SODELPA: Land Is ‘NOT’ Safe
SODELPA, general secretary
This is in response to Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum’s statement in the Fiji Sun (Friday 6 June), saying once again that iTaukei land is safe – Part 1
To the iTaukei, land is not just an economic commodity. It is part of culture, kinship and group identity. That is why the iTaukei cling so fiercely to their land ownership. The 2013 Constitution does not reflect this indigenous attachment to their land.
Their claim that Fijian land has greater protection than before is a lie. Its protection has been weakened. In fact there was no reference at all to native land in the first draft of the Constitution.
It was left out completely. This caused great fear and uncertainty among landowners. It was only when supporters of SODELPA began to speak out that Bainimarama-Sayed Khaiyum decided to include specific reference to native land in their constitution. Without the SODELPA protests they would likely have enacted their supreme law with no special reference to native land.
SODELPA’s view that Bainimarama-Sayed Khaiyum have seriously weakened native land ownership is shared by others, including legal analysts. Lawyers for the Citizens Constitutional Forum concluded there is no real protection for Fijian landowners in the 2013 Constitution. This view was also shared by Professor Yash Ghai.
In previous constitutions there were special entrenched provisions, providing extremely strong safeguards for Fijian land ownership and ownership by the Banaban and Rotuman communities.
The 1997 Constitution laid down a very detailed and entrenched procedure for altering the following: Fijian Affairs Act, Fijian Development Fund Act, Native Lands Act, Rotuma Act, Rotuma Lands Act, Banaban Lands Act, Banaban Settlement Act and the Agricultural Landlord and Tenant Act.
To change these land laws required a two thirds vote in Parliament and a nine votes of the GCC nominees in the Senate. This was to provide extra safeguard in protecting these laws.
Sayed-Khaiyum and Bainimarama have scrapped this provision which means there just a need to have a simple majority in Parliament to change land laws. This is the crux of the issue which Sayed-Khaiyum is avoiding.
He is lying deliberately to the indigenous people by skirting around this missing “entrenched legislation” as contained in the 1997 Constitution.
The people’s draft constitution by the Yash Ghai Commission, that was scrapped by the Bainimarama-Sayed-Khaiyum regime, also included a listing of protected laws: iTaukei Lands Act (Cap 133), iTaukei Land Trust Act (Cap 134), Rotuma Lands Act (Cap 138), Banaban Lands Act (Cap 124) and Agricultural Landlord and Tenant Act (Cap 270).
All these safeguards were thrown out by Bainimarama-Sayed-Khaiyum.
Why? There has never been a proper explanation.
Instead they simply placed Fijian land ownership among a long list of provisions in the Bill of Rights.
However section 6 of the Bill of Rights (5) (a) (b) (c) permits rights to be limited and therefore changed. At least 55 of the rights listed can be subject to limitations.
Clause (c) of section 6 is particularly broad in its application. It allows parliament to pass “necessary” laws limiting rights and freedoms. This could obviously be applied to Fijian land. In our view there would be nothing to stop enactment of a change to Fijian land ownership provisions by a simple majority in Parliament.
Any such changes could further weaken or undermine Fijian land ownership. Even provisions relating to compulsory acquisition of property might be changed by a new law.
We note that the 1997 Constitution also permits limitations of rights. But these have to be “reasonable and justifiable in a free and democratic society”. This important protective condition is missing completely from the 2013 Constitution. Why?
Fijian land does not belong to individuals. It is owned by groups of people. This was clearly recognised in the 1997 Constitution. A full chapter of the document was dedicated to group rights. Much of this focused on Fijian land and protective provisions for it. Group rights are recognised as human rights. But there is no mention at all in the 2013 Constitution of iTaukei group ownership of land. This integral aspect of iTaukei culture has simply been removed. (Continued next week)
n The opinions expressed in this column are those of the Social Democratic Liberal Party. They are published by the Fiji Sun to enhance free and open debate ahead of the General Elections.
