News and Comments Tuesday 15 May 2014
Far more tact needed
I don't know whether the process has started well or not but everyone involved —or who wants to be involved— needs to be very careful how they word their concerns and, before speaking, think how they'd like to be on the receiving end of their remarks. The last six years has understandably left many people with very thin skins.
So far, much that has been said reminds me of the pugnacious and insensitive style of the old politics.
Both Professors Ghai and Murray pointed to the need to lift 'restrictive' legislation but Prof Ghai also complimented Government on its work so far.
Not so, some local commentators who jumped to endorse the professors' concern but had nothing complimentary and little positive to say about anything else.
NFP's Pramod Rae, for example, wants the terms of reference for the Constitution Assembly gazetted, which is fair enough, but did he need to add "so that there are no surprises and ambush later on." Couldn't that have been taken as read? As it was, it echoed earlier remarks by other parties that were destined to be poorly received by Government. Hence, the equally provocative reply from Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum when Rae asked the PM to "expand his Cabinet ... to a more representative civilian cabinet in consultation with political parties."
The A-G responded: "Now is the time for Fijians to contribute towards the constitutional consultation process...The inclusion of political parties (in Cabinet) will in no way increase the level of ‘fairness’ of the process. The Prime Minister has set out the process under which the constitutional consultations will take place. This process is transparent, fair and inclusive.This is not the time for "political gimmicks."
A reasonable response, I thought, about the prime need to focus on the constitution process, but was it necessary to talk disparagingly about political gimmicks?
There's nothing gimmicky about wanting more civilians in government, but to ask for former political parties to be involved may be asking too much. This is about Cabinet, not the Constitution process, and so far none of the political parties have been able to make unbarbed, constructive comments about either.
I can see no reason why Government should give any of the established parties a place in Cabinet. They need to re-make themselves as serious non-racial parties before this could happen. But I'm sure there are worthy former MPs in these parties. They could be acceptable as individuals as could many non-politicians in civil society. The A-G could have replied along these lines, saying government would keep the suggestion in mind.
What is needed all round is more tact, for as Isaac Newton said, "Tact is the knack of making a point without making an enemy.” In Fiji, tact is also needed to develop trust and win friends.
FLP SAYS. "The regime has a vested interest in the electoral outcome as it has made known its intention to contest the next elections. Simply because irregularities were observed in the last (2006) general elections is no excuse for the independence of the Office of the Supervisor of Elections to be discarded – that would be warped logic. The FLP has consistently maintained that, to be credible, the entire electoral process including voter registration, needs to be independent of the office of the Attorney General or any other arm of government." A fair enough request, I think, though it could have been worded just a less aggressively. For the full website statement click here. As previously stated, I think "discarded" too strong a word. Its work may simply have been "adjourned" until the work of the Constitution Commission gets underway. Does any reader know the present status of the Elections Office?
AIR PACIFIC is to change its name back to Fiji Airways next year. In related news, the A-G says the Qantas offer to sell its 46.3% shareholding for $70m is too much.
PASSPORT WORRIES. After several delays, 40,000 new Fiji passports will now be delivered on June 20. Director of Immigration Major Nemani Vuniwaqa told reporters on Monday that the passports were delayed "due to a technical failure in the lamination of paper". He said the French company Oberthur Technologies apologised for the delay.
EXPORTS TO USA. Fiji could soon be exporting fruit and vegetables to the USA.
REHABILITATING FORMER PRISONERS. A small but important start because employment reduces re-offending.