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Ratu Loilo In Shock Political Warning

Pasifik Nius: niusedita@pactok.net.au http://www.usp.ac.fj/journ/nius/index.html


RATU LOILO IN SHOCK POLITICAL WARNING

SUVA: Vice-president Ratu Josefa Iloilo has criticised the Fiji Islands Government for wanting to amend the Constitution so soon after its promulgation, the Daily Post reports.

And he said the changes are likely to stir up racial tension.

The comments, powerful because it is coming from the vice-president, was made in an interview with Fiji One television aired last night.

It's probably the first time a person in such high office has made such strong political statements since the military coups in 1987.

He said it is too early to amend the Constitution, which was promulgated in 1997.

"It's too early to do that. The new Constitution came into being in 1997. Now it's just a little over two years," he said in an interview with Fiji One reporter Geoffrey Smith.

"In my opinion it's way to early to change anything now. We should give it at least five years and then we can be able to detect if there are any deficiencies."

The Government tabled a constitution amendment bill in Parliament last week.

Section 10 of the bill, which seeks to amend section 96 of the Constitution says "in the exercise of his or her powers and executive authority, the President acts only on the advice of Cabinet or a minister or of some other body or authority (under this or any other written law) prescribed by this constitution (or other written law) for a particular purpose as the body of authority on whose advice the president acts in that case".

This change has also been criticised by former prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka in his role as chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs.

"The phrase, 'under this or any other written law' is the danger in that amendment," Mr Rabuka said.

"It opens up laws that have always been entrenched, especially those dealing with Fijian customary rights such as land."

The Government has argued that the proposed amendment "makes it clear that if some other law requires the president to act on the advice of some body or authority other than Cabinet, then the president must act on that advice".

Ratu Iloilo, however, did not agree.

Asked by Fiji One television how he viewed changes to the president's powers, he said: "I don't approve of that, especially when you try to degrade those powers. Its just like degrading the Great Council of Chiefs ... the highest Fijian authority. It's only stirring up racial tension.

"I think it's too early. They should just give it five years. Only if there's anything wrong then change it. Not now."

He told Fiji One he and President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara had not talked about the issue.

"But I'm sure we will soon," he said.

+++niuswire

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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