News and Comments Monday 14 May 2012

MISS FIJI AND ROTUMA DAY COVERAGE BLOCK OUT IMPORTANT POSTINGS.   A sad human drama and a happy national event have probably caused readers to overlook the other weekend readings. Of much longer national importance is the fate of the Constitution Commission.

 I encourage readers who have not already done so to scroll down to my article on the Commission.  It provides a good background to the constitution and electoral events that will unfold in coming weeks. It is no exaggeration to say the future of Fiji  will hang on the outcome.  See also Graham Davis's comments in Grubsheet.

Parmod Rae
OLD PARTIES PREPARE FOR TALKS. The National Federation Party (NFP), for long the party that represented most Indo-Fijians until it lost the remainder of its parliamentary seats to the Fiji Labour Party (FLP) in the 2006 elections, met on Friday to discuss its submissions to the Constitution Commission. General secretary, Parmod Rae, said: “The party’s preparations will involve extensive interactions with various interest groups and community leaders, getting opinion and advice on socio-economic issues as well as constitutional law and electoral systems. “The consultations will extend both within the party and with leaders of other like-minded parties to identify any common views.” The meeting listened to presentation on social justice issues by Father Kevin Barr, a presentation on proportional representation options by Father D G Arms, and an economic update by Professor Biman Prasad. After the meeting Pramod said the NFP has some reservations about the constitution process will help the constitution process but will "prepare our party submissions and make the submissions to the Constitutional Commission in due course.” He also urged the PM to have more civilian representation in his government.

Mick Beddoes
Businessman Mick Beddoes's United Peoples Party won two of the three General Voters* electorates (or 1.9% of all citizens registered to vote) in the old parliament and,thanks to one of the anomalies of the 1997 Constitution, the Leader of the Opposition. He says the people must fully in the process, have full access to the Commission and all submissions and presentations should be publicised, televised and recorded.  “So that when it’s all done, the other submissions can’t get slipped in through the back door."He also called for the withdrawal of the Public Order Amendment Decree (see A-G's response below).

* General voters,  a miscellanea of citizens who are not Taukei or Indo-Fijian, have traditionally voted with Taukei government parties and have been significantly over-represented in past parliaments. While representing 2.9% of the population, they had three MPs (4% of the seats) in the 71-seat parliament in 2006. And Mick Beddoes's UPP vote represented under 2% of registered voters. 

THE PUBLIC ORDER AMENDMENT DECREE.  The Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum,in response, said: "The Public Order Amendment Decree plays a central role in protecting free speech and encouraging civic debate.  It is in place to address overt acts of racial and religious vilification – which we have seen in Fiji's history – and to promote true dialogue among all Fijians. Any groups seeking to meet peacefully, without intentions to “[prejudice] peace, public safety and good order and/or…[engage] in racial or religious vilification" has not and will not be prevented by law from meeting." Adding, “It is the responsibility of media to accurately represent the realities of laws, regulations, and the media environment in Fiji”.
--Based on MOI.

PACIFIC'S FIRST AGEING POLICY.  Government and the UNFPA on homegrown policies to meet the needs of Fiji's elderly. The policy was announced in August 2011 and runs until 2015.

TUPOUOLA TERRY TAVITA, a constant critic of the Fiji government, is editor of the Samoan government newspaper and a close adviser to the Samoa PM. In this article he is taken to task by Graham Davis and, significantly, by  PasiMA's Lisa Williams-Lahari for his racist attacks on journalists with whom he disagrees. Graham writes: "How ironic that someone who campaigns so loudly for democracy in Fiji appears to have the racist traits that Frank Bainimarama is working so hard to eliminate."   A special thank you to you,  Lisa.
THE BIG PARTIES, the SDL and FLP, have had little to say so far on the Constitution Commission although there has been a meeting of the two leaders,  but FLP leader Mahendra Chaudhry says the electoral process should be independent of government. He was commenting on what he called the "discarding of the Office of the Supervisor of Elections."  I have been unable to confirm Chaudhry's allegation (can any reader verify?) but it is possible the Office's work has been put on hold as attention is directed to the work of the Constitution Commission.

OVERSEAS VOTERS? 'Basa' writing in FijiToday has raised the interesting issue of overseas voters which many countries allow if their citizens resident overseas have also spent a specified amount of time at 'home.' Check it out here.



Walker Texas Ranger said…
The Constitutional Commission may well be of 'longer national importance' but in the immediate environment the Saga of Miss World is emblematic of ALL the ills affecting the nation state of Fiji. At every level it speaks of where we have 'gone wrong', who will sail in to drive events to their own peculiar advantage and "To hell with everyone else". We need to and must take note. We need to and must take action.

The Crimes Decree #44 of 2009 covers this level of alleged deception for personal gain. If others are involved, it is an alleged conspiracy: Section 324 and 325. Act and act now!
Anonymous said…
'While representing 2.9% of the population, they had three MPs (4% of the seats) in the 71-seat parliament in 2006' ...significantly overrepresented? There was 1.1% variance, is this your expample of abuse, over representation ? Did this demand a coup and military intervention? And this disadvaantaged who exactly?
Anonymous said…
So does the POA decree prevent anyone in local church service, rugby match, staff meeting, school hall getting up and saying whatever they think about indians etc? If not, how does it 'promote' anything? The idea that you prevent others from assembling to air potentially racist views is naive, given that the main concern of this regime is only to minimise opposition to themselves, dealing with racism is a secondary issue. presumably the police are in attendance at these gatherings to monitor? If not what is to stop anyone from providing a program and then saying whatever they like? If the police are in attendance,how is this like other countries exactly?
Anonymous said…
@ Anon 3.18
No one should be free to stand up in church or in a village or anywhere else to spew out racial hatred against "Indians" ( how we give our private racist views away!) or anyone else. We are free, but not to take away the rights of others. Racist speeches are and should be illegal everywhere.
Anonymous said…
you somewhat missed the point by reinforcing your views on racism.Good for you. Re-read and ask yourself does it require police to be in attendance to check someone is sticking to program provided to the police or does it require someone unhappy with content reporting it to police after it has occurred? If the police are present to hear the program what does that say ?? and where else does this happen??
stevie said…
In all countries in the world, the police, intelligence or whatever, are always present to see what is happening and either to gather information, or to detect potential hate speeches and other criminal offences. even more so at times of elections. And in most developed countries you don't need to monitor physically because guess what? there are CCTV cameras everywhere! Lets not be naive about the way law enforcement works in any country in the world.
Anonymous said…
Yes but in fiji they are there to reimforce the power of an illegal regime and detain opponents. They are after all run by a serving military officer.
Anonymous said…
So it's ok to use repressive modes of investigation as long as we like the ends? If democratic governments use foul means, what's the difference between them and the undemocratic ones? None, from the point of view of the repressed I think. The means are not justified by the ends. Water boarding and torture is not acceptable because they are used by democratic countries.

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