Many voters will however have strong views on some of the changes implemented by the 2013 BKC. Voters and political parties should not waste their energies on debating the many changes which a future elected parliament will have every moral and lawful authority to change. Voters simply need to know the stand of the political parties on the following:
Which constitution do we have now?
The average voters do not have a clue and probably do not care: they will simply go along with the Bainimarama Government who control the judiciary, army and police.
The voters will take part in the elections under whatever electoral regulations this regime decides on. This is the pragmatic position taken by the existing political parties who simply want the return of an elected parliamentary government.
But the ultimate judge of the validity of a constitution has to be the judiciary, which has not made, or has not been allowed to make a judgment, following the definitive 2009 Court of Appeal.
The current situation appears confusing partly because the Ghai Constitution Commission made the critical mistake of attempting to present a “new” draft constitution, rather than an “Amendment” of the 1997 Constitution. Readers may wish to read the following which was part of my Final Submission to the Yash Ghai Commission:
Any constitutional revision, must itself abide by the “rule of law” already existing. The public can recall the words of the current Chief Justice (Anthony Gates) in his ruling in the case Koroi v Commissioner of Inland Revenue (2001).
“It is not possible for any man to tear up the Constitution. He has no authority to do so. The Constitution remains in place until amended by Parliament, a body of elected members who collectively represent all of the voters and inhabitants of Fiji… Usurpers may take over as they have in other jurisdictions, and in some cases rule for many years apparently outside of, or without the Constitution. Eventually the original order has to be revisited, and the Constitution resurfaces .. and the courts will not assist usurpers simply because they are numerous, powerful, or even popular.”
Technically, the 1997 Constitution is still in place. Therefore all contentious decrees or actions of the Bainimarama Government since December 2006 must be verified by a future elected parliament, or changed, as explained in my Submission to the Ghai Commission here:
The issues discussed further in this Bulletin 3 cannot be decided by a military dictatorship, however “progressive” some changes may appear to be, to some of our citizens.
Voters need to ask political parties whether
(a) they support the 1997 Constitution; and
(b) they believe that the next elected parliament will be free to examine any changes from the 1997 Constitution, implied by the 2013 BKC and any changes proposed by the Ghai Draft Constitution.
The special place of indigenous Fijians
The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, was verified by the General Assembly in 2007.
While accepting the fundamental equality of all peoples, the Declaration nevertheless noted that indigenous peoples the world over have suffered marginalization through colonialism and globalization.
The UN recognized the need to respect and promote the rights of indigenous peoples affirmed in historical treaties and other constructive agreements with the state.
The UN declaration encouraged states to enhance indigenous peoples rights through consultation and co-operation with them (and not by force).
Article 5 states clearly that indigenous people “have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions”.
Just these few references suggest that the Bainimarama Regime, through the 2013 BKC and other decrees, is forcing many changes on the Fijian people and institutions in complete contradiction of the UN Convention: abolishing the GCC, removing the term “Fijian” from the indigenous people’s exclusive use, banning the use of Fijian names of political parties, etc.).
Voters may ask all political parties to declare their position on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and their relevance for indigenous Fijians in the laws of Fiji.
Great Council of Chiefs (GCC)
Some may argue that the GCC has not served either the interests of indigenous Fijians or Fiji as a whole, as well as they could have and that the Bainimarama Government was right to “close down” the GCC. The first part of this statement may well be correct, as is suggested in this article of mine.
However, an unelected military government has no moral or legal authority to close down an institution which was an integral part of the system of governance approved by all elected Fiji parliaments. The next elected parliament will be free to resuscitate the GCC in its former or any reformed form.
Votes may ask all political parties to declare their position on the Great Council of Chiefs, following an elected Parliament.
The Senate was a useful “checks and balances” mechanism, to the elected House of Representatives- a useful “Upper House of Review” able to present a more mature perspective, less influenced by “populist” opinion. It was an integral part of the 1997 Constitution in many ways. The next elected parliament will be free to resuscitate the Senate in its former or some reformed form.
Voters may ask all political parties to declare their position on the Senate following an elected Parliament.
Changes to land and mineral resources legislation
It is not for the unelected Bainimarama Government to bring about any changes to Fiji’s land and natural resources legislation. These will all need to be revisited by the next elected Parliament.
Voters may ask all political parties to declare their position on all land legislation decreed by the Bainimarama Government, and their stand following an elected Parliament.
The electoral system to be used for future elections.
The coming elections will be held under whatever regulations are issued by the Bainimarama Government. Given the secrecy of the Bainimarama Government and non-accountability, the Fiji public still has no idea what the system will be.
