Australia adopts softer stance on Fiji's constitution process

Carr sees draft inconsistencies  • ITUC free to enter Fiji but sees only TU people  • Brij Lal assumes worst • Ratu Epeli: draft mixed bag

Australia's Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, says he can understand why Fiji's interim government would reject aspects of the draft constitution.

Australia appears to be sympathetic to the Fijian interim Government's rejection of the draft constitution.
While New Zealand and Samoa have been highly critical of the recent development, Australia's Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, is taking a softer stance.

"The notion, for example, of a largely unelected national people's assembly comprised principally of non-government organisations sitting alongside the parliament is something I can't think of enjoying precedence anywhere else in the constitution of a democratic country," he said.

"The re-creation of an unelected Great Council of Chiefs would seem to give rise to the suggestion that ethnic divisions in the country were going to be exaggerated by new constitutional arrangements.
"I can find it understandable that the interim government has objected to both these features of the draft constitution presented to it."

The draft, which took into account seven thousand submissions, was drawn up by a committee headed by Professor Yash Ghai ahead of planned democratic elections.

Commodore Frank Bainimarama has announced he's scrapping the draft and his legal officers will write a new constitution to be presented to a constituent assembly appointed by him.

Fiji's interim government says its determined to meet its election deadline of September 2014.

The country's Information Ministry says preparations are underway in earnest to assemble materials needed throughout Fiji to conduct the scheduled polls. The interim government is inviting companies within Fiji and abroad to register their interest in supplying such items as ballot boxes, polling kits, ink, voting booths and voting screens. They are being asked to submit expressions of interest tot he Acting Permanent Secretary Responsible for Election, Ms Mere Vuniwaqa by February 28th.

The Fijian Attorney General and Minister responsible for Election, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said interested companies would be required to meet several accepted international standards.
"We invite all interested companies to register as soon as possible and contribute to this landmark event in Fiji's history - the introduction of the first genuine parliamentary democracy based on the principle on the principle of one person, one vote, one value," he said.
Fiji has been facing mounting pressure to hold democratic elections since it scrapped its constitution in 2009.

Union campaign
Meanwhile, union groups are calling for international condemnation of Fiji's Interim prime minister for effectively tearing up the draft constitution.

The general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, Sharon Burrow, has told Radio Australia she's just returned from Fiji where many people are frustrated over what's happened.

"The anger was palpable about a dictator who has basically taken over a country with no legitimacy and it demonstrates that Bainimarama is not willing to hand over power," she said. "He himself says he will now write the constitution. "It's time that the international community raised it voice again and said 'enough, we have had enough and we have been duped',"
Some political watchers in Fiji believe the government has deceived the international community.
Professor Brij Lal told Pacific Beat Australia and New Zealand have been taken for a ride by the regime and should reconsider their involvement in the county's constitutional process.

"This is a wake-up call for Australia and New Zealand" he said. "Their proposed re-engagement with Fiji, they supported the whole review and draft constitution process to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, they welcomed the draft constitution and now this has happened."

Professor Lal says the new draft document will carry the stamp of the military government, and will then be passed by a committee chosen by the Prime Minister.

"The constituent assembly will be hand-picked by the Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama. There is no independence, there is no transparency and basically the military will have its way." he said. "The [original] draft constitution was widely welcomed by the people of Fiji, by all the major political parties and now the military and the regime simply wants to have a document that is its handiwork and enshrines its interests and concerns and aspirations." 

Misplaced criticism
Fiji's government is standing by its decision, citing shortcomings Professor Yash Ghai's draft and saying much of the criticism is unwarranted.

On Thursday, President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau criticised the Ghai draft for being "very bureaucratic" and said the institutions it would create would require a "very bureaucratic structure."

"It [the draft] has unfortunately, perhaps, succumbed to the whims of the few who have had an interest in perpetuating divisions within our society," Mr Nailatikau said.

However, Mr Nailatikau highlighted several positives of the Ghai draft, including provisions on social and economic rights, good governance and accountability and independence of the judiciary.
The government now says it will move forward with another draft.

Permanent Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Pio Tidoduadua, told Radio Australia they have until February to put together the constituent assembly and the country will have a new constitution by the end of April.


