Constitution Released: Reactions, Thoughts and Content

Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum with the Constitution
The old political parties condemned the new constitution without reading it. Mick Beddoes said they'd prepare their own document. They could be cutting off their noses to spite their faces.

The Citizens Constitutional Forum said they'd study it and release their analysis soon but said it was the Government's constitution, not the people's.  I thought this qualification unnecessarily provocative and not altogether correct.The draft constitution has been significantly amended as a result of public consultations and over a thousand submissions.

I have read the constitution and for the most part I cannot see how any reasonable person could totally denounce it. Human,civic, political, and religious rights are suitably protected. Trade union rights are protected but I would have liked to see the Essential Industries Decree revoked. The provisions on women, children, the disabled, gender orientation, education and languages, absent in earlier constitutions, are commendable.  Responsibilities for appointments to the most important government commissions seem reasonable. I'd prefer  the retention of  several geographic constituencies to a single national constituency. The amnesty and transitional clauses have to be accepted.   The emergency provisions have checks and balances, but I'm a little uneasy about the role of the military in ensuring "at all times the security, defence and wellbeing of Fiji and all Fijians" and I think a 75% vote in parliament and a referendum to amend the constitution is unnecessarily restrictive.  I will comment further when I've thought things through and when I've seen what other people have to say.

All daily papers had articles on the release of the constitution today. I thought the FijiLive report the most comprehensive. 

This report from FjjiLive 
 Fiji's fourth Constitution that will underpin the first genuine democracy in the country history has been released to the public. His Excellency the President will give his assent to the document on September 6th.

The document will be the supreme law of the country and pave the way for elections by September 30th 2014 conducted, for the first time, on the basis of equal votes of equal value. It is in line with the constitutions of some of the world’s most liberal democracies and provides a framework for the development of a modern, progressive state.

As previously flagged by the Prime Minister, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, the final version differs from the Draft Constitution by containing specific provisions that guarantee and strengthen the protection of communally-owned i’Taukei, Rotuman and Banaban lands. During the consultation process that followed the release of the Draft in March, a large number of submissions were received calling for explicit protection clauses. These have been accepted and incorporated into the final document. They provide greater protection and security for I’Taukei, Rotuman and Banaban land than ever before. In addition, for the first time, an extra provision gives any landowner the right to a fair share of royalties derived from the exploitation of resources beneath the surface.

The 98-page constitutional document in English has also, for the first time, been translated into the two main vernacular languages - i’Taukei and contemporary Hindi. In the 15 days before His Excellency the President gives his assent on September 6th, members of the public are invited to read the vernacular versions and provide feedback on their accuracy. Some of the legal terms and phraseology in the English language do not have equivalent words in the vernacular and therefore may be open to interpretation.

The Constitution provides for a single chamber 50-member Parliament – up from 45 in the Draft document- which will be the country’s supreme authority and be elected on the basis of one person, one vote, one value. Elections are to be held every four years and every Fijian over the age of 18 is entitled to vote. In another alteration to the Draft document, individual regional constituencies are abolished. There will be one national constituency covering the whole of Fiji, as in The Netherlands and Israel. And every voter will get one vote, choosing the candidate who they believe best serves their interests under a proportional representation system.

A Prime Minister who commands the party with the most seats in Parliament will head the elected Government and, in line with current practice, a President will be the Head of State and perform the ceremonial function of Commander in Chief of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces.

Among the Constitution’s major provisions are:
  • A common and equal citizenry.
  • A voting system of equal votes of equal value.
  • A secular state and religious liberty.
  • An independent and impartial judiciary and equal access to the law. 
  • The right to legal aid assistance. 
  • Specific protection of the ownership of I’Taukei and Rotuman lands and recognition of their unique culture, customs, traditions and language. 
  • The protection of the rights of leaseholders. 
  • Specific recognition of the culture and language of Indo-Fijians, other Pacific islanders and other immigrants and settlers. 
  • A Bill of Rights containing specific provisions guaranteeing a range of civil and political rights and, for the first time, social and economic rights. These include the right to education, economic participation, a just minimum wage, transport, housing, food and water, health and social security.
  • A free media and freedom of speech, expression, movement and association.
  • The safeguarding of the environment.
  • The compulsory teaching of the i’Taukei and Fiji Hindi languages at primary school level, along with English as the common language.
  • The right to multiple citizenship but a provision that only Fijian citizens be entitled to stand for Parliament.
  • The right to fair employment practices.
  • The right to join, form or campaign for a political party.
  • The right to privacy.
  • An Accountability and Transparency Commission which, for the first time, will hold all public office holders accountable. 
  • A Code of Conduct for public office holders. 
  • A provision requiring public office holders such as civil servants, members of the disciplined forces and trade unionists to resign before contesting a seat in Parliament.
The release of the Constitution follows a community consultation process during which the Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and his team conducted 19 public meetings in urban, rural and maritime areas throughout Fiji, including Vanua Levu, Taveuni, Kadavu, the Mamanucas and the Yasawas. Submissions were also sought and 1,093 written submissions were received.  -- FijiLive.

