|Ghai, Cottrell, and Khaiyum.pic CCF|
In 2004, Ghai disclosed his meeting with Bainimarama as follows: “When I was in Fiji in October 2000, the Head of the Armed Forces invited me for consultations, particularly in view of the impending Court of Appeal decision on the legality of the coup. All senior officers were carrying copies of the Constitution. During our conversation, I was told that the Army had only begun to study it, and, to their surprise, found it was an excellent constitution and a better one could not be imagined.
"But they had not known this when they more or less supported the coup! Not that the army came out in support of the constitution at that time. But is interesting to note that within a few years of the coup, the Army became one of the institutions in the nation that was relatively supportive of the Constitution. Over the last year, the army has strongly objected to the government’s plans to grant amnesty to the coup plotters, and the Commander even threatened a coup.”
Readers may also recall that last month Ghai surfaced in Fiji to launch his handbook on “Constitution making and reform: options for the process”. The book was officially launched by former vice-president, Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi (a CCF member), at the CCF headquarters in Suva. Among the guests was Yash Ghai’s former student, Khaiyum, who sat next to the Kenyan and his wife Jill Cottrell, one of the co-authors of the handbook.
C4/5 understands the book launch was a carefully choreographed exercise to pave the way for Ghai to turn his constitution making “handbook” into a “cookbook” on behalf of the illegal regime.
The CCF CEO Akuila Yabaki’s statements that welcomed Ghai’s appointment as chair of the Constitution can be seen as nothing but a charade to hide CCF’s own complicity in the drawing up of a new illegal constitution.
As we can see below, (see earlier Constitution story on CCF and Jenny Hayward-Jones), Yabaki is trotting out some of the issues raised by Ghai; note his recent statement that decisions have to be made about the role of the Great Council of Chiefs plus land ownership.
So what are Yash Ghai’s views on the 1997 Constitution and other related issues in Fiji?
We direct our readers to the following chapter Between Coups: Constitution Making in Fiji, Ghai and his wife wrote for a book titled, Framing the State in Times of Transistion: Case Studies in Constitution Making.
In their conclusion, the husband and wife team had the following to say about the 1997 Constitution:
"Some commentators have concluded that the Constitution was fundamentally flawed because it permitted the emergence of an Indo-Fijian Prime Minister and this was unacceptable to the Fijian community. We find this a simplistic analysis. It is true that this Prime Minister was perhaps particularly hard for the other community to swallow. But it is also true that the result of the 1999 election made it much easier for those sections of society that really did not want any change in the constitutionally sanctioned reinforcement of Fijian paramountcy – meaning the paramountcy of a particular class and a particular structure for society – to portray the entire constitutional settlement as a disaster for Fijians. It was easier for this to be done because so few people really understood the document.
"How much could have been done by way of public education within the timeframe is not clear. But we have shown that the process was far less transparent and participatory than it might have been, and we have also tried to show why this was so. The experience of other countries has shown that in the final analysis what matters may be more the views of community leaders than the participation of the people themselves. And though Rabuka and Reddy may have tried to lead in one direction, other leaders were marching determinedly in another.
"The content of the constitution itself may share some of the blame. The electoral system that hardly anyone understood was responsible to some extent for the 1999 election result. The power sharing arrangement that is technically clumsy and politically unworkable with the current players gives the current government a good reason for pressing for constitutional amendment. And we have noted the awkward marrying of the liberal and the consociational that retained many ambiguities of the past.
"A constitution is not established in a vacuum. In order for a new and just constitutional system to take root in Fiji, a great deal of damage from the past must be undone. Much of that damage can be traced to the colonial experience, other elements to the post-1987 period. The Reeves Commission aimed for a radical restructuring of the values and institutions of the state. Although the people may have been ready for fundamental change, politicians clearly were not. Experience shows that if politicians, who have a special purchase on state institutions, are not committed to a constitution, its prospects remain dim.
"In trying to please many groups, the thrust of the constitution was blunted. One critical factor, for example, was the reversal of the Reeves Commission’s proportion between racial and non-racial seats, with the result that ethnic politics remained dominant.
"Constitutions that aim for a fundamental change need much more caring and nourishing than this one got. Had its principal proponents, Rabuka and Reddy, won the elections, more concerted efforts might have been made to observe its spirit and implement its provisions. Certainly, little was done to prepare the public, in terms of information and persuasion, for the new constitution and the radical changes it was intended to promote.
"The new constitution remained hostage to contingencies it could not control: the election of a prime minister who had little respect for the aspirations and conciliatory procedures embodied in the new constitution, an unsuccessful businessman cut off from the largess of the state with the change of government who capitalized on ethnic fears, and the easing of external pressures on constitutionalism all contributed negatively to the fortunes of the constitution.
"However, the constitution survives and there remains considerable support for it among sections of the people. The vision of Fiji on which the constitution rests still has its admirers. It is too early to write it off."
Yash Ghai is now prepared to write off the 1997 Constitution at the bidding of his former student Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum and the puppet dictator Frank Bainimarama. The question that needs to be asked is this: How much of Fiji taxpayer’s money is Ghai being paid to rip apart the 1997 Constitution?
Ghai on Fiji and Bainimarama to the NZ Herald in 2007