FIJI’S CONSTITUTION REVIEW COMMISSION STOPS WORK

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FIJI’S CONSTITUTION REVIEW COMMISSION STOPS WORK

SUVA, Fiji Islands (Fiji’s Daily Post – January 19, 2001)---In an unprecedented move, the Constitution Review Commission has decided to abide by the High Court ruling on Wednesday to cease hearing submissions.

High Court judge Justice Anthony Gates ruled on Wednesday that the commission suspend further meetings and payment of all allowances be ceased.

Commission secretary Walter Rigamoto yesterday said that the commissioners had a meeting where they decided to stop all their work.

"We had a meeting this morning in which we decided that we'll abide by the High Court decision and uphold the rule of the law," Mr. Rigamoto said.

"All scheduled public hearings of the submissions have been stopped."

Mr. Rigamoto also said members of the commission would stop receiving their salaries.

Interim Attorney-General Alipate Qetaki said the decision to stop the work of the Constitution Review Commission was entirely on the commission.

"I have been informed that the work on the review has been stopped," Mr. Qetaki said.

"The effect of Justice Gates' ruling will delay the work of the commission. This delay will logically have a follow-on effect on the commission's program right up to the completion of its work."

He said that time lost would have to be borrowed.

However, Mr. Rigamoto said that the commission's lawyers were working on papers to appeal Justice Gates' ruling.

Justice Gates had ruled in November last year that the abrogation of the 1997 Constitution was illegal and had called for the re-convening of the pre-May 19 Parliament.

According to one member of the commission, the decision to uphold Justice Gates' ruling was the ‘right’ thing to do.

"We have decided to comply with the ruling and put a stop to the work but at the same time, we'll seek further legal assistance and wait for the law to take its course."

The commission was due to hand over the first draft of its report in March and the new constitution was to be ready by the end of this year.

Meanwhile, there was mixed reaction to the commission's decision to stop its work.

While some accepted the Commission's move with great relief, one Fijian political party questioned the logic behind it.

Soqosoqo ni Vakavulewa ni Taukei Party general-secretary Jone Banuve said they respected the ruling but couldn't see the logic in it.

"On one breath he granted a stay order and ruled the decision to be reviewed on March 16 after the Court of Appeal makes its ruling on the 1997 Constitution... one can only question the sanity in making such a hasty decision based on uncertain and flimsy grounds."

"Justice Gates' ruling is causing a lot of anxiety and uncertainty in the community, the effect of which will result in the loss of investor confidence and an increase in unemployment."

For additional reports from Fiji’s Daily Post, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Resources/Fijilive.

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