31 Dec 2012

New Zealand monitoring Fiji constitution controversy

3:42 pm on 31 December 2012

The New Zealand government says it is monitoring developments in Fiji closely amid the controversy surrounding Fiji's draft constitution.

The regime in Suva has declined to comment about the way the police seized all copies of the draft document which was commissioned by the interim government and produced over several months with funds from donors, such as New Zealand.

The Commission's chair, Yash Ghai, who was appointed by the interim government, was reportedly abused by police as he tried to intervene at the printing shop the week before last.

A senior military officer, Lieutenant Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga, has told the Fiji Times that they stopped the printing of the 600 copies because the documents' distribution by the Constitution Commission is illegal.

However, a Commission member, Peni Moore, has confirmed that the draft document will be released on its website within the next few days after earlier versions were distributed via the internet

"Yash [Ghai] has now approved for it to go ahead and be put up because there is confusion over what is the real one and hopefully the report as well."

The draft is to go to a Constituent Assembly, which the regime is yet to appoint, before a tribunal vets the document to ensure the regime's non-negotiable elements are included.

The new constitution is to replace the 1997 document, which the regime abrogated nearly four years ago when the appeal court ruled that the post-coup interm government was illegal.