Fiji Constitutional Commission Unfazed By Criticisms

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Yash Ghai says commission not pressured by Bainimarama’s comments

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Aug. 21, 2012) – The Chairman of Fiji’s Constitution Commission, Yash Ghai, has brushed off criticism from the leader of the Fiji regime that he is being pressured by non-governmental organizations and politicians.

Last week, Commodore Frank Bainimarama chided Professor Ghai in an interview with local media, saying he should not be holding private meetings with such groups.

He also reminded the five commissioners they hold quasi judicial positions and needed to be independent.

Professor Ghai says the Commission is just getting on with its work and trying to meet its deadline.

"I don’t think it was as serious as it was blown up by the media. We continue our work, no pressure has been brought on me and people are making very frank statements, so I don’t think people have taken very seriously the criticisms of the Prime Minister."

Professor Ghai says the Commission has received almost 300 submissions so far.

The Commission has this week started hearings in Nadi and other parts of the Western Division.

[PIR editor’s note: Ghai maintains that the commission's functions include meetings with community members regarding the new constitution, and commission members "are entitled under the decree to have consultations as opposed to public hearings, and there's nothing unusual in my meeting with [Bainimarama] any more than it is unusual meeting with political parties or trade unions." Meanwhile, Shamima Ali, a women's advocate who has been banned from participating in the constituent assembly to be formed next year, says Bainimarama's "interference" in the commission's work may undermine its progress.]

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