The Political Parties, the Military and the Draft Constitution

By Crosbie Walsh

Part II. The Submissions Compared

A few weeks ago two of the parties whose Constitution Commission submissions were summarised in part I, the SDL and FLP, together with the UPP (the NFP was not invited) were talking about forming a united front in the lead up to the 2014 Elections, and a little later, when the Yash Ghai draft constitution was leaked, they all rushed to support it .

This display of accord and agreement raises two obvious questions. First, how could they form a united front when their submissions, as we shall see, were so very different, and secondly, how could they support the Ghai draft when, for example, it ruled out the SDL's call for Fiji to be declared a Christian state and a more deeply entrenched political empowerment of the Great Council of Chiefs, and the SDL and FLP recommendation that race-based electorates be retained.

In this article we shall compare the submissions of the political parties with each other, and their general positions with that of the RFMF which is likely to be close to that of the Bainimarama government.

Major elements
The emphases of the political parties, indicated in the the forewords and conclusions of the three submissions are critical. All three criticise the Bainimarama government and see neither sincerity nor merit in any of its actions, All three want the 1997 Constitution retained, but —and it is a big but— with some very important changes.

The SDL wants the Constitution to "strengthening the indigenous position" by declaring Fiji a Christian state, and by retaining the separate ethnic Fijian administration, a GCC (with vastly extended powers), affirmative action based on race, the recognition of customary laws, the Fijian language to be the lingua franca taught compulsorily  in schools, Fijian as a requirement for entry into the public service, and for only iTaukei to be called Fijians. It claims that only then will ethnic Fijians no longer feel threatened, insecure and disadvantaged.

I have no doubt these feelings exist. It could not be otherwise because they have long been actively promoted by most ethnic Fijian leaders, and used by their political parties to maintain power. But, in truth, it is difficult to see how a majority people who own over 90% of the land, with major communal business investments, who fill well over half the seats in parliament, occupy most senior senior civil service positions, and who dominate the police and the army, can be seen as either threatened or disadvantaged. There are threats, of course, but these come the forces of change (globalisation, urbanisation, better education, etc.) not from their fellow citizens of other cultures. And many ethnic Fijians are also disadvantaged but so, too, are many people of other races.

None of the other political parties want any of these things. They all want a secular state. They recognize the "first nation" status of ethnic Fijians, and they are happy (if that is the right word) about a separate provincial administration and the GCC, but only if it is apolitical. They recognize the need for affirmative action but only if it is based on need, not race. They make no claim to ethnic Fijian land but they want more and more secure leases, and they want appointments and promotion in the civil service to be based on merit, not race, and for the civil service, the police and the army to be more ethnically balanced. The NFP wants all three major languages, and not just Fijian, taught in schools, and to be compulsory from Class 1 -8 (from about 6 to 12 years old.) The FLP made no mention of language or culture.
  • The RFMF submission, and the policies of the Bainimarama government. most especially in the People's Charter and non-negotiable principles recommendations, run counter to most of the general issues recommendations made by the SDL: Fiji should remain a secular state; the indigenous position is already well protected and does not require strengthening; there should be no race-based electorates; the GCC should remain abolished; all citizens should be treated equally; affirmative action should be based on need; conversational Fijian and Hindi will be taught in schools, and as part of efforts to build united nation all citizens will be called Fijians.
Land has always been the key issue in inter-racial politics in Fiji. The FLP wants ALTA (the landowner and tenants act) retained with an increase in the length of leases. The NFP goes a step further. It wants Schedule A and B land belonging to extinct mataqali to be returned to the state for leasing (the SDL wants this lease money used to help fund the GCC), and government to obtain a "master lease" over all land available for leasing and so act as a buffer between landlords and tenants. The SDL is more concerned with ownership than use. Hence its opposition to the Bainimarama Government's land bank and the Surfing decree that overrode owners' qoliqoli rights by allowing surfers and others access to the foreshore and sea. It wants ALTA abolished and all native land to be administered by the Native Land Trust Board.
  • The RFMF submission makes no mention of land but the government's position is to increase production while protecting the positions of landowners and tenants. Its opposition to Qarase's qoliqoli and land bills were two of the reasons it gave for mounting the 2006 Coup. Their position therefore is closer to those of other political parties.
Dual citizenship
Dual citizenship would favour Indo-Fijians more than ethnic Fijians because of their greater number overseas, and the greater likelihood of them investing in Fiji. The FLP was not opposed to dual citizenship but it wants this issue left to the incoming government. The SDL opposes dual citizenship.
  • The RFMF makes no reference to dual citizenship but this provision has been introduced by the Bainimarama government.

