Prof Ghai 'Prejudiced from the start." I think Not

A critique of Savenaca Madanavosa's article in the Fiji Sun 
by Crosbie Walsh

Once upon a time, anti-government groups found fault with everything to do with the Constitution
Commission but, more recently,  when the Commission produced a draft Constitution with which they mainly agreed, the roles were suddenly  reversed, and it is Government and its supporters who now find fault, and in the usual style of Fiji criticism, they attack the integrity of the actors far more than the supposed demerits of what the actors have done.

One such attack was recently published in the Fiji Sun. Government Former USP senior assistant registrar and postgraduate student Savenaca Madanavosa, writing in the Fiji Sun, makes a number of surprising statements against intellectuals in general and fact that Prof Vijay Naidu, the CCF and Dialogue Pacific and other groups where intellectuals are well represented made submissions to the Commission, and that this blog published by an academic has been both forthright and practical in it many comments on the Commission. 

In criticising Professor Ghai he should first note that the Commission had five members not one. To assume the draft decree was Ghai's creation alone and then to accuse him of a nebulous "expert syndrome" steeped in what he calls Westminster orthodoxy ignores the fact that the draft was adopted unanimously by the Commission's five members after they had listened to hundreds of  submission from Fiji citizens in many walks of live.  Their aim was to produce a document that reflected the views of a large segment of Fiji society.  As for the "expert syndrome" whatever this means, of course Ghai is an expert. There is no cause for shame in that. It is the reason he was hired.

But  Savenaca is mistaken if he thinks there is such a thing as Westminster orthodoxy. Westminster had been a model for a large number of parliamentary systems that vary widely from each other, including all the parliamentary systems of countries that were former Pacific colonies.

Incapable of innovative thinking outside the square
Savenaca seems to think Prof Ghai (the Commission?) was incapable of innovative thinking "outside the square" because of his commitment to the Westminster system.  But the Commission did not determine its own terms of reference. These were established by Government  there was no mention of innovation or squares. Nevertheless, the draft contained many examples of original thinking and detailed recommendations fitted to what were seen by the Commission, but not by Government, to fit Fiji's needs. It is likely Government thought the document too innovative. 

Savenaca's article goes on to spell out where the Commission fell short of what he expected of them but, contrary to what the items he listed as a) through e), the Commission's draft fully supported the principle of one man one vote; the need to improve the quality of parliamentary representation, the paramount importance of national unity, and it made very specific recommendations on how to avoid further coups. What  Savenaca objects to is that the draft recommended the continuation of two house,  and 71-seat lower house, parliament. He thought the system "bloated" and clearly supports a smaller, 41-seat parliament. But these numbers were only recommendations that could be debated and changed by the Constituent Assembly, and the Upper House recommended was a very different one from the old Senate or that proposed by the SDL in their submission.

What they could have done, and didn't
Having noted these two recommendations where, in his opinion, the Commission was wrong, he goes on to spell out what the Commission should have done but didn't. First, sins of commission; now sins of omission. The Commission got nothing right. The omissions, all recommended by one or other group during the consultations, included its failure to consider a smaller parliament and single house (I am confident this and similar recommendations were fully considered); the suggestion that
political parties be abandoned because they have created disunity and replaced by a government of national unity; its failure to compare the performance of the Bainimarama Government with its predecessors; its failure to adopt the People's Charter; and its failure to recommend the vetting of election candidates. He concludes that the Commission invited further contributions from "orthodox" people but not from the unorthodox, mentioning Rajendra Chaudhry and Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi, and he sees all this as evidence that "Professor Ghai already had prejudices when he took up the task." 

Savenaca,  Greetings! 
I remember and am grateful for the assistance you always provided to academic staff when I was working at USP. I'm pleased also that you and I seem to have adopted similar positions on Fiji's present "state of the nation" but I am quite sure you are mistaken about Prof Ghai's "prejudices" and the partiality of the Commission.  Like you, I do not agree with all the Commission's recommendations, and I think Prof Ghai acted unwisely in seeking to distribute the draft constitution, but I am sure he and the other commissioners thought they were doing the best for Fiji.

Perhaps we should be thinking outside the square
Perhaps it is us who should be thinking  "outside the square" instead of focusing on Prof Ghai and the Commission.  I think we should redirect our attention to the actions of the old political parties, in particular the SDL and FLP.  We should ask why were they so quick to support the draft constitution when they had earlier wanted nothing to do with the Commission. How could they support a draft that was so very different from their own submissions? 

I suspect there was manoeuvring here that aimed to outflank the Bainimarama government, and the manoeuvre  that had nothing to do with the draft or the Commission.  By saying they supported the draft (even though it did not support their main submissions), they prompted Government to oppose the draft, even though most of its recommendations were in line with what government wanted. 

