The 1997 Constitution: Its Opening Prologue

Sunrise Sunset
A  number of people making submissions to the Constitution Commission have said they want to keep the 1997 Constitution and, like sunrise,  I have to agree it starts well. It is only some of its 'sunset' provisions that need to be deleted or amended if Fiji is to become a united nation where each community respects the rights of others.

But what a beautiful prologue!

The Constitution preamble  reads:

SEEKING the blessing of God who has always watched over these islands

— and, after recalling historical events that have shaped modern Fiji, continues:

RECOGNISING that the descendants of all those who chose to make their homes in these islands form our multicultural society:

AFFIRMING the contributions of all communities to the well-being of that society, and the rich variety of their faiths, traditions, languages and cultures:

TAKING PRIDE in our common citizenship and in the development of our economy and political institutions:

COMMITTING ourselves anew to living in harmony and unity, promoting social justice and the economic and social advancement of all communities, respecting their rights and interests and strengthening our institutions of government:

REAFFIRMING our recognition of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all individuals and groups, safeguarded by adherence to the rule of law, and our respect for human dignity and for the importance of the family.


If only it had worked out this way!
Later in the week I will  look at the provisions in the 1997 Constitution that protect iTaukei land and rights (these I think will be retained in the new constitution) and at other provisions that I think will be deleted,  amended or referred to the incoming government in 2014, so that the rights of all Fiji citizens will be protected.

Meantime, I urge readers who have not already done so to read my weekend posting that clarifies some issues on indigenous rights.  

Readers  may also wish to click on these hyperlinks (or store them for later reference) to read these documents in full:

1997 Constitution

CCF Constitution booklet

The Role of Constitution Building Processes in a Democracy by Jill Cottrell and Yash Ghai.

This 2004 paper discusses the background to all of Fiji's constitutions from 1970 to 1997, details their processes, and the elections that were held under their provisions.  It looks in detail at the 1997 Constitution, and notes in particular that the failure to educate the people on their rights and obligations under the constitution was a major factor that led to the 2000 Coup.

Readers may be surprised to learn that Prof Ghai, who Bainimarama recently said does not understand Fiji's history, was in Fiji in 1987 and was influential in the foundation of the Citizens' Constitution Commission. He is no johnny-come-lately to Fiji.


Anonymous said…
I think Bainimarama is having a hard time accepting Ghai. Ghai has already demonstrated he is no push over, calling it like he sees it is and he is right to question the decrees in place. At the end of the day Bainimarama has is still RFMF at heart and that is chian of command. He has been at the top of that tree for a while and expects every one below to fall into line. He has never accepted alternate views. Nearly six years as prime minister has taught him nothing. This is the most disappointing thing - for a man to change to system (decrees, emergency regulation and intimidation) instead of changing himself.

I do hope that Ghai continues. I do hope that the PM learns to listen to a seasoned and sensible voice.

Anonymous said…
This Ghai just doesn't follow orders. He clearly needs direction from the military about who, when and where he should see someone and clearly didn't take the hint that this regime does not welcome any views that aren't their own and really all they want is his version of their own consulation process where they told people what they want surrounded by soldiers and police, copoting local officials keen to stay on the gravy train and then threaten locals and organisations with defunding if they don't agree. Works a treat.
Nicola andrew said…
Seem like Military is not doing good things in the country.

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