7 Jan 2013

Fiji constituent assembly due to be appointed this week

9:37 am on 7 January 2013

The Fiji interim prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, is due to appoint the Constituent Assembly, which is tasked to begin debating the draft new constitution this week.

Its size and composition are to be determined by the regime leader, who has said it would be made up of credible people who think positively about Fiji's future.

According to his office, more than 300 people have applied to sit on the Assembly which is decreed to finalise its deliberations in late March.

No names have been given, but Commodore Bainimarama has already publicly excluded a leading women's advocate, Shamima Ali.

The draft constitution was made public a week ago.

While the political parties ousted by the coup have welcomed the draft, the military has so far roundly rejected any suggestion its grip on power be loosened by submitting to a democractic system.

The draft is based on 7,000 submissions in what amounts to the most comprehensive stock-take of people's concerns and aspirations in years.

The Assembly's version of the new constitution will then go to a tribunal to ensure the text is within the regime's non-negotiable parameters, such as immunity for coup makers.