New Zealand, Fiji and the Pacific Islands : issues of political and social concern .
Subscribe to this blog
FOLLOW BY EMAIL
2014 Election Plan Underway
From Islands Business
Bainimarama outlines non-negotiable issues
Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama’s announcement for a constitutional
process finally came in early March, it felt both exciting and vaguely
because it seemed like the military-led government was sticking to its
promises; vaguely familiar because of the other announcements that
followed; familiar too because, true to form, Bainimarama already had
very clear guidelines on how the process would work—including the
unsurprising fact that the new constitution “must be premised on the
fundamental values and principles set out in the People’s Charter for
too, but impressive nonetheless, is the recruitment of globally
acclaimed constitutionalist, Kenyan Professor Yash Ghai, as head of a
five-member constitutional commission to hear submissions from July
through to September.
first woman deputy Prime Minister of Fiji, Taufa Vakatale, and
academic, writer and former parliamentarian Satendra Nandan have been
named as members of the commission. Two more would be named later.
Before the constitutional hearings, a civic education programme will be carried out from May to July across the country.
says this month civil servants will compile “materials highlighting
issues for all Fijians to think about” before the review process starts.
materials will include the People’s Charter for Change, which the
Bainimarama administration drew up following its takeover of the
government in late 2006.
has outlined what he says are “non-negotiable” elements of any new
constitution and it is based on these principles the Ghai-led panel will
need to draft a new document for Fiji from October to December 2012.
inciples” are common and equal citizenry; a secular state;
removal of systemic corruption; an independent judiciary; elimination of
discrimination; good and transparent governance; social justice; one
person, one vote, one value; elimination of ethnic voting; proportional
representation; and voting age of 18.
January 2013, the draft document will be submitted to a Constituent
Assembly, consisting of representatives from Fiji-registered civil
society groups and organisations, including faith-based organisations,
national institutions, political parties and government.
likened the Constituent Assembly—which will be named in December—to his
National Council for Building a Better Fiji, which he set up after his
amendments to the draft constitution will be debated and made by the
Constituent Assembly and by February 2013, a finalised document should
be ready for President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau to assent to, according to
He says the resulting document should be “an enduring blueprint for all Fijians”.
a general election scheduled for September 2014, this should mean
Fijians will have a year-and-a-half to familiarise themselves with the
fourth constitutional document the country has had since independence in
man chosen to head the constitutional process, Ghai, is no stranger to
Fiji. During the mid-1990s when the previous coup-installed constitution
was being reviewed, he helped the Fiji Labour Party with its
submissions to the constitutional commission.
More recently, he was in Fiji in January to discuss a book he co-authored on constitution-making.
Ghai says several Fijians asked him to take up the assignment and he agreed despite the “considerable personal inconvenience”.
am not looking for any personal gain, but to assist reconciliation in a
country which I know well and where I have many friends from all
communities,” he was quoted as saying on a New Zealand-based Fiji blog.
independent, Ghai has defended his role in the Constitutional
Commission, saying that although he is linked to the same university
Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum attended, it does not mean he is
He told Radio New Zealand International that
despite also teaching the Kenyan Attorney-General and former Chief
Justice, that did not prevent him from criticising them when they erred.
year, Ghai wrote a damning opinion piece calling for the impeachment of
Kenya President Mwai Kibaki for lobbying against the International
Criminal Court trials of his associates.
relevant to Fiji, Ghai has said the government should review all laws
that restrict freedoms to ensure frank discussions on the constitution
before the process begins.
Bainimarama’s announcement, there were immediate responses from
Mahendra Chaudhry’s Fiji Labour Party (FLP), the Fiji Trades Union
Congress (FTUC) and the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL) party of
ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase.
three statements questioned the need for a new constitution, claiming
the 1997 Constitution which was declared abrogated in April 2009, was
though, reaction to the constitutional announcement was positive with
many eager to participate, judging from the feedback printed in the
correspondence columns of the daily newspapers. Others have questioned
the need for another constitution and elections.
graffiti messages appeared on bus stops and buildings around Suva in
March, claiming there was no need for elections.
government responded that the consultation process would be the best
forum for people to freely speak their mind and that the country was on
track to conducting “inclusive and transparent consultations”. And the
police said they were investigating.
next big announcement followed weeks after Bainimarama’s first—this
time that the 137-year old institution of the Great Council of Chiefs
was being “de-established”.
being a British colonial creation, the GCC had played an important role
in the hearts and minds of many indigenous Fijians over the years.
GCC was abolished in four decrees signed by the President, one of
which, merely deleted the words “Great Council of Chiefs” in the
relevant law, replacing it with the words “iTaukei Affairs Board”.
said the institution in “modern times has become politicised to the
detriment of Fiji’s pursuit of a common and equal citizenry”.
said over the past 20 years or so, the GCC, including its secretariat,
had become highly politicised, with its members having political
affiliations and membership in political parties.
paramount chief Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu sounded emotional on national
television the day the abolition was announced.
He lamented the demise of the GCC, saying he hoped there would continue to be a place for the council in future.
this is unlikely, taking into account Bainimarama’s statement that the
GCC had “perpetuated elitism and fed into the divisive politics which
plagued our country.
“We must now look at our commonalities as citizens of the same nation, and not what separates us as individuals or groups.”
GCC notwithstanding, and appearing to want to maintain some of the
goodwill it had created in the preceding months, the government
announced that the Fiji Police Force had granted a permit to the
previously banned SDL to hold a meeting.
statement said police would grant permits to “all political parties and
other organisations” subject to the laws of the country.
It may seem far away and not all that relevant to Fiji, but in this TED talk former Finance Minister of Nigeria Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala spells out the six things that Africa's doing right, the eight things it's doing wrong (because in the West's perception, most things in Africa are wrong), and what needs to be done about them. Many rights and wrongs are very relevant to Fiji -- and for the West for that matter. Click, or copy and paste, on the link and listen to this courageous, inspiring woman.
A bizarre rerun of the political intrigues of the 19th century South Seas aristocracy is being played out at a stately royal residence on the waterfront of the sleepy Tongan capital, Nuku’alofa. Consular House was once the home of the British High Commissioner to Tonga and the lion and the unicorn still gaze majestically down from the wall in the foyer. But now the timber tropical pile with its push out shutters houses the region’s latest and most celebrated political refugee – a Fijian chief who’s sought sanctuary with his distant kinsmen, the monocle-wearing King George Tupou V.
This is a resource page to assist readers to check the separate developments that are reported almost daily on this blog against the aims of the People's Charter that are also incorporated in the as yet unpublished Strategic Framework for Change and the Roadmap.