Report – By Michael Field
Less than a month after scrapping a draft constitution that would have sidelined Fiji’s military from politics, coup leader Voreqe Bainimarama says soldiers will have a place in governance.
Speaking to Fiji Military Forces during a medal presentation ceremony, he urged his troops to keep alert and not be caught by surprise.
Bainimarama, who seized power in a 2006 coup, has promised democracy restoring elections next year and in order to do it had a panel, part-funded with New Zealand aid of $500,000, draw up Fiji’s fourth constitution.
Early last month, when the panel chair, Kenyan law professor Yash Ghai, tried to publish the draft he wrote, the Fiji police seized printer proofs and burned them.
The draft would have limited the future role of the military in politics and directed soldiers that they would not have to obey illegal orders.
The military has been responsible for all Fiji’s four coups.
Bainimarama scrapped the draft and said he would produce a new version by the end of January.
This has not happened.
Speaking to soldiers he said the new constitution might be out by next month.
It would be presented to a new constituent assembly whose members would be appointed by Bainimarama.
“We will have our representative in it so that we can prepare a constitution that will take Fiji to a good future,” told the troops.
Despite the money and extensive public consultation that went into the Yash Ghai version, Bainimarama said it was not good.
“It did not coincide with the government’s intentions for a constitution that can take Fiji forward. It was good that it laid the foundation of work for the new constitution.”
He also called for allegiance from soldiers as critics of his regime and the military had been attacking reforms, changes and developments since 2006.
Source: Fairfax NZ News. Republished with journalist Michael Field’s permission.