December 5, 2012
While promises of constitutional consultations provide some hope for democratic progress in Fiji, the sixth anniversary of the coup reminds us how far there is to go. The bottom line is that so long as the government targets activists and muzzles the media, a truly rights-respecting and democratic transition won’t be possible.
(Bangkok) – The government of Fiji should end human rights abuses that threaten to undermine the legitimacy of the process begun to draft a new constitution, Human Rights Watch and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) said today in a letter to Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama. Fiji’s interim government announced in March the beginning of long-promised consultations on a new constitution, an important first step toward 2014 elections.
The letter was sent on the sixth anniversary of the 2006 coup by Commodore Bainimarama.Human Rights Watch and the ITUC called on theinterim government to cease curtailing the rights of Fiji Islanders to freedom of speech, the press, peaceful assembly, and association. The military and police have arbitrarily arrested and detained human rights defenders, labor leaders, journalists, and others perceived to be critical of the government.
“While promises of constitutional consultations provide some hope for democratic progress in Fiji, the sixth anniversary of the coup reminds us how far there is to go,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The bottom line is that so long as the government targets activists and muzzles the media, a truly rights-respecting and democratic transition won’t be possible.
Human Rights Watch and the ITUC urged the government to significantly revise the Fiji Constitutional Process (Constituent Assembly and Adoption of Constitution) Decree 2012 to address concerns about the body’s independence. The decree grants full control over the composition of the Constituent Assembly to the interim government; the assembly has the authority to amend or delete provisions of the draft constitution with a two-thirds vote. Furthermore, the decree requires the inclusion of provisions in the constitution to grant immunity to government officials and security forces involved in toppling the democratically elected Qarase government in December 2006.
The Fiji government should promptly repeal the Public Order (Amendment) Decree 2012, Human Rights Watch and the ITUC said. The amendment, which the government announced in January just days after repealing the Public Emergency Regulations, broadly restricts the rights to freedom of speech and assembly. The government has used this decree against people whom officials perceive are critical of the government, particularly representatives of civil society groups, trade unions, and political parties.
The government has also sought to dismantle the labor movement. In September, the authorities stopped representatives from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) from carrying out its mission to verify workers’ complaints about restrictions on freedom of association. The government has also used the Essential Industries Decree 2011 to undermine union activity in industries the government determines to be essential.
“Under Commodore Bainimarama’s rule, the governmenthas stripped workers of their fundamental rights,” said Sharan Burrow, general secretary at the International Trade Union Confederation. “Work sites were militarized and trade union leaders beaten. Trade unionists are under constant police surveillance and police listen in on private union meetings. The trade unions stand firm to enforce international standards to protect workers and their union representatives despite the climate of fear and repression. The government must heed the growing call to respect these rights from the international community.”
The government should immediately cease media censorship, which it asserts through intimidation and the criminal law, Human Rights Watch and the ITUC said. The Media Industry Development Decree (Media Decree), which took effect June 2010, forbids publications that are “against public interest or order” and restricts foreign media ownership.
“Fiji’s abusive government has for too long benefited from the island nation’s remoteness,” Robertson said. “It should show it’s serious about constitutional consultations by taking prompt action to respect the basic rights of all its people.”
26 Nov 2012
With Fiji’s military rulers promising to send the country to the polls in 2014, JONE BALEDROKADROKA examines whether elections will be free and fair, and the hope for democracy in a state built by military muscle.
In 2006, Commodore Voreqe Frank Bainimarama overthrew Fiji’s democratically-elected government led by Laisenia Qarase. Having ruled by decree ever since, the military regime now promises democratic general elections in 2014 under a new constitution. The Pacific Islands Forum meeting in the Cook Islands in August 2012 acknowledged in its communiqué that the “interim government has made progress towards democracy”. However, the path in this progress towards democracy has been fraught with allegations of continuing military oversight and interference in the constitution-making process.
Delivering the keynote address at the Democracy in the Pacific Conference in October this year, New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon Murray McCully noted that “this year Fiji has taken some encouraging steps to prepare for elections in 2014”.The foreign minister went on to say:
We have been encouraged by the firm intention to hold elections, and by the machinery that has been put in place so far to make them possible. A Constitutional Commission was established earlier this year to conduct public consultations on a new constitution, and the process of registering voters was completed at the end of August. New Zealand has supported both of these activities.
