Posted Thu Aug 16, 2012 7:37pm AEST
Fiji’s Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, has warned the academic charged with drafting the Pacific nation’s new constitution to concentrate on his job and not get involved in politics.
Commodore Bainimarama, who seized power in a 2006 coup, rejected calls by Constitutional Commission chairman Yash Ghai for greater freedom in Fiji, saying the Kenyan did not properly understand the situation in the country.
“The comments by the chair are unfortunately misplaced… none of the laws currently in place stop any Fijian or hinder any Fijian from making any submission to the commission on any topic,” he told the Fiji Village news website.
Mr Ghai was appointed earlier this year to prepare a new constitution ahead of elections scheduled for 2014, with Commodore Bainimarama hailing him at the time as an “internationally renowned constitution and human rights expert”.
He has previously helped frame constitutions in his native Kenya and Nepal.
But the coup leader has accused Mr Ghai of being swayed by critics of his government and appeared to question the independence of the five-person commission that he heads.
“The commissioners should not be giving a running commentary on the proceedings, they should be completely independent,” he said.
“They should not give preferential treatment to certain segments or individuals in society who they meet privately and they should adhere to the laws in Fiji.”
Fiji repealed emergency powers earlier this year that gave the government sweeping powers but critics say freedom of speech, the media and the right to hold public meetings are still restricted.
The country has experienced four coups since 1987, largely stemming from tensions between indigenous Fijians and ethnic Indians descended from sugar plantation labourers brought in by the British during the colonial era.
Prime Minister Bainimarama said Mr Ghai had been pressured by opposition politicians, trade unionists and non-government organisations to make statements about the situation in Fiji without grasping the complexities of the situation.
Mr Ghai could not be contacted for comment.