3 Jan 2013

Fiji military says Ghai should be charged

8:34 pm on 3 January 2013

Fiji's military says the head of the Constitution Commission should face charges after he released copies of the draft constitution.

Professor Yash Ghai released the draft to a number of groups after the police confiscated printed copies and burned proofs of the document.

He says it makes no sense to say that the draft cannot be released, and is adamant he has not broken law.

Land Forces Commander, Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga, says Professor Ghai has breached the decrees related to the constitutional process, and should face charges, but he has left the country.

Colonel Tikoitoga says anyone distributing the draft, or parts of it, is doing so illegally.

NZ taxpayers funded draft

Radio New Zealand International reported the draft was commissioned by the interim government and produced over several months with funds from donors, such as New Zealand.

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 interim government was illegal.

In an address to the nation on New Year's Day, coup leader Frank Bainimarama announced a new constitution will be ready within three months.

Commodore Bainimarama also said Fiji would get a new flag to "reinforce a new Fijian identity".

A spokesperson for the government, Colonel Pio Tikoduadua, told the Fiji Times that Fijians will be given the opportunity to design the new flag.

The current flag features the red, white and blue Union Jack of Britain in the top left-hand corner with the shield from the Fiji coat of arms on the right side.

Fiji has already removed the image of the Queen from its currency.

Commodore Bainimarama tore up the previous constitution in 2009, three years after seizing power.

"The new, modern and enduring constitution will be ready by the end of the first quarter of 2013," he said this week, adding this would "set the scene" for the 2014 elections.

"(It will be) a constitution that must ensure common and equal citizenry and a constitution that must ensure that any representatives of the people in the new parliament must be elected under the principle of one person, one vote and one value."

Fiji was suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum after he scrapped the previous constitution and replaced all judges with hand-picked officials.

He rejected all pressure for an early return to democracy, saying the new constitution needed to be in place first.