We see a similar strategy with the position of the SDL and FLP in their attempts to register their parties. They must have known full well Government would not accept parties which wished to retain the race-based constituencies —and certainly not one that wished to increase the powers of the Great Council of Chiefs and make Fiji a Christian State.  Why then did they persist in their registration?  It can only be because they expected their registration to be rejected.  They could then call "Foul! We have been rejected. This is not going to be a democratic election." And their followers would shout this out to the world, and the world would believe them.

I wonder whether their next manoeuvre may already have been anticipated on the anti-Bainimarama blogs — boycott the elections.  If they try this, goodness knows what would happen. It would be their biggest gamble to date.


CrozWalsh said…
Photos and videos of the Wellington protest. The video tells all.
Joe said…
The videos certainly does tell all. Except for the lady(2nd clip), all others really dont know what they are talking about. Peter Conway is pre-empting a constitution that will suit the current govt. A person of such stature is ignorant of the fact that Frank govt has put the citizens of Fiji as priority No.1 from day one. The new constitution will be for each and every citizen of Fiji, and not for the churches and chiefs and the unelected only, as the previous ones were, including the Ghai draft to some extent.
Anonymous said…
This idiot of a man should read the following:

Companion to the Draft Constitution for Fiji as produced by the Professor Yash Ghai chaired Constitution Review Commission:

"The purpose of this document is mainly to explain the Draft Constitution for those who feel they need to have a more detailed understanding of the Draft than available from reading Commission’s Explanatory Report. However, it is recommended that the Explanatory Report is read first. The reader is referred, especially, to the section in that Report on the Commission’s approach (Part 1 Section 4).The current document is designed to be read with the Draft Constitution. There are constant cross references to the actual text, and the reader would get most out of this document by having the two documents side by side. The Commission was instructed in Decree 57 – (2) The Explanatory Report …shall— (a) summarise, as concisely as possible and in a way that the people of Fiji shall understand – (i) the recommendations embodied in the draft Constitution; (ii) the reasons for those recommendations; (iii) how those recommendations relate to section 3 of this Decree; and (iv) the views received from the people; (b) describe how the Commission has carried out its work. Because of the direction – “in a way that the people of Fiji shall understand”, the Commission could not go into great detail in the Explanatory Report. And it could not be very technical. The CA (Constituent Assembly) needs some of that detail, and some of that technicality. The CA needs to understand how a constitution works, how this draft constitution would work. It needs to understand the intentions of the Commission. And it needs to understand how the whole document hangs together. This document, unlike the Explanatory Report, is organised in the same way as the Draft Constitution itself. It is not an “article by article” analysis, but it does look at each chapter, in the same order as the Draft Constitution. Sometimes it does indeed explain the detailed wording of specific articles."

Editor: You will find the previous documents listed below Fijileaks masthead. Read the full new Jill Cottrell-Christina Murray document HERE
Nuetral? said…
Point taken Croz, but why Rajendra Chaudhery and Ratu Joni when there are so many neutral lawyers in Fiji? Ghai was heading downhill after using such persons as experts, along with Nainendra Nand and Richard Naidu. All known bitter opponents of government. Where was the balance?
Crosbie Walsh said…
@neutral ... Prof Ghai told me Ratu Joni because of his expertise on itaukei land and customs but I'd have chosen him because of his fAirness, an experienced, educated, progressive and widely respected chief.

Round & Round & Round... said…
@ Neutral lawyers in Fiji?

So many of them? There is a fallacy at work here because the many lawyers in Fiji have clients and they tend to follow the biases of many of their clients. Were they not to, then their client portfolio would be sadly depleted. In the area of criminal law, this is regrettable indeed. Interests beget interests and thus the World goes round and round and round.....
Nuetral? said…
Then no doubt Rajendra was chosen for his knowledge of Indian custom or tradition? Or is that irrelevant in the drafting of the constitution? As for Joni's sense of fairness, that is debatable.
Gatekeeper said…
We are becoming bogged down again in the personal. This leads us, often erroneously, to believe that no one is open to a nuanced change of position. Without such a belief, there can never be movement forward. The bona fides of those with whom we consult or associate must always be tested: if required, on a daily basis.But changes of position must be accommodated and factored in. Without this, there can never be progress. Viz North Korea. Plenty of grounds just now for scepticism but we must admit of progress as a remote possibility. If not, then the 'worst case scenario' is the only outcome. Unthinkable.
Truesup said…
@ Round and Amp
Too true. And no one has taught these lawyers about the need to provide objective legal advice. So our legal profession is deeoly flawed with little or no leadership provided by the defunct Law Society.
Nuetral? said…
If Ghai had consulted with lawyers from all sides we could have no complaint about his bias. But he consulted only with lawyers hostile to the government - Nainendra Nand, Richard Naidu, James Sloan, Chaudhery, and Madraiwiwi. So where is the balance to give us all confidence in his report?
Integrity and honesty said…
You are remiss in not adding honesty and integrity. Unlike those who possess neither he would never endorse or support a human rights abusing illegal military junta?
yeah right said…
But he does support a human rights abusing SDL junta? Which pretends to be democratic?
Are wah said…
And his close friendship to well known racists like Ro Temumu Kepa and Ratu Inoke Takiveikata ( he was his best man in 2007 aftere his trial for mutiny and before his trial for conspiracy to murder) makes him a man of integrity? Are wah!
Anonymous said…
As a Uni student I find it it difficult to see how (guessing) well educated folks here are bogged down by who's said this and SDL did this and someone said that while to trying to jusify an illegal government. Fellow fijians have DIED under this regime and justice has not being served. Yet you argue about who's side you're on. FRANK SHOWED NO COMPASSION TO HIS PEOPLE by not condeminvthe beatings. Yet you still fight over nuetrality of lawyers.

