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Fiji PM announces plan for new constitution by 2013

[JURIST] Fijian Prime Minister Commodore Josaia Voreqe "Frank" Bainimarama [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday announced [press release] plans to establish a new constitution by September 2013. Bainimarama said that the new constitution would be in place at least one year prior to the elections planned for September 2014 to allow the public to become familiar with the document prior to voting and that would it include, "provisions that will entrench common and equal citizenry, it must not have ethnic based voting ... and, it must have systems that hold Governments accountable with more checks and balances." The new constitution is meant to replace the 1988 Constitution [text], which was suspended [statement text] in April by President Ratu Josefa Iloilo [official profile]. Bainimarama said that the recommendations of the Peoples Charter for Peace, Change and Progress [official website], released in August 2008 by the National Council for Building a Better Fiji, would serve as the basis for the new constitution. He also invited [press release] "international partners and relevant development agencies" to assist in reforming the Fijian legal system.

On April 10, Iloilo suspended the constitution and revoked the appointment of all judicial officers after a ruling [JURIST report] from the Fiji Court of Appeal declaring the appointment of the military government following a 2006 coup d'etat [JURIST report] unconstitutional. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights then urged Iloilo to reinstate the deposed judges [JURIST report]. Concerns about the constitutional suspension have also been expressed [statement text] by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and US State Department [official website] spokesperson Richard Aker, who said that it was a step backwards [press release] for the country, and called on Fiji to continue to recognize rights outlined in the suspended constitution.

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