Fiji dictator to keep tight control on constitution

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 16:24 10/12/2012
Voreqe Bainimarama
JOHN SELKIRK/Fairfax NZ
IN CHARGE: Fiji's military dictator Voreqe Bainimarama.

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Fiji's military leader Voreqe Bainimarama says he is creating a special assembly to come up with a new constitution but he has made it clear he is not obliged to listen to its advice and nor can people who oppose his ideas serve on it.

In a statement today he explicitly ruled out people from the assembly who are opposed to his ideas and politicians, including Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase who he overthrew in a coup in 2006.

Bainimarama has promised to hold democracy restoring elections in 2014 but demands a new constitution, Fiji's fourth since independence in 1970, before it happens.

A commission has been drawing up a draft version which will go to the new assembly whose members he will appoint.

Crucially he demanded that applicants accept "non negotiable" aspects that the military demand, including a secular state and an end to ethnic voting.

He is also demanding that the constitution give him immunity from prosecution for any crimes committed in the coup or during the military regime.

A regime statement said to be eligible for the assembly, a person must "be a citizen of Fiji; be a person of experience in public affairs; and must have utmost honesty and integrity in every respect."

It orders that nobody can apply if they are "declared to be of unsound mind; is convicted of an offence of dishonesty or an offence carrying a maximum penalty of six months in prison; or has been removed from
public office for misconduct".

In August Qarase was sent to jail for a year after the High Court, heavily criticised for not being independent of the military, convicted him of nine corruption charges dealing with a period before he was prime minister.

"In order to qualify for appointment as members of the assembly individuals and organisations will need to demonstrate that they represent a significant constituency in the country," the announcement says.

A regime official, Pio Tikoduadua, urged all Fijians capable of meeting the criteria to consider taking part in the process.

"We want as many qualified people and organisations as possible to join this very important step in implementing true parliamentary democracy in Fiji", he said.

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- Fairfax Media

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