A speaker on democracy at the Australian Association for the Advancement of Pacific Studies conference “Oceanic Transformations” over the weekend, said democracy was failing to work in Fiji because citizens were uninformed.
Mosmi Bhim, a Communications and Advocacy Officer at the Citizens’ Constitutional Focrun, said democracy in Fiji, had been top down, with its values and merits understood and advocated by the middle class and the rich but largely ignored by the grassroots whose preoccupation was primarily making ends meet.
Results in past elections in Fiji showed votes were cast in response to emotional appeals by politicians as opposed to criteria of better infrastructure and services and accountability of government.
Bhim said Fiji’s democracy was "disabled due to uninformed citizenry".
She put the lack of widespread protest against coups in the “context of the need for basic services at the grassroots level and its contribution to the mal-functioning of democratic processes in Fiji through a citizenry that is inadequately informed by media or research”.
Bhim added that the lack of good leaders had contributed to this problem, as had the discomfort ordinary citizens had with demanding accountability and transparency from their leaders. She said democracy would not come to Fiji if poverty was not resolved.
The suggestion was made that the links between governance and development as a way of breaking the pattern of coups in Fiji, had to be looked at more closely.
The other speak on democracy in the Pacific, was Alisi Taumoepeau, the former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice in Tonga, who said the people have been promised elections in November this year but no preparations, for example amendments to the electoral law, have been made for the occassion.
Like Fiji, Tonga is still under public emergency regulations, as a result of the Tongan riots in 2007.
Taumoepeau said that “during the uncertainties of this transition period in Tonga, it is important to those who lead and those being led, that the rule of law exists regardless of political structure, content of law or human rights assertion”.
The rule of law, Taumoepeau said, requires that government is accountable and transparent, ensures the independence of judiciary and implements due diligence and good governance, all very essential for a successful constitutional reform.-Source Pacific Media Watch article by Dr Evangelina Papoutsaki.