December 21, 2012

Now it’s over to the Constituent Assembly

December 21, 2012 | Filed under: Fiji News | Posted by: newsroom

Ghai time ends, audited accounts awaited, says Attorney-General

Source: FBC News

As the draft constitution is today handed over to the President, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, what does this mean for Fiji? What now for Constitution Commission chairman Yash Ghai and his team?

The following are excerpts from a Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (FBC) interview with Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum:

AG: Well it means one of the clogs in the wheel to get to the 2014 elections has been completed. So essentially, the Constitution Commission will hand over the draft constitution together with the explanatory note to His Excellency our President who then passes it on to the Constituent Assembly.

Will the draft be made public?

AG: The draft will be made public through the Constituent Assembly. Because, as the Prime Minister has stated through various other communications, also through the Decree and through the advertisements that have come out in the newspapers [calling for Expression of Interest to join the Constituent Assembly] that the Constituent Assembly will be essentially a reflection of the different groups of Fiji.

Whether they are rural groups, urban groups, faith-based organisations, national organisations, whether it’s the RFMF, whether it’s the government, whether it’s groups representing people with disability, youths, women’s groups etc. - the Constituent Assembly will be made up of those people.

The draft constitution, once received by his Excellency our President, will then be handed over to the Chair of the Constituent Assembly who then will obviously give it to the Constituent Assembly members. The Constituent Assembly members will then take it out to their constituents.

And that’s where the actual consultations will take place: between the constituent assembly members and their constituencies. They come back and of course discuss the draft constitution through the Constituent Assembly.

It should also be noted that the Constituent Assembly will be open to the members of the public – so there will be a gallery area where the members of the public and the media will be welcomed.

So will Government be represented?

AG: Yes, of course, the Decree provides for that and not only government but various other groups within our society.

What are the roles of Professor Ghai and the Constitution Commission after handing over the draft on Friday?

AG: Well that’s provided for by the law. The Commission’s work then ends and of course they then go on to their respective occupations that they had prior to this. The Commission’s work ends and then of course the Constituent Assembly begins its work in the New Year.

What does this handing over mean for the Bainimarama government? Is it on par with the timeframe it had set in the lead up to elections in 2014?

AG: Definitely, as the Prime Minister has announced previously that the elections are to be held by September 2014 – we are very much on track with that because as I said earlier the draft constitution is just one of the many things that needs to be done.

The new constitution will tell us what sort of electoral system we will have and then, once we know that, the Elections Office can then prepare accordingly. And that will necessitate the need to educate the members of the public on what kind of voting system we will have.

So there are many things, there are many aspects of the whole process. The drafting is just one of its aspects. The second aspect of course, apart from the Elections Office, is as far as the constitution is concerned, is the Constituent Assembly.

Any other comments?

AG: We are hoping that the Constitution Commission will also, as required by law, produce its audited accounts. As you are aware the amendment to the Decree requires the Commission to publish on a monthly basis its accounts. They have, of course, received some funding from overseas donors. Obviously it’s important for the people of Fiji to know how that money was spent. Even the Government does not know. That’s how independent they are. So that’s one of the aspects – we look forward to seeing from the Constitution Commission.

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