7 Sep 2013

Fiji president gives assent to new constitution

10:22 am on 7 September 2013

Fiji's president, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, has given his assent to the new constitution which is now in force.

He says the document provides for an independent judiciary, equal access to the law, freedom of speech and expression and a range of unprecedented rights for every Fijian.

The prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, says the new constitution marks the completion of the revolution the military and he had embarked on six and half years ago.

Last year, the regime decreed that a new constitution be in place by last March, but it dumped the draft by the Constitution Commission in January and produced its own version, which was released two weeks ago.

The new document replaces the 1997 constitution, which the regime dumped four years ago when the appeal court declared Commodore Frank Bainimarama's interim government was illegal.

Meanwhile, Fiji police have released 14 people, who were arrested outside Government House in Suva while peacefully protesting against the assent of the country's constitution on Friday.

Police reportedly turned up and said they had to put away their placard, but they refused and were taken away.

Those arrested were from the Fiji Women's Rights Movement, the Pacific Centre for Peace-building and other Fiji citizens.

The executive director of the Fiji Women's Rights Movement, Virisila Buadromo, says it was a silent, peaceful protest outside the President's residence to say the constitution is unjust and does not reflect the views of 7,000 people who made submissions on an earlier draft.

The Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, has earlier said there was good feedback from people and the international community on the document.

It has been strongly criticised by Fiji political parties, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.