30 Jan 2013

Fiji's new rules on political parties highly objectionable: Ghai

7:42 am on 30 January 2013

The head of Fiji's now disbanded Constitution Commission, Professor Yash Ghai, says some of Fiji's new rules for political parties are highly objectionable.

Professor Ghai, whose draft constitution was dumped by the regime earlier this month, says such important matters should not be decided by a government not mandated by the people and which may have plans to continue its rule.

The criticism comes in a statement published on the Fijileaks website

The veteran constitution-maker, who has now left Fiji, says instead of promoting parties' formation and growth, the Political Parties Decree puts obstacles in their way.

He questions the timing of the decree just before Fiji prepares for the Constituent Assembly where political parties would normally be expected to play a leading role.

He says it means long established leading politicians may be disqualified from participating in the assembly which is to debate a new regime-drafted constitution.

The academic questions the need to have rushed through such a law, saying it's understandable there's now speculation of a snap election in Fiji.

He says even relatively petty offences are subject to very high penalties.

Professor Ghai says political party registration should be handled by an independent office not a government ministry and he expects this will lead to government interference.

Professor Ghai says political parties, which are the bedrock of democracy, will be weakened as a result.