Parliament (House of Representatives)
All three parties accept the principles of one man one vote and proportional representation and all wanted 71 parliamentary seats,  but agreement stopped there. The SDL and FLP want to retain ethnic voting. The SDL wanted 25 single-member ethnic seats (ethnic Fijians 14, Indo-Fijians 9, Others 2), 25 seats based on open electorates, and 25 seats chosen from closed party lists. The SDL wanted the position of Attorney-General abolished and the Solicitor-General to assume this role. The FLP wanted 26 "reserve" seats (ethnic Fijians 12, Indo-Fijians 10, Rotumans 1, General Voters 3) and 15 3-member open seats based on one man one vote, and the retention of the Alternative Vote and preferential voting. The NFP made no mention of ethnicity and wanted large multi-member electorates and closed party lists, with.the ranking of list candidates reflecting Fiji's ethnic and gender composition. The basic similarity of the SDL and FLP submissions is that both wanted assured ethnic representation and hence the opportunity to appeal to voters on ethnic lines. For the FLP this would mean it would be better able to contest against other predominantly Indo-Fijian parties in the Western and Northern divisions.
  • The RFMF wants a smaller, better paid and more qualified parliament of only 46 MPs, elected on the basis of one man one vote from only four electorates based on the country's four administrative divisions. It proposes a closed party list system to elect 10% of MPs. It would require all MPs to disclose their personal assets and conform to a Code of Conduct.

The NFP wish to see the retention of the "power sharing" which would see parties with 10% or more of parliamentary seats having a place in Cabinet. It says the system did not work well previously because of Qarase and Chaudhry. The SDL and FLP want a Cabinet where the "winner takes all" and no power sharing.
  • The RFMF makes no mention of power sharing but it proposes a smaller Cabinet with a maximum of 12 members to share 24 portfolios and the appointment of the Attorney General, the Minister of Finance and the Speaker from outside parliament. This is similar to current practice.
The President and Vice-President
The SDL proposed that the President be elected by both Houses of Parliament from nominations by the GCC, and the Indo-Fijian and Other communities. This would probably mean the appointment of an ethnic Fijian whose outlook reflected that of the GCC. Given the authority of the President in the appointment of many officers of state and his or her role in the transitional arrangements, this would in effect give the GCC powers above Parliament. The FLP and the NFP preferred appointment by an Electoral College appointed by both Houses of Parliament. The SDL wanted the GCC, and not only Parliament,  to be able to dismiss the President. All were agreed the President would have no special reserve powers.
  • The RFMF proposes the President be appointed by secret vote in the House of Representatives from PM and Leader of the Opposition nominees. The President would appoint all senior officials, and call internal and external national emergencies, on the recommendation of the PM. The position of Vice-President would be abolished.
The SDL wanted no change: 32 members with 14 nominated by the GCC, 9 by the PM and 8 by the Leader of the Opposition. The GCC would continue to dominate Senate. The FLP wanted 35 members, 30 nominated by the PM and Leader of the Opposition, and 5 by Rotumans and other minority groups. The NFP wanted 25 members appointed by the PM and Leader of the Opposition. The significant difference is again in the SDL submission that places the GCC highly in the political process.
  • The RFMF sees Senate as costly and unnecessary and wishes it abolished. 
All three parties wanted the military to be downsized and to have no political role or authority to act in internal or external emergencies except on the instruction of Parliament. All wanted military personnel in Government to resign once the new constitution was approved.
  • The RFMF sees itself as the ultimate guardian of the Bainimama Government's "vision" and states it will continue to monitor the political situation, but from outside Parliament.
The SDL and FLP totally opposed the granting of immunity and the NFP only after the military.admitted to "wrong doing, apologized, showed remorse and acknowledged the need for reparations." Should the Constituent Assembly agree to immunity, the NPF wanted the incoming government to set up strict provisions against future "treasonous acts."
  • The RFMF insist on immunity except where there have been violations of domestic or criminal law. It points to three court judgements (the deaths of Sakiusa Rabaka and Nimilote Verebasaga and the kidnapping of Dr Anirudh Singh) where military personnel were found guilty and imprisoned or, in the case of Singh, required to pay damages.