McCully also made the point that when he took office a couple of years ago elections were not certain given the Fiji regime’s belligerent stance to democracy in general. After the forging of warmer diplomatic relations with Australia and New Zealand, the question now is whether the elections will be free and fair. The positive outlook by McCully, though, was not shared by Major General Sitiveni Rabuka, the former Prime Minister of Fiji who delivered the conference’s second key note address. Rabuka said that he was unsure about the 2014 Fijian elections and that he “hoped the elections would go ahead, but that that hope is not based on very good grounds”. Rabuka also controversially stated that:
The Military has always had a presence in the Fiji culture. We think of militant ways of changing things, rather than waiting for the next elections. It may be that we have corporate cooperation in 2014 where together the government and the military keep tabs on our civil military relations to prevent things from breaking down again, as has happened many times in Fiji.
On the same topic of military intervention, I presented a paper, The role of the military in Post-Colonial Fiji. The media reported it in these terms:
A former land force commander in Fiji, Jone Baledrokadroka, says the Fiji military’s role as a peacekeeper in overseas conflicts has helped transform its mindset and influenced its role in recent Fiji politics. He argues there have been unintended consequences of peacekeeping that are pervasive in Fiji’s present day military. He says politicisation of the military also dates from an earlier overseas campaign against communist insurgents, the Emergency of the 1950s. Mr Baledrokadroka says there needs to be a Commission of Inquiry into the ethos of the military followed by reform of the institution. He also presented research showing more than 60 members of the military are playing a role in the present day Fiji government. Mr Baledrokadroka was imprisoned following alleged involvement in a plot to kill the regime leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama. His studies also include the demise of the chiefly order in Fiji and he argues the Commodore sees himself as filling the seat of high chief.
Rabuka’s assertion in fact substantiates my findings that the Fiji military has developed a mediator mindset in its present extended role in politics. The transformational process has been further enhanced by the Fiji military’s international peacekeeping role since the late 1970s.Whether this parallel process, involving military involvement in politics, will continue into the future is a bone of contention for Fiji political specialists.
In August, at the beginning of public hearings by the Constitution Commission, the chairman, Professor Yash Ghai insisted that, “there will be no government interference in the public consultations on the new constitution”. To further illustrate the point, in July 2012, even before the five member Constitution Commission began soliciting public submissions, the regime promulgated a decree requiring immunity for those involved in the 2006 and earlier coups to be entrenched in the new constitution. In a press statement intended for the regime and the military, the Commissioners stated “this type of prospective immunity is most unusual, perhaps unique, and, we believe, undesirable”.
Fiji’s major political stakeholders were scathing in their criticism of the integrity of the Constitution-making process and of the next phase, the selection of the constituent assembly that will deliberate on the draft Constitution. In an open letter that appeared on all the major Fiji pro-democracy blog sites, the key political party leaders, trade unionists and traditional high chiefs have put their names to a petition to the President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau calling for a caretaker government.
Constitution making process time line Meanwhile, the Commission has been given a timeline under the Fiji Constitutional Process (Constitution Commission) Decree 2012 which will see a draft constitution presented by January 2013.
The major political stakeholders and NGOs say the Constituent Assembly Decree gives the interim Prime Minister full control of the composition of the assembly. They say it is non-transparent. As a result, these major political stakeholders run the risk of being excluded from the Constituent Assembly and the critical phase where the draft constitution will pass into law.
At the same time, Bainimarama has censured the Commission for appointing high chief, former Vice President and High Court judge Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi as a consultant to the Commission. These events are further evidence of Bainimarama’s antagonism towards Fiji’s chiefs and the church. Bainimarama took exception to Madraiwiwi, who in his capacity as high chief was part of his Bau district delegation that wanted Fiji declared a Christian state. Commission Chairman Yash Ghai responded that Ratu Joni had academic law experience, in particular local law, and had appeared before the Commission as a traditional leader. Madraiwiwi has since withdrawn from his position.
