Constitiution Commission members profiles

Issue No: 92; 7 October 2000

Asesela Ravuvu was a member of the team which drew up the highly feudalistic and racist 1990 Constitution, which was widely condemned nationally and internationally. He also contested the last (1999) election as a VLV candidate and lost. After the 1987 coups, he had written a book "The Fašade of Democracy" which championed indigenous Fijian supremacy in the country. His name was also proposed by the terrorist George Speight for the Constitution Review Committee. In a statement published in the Daily Post of 2 Sept, Ravuvu is quoted as saying:

"The 1990 Constitution simply safeguards the indigenous rights and values and the 1997 was aimed at bringing the two major races together, which may be described as an exercise in political idealism. And for anyone to believe that any Constitution will bring two different races together is na´ve."

"People have to note that nothing makes anyone forget the reality of race. The 1997 Constitution certainly doesn't safeguard the plight of the indigenous people. Because any constitution that has been influenced from outside and with alien ideals or ideologies cannot effectively safeguard the plights of the indigenous people who have different philosophy of life supported by their cultural value and belief system.

"A Constitution which strives to enhance equality among al races without being sensitive to cultural differences and the economic, social and political developmental stages each ethnic group has reached is bound to cause more problems than what the Constitution has intended to resolve.

Ravuvu also stated: "the implications and the practicalities of the 1997 Constitution were not clearly understood by the majority of the indigenous Fijians. Because of this, the Constitution has been a source of contention and struggle and any right thinking mind will note that both the races have rejected the document".

As can be seen, Ravuvu's mind is already made up. From somewhere he arrives at the conclusion that both the races in Fiji have rejected the 1997 Constitution. Yet the facts are that the entire ethnic Indian community as well as a vast majority of ethnic Fijian community has accepted the 1997 constitution and condemn the moves to replace it.

Apenisa Kurisaqila: is a former Alliance Government Minister for Health, and was the Speaker of the Parliament from 1992. When Speight and the terrorists raided the Parliament, he was visibly angry and upset, displayed great courage, lashed out at the Home Affairs Minister for lax security, and told Speight to shoot him if he liked to.

Adi Litia Cakobau: She is representing the confederacy of Kubuna of which Tailevu and Naitasiri provinces are key constituents. She is a key Speight supporter and is the sister of Adi Samanunu Talakuli, Fiji's High Commissioner to Malaysia (who is also a former British citizen and former SVT Minister for Fijian Affairs, and who was at one time Speight's choice for Prime Minister). She was also a key player in the 1987 military coup and had become the Minister for Women in the first Rabuka regime. She is now the vice-Chairperson of the Great Council of Chiefs, and at the height of the terrorist crisis, had asked the Chairman, Sitiveni Rabuka to resign, eyeing the top post for herself.

Berenado Vunibobo: Vunibobo is representing Burebasaqa confederacy of which Rewa province is a prominent member. As a civil servant, he was the person behind the dissent which Sakeasi Butadroka showed against the Alliance Party in the 1970's from which the Nationalist Party was formed. He was then sent to be Fiji's representative to the UN. His son still works for Fiji's UN office as a driver. From New York, he got a job with the UNDP serving in Pakistan. He departed UNDP amidst allegations of sexual harassment, came to Fiji and became a minister in one of the post 1987 military backed regimes. After the 1994 election, he because a Minister in the SVT government, but lost the 1999 election. He then became a SVT nominated Senator in 1999. He was often seen in the Parliament's public gallery days before the terrorists struck.

Ratu Rakuita Vakalalabure: He is representing Tovata. The son of Cakaudrove High Chief, Ratu Tevita Vakalalabure, he is a Bond university graduated lawyer who was one of terrorist George Speight's key advisors. He often camped in the Parliament Complex and was heavily involved in drafting "decrees" for Speight. In 1999, he had won the SVT seat to Parliament which was vacated by Sitiveni Rabuka after he resigned in July.

Fatiaki Misau: He represents the Rotuma Island Council. He is a former civil servant.

Charles Walker: A former civil servant, Minister in the Alliance Government, and an Ambassador for Fiji, Walker retired from politics after the 1987 election loss of the Alliance Party. He had shown initial reluctance to serve in the Commission but changed his mind later.

Joe Singh: He is a former employee of the Carpenters Group of Companies, in which the Fijian Holdings Ltd has significant shares. Singh represented Carpenters in the Fiji Chamber of Commerce and as such also became a vice-president of the ACO National Chambers of Commerce and President of the Pacific Islands Chambers of Commerce and Industry. He has retired from Carpenters and is now running a small-time property consulting business. Many prominent businessmen have questioned his continuing involvement in the Chamber of Commerce since his retirement from Carpenters, claiming that he has no standing in the fraternity. According to media reports, he has said that his "biological composition is more than just Indian". He informed journalists that he has "to look at his mother's side" referring to the fact that his mother is ethnic Fijian from the Naitasiri province. Today's Fiji Sun (7 Oct) says that his decision to accept the invitation emerged from his biological composition and the interests of the nation.

Fred Achari: is an ex-civil servant and is now the President of the Pensioners Association. A close friend of his informed the People's Coalition that throughout his life he was "very self-serving" and was "a slave of the state". When the People's Coalition won the 1999 elections, he had approached it numerous times to become a FLP nominated Senator, failing which a member of the Public Service Commission or in any position anywhere. He has no immediate relative in Fiji.

Ben Bhagwan: A former clerical officer in the Ministry of Health, he has been a social worker for his Church and for a while served in the Sugar Festival Committee, a committee which organizes a fundraising week in Lautoka city. One close friend of his stated that his "endeavour in charity has a fine border with being a lackey". He told today's Fiji Sun that it was a "divine calling" to him to accept the offer. "I think God has called me to serve this country and when God calls, you do things that are right and just", he total the Sun.

Joseph K Maharaj: A lawyer in private practice, he was appointed a magistrate by the General Rabuka regime after the 1987 military coup. He contested a national election under the 1990 Constitution and lost badly, after which he left Fiji and stayed in Papua New Guinea for 5 years. He told today's Fiji Times that he was "ethnically qualified" to be on the Commission since he was head of a family with both ethnic Fijians and ethnic Indian connections, a reference to the fact that his wife is ethnic Fijian. Announcing his membership, the regime claimed he was a well-known lawyer and the media made him a "constitutional expert". He told today's Fiji Sun "I think there were some concerns about proportional voting. I was talking to the PM yesterday and I told him that honestly I myself did not understand the aspects of proportional voting". He also told the Sun that the people of this country should give this Constitution another go, and that he does not see any major defects with the 1997 Constitution.

William Sorby: A past president of the General Voters Party, Sorby resigned amidst controversy and division within the ranks of the general voters. Many believe that he was responsible for the split in the general voter population into two camps. He is a "business consultant".

 

 

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