The overwhelmingly positive response to the Draft Constitution and the process of public consultation has prompted the Government to extend the deadline for submissions until the end of the month. The existing extended deadline of April 26th has been moved to April 30th – covering an extra weekend and two more business days. It gives the Government’s legal team more time to hold public meetings in other parts of the country and to conduct more talkback radio sessions. The Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, said the program of public consultation – which includes Nadi and Sigatoka on Monday, will be extended to Taveuni and Savusavu later this week and Kadavu, the Yasawas and other parts of the country at dates to be announced.
“The existing provisions of the Draft have been warmly accepted but, of course, people are asking for clarification on some aspects and we want to engage with them personally,” PM Bainimarama said. The Prime Minister said the public meetings that had already been held in Suva, Labasa, Lautoka and Ba had been a great success. “When people have the provisions explained to them, it’s clear that a great many are satisfied with the document. But as we’ve said all along, we are open to suggestions about how it can be improved.”
The Prime Minister said that while he would have preferred a longer consultation process, time was of the essence. “We need to get the Constitution finalized as soon as possible. So it’s a balancing act between this process and our absolute need to meet the election deadline of September next year. We have 17 months at the most to process the public’s submissions on the Constitution, implement the document, organize the mechanics of the election itself, conduct public education and awareness of the electoral system and begin the political phase,” he said.
The PM said the Government was delighted with the level of public interest being shown in the consultation process. Despite the claims of some politicians, the decision to take the Draft document direct to the country has been a great success. The meetings – conducted by the Attorney General and his team are being well attended and conducted in a spirit of cooperative nation-building.
“The quality of the questions and the submissions also demonstrate that ordinary citizens are not only engaged with the process but have given our constitutional future a lot of thought. I commend them for their interest, their ideas and their desire to move forward and I urge everyone to take advantage of the extended deadline for submissions,” he said.
Submissions on the Draft Constitution will now be accepted up until the close of business on Tuesday, April 30th.