Anonymous said…
i don't recall nay photos of the ITUC visiting Fiji in the media, should we presume she arrived uninvited?
Inky Pinky Ponky said…
Amazing to see all these so called pro democracy people wanting to exercise power through an unelected body like the National Assembly.Never mind that, all they want is a maintaining of their own corrupt power. None of these unionists are interested in the poor workers. Roll on the business class travel, the multiple wives, the well gelled and insincere hairdos, and the Range Rovers with tinted windows and peronalised registration plates. Roll on the union dues, the sexual harassment, the cronyism and the political connections.
Anonymous said…
Yes indirect rule was very useful for the colonialists, who created cultural edifices to control the natives and give to the chiefs a false sense of control. Such a useful strategy for post colonial governments. And so undemocratic. Yet the politically correct want to preserve these structures in the interests of group rights. Group rights, or individual control over groups? Group rights or economic power over group owned resources? How it hurts to lose power over minerals, land, and fishing waters.If we can't rip off our people, how can we afford the women and the drink?
Joe said…
"Sharon Burrow, has told Radio Australia she's just returned from Fiji where many people are frustrated over what's happened."

What does she mean by "many people"? The union fat cats?,blood sucking leeches. Butt out Sharon, this really is none of your business.
We are become a nation of People Unhinged. Six years of bludgeoning by boots and by decrees. Now, this last straw has almost broken our backs. Know this: Ne Cede. We shall never give in to tyranny.


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

(William Ernest BENLEY 1849 -1903 with thanks to John Carlin, Author of INVICTUS - Nelson Mandela and the Game that made a Nation. Also a movie by SpyGlass Entertainments of Hollywood, USA 2010)

It is surely time that Na Qase ni Vanua ko Viti came forward to negotiate a way out of this dreadful place. The people cry out for leadership and for Peace. This latest offering demanding 28 days for political parties to register and to enroll 5,000 members is utter folly, even madness-in-the-making. And what is more, you have the God-given faculties to know so. Step back, change your course before it is too late. The Australian Foreign Minister may engage but he is required in so doing to engage his reason. Save Our Unconquerable Souls!

Anonymous said…
Looking forward to how you spin the latest decree Croz. It effectively removes all current leaders.

It also removes frank and the military but I guess that cn be changed at whim. Besides I expect they don't want to go through the hassle of facing the public, debating etc they just want to control the new government by keeping soldiers in roles and frank as president.
Anonymous said…
Even Carr can see the problems with the Ghai draft
Bill Carson said…
Birju Lal, after completing his work on the 1997 Constitution, campaigned for NFP in the 1997 elections. NFP failed to win a single seat.

This professor of sorts has no credibility in the land of his birth and has virtually lived 2/3 of his life overseas in Canada, Hawaii and Australia.

He's built a lucrative career out of Fiji Indians.
Joe said…
Brij Lal has ridiculed the govt for ditching the Ghai Draft. So, what is the alternative Mr Lal? The useless 1997 constitution that you were involved in? Do we really need the GCC, the unelected and uneducated lot to have a say in democratic processes when they themselves are an undemocratic elite bunch?
Cin Cin said…
@Anonymous @ 10.40

The decree may well stipulate that an existing or aspiring political party must provide 5000 registered and legitimate members within 28 days but I don't think all is necesarily doom and gloom (if indeed that is one of the requirements).

For example, how many Fijians ( itaukei, yawn) attend church on any given Sunday across the nation? If the SDL - or its successor by another name - got its act together, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that they could meet the criteria. They simply set up a booth which is not on church grounds, and canvas people as they leave services. Or use church services as a mechanism for soliciting members.

The smart operators in all of the major parties shoud have anticipated such a development and made contigencies.
Invictus said…
It is hardly smart to even bother to reply, Cin Cin, to what might be termed in other circumstances mere persiflage. However, there is 'Method in this Madness'. The method is the orchestrated destruction not only of a nation-state but also of its people by a process of cutting them up, piece by piece, and divorcing them from reality. This is the Method of the Gulag. We see people still with no roofs on their houses, living in a corner of their home under tarpaulins, open to the elements: And these dysfunctional, overfed people, paid for by our taxation, play havoc with the law? This is monumental anarchy and we know that it is. Now they want their Pie-in-the-Sky Elections paid for by private enterprise? Go Hang!
Anonymous said…
Fiji.. lets press on.. the external talkers can say what ever they like but we as a country are moving forward. If the fat pigs dont like the place then move to countries where they already have a PR. Let the poor of the country prosper. Believe me the hot air is from the rich and wel-off people. The poor dont have access to the internet but remember they will have access to the votes and then the old crap will be voted out. Lies and Lies...thats all the old politiks was all about. What I am seeing is action on the ground and I am happy with it. God bless this nation. As for the military if you want to do something then standup and do something! if you cant.. just accept what is happening because you are powerless. The social politics are winning.. people are beginning to see the change...
Anonymous said…
Nothing in the Fiji Times. But two days in a row with the Fiji Sun, which is the only Fiji paper covering all the political parties.
Suez said…
I don't understand what the fuss is all about. The Ghai draft has not been "torn up" or burned. My understanding is that the Ghai draft will still be given to the assembly. The government will also present an additional draft which they say will fix some of the problems with the Ghai draft. The assembly can then accept either version or make changes themselves.
Dying said…
I'm dying to see how you spin the government's requirements for political parties, Cros.
Lets hear it.

