FIJI CHIEFS EXPECTED TO INCLUDE INDIANS ON CONSTITUTION COMMISSION

SUVA, Fiji Islands (August 31, 2000 - Fiji's Daily Post/ The Fiji Times/PINA Nius Online)---The Great Council of Chiefs is expected to name today four Indo-Fijians as part of their 12-member Constitution Commission.

The Daily Post understands that the Commission will also include the Chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs, six members of Council and a general elector.

The Commission will have as its main task a new Constitution, which will safeguard indigenous Fijian interests and at the same time provide the country with a platform for a harmonious multi cultural and multi racial existence.

The interim government yesterday presented its Terms of Reference for the design process of the new Constitution.

The composition of the Constitution Commission was the other issue Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase presented to the chiefs.

The 1997 Constitution was abrogated during the crisis following the May 19 takeover of Parliament by armed rebels, and the holding hostage and deposing of the Mahendra Chaudhry-led Peoples Coalition government.

In its presentation, the Interim Administration informed the Council that its road to recovery plan holds that a draft Constitution will be ready by March of next year.

The Daily Post said that it understands there will be extensive nationwide consultations after a draft copy is formulated.

This will be from April to December and will be comprehensive.

The draft Constitution will be published in English, Fijian and Hindustani.

The interim government recently said it will use a process similar to the marketing of a product.

This is to ensure that the indigenous Fijian community accept the draft before it is passed as the supreme law of Fiji.

Mr. Qarase, in his first speech after his swearing-in on July 4, said the 1997 Constitution did not have the consent of the whole Fiji society, in particular the indigenous Fijian community.

According to him the 1997 Constitution was not agreed upon by eight of the indigenous Fijian provinces.

Only six provinces voted for the 1997 Constitution during the Great Council of Chiefs meeting which passed that Constitution.

In light of this, the interim administration will ensure that every sector of the multiracial nation will be consulted.

He said the 1997 Constitution will not be reinstated.

The time frame for the promulgation of the new Constitution is yet to be set but the interim government is intending to call for general elections in the year 2003.

Yesterday, chairman of the Chiefs Council Sitiveni Rabuka eased through the opening proceedings.

After welcoming the delegates he took them through the minutes of the last meeting before requesting the chiefs to observe a minute's silence for the late Ratu Vula Katonivere, a member of the Council who passed away this year.

A noted absentee was the former President and Tui Nayau Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara. His wife, Adi Lady Lala Mara, attended in her capacity as the paramount chief of Burebasaga.

The chiefs briefly discussed plans for a thanksgiving ceremony for Ratu Mara, who stepped down as president during the crisis.

Interim President Ratu Josefa Iloilo said at that meeting that Ratu Mara had served the country faithfully over the past four decades.

Ratu Iloilo said his devotion to duty and his statesmanship will never be equaled.

The ceremony is to thank the Tui Nayau for the 22 years of leadership, during which Ratu Iloilo said, the country never faced such problems of unity, inclusiveness, order and stability as we are facing now.

In other developments:

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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