Yash Ghai: New Constitution Will Not End Fiji’s ‘Coup Culture’

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Commission chair says many submissions include desire to end coups

By Maciu Malo

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Aug. 28, 2012) – Constitution Commission chairman Professor Yash Ghai says the drawing up of a new constitution will not put a stop to the coup culture in Fiji.

He said the hunger for power and the ethnic element were major causes of coups in Fiji since 1987.

Prof. Ghai said that over the past three weeks many people had expressed their wish for an end to coups.

"Some people have said you should put up a constitution that will say there will be no coup, but that will not help," he said. "If the military or anyone for that matter wants to move in then they can because of power and we cannot control them.

"We can try to do it but I don't think if we include in the constitution there will be no coups. If the military wants to come, in such a predominance of force, then they can come in. We have to focus on the social condition or the critical condition under which coups become possible. The two driving forces of the two past coups is through politicians who have lost power.

[PIR editor’s note: Meanwhile, according to Attorney General Aiyaz-Sayed Khaiyum, Fiji’s government will not make any submissions to the commission, which the state feels would be unnecessary as the commission is "set up to hear the voices of every citizen of the country."]

"Secondly, there is the ethnic element. If one ethnic group feels they have lost out, they will try and get some military assistance and even business people may do so if the government policy doesn't suit them.

"So, I think to help solve the problem we should have a constitution that responds to people's needs and I think we can participate freely and fearlessly for this new constitution.

"I think this is the first constitution, if we get there, anyone can say it is the people's constitution. We should consider the role of military, Fiji doesn't need a huge military for self-defense but Fiji has got quite a worthy contribution to peacekeeping which is good."

Prof. Ghai said the commission would spend two months meeting and receiving submissions from the people.

"Fiji has many resources and has potential and there is no reason why Fiji should not be richer," he said.

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