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President talks of amendment to Ghai's draft constitution

Tevita Vuibau
Friday, January 11, 2013

THE Fiji government has announced the draft constitution presented by Professor Yash Ghai to the president will be amended by a government legal team before it is handed to the Constituent Assembly.

This after the President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau signed off an amendment of the Decree on the Constituent Assembly to allow for this process to take place.

The move itself came at the request of Ratu Epeli - who called the draft constitution "very disheartening and "an anathema to democratic representation".

In a statement issued yesterday, Ratu Epeli said he had asked the Prime Minister to extract the positive elements of the Ghai draft and infuse into it key elements of the Peoples Charter and internationally accepted practices and standards to formulate a new draft constitution.

He said Fiji needed to forge ahead and break away from her shackled past - something the Ghai draft did not allow.

"Unfortunately many of the provisions of the Ghai draft position us in the past," Ratu Epeli said.

"It has unfortunately, perhaps, succumbed to the whims of the few who have an interest in perpetuating divisions within our society," he stated.

The President went on to say the Ghai draft neglected many of the fundamental principles of true democratic representation presented in the Peoples Charter.

"It is, therefore, very disheartening and indeed it is an anathema to democratic representation that the Ghai draft allows for, at the very least, a 144-member body of unelected people deciding on key issues pertaining to the people of Fiji."

These 144 unelected people would be on top of the proposed 71 seat Parliament. A total of 215. By way of comparison, New Zealand with a population base of 4.5 million people has only one house of 121 members."

He said the Ghai Draft could also lead the country to "financial and economic catastrophe and ruin" as it proposed the undoing of the Natadola and Momi projects-credited with protecting the investment of all FNPF members of Fiji.

Ratu Epeli also alluded to a portion of the draft proposing a transitional cabinet following the issuance of a writ for elections which will allow former senior civil servants to become ministers of Cabinet.

"How is this possible when some of these former senior civil servants were corrupt and possible criminal charges are pending against them? Indeed some of them have been convicted or are being investigated. Many of them were simply incompetent."

However Ratu Epeli praised parts of the Ghai Draft Constitution that made provisions on fundamental rights including socio-economic rights, good governance and accountability and independence of the judiciary.

"There are also many positive aspects of the Ghai Draft that should be incorporated into specific law, rather than in a Constitution itself," he concluded.

These 144 unelected people would be on top of the proposed 71 seat Parliament - a total of 215. By way of comparison, New Zealand with a population base of 4.5 million people has only one house of 121 members."

He said the Ghai draft could also lead the country to "financial and economic catastrophe and ruin" as it proposed the undoing of the Natadola and Momi projects - credited with protecting the investment of all FNPF members of Fiji.

Ratu Epeli also alluded to a portion of the draft proposing a transitional cabinet following the issuance of a writ for elections which will allow former senior civil servants to become ministers of Cabinet.

"How is this possible when some of these former senior civil servants were corrupt and possible criminal charges are pending against them? Indeed some of them have been convicted or are being investigated. Many of them were simply incompetent."

However, Ratu Epeli praised parts of the Ghai draft constitution that made provisions on fundamental rights including socio-economic rights, good governance and accountability and independence of the judiciary.

"There are also many positive aspects of the Ghai draft that should be incorporated into specific law, rather than in a constitution itself," he concluded.


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