Pacific Media Watch

13 March 2012

FIJI: Elections best under 1997 constitution, Qarase tells media

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Deposed PM Laisenia Qarase ... "best option for Fiji." Photo: WorldPress

Frederica Elbourne

SUVA (The Fiji Times / Pacific Media Watch): Fiji's next general elections should be held this year under the 1997 Constitution so that constitutional changes can proceed under an elected government, former prime minister and leader of the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua party Laisenia Qarase said.

"This would be the best option for Fiji," he said in a statement to the media.

Qarase maintained the status of the 1997 Constitution was still in place.

Qarase said government had reversed the accepted order of things with the announcement of key principles and values to be embodied in the constitution along with the appointment of the Constitutional Commission.

"These important decisions should be the outcome of intensive consultations with key stakeholders and not unilateral decisions by the government," he said.

He said the formation of a constitutional forum should include key stakeholders, including political parties, church leaders and non-governmental organisations.

"This forum should discuss and decide on key issues relating to the constitutional consultations process and provide guidance to the process itself," he said.

But Attorney-General and acting Prime Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said some politicians were looking backward, "caught in a time warp where nepotism, elitism and racism were the norm".

Responding to questions from The Fiji Times yesterday, Sayed-Khaiyum said there were voices that echoed from that past, for those who sought to regain power and take Fiji back to the dark ages.

"The Bainimarama government breaks away from the petty politics of the past in which personalities took precedence over building a modern and inclusive Fiji," Sayed-Khaiyum said.

"The Bainimarama government is looking to the future of Fiji and all Fijians.

"During the process of formulating a genuine Fijian constitution, every Fijian will have the right to put their ideas before the constitutional commission and have the draft constitution debated and discussed by the Constituent Assembly," he said.

He said the new constitution would be created for all Fijians.

"No politician or interest group will be either shut out or given any special say. We are all Fijians, and we are all equal," Sayed-Khaiyum said.

He said the first step was civic education which involved informing Fijians of what a real constitution was and how it would affect their daily lives.

Sayed-Khaiyum said civic education would focus on issues Fijians believed should be included in the new constitution.

"As the process continues with the Constitutional Commission and the Constituent Assembly all Fijians will have a voice.

"Next year we will have an enlightened Fijian constitution that will make it possible to hold democratic elections in 2014, with the essential and natural right of one person one vote one value," he said.

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