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LAl Hits Out At Proposed Changes

Pacific Media Watch:

Pasifik Nius:

SUVA: Dr Brij Lal, one of the architects of Fiji's 1997 Constitution, yesterday hit out at proposed changes to the Constitution, the Fiji Times reports.

Stressing that it was too soon to bring about changes, Dr Lal, like his colleague on the Reeves Commission, Tomasi Vakatora said the Constitution was not meant to be changed at the whim of government.

Speaking from the Australian National University in Canberra, where he is a lecturer, Dr Lal said the Constitution should not become a play-thing of the Government.

He said controversial sections should be interpreted by the Supreme Court and that the document should be given a fair trial before any changes were made.

"The constitution in its very nature is an enduring document that enshrines the principles and values of the government of a nation," Dr Lal said.

He agreed with comments by Vakatora that the Constitution be given a fair trial before amendments were proposed.

Dr Lal cautioned against changes, however minor they were.

"The Constitution has both a practical and a symbolic significance," he said.

"Any changes, and even minor ones, should be considered seriously."

Dr Lal pointed out that the Supreme Court was the highest interpreter of the Constitution and that legal interpretation on controversial sections should be made by it.

"If there are deemed to be controversial sections, then the Constitution should be sent to the ultimate interpreter - the Supreme Court," he said.

In an editorial headlined "Open up, prime minister", the Fiji Times said: "The Constitution has not been in place for two years and already changes are being made.

"The Prime Minister [Mahendra Chaudhry] has brushed aside criticism of the amendments.

"He says the changes are minor.

"No change to the supreme law of the land can be minor. For it is this document which is the very font of every law and bylaw which governs the lives of all people in the country - resident or visitor.

"In its usual arrogant way, the People's Coalition has cited its mandate to rule as the rubber stamp for the decisions that it makes.

"That's not good enough."


This document is for educational and research use only. Recipients should seek permission from the copyright source before reprinting. PASIFIK NIUS service is provided by the niusedita via the Journalism Program, University of the South Pacific.

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