Thursday, March 22, 2012

Constitution Review

The man who will guide discussions on a new constitution for Fiji has expressed concern about limits on political activity still in force in the country.

But world-renowned legal expert Professor Yash Ghai is fairly happy with the timetable for drawing up the new document.

Professor Ghai is a scholar of constitutional law. He has been the head of the Constitution Advisory Support Unit of the United Nations Development Program in Nepal and a special human rights representative of the UN Secretary-General in Cambodia.

He says a year should be long enough to complete the process in Fiji.

He told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat he has urged the Fiji government to review laws that restrict freedom of expression and freedom of association.

Groups to complain of restrictions on their activities include the Methodist Church, trade unions and the legal profession.

Professor Ghai said the government should be given the opportunity to demonstrate that its efforts at reform are genuine.

"If people don't take this opportunity to test the intentions of the prime minister and the government, it's very hard to see how the country moves forward," he said.

"My advice to them would be to engage in the process.

"And as for this harassment, if they're not allowed to speak, then it will be the case that the government is not very serious."

He added: "Let's see how sincere the prime minister is before we conclude this is a sham."