Many see Bainimarama’s close scrutiny of the Commission’s work as an endeavour to ensure he survives post-election Fiji in a powerful position, as his coup-making predecessor Rabuka did in 1992. The big question is whether the military will continue to play a key role in Fiji politics after the 2014 elections. This issue is now being faced by the framers of the new Constitution. The role of chiefs and the veneration of the church still play an important part in Indigenous Fijian politics, and some say they should be reflected in constitutional arrangements. Alarmingly, a new generation of young political leaders is not emerging as an alternative to the seasoned leaders given the oppressive and restrictive environment of Fiji politics in the last six years. And it is possible that the new Constitution, once it has been finalised by Bainimarama’s handpicked Constituent Assembly, might become a setback to democracy by spawning a military backed one-party state.
Jone Baledrokadroka is a former land force commander in Fiji and a PhD candidate at the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia program in the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.
As the Constitution Commission prepares the draft constitution, there is confirmation that the military is yet to give in its constitution submission.
Military’s Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Mohammed Aziz has told Fijivillage that the submission will be given to the commission and arrangements are being made.
The deadline for the submissions ended in early October.
At the time, Chairman of the Commission Professor Yash Ghai said that they were only awaiting the military’s constitution submission.
Meanwhile, the commission is expected to wrap up its work after it finishes with the draft constitution before Christmas.
The commission’s work will end there.
According to the Constitution Commission Decree, the commission is expected to hand the draft to the President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau in early January.
The next process then takes place where a Constituent Assembly deliberates on the document.
Members of the assembly will be appointed by the Prime Minister.
The decree states that the composition of the assembly shall reflect the diversity of the people of Fiji and include but not limited to the government, registered political parties, faith based organizations, employers representatives, trade unions, farmers and members of the rural community, the military, national organizations, women, persons with disability, youth, pensioners and other civil society groups.
After the Assembly adopts the draft constitution, the document will be forwarded to a tribunal which will consider whether the immunity provisions and other matters are contained in the draft.
If the draft does not comply with the stated principles in the decree, then it will be referred to the President and then to the assembly for necessary amendments.
The decree states that upon receipt of the draft constitution and the report of the tribunal, the Constituent Assembly shall, within seven days, make the necessary amendments in accordance with the report of the tribunal and shall present draft constitution back to the President.
The new constitution for Fiji shall come into effect on the day following the date of assent by the President, subject to any provision in the constitution that postpones the coming into effect of any aspect of the new constitution.
The work of the Constituent Assembly is expected to be completed by late March 2013.
Story by: Vijay Narayan
Constitution a symbol of hope: Ghai
November 13, 2012 04:58:55 PM
Fiji’s Constitution Commission chair Yash Ghai hopes the new Constitution would be a symbol of hope which would “enable this beautiful country to transcend to a full democratic rule.”
He said one view is like one candle in the darkness and if all Fijians share their views on the draft constitution with them then there will be no room for darkness.
Commodore Bainimarama said the new system on the election and appointment of the
President that would come in the new constitution will be in place after Ratu
Epeli’s three year term.
This means that Ratu Epeli will remain the Head of State and Commander-in-Chief
until November 2015.
Fiji human rights watchdog says constitution changes oppressive
Posted at 01:53 on 12 November, 2012 UTC
A human rights watchdog in Fiji says the interim government’s latest decree on the constitutional process is undermining, draconian and oppressive.
The NGO Coalition on Human Rights says it is concerned at the extreme measures the regime is taking to pressure the constitutional process.
The group’s spokesperson Shamima Ali says decree number 64 of 2012 contradicts regime leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama’s original plan for the process to be free, transparent and for the people.
The decree includes changes to the constitution writing process such as removing further public debate on the draft document before it goes to the regime appointed Constituent Assembly for discussion.
Ms Ali asks why the interim administration has gone to such lengths to silence the people on issues that should be debated and determined by a public forum.
The interim government says there will be ample scope for public discussion once the Constituent Assembly starts its deliberations.
