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SUVA, Fiji – All five members of the Republic of Fiji’s Constitutional Commission are in place. The Constitutional Commission is comprised of two international experts, and three Fijian representatives, as outlined by Fijian Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama in March 2012. Now that the full commission has been named, for the first time in Fiji’s history there is a female majority in a representative body.
These five individuals will contribute their respective expertise and intimate knowledge of Fijian politics, life, and position in the region and world to properly lead the way to the creation of Fiji’s first truly representative constitution. As announced by the Fijian Government in March of this year, once feedback from all Fijians is collected, the Constitutional Commission will be responsible for drafting the new constitution. The draft will then be delivered to the Constituent Assembly for review near the end of this year or early next.
Biographies of the five members are as follows:
Professor Yash Ghai, Chairman of the Commission, is a world-renowned constitutional scholar, and has completed extensive research in the areas of human rights, sociology of law, and federalism and autonomy. Professor Ghai has taught and performed research in law at universities across the globe, including Yale Law School, the National University of Singapore, Harvard Law School, and the International Legal Center in New York.
From 2000 to 2004, Professor Ghai served as the Chairman of the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission, and throughout his career, has consulted NGOs on the legal framework around human rights matters.
From 2005-2008, Professor Ghai served as a Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Cambodia on human rights, and between 2006-2008, he headed the UNDP Constitution Advisory Unit in Nepal. Professor Ghai’s publications include a number of books that address laws in different countries, including Africa and the South Pacific nations. Currently, he is UNDP adviser in Libya and advises the Constitutional Commission in South Sudan.
Professor Christina Murray is a human rights and constitutional expert; professor of constitutional and human rights law at the University of Cape Town; and the current Jennings Randolf Senior Fellow at the United States Institute for Peace in Washington, DC. Professor Murray has an extensive career spanning cultures outside the South Pacific region, having served as a member of the Kenyan Committee of Experts appointed by the Kenyan Parliament to draft a new Constitution of Kenya – approved and promulgated in August 2010.
For two years between 1995 and 1996, Professor Murray advised on the drafting of South Africa’s “final” Constitution – directly with the South African Constitutional Assembly. With a distinguished academic career, Professor Murray has taught and authored works that span a variety of subject areas – including human rights law; constitutional rights for women; violence against women; gender equality; international, and constitutional law.
Fijian member Penelope “Peni” Moore is a human rights expert, veteran of the civil society and NGO movement, and third appointed female member of the commission. Moore was trained in veterinary medicine and worked with the SPCA for four years before becoming the first coordinator for the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement from 1987 to 1993.
From there, Moore assumed the post as Creative Director at Women’s Action for Change (WAC) for the next 18 years, working to empower marginalized communities throughout Fiji. This includes mentoring at-risk juveniles; rehabilitating former prisoners; and empowering women to achieve economic independence. Also a commissioner in the Fiji Legal Aid Commission, Moore brings years of on-the-ground experience to this new position, as well as a broader understanding of the regional dynamics involved.
Fijian member Dr. Satendra Nandan is an academic, a writer, and former Member of Parliament. In 1969, Dr. Nandan joined the University of the South Pacific after being a schoolteacher for years prior. Dr. Nandan joined the House of Representatives in 1982, later winning the 1987 election on the Fiji Labour Party ticket, and served as the Minister of Health and Social Welfare.
Shortly thereafter, Dr. Nandan migrated to Australia to accept a position at the Australian National University in Canberra, where he is the Professor of Literature and Director of the Centre for Writing. Another of his current titles is Professor of Humanities and the Arts at the University of Fiji.
Fijian member Taufa Vakatale was the first female Fijian principal at Adi Cakobau School for girls, sharing a decorated history of experience in academia. Appointed Chief Education Officer in 1983, Vakatale was instrumental in driving curriculum innovations in secondary education, and establishing vocational centres.
From 1993 – 1995, Vakatale served as Fiji’s Minister of Education, Science, and Technology. Considered a pioneer in education, Vakatale’s intimate knowledge of the Fijian education system and extensive first-hand experience with various sides of education and political networks position her as a valuable resource in understanding how it all can be streamlined in such a way that will provide optimal and widespread benefits.
A member of the YWCA and other women’s organisations, Taufa Vakatale is a strong supporter of campaigns for justice and peace. Vakatale accepted the appointment as the first female Deputy Prime Minister of Fiji when in the SVT Rabuka Government from 1997 – 1999.