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.