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NGO Coalition calls on PM to ensure draft constitution is viewed
|Publish date/time: 12/11/2012 [17:03]
The NGO Coalition is calling on the Prime Minister, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama to ensure that the draft constitution goes back to the people for their views before the Constituent Assembly sits.
Story by: Vijay Narayan
SDL calls for support for Fiji Constitution Commission
Posted at 02:37 on 09 November, 2012 UTC
Fiji’s ousted SDL Party says the Constitution Commission and its head, Yash Ghai, should be given all the support from the people, and especially the regime, to complete its work.
The party says the people of Fiji see this Commission as the best way forward in the political deadend Fiji has been in since 2006 when the military overthrew the government.
The regime has decreed changes to the process of drawing up a new constitution and publicly rebuked Professor Ghai with allegations that he was trying to hijack the process.
The SDL says it is unfortunate that the Commission chair has been constrained by what it calls unnecessary hassles which will not help his work.
It says the international community is watching what is taking place in Fiji and the credibility of the outcome.
The regime abolished the 1997 constitution three years ago after the appeal court ruled that the post-coup interim administration was illegal.
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(For Immediate Release)
6th November 2012
Amendments are unwarranted!
The Citizens’ Constitutional Forum notes with concern the amendments to the Fiji Constitutional Process (Constitution Commission) and Fiji Constitutional Process (Constituent Assembly and Adoption of Constitution) Decree 2012 which will now compel the members of the Constitution Commission to renege on their assurance to the citizens of Fiji – that they would be given an opportunity to express their views and make comments on the draft constitution.
The amendments to the decrees state that the Constitution Commission and the Constituent Assembly respectively are no longer required or empowered to neither present the draft Constitution to the people of Fiji for their comments nor hold public meetings for the collection of submissions or the hearing of views on the draft Constitution.
From the outset, the Bainimarama remained adamant, as outlined in his statement on March 9th, that the Constitution Commission will be a wholly independent body, thus it should be allowed to operate independently and not have the government dictate its terms through decree’s to suit its own agenda.
All Fijians who made all efforts to make submissions to the Constitution Commission are eagerly waiting to have an opportunity to view the draft document as a matter of transparency and accountability before it is presented to the Constituent Assembly and hence adopted as the Supreme Law of the land.
Members of the Commission, including the Chairperson Professor Yash Ghai, personally informed citizens’ during the consultations that a copy of the draft will be made available for further views from the general public as was outlined in the original decrees.
The amendment to the decrees also brings further issues of concern as it could deter individual citizens and groups from accepting appointments to the Constituent Assembly, as the amendments further prohibit the Constituent Assembly from debating the views of the people of Fiji on the draft constitution.
It is vital that the members of the Constituent Assembly be permitted to take the draft constitution to their constituents, to get feedback before they can constructively debate these issues in the Assembly’s deliberations as this is the first time Fiji has resorted to a Constituent Assembly in the absence of a democratically elected parliament.
The amendments to the decree also bring into question the assurance by the Bainimarama government that the Constituent Assembly will consider the draft constitution in an inclusive and transparent process.
We urge the Bainimarama government to reconsider the amendments and allow the Constituent Assembly to consult the citizens on the draft constitution as in the end, the path to legitimacy will be based on the peoples’ acceptance and confidence in the final document; that it does reflect their views.
CCF continues to reiterate its position for the need to move away from ruling by decree without proper public consultations.
Reverend Akuila Yabaki
CEO – CCF
Statement No 23 November 5 2012
Subject: The Fiji Constitutional Process (Constitution Commission) (Amendment) Decree 2012 Decree 64 of 2012 is further proof of the Regime’s inability to govern in a free and open society and remains totally reliant on repressive decrees, backed up by its ever present military threat against the people in whose interest they claim to be doing this?
UPP President Mick Beddoes said today that The Fiji Constitutional Process (Constitution Commission) (Amendment) Decree 2012 Decree 64 of 2012 is further proof of the Regime’s inability to govern in a free and open society and remains totally reliant on repressive decrees, backed up by its ever present military threat against the people in whose interest they claim to be doing this?
