31 Dec 2012

Call for transparency after Fiji regime seizes draft constitution

1:29 pm on 31 December 2012

A member of Fiji's Constitution Commission is hoping for more transparency around the draft constitution after some proofs were burned by police the week before last.

Peni Moore says 599 copies of its draft constitution are now with the interim Prime Minister's office after being seized from the printing shop.

She says the draft will be put on the Commission's website within the next couple of days and is due to be debated by a yet to be named Constituent Assembly.

The Commission chair Professor Yash Ghai said police had burned some of the copies in front of him but Ms Moore says she doesn't attach great significance to the police burning what were incorrect proofs of the draft.

"What has happened is there are 599 copies. They have been given to the Prime Minister because we weren't allowed to release them. So they are with his office and what was burnt was copies that weren't complete, weren't correct when they had first started printing them and they were shredded, in different places, and they burnt them so people couldn't get access to them."

There has been no reaction from the Fiji regime to the police action but a senior military officer has told the Fiji Times that the draft constitution was seized because the Constitution Commission has no right to either print or distribute the document.

The Land Force Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga, says they stopped the printing of the 600 copies because what the Commission chair, Yash Ghai, did was illegal.

Lt Col Tikoitoga didn't say whether Professor Ghai will be prosecuted for breaching the decree.

Lt Col Tikoitoga says under the decree the draft document will only be released after being sighted, scrutinised and deliberated by the Constituent Assembly.

He has also said the President doesn't need 600 copies but just one copy to view.

Professor Ghai claimed that the document was the property of the Commission and its seizure was illegal.

The draft constitution was commissioned by the regime as part of its promise to restore democracy but the process has been funded by donors, mainly Australia and New Zealand.