How Laws are Made in Bainimarama's Fiji

By G Larson
In a fully functioning parliamentary democracy such as New Zealand new law are made by the legislature (parliament), usually on the recommendation of the executive (cabinet, that includes the Attorney-General) and enforced by the judiciary (the Courts).. The Attorney-General's office is responsible for drafting most new laws.
In Fiji, law proposals are widely circulated to stakeholders before submission to Cabinet. For example, this last week has seen the third public consultation on the new Companies Decree which will come into effect on 1st January 2013. Consultations have been ongoing for over a year and stakeholders have been able to attend public meetings as well as make written submissions.

The Media Decree is another example where wide consultations were held and submissions were received.
Public opinion or human rights?
Admittedly, there were fewer consultations on laws such as the Domestic Violence Decree or the decision to decriminalize homosexuality or allow for legal abortion. I wonder if the public would have been in favour of these law changes? Probably not.
This raises the question of whether these laws should have been made without public endorsement? Some would say no but they are are bringing Fiji into line with existing human rights conventions even if they may not have been publicly acceptable. So which is preferable? Human rights- enhancing laws brought into effect without democratic mandate? Or continue to allow women to be controlled by remaining in abusive relationships or dying as a result of village abortionists or the Police continuing to arrest and charge homosexuals for the offence of "unlawful carnal knowledge against the order of nature" because that is what the public wants?
The government has sided with the human rights view on this. Ironic, isn't it?

A point to note also is that a lot of law that is passed in NZ and Australia receives little public scrutiny. In fact some quite major changes to laws recently in NZ have been made "under urgency" thereby even further limiting public discourse and accountability by the House to the NZ public.

Of course, in any country, consultation to the wider public on every issue is not feasible unless you are Switzerland with a system that makes frequent use of direct referenda. But where possible, Fiji consults and widely amongst relevant stakeholders.


Anonymous said…
Are G Lawson and G. Larson the same person? If so, who is this person? What is their expertise in law?
Anonymous said…
"The Media Decree is another example where wide consultations were held and submissions were received." Wrong.

Death by a thousand decrees

Rowan Callick
The Australian
April 13, 2010

LAST Wednesday morning, Fiji's military government released its long-anticipated, 49-page draft decree on the media.
Representatives of the media industry were instructed to assemble at the office of the Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, just two hours later to deliver their response.
If this document becomes law with only minor adjustments, as precedent indicates is likely, Fiji will suffer one of the most restrictive climates for free speech and the media in the Asia-Pacific.
This year the Rudd government and the New Zealand government led by John Key have signalled a softening of their formerly tough line on the Fiji regime.
On the eve of a meeting in Canberra with Fiji Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola two months ago, Australia's Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said: ``We remain open to a conversation with the interim regime about a pathway back to democracy, a pathway back to respect for human rights, freedom of political activity and freedom of association.” The latest decree from the Fiji regime makes that conversation more difficult, raising starkly the question as to whether it has any interest in participating.
Under the decree:
All media must register with a media industry development authority whose director is appointed by the responsible, but undefined, minister. Organisations that publish material deemed by the authority to be ``against the public interest or order, against national interest, offends against good taste or decency, or creates communal discord” are liable to a fine of up to $279,000, and journalists to prison for up to five years, penalties widely attached to all the decree's provisions.
At least 90 per cent of the beneficial ownership of any media organisation must be held by Fiji citizens permanently living in Fiji.
This would require The Fiji Times, the oldest -- founded in 1869 -- and largest of the country's newspapers, to change hands or close. It is owned by News Corporation, also owner of The Australian. Two publishers of The Fiji Times have been expelled from Fiji, Evan Hannah in 2008 and Rex Gardner last year. The present publisher is Anne Fussell. Russell Hunter, publisher of The Fiji Sun, also was expelled in 2008.
A media tribunal, chaired by a person qualified to be a judge, will hear complaints made to the authority. There will be no recourse to the courts and conventional rules of evidence will not apply.
Any broadcaster or publisher must submit to the minister in advance all material that may be deemed to ``give rise to disorder” or undermine the government.
The Fiji Media Council's code of ethics -- previously policed voluntarily by the media itself -- is incorporated into the decree and hence given punitive teeth by the authority and tribunal. This includes statements such as ``media organisations have a duty to be balanced and fair in their treatment of news and current affairs”.
A general code of practice for advertisements is also incorporated into the decree. The damages for breaching these codes are unlimited, ``as may be deemed appropriate” by the tribunal.
Media must hand over to the authority any document it considers relevant, and officers of the authority may ``use such force is as reasonably necessary” to obtain such material.
Total Crap said…
What absolute and total crap. Who is this fool? Another irrelevant washed up so called 'academic'?
Crosbie Walsh said…
@ Anonymous... A typo error on my part, now corrected. But in questioning Larson, it seems only fair to ask about you and your expertise in law.
Anonymous said…
What garbage. There was lengthy consultation at Holiday Inn with the media on the Media Decree. And just because the australlians don't like the Decree doesn't make it wrong. Lots of people in Australia think Australia would benefit from a Media Decree. Lets not start on the English media and Murdoch!
Shazzer Grubby said…
Qorvis have been teaching you well Croz. Deflect a question by asking another irrelevant question. Good Work. Shazzer will reward you with another BRA (Bananas Republic Award)
Crosbie Walsh said…
Shazzer ... What is irrelevant (your word) in asking this question? His or her expertise in law is very relevant. Your own irrelevance is in associating my response to Qorvis. Perhaps you or the Anonymous would return to the point which is what is factually wrong with the article.

