CCF Says 'Let the People Decide' about the Great Council of Chiefs

Media release
The decision by the Bainimarama government to formally de-establish the Great Council of Chiefs (GCC) on the eve of constitutional consultations is a concern which challenges the government’s earlier assurances that all Constitutional issues must be openly debated and discussed with the people of Fiji.


“The Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF) believes that all issues, however contentious, should be open to discussion during the Constitution Development Process as this sort of decision-making may make the public feel disaffected and excluded from participating in the Constitution formation, before the process even starts,” says CEO Reverend AkuilaYabaki.

Reverend Yabaki stated that in 2004 a Review Team placed emphasis on the need for the GCC to be independent of Government and suggested that in its existing form the GCC was vulnerable to political manipulation. The CCF shared this concern especially when the High Chiefs allowed themselves to be spokesperson of the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL) and thereby brought discredit on the Council and the whole chiefly system.

“However, the Constitutional development process now presents an opportunity for the people of Fiji to have their say in reviewing the roles and responsibilities of the GCC, including its composition, whether such an institution is actually necessary in this day and age, what roles can chiefs or a chiefly body play in nation building, and the role it can play to safeguard the interest of all citizens” stresses Reverend Yabaki.

“The role of the GCC was previously enshrined in the Constitution, and is therefore a matter which needs to be put on the table for open discussions before a final decision is made. This is the expected purpose of the Constitution Consultation process,” says Reverend Yabaki.

“Additionally the structure & role of the Presidential authority is also a Constitutional concern, fairly to be debated by the country & its citizens. As Government announced, it is imperative that the people’s voice is reflected in such Constitutional decisions.”

CCF reiterates that the Bainimarama government must desist from ruling by decrees especially if they are determined and drafted without any real due process involving the views of the people and more importantly if they discriminate against citizens or any particular group. This should be paramount in efforts to ensure free and open dialogue in drafting and formulating the Constitution which would take us towards democratic elections.

“Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states “Everyone has the right to participate in government and free elections” and it is now time for us Fijians to openly exercise this right for a common cause, taking Fiji towards a sustainable constitutional democracy,” stresses Reverend Yabaki.


The CCF is a non-government organization that educates and advocates for good governance, human rights and multiculturalism in Fiji. We are not aligned with any political party.

Comments

Scott said…
As much as I admire the CCF's courageous stance over many years, on the abolition of the GCC and other constitutional matters their political judgement should be questioned. To do so, consider the following hypthetical.
The Constituent Assembly, `stacked by popular demand' (ie as organised by a combination of chiefs, former political parties, academics, consultants and various other `reactionaries') recommends that the GCC be retained in its previous form. This recommendation runs against the PM's view and that of the Constitutional Commission. The PM over-rides the Constituent Assembly and the Commission's recommendation.
Can anyone imagine the howl which would go up then about not taking note of `popular' sentiments?
Far better that an ethnic Fijian PM, who has consistently maintained the need to surmount the impediments to modernising Fiji's constitution, including by reducing the power of hereditary chiefs and others, says now: No GCC of any political importance. Far better that the PM does this than that the Constitutional Commission, appointed by a Fiji Indian Muslim and headed by an East African Asian recommends the same thing.
The populist conception of constitution making, which frames so many of the comments on the current process in Fiji, needs to be ditched. Constitutions are never constructed upon blank sheets,drawn up at a particular time out of little more than opinions, informed and uninformed, then collected in an Assembly Report. Anyone who doubts this should read the history of constitution formation in countries which are now considered the shining lights of democracy globally.
There are always specified parameters set out BEFORE the next stage of the formal process begins and which govern what can come out of this process. For example, in Australia, those who drew up the Constitution could only propose a federal model since the colonies were not going to disappear, but had to form the states of a federation.
Abolishing the GCC as it previously existed is one such parameter. Others have also been laid out, like `one vote one value for the electoral system'. I haven't seen much in the way of objections to the PM's `interference' on this issue. Nor should there be on others where he is being consistent with what are universally accepted democratic principles, including ending hereditary authority.
The chiefs and others in and out of Fiji who stand in the way of such reforms should be thankful this is not late eigthteenth century France, where they would have lost their heads as a necessary step in modernising that country's politics.
yea yea said…
You have to wonder if the CCF ever tire of saying sensible things and having no one listen.
Anonymous said…
Again we have to ruminate and ponder on what has already happened. This is the brave new world of the junta 'consulting the population' after they have already got a plan and have indicated they will get what THEY want. But still we see pointless and vain attempts at providing advice to a regime that could give rats.
Anonymous said…
'I haven't seen much in the way of objections to the PM's `interference' on this issue'... so we would be okay then to march in defiance? no, we wouldn't get a permit. Write to the The Sun for an editorial ? No, they are hand in glove with the regime. Oh please. Where would be actively voicing orur concerns and dissent?
out of the box said…
Can the CCF think out of the box and claim there is enough evidence that it will only be a waste of time and money going through the usual democratic process as far as the GCC is concerned because the answer from the itaukei if asked individually and not in groups would be a resounding support of the elimination of the GCC. They have outlived their usefulness. What is more relevant now are the provincial councils with its mix of commoners - both men and women and youth - as well as chiefs.

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