Factual inaccuracies in booklet
Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has outlined some of factual inaccuracies in the Citizens’ Constitutional Forum 2013 Fiji Government Constitution booklet.
CCF: the definition of Cabinet is a body of advisers to the President who lead the ministries, secretaries or departments of government. There is no limitation to number of ministers.
A-G: Everybody knows that Cabinet consists of the Prime Minister and the number of ministers is determined by the PM. Has any Constitution set a limitation before? In 2006, we had 36 ministers. Suddenly now it has become a problem.(The booklet does not say this is a problem but merely points out the facts)
CCF: 1997 Constitution was abrogated in 2006.
A-G: It was abrogated in 2009. How can one make such a mistake? (Legally this is an error but the constitution was not followed after the coup so was correct but not legally correct)
CCF: 2013 Fiji Government Constitution
A-G: If the booklet is going to be objective, why does it say Fiji Government Constitution?(Nitpicking the difference between the words Fiji Government Constitution and the Constitution written by the current Government)
CCF: Preamble does not recognise history of Constitution making and remains silent on history that led to the 2013 Constitution.
A-G: You will find numerous references to different opinions in this booklet. It is not a factual booklet. It does not tell you in plain language what is exactly in Constitution. (Normally a new Constitution starts with a preamble explaining why it is replacing the previous Constitution. Perhaps the current preamble did not want to start with “First we threw a Coup”)
This is a total disregard to our history. When you talk about history it depends who is writing it. The 1970 Constitution missed out on various aspects of Fijian history so did the 1990 Constitution. Some say the 1990 Constitution distorted history.
CCF: Protection of Bill of Rights is weak because parliament has powers to limit or restrict freedom.
A-G: Any lawyer would tell you the test of necessity is similar as was applied in 1997 Constitution. Limitation of rights can be challenged in court. (The powers to limit or restrict freedom have always been present but the Bill of Rights is not as stronng in protecting us as we would like.)
CCF: PM and A-G have control over the Judicial Services Commission
A-G: They don’t. The commission is an independent five-member commission.(appointed by the AG and PM)
CCF: People who have been given immunity have unqualified immunity.
A-G: That’s not true. If you commit a crime like rape you are not covered. The Constitution has clear provisions.(The AG needs to realise the people involved in the coup given immunity have unqualified immunity and talking about rapists is merely a smokescreen)