The 1997 Constitution: Its Opening Prologue
But what a beautiful prologue!
The Constitution preamble reads:
WE, THE PEOPLE OF THE FIJI ISLANDS,
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.
WITH GOD AS OUR WITNESS, GIVE OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION
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 http://www.paclii.org/fj/legis/num_act/ca1997268/
CCF Constitution booklet http://fijiconstitution.weebly.com/uploads/1/2/4/
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.