Fiji dictator burns draft constitution
Fiji's military dictatorship has slammed a draft constitution drawn up with New Zealand aid as an appeasement to racist divisions in the Pacific nation.
But military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama, who rules Fiji by decree, told the nation on Thursday night there will be a new constitution – and democracy restoring elections next year.
Bainimarama, who overthrew democracy in 2006, commissioned Kenyan law professor Yash Ghai to draft a new constitution, but after it was presented last month, police seized copies of it and burnt printer's proofs.
Since leaked, the Ghai document proposes to force the military out of political life and make it permissible for soldiers to disobey an order to take part in a coup.
Bainimarama and the military appointed and directed president, Epeli Nailatikau, both spoke to the nation, giving contrasting views of what was going on.
Nailatikau plugged Bainimarama's successes and said Fijians wanted a constitution that would endure.
He said they wanted one that had fundamental principles of democracy, good governance, accountability, human rights and transparency enshrined in it.
“We can no longer pander to the old school of thought that one ethnic group is always under threat from another,” Nailatikau said.
Politicians used to claim that Fijians were under threat from Indians. The country needed to break that shackle.
“Unfortunately many of the provisions of the Ghai Draft positions us in the past. It has unfortunately perhaps succumbed to the whims of the few who have an interest in perpetuating divisions within our society,” he said.
He called the draft constitution, which New Zealand paid $500,000 toward writing, “very disheartening”.
He claimed it could lead "to financial and economic catastrophe and ruin".
Bainimarama then told the nation he had asked for the draft to be amended to ensure that it was positive.
Aew draft of what will become Fiji's fourth constitution would be be available by the end of this month.
He will then send it to a constituent assembly made up of people he will appoint to finalise it.
“We are on track to hold truly democratic elections under the principle of common and equal citizenry and the principle of one person, one vote, one value,” he said.
Earlier, Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele said the burning of Ghai's constitution by the police was a “despicable act of intimidation".
“The military is not fooling anybody,” he told the Samoan Government website Savali.
Tuilaepa said the burning incident was part of the dirty tricks engineered by the military to stay in power.
- © Fairfax NZ News