The Bainimarama constitution reminds me of the old story about the sinner who gets on his knees and prays fervently for God to make him a good man, but not yet, he has some important sins to attend to.
The plan is for the constitution to be enacted in April after the most manifestly false consultation process in history. Yet nothing of any substance comes into effect until after the Parliament sits. There are many fine words of democratic principles, but none is of no effect until Parliament sits.
It’s not just that the self-appointed PM and all his cronies remain in office and continue to use the resources of government to campaign for election. They will be free to continue spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on propaganda. That’s a problem, but the real problem is more serious than that. The normal protections which a constitution should give do not come into effect. The Khaiyum courts continue in existence and, despite all the rights in the constitution, courts are still excluded from deliberating on the executive’s application of those laws.
And then there’s the issue of immunity. The regime cannot be taken to court for any of its actions between now and the first sitting of Parliament. Future unlawful actions are forgiven in advance.
Under Section 154 all ministers and any officials taking orders from them have “absolute and unconditional immunity” “from any criminal prosecution and from any civil or any other liability in any court or tribunal, in any proceeding including any legal, military, disciplinary or professional proceedings and from any order or judgment of any court or tribunal, as a result of any direct or indirect participation, appointment or involvement in the Government from December 2006 to date of the first sitting of Parliament elected after the commencement of this Constitution; provided however any such immunity for the period between 18 July 2012 to the date of the first sitting of Parliament elected after the commencement of this Constitution shall not apply to any act or omission that constitutes an offence under sections 77 to 390 of the Crimes Decree 2009.”
Their licence to commit most regular crimes runs out on 18 July 2012, but all crimes before that date are protected. Whether it’s fraud, embezzlement or whatever, not just beatings and intimidation, if it took place before 18 July 2012, it seems the regime and its agents cannot be prosecuted.
More interesting, however, is the fact that even after 18 July 2012 treason and sedition are not in Sections 77 to 390 of the Crimes Decree and are therefore granted immunity if they occur before the first sitting of Parliament. So if Bainimarama loses the election he can commit sedition or treason before parliament sits and not be prosecuted.
The whole apparatus of dictatorship continues until after the election and parliament gets a chance to meet. And, if the election goes badly, it looks like Banimarama can stop Parliament from sitting and dictatorship continues until he can get the election result he wants.