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Ravuvu Lashes Out At Gates Judgment

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SUVA: Fiji's Constitutional Review Commission chairman, Professor Asesela Ravuvu, has lashed out at the High Court judgment upholding the validity of the multiracial 1997 constitution, saying politics must become before the law.

And the Attorney-General, Alipate Qetaki, has been accused of deliberately delaying the legal process over the constitution.

Justice Anthony Gates yesterday adjourned until Monday a ruling on a stay order application on his judgement pending the appeal.

According to the Fiji Times, Lautoka lawyer Anu Patel had argued that an immediate date should be fixed by the Court of Appeal to hear the case instead of the High Court considering the stay order separately.

Patel said he had written to the Attorney-General's office suggesting that the Court of Appeal start hearing the actual grounds of appeal tomorrow.

He quoted a Fiji Times report (Sept 9) in which Qetaki was quoted as saying that challenging the abrogation of the constitution was futile and a ruling would not be made until 2003 due to the pace of the judicial system.

The Fiji Sun today reported that Prof Ravuvu, who is on leave from the University of the South Pacific for his constitutional review role, said yesterday that because of the current crisis, "everything has to wait" until the political problem was solved.

"That includes the law, as they have to allow the decision makers to find a solution to the current crisis," said Prof Ravuvu.

"The decision makers of this country are the chiefs, politicians and so let them work at the solution. The problem here is that we are blinded by the fact that everything is law," he said.

"The point I'm trying to stress is that when we have resolved the problem then the legal framework takes its place."

Prof Ravuvu indicated that it would be difficult to bring in the legal framework when the political problems from the May 19 coup were still not resolved.

"Justice Gates should understand the sensitivity of the crisis we are undergoing before he comes up with such a ruling," he told the Fiji Sun.

"And we should be aware that democracy was a system used by the Europeans, which is now being forced onto a Third World country like Fiji."

However, Prof Ravuvu said that the ruling by Justice Gates had not deterred the constitutional review team.

Prof Ravuvu added that the majority of submissions so far had pushed for Fijian leadership and the declaration of Fiji as a Christian state.

No Indo-Fijian community or political groups are represented in the commission, although four individual Christian Indians are members.

* In 1991, Prof Ravuvu authored a book called "The Façade of Democracy" in which he argued that indigenous Fijians "must be assured of a degree of political paramountcy if all races are to live together peacefully".

He also helped draft the 1990 constitution which established "indigenous Fijian supremacy".


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