You both make a mockery of serious attempts to provide readers with substantial information and comment on the situation in Fiji.
Cin Cin said…

So what is the point you are trying to make?

No amount of consultation and submission taking changes the fact that a small, unelected and demonstrably unrepresentative group decide what law applies in Fiji and how it is enforced. I would have thought that the last 6 years showed that.

And when was the last time someone was arrested and charged with being a practising homosexual? Hardly a law that was being enforced on every street corner.

junta spongers said…
Well said
croz and his qorvis spin is sounding more manic by the minute. Get off your arse and pay back the money you and your missus got paid by the junta for your free holiday - spongers!
Bill Carson said…
Total Crap

What exactly is the crap you're talking about ( apart from your name)

What is it in the article that you disagree with?
Bill Carson said…
You're misrepresenting the facts, aren't you ??

He didnt get paid any money himself. His fare was paid so that he could go over there, assess the situation, and then report on it.

I find Croz's post credible, logical, supported by facts and well written. Fair and balanced.

You and your ilk simply indulge in personal abuse because you never have any logical arguments.
Bill Carson said…

You and your big mouth !!

What have you been licking lately, babe ??
Cin Cin said…
If you were only concerned about women and gay rights, then there is probably nothing in this fluff piece one could disagree with.

I'm keen to be informed by Mr Lawson about the extensive and wide consultations that accompanied the following decrees -

The decree that disestablished the office of Auditor General - when was the last time a set of government accounts was published?

The decree that re-defined the meaning of 'annual leave', 'accrued leave', and 'whatever you want to call it leave', and which allowed one to suddenly pretend they begn their military service 20 or 30 years ago at the rank they currently occupy when making any claims.

The decree that extended the hours of the day from 24 to 72 - how could one man occupy so many ministerial portfolios and have time to do anything else, let alone collect the combined salaries of all those roles?

The decree that says everyone in the room must maintain a straight face and not choke when listening to yet another speech about cleaning up corruption.

The decree that disestablished the tender process for tax payer funded projects such as roads.

The decree that invited public discussion and input into little things like casinos and scrapping the Great Council of Chiefs.

And so on and so forth.......

The decree
Shazzer Grubby said…
You have posted 2 articles by G Larson. You obviously believe he is relevant and you have I imagine, as a responsible controller of a balanced blog, knowlegde of his background and expertise.

it is perfectly reasonable for your readers to want to know this man or woman's credentials so you can use it to help us evaluate his article. If for example he is a leading professor on law at a reputable University we would give him more weight. If on the other hand he merely works for Qorvis and is paid to write propaganda we would give it less weight.

There is no need for anonymous to say what his legal expertise is because he is merely asking for relevant information.

You have still failed to reveal Larson's credentials.

So Please come clean about Larson, his expertise in law and his knowledge of the Fiji situation. So we can decide exactly how substantial (Your word) this contribution by larson is.
Shazzer Grubby said…

If you look closely at my picture you will see I have swallowed Grubby. That is why he has stopped posting on Grubsheet.

