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Fiji's military ruler: New constitution by 2013

Fiji's military ruler: New constitution by 2013

Fiji will have a new constitution in 2013 that abolishes the current split-race voting system in anticipation of democratic elections the following year, the nation's military ruler said Wednesday.
Work on the new constitution will start in 2012, the self-appointed prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, said in a nationwide address, unveiling his "road map" for a return to democratic rule.
The military regime threw out Fiji's old constitution in April. It has since tightened its grip on power, imposing a state of emergency, sacking the judiciary and tightening restrictions on media. At least a dozen critics have been arrested.
International bodies _ led by the South Pacific Forum of 16 nations and including the United Nations, Commonwealth and European Union _ have all demanded an urgent return to democracy since Fiji's bloodless military coup in December 2006, its fourth since 1987.
Bainimarama has said elections will be held in the South Pacific nation in September 2014.
The proposed new constitution, Fiji's fourth since it gained independence from Britain in 1970, will be based on the regime's so-called "Peoples' Charter," drawn up after widespread community consultation, Bainimarama said.
"It will include provisions for a voting system that allows for common and equal citizenry," he said.
Abolishing the "race-based" voting system has been a central plank in Bainimarama's program "to build a better Fiji" since he overthrew the democratic government.
Under the current voting system, the indigenous Fijian majority votes for candidates in Fijian seats, ethnic Indians vote in separate Indian seats, and other races in a third grouping.
Bainimarama also said Fiji's voting age would be reduced to 18 from 21, the number of seats in the 71-member Parliament _ suspended in December 2006 _ would be reviewed, as would the five-year term of a government and the need for a Senate, or upper house of parliament.
Since the 1997 constitution was abrogated in April, the regime has issued a series of decrees to impose new laws.
As part of its crackdown, the regime deported three foreign journalists and placed censors in all local media newsrooms. At least a dozen local journalists, lawyers and others who have spoken against the armed forces' controls have been arrested.
The military government has also banned the powerful Methodist Church from holding its annual meeting next month, demanding it remove "politics and instigators" from its ranks and stop calling for a return to democracy.
Among other proposed changes, Bainimarama pledged "a radical overhaul" of the nation's complex land tenure system in a country where more than 90 percent of all land remains in the ownership of indigenous Fijians.
Promoting the nation's battered economy, Bainimarama claimed the 20 percent devaluation of the Fiji dollar in April had produced improvements in foreign reserve levels, liquidity, balance of payments and tourist arrivals.
Foreign reserves now stood at 660 million Fiji dollars ($321 million), compared with FJ$440 million ($214 million) before devaluation, he said.


Updated : 2021-04-10 20:31 GMT+08:00