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SUVA (July 4, 1997 - PACNEWS)---Fiji’s constitution amendment bill has been unanimously passed by the House of Representatives. This means the country should have a new constitution in place by July of next year, after it is endorsed by the Senate and President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.

The bill was approved by all 67 parliamentarians present in the House. One seat is vacant while two members were absent.

Under the new constitution, Fiji will have a 71-member House of Representatives, with 46 communal and 25 open seats. Out of the 46 communal seats, 23 are for Fijians, 19 for Indians, three for general electors, and one Rotumans. The new constitution also allows for the formation of a multi-party cabinet.

The passed bill also states that the l990 Constitution will be officially repealed when the new constitution takes effect in less than 12 months.

The Prime Minister was a happy man after the bill passed. An elated Rabuka said he was happy with the way discussions progressed, although he noted that tensions rose among the members of Parliament at times. He said he would not forget the help of the opposition parties in the formation of the new constitution bill.

The US Ambassador to Fiji, Don Gervirtz, also welcomed the significant development, saying the US Embassy is very much encouraged by the leadership and vision that’s been shown by all parties in this important endeavor. British Ambassador Michael Peart, in applauding the historic moment, said the passing of the bill has demonstrated that a lively democracy is flourishing in Fiji.

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