Hugs and kisses

Anonymous said…
Thank you mrs jungle bunny.
Crosbie Walsh said…
@ Cin Cin ... You repeat at least one untruth. Cabinet members are not paid the combined salaries of each of their portfolios. I'll leave others to decide which of your other comments are worthy of reply.
Cin Cin said…

I'm quite happy to stand corrected on the issue of combined salaries. If you are so well informed perhaps you can confirm what the PM, Attorney General and ministers are paid?

As for the worthiness of my comments, some of which are made quite clearly tongue in cheek, of course your readers can decide for themselves. But I'm not sure that enquiring as to why government accounts have not been released for something like 6 years is something that should raise too many questions as to its worthiness. Surely it is a reasonable question?
Shazzer Grubby said…
Its now over 24 since you were asked to supply details of G Larson's credentials. You have commented on other issues but on this one you remain strangely silent. Almost as if you are as ignorant as your readers as to his legal expertise.

Please put us out of our misery or come clean and let us know that he is another Qorvis hack paid for by the unwitting tax payers of Fiji.
So much for transparency said…
If croz knows so much about the salaries of the illegal regime ministers perhaps he can inform us how much aunty Nur his paying her nephew khaiyum the illegal AG through her company?
rusi said…
so how much are they paid Croz? Gone rather quiet on this....inconveneient isn't it?
%$#@! said…
OIC.... fiji system good, Aus and Nz could learn from them how to really consult a polity in a militocracy. How many wrongs does it take to get it right Croz??
Crosbie Walsh said…
@ Shazzer and Rusi ... Please see reply on credentials on other (14th conference) posting. G. Larson is NOT paid by Qorvis. Rusi, Why do you need to be so offensive? I reply politely to questions and try to answer them honestly. Why, just because we differ on the Fiji situation, do you assume I am any less honest than you? I do not know what Nur's accountancy firm is paying the A-G but why do you assume there is something dishonest because Nur and Aiyaz are related?
rusi said…
@ Croz...I am not assuming at all that you are less honest, only more inclined to accept whatever assurances the regime offers, or in the case of their pays, they don't even bother to defend or respond to such a fundamental issue of accountability. Did you actually ask any of the regime while you were there?? I think to many fijians such a question of their self appointed leaders is quite crusial and will keenly be used by opponents during the next eletcion, i will make sure. 'Whats good for us is not okay for the next bunch', oh really. I assume it is someething dishonest becasue it isa relative and because it is entirely unecessary. So what is their explanation??
Bill Carson said…
Lol Shazzer

On a serious note, I wonder where's Graham Davis. Hope he's ok.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Shazzer. All the best, and hopefully we are on track for a better and an all inclusive Fiji.
Crosbie Walsh said…
@ Junta spongers ... I have not deleted this exceptionally rude and incorrect comment because I want readers to see the sort of people who help to make up the anti-Bainimarama forces.
Anonymous said…
It appears if Croz is in any doubt,and he appears to have some at times, he errs on the side of giving the 'benefit of the doubt' to amilitary regime known for its paranoia,cronyism, secrecy and lack of any accountability.
Say no to dictators said…
If you and your missus want to support a human rights abusing dictator that's your business. If you wish to get free handouts from this unelected regime you are 'pro' about then it says a lot about your integrity. Now pay back the money that rightfully belongs to Fijians who under the junta you support have no rights to vote. I'm happy to stand with the US, EU, UK, Aust, NZ and other free nations against this thug dictator you and your missus openly support.
Charlie Charters said…
Croz, I am sorry but you have to reveal who your legal correspondent is if only to maintain form. Each and every time I have written for you, you have prefaced my comments with what you consider to be relevant background, that my mother in law is Mere Samisoni, SDL member of parliament etc., with a view to (I think unfairly) putting what I write in some form of context. If you do that to me (and I have asked you not to in the past, but you continue) you have to explain who Larson is. If my view of Fiji needs to be explained to your readers through the prism of my family connections, we have every right to expect to know about Larson. Or, as a consequence, not take his or her legal pronouncements
Junta bludgers said…
Larson is either a jungle bunny or a treasonous pig. Take your pick?
Alvin Payne said…
Interesting to see how all those laws have played out. Researching with the lawyers in kelowna bc, I'm doing research on all different types of laws and countries. Thank you.

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