Non Government Organizations. The political parties did not mention NGOs but they supported the Yash Ghai draft constitution where NGOs play an important role in transition arrangements and in the monitoring of Parliament after 2014
  • The RFMF sees no special role for NGOs, several of which have been anti-Bainimarama government and perhaps influenced by funding from foreign governments. It wishes all NGOs to submit annual audited accounts to Government.
Transition Arrangements
All three political parties wanted the President to appoint a Caretaker Government in April this year or as soon as the new constitution was promulgated, and the President to appoint new members of the main commissions dealing with the law, the public service and the election process.
  • The RFMF made no direct mention of transition arrangement, presumably accepting that all arrangements will be made by the Bainimarama Government, with military appointees in Government resigning and Cabinet resigning closer to the Elections when Commissions not already in place would be appointed.

It is difficult to see any sustainable unity between the political parties or their "shadow" parties that may emerge if they are not registered or if the SDL acronym is not acceptable. The SDL is unashamedly a party representing the old ethnic Fijian elite intent on using the old appeals to a supposedly "threatened, insecure and disadvantaged" ethnic Fijian race; the FLP is fighting to retain a presence in Parliament with the aid of its Indo-Fijian "reserve seats", and the more moderate NFP has major reservations with the policies of these two parties.

The rushed and unexpected acceptance, without comment or amendment, by the political parties of the Yash Ghai draft constitution can be seen, at best, as the more likely way to get some of their submissions accepted by the Constituent Assembly or, more likely, as a political ploy to focus opposition against the Bainimarama Government.

It is difficult also to see either the RFMF or the Bainimarama retracting from their non-negotiable principles or the non-racist principles of the People's Charter.

The final article in this series will be deferred until Government releases its draft Constitution to the Constituent Assembly. The article will compare the Government and Yash Ghai drafts.


Superman said…
All the wise old parties seems to be dead in the water!Not sure if the 3 parties will be registered. It does not matter because the future parties are going to work on these issues anyway. Important that the constitution is amended to forcefully fix all the errors of the past. Tough work but someone has to do the heavy lifting! Good luck to the current government. The revolution in thinking is very much welcomed and hope it changes our country towards a better future!
On the side lines in viti levu said…
Dear Croz,

You continue to be very critical of the 'old parties' for never acknowleging any good work or intentions of the current government. I don't disagree with the observation, they are certainly guilty of being negative towards everything Bainimarama does. The bitterness at being deposed by gun remians and would be hard to forgive anywhere in the world....even harder in a small place like Fiji.

I have however been observing that government is equally 'guilty' and perhaps even more so of the same behaivour. To date I have never heard Bainimarama acknowlege any good work or intentions of previous governments. In fact he seems to think they where ALL bad, entirely all of the time. Even today 6 years on Bainimarama blames EVERY problem in Fiji on previous governments.

I have worked with several governments over the years. There have been many well intentioned ministers, some even effective. In the current government there are just as many idiots/unqualified/elites as in previous governments. There are also some really hard working people with Fiji's best interests.

