Constitution Submission by Jale O. Baba


Sumission to Constituency Commission By Jale O. Baba,
Nasinu, Dawasa, Tailevu. Phone: 869 3295. E-mail: jalebaba@gmail.com

Introduction

This submission is presented for myself only, in my name. It does not represent anybody else’s view or position with respect to how we as citizens of Fiji would like to be governed.

I honestly believe the Charter represents a better vision and path forward for Fiji than any sustained by any politician hitherto.

The submission is not complete and I reserve the right to add to it especially policy and operational requirements I believe will ensure they happen.

I acknowledge inputs from other Fijians who contributed to social network forum where issues were posted and discussed, especially FB/Fiji Constitution Submission and FB/Submission to Ghai’s Commish.

Background
The context in which we are creating this constitution is important:

Fiji is about the only country where the indigenous and migrant populations are about equal in numbers
about half the people believe in God as the source of truth, justice, good and beauty , and the rest not sharing the same faith but respecting the same values as arising from other sources the indigenous own most of the land and natural resources and comprise almost all members of the defence forces, while the rest hold dominion on economic activities.

There is proportionately very large Fijian diaspora who contribute to our national balance of payment, and welfare of her citizens. They too should be consulted and our constitution should be inclusive of them.

Points (a) – (c) above constitute a brew for very divisive politics which has been harnessed for that purpose by politicians past and present. (d) however, provides a locus of moderation since most Fijians abroad value our shared heritage than what divides us.

She was ceded to Great Britain in 1874, and natives being the only significant non-Eurasian community were labeled as Fijians.  They have since come to consider Fijian, which came to be due to miscommunication, to be their ethnic identity.

From mid-20th century leaders of communities then domicile in Fiji , beholden to our ancestors for their labors and need to be emancipated from colonial bondage, struggled for statehood. They achieved for Fiji independence through a ‘negotiated settlement’ enshrined in the 1970 Constitution.  I highlight ‘negotiated settlement’ because it did not go far enough to guarantee for all same rights for all times.

The 1987 coups ushered a 25 year period of political polarization fused with poor theology from religious leaders, when racial tension was the norm and acrimonious and sometimes bitter experiences when human rights were violated in our homeland.  It is difficult to comprehend adequately the impact of 14 May 1987 and no deeper understanding of the grievances and injustices felt by thousands of Fijians at home and around the world.  That is a painful subject previous governments mostly refused to acknowledge, the mainstream media avoided, and many Fijians have been unable to discuss. Instead political parties and even churches continue to expound poor theologies or unsound economic models to support poor and even dangerous policies.

The body of Christ in Fiji is charged with saving all those made in the image of God domicile in Fiji.  Political deviousness in the guise of Christian dogma stands in the path to salvation of non-believers, for which responsible church leaders will be judged.  The coups of 1987 and 2000 and churches' un-shameful endorsement of the nationalist agendas that poured forth to justify treason did more to turn away many from the path to righteousness.

Jesus Christ, as attested in holy scripture, knows no racial boundaries.  Those who confess his name are found throughout the earth.  Our allegiance to Christ takes precedence over our ethnic identities, cultural purity, and heritage.  Whenever the church compromises with the state, the gospel of Christ is discredited.

The military take-over in 2006, which violated then abrogated the 1997 Constitution, was wrong in law. However, the Interim Government has articulated through the Charter, and reaffirmed the same through the ‘non-negotiables’ announced by the Interim Prime Minister, a vision I believe represents values a modern nation should aspire for.  The Charter gives Fiji and her people the opportunity to make good the negotiated settlements in 1970 and 1990 Constitutions, and give ourselves the opportunity to develop a new Constitution which is neither abominable in the eyes of God nor repulsive to human sensibilities.

While we undertake this exercise we are also witnessing societies with more affluence and less suffering, but much more discontent, where trust has been broken or expectation raised only to be dashed. At the same time, Fijians have been quoted as among the happiest on earth. This must remind us that the object of nation building must be other than unfettered economic growth and secure borders alone.  One must approach state building in a more holistic way, and developing the correct basic law to be governed by is fundamental to that.

President
President to be Head of State and Government, Commander in Chief, and Chairperson of Security Council.

