July 13, 2013

A-G tells: Constitution release on the way

July 13, 2013 | Filed under: Fiji News | Posted by: newsroom

Attorney-General  Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum
Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum
The Attorney-General and Minister Responsible for the Elections, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, has confirmed that Government aims to release the constitution by next month.
While no specific date has been announced, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said it will soon be released.
The Government is getting the constitution translated into iTaukei and Hindi. This is so it can be released in all three major languages so everyone can read and understand it. It follows widespread public consultations Mr Sayed-Khaiyum led over a draft constitution.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum’s comments came following continuing criticism by Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry.
Mr Chaudhry said: “They’ve always been deferring it, first they said January, then April, July and now to August.
“We are very sceptical about it.  The point I’m trying to make here is that we are not interested in their version of the constitution that has been rejected outright by all political parties.”
He said the Fiji Labour Party wants the Ghai constitution back on the table.
“Negotiations must take place on the Ghai constitution,” Mr Chaudhry said.
The Government has said the best elements of the Ghai draft are being incorporated into the final constitution.
But the Ghai draft was not adopted because it was unwieldly and undermined reforms instituted by the Bainimarama Government. This included instead of introducing a genuine and leaner parliamentary democracy, the Ghai draft proposed a complicated structure where unelected representatives outnumbering elected representatives. The dissolved Great Council of Chiefs was also restored under the Ghai draft.
Excerpts from Mr Sayed-Khaiyum’s views.
ON overseas voter registration:
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said they’ve looked at what some of the other countries have done and some of the pitfalls they have.
He said: “So we obviously don’t want to fall into that trap. We’ve had a good substantial data base of registered voters which in fact has been acknowledged by third parties so it is one of the best that they have seen.
“We want to ensure that that integrity and credibility of the database is maintained. We will let you know soon. We are working on it.”
ON Transparency International’s strong endorsement of the same policies being applied by the Bainimarama Government on politicians and parties declaring assets and liabilities:
“This is unfortunately the point that seems to be lost by some of these older politicians and older political parties.
“They are making a lot of noise about it and the fact is, a lot of the measures and policies the Bainimarama government has put in place has been based on international best practices.
“The fact that you have a third party validation, by Transparency International saying that Fiji is on the right track in terms of declaration of assets.”
ON the party to be led by the PM:
“The Prime Minister will make the announcement when the time is right.”
When queried on whether the declaration of assets will follow Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said: 
“Well in fact, we’ve said the declaration of assets will be applicable to anybody who forms a political party. We’ve also said that declaration of assets and liabilities should be made by public office holders also.”
ON the 2014 elections:
“As we’ve said, we are focused on the work at hand and there’s a lot of work to be done, regarding the holding of elections and we’ve got experts in the country at the moment.
“We are trying to ensure that we hold elections in a manner that is truly independent and transparent, has credibility because whichever Government is elected, we need to ensure that it has been elected through a credible process.”
# A statement from the Attorney-General’s office also said: “The joint Commonwealth/New Zealand and European election needs assessment team that has been visiting Fiji had a meeting with the Attorney-General and Minister Responsible for Elections, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum on Thursday.
“The team consists of three experts –  Carl Dundas of the Commonwealth, Melissa Thorpe from New Zealand and Etienne Claeye from the European Commission – who have been carrying out a Gap Analysis/Needs Assessment, to identify the capacity needs of the Elections Office.
“During the meeting, the team gave the Attorney-General an update on their progress. In turn, the Attorney-General answered queries on a range of issues relating to the preparations for next year’s poll.
“Their final report will help countries and development agencies identify how best to contribute to the elections process.
The team expects to have their final report prepared within two weeks.

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