No need to think outside boxes...Its right there...please concider us youths futures when we wll have to pay back the millions of dollars in loans. Show us hope. Please.
Educated moron said…
You want hope? Ask yourself what democracy and justice really mean, not to you, but to the poor and illiterate. Then your education will not be wasted. Forget the lawyers, they are just part of the elite. Worry about the people who wern't as lucky as you.
Anonymous said…
@anonymous 9.27
I do hope you were as concerned when Indo-Fijians were being beaten up by thugs in Dawasamu and Muanaweni. Not much compassion shown by anyone to the victims.I hope you were as concerned about the systematic robberies executed against the largely Fiji Indian homes and victims. I hope you are as compassionate to the people in the villages who are only courted when it is time to vote, and whose share of the land rentals were squandered by the chiefs.
Anonymous said…
Its time Indo-Fijians stopped harping back to 2000 - if native Fijians were as evil as some Indo-Fijians make out, we would have had an UN intervention force to stop the ethnic carnage - like it happened in Rwanda, Bosnia and other countries. Also, there is no justification for the 2006 coup - barrel of the gun is not the answer. If it is, then Sitiveni Rabuka was correct to oust a predominantly Indo-Fijian government led by Dr Bavadra
Joe said…
Being a uni student, you should know that Frank is the only hope for everyone. What hope can you expect under qarase and chaudhary, unless you come from an elite class. Was marc edge your teacher by any chance?
BOG said…
No we are not talking BOG ( barrel of the gun) cliches here. We are talking about being uniformly compassionate about our social ills. This is not about which if any coup was justified. We are talking about taking hypocrisy out of social justice and reform. Understanding that who the underdog is does not depend on ethnicty. That is not harping on about 2000, it is about systemic injustic and racism.
Anonymous said…
@anon 11.54
Have you never heard of indirect discrimination?
Stop Whinging said…
How long does it take to get over a stubbed toe?
Stubbed toe said…
Lets not cast pearls before swine Anonymous 3.57!
Anonymous said…
To all Indo-Fijians - if racial discrimination was so deep, we would not be where we are today - Fijian generosity helped us along the way - of course there have been misguided Fijians but vast majority of native Fijians decided to keep to themselves instead of joining with Rabuka and Speightand slaughtering Indo-Fijians and other non-Fijians in a killing spree - agains, out of evil has come out good - just look at you chaps - many managed to get into Australia, New Zealand, Canada, US etc after the 1987 and 2000 coups. It is wrong to portray Fijians as evil monsters - for as we know, not all of them. One has to take care of their own first - its called politics - and in Mahendra Chaudhry's case - he made sure he took care of himself and his family by collecting $2million from India and secreting depositing it in his Australian bank account - that does not make US - for I am an Indo-Fijian - all crooks and distrusting - that we must never be allowed to become Prime Minister - just look at the naming of the three new Airbus planes - all Fijian names - where is the slogan - equality for all - it is in the national symbols where one's worth and importance is recognised - in Bainimarama's case, he has gone back to what other Fijians before hi did - sucking up to grassroot native Fijians so to justify his treasonous coup.
Joe said…
What is your problem with the naming of planes? Every island, city, town and village in Fiji has an ethnic name. No one is stopping you from becoming PM, the new constitution will provide for that. FYI Frank is not sucking up to the grassroots, he is just making them aware of how they have been cheated and lied to by previous governments. Grow up son.
the title really fits it in really perfectly in my honest opinion. but aye i do hope you were as concerned when Indo-Fijians were being beaten up by thugs in Dawasamu and Muanaweni
Anonymous said…
Joe no Marc Edge was not my teacher. I take time to research to come to my own conclusions. I am not referring to Qarase or MC. I am referring to what this Government is teaching the next generation of leaders. Elite class, I think not. Along with my family we struggle everyday to make life better. Compassion and humility is what keeps smiles on our face and in our hearts.

No matter how I've tried to look at it, I cannot see this Government leading us in the right direction. Lives were lost Joe, and we praise these leaders for justice?

Although on total opposite sides of the spectrum Sakiusa Rabaka and Francis Kean are known by one common factor. You already know what that is.

Hope is for all. Not only a selected few.
Anonymous said…
thanks for sharing.

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