Elected by popular vote (based on preferential voting system to avoid re-run if no clear winner) for 4 yrs, and a candidate may be elected for a maximum of 2 terms only. Must have more than 20% support from all constituencies.
Shall serve full term unless
Impeached
Incapacitated
Death
Candidates must be Fiji born, over 45 yrs old, and to have resided in Fiji for at least 14 yrs continuously prior to nomination.
Each candidate must have a Running Mate who becomes VIP if they win.
To present quarterly State of Nation reports including provisional public accounts to HoR within 60 days from end of each quarter.

Cabinet
Include President and VP, plus not more than 15 Ministers selected from parliament, including not more than 3 from Senate and at least 30% females. Assistant Ministers should not included in cabinet may be considered on project basis only, and such to be approved by Senate.

Parliament
House of Representatives
 57 members (or 1 for each 11,000 registered voters) elected by popular vote based on proportional representation, each party to ensure at least 30% of their parliamentarians are women
 5 Constituencies (Central, Western, Northern, Maritime, International) with seats proportionate to registered voters in each
Members be elected by popular vote using proportionate voting system
Candidates to be >25 yrs old and have resided continuously in constituency for last 3 years at time of nomination.
All MPs are representatives of the State rather than constituency
Duties shall include, among others,
Introduce and debate bills
Debate President’s quarterly State of Nation Report
Initiate impeachment of President for impeachable offences established by statute.
Members elected in 2014 may serve 3 years only till following election in 2017.  Members elected thereafter to serve full term.
Members’ terms do not expire with change in Presidency, or Senate.
Members to elect a Speaker who may be any registered voter, and Deputy Speaker from amongst its members.

Senate
Composition of the Senate to include brain-trust and reflect ethnic diversity
 21 members who shall be Fijians of more than 35 yrs at time of nomination, and not to have failed bid for HoR in previous 5 yrs, local resident for 5 of last 7 year prior to nomination, elected as follow:
3 professionals (at least 1 female) elected by professionals who are registered members of professional institutions registered in Fiji.
2 (1 female & 1 male) elected by academic staff in tertiary institutions in Fiji, and community development professionals
1 Rotuman elected by members of Rotuma Council
1 kai-Loma nominated by Pres?
1 from Pacific Islanders and Asians elected by members of registered council (or by the President).
5 (at least 2 females) nominated by Pres from prominent Indo-Fijians (2 each from Western & Central, 1 from Northern/Maritime) – 2 indo-Fijian religious leaders
8 iTaukei (3 females) elected by Regional Chiefs’ Councils (3 each from Western and Central, 2 from Northern/Maritime) – include 2 iTaukei religious leaders.

Functions, among other things, to include:
Nomination of Chief Justice, DPP, Ombudsman, Human Rights Commissioners, Reserve Bank Gov,
Debate Bills from HoR, and State of Nation reports
Conduct hearing on impeachment initiated in HoR
VP to be President of Senate
Approve public referendum sought by Pres

Senators elected in 2014 serve for 2 years only, and senators elected thereafter to serve full term of 4 years.

Members’ terms do not expire with change of Presidency.

MPs shall
Not perform any business activity involving any benefit derived from the property of the State or local government or to acquire such property, to the extent specified by statute. Breach of this condition result in forfeiture of parliamentary seat
Disclose their personal assets, including formal qualifications and tax return for 3 years, prior to nomination

Right to introduce bills
The right to introduce legislation shall belong to
MPs and Senators
President, and Cabinet
Public through ‘Public Intervention’

Sponsors, when introducing a bill to HoR, shall indicate the financial and socio-economic consequences of its implementation.

Public intervention
Bills may be introduced through ‘Public Intervention’ by 15,000 registered voters.
MPs must vote for or against public bills by secret ballot

Referendum
A nationwide referendum may be held in respect of matters of particular importance to the State, including changes to constitution. Referendums may be sought by
HoR to be taken by an absolute majority of votes in the presence of at least half of the Members,
President with the consent of the Senate given by an absolute majority vote taken in the presence of at least half of Senators.

A group comprising at least 20% having the right to vote in each constituency..

A result of a nationwide referendum shall be binding, if
More than 60% of registered voters participated, and
More than 50% of them approved.
The validity of a nationwide referendum shall be determined by the Supreme Court.

