It is important that promises made to the nation regarding constitutional consultations be kept, said Labour Party Leader Mahendra Chaudhry.
“It is now more than five years since an elected government was deposed and the people of Fiji are anxious to get back to constitutional and democratic rule, and a government of their own choice.
“Our economy is in dire straits, poverty is escalating and people are facing severe hardship and all manner of constraints under the current environment including violation of their human rights. Fiji needs to stick to a strict timetable for general elections to be held,” Mr Chaudhry said.
The Labour Leader was responding to controversy that has arisen over the interim government’s failure to announce details of constitutional talks by the end of February, as earlier promised by the Prime Minister.
Mr Chaudhry said it was not surprising that there is considerable doubt in people’s minds about government’s sincerity in moving the nation to elections and constitutional rule. Elections had been promised in the past and these promises were not kept.
“I can see no reason for an eight year delay in holding elections. There is no need to change the 1997 constitution which was drawn up after wide consultations with our people. The only objectionable part of it relates to the communal system of voting. This could easily have been changed and elections held in 2009,” he said.
Mr Chaudhry said he had vehemently opposed the race-based provisions of the electoral arrangements under the 1997 Constitution. “I was the only political leader to do so. We had missed a great opportunity to move Fiji away from race-based elections by adopting more Open seats in the Constitution as recommended in the Reeves Commission Report. But at the time our objections were brushed aside as political grandstanding.”
“It should not now take eight long years to correct the defects in the electoral system in the 1997 Constitution,” Mr Chaudhry said.