The Council for a Democratic Fiji has the highest respect for the intellectual brilliance and integrity of the Chairman of the Fiji Constitutional Review Commission, Yash Ghai.
Notwithstanding this, however, the Council is constrained now to make known its belief that the work carried out by him in Fiji has run into a blind alley, and that he ought to have anticipated that this would happen.
For the current regime, the making available by himself of Yash Ghai was indeed a major coup – to use that word colloquially. Here was an internationally respected ﬁgure who could give the regime’s Constitutional ambitions and processes a clear appearance of being pursued in good faith, notwithstanding the reality of the situation in Fiji.
For Yash Ghai, however, his acceptance of the role of Chairman has in the Council’s submission now resulted in him being placed in an impossible situation potentially prejudicial to his good
name and reputation.
The Council wrote to Yash Ghai at the time of his acceptance of the Chairmanship warning him regarding the true intentions of the Fiji regime, but to no avail. The fruits of his acceptance of the
Chairmanship are however now emerging.
There are two matters upon which the Council would focus, namely the minimal numbers of those coming forward to make submissions, already noted by Yash Ghai himself, and the issue of the stipulation by the alleged Attorney General that a priority in drafting the new Constitution should be for amnesty for those participating in coups- such as the alleged Attorney General
As to numbers coming forward, Yash Ghai has very correctly stated his view that many will not come forward because of fear, and he is now going back to the head of the Army and alleged Prime Minister to seek assurances in this regard.
With respect, Yash Ghai should have anticipated this major problem well before he accepted the post of Chairman. He is very familiar with Fiji and has been engaged by the regime previously.
The truth is, and has been since 2006, that Fiji is under a reign of terror. It is not so dramatic and visible as, for example in the case of Syria, but it is a reign of terror nonetheless. That reign of terror is not expressed simply in terms of the innumerable repressive and draconian decrees imposed by the alleged Attorney General since 2006, immunising the Army and alleged Government from scrutiny or challenge, and destroying basic human rights. It is also a de facto state of affairs which needs no written law to support it .
The factual absence of the Rule of Law and lack of independence of the judiciary is but one aspect of this issue. The unpunished beatings, rapes and killings perpetrated by the regime, the tapping of all communications, the omnipresence of spies and quislings to monitor the public are other aspects. Basically the Army can and does do whatever it wants without let or hindrance. The regime is, as the Australian Foreign Minister recently pointed out militarised and there is no prospect of return to barracks. The entire population is muzzled.
The above factors show why the Fiji ‘popularity’ survey done last year and purporting to show popular support for the regime was a farce. The public whom Yash Ghai wishes to hear from is very aware of this and that the regime cannot and will not tolerate dissent or expression of dissenting views. How then does he expectit to co-operate with him?
It is the Head of the Army and alleged Prime Minister who has been orchestrating the abuses mentioned. What point is there then in seeking any assurance from him? His credibility as per past broken promises is zero. He himself has even personally assaulted women prisoners and stated that those who disagree with him ought to be taken up to the Army barracks. What person is this for Yash Ghai to be dealing with?
No doubt, the alleged Prime Minister may utter whatever words he wishes to silence Yash Ghai’s concerns, but such will not be worth the breath with which they are spoken or the paper on which they are written. Like considerations apply to assurances by the alleged Attorney General, Foreign Minister or other agents of the regime.
Submitters to the Review will know full well that the Regime will ﬁnd out the fact and nature of their submissions and react accordingly – if not now, in the future, after the glow of the Review has died and Yash Ghai is no longer around to complain. In this regard, the practice of the regime in harassing the relations of those whom it dislikes would no doubt be continued.
Even if there is now a temporary lull in harassment, such is a chimera. The regime will tighten the cords of strangulation of free speech whenever it pleases. There are of course some whose submissions the regime would embrace, such as those of Akuila Yabaki. The reasons for such attitude are clear. They are admirers of the regime.
Turning to the issue of amnesty, the alleged Attorney General seeks priority for insertion of same into the Constitution. This is small wonder because he himself has committed the capital offence of treason and has endorsed the malpractices of the alleged Prime Minister.
The request is of course outrageous and any amnesty even if inserted into an alleged new Constitution would have no validity. Any truly democratic Government taking power in the future would no doubt incarcerate the alleged Attorney General for a long time.
The Council is of the view that the above occurrences have now placed Yash Ghai in an impossible situation, and respectfully calls upon him to relinquish his current role. Yash Ghai must now cease to lend credence to the charade of Review being played out by the Fiji regime, and of which he has inadvertently become a participant. This can only be achieved by his resignation as Chairman.
Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara
Council for a Democratic Fiji
14th August 2012