Local Government
Municipalities
Elections in 2015 and every 4 yrs thereafter
15% of all VAT collected from sales within each municipality be payable by payable to source municipality as income

Regional Development Board
Under auspices of Commissioner for each constituency
Board, to be elected in 2015, to include
1 Executive Chairperson who shall be a development specialist elected by members
Members elected from all communities within areas of operation
Administrative boundaries be defined by geographic catchment areas rather than provincial or other artificial boundaries within each Division

Political parties
Political parties registered in Fiji shall:
Have at least 200 registered members from each constituency
Promote racial harmony and national unity.
Provide sources and application of funds for public scrutiny.
Be founded on principle of equality of Fijians.
Be voluntary in membership.
Uphold and comply with the Charter in a form for the time being established by statute.
During campaign periods, political parties must be required to put a budget along with their manifesto 45 days prior to election date and independent committees

Independent economic team to see balance and on short term long term impact on inflation, employment, etc.
Interfaith team to critique moral/faith issues.
Academia/NGOs team to assess for impact on social/sustainability issues

Faith-based organizations
With respect to government, all faith-based organizations should constantly challenge the powers that be to:
Do justice to the poor instead of preaching a ‘prosperity gospel’ and supporting politicians who further enrich the wealthy.
Hate violence and try to reduce it.
Heal community from racial, gender, and class division by participation in the National Reconciliation; Unity Commission
Put principles above power always

National Reconciliation and Unity

Just stating in the Constitution our commitment to racial harmony and national unity will not necessarily make it happen. The Constitution must direct the preparation by statute requirements for government to make it happen including:

National tertiary institutions to introduce core units of cross cultural learning in all their courses.
Where tertiary institutions cannot accommodate (1) above, new Ministry of Fijian Culture & Arts provide such courses iTaukei and Hindi be taught at all schools up to Year 10 (Form 4).

All faith-based organizations to assign a member of executive body as permanent member of National Reconciliation; Unity Commission charged with developing and implementing national reconciliation and healing process.

Ministry of iTaukei Affairs should be strengthened to extend to the protection, promotion and celebration of languages, cultures and arts of all communities domicile in Fiji and to be called Ministry of Fijians Arts & Culture.

Provincial Councils be abolished and replaced by Provincial Development Boards and include elected representatives from all communities within their area.  PDBs to be headed by a development specialist as Executive Chairperson elected through secret ballot by community representatives on the Board, reporting directly to Divisional Commissioner,.

Citizenship
A person may become a Fiji citizenship by:
Birth - born or abandoned without ID in Fiji, to include children born on a Fiji registered ship or aeroplane.
Registration - if born elsewhere to a Fijian parent including child born after death of Fijian parent.
Married to a Fijian and continuously resident in Fiji for 3 of last 5 yrs
Naturalization after being in Fiji for total of last 7 yrs.
All citizens shall be known as Fijians
A Fijian may not lose Fiji citizenship if by such act the person becomes stateless.
Acts for which citizenship may be so determined to be established by statute.

Land reform
Fiji is an agrarian country and land tenure system must be adequately resolved.  I propose that
State to lease all agricultural land and pay rental to NLTB according to established procedures
Farmers and other interested parties to sub-lease from state and pay rent + admin cost thereto
All protection areas, including water catchments, be leased by State and included in conservation estate for period of lease

Fiji has a very limited area of arable land and development for other purposes including housing, industry, etc. on such lands may be approved only for state purposes with approval from parliament
iTLTB role be extended to include assistance to landowners to utilize and otherwise add value to resources, including forests and fisheries

Constitutional changes
Leaders of major political parties are taking a united stand for a return to the divisive 1997 constitution.  This does not bode well for the new vision for Fiji.
The 2013 constitution must not be changed, amended, or added to for the next 10 years, and even then only with the approval of Fijians through a 60% approval from a referendum where more than 60% registered voters participate.

Bill of Rights

In addition to Red and Blue tights:
Marriage is union between a woman and a man. But statute should establish other arrangements that ensure de-facto partners as well as same sex partners similar rights to adoption, property ownership, financial arrangements, etc, by law.

Gender Equality – men and women to have equal rights in every respect including pay for similar jobs, access to public offices including Boards of state institutions based on merit
Road fatalities to be treated as manslaughter
Violence against women and children should not be tolerated.
State to
Outlaw abuse of women and children, including corporal punishment
Establish a toll free help line for battered or abused spouses and children
Establish shelters for victims of abuse
Rape of minors to be treated by law as murder, and where guilty perpetrator was known to victim to be sentenced similar to Murder 1.

