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'Consult The People' Fiji Times

Fiji Times Tells Administration 'Consult The People'

SUVA: The Fiji Times, the country's largest and most influential daily
newspaper, today warned the military-backed interim administration to
remove "national ignorance" and consult the people before adopting a new
constitution.

It said the nation had now seen the consequences of national ignorance
over constitutional rights through coups twice in 13 years.

Interim Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase's administration must ensure that
first everyone understood the 1997 constitution which had been abrogated
during the May insurrection, said the Fiji Times.

"It must then establish whether the people - the majority - want the
constitution removed," said the paper.

"The best way to establish this is by referendum.

"A parallel referendum could be held to determine what the indigenous
people want.

"This will put an end once and for all to their use as a political tool.

"Once Mr Qarase is sure of what the people want he can move on the
constitution. Not before."

In a submission to an African Caribbean Pacific fact-finding mission in
Fiji this week, Qarase claimed the reinstatement of the 1997 multiracial
constitution and the appointment of a "government of natonal unity"
from MPs elected in the ousted Parliament would not be acceptable to the
majority of indigenous Fijians.

He also outlined plans to select a constitution review commission which
would draft and submit guidelines.

Qarase said the new constitution should be ready by 2001 and elections
could be held a year later.

The Fiji Times warned of the consequences of failing to consult the
people.

Although the 1997 constitution was adopted after wide-ranging
consultation and consensus support from Parliament and the Great Council
of Chiefs, there was no referendum consulting the people.

"The formulation of a new constitution is a painstaking task," said the
paper in its editorial.

"It is as difficult and time-consuming as it is expensive.

"With more than 6000 out of work and the civil service taking a 12.5 per
cent salary cut, there can be little justification on spending
much-needed money on the review of a document which is barely four years
old.

"The events of the last 30 years have shown that there has been very
little wrong with the supreme laws of the land.

"Divisions blamed on the constitution have been based largely on
ignorance.

"Few would disagree that there is very little understanding among the
common people - and even the so-called education classes - on the 1997
constitution.

"There are flaws - peceived and genuine - in this document and that is
to be accepted.

"No constitution in any country will ever be flawless.

Ends

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