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FIJI: Goff tells Fiji: 'Don't change constitution'


FIJI: Goff tells Fiji: 'Don't change constitution'

GOFF TELLS FIJI: 'DON'T CHANGE CONSTITUTION'

* See Pasifik Nius items 2954, 2952

USP Pacific Journalism Online: http://www.usp.ac.fj/journ/ USP Journalism on the Fiji crisis (UTS host): http://www.journalism.uts.edu.au/archive/coup.html USP Pasifik Nius stories on Scoop (NZ): http://www.scoop.co.nz/international.htm Have your say: http://www.TheGuestBook.com/vgbook/109497.gbook

SUVA: New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff has slated Fiji's interim administration over its plan to change the widely accepted 1997 Constitution, saying that the regime has no mandate.

And Fiji's two major Indo-Fijian-supported parties have remained defiantly opposed to collaborating with the constitutional review process initiated by interim Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase.

The Fiji Labour Party, which led the elected coalition government deposed after the May 19 insurrection, and the National Federation Party, one of the country's leading political forces since independence but which failed to win a seat in the last elections, have called on Indo-Fijians to boycott the review commission.

The Fiji Sun reported today that Goff, who stopped over at Nadi yesterday en route to the United Nations in New York, said the attempt to change the constitution was of concern because it was being carried out by a non-elected government.

Goff said the military-backed interim administration had no mandate.

"Currently the interim civilian government has had no opportunity to gain a democratic mandate and therefore has none," he said.

He said the interim government needs to take steps to make itself representative of the wider population.

This meant a stronger representation from the elected members of the illegally removed People's Coalition government and representing the diversity of the Fiji Islands society, including the Indo-Fijian population.

"I have to express my concern that for an interim administration, it would be desirable that the government is represented," he said.

Goff said the New Zealand government considered that for stability in Fiji and for its acceptance back into the international community, a democratic government needed to be put in place as soon as possible.

He said that while the rule of law was being restored, Fiji still suffered from the absence of a democratically elected government.

The Daily Post reported that both the FLP and NFP said there was no need for a new constitution.

The solution to ending the current political crisis was in the 1997 document, the parties said.

Labour spokesperson Pratap Chand, the former education minister, said the review would result in a constitution biased against Indo-Fijians.

NFP general-secretary Attar Singh said in a statement to the interim prime minister that his party was concerned Qarase had taken it upon himself to invite two Indo-Fijians to take part in the commission.

"The composition of your constitution commission and its terms of reference announced last week are heavily weighted against the Indo-Fijian community," Singh said.

He added that any review process must take into account the interests of all communities in Fiji, based on the principles of justice, fair play and equity in building a joint partnership.

* Meanwhile, rebel leader George Speight's defence lawyers failed yesterday in an attempt to have him and his fellow accused freed on a writ of habeas corpus.

High Court judge Daniel Fatiaki told defence lawyers in camera that he could not make a ruling on the immunity decree issue while another judge was dealing with it. Speight and 20 others are charged with treason.

He adjourned the case until September 22, when Justice Peter Surman returns to the bench.

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


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