29 Oct 2004

Fiji Senators call for inquiry into validity of 1997 Constitution

8:27 am on 29 October 2004

Fiji's Senate has heard claims that the country's 1997 Constitution is dictatorial, undemocratic, and culturally insensitive to the indigenous Fijian population.

The claims have been made by Senator Asesela Ravuvu while speaking on a motion brought by government senator Apisai Tora calling for a commission of inquiry to determine the validity of the constitution.

Senator Ravuvu says the 1997 Constitution is a political fraud by those who materminded its contents and adoption, and gives equal citizenship to those once considered foreigners.

The former USP academic says the constitution has marginalised indigenous Fijians and sabotaged their aspiration for political control of their country.

Another senator, Ratu Kinijioji Vakawaletabua, says the constitution has brought only intense suffering, pain, national shame, disgrace, disaster, death and an ongoing sense of insecurity.

But in an editorial today, the Fiji Sun newspaper says the continued sniping at the 1997 Constitution by a band of extremist politicians ignores the fact that parliament can change it if any group can raise sufficient support to do so.

The SUN also says the 1997 Constitution delivers exactly what the extremists are clamouring for - protection of ethnic Fijian rights and privileges.

It says changes can be arrived at "through careful debate based on fact rather than rank abuse based on racist emotion."