Fiji scraps proposed constitution

Jan. 11, 2013 at 3:24 PM
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SUVA, Fiji, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Fiji's military government announced it would discard a draft constitution in favor of one written by the government itself.

Military ruler Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama said Thursday in a televised news conference the constitution drawn up by a commission led by Kenyan-born legal scholar Yash Ghai would be amended and a fresh constitution would be presented within three weeks.

Fiji, a nation of 330 islands in the Indian Ocean, has been under military rule since a 2006 coup led by Bainimarama.

The government last year ended emergency regulations that expanded police power and placed censors in newsrooms. Critics say those measures were simply codified in more severe laws, The New York Times reported Friday, noting Ghai's proposed constitution sharply constrains military power and calls for a transitional government ahead of national elections.

The announcement of the draft's rejection was called "a backward step of some proportions" by New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully on New Zealand Radio.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailete Malielegaoi of neighboring Samoa was less diplomatic, telling the newspaper The Australian, "Most democratic countries know a lot more about constitutional processes than the inexperienced military gang in Suva (Fiji)."

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