However, the elected Fiji Parliament will be free to change the electoral system in way they wish. My submission to the Ghai Commission for a desirable electoral system may be read here:
Voters may ask all political parties to declare their position on their vision of a future electoral system, following an elected Parliament.
The common name to be used for Fiji citizens (“Fijians” or whatever).
For some Fiji citizens, one of the positive initiatives of the Bainimarama Regime has been the attempt to create a common national identity and common name for all Fiji citizens.
There is no dispute with the attempt to create a common national identity. However, the decreed use of the word “Fijian” to describe all Fiji citizens is contentious on a number of grounds, as I have attempted to explain here:
Such name changes must not only be left to Parliamentary majority, but should require some consensus from the indigenous Fijian community who have historically been associated with this name.
Voters may ask all political parties to declare their position on the use of the word “Fijian” to describe all Fiji citizens, following an elected Parliament.
Immunity for coup perpetrators and supporters
While immunity may be granted by an elected parliament, such total immunity may not be granted for the abuse of fundamental human rights. The nature and extent of the immunity that the Bainimarama Government is granting itself may be read here:
The next elected parliament will need to revisit the entire question of immunity.
Voters may ask all political parties to declare their position on immunity provisions, following an elected Parliament.
Ro Teimumu fear mongering, says t he PM
By MAIKA BOLATIKI
Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) leader Ro Teimumu Kepa is offering ordinary Fijians nothing new, says Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama. “SODELPA has learned nothing. Instead of providing the country with a vision of a new Fiji, it is dragging everyone backwards by employing the same old fear-mongering tactics of the old Fiji. Every political party has the right to develop the manifesto of their choosing, but I have to point out that so much of what this leader of SODELPA says is utter nonsense.” Mr Bainimarama said: “Our nation’s new Constitution protects the rights of all Fijians, including unprecedented levels of protection of iTaukei land in the Bill of Rights. In fact, Ro Teimumu was part of a Government that eroded iTaukei land rights by allowing the conversion of native land to freehold title. The new Constitution for example gives landowners now a fair share of royalties from mining activity. There are other protections and benefits. In short, the truth is that my Government has strengthened iTaukei rights, not eroded them. “My Government has also empowered ordinary Fijians by giving them the things they need to improve their own lives and those of their families. But Ro Teimumu wants to take away that power and hand it back to a privileged elite. “In fact, all of Ro Teimumu’s comments indicate someone who wants to drag Fiji back into the past. She demonstrably avoids talking about the need to deliver basic services to ordinary Fijians – which has been the cornerstone of my Government’s reform programmes – because she was part of an SDL Government that always made false promises but never delivered. “She mentions jobs and economic growth, but what politician wouldn’t? Nowhere does she actually present any economic policies or initiatives that will create those jobs and stimulate that growth. The remarkable economic turnaround that Fiji is currently experiencing hasn’t been based on words, but on the smart and consistent policies put in place by my Government, which we will continue.” Ro Teimumu said: “Our central goals in promoting sustained growth in all parts of the economy are to accelerate employment creation, continually improve the health and general well-being of our population, reduce income inequalities, eradicate homelessness and poverty, and ensure that Government services and the benefits of development are spread evenly in all areas of Fiji.” The PM said: “The SODELPA says that she will restore the power of the chiefs and remove equal distribution of lease monies. She should know that a chief’s mana is not based on receiving lease money. It is based on looking after your people. It means caring and loving your people not taking away their fair share of money. What’s more, the direct distribution of lease money is improving the lives of ordinary commoner Fijians, empowering them to take charge of their own destiny. We can already see it leading to economic growth as ordinary people take greater ownership of their economic resources and capabilities. “She also says that she will restore the FAB scholarship scheme and the multi-ethnic scholarship programme – a divided way of looking at building national capacity. As a previous Minister for Education, she should understand that more Fijian youths than ever before now have access to tertiary education under the new toppers scholarship and Government loan scheme. To revert to the old system would rob so many students around the country of the opportunity to pursue their dreams with a university education. “It would also mean going back to that system that lacked transparency where you accessed scholarships depending many times on who you were or who you knew. She is noticeably silent on my Government’s policy of free primary and secondary education. She is notably silent on the subsidised bus fares and free text books that we offer. I also note that she never made any such progress or put in place such initiatives when she was Minister for Education.” Ro Teimumu said: “Recognising the importance of giving as many of our students fair and equal opportunity