The Leaderboard: Yash Ghai

Who is he?

Professor Yash Ghai is a scholar born in Kenya specializing in public, constitutional, and human rights law and development. He previously held prestigious positions at Yale Law School, Harvard Law School, and The National University of Singapore.

Prof. Ghai served as chairman of the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission from 2000-2004 and as a special representative to the United Nations secretary general in Cambodia on human rights from 2006-2008. Ghai most recently served as chairman of the Fiji’s Constitutional Commission.

Why is he in the news?

Yash Ghai is making headlines because of controversy surrounding Fiji’s draft constitution. The constitution was presented to President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau on December 21. Fiji is redrafting its constitution following a 2006 coup, in which the previous constitution was abolished.

In order to make the process more transparent, Ghai illegally leaked a copy of the draft constitution to the press. In retaliation, Ghai faced police intimidation; all known hard copies of the draft constitution were confiscated, shredded, and burned in front of him.

Fiji’s interim government then proceeded to scrap the constitution on January 10, probably because of a recommendation that the current military regime should step down six months before the 2014 election. Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama announced that his team of lawyers would be tasked with re-writing the constitution and that the new draft will be debated by a regime-appointed assembly.

What can we expect from him?

Since the Bainimarama government has seized control over the constitutional process, it is unlikely that Prof. Ghai will be allowed a role in the drafting process going forward.

Although Fiji’s neighbors are still uncertain about what kind of constitution will emerge in Fiji, recent signs such as the intimidation tactics used against Ghai and a decree prohibiting union leaders and public servants from joining political parties do not bode well for Fiji’s transition to democracy.


4 comments for “The Leaderboard: Yash Ghai

  1. J Gibson
    January 26, 2013 at 04:38

    This is not a comment, but a request for one.

    The Fiji Attorney-General has attacked Prof Ghai in a press release which I set out below. Perhaps you could pass this onto Prof Ghai for his comments?

    The Australian Government contributed $4.9M to the cost of drafting the constitution, and I was not impressed that the police set fire to the galley proofs, confiscated the printed copies, and said Prof Ghai should be arrested.

    Thanks for reading the press release set out below and I look forward to your comments.

    Publish date/time: 24/01/2013 [17:05]

    Print this page
    Email this page The draft constitution that is currently being prepared by the government legal team is bigger than any person in the country and will focus on what is best for Fiji.

    Those are the words of Attorney General Aiayz Sayed-Khaiyum in an interview with Fijivillage when we asked him how the government feels about its appointed chairman of the Constitution Commission Professor Yash Ghai’s statements on an anti government blog site where he has expressed serious disappointment with how things have been handled.

    We have been trying to speak to Professor Ghai and have left messages at the University of Hong Kong, however, he has not responded.

    He also refused to speak to us after the draft constitution was complete although we had sent messages through his staff that he should comment on certain issues as the draft the commission prepared is for the people of the country.

    This did not eventuate but the former chairman has spoken to some overseas media outlets.

    Sayed-Khaiyum said he cannot say anything about what Professor Ghai is claiming on the blog but he said Fiji has a lot to do from now until 2014.

    There is an audio file attached to this story. Please login to listen.

    Story by: Vijay Narayan

  2. Frankie Leung
    October 2, 2015 at 17:04

    Prof. Ghai defended Prof. Johannes Chan of HKU law school. Brave man.

  3. Frankie Leung
    April 19, 2016 at 19:12

    People like Prof. Ghai would not survive for long in Hong Kong after 1997. China will put pressure to get rid of constitutional scholars who are foreigners.

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