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.

Democracy for Fiji?

26 Nov 2012

Commodore Frank Banimarama. Photo by AFP.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”.[1] 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.[2]

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.[3]

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”.[4] 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”.[5]

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.[6]

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.

Member of Fiji regime allowed into New Zealand on humanitarian grounds

Posted at 03:09 on 30 November, 2012 UTC

The sanctions against members of the Fiji regime have been temporarily lifted to allow a member of the government into New Zealand on humanitarian grounds.

Fairfax reports that 76 year Filipe Bole, the interim Education Minister, suffered a severe heart attack last week.

A Foreign Affairs spokesperson has confirmed the smart sanctions imposed since the military coup in 2006 had been lifted for Mr Bole on humanitarian grounds.

The sanctions ban people associated with the regime and their families from entering New Zealand and Australia

News Content © Radio New Zealand International           PO Box 123, Wellington, New Zealand

Another Political Party on the Left.

Fiji unions to form their own political party

Updated 27 November 2012, 18:04 AEST

One of Fiji’s two peak union bodies has announced it will form its own political party and stand at the elections scheduled for 2014

The Fiji Trades Union Congress has had an increasingly tense relationship with the Fiji Labour Party in recent years, and there was talk of breaking away earlier this year.

But speaking from an international trade union meeting in Su\ydney, FTUC President Daniel Urai has confirmed to Bruce Hill that the new party will be formed, with details to be announced in two weeks time.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker:Daniel Urai, President of the Fiji Trades Union Congress

URAI: Looking into the announcement that there will be an election, the trade union movement is moving towards organising its own political party to stand up for the elections.

HILL: Are you talking about the trade unions in Fiji organising their own political party?

URAI: Yes.

HILL: What about the Fiji Labour Party which says it stands for the working man?

URAI: The Fiji Trade Union Congress as you know formed the Fiji Labour Party, but over the years the Labour Party has detracted from its intention that it was formed for. It has seemed more like only looking after one ethnic group and just one group of farming community, and its leaders had annouced lately that there’s no link between the Labour Party and the Fiji Trade Union Congress.

HILL: If the Fiji Trade Union Congress goes ahead and forms its own political party, given what you’re alleging is the government’s attitude towards trade unions, do you think the interim government would actually let such a party operate unhindered?

URAI: Well it’s about rights, it’s about democracy, if you want to bring that back then first rights have to be given back. We cannot have democracy and rights limited to certain groups. We are banking on the fact that because of the international community or various governments now close their involvement with Fiji, that this regime will be directed to follow the norms in terms of human and trade union rights.

HILL: If the trade unions form their own political party though and you stand for these elections in 2014, wouldn’t you be tacitly acknowledging the legality of the elections, by participating you’re suggesting well this whole thing is ok? Previously you’ve said whatever this coup-installed military government does is illegal, if you take part in elections you’re more or less saying it’s ok?

URAI: Well we’re between the devil and the deep blue sea. You don’t partake, things still move on. If we partake, then we may be able to have some say in the formation of the next government.

HILL: How far advanced are these plans for a political party? Do you have a name yet or national office holders?

URAI: That will be announced probably in a fortnight’s time.

HILL: And how much support do you think you might get at the elections in 2014?

URAI: We’ve done it once, we’ll do it again and we know we have support from the workers, not only the workers, but the families of workers and that takes a lot of people around the magnitude of the Fiji population.

HILL: Would an FTUC-backed political party be multi-racial or concentrate on one particular community?

URAI: It will be multi-racial. We are one of the rare organisations in Fiji that has a structure built on multi-racialism.

“We only knew of 3.5 acres, now they want to cut the mangrove to develop the area”

Villagers angry,  PBS says deal is on

November 20, 2012 | Filed under: Fiji News | Posted by:

By MAIKELI SERU

The controversy surrounding a proposed land development by Pacific Building Solutions (PBS) at Wailekutu, Lami, has taken a new twist. Yesterday the fishing grounds owners at Waiboloa where the development was earmarked, Tikina (district) ‘o Suva, said they want the project cancelled. Their representation, Navakavu Development Committee (NDC), delivered a letter to the Roko Tui Rewa – Suva, Taniela Tabukarawa, stating they want Government to stop the developers. “We were tricked,” committee spokesman Taniela Vueta said. “We only knew of 3.5 acres, now they want to cut the mangrove to develop the area. “There is something fishy happening. We want to close the deal and do not want it discussed again. “We do not want them to come to us again. “This is the collective agreement of all leaders in our district. We feel we were cheated,” he said. He said copies of the letter would be given to line ministries and the Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama. Last Friday the Director of Lands, Jope Davetanivalu said a permit was given for 3.5 acres to PBS which excluded the mangroves. On Sunday acting Permanent Secretary Lands Tevita Boseiwaqa said clarification would be made on the size of the land owned by the company. He said no approval had been given for development. But yesterday PBS managing director Michael Fairfax maintained that everything was still in order and that they had obtained all necessary approval from landowners. In email correspondence he said, the proposed development area was 12 acres and included mangrove areas. Mr Fairfax in response to questions on residents concerns said PBS was investigating concerns on possible pollution within the area. According to the company, the new PBS headquarters is a state of the art eco- friendly designed structure that will be the first of its kind in Fiji and the proposed reclamation of the foreshore area approved by the Navakavu Development Committee (traditional iqoliqoli owners) will have a positive environmental impact on the area.

