Read the Audit of the Constitution Commission. This audit fulfills the requirements of Decree 57 of 2012.
Let there be light!
Lights, sweets, fireworks, decorations, get-togethers and prayer rituals – this is what makes Diwali a special day, be it India, Kenya or any other place in the world where this auspicious festival is celebrated.
Diwali is the biggest and the brightest Hindu festivals with deep spiritual significance; It is a known belief that Diwali, the festival of lights, signifies the victory of good over evil, victory of knowledge over ignorance, using the symbol of light – giving hope.
Historically, there are a number of reasons for the celebration of this auspicious festival – some say, we light lamps to mark the end of the 14 year exile and return of Lord Rama to Ayodhiya after victory over the tyrannical Ravana; it also celebrates the victorious return of Lord Krishna, after victory over the Narakasura and rescue of some 16,000 women from his captivity; Sikhs say the day brings fortune to them as it commemorates the return of their sixth Guru – Guru Har Gobind Ji (1595-1644) while the Buddhists celebrate Diwali to remember Indian Emperor Ashoka (304–232 BCE) who adopted Buddhism on this day.
Most importantly, Diwali is believed to be the day when the Goddess of Wealth, Maha Lakshmi bestows her blessings on her devotees – not just with material wealth but wisdom, knowledge, good health– prosperity, progress and peace. Hindus ensure their household is lit with diyas, candles in a ‘hope’ that the Goddess will transform their lives.
So ‘light’ - be it in any form – a candle, diya ( traditional mud lamp) or electric lights – it simply takes away the darkness ,illuminates our homes and hearts, creating sentiments of hope, optimism and confidence. People everywhere seem to be happy and smiling away as they celebrate the festival. I am told that the itaukei members and the Indo-Fijians celebrate the festival in unity – itaukei girls put on Indian attires – salwaar kameez and sarees and Indian families make a point of sharing diwali delights, sweets, with their itaukei friends.
Perhaps, this is the way the people of Fiji can choose to move forward in life – together and perceive the new constitution – as a symbol of hope and an instrument which would enable this beautiful county to transcend to a full democratic rule. Well, as you know, the work on the constitution has already begun and by this Diwali – we would be well in the midst of drafting the document….thus, my plea to all Fijians is to take time out to study the draft constitution when it is made available to you by mid December and give us a feedback on it. We encourage everyone to participate in the process
Your, one view is like one candle in the darkness. Imagine if all Fijians share their views on the draft constitution with us – there will be no room for any darkness. The new Constitution may not have answers to all your troubles but it may give you, the people of Fiji, a guide and a commitment, to move on as a modern nation – having sovereignty with dignity.
Wishing you all a very happy Diwali!
(Published in the Shanti Dut’s Diwali Edition)
“The Amended Decree “Fiji Constitutional Process (Constitution Commission) (Amendment) Decree 2012″, Decree 64 of 2012 is on our website. You can also see all other Decrees and reports on Fiji’s constitutions on the website under our “Resources section.”
Prime Minster Voreqe Bainimarama’s attack on Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi for the consultancy with the Constitution Commission is unfair. He has criticised him and the commission for improper and deceitful conduct. These are serious charges. For the record, let me set the facts straight.
A constitution covers a wide variety of issues, some of considerable complexity. Members of a small commission such as ours cannot be expected to have sufficient knowledge of all the issues on which they have to make decisions. The Decree wisely provides for the commission to seek the assistance of experts on specialised issues. The experts can be local or foreign—we have had both. We have benefited greatly from the experience and research of local experts, some of whom were deeply involved in the preparation of the People’s Charter, and some opposed to it.
It is not our practice to make public announcements when we appoint a consultant (nor are we required to do so). But we certainly do not hide our experts. If we are asked, as was the case with RatuJoni’s appointment, we have not withheld iformation.
We often invite government, military, academic and civic organisations to workshops which are organised around topics of the experts. We also try to organise a public event in the form of a seminar with our foreign experts, to educate and engage the people—with very considerable success. Members of the government departments, including the Prime Minister’s Office, have attended our internal workshops where RatuJoni was present.
When we were considering which local experts could help the Commission, we all supported RatuJoni’s participation. That is hardly surprising. He is well known locally and internationally, not only for his wide knowledge and experience of the law, but of social and political affairs, a deep understanding of traditional cultures, and for his wisdom. He is admired for his strong sense of fairness. None of the local commissioners, despite their other excellent qualifications, has practical or academic experience of law. Questions of local law crop up all the time as we decide on the content of the constitution. The lack of submissions from relevant government bodies has made expert guidance on law more necessary, a task that RatuJoni fulfilled admirably.
When I first approached him for his assistance, he agreed readily, and indicated that he did not need a consultancy or a fee. It was under pressure from us that he accepted a consultancy, no different from other consultancies. He also made it clear that he was intending to make his own submission and asked us if this would create a conflict. The commission considered and concluded that there would be no conflict.
