Thursday, February 22, 2007

Review Illegal

Constitution review illegal: Dr Lal Wednesday February 21, 2007

President Ratu Josefa Iloilo (l)
The military-backed government’s move to review Fiji’s Constitution is illegal and "will fail", says one of its authors.

Dr Brij Lal made the comment after the Interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama announced yesterday the Interim Cabinet’s plans to rid Fiji of raced based politics and return to democracy within three years.

"It is the responsibility and prerogative of the elected parliament of Fiji to amend the constitution, following clearly specified procedures," said Dr Lal.

"Like the Ravuvu Committee of 2001, which was similarly asked to recommend changes to the constitution, this exercise will fail, because it is putting the cart before the horse."

Commodore Bainimarama said the Interim Administration has the 'mandate' from the President Josefa Iloilo to review the constitution and to undertake a number of other measures to realise his goals for Fiji.

However, Dr Lal said the problem is that the President has no constitutional powers to authorise such a mandate.

"In the Westminster system, the executive acts on the advice of the Prime Minister and his ministers. His reserve powers are limited, carefully circumscribed. In Fiji's case the Head of State is essentially a ceremonial figure, a symbol of national unity.

"So the mandate the Interim Administration is claiming for its plan of action is simply not there for the President to give."

Dr Lal adds that it is the prerogative of the elected parliament to appoint a team to review the constitution, not an interim administration.

"The selection of the review team, the drafting of its terms of reference should be after the widest possible consultation."

Dr Lal has been a strong advocate for a non-racial voting system, similar to what is being sought by the interim administration in its proposed constitution review.

He maintains that Fiji should move away from its obsession with racial politics.

"But the change should come about in a constitutional way, not through the barrel of the gun," he said.

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