for higher level tertiary education, the SODELPA-led multi-party government will reinstate the FAB scholarship scheme and the multi-ethnic scholarship programme for eligible students from low income families.” The PM said: “Her comments about bringing God back into our national life are frankly offensive. Is she saying that God has been absent from our lives? Is she saying that God has not been in Fiji? This is an insult to all believing men and women of our country. God is central to our national life and no Fijian is being prevented from worshipping privately or publicly. “And our new Constitution guarantees religious freedom – for every Fijian to choose for themselves. The Secular State ensures that the Government of the day does not force one denomination or one faith on anyone and at the same time promotes religious freedom for all.” Ro Teimumu said: “They see no place for God in their 2013 Constitution. They made this decision without the permission of the people and then declared that it had our approval. Let me, therefore, give this undertaking. If you give SODELPA victory in the general elections, our very first action will be to take steps to restore God to His rightful place in our country’s supreme law.” The PM said: The 2013 Constitution is set in stone and can only be changed through a vote of three-quarters of the members of our new Parliament and a referendum with three-quarters of registered voters in support. So for Ro Teimumu to speak about changing the Constitution after the election ignores that fact that a very careful, detailed and transparent process will have to be undertaken. “It cannot be changed at the whim of SODELPA or any other party and to suggest otherwise is misleading and irresponsible. I know they are used to the idea of doing whatever they like when in government but the rules have changed. We are all bound to uphold the Constitution: the Military, the Judiciary, the Executive and the Legislature. A seat in Parliament nor a simple majority in Parliament does not give a person or a political party the authority to subvert the supreme law of our land.” Ro Teimumu said their first legislative action would be to revoke all current restrictive decrees on fundamental freedoms and political and civic rights. The PM said she was surrounded by other political leaders “with whom the whole country knows she has nothing in common except their opposition to his Government’s reforms to empower ordinary Fijians.” “It is a coalition of the hypocrites – the same tired old political faces who brought Fiji to its knees in the first place through their petty squabbling and division and now supposedly joining hands. They are united only by their determination to wind back the clock, to reject the advances of the past seven years and restore their own privileged positions at the expense of ordinary Fijians. “This marriage of convenience and without any principle by the NFP leader and his officials is a direct affront to the founders of NFP (AD Patel, Siddiq Koya and James Madhavan) who always pushed for a common roll, fought for the rights of all Fijians under the notion of common and equal citizenry and the principle of “one person, one vote, one value”. These lot have lost their way. Of course the leader of the Labour who is well known for his chameleon behaviour simply to stay in power at all costs is in bed with the very people he accused of being racist and corrupt only a few years ago. “It beggars belief that these old politicians can regard ordinary Fijians as being so stupid to see this alliance as anything more than a total sham – a sham which involves fear-mongering and not giving the full facts. I certainly believe in the intelligence of the Fijian people to see through this farce when it comes to polling day.”
I have been contacted by a Abhaya (no last name given)
When asked by the pollsters doing the Fiji Sun poll if “previous Prime Ministers should be allowed to contest the upcoming elections” he/she voted No. He/she was including Frank as a previous Prime Minister.
I wonder how many of the 64% who voted this way also included the current Prime Minister.
AUSTRALIAN public servants can learn nothing from Fiji’s bureaucracy, says a Fijian academic expelled from the country and now based in Canberra.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s meeting a fortnight ago to repair relations with the country ruled by Commodore Frank Bainimarama included a low-key public servant exchange program between the two nations.
But, said Australian National University’s Professor Brij Lal, Canberra bureaucrats will learn nothing in Suva where the heads of departments are military men.
”Their presence at the top stifles process,” Professor Lal said.
”They’re not accountable to the public service commission but report straight to the commodore.
”If you write to any civil servant asking them for an answer, you won’t get an answer. Everyone is scared of putting an answer down on paper – it’s the fear factor.
”If there’s a genuine openness to reinvigorate the Fijian public service, unaffected by dictation from the top, that’s good.”
Commodore Bainimarama, the son of civil servants, has himself had first-hand experience of the public service.
Once, in 2002, he even reportedly attended courses in leadership and change management and policy planning analysis.
But after his 2006 coup, he sacked Public Service Commission chairman Stuart Huggett and there were unconfirmed reports at the time that Mr Huggett was assaulted.
In 2009 Fiji expelled Australia’s top public servant in the country, high commissioner James Batley.
Fijian-born Professor Lal – now an Australian citizen – was expelled from his country after criticising the decision. Fiji last year refused entry to Australia’s proposed high commissioner, Margaret Twomey.