Since Bainimara holds all the cards and power, since he is the one who has put Fiji through an increedibly difficult 6 years I suggest he should take the lead. He should be the one to start different conversations. He should stop blaming the past, stop labeling every from the past as elites and ackowlege his own mistakes and weaknesses. Maybe then we might see a change in the opposition.

On the side line in Viti levu
Joe said…
I cant comprehend how these parties proposed to form a coalition when they couldnt see each other eye to eye. MC cant even make peace within his own rank, eg Baba, Felix, Dan, Datt, Bune etc. He is left with his son, son-in-law and a handful of "io saka" brown tongues in the labour camp. Even the multi party cabinet concept failed because of greed and envy. Who are these people trying to fool? For God's sake, this is 2013. It is clear from submissions of respective parties that they were in there for themselves and the elite, eg GCC, whereas the military submission is for the people of Fiji.

To the critics, you may ask "Isnt the military there for themselves too?" The answer is, it may seem so given that military personnel are in positions of authority in every dept, BUT this is not the case. Someone had to take the risk and stand up against LQ govt. All the BS of the past had to be fixed once and for all, and who else other than the military can carry out such tasks effectively.

The new parliament will no longer be a "holiday house". Elected men and women will actually work for the people that elected them. Appointment of relatives and buddies to the senate will cease to exist because there wont be a senate anymore.
wati s said…
What the regime still doesn't get or want to comprehend is that for all those that are anti-regime , 'the enemy of my enemy, is my friend'. Apparently under this regime,there is no greed, envy, self interest etc, what a joke!!! No one would be allowed to know anyway until they actually fall out with the regime, which just about everyone has done at some point over the past six years. So you are no left with the most unremarkable talentless bunch Fiji has ever had ,who still need guns to hold on to powere becausee they are still too sh*t scared of going to the people to ask them. The still can't bring themesleves to declare their own assets until they get their stories straight!! Whats wrong with now, and not just decalre i want to see what they and their relatives have had and disposed of and bought for the past six years ?? I am sure Croz would be all for this given his confidence in the junta.
%$#@! said…
New parties or SDL should just use colours or songs to identify, so the regime can keep changing the rules but people will still know excatly who they want. Lets see the regime banning colours or songs and see how that plays to the international media.
Joe said…
Your analysis is laughable to say the least. Some of us actually do grow up.

"the most unremarkable talentless bunch " more befitting for the bunch at C4.5, and your postings are best suited there. You are in the wrong place my dear. Do yourself a favour, make a 180* turn and go back to C4.5.
Anonymous said…
can anyone define what a "social democratic liberal" is other than a very quick and convenient acronym.
Roady said…
If people really want to know if the previous government did any good... then go around the tar-sealed roads and count the number of pot-holes!! The roads tell a painful story of neglect, wastage, corruption, loss of quality people and no accountability. It does look sad but there is hope for the future, things are improving slowly..just like the roads!!
Democrat said…
Ha..ha.. at least everyone will be accountable..I am glad that this gov is doing something about the real issues that have screwed our country by the previous rubbish that were in power. The real criminals are long gone but now the country is on solid ground! I dont think future leaders will be able to have a free ride!!
%$#@! said…
@ Roady ...As has been said before if that is the case and it all so clear to everyone, why does this regime go to bizarre lengths to make sure that the SDL or Labour party don't run in the election. As you suggest it is all so open and shut, so why are they so panicked?? BTW the money for all the road you seem to like is borrowed, so yoru kids will still be paying it off to the chinese, if they get a job. The fact that this regime has to keep making up decrees to keep up says it all.
Joe said…
1)"Social" means handing out spades, knives, forks, outboard engines, boats etc to buy votes and drinking kava under mango trees.

