LUSAKA, June 18 - Government says it will not be rushed into making a Constitution by the Oasis Forum through its propaganda advocacy but will remain committedto producing a Constitution that will represent the will of the common man.
Justice Minister and Attorney General George Kunda said yesterday that rushing the process of enacting a Constitution in an emotionally charged atmosphere would distort its content and undermine the whole process.
He said the decision by the Government to extend the period for the collection of submissions by the Constitution Review Commission (CRC) was meant to provide ample time for commissioners to make reference to previous commissions and make consultations.
Mr Kunda said the K23 billion counter-budget presented by the Oasis Forum as an alternative to adopt the Constitution through a Constituent Assembly was speculative and not represented by empirical evidence.
Reacting to the Oasis Forum's statement that Government was delaying the CRC process, Mr Kunda said in a statement yesterday that it was surprising that the Oasis Forum, a group that had earlier questioned the long period given to the CRC to make a final report, was now asking for a rushed process.
"It is surprising that the same group is now advocating a Constitution review process to be rushed. They are now saying that a new Constitution should be in place before the 2006 elections," Mr Kunda said.
He said the latest position of the Oasis Forum to have a new Constitution by 2006 was flawed because there was currently a process being carried out by the CRC which was mandated to recommend a comprehensive review of the Constitution.
"The CRC will also have to look at extensive and bulk materials from previous commissions of inquiry," he said.
Mr Kunda said even the K23 billion budget by the Oasis was a product of speculation and not backed by any empirical evidence as the figure was unrealistic and misleading Zambians.
"This is a figure plucked from the air. This kind of propaganda from the Oasis Forum is not helpful to the Constitution review process," Mr Kunda said.
He appealed to Zambians to rely on Government cost estimates which were based on facts and statistics.
He said the CRC would not only recommend the mode of adoption of the Constitution but would also make recommendations related to cost implications and would consult relevant institutions with expertise.
"At the moment, there is no recommendation on the mode of adopting the Constitution and it is therefore misleading for the Oasis Forum to work out figures based on a non-existent entity (constituent assembly) which was not even widely accepted by the Zambian people," he said.
He urged the Oasis Forum not to trivialise the cost of implementing the CRC recommendations as its cost of K23 billion did not even take into account the cost of implementing requisite processes leading to a constituent assembly, such as census and referendum as required in terms of Article 79 (3) of the Constitution.
Mr Kunda also said at the moment, the focus by the Government and the people was on the creation of economic development and matters related to bread and butter as its was a wish of everyone for the nation to reach the High Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) completion point.
"This is a matter which is a priority. People need food and not propaganda," the minister said.
He said the Oasis Forum was a convenient grouping of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), few Church leaders and executive members of the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) and was not the right body to represent the views of the common man in Zambia.
He described the Oasis Forum as an elitist grouping championing restricted and specific interests and views away from those of the common man in the country.
"The Forum and its membership should take into account national interest before coming up with positions on important issues," he said.
He reiterated that President Mwanawasa did not dismiss, prejudice or pre-determine any suggestions on the contents of the Constitution and Zambian people, including the Oasis Forum, were at liberty to submit their views to the CRC.
He said the Constitution should not be viewed as for President Mwanawasa and personalised as the Oasis Forum was currently trying to do.
Mr Kunda said every Zambian wanted a Constitution that served everyone democratically and effectively, hence the need to give the CRC more time.