Education
Education be compulsory up to age 18 years
All local scholarships to be abolished. Education loans at low interest rates be granted to all qualified tertiary institutions, which should include 1 yr working holiday in approved countries to be facilitated and administered through our diplomatic/trade missions, or equivalent to start a small business.  Loan repayment to start 18 months after graduation.
Cross cultural education as discussed elsewhere.

Environmental consideration
Public authorities shall pursue policies ensuring the ecological security of current and future generations.
Protection of the environment shall be the duty of public authorities.
Everyone shall have the right to be informed of the quality of the environment and its protection.
Public authorities shall support the activities of citizens to protect and improve the quality of the environment.

Housing
State to pursue policies conducive to satisfying the housing needs of citizens, eradicate homelessness, promoting the development of low-income housing, and supporting activities aimed at acquisition of a home by each citizen.

Fair trade; consumer protection
Public authorities shall protect consumers, customers, hirers or lessees against activities threatening their health, privacy and safety, as well as against dishonest market practices.

Religion
Fiji to be a ‘secular’ State where all citizens can worship according to conscience, and State shows no preference to any particular

Constitutional education
ToR of Constitutional Commission be amended to include public education of public on new constitution.

Immunity
A person or group who emancipates his/her country from institutionalized racism and ´class´ oppression should not be ridiculed. Neither should he/they be charged and tried in a court of law, least of all in the country whose citizens so liberated.

But immunity should not be granted willy-nilly lest it leave exit strategies for less honourable actors in future. Perpetrators should, thro Constitution Commission, individually seek understanding from people and amnesty from commission. Our current leaders involved in the takeover of an elected government in 2006, with the best interest of our nation in their hearts, should appear before the commission and admit their roles, and ask for understanding. It is for the commission to receive their admissions and give them their get-out-of jail pass. Those who fail to appear before the commission and subsequently confirmed to have breached the law may still be taken to task at a later date.
The above is very important part of this constitution building process in my opinion.  Without reconciliation, this sacred task of developing a constitution will have been done in a less than honest setting.

Transition Period
Fiji is undergoing a major political transformation and must be wary of rushing into the future after ratification of a new constitution, and general elections.  Fijians must jealously guard against regression to the divisive politics and racial policies of the past.
The Fiji Military Forces has been used for less than honorable purposes in the past.  This time around they have managed to articulate a coherent vision for a new Fiji which catapults us along the path of directional history that Francis Fukuyama called ‘End of History & the Last Man’. The coup culture initiated from RFMF may only be resolved with a re-engineering of RFMF with their full participation.

I honestly believe that:
Divisive politics of the past has stymied our growth as a nation, and left too many ‘behind’.
Pre-1987 coup Fiji’s GDP/capita was on a par with those of Malaysia and South Korea.  They are well on the way to be ‘developed’ countries while Fiji languishes between ‘developing and under-developed’.

A lot of villagers still live in conditions more fitting for pre-independence rather than 2012 – not a fair share of economic gains the Charter represents a far more superior proposition to any politicians have articulated politicians are more concerned with longevity of their parties, or personal support therein, rather than the nation to be delegated this responsibility.

Fiji needs
 architects of new vision to be its guardians too.
 RFMF to reform itself without any political fall-out.
Military not to form nor back any political party.
Peaceful political environ to manage change.

I propose that, if the Commander and PM can be humble enough to reconcile with the Constitution Commission, that:

elections in 2014 be for Lower House and Senate only according to arrangements discussed above.
for the next 5 yrs the Commander of RFMF become Pres, head of state and government, and CiC. He may form a Cabinet in the manner discussed above without favour.
a national referendum in 2017, and every 4 years thereafter, to gauge public opinion on whether the nation is ready to elect the next President.

Hardly conventional, I know, but with elected members in Cabinet to improve transparency and collective decision-making Fiji can expect the transformation managed in a truly democratic manner towards universally aspired for goals.  The RFMF is not a band of rebels, but a time honored institution which, despite devious pursuits of the past, has found itself a new honorable national role.  Furthermore, the human desire to leave a positive legacy, I believe, will motivate the Commander; Military Council to adequately reform RFMF and set the nation on the path to modernity and unity.

-end-

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