2)"Democratic" has many meanings. It is a word used:
a)to disguise ones undemocratic behaviour
b)to cry foul when the shoe is on the other foot
c)to mislead the international community
d)to describe a "foreign flower"
e)to buy shares that was meant for the poor and disadvantaged......and the list is endless.

3)"Liberal" means:
a)Christian State
b)Unelected and uneducated chiefs as legislators
c)Exclusive rights to natural resources, qoliqoli
d)Methodists.....and the list goes on and on.
Benito said…
Are the trains running on time Roady??
Crosbie Walsh said…
@ On the side ... At one level, I agree with you completely. There's fault on both sides, certainly insofar as the personal insults are concerned, and Bainimarama is best placed to take the initiative to talk to the others. At another level, what is to be achieved (other than possibly improving personal relations) when the policies are so different? How can you compromise over half a GCC, half a land bank or half race-based electorates?
Crosbie Walsh said…
@ Joe... Brilliant. I couldn't have put it any better.
Anonymous said…
re what is a "social democratic liberal" the question was not for the fijian political arena but the question was meant to ask what they are as a worldwide political idenity . I am not seeking a Fijian /nor Fijian political perspective . What if their pary was called something else and the acronym was NSP..........would they become national socialists??
Farked up priest said…
@ %$#@!... Brilliant. I couldn't have put it any better.
Joe said…
your name suggests what you really are
Anonymous said…
notice how Joe doesn't even address the issues, which is exactly why this regime would be terrified of any public forum with a free exchange of views, they have no guts at all. You curiously compare the regime talent or lack of it with C4.5 but only one is running the country and took it by force. if there ia mandate they wouldn't have needed to!! You only have to look at the previous careers of the people now in power to see what a buch of losers they are.
desmond said…
oh dear Joe, unhappy we all won't take orders and keep in line with the goons?? Any half-wit can borrow money and have the next government pay it back. They just don't have an economy to back it up.
Junta watch said…
@ Desmond!... Brilliant. I couldn't have put it any better.

Joe said…
You really have no choice, but to tow the line whether you like it or not. It is just the way any military operates. They give orders, you follow, end of story. Have you lot achieved anything by barking out loud for the past 6+ yrs? Absolutely nothing. You morons made jack shit difference to the resolve of the govt. Keep trying dickheads.
Anonymous said…
it will all end, it always does, and then...comes the retribution Gaddafi style. I have all the choices in the world.
desmond said…
It only takes one rather 'passionate and motivated' person to change everything.. just ask the Afghanis and Iraqis with devices strapped to themselves. There is a reason why the goons go around with all that security!! I find it ironic that for all the 'follow orders or else' threats, the regime apologists and supporters still bother to go on a blog and argue their case !!! I thought it was all over and in the bag ??
Anonymous said…
through blogs and the ongoing pressure from other nations this regime is discredited and shunned by anyone who matters, in debt to the eyeballs and seen for what it is, self-serving, ignorant and has a very misplaced arrogance. People in this regime were nothing before it and will be again, but after it all ends, in gaol. For all the 'decrees', they will matter nothing.
Nothing but the truth said…
The blogs do not discredit. They create the perception of discrediting. Two different things. By telling lies many times, you do not change the truth. You just obscure it. The blogs are a form of propaganda.Some people may believe it. But the truth does not change. Once they said that PM was trading in body parts. Once they said AG was married to Sahu Khan's daughter. Once they said PM's daughter was married to Chaudhery's son. Once they said that a tsunami was coming to wipe out Fiji. None of this was true, but when caught out they just pretend the lies were never said. They just move on to the next lie! This is what propaganda is.
Joe said…
Why dont you put your money where your mouth is and strap those devices you made reference to, on yourself and show us. Oh! and dont forget to shove some of it up your rear too.
desmond said…
oh dear, guess we know where you got your lessons in tolerrance and diplomacy from. (F*cked up priest indeed). LOL
Anonymous said…
anytime you want to provide your address i will see if the boyz can come on over. Maybe take da kids to school for ya.

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