Beddoes said the PM’s outburst over the Commission’s decision to engage Ratu Joni on a short term consultancy contract is nothing more than an orchestrated diversion to create ‘something out of nothing’ but be able to create enough hype to give them an excuse to slip in the amendments contained in decree 64, which effectively ‘shuts out the people’ from any further involvement with the remainder of the constitutional process as originally set out in Decree 57.
Beddoes said this has obviously come about because the majority of the people’s expressions throughout the submissions have not favored immunity or coups and the people want democratic governance and this is contrary to the Regime long held and mistaken belief that they have popular support among the people. THEY NOW KNOW THEY DO NOT!
Beddoes said one only needs to ask, what has Ratu Joni’s consultancy contract got to do with the Regimes decision to remove the peoples opportunity to comment on the draft constitution’ ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!
Beddoes said he could understand the Regime wanting to know the details of the Commissioners salaries and allowances if they were paid by TAXPAYERS funds, but they are not! Beddoes said the Commission and their workers are totally funded by the international community, not the government and no doubt the donors have reporting mechanisms in place to ensure accountability and transparency which the Commission is quite capable of complying with.
Beddoes said Frank’s new found enthusiasm for transparency and disclosure of public office holders is refreshing if it only it were sincere and applicable to all and not just some public office holders?
Beddoes said a real Leader leads by example and does not ask people to do things he or she can’t do themselves, so if everyone in the international community funded Commission has to disclose their salaries and perks, why not lead by example and publish all tax payer funded positions of government starting from the President down?
The current leaders can show the people how much they are sacrificing in terms of low salaries and minimum allowances as they work tirelessly to serve the people’s interest and not their own?
Beddoes said the Regime should take advantage of this negative issue to try and create some positive momentum moving towards to the now officially and publically promised 2014 elections and expand that promise to include transparency and accountability starting with disclosing their salaries and allowances or is this yet another case of ‘do as I say but not as I do!
Authorized By Mick Beddoes
Fiji regime has lost enthusiasm for constitution commission: Ghai
Posted at 03:38 on 06 November, 2012 UTC
The Chairman of Fiji’s Constitution Commission, Professor Yash Ghai, says the Fiji regime has lost enthusiasm for the constitution-making body and perhaps for the process itself.
His comments come after the interim government scrapped a plan for public discussion of the draft constitution which the commission is writing at the moment.
It also follows the regime leader’s criticism of the commission for engaging prominent lawyer and deposed Vice President Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi as a consultant.
Professor Ghai says it is extraordinarily difficult to work under what has become constant harrassment and the commission is continually discussing whether it can carry on its work.
“We have many different things to weigh which I can’t set out in detail but we have made very significant progress in the drafting of the document. We feel that we have to, unless circumstances become impossible, complete our draft.”
Professor Ghai says it is unfair for the interim government to bring in changes to the constitutional process at such a late stage.
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2014 poll rules hint
Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum
By MAIKELI SERU
The Minister for Elections and Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, says the 2014 General Elections will be different.
He said changes would include the number of political parties contesting the elections, the grounds of forming a political party, the criteria of selecting politicians to contest the elections, and time span for the elections.
“These are some of the regulations that we will look at as we are trying to facilitate the democratic process by ensuring that we have the electoral roll that is fully representation of all Fijians who are eligible to vote,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.
He said transparency was required so that people had an idea of who they could vote for.
A threshold is also included in the regulations which will require politicians and political parties to declare their assets and all background information.
“We are looking at all methods of improving the elections. It is in the interest of political parties that their supporters and officials are all registered.”
He said only those who were registered would be able to vote and contest the elections.
“We need to know their assets and what are they and who are they so that the voters know their background and know the people they will vote.”
While preparations for the elections are underway, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said new regulations could also put a ceiling on political parties contesting.
“At the moment there are 16 officially registered political parties in Fiji. Some of them are not operating, some of them formed by one person, some formed by families, some by friends and some formed and die out again.
“We need to clean all these up and follow the regulation and the minimum threshold.”
