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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

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Intimidation Of Fiji Commission Chief Foretells Future: Beddoes
People’s Party leader sure government to interfere with process

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Jan. 6, 2013) – The president of Fiji’s United People’s Party says the treatment of the man chosen by the interim government to head the Constitution Commission is a clear indication of the fate of its work.

A Constituent Assembly appointed by the interim prime minister is expected next week to begin debating the draft constitution produced by Professor Yash Ghai’s commission.

Professor Ghai says he was intimidated by police officers who poured kerosene and burnt copies of the draft document in front of him at the shop where he was having it printed.

The People’s Party’s Mick Beddoes says it will be miraculous if the interim government permits the assembly to operate in a free, fair and transparent manner.

"But their record and their attitude and their actions to date, including the burning of shredded copies in the face of the, in front of the chairman that they’ve selected, a symbolic gesture to try and intimidate this man, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to try and figure out what’s going to happen from here on in."

Mick Beddoes says the regime wants to amend Professor Ghai’s constitution and is directing the finalisation process to allow it to do so.

The Fiji military has toughened its rhetoric against the Constitution Commission, which last month completed its work by producing a draft constitution.

The Land Forces commander, Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga, took issue with the draft being made public, saying that it was an illegal act by the Commission chair, Yash Ghai, for which he should be charged.

Colonel Tikoitoga has now told the Fiji Times that the motives of the Commission, which was appointed by the interim government, were clear and that they wanted to destroy the process.

He went on to say that the Commission members’ actions were unbecoming and they should be ashamed of themselves.

[PIR editor’s note: In response to criticism a member of the Commission, Ms Penelope Moore, said "the work to draft Fiji's new constitution by the dissolved Constitution Commission, its chairman Professor Yash Ghai and members has always been neutral."]

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