The contractual arrangements for the consultancy do not provide for an automatic payment for 30 days. This is the maximum period, but payments are made only for the days he worked for us. He neither claimed nor was paid for the day he came to the public hearing.
It is alleged that Ratu Joni’s position with the Commission was untenable because he appeared before us as part of the delegation from the chiefly island of Bau which supported the concept of a Christian State. Fiji is a small society and people function in several capacities and contexts. Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi is not only a legal practitioner with some years’ experience, but a Fijian who has served in the public service and the judiciary as well as on the boards of civil society organisations concerned with human rights. He is also a traditional leader and it was in that role that he appeared before the Commission. RatuJoni’s views about Fiji as a secular, multicultural and tolerant society are a matter of public record, but he also respected what the people of Bau wanted. These contradictions are not uncommon in a country in transition and are part of the challenges the Commission faces in drafting a new Constitution.
Throughout our work with Ratu Joni, we have found hima person of great integrity, knowledge and wisdom.
Former Labour Minister , Krishna Datt’s views on ‘ Leadership” , as submitted to the Constitution Commission:
Fundamental to political party reform is the question of leadership. The major reason for the peoples disenchantment with political parties springs largely from the nature and caliber of political leadership. The scheming, manipulistic, self centered leadership of the past has been the major cause of disenchantment.
Any system of government will continue to depend on individuals to come forth and take the cudgel of leadership. What we need is for the constitution to provide for a strict criteria for people offering themselves for national leadership.
The Reeves Commission had found much to be desired in the national leadership. The Reeves Commission had called for a strong, honest leadership based on personal integrity and management skills.
Providing for national leadership is a sensitive and complicated issue. It is not easy to set measureable personal qualities for selection of leaders. However, an attempt must be made.
The Parliament, as an institution requires some qualities of its members over and above those of honesty and integrity. For the Parliament to be relevant in a globalised world, one obvious quality expected of a member is to have a good understanding of the global forces affecting our economic, political and social behaviour. A member should be able to read, understand, critique Parliamentary business and be able to participate effectively in the Committee processes. The demands are almost pointing to a graduate Parliament.
Pitched against the demands of the Parliament, a member must also have the social skills to interact with the constituents and represent their views and concerns in Parliament. Conversely, the member should have the ability and skills to translate the affairs of the State and explain the forces of global economy to his/her constituents.
Mr Datt recommended: That the Commission lays down specific skills and personal qualities required for national leadership which is keen to adopt practices of a cooperative and participative democracy in a country fast becoming an integral part of a globalised world.
Electronic voting would be a disaster for Fiji, says Professor Wadan Narsey.
Speaking at the public seminar on Electoral Reforms, jointly organised by the Constitution Commission and the University of the South Pacific, on Tuesday, Prof Narsey said Fiji should continue to use ballot papers during elections and not have an electronic voting system.
Prof. Narsey said pieces of paper on which people cast their votes can be preserved and used to account for the votes collected.
“Let’s vote on pieces of papers which can be kept and used later for audit purposes,” Prof Narsey said. “These pieces of paper will act as evidence.”
He also called on the voters to take accountability and choose leaders carefully and wisely.
“We, people get the Government, we deserve,” Prof Narsey said.
“We need to hold the voters accountable.”
On political parties, Prof Narsey said that political parties should learn to accept election results as they are declared as in the past, there have been allegations of electoral fraud.
He said all parties contesting the elections must be prepared to adhere to a set of rules and guidelines and accept election outcomes rather than alleging of rigged elections when the election results are not in their favour.
The chiefs and the council of Rotuma have told the Constitution Commission that Rotuma and Rotumans be expressly acknowledged as one of the indigenous lands and peoples of Fiji.
In their submission to the Commission, the Rotuman Council on behalf of their chiefs said the rights, aspirations and interests of all Rotumans should be recognised in the new Constitution.
The council said there should be constitutional arrangements whereby all matters relating to or affecting the lands and seas of the Rotumans to be approved by the Council of Rotuma.
“That our uniqueness be reflected in the allocation of representation to both houses of parliament,” the Council proposed.
They also called for the establishment of a Court system.
The Council further spoke on the 1997 Constitution saying that some provisions in the 1997 Constitution are worthy of consideration which include:
• The preamble to the 1997 Constitution traces Fiji’s unique history and acknowledges the great deeds of our forefathers, particularly in their embracing the Judeo-Christian Gods as the God of the country and the role of the Great Council of Chiefs in blessing the constitution in “their abundant wisdom”. It finished with a solemn declaration before God that “With God as our witness, we give ourselves this Constitution”.
• That Chapter One clearly states that Fiji is a sovereign democratic state and that the Constitution is the supreme law of the state
• The Constitution recognises that the State and Religion are separate but it acknowledges that worship and reverence of God are the source of good government and leadership.
• The Compact in Chapter two was a unique feature. It provides that those entrusted with Government must recognise the importance of applying the spirit of Constitution rather than glibly applying the imperial concepts applicable in other democratic societies.