He said other changes could include reducing the number of days to hold the elections, the use of new ballot boxes made of other materials instead of timber.
He said the new ballot boxes would be hard to be tampered with. The old boxes are now infested with termites.
Another change would be the counting of ballot papers in voting centres in isolated areas instead of bringing all the boxes to main counting centres, an advertising blackout prior to the election and supply of information to the public using the media.
He also reiterated that the elections would still be held in 2014.
Fiji Constitution Commission Chairman denies breaking law over Madraiwiwi
Posted at 00:18 on 06 November, 2012 UTC
The Chairman of Fiji’s Constitution Commission, Professor Yash Ghai, has denied regime claims that the constitution-making body broke the law by hiring Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi as a consultant.
The prominent lawyer who was deposed as the country’s vice president in the 2006 coup is the subject of the latest row between the regime and the Commission which is drafting a new constitution for Fiji before elections in two years’ time.
The regime leader, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, says Ratu Joni lent his name to a constitution submission calling for a Christian state defying the regime’s impartiality rules for the body.
But Professor Ghai says that is not correct.
“There was a submission from the community in which he lives as a high chief. He felt he had to come with them to our hearing. He did not speak. He did not present it and even if he had that view everybody in Fiji has views on something or the other and if you were to exclude people who had a view on something then you wouldn’t be left with any people to talk to, to seek assistance (from).”
Professor Ghai says the commission has used consultants of many different views and Ratu Joni may have been singled out by Commodore Bainimarama because he was upset at his support for the ousted prime minister Laisenia Qarase in court recently.
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Ghai calls PM’s attack on Ratu Joni unfair
|Publish date/time: 04/11/2012 [17:15]
The Chairman of the Constitution Commission Yash Ghai said the Prime Minster Voreqe Bainimarama’s attack on Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi for the consultancy with the Constitution Commission is unfair.
According to Ghai the decree wisely provides for the commission to seek the assistance of experts on specialised issues.
Ghai added in the case of Ratu Joni not only is he known for his wide knowledge and experience of the law, but also of social and political affairs, and has a deep understanding of traditional cultures in his role as a traditional leader.
According to Professor Ghai Ratu Joni had also made it clear that he was intending to make his own submission and asked the Commission if this would create a conflict.
The commission considered and concluded that there would be no conflict.
Professor Ghai further explains that the contractual arrangements for the consultancy do not provide for an automatic payment for 30 days.
This is the maximum period, and payments were made only for the days Ratu Joni worked for the Commission.
Ghai further added that on the day of the public hearing Ratu Joni neither claimed nor was paid for the day.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama had questioned the impartiality of the commission and has instructed the government to alter the terms of the Constitution Commission Decree which now requires the commission to publish the names and salaries of all its staff and consultants.
Story by: Gwen McGoon
SDL will be fully represented: Dr Baba
November 02, 2012 10:57:56 AM
One of Fiji’s largest political parties, the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL) party will contest the 2014 general elections in full force, says senior party member and veteran politician Dr Tupeni Baba.
Speaking to FijiLive, Dr Baba said they will be contesting in greater numbers and are looking forward to the democratic elections.
He however did not confirm whether he will contest the elections.
By Indrani Krishna
Yash Ghai, Chairman of the Constitutional Review Commission, has now concluded receiving submissions. A Constitution will be drafted and presented at a later stage to a creation
of the current regime called the Constituent Assembly, that body being purported to be created by another of the illegal Khaiyum Decrees which the regime continues to issue on the pattern of the practice followed in the seventeenth century by the Stuart kings.
The body imitates the name of the Constituent Assembly set up in France between 1789 and 1791 and it is very much hoped that those perceived by the regime to be opposed to it will not be subject to the guillotine as were those targeted in the French Revolution. No doubt an even worse fate is in store for them under Khaiyum.
The Constitution as drafted by Yash Ghai and his team will be subject entirely to the wishes of the Constituent Assembly. That Assembly will be at liberty to make whatever changes it wishes in his draft and even to reject it altogether. Yash Ghai has already publicly admitted this. He has stated that all members of the Assembly will be ‘totally picked by Frank.’ (perhaps unfortunately for a scholar of his distinction he seems to be on first name terms with the dictator).