What a joke. What an absolute joke.
Anonymous said…
I am sorry but the Ghai draft has major flaws in it - whether you support Banimarama or not, have a read through the Ghai draft and see for yourself; a senate appointed by NGOs -excuse me?? its a joke and needs a re-write; just hope the good parts are retained
wati s said…
I have just read Fijitoday and Fr Barrs comments.Can we can expect a complete explanation and excusal from Croz as to why this disgusting thug should not be held to the same standards as anyone else? or another lecture on how we should appreciate how sensitive he is and grateful we should all be, to have such an impressive leader.
Anonymous said…
'I (Barr)said I would be prepared to come and speak with him (Bainimarama). Instead he repeated I was a “fucked up priest”, threw in a few swear words, told me to go back to where I came from and put down the phone.' Oh my...this would be the consulation Croz was hoping for?
wati s said…
'go back to where i came from' ... hmmmm see, if this was Qarase or a member of the SDL, it would be racist. But under this regime, he just an uncoperative and non compliant foreigner.
Fijiwala said…
As tattifala said on c.45, Fr Barr did not join the coup bandwagon to profit from it but believed in the project of building a better Fiji. He was deceived. The usurpers grabbed power to get rich. I did not support couop but gave it benefit of the doubt. I regret to admit naysayers like c4.5 were right.

To me Bainimarama and Aiyaz display an offensive arrogance that tells us they are there to rule rather than serve. Poor Fiji ans its poor people, screwed from every conceivable angle.
Anonymous said…
Isnt Mr Barr one of your white friends?
Fijiwala said…
Whatever you say about K Barr, he is a decent man and only true friend of Fiji's poor. People support Qarase or hate FB based on ethnonationalism. People care a lot about politics not about poor. Barr's suport for FB was based on how he could best help the poor. He was driven to FB's arms by an uncaring neo-capitalist Qarase government busy filling its pockets. But it was from pot to frying pan - power has corrupted all Fiji leaders, Mara, Rabuka, Mahen, Qarase and FB, who is a real low-life like Khaiyum, busy sucking up to the rich and creaming benefits.

The poor people of Fiji continue to suffer.
Anonymous said…
okay so appearing to be all things to all people for bainimarama must be exhausting but then he goes out of his way to 'get whitey', a priest no less, for being cheeky...nice work.Lovely guy.
Fijiwala said…
Bainimarama and AG Riyaz set out on a 'clean up' campaign against corruption. Some six years later, the stench of corruption has really and truly settled around them, and the rest of the regime.
Joe said…
"It effectively removes all current leaders."

Not true. It removes LQ only, the others have a choice of either devoting all their time and effort towards day to day running of the country or keep milking the poor and disadvantaged workers and farmers. No double dipping. I like the new decree. It is fair and in the interest of the nation. Well done ASK.
Anonymous said…
we would never know if it was up to would spoil it all for him . For him this bunch are 'whiter than white' coz they tell him so.
Anonymous said…
Bob Carr - one of the intellectual of Australian politics. He can see the deficiencies in the Ghai draft
Anonymous said…
But who are the Assembly..they are Bai's handpicked sucker and they will chose the Military Draft...
Anonymous said…
Because Carr is a racist and hates indigenous popularity..that's why he dive for life in Canberra last year when the Abo's tried to skin him alive...him and his PM got it from the Abos when he tried to chase them from Canberra only to be save by his bodyguards...
Anonymous said…
He(Bai)keeps saying that Qarase was racist but the truth is him the racist leader...
Anonymous said…
@ joe the fat pig stowaway...if Sharron was speaking on behalf of the Unions then she''s speaks on for all workers in Fiji who has been ill-treated by these bullies from the camp...enjoy your piece of kokoda bona fat big joe...
Anonymous said…
The latest Decree is to disqualify current and would-be politicians vying for Parliament and only allows ASK and Bai Associates to keep ruling dictatingly..@ fat pig Joe can join in...

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