SDL Party statement on Commission stance
While the Constitutional Commission welcomes the promulgation of two Decrees relating to the process of drafting a new Constitution for Fiji, the Commission has also expressed concerns over several key issues.
The SDL Party joins the Commission in expressing similar concerns.
The Leader of the SDL Party, Mr. Laisenia Qarase said today that the Constituent Assembly Decree would give the Prime Minister complete control over the size and composition of the Constituent Assembly. The number and who will be appointed to represent various groups remain unclear and one can only assume that the Prime Minister will have the ultimate say. This will make nonsense of the declaration by Government that the Constitution – making process will be inclusive, participatory and transparent.
The Decree requires that immunity be provided for the 2006 and earlier coups. Fiji has experienced three or four coups since independence in 1970. Everyone should know that the crime of treason is a serious one indeed. Those who committed and aided the last coups knew this very well. The principle of “no one is above the law” should be applied equally to all citizens. Those involved in previous coups should have the courage to stand up and account for their actions before the law. There should be no exception, said Mr. Qarase.
While the SDL Party welcomes the announcement that the requirement of permits for some meetings has been temporarily suspended, the relaxation does not go far enough. Restrictions on interviews with the media and communications through radio, newspapers and television remain in force. The current environment is not conducive to free, fair and effective consultations with members of the public on this vitally important process of constitution – making.
The SDL Party urges the Government to resolve these issues of concern as early as possible. Failure to do so will mean that the credibility and integrity of the constitutional process will remain elusive.
NGO Coalition on Human Rights statement
The NGO Coalition on Human Rights (NGOCHR) shares the concern expressed by the Fiji Constitution Commission on the promulgation of the Fiji Constitutional Process (Constituent Assembly and Adoption of Constitution) Decree 2012 and the Fiji Constitutional Process (Constitution Commission) Decree 2012.
In a statement yesterday the Commission raised concerns on aspects of the Decree giving Commodore Frank Bainimarama “full control over the size and composition of the Constituent Assembly” as well as the “broad immunity provision for the 2006 and earlier coups to be entrenched in the new constitution”.
According to NGOCHR Chair Shamima Ali, the Commission has articulated what many in Fiji are concerned about with respect to the legitimacy and credibility of the process.
“You cannot claim to promote or envision ’an inclusive, participatory and transparent process’ and at the same time put in place provisions that clearly undermine and violate those values,” she said.
Like the Commission, the NGOCHR agrees with the conditions imposed in the Decrees “essential principles of democracy are ignored and the independence of the [Constituent] Assembly is negated”.
The NGOCHR believes that this will have a major impact on the participation of Fiji’s people, especially women, in the constitution-making process.
“For the last couple of months various NGOs around the country, as part of their civic education programmes, have been encouraging women, especially young women to be part of the country’s constitution-making. How can we now encourage them to participate when we know that the integrity and the credibility of the process are compromised?” asked Ali.
While the NGOCHR acknowledges the temporary suspension of the requirements of permits for meetings by the State, it agrees with the Commission that the “current atmosphere in Fiji is not conducive to an open process in which Fijians can debate their future properly”.
The NGO Coalition on Human Rights urges the Interim Government to seriously re-think the promulgation of decrees that undermine democratic processes and negative impact on the people of Fiji.