• The Bill of Rights in Chapter 4 was perhaps the main feature which galvanized the international attention and acclaim for that Constitution.
The Rotuman Chiefs, however, did not agree with section 38 (2) (a) of the 1997 Constitution, saying they consider that the provision on sexual orientation was inconsistent with the Preamble and one that will nurture some undesirable, unnatural and immoral practices.
How to Stop Coups in Fiji, that’s the question– this is what the Constitution Commission is seeking answers for, says Commission chairperson, Professor Yash Ghai.
In his brief address at the opening of the seminar on democratic transitions, on Wednesday, Prof Ghai said a very large number of people have spoken to the Commission about coups – the dislike for coups
The dislike for coups, he said, was one uniting factor of the Fijians.
“People from rural communities, urban centres, different communities, different parts of Fiji have urged us to find the magical formula which makes coups impossible in Fiji…now that is a challenge,” Prof Ghai said.
“People have said to us to put down in the Constitution – that “there no longer be a coup and I had to tell them that Nigeria did that many times and it was no deterrent to the army,” Prof Ghai said.
“So we have to think of other ways that coups could be prevented, establishing just systems, responding to people’s concerns, allowing people’s participation and above all building a national identity, solidarity that comes with the common identity.”
He said this was a challenge, indeed.“And as you may remember, that the Prime Minister at a meeting in New York at the General Assembly said “my coup is the coup to end all coups “ – now that really is a challenge,” Prof Ghai said.
He said the Commission was looking for ideas to deal with the issue.
Prof Ghai further said having very concrete policies in education, health and so on and creating political institutions which are democratic, which involves people in public affairs where people feel a responsibility for their own lives and are willing to defend the system that gives them these opportunities – could help end coups in Fiji.
Welcoming the guest speakers at the seminar, Prof Ghai said the Commission would like to listen to the experts and engage the public as well in the debates on the crucial issues about the constitution.
Indonesian retired military General, Agus Widjojo says Fijians are in a better place as the transition to a democratic rule has already begun in Fiji.
Sharing the Indonesian perspective on the subject at the public seminar- Democratic Transition: Comparative Experience on Wednesday at the Fiji National University Nasinu campus, General Widjojo said the fact that Fiji now has started the process of rewriting its constitution, the re-democratisation process has already begun.
General Widjojo said Fiji was in a better place than Indonesia as Fijians have embarked on holding public consultations and collecting public views which would be reflected in the new Constitution.
He said Indonesia never passed this phase.
“Fiji is in a better place to launch a transition of a planned transition,” General Widjojo said.General Widjojo said it was important to understand the essence of the Indonesian military transition and to understand the historic backdrop where it came from and why the military thrust into political power.
He stressed that Indonesian transition was an on-going one and was not necessarily the perfect model but much could be learnt from their experience.
Local, Raijeli Nicole, who also spoke at the seminar, looked at the relationship between the military and the society – the citizenry.
She addressed the question – how should the citizenry address the military and politics.
Dan Slater, a professor of Political Science from University of Chicago, drew examples from the South East Asia experiences on democratisation process.
Sitiveni Rabuka submitted the following views on Bose Levu Vakaturaga, to the Constitution Commission.
13.1 The Bose Levu Vakaturaga has been a part of the Custom of the Land and preceded any codified Council or Consultative Assembly in Fiji. One of its very unique characters is its ability to operate in times of instability and power vacuum. Pre 1874 Cession, post-coup 1987, post-coup 2000 Fiji were good examples of the BLV deliberating on their own for the steady recovery and progress of the nation.
13.2 The assembly of chiefs prior to 1874 was made up of successful warriors who meritoriously held on to power through personal bravery, military prowess and strategic alliance development. Because of their ability to lead and retain the confidence of their subjects, the chiefs were natural choices for the Colonial administrators to use in leadership roles. They were also beneficiaries of Colonial leadership training which was virtually restricted for them, until the indentured labourers’ leaders demanded and got equal access to education and also provided their own labour lines communities’ schools. The Fijians also benefitted from the policy change.
13.3 Since the iTaukei started enjoying equal access to education, they have by weight of numbers, outshone many of their chiefs.
13.4 The Bose Levu Vakaturaga of contemporary Fiji must be more inclusive of non-traditional chiefs as well as other Fijians who have proved themselves in the professions and industry, and who can contribute greatly in national debates in an apolitical assembly.
13.5 It must strive to be non-partisan in national politics and inclusive in their national wellbeing role. The presence therein of a good spectrum of the Fijian citizenry, particularly high achievers and benevolent thinkers will effectively raise the profile and capability of the council so that they will enjoy the confidence of the people of this country.
13.6 For the iTaukei chiefs, it should be prudent that those appointed or selected or elected (where appropriate) are properly qualified academically, professionally as well as by exemplary character to be members of the council.
13.7 The establishment of the BLV and its roles, functions and membership qualifications and disqualifications should be included in the Constitution and not as a regulation under the Fijian Affairs act (cap 120)