20 Nov 2003

Fiji minister attacks constitution as flawed

2:48 pm on 20 November 2003

A Fiji government minister has launched a scathing attack on the 1997 Constitution, saying it is fundamentally flawed and needs immediate change.

The health minister, Solomone Naivalu, told parliament today that the 1997 Constitution does not protect the right of the indigenous Fijian people, a majority of the population, to have political control over their land and sea resources which they legally own.

Although the constitution was unanimously passed by both houses of parliament and the Great Council of Chiefs, Mr Naivalu told the Lower House that it was imposed in violation of the rule of law and the foundations of democracy.

He said it was a classic example of the way democracy is used by one group to wipe out the rights of another group.

Mr Naivalu described the election of the Bavadra and Chaudhry governments in 1987 and 1999 as acts of legalised dispossession of the Fijian people of their rights under the pretext of democracy.

He said Fijians will retaliate if they see their rights to their land and sea resources are under threat because they do not want to follow in the footsteps of the indigenous people of Hawaii, the New Zealand Maori and North American Indians.

Dr Ganesh Chand of the Labour Party said if Mr Naivalu was condemning the very constitution which he had sworn to uphold and was promoting ill-will and hostility between the communities.