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By JYOTI PRATIBHA
Acting Prime Minister and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has called on the Fiji Constitution Commission (FCC) to understand Fiji’s political past before they make statements.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said there was no need to be concerned about the composition and the independence of the Constituent Assembly, adding that the appointment of members would be done by the Prime Minister, however, he would not have the powers to remove anyone from the assembly.
He said the two Decrees passed by the Cabinet this week- the Fiji Constitutional Process (Constitution Commission) Decree 2012 and the Fiji Constitutional Process (Constituent Assembly and Adoption of Constitution) Decree 2012 listed all groups which will be part of the Constituent Assembly.
“Government has gone to great lengths to ensure that independence is maintained, not just perception of it, but the reality of it and so far all the appointments- for example, the Independent Legal Services Commission and all statutory bodies that have been appointed, have been running independently,” he said.
He said if Commodore Bainimarama and his Government did not have the commitment to this process, they would not have gone through great lengths to put into place provisions of the law, including the amendment of the Public Order (Amendment) Act.
Professor Ghai, in a press conference yesterday, said they were pleased with the two decrees, which now set the guidelines for the commission.
However, he said, they were concerned that the Decree gave Commodore Bainimarama full control over the size and control of the Constituent Assembly.
“In light of the fact that members of the present Government may wish to compete in the forthcoming elections, it is particularly important that they should not control the process that will, among other things, set out the rules for the elections,” Professor Ghai said.
He said the immunity which was sought, was a prospective immunity which was “most unusual”, “unique and undesirable.
“The Commission recognises that immunity has been given in the past and that the immunity required in the new Constitution is similar to those immunities and it also understands that the issue of immunity must be considered in the process of transitioning to democracy.
However, we are concerned that the people of Fiji have not been consulted in any way on this important matter,” Professor Ghai said.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum, in response, said the commission failed to acknowledge that in the 1990 Constitution, the same thing was put in place by the then Rabuka government, without consultation.
“That continued onto the 1997 Constitution. Surely it has to be recognised that in order for us to move ahead, move to the future, we need to be able to be focused on the future and if the fundamental issues are not addressed then we cannot move ahead,” he said.
Professor Ghai stated that access to courts was removed adding that the current atmosphere was not conducive for an open process.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said Government had prioritised the access to courts for Fijians and this was evident through the increase in funding given to the Legal Aid Commission, through which poor Fijians could be sure of representation in the court of law.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said Government did not want a repeat of the events of 2000.