The FTUC says Fiji has an unelected government contracting out work to a foreign owned company without following any rules of transparency and accountability.

Fiji union group appalled that more 1000 low paid road workers will lose their jobs

Posted at 03:46 on 19 November, 2012 UTC

The Fiji Trades Union Congress says the interim government should rethink its decision to make more than a thousand road workers redundant.

The regime announced last week that the jobs at the Fiji Roads Authority would go in a shake up with foreign contractors taking over.

But it says the redundant workers can apply for employment with the new contractors.

The FTUC says it is a devastating blow for the workers and their families.

It says given recent revelations that 9000 graduates from last year are still to find work, the unemployed road workers do not stand a chance.

The FTUC says Fiji has an unelected government contracting out work to a foreign owned company without following any rules of transparency and accountability.

News Content © Radio New Zealand International           PO Box 123, Wellington, New Zealand

Government backs down on ILO visit …….

Fiji invites ILO mission to return after ordering it out of the country

Posted at 03:38 on 19 November, 2012 UTC

The Fiji interim government has written to the International Labour Organisation inviting its Direct Contacts Mission back to the country.

The Contacts Mission was mandated by the ILO to verify claims by trade unions of a lack of freedom of association.

A delegation to Fiji in September was told to abandon its meetings with the unions and to leave the country.

The director of the ILO office in Suva David Lamotte says the government contacted the ILO’s director-general this morning to invite the mission back in April next year, though they want it earlier.

“The earlier the better, before March, because the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association, they meet again in March next year and one would hope that they would have some positive information in front of them that they could deliberate on. Which I want to stress the purpose of the Contact Mission. The Contacts Mission is not here to make judgement. That’s not our final scope is to collect information.”

Director of the ILO office in Suva, David Lamotte.

News Content © Radio New Zealand International           PO Box 123, Wellington, New Zealand

UN labour agency names five countries where ‘serious and urgent’ labour-rights cases need attention

November 2012 – A key rights committee of the United Nations labour agency today identified five countries where it says worker-rights violations – some involving murder – represent the “most serious and urgent cases” among 32 examined at its current meeting.

Argentina, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Fiji and Peru were singled out by the Committee on Freedom of Association of the UN International Labour Organization (ILO) after Committee members reviewed cases involving rights to organize, negotiate through collective bargaining and engage in social dialogue.

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43506&Cr=labour&Cr1=

The interim government must look seriously at how to support those farmers.

Only subsidies will stop haemorrhage of Fiji sugar farmers: economist

Posted at 03:28 on 14 November, 2012 UTC

A Fiji economics professor says the only way to stop more farmers leaving the sugar industry is for the interim government to increase subsidies.

The comment follows a prediction from the National Farmers Union that the amount of sugar cane crushed this season will be the lowest on record.

The body says the number of cane growers has halved over the past 20 years, from about 23,000 to 12,000.

Biman Prasad, who is based at the University of the South Pacific’s Suva campus, says the interim government must look seriously at how to support those farmers.

“And how their income level could be maintained by lowering the cost of production. And, in fact, to save the industry, government will have to seriously consider giving subsidies to the farmers who are still there.”

Biman Prasad says the interim government must also consider amalgamating farms because the current system of smallholdings is not profitable.

News Content © Radio New Zealand International           PO Box 123, Wellington, New Zealand

Ghai plans to release the draft Constitution for public comment……………..

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.”
The 5-member commission is well in the midst of drafting Fiji’s new Constitution and hope all Fijians would take time out to study the draft document when it is made available by mid December. Ghai said they would also welcome feedbacks on the draft Constitution.

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.
“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,” he said.
He encourages all Fijians to take part in the process.
By Mereani Gonedua

Predetermining the constitution….I don’t remember the term of the President being one of the non negotiable terms for the constitution……..

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.

http://www.fijivillage.com/?mod=story&id=121112affcdf633f65eb0731e30497

 

The international community is watching what is taking place in Fiji and the credibility of the outcome.

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.

News Content © Radio New Zealand International
PO Box 123, Wellington, New Zealand

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.

Media Release 

(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 

Decree 64 of 2012 is further proof of the Regime’s inability to govern in a free and open society

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?

STATEMENT

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

 

A hint that we may not get a Constitution…………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…….Please Professor dig in and produce and publicize your draft Constitution.

