FIJI MISSES CONSTITUTIONAL CONSULTATION DEADLINE

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Government fails to announce plans as scheduled

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, March 1, 2012) – Fiji’s military regime has missed a deadline for the beginning of consultations on a new constitution.

The interim Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, was due to announce details of the consultation in the fourth week of February.

An announcement was delayed because of flooding in January, but Commodore Bainimarama told diplomats last month that consultation would start by the end of February.

The information ministry said he would provide details about the timeframe and methodology of the consultation process.

The CEO of the Citizens Constitutional Forum, the Reverend Akuila Yabaki, says it is disappointing the deadline has been missed.

"If there’s a vacuum, then it gives us an opportunity to make people aware, that their contributions are vital, and doing some civic education in preparation for it. But this extensive program should also continue."

Repeated requests for information about the process put to the Ministry of Information’s Permanent Secretary, Sharon Smith Johns, have gone unanswered.

[PIR editor’s note: Fiji Labour Party head Mahendra Chaudhry has also expressed disappointment over the missed timeframe for constitutional discussions, saying the military regime "continues to bluff over its promises." Chaudhry also says he is unsurprised that Fiji media has ignored the delay, noting that the local media "does not have full freedom" despite the recent lifting of the Public Emergency Regulations.]

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