Response to the Attorney General’s comment on the CCF
2013 Fiji Government Constitution Booklet
07th April 2014.
The Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF) has not received any official complaint from the AG’s office regarding the CCF 2013 Fiji Government Constitution booklets.
CCF’s intention is to educate the citizens of their rights and responsibilities as citizens of Fiji. The booklet is a summary of the constitution and is intended to break down the legal language in a simple way, which is easy to understand. It does not seek to compete with government nor does it intend to replace the government constitution.
CCF has engaged in positive dialogue with the Electoral Commission in regards to voter education and looks forward to working with the Electoral Commission voter education team in educating Fijians on the new voting system in the lead up the September elections.
CCF extends an invitation to the AG and others to discuss the content of the booklet or any other issue concerning CCF’s work. If the AG has concerns regarding CCF’s workshops he is most welcome to attend.
CCF invites the Honorable minister to contact the organisation directly before addressing the media on any issues of concern.
Non-governmental organisation told to withdraw booklet
Fiji Sun 7 April
The Attorney- General, Aiyaz Sayed -Khaiyum, yesterday accused the Citizens’ Constitutional Forum of telling lies in its interpretation of the 2013 Constitution contained in a booklet.
And he has called on it to withdraw the booklet and he will also be writing to the donors explaining the situation. When asked whether action would be taken if CCF refused, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said they would wait for CCF’s response before a decision was made. CCF executive director Akuila Yabaki could not be reached to comment last night.
A booklet, titled “Citizen’s Constitutional Forum 2013 Fiji Government Constitution,” is believed to have been in circulation. The Attorney-General said it contains “so many factual inaccuracies with deliberate omission and deliberate addition.”He has also called on the public not to believe in it.
“It’s a great travesty not only of justice but great travesty of what this booklet is doing and what this organisation is doing being funded by foreign governments,” he said.
“Going down to grassroot people and spreading misinformation. They are spreading them lies. They are telling them untruths under the banners of the supposedly civil society organisations which is waging propaganda.
“And all of us need to be very annoyed by this because we want ordinary Fijians to have the right information, to be informed by facts. Let them make up their mind. It does not mention at a single time the fact there was widespread consultation on the constitution. Not a single time.”
One of the issues highlighted by Mr Sayed-Khaiyum, as outlined in the booklet, was the freedom from compulsory arbitrary acquisition of property where they talk about the rights and protection of the iTaukei, Rotuman and Banaban lands.
The booklet states that “however a written law may authorise compulsory acquisition of property when necessary for the public purposes and on the basis that the owner be promptly paid the agreed compensation.”
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said: “Compulsory acquisition has always been part of Fiji in the British times. Section 9 of the 1990 Constitution had compulsory acquisition. Section 40: 2 of the 1997 constitution had compulsory acquisition and that is for public purposes.
“This has been the case, however, the manner in which CCF has put it seems to have indicated to landowners whether you are customary owners or the freehold title owners that at anytime the State could come in to buy this land and take it away from you.
“What is more damaging about this page is that the CCF fails to mention the new provision in the 2013 new Constitution that if the state no longer requires the land for public purposes that it must therefore give back that land. That is the first time such a provision has been included in any constitution and the CCF has failed to mention that.”