|One of three photos sent to C4.5 yesterday.|
Two developments worth noting today, one the Australian media report citing a Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman saying the Australian government welcomes the completion of the new draft constitution despite a bitter row between chair Yash Ghai and the military government and the other, a Fiji Sun column, attacking the Kenyan constitution expert.
Under the headline 'Canberra praises draft Constitution for Fiji', the government spokeswoman is cited as saying: "The draft constitution is a substantial document and another step along the path towards Fiji's return to democracy.
"The strong interest of the people of Fiji in the commission's work was shown by the very large number of submissions it received - over 7000.
"The Fiji police have confiscated printed copies of the draft constitution, but it is now available on websites. Some political parties and individuals have already commented on it publicly."
The same story quotes Jenny Hayward-Jones of the Lowy Institute as saying 'it is the right thing at this stage' for the Julia Gillard government to help keep the constitutional and democratic momentum going in Fiji.
Hayward-Jones is cited as saying Fiji would probably not try to do a fresh constitution saying the Constituent Assembly is likely to frame its discussions around the Ghai draft.
She described Ghai as having 'unparalleled expertise' in drafting constitutions, in often 'extremely challenging settings'.
At home, the Fiji Sun's latest column by Qorvis paid consultant, Graham Davis, was less benevolent saying the departing Ghai's actions 'smacks of emotion triumphing over reason.'
Taking issue with Ghai's original report the drafts were set on fire with kerosene and using pictures published yesterday by C4.5, Davis says: "What was burnt were some uncorrected printer’s proofs that had been shredded – yes, cut up into little pieces – and that the Police feared may have been reconstituted had they not been destroyed. Their orders, after all, were to secure the document and prevent its dissemination.
"The truth is that all copies of the draft constitution survive and are now under lock and key.
"As the Government originally intended, they will be handed over to the proper authority when the time comes – the yet to be chosen chair of the Constituent Assembly."
Davis goes on to make several 'revelations' about Ghai including the 63 year old's relationship with the National Federation party (already noted by C4.5 when Ghai arrived last year) and Ghai's aborted intention to walk away from the Commission, also known by C4.5 but not published.
On what Davis describes as the 'alleged' burning of drafts, he says: "What was Yash Ghai doing presiding over the printing of almost 600 copies a day later on Saturday December 22? He no longer had any legal authority to do so. He was in breach of the law. And yet it was Professor Ghai who accused the Police of acting illegally when he gave his Radio Australia interview six days later.
"By now he was safely out of Fiji and intent on what looks very much like a petulant act of revenge – pointing a finger of blame at the Police when it was he who was actually in the wrong.
"We now know from his fellow Commissioner, Professor Satendra Nandan, that Professor Ghai had the draft copies printed without informing him. In other words, it was a unilateral decision of the chairman’s to make the document public, not the Commission’s as a whole.
"This raises some serious questions about Yash Ghai’s conduct. First, he defies the law by continuing to perform his duties after his job has formally concluded. Then he secretly presides over the unauthorised printing of 600 draft copies with the intention of disseminating them to selected members of the public in defiance of the Government’s wishes and the process it had set in train."
Graham's story is too long reprise here but can be found at the link provided. No doubt there will be more on what happened at the printery (where Ghai had been called by the printers when police arrived) and between Ghai and the regime.
The United Peoples Party has meanwhile said the furore over the leaking of the draft Constitution is of the regime's own making.
Party leader Mick Beddoes says it appears the regime learnt through its ‘mole’ at the Commission the draft was shaping up to be quite ‘tough’ on a government .... and not being able to receive any further immunity if they were to consider a Coup 5.'
Ghai: Ruled emotion before reason
Canberra praises new draft Constitution
Smith Jonh's letter to The Australian.
ROWAN Callick's article ("Fiji cops torch constitution draft", 8/1) is factually incorrect. No printed copies of Fiji's draft constitution have been burnt.
All 599 copies were sequestered by police on the government's instruction when it learnt that the former chair of the constitutional commission, Professor Yash Ghai, was printing them contrary to law and planned to distribute them himself without the apparent knowledge of his fellow commissioners. The police action was to preserve the integrity of the constitutional process.
The only things that were burnt were some shredded printer's proofs of the draft document, which the police destroyed for security reasons.
The printed draft copies will be made available to the public when the assembly is convened. We requested Professor Ghai to observe due process and it is regrettable that he unilaterally took it upon himself to leak the draft document. The commission's work has ended and the next process will commence in due course.
Sharon Smith-Johns, Permanent secretary for information, Republic of Fiji