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Fiji Time: 12:54 PM on Tuesday 16 September

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Draft meet

Nasik Swami
Thursday, April 04, 2013

THE Attorney-General and Minister Responsible for Elections Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said a meeting that included politicians and unionists yesterday was a political gathering more than a meeting to discuss the draft constitution.

He was responding to issues raised at the public meeting in Suva.

Among concerns raised at that meeting to discuss the draft constitution was a recall of the Ghai draft and the constituent assembly.

Speakers that included Dr Tupeni Baba, Mahendra Chaudhry, Attar Singh and Raman Singh, also claimed the government's draft had no provisions that recognised women's roles; there was less time given for submissions and the limitations on the rights to life when compared to the 1997 constitution.

"It (draft constitution) does not recognise the background of a country - the 1997 constitution talked about our history, deed of cession and our ancestors. That's a beautiful document when you look at the 1997 constitution and it gives power to the people," Dr Baba said.

Last night, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said, "If there was a genuine desire for these politicians to actually discuss and seek clarification on the draft constitution that has been presented, obviously they would have got in touch with the government legal team and clarification would have been provided because from what has been shown to me in terms of some of the comments that have been made, obviously they seem to be slightly misguided."

He said while the majority of those at the meeting had served in parliament before, none of them pushed for laws on domestic violence or on the rights of women in defacto relationships.

"Many of these people have said we should bring back the 1997 constitution. Did the 1997 constitution have a specific right for the role of women? It did not," he said.

"This is all a smokescreen and I think they are essentially trying to embark on another platform to appeal at another sectional level. So I think a lot of this is basically just a diversion. It is quite unfortunate that they obviously aren't focused on the future."

The AG said many of the positive aspects of the Ghai draft had been incorporated into the draft presented to the people.


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