12 Jan 2013

Fiji official says NZ view on constitution irrelevant

12:23 pm on 12 January 2013

A senior official in the Fiji military says the country won't take any notice of what New Zealand says about its new constitution.

The military government has dumped a draft constitution it commissioned last year and given its legal team until the end of the month to produce a new one.

It says that draft will then go to a constituent assembly for debate, and a new constitution should be in place by March.

New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says the rejection of the constitution is a major step backwards.

But Fiji Land Force Commander Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga told Auckland-based Radio Tarana that it doesn't matter whether or not New Zealand likes the constitution.

"We did not have a say in the New Zealand constitution and there is no reason why New Zealand should have a say in our constitution."

Colonel Tikoitoga said the draft constitution was badly-written and lacked long-term objectives, and the new document will be based on what the Fiji people want and need.

The leader of the Fiji Labour Party, Mahendra Chaudhry, told the station that Fiji Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama's actions show he does not want to relinquish his power.

"I think this whole thing is a big circus, and it has no credibility and no integrity."

A former Fiji military officer said Commodore Bainimarama has thrown out the draft consitiution in order to protect himself.

Lieutenant-Colonel Ratu Tevita Mara, who fled Fiji in 2011 while facing sedition charges, said the international community should demand the draft be reinstated.

The document was prepared by a team of commissioners including Kenyan expert Yash Ghai.

The Citizens' Constitutional Forum describes Thursday's announcement of the decision to replace the draft as marking one of the saddest days for Fiji since the abrogation of the 1997 Constitution almost four years ago.

It says the decision breaches two decrees, including one which empowered the Constitution Commission to base its decisions of the wishes of the people of Fiji, and urges the head of the military government to rescind the decision.