The Department of Foreign Affairs says Fiji’s economy and living standards have been affected by the 2006 coup, particularly because regime supporters and military leaders have been appointed to boards.
Since the coup, Fiji’s economy has been stagnant with an annual growth rate of just 0.7 per cent. This compares with 2.5 per cent growth in the years preceding the coup.
It has only been in the past two years that there has been signs of recovery
PM still leads race but SODELPA overtakes three other
political parties in latest Fiji Sun Poll
March 8, 2014 | By NEMANI DELAIBATIKI
The Prime Minister, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, has polled strongly again as Preferred Prime Minister for the second week running.
The second Fiji Sun weekly poll till February 28 has him still in the high 70s although he dropped three points.
The other significant result is that the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) has overtaken the other registered political parties as the preferred political party. But its new leader, Ro Teimumu Kepa, the Marama na Roko Tui Dreketi, scored less than one per cent as Preferred Prime Minister.
SODELPA’s rating jumped from one per cent to 14 per cent. The People’s Democratic Party also improved their rating from eight per cent to 13 per cent. But the Fiji Labour Party dropped from eight per cent to seven per cent and the National Federation Party also slipped by one per cent to two per cent.
Eleven per cent would not vote for these parties. The number of undecided voters unfamiliar with political parties has dropped from 70 per cent to 50 per cent.
SODELPA’s change in fortune is indicative of its increasing activities in recent weeks. It appears to be well organised on the ground with the formation of its youth and women’s wings. It has also intensified its cyber war to try and win young voters.
PDP’s strong polling defies reports of internal power struggle between the militant trade union bloc and the more conservative membership.
It’s early days yet and more polling is required before we can see a trend forming.
The parties will undoubtedly target the undecided voters or swing voters who will decide the outcome of the general election. The 50 per cent is high and these are people probably waiting for the launch of the PM’s party.
The weekly Fiji Sun Poll is conducted by Razor marketing teams. Six hundred eligible voters are being polled weekly, 300 in the Central Division, 200 in the Western Division and 100 in the Northern Division.
The polling team targets ordinary people passing through bus stations and market areas to get a range of opinions from both urban commuters and from people travelling into town from rural areas.
“I send my greetings to the people of Fiji and to the many supporters of SODELPA here and throughout the country. The people of Rewa Province send the delegates their best wishes and want you to know that they are with us. Let me express on behalf of SODELPA, a message of goodwill to our colleagues from the Fiji Labour Party and the National Federation Party. We have often been on opposite sides. But I am pleased to tell you that the crisis in our country has brought us together through the political movement, the United Front for a Democratic Fiji. The United Front is based on a shared determination to defeat the forces of those who stole the last elected government. The values and principles that bind the United Front are those of democracy, truth, rights, the rule of law and accountability to the people.
Fiji records 9,825 dengue cases, launches national campaign to contain outbreak
SUVA, March 7 (Xinhua) — Fiji has recorded 9,825 confirmed dengue cases including eight death cases since October last year and the government announced Friday the launch of a national campaign to contain the outbreak.
According to the Ministry of Health, of the confirmed cases, the highest numbers are presented in the country’s central division, where the capital of Suva is located.
The national anti-dengue campaign is spearheaded by the Ministry of Health and has so far seen commitment by various organizations within the private sector, said the Ministry of Information, adding that the general public is encouraged to support the efforts of the government in the nationwide cleanup campaign, which will continue for the next four consecutive weeks.
Dr Mike Kama, national adviser for communicable diseases of the Ministry of Health, highlighted the importance of clean surroundings to avoid dengue fever at a press conference Friday.
“Each individual or household needs to take this initiative in cleaning up their own backyards and to dispose any materials that may attract mosquitoes to breed,” Kama said, pointing out that those with symptoms of dengue fever need to present themselves to the nearest medical facility.
Kama said the outbreak is caused by dengue type three that has not been seen in Fiji for many years.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health has recalled all doctors and nurses currently on leave as it works towards containing the dengue outbreak, the government-owned Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (FBC) reported.
China has donated 50,000 U.S. dollars to Fiji to assist its efforts in combating the outbreak.
Dengue fever is caused by the dengue virus and the virus is spread from dengue infected individuals to well dengue-free people by the black-and-white striped female Aedes aegypti mosquito when it takes a blood meal.
Once an individual contracts dengue, the person manifests symptoms of the disease four to 10 days later. The typical symptoms of dengue fever include fever (sudden onset), intense headache (especially behind the eyes), muscle and joint pains, flushed skin or rashes on the arms and legs and perhaps minor bleeding of the gums and/or nose.