Section 9 of the relevant Decree purports to give the alleged Prime Minister full control over the size and composition of the Constituent Assembly, a matter recently taken issue with (quite rightly) by the Fiji Labour Party.
Yash Ghai, unfortunately, seems to have a touching and indeed childlike faith in ‘Frank’.
The Council respectfully points out that ‘Frank’ cannot be trusted to properly and impartially regulate the size and composition of the Assembly. His track record totally contradicts any element of trust in his judgments and decisions. His recent advance vetoing of Shamima Ali from the Assembly is simply a sign of worse to come. His arranging for prosecution of the political leaders who garnered the vast bulk of votes in the last democratic election is calculated to ensure that they are not represented in the Assembly.
If Yash Ghai has bought into faith in ‘Frank’s’ judgment, he has joined the ranks of the monkeys who see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.
‘Frank’ in many ways resembles the late US President Richard Nixon, also known as ‘tricky Dicky’.
A common question asked in regard to Nixon was: ‘Would you buy a used car from this man?’
Should the international community and more importantly the people of Fiji buy into a Constituent Assembly from ‘Frank’?
Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara
Council for a Democratic Fiji
Forget about the 1997 Constitution
18:14 Sat Oct 20, 2012
Taken from/By: Report by: Epeli Tukuwasa
People should forget about any possibility of the 1997 Constitution being reinstated.
That is the word from Kisoko Cagituivei from the Prime Ministers Office.
He was responding to submissions of political parties to the Constitutional Commission that the 2014 general election should be based on the 1997 constitution and that a new one can be formulated after the polls.
Cagituivei says their calls are impossible as the 1997 constitution has been abrograted and claimed that the international community had accepted that.
He claims political parties want the 1997 constitution because it is the only way for them to get into parliament and play dirty politics and use the race card for their political gain.
Commission to have seminar without RFMF
Publish date/time: 17/10/2012 [13:20]
The Constitution Commission is having a public seminar tonight based on the theme “The military in transition”, however, the RFMF will not be present in the seminar.
When questioned by Fijivillage, Commission chairman Professor Yash Ghai confirmed that the military was invited, however, some issues came up.
He said he has also given an explanation to the Prime Minister.
Professor Ghai said these talks have to take place and he wants to know the public’s view on the role of the military.
The military has confirmed to Fijivillage that it will not take part in the seminar organized by the Constitution Commission and the Fiji National University in Nasinu.
RFMF Land Force Commander Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga said the Military Council will soon be making a formal submission on behalf of the RFMF to the commission.
Colonel Tikoitoga said the submission will address among other things the formation of the government after 2014.
He said the military believes it is inappropriate for the RFMF to take part in a public forum of this nature.
He said the Military Council will make its submission and then wait like the rest of the country for the constitutional process to take its course.
The panel of experts in the seminar are former Chief of Territorial Affairs for the Indonesian National Armed Forces General Agus Widjojo, Associate Professor of the Department of Political Science of University of Chicago Dan Slater and a graduate of USP and University of Christchurch dealing with history, politics, economics and international law Raijeli Nicole.
Story by: Vijay Narayan
Immunity provisions questioned: Ghai
17:05 Tue Oct 16, 2012
Taken from/By: FBC News
Report by: Devendra Narayan
Some members of the public have raised concerns about an immunity decree in their submissions to the Constitution Commission.
And Commission chairperson Professor Yash Ghai says some people feel issues related to the provisions of immunity should be debated.
“Most people were realistic, any regime anywhere in the world will not give away powers unless they have an assurance for immunity, people are concerned that it is not for public debate or consultation, they said there should be a process of truth and reconciliation and that process can also deal with immunity.”
Professor Ghai says he initially thought the issue had been exaggerated.
“I thought maybe it is not so necessary but in view of wide spread request there is a need to consider it very seriously.”
The Commission concluded receiving submissions from the public yesterday.
It expects to have a draft Constitution by the end of the year.