August 23, 2013

Fiji govt reveals final version of new constitution

By Michael Morrah
Thursday 22 Aug 2013 6:21p.m.

Fiji's interim government has released the final version of the country's new constitution.

The military regime's document has been welcomed as a sign of progress, but it also protects those who illegally seized power.

Fiji's Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum spent the morning briefing reporters on the country's new constitution.

It comes seven months after an expert's draft report was confiscated by police, with some copies apparently being set on fire.

Today, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum wanted to stress what had changed since then.

"Okay, this is the preamble. These are the amendments that have been made in the preamble," says Mr Sayed-Khaiyum.

Amendments have been made to create a single voting constituency.

Customary land will also be protected, which analysts say is a change intended to win the current regime support ahead of elections.

"The new constitution looks like they made sure that they want to please everybody across the board - the different ethnic minorities, the major ethnic groups," says Auckland University's Steven Ratuva.

He believes it's a sign of progress, but part of the constitution also protects those who seized power from prosecution. 

It states "absolute and unconditional immunity is irrevocably granted to" the president, prime minister, the military and police.

"The immunity provision is a way of safeguarding the way towards election and beyond, so for them, whether they win or lose, it doesn't matter," says Mr Ratuva.

"What I feel is that more can be done, but one step at a time," says former Fijian MP Rajesh Singh. "I think it's a positive thing. At least the constitution has come out."

Following the 2006 coup, New Zealand placed sanctions on Fiji, including a travel ban on anyone linked to the military.

The Government has indicated the restrictions would be reviewed as progress is made towards democratic elections.

No comments: