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Fiji Time: 5:48 PM on Friday 1 August

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Test trip

Elenoa Baselala
Tuesday, May 01, 2012

THE Forum Ministerial Contact Group arrived in the country yesterday to probe whether Fiji's return to democratic process is open and inclusive.

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, Senator Bob Carr said they were here on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum to test the constitution consultation process.

The group consists of Senator Carr, New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully, Ano Pala, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Immigration of Papua New Guinea; Fiame Naomi Mata'afa, the Minister of Justice of Samoa; Apisai Ielemia, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade, Tourism, Environment and Labour of Tuvalu and Alfred Carlot, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade of Vanuatu.

Attorney-General and acting Prime Minister, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the constitutional process, as previously highlighted by the Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, was open to all Fijians.

He said as part of the process, there would a period of civic education, a first for Fiji.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said previously only the politicians dominated constitution consultations and there was a need to make ordinary Fijians more aware of the issues that would affect them.

For example, such issues could include whether there should be a senate in parliament, the term of parliament and how we could attract the right quality of people to parliament.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said some people may only be interested in getting access to water, energy or roads. So while this may not be included in the constitution, socio economic rights could be included.

He said all these would be compiled by the Constitution Commission that would travel the country collecting views for three months.

He assured a credible process to allow all Fijians to participate.

This is the third MCG visit to Fiji, the last was in 2008. At the last MCG meeting in Vanuatu, Fiji's Foreign Affairs minister then Ratu Inoke Kubuabola had confirmed Fiji's willingness to invite the group to visit Fiji.

The MCG will have to report to the next Pacific Islands Leaders Forum on this visit to Fiji. Senator Carr said the group would meet with the government, civil society including non-governmental organisations today.


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