Monday, June 11, 2012

SDL Responds to Intimidatory Remarks from Col Tikoitoga

SDL Party Leader Laisenia Qarase
The recent statement by Colonel Tikoitoga that the SDL, FLP, NFP and UPP are wasting their time in pushing for the 1997 Constitution is absurd, said Mr. Laisenia Qarase, Leader of the SDL Party, today.
Colonel Tikoitoga must understand that the 1997 Constitution is still in place, according to legal experts. In a 2001 court case- Koroi vs Commissioner of Inland Revenue- Justice Gates, (now Chief Justice of Fiji) in delivering judgment had this to say: 

“It is not possible for any man to tear up the Constitution. He has no authority to do so
- - - The Constitution remains in place until amended by Parliament, a body of elected members who collectively represent all of the voters and inhabitants of Fiji - - - The fundamental law represented in a constitutional document may only be changed in accordance with that Constitution.”
Again, in the case - L. Qarase & others vs J.V. Bainimarama & others - the Fiji Court of Appeal ruled on 9th April, 2009 that the military coup on 5th December, 2006 was illegal and that the 1997 Constitution is still in place. The purported abrogation of the 1997 Constitution on the following day 10th April, 2009 cannot be valid also. Unless and until the 1997 Constitution is repealed in accordance with its provisions then it must be accepted that the Constitution is still in place.

 Mr. Qarase said that Col. Tikoitoga should be reminded that after the military coup in 2006 the Government declared that upholding the 1997 Constitution would take priority in its administration of the country. Obviously, the military saw merit in the supreme law of our land.
Again, Col. Tikoitoga is reminded that in Government’s own People’s Charter reference is made in several places suggesting that the 1997 Constitution remains the supreme law of Fiji.
Mr. Qarase has expressed concern that Col. Tikoitoga is trying to dictate to political parties and, therefore, to the people of Fiji what they should think about our Constitution. Government has announced that the constitution – making process must be inclusive, participatory, open and free. The people of Fiji must be free to express their views, even if these are not consistent with the views of the Government. 

Mr. Qarase also said that Col. Tikoitoga’s statement amounts to interference in the work of the Constitutional Commission. The Commission must be given the freedom to receive all submissions presented by the people of Fiji. To ignore and reject submissions to the Commission simply because the Government does not like them would be quite wrong and unethical. It would also undermine the integrity and credibility of the constitutional process.
Mr. Qarase said that the SDL Party would like to play a positive role in the formulation of a Constitution for Fiji, even though the Party will continue to express its concerns on issues and processes as necessary. The SDL Party would like to present its own submission to the Commission in consultation with other political parties and other groups of like – mind. Col. Tikoitoga’s statement should not deter the people of Fiji from expressing their views on the constitutional process openly and freely.
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