FIJI CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW COMMISSION BRANDED A "RACIST FRAUD"

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (September 3, 2000 – Fiji Sun/Fiji Times/Fiji’s Daily Post/Pasifik Nius)---Indo-Fijian political parties have rejected Fiji's new constitutional review commission, branding it as a racist fraud on the nation.

The new commission named by the Great Council of Chiefs last week is headed by a University of the South Pacific academic, Professor Asesela Ravuvu, one of the architects of the 1990 racially biased constitution, and three other people associated with rebel leader George Speight.

The Fiji Labour Party, which dominated the elected coalition government ousted in the May insurrection, appealed to Indians asked to serve on the commission to boycott the body which was an "insult not only to the Indian community but also the people of Fiji who cherish democracy, rule of law and respect for basic values essential for the development of a multiracial society".

Spokesman Pratap Chand, education minister in the deposed government, said the commission was a means to bring about a constitution based on race and designed to deny the Indian community their political and civil rights in the country of their birth.

"The FLP notes that, with few exceptions, members of the commission are known for their extreme racist and anti-Indian stance. This is to add insult to injury," Chand said.

National Federation Party spokesman Dr. Biman Prasad, also a senior USP academic, said the commission was illegitimate and a "fraud on the nation."

NFP did not win any seats in the 1999 election but it has been a powerful political force in the Indo-Fijian community.

"The composition of the commission is lopsided and its credibility leaves much to be desired," Dr. Prasad said.

"A least four members of the commission, including its chairman, have publicly supported the treasonable acts of George Speight and his bunch of terrorists.

"One of them was even sworn in as minister in the self-styled government immediately after the coup on May 19."

Dr. Prasad said the NFP would not accept any constitution that was "forced down the throats of Indo-Fijians" by an un-elected regime.

Prof. Ravuvu was reluctant to comment to media and said he had not yet received any official invitation.

However, in an earlier interview with the Daily Post, he expressed deep concerns over the 1997 multiracial constitution.

Comparing the 1990 (adopted after the 1987 military coups) and 1997 constitutions, Prof. Ravuvu said there was a big difference between the two documents.

"The 1990 constitution simply safeguards the indigenous rights and values and the 1997 one was aimed at bringing the two major races together, which may be described as an exercise in political idealism," Prof. Ravuvu said.

"And for anyone to believe that any constitution will bring two different races together is naive," he said.

"People have to note that nothing makes anyone forget the reality of race. Like all other forms of regulation, the constitution is there to enforce human values and ideals, which are necessary for the achievement of peaceful co-existence and a prosperous society in a particular context.

"Since ideals are abstract, they remain as social goals which we all try to achieve in reality but often not successfully."

Title -- 2941 FIJI: Review commission branded a 'fraud' Date -- 2 September 2000 Byline – None Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- PN/Fiji Sun/Fiji Times/Daily Post, 2/9/00 Copyright – PN Status – Unabridged

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