FIJI’S RAVUVU QUIET OVER CONSTITUTION COMMITTEE ROW

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FIJI’S RAVUVU QUIET OVER CONSTITUTION COMMITTEE ROW

By Matelita Ragogo and Salesh Kumar USP Journalism Programme

SUVA, Fiji Islands (September 11, 2000 – USP Journalism Programme/Wansolwara/Pasifik Nius)---Fiji's interim administration-appointed committee endorsed by the Great Council of Chiefs to review the 1997 Constitution has provoked a controversy, the USP journalism newspaper Wansolwara reports.

Some Fijians in the deposed elected government have branded the review a "façade," Indo-Fijian political parties have described it a "fraud on the nation" and the Fiji Labour Party has called for a boycott of its membership.

The nominated chairman, university academic Professor Asesela Ravuvu, declined to comment to Wansolwara because he had not been officially informed of his new role.

But one of his former academic colleagues called on Prof. Ravuvu, one of the architects of the 1990 constitution which supported indigenous supremacy, to distance himself from the review.

The interim administration named the committee and Prof. Ravuvu was one of the three persons suggested to be chairman.

Prof. Ravuvu said that until he received something official from the interim administration, he would not make any comments.

"I was approached but I can't say anything because there has been nothing official," Prof. Ravuvu said.

"What was discussed on national television has nothing to do with this appointment. It was a paper I wrote. I was merely predicting what could possibly happen.’"

Great Council of Chiefs Chairman Sitiveni Rabuka said no council member supported suggestions that the 1997 Constitution be retained.

"Members had accepted the fact that the Constitution had been abrogated and that something had to be done.

"Nobody questioned anything but if Prof. Ravuvu steps down because of university duties then we will have to chose from the other two," Rabuka said.

"Personally, I don't feel the Constitution should have been abrogated but provisions that others consider repugnant can be amended."

Acting Vice Chancellor Rajesh Chandra said Prof. Ravuvu had yet to make a formal application to the Vice Chancellor for permission to undertake the chairmanship.

Prof. Chandra said the university did not have control over such appointments but the administration did have procedures for staff undertaking outside duties.

History/politics department head Prof. Stewart Firth said the appointment by the chiefs’ council reflected the desire for ethnic supremacy among indigenous Fijians.

Prof. Firth declined to comment on Prof. Ravuvu's alleged connection with the rebels. He was named as the Minister for Labour and Industrial Relations in George Speight's cabinet line-up.

He added this did not mean Prof. Ravuvu was directly linked with the coup, as many people put forward to be ministers did not agree with the insurrection.

Deposed deputy prime minister and former USP academic Dr. Tupeni Baba said Prof. Ravuvu should not accept the position, saying it would help legitimize a process which is considered illegal.

"His standing in the academic community will also be affected. His involvement in the 1990 Constitution had already tarnished his academic standing so he needs to distance himself from the interim administration,’" Dr. Baba said.

"There is no evidence that the 1997 Constitution is not acceptable to all indigenous Fijians. Their interests are already provided for, and in great detail. There is no evidence to prove that it was not a good constitution."

Title -- 2960 FIJI: Ravuvu quiet over review row Date -- 11 September 2000 Byline – None Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- Wansolwara, USP, 11/9/00 Copyright -- USP Journalism Status – Unabridged

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