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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PO Box 123, Wellington, New Zealand

Mr AG please wait for the Constitution before you set the rules……

2014 poll rules hint

November 6, 2012 | Filed under: Fiji News | Posted by:

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.

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.

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.

News Content © Radio New Zealand International           PO Box 123, Wellington, New Zealand

The commission considered and concluded that there would be no conflict and and payments were made only for the days Ratu Joni worked for the Commission.

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

And so the conflict starts………Commission no longer independant as the Government changes the rules to suit its own agenda……”Commodore Bainimarama says Ratu Joni was in breach of rules that say all staff and consultants must be politically neutral.”

Fiji regime demands release of Constitution Commission details

RNZI: The interim government in Fiji has announced it is going to make the Constitution Commission publish the names and salaries of all its staff and consultants.

According to FBC News, the interim prime minister, Commodore Frank Banimarama, has instructed the government to make the change after questioning the impartiality of the organisation.

This comes after the former vice-president, Ratu Joni Madrawiwi, was discovered to be part of a group making a submission that called for Fiji to be declared a Christian state, while he was working for the commission.

Commodore Bainimarama says Ratu Joni was in breach of rules that say all staff and consultants must be politically neutral.

The regime leader has already said that a non-negotiable element of the 2014 constitution will be that Fiji is to be secular state.

The chairman of the Commission, Professor Yash Ghai, is yet to comment, but has said the commission is impartial.

Ratu Joni contract a ‘breach’

Nanise Loanakadavu Friday, November 02, 2012

Fiji Times

CHANGES were made to the Fiji Constitutional Process (Constitution Commission) Decree 2012 by Cabinet yesterday.

The changes require the commission to publish the names and salaries of all its staff and consultants after Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama instructed the government to alter the terms of the decree covering the commission’s activities.

The decision was made following the Prime Minister’s disappointment over the appointment of Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi as a consultant to the commission after the latter was part of a delegation that made a submission to the Constitution Commission which contravened one of the non-negotiable principles.

“The commission is in breach of provisions in the decree that stipulate that its staff and consultants must observe the non-negotiable principles and be politically neutral,” Commodore Bainimarama said in a statement.

“One of these principles is a secular state in line with democracies like the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

“Ratu Joni was party to a submission by a delegation calling for the declaration of a Christian State in Fiji.

“It now transpires that he did this while being a paid consultant to the commission, which makes his position untenable.”

Commodore Bainimarama said the government had been perplexed to learn that Ratu Joni had actually been a paid consultant to the commission from the beginning of October yet this only became public knowledge last week.

“His contract, which has been shown to me for the first time, says he started work with the commission on October the first and it expired yesterday,” he said.

“I am extremely disappointed to discover this and to find that he was being paid a daily rate as a consultant when he filed in with the delegation to argue against fundamental principles on October the 12th as reported in the media,” he added.

Constitution Commission’s media liaison officer Mitleshni Gurdayal said last night that commission chairman Prof Yash Ghai was pre-occupied with the religion and state seminar at the University of the South Pacific and had not seen the statement.

However, a member of the commission, Taufa Vakatale, said they would issue a statement today.

No Political Parties?

Datt calls for an alternative to political parties

08:02 Today

 

Taken from/By: Google Report by: Devendra Narayan

Former Labour Minister Krishna Datt has called on the Constitution Commission members to put their minds together and find an alternative which doesn’t depend on party political control and manipulation.

In his submission to the Constitution Commission Datt says it may be possible for example, for individuals to be elected independently and be responsible directly to their constituency structures.

He says to be a candidate, a specified number of signatures supporting the candidate would be required.

Once elected the member joins one or two standing committees of parliament.

In this way he says the members would be directly responsible to their constituency.

The political party as an intermediary will no longer be required.

The members in Parliament will have direct responsibility to his/her constituency.

He said he hoped the elections would go ahead.”But that hope is not based on very good grounds,” he said.

Fiji: Major Rabuka casts doubt on 2014 elections

12:55 PM Friday Oct 19

Sitiveni Rabuka talking at the Pacific conference on democracy at the University of Canterbury today. Photo / supplied

Sitiveni Rabuka talking at the Pacific conference on democracy at the University of Canterbury today. Photo / supplied

Major General Sitiveni Rabuka, who led two military coups in Fiji, has cast doubt over whether the elections in Fiji will go ahead in 2014 as scheduled.

The former Fijian Prime Minister was the keynote speaker at the University of Canterbury’s Democracy in the Pacific conference today.

He said he hoped the elections would go ahead.

“But that hope is not based on very good grounds,” he said.

“When we talk about democracy in the Pacific, one size does not fit all. 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 it has happened many times in Fiji.”

Rabuka said he visited the deconstruction this week of Christchurch’s QE2 Park, the venue for the 1974 Commonwealth Games where he was a decathlete and captain of the Fiji team.

He passed on his sympathy to the people of Christchurch because of the earthquakes.

APNZ