29 Dec 2012

Fiji's draft constitution author says police burned copies of document

6:20 am on 29 December 2012

The author of Fiji's draft constitution Professor Yash Ghai says Fiji police burned copies of the document in front of him in what he described as a symbolic act.

The chairman of the country's Constitution Commission told Radio Australia he tried to intervene after police arrived at the printers last Saturday to confiscate all 600 copies of the draft.

Professor Ghai says the officer in charge of the operation verbally abused him and said the printing was illegal.

He says the police poured kerosene on shredded proofs of the document and set the papers alight.

Professor Ghai says if this was an order from the government it showed contempt for the Commission's work and the people of Fiji.

He says he got the police to sign for the confiscated douments but he does not know where they were taken.

The Kenyan academic and veteran constitution-maker presented the draft constitution to Fiji's President the day before the incident.

The draft is due to be debated next month by an assembly of regime appointees.

Professor Ghai had earlier expressed disappointment the draft would not go back to Fiji people for more discussion as originally planned.

Radio New Zealand International understands the Commission wanted to ensure Professor Ghai's safe departure from Fiji before publishing the draft on its website.

Professor Ghai left Fiji on Monday.