Comments

Khaiyum's Konstitution said…
croz
Can you tell us again who gave khaiyum the mandate to write his own constitution? Could he have done this without the protection of thugs with guns who illegally dismantled the legitimately elected government? Oh, and Croz could you tell us how much khaiyum is paying himself through his aunt's company and how much she is taking from the public purse (without legitimate mandate) in commission for doing so?
Semi Voreti said…
The above writer has not read the Constitution and I am 101% sure he/she will never read it. Now whatever he/she writes is what he/she knows. He/she has nothing else to contribute. This is the type of rubbish Qarase government has collected and these types of people will always pop up just for nothing on all blogs.

It would have been appreciated if he/she could have told us "which sections are irrelevant and should not have been there". Now on this he/she will say "whats the use now?"
Same to that I will say WHATS THE USE BARKING, the Constitution is out.
Kavita Sharma said…
Well said Semi, these seasonal dogs are everywhere in Fiji. The Constitution is out and lets move on now.

God bless Fiji.
Anonymous said…
The PM has been saying the new constitution will expose those opposed to him and the old political parties as Liars over native land. He has repeatedly said this. In actual fact the new version strengthens rights to traditional land…..does that mean the PM was right? No. It means government have reluctantly listened and acted. As hard headed as he may be the PM knows he needs Fijian votes and so he had to silence the critics on land issues. The most important issue now is being elected and the PM will stop at nothing to make that happen.
What about the future said…
Overall a reasonable constitution but Like you Croz I have great concern about the Military's powers. The PM can't seem to see far enough into the future past his own reign. At present it is his way of ensuring win or lose the election he can keep a check on government and make sure things are heading the way he wants. The problem is constitutions are supposed to last a long long time.

For now it might help Frank ensure SDL mrkII don't sneak back to the ways of old or ensure labour/unions don't sabatage things. But what about in the future. What if the next Commnder is not a good man, what if he has racist, elitist ambitions ? Surely their is a danger he can throw out any government and claim it is for good of the country ? Even if you accept the 2006 military coup was for the right reasons there is no guarantee the military won't pull one off in the future for the wrong reasons.
Anonymous said…
Actually Croz I think you will find they condemmed the process and that it was being forced on them - which is true. Lets remember the original process of a pannel etc has been thrown out the window. The AG versions will now become the constitution.
Anonymous said…
I dont understand why the immunity provisions of the 1990 constitution remain. If everything that has happended before Frank is bad and wrong....then is this not a chance to right those wrongs and hold the original coup creators to account ?

I suspect the only fear is the precendent. Clearly Frank thinks military coups are OK !
Anonymous said…
So does walsh and the other facist junta fools!
Why not start a party now said…
Frank has just come out and said he will form a party when he is ready but he is too busy at the moment working on Fiji not his political career. How nice it must be to have that privilage.

It took months for the old parties to get going (and morpth into new ones), months for apporvals and then the back and forth with the registrar etc.

Is Frank leaving it all a bit later or will his party get special treatment....or is he planning on shifting the date ?
Anonymous said…
The dictator has to get rid of all his opposition first with the help of the junta compromised judiciary.
Nikhil Naidu said…
you mean MPC and Qarase? Qarase is already out for big mouthing n MPC is getting ready now. As far as you shit from ur own mouth is concerned, if you really want to debate on Judiciary, come up with a name you gutless pig.
Anonymous said…
MPC will be in naboro hotel soon. So much for being a selfish culina
Anonymous said…
Its a damn good constitutiion.

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