Registering today in Suva. pic Fiji Live
The unelected government's voter registration campaign started today in Suva, Lautoka and Lamabasa - aiming to process 600,000 people in eight weeks.
But as the following two contributing pieces from bloggers below rightly remind us, it has a long way to go convince all voters the talks to form a new Constitution and elections will be fair and ultimately in the interests of the people.
If the Bainimarama Government is serious about hosting Fiji’s first real democratic elections then it has to come clean on a number of issues.
-The Auditor General’s report must be published and made public
-The interim government must immediately cease harassing media outlets that it deems are not operating within the confines of the arbitrary
-All citizens must be allowed to voice their opinion on national issues regardless of whether they were former politicians, businessmen, religious leaders or the ordinary citizen
-Organisations wishing to hold meetings should be allowed to do so without fear or intimidation by security authorities
-Relatives of the interim government that gained positions in the civil service, statutory bodies or government-affiliated or state-owned enterprises must immediately step down in the interest of transparency and good governance
-The interim PM must declare specifically where and when funds from his flood appeal account were spent because reports by sources within
NGOs and aid organisations have revealed that many are still fighting to survive having lost not only their homes but also their only sources of livelihood
-The interim government must cease using preferred media outlets to disseminate information to the general public in the spirit of fairness, transparency and good governance. This only serves to restrict the flow of information to the public that need to be updated on issues pertinent to nation building
-The security forces should immediately cease acting as thugs and intimidators and refrain from harming, threatening or harassing any citizen at the whim of government officials. All citizens should feel safe, confident, free and part of a nation they call home without fear of reprisal.
In return for these conditions, the people of Fiji must, in the spirit of nation building, peace and progress:
-put Fiji first when making decisions, be it corporate, civil, municipal or national
-be willing to forgive and forget all that has happened since 1987, 2000, 2006 as forgiveness is the first step towards genuine reconciliation
-work together for the benefit of all, putting aside differences and differing views on what should have happened, may have happened or did happen.
-learn from the mistakes of the past and not allow situations to develop where military takeovers or coup de etats will be used as the means to correct political, social or economic discrepancies in the country
-put their hands up when there is a need for community involvement in nation building issues or crisis and get involved for the love of the country and its people because what we build today will benefit our children of tomorrow.
If we can achieve this then Fiji will truly be a democratic nation – perhaps even moreso than other countries that claim to be free and fair.
Until the interim government takes the first steps and we the people embrace forgiveness and move forward, there can be no real peace and prosperity in Fiji.
God bless us all.
A CHALLENGE TO POLITICAL LEADERS,
THE CONSTITUTION COMMISSION AND THE PEOPLE
The Constitutional Commission has begun its preparatory ground work. I am a citizen of Fiji. I know this blog is well read and stirs debate hence my posting on it. I would really appreciate comments from the readers in the comments section.
1. No immunity provisions in the new or modified 1997 constitution
This should be the starting point of any constitution preparation. All constitutions since 1987 have had to include this reprehensible clause to allow usurpers of democracy to have post parliamentary freedom via the constitution. Any such immunity provisions in the new constitution will allow the current dictator to escape legal proceedings and will provide intending usurpers of democracy encouragement to commit further acts of treason.
The military commander Frank Bainimarama must not be given any immunity. He must be subject to the rule of law post elections. Having said this I think it is also necessary to say that no other military officer should be subject to criminal proceedings post regime change. They were only following orders. These officers also should not be subject to civil proceedings unless their actions were beyond and in breach of their appointments. If they were following orders then were the orders legally justified? Were they following it knowing it was not right for fear of recrimination or other sanction? If this were so then criminal culpability would not attach to these soldiers but civil proceedings could be brought by concerned persons or agencies.
Bainimarama should be subject to criminal and civil proceedings post regime change as he was head of the military and he signed the warrant to first overthrow the Chaudhry and then the Qarase elected governments. His actions should also be subject to a judicial inquiry on terms drawn up by the new President post elections.
The objects of the judicial inquiry should be to expose those persons who aided and abetted the regime like Nazhat Shameem, Aiyaz Khaiyum, Shaista Shameem, Nur Bano Ali, Dixon Seeto, Romanu Tikitikoca, Nalin Patel, Sharvada Sharma and Anthony Gates.
Bainimarama should then be handed to the International Criminal Court for prosecution for crimes against humanity.
The inquiry can serve as a Truth Commission and its outcome delivered to Parliament (as the peoples voice) to decide what action is to be taken against those found to have aided and abetted Bainimarama. Such an inquiry will also bring civil servants and other whistle blowers to spill the beans on the Bainimarama regime.
The President Epeli Nailatikau should also be subject to this inquiry as all decrees after the late President Josefa Iloilo were signed by him. He must also account for his actions as the President during the relevant times and if found to be criminally liable should also be tried in a court of law just like dictators such as Saddam Hussein, Hoshni Mubarak and Augusto Pinochet were tried.
Constitution not to be abrogated
There should be no reserve or residual powers in the constitution given to the President. Parliament is to be supreme and we must ensure that lack of clear language in the constitution does not give an opportunity for future military rulers to manipulate the President into suspending or abrogating the constitution.
The constitution must be the supreme law of the land. It must be a living document and should only be amended by Parliament and must contain impeachment provisions for a recreant President.
Constitution to limit public spending and the role of civil service
Any successor to the 1997 constitution must contain measures on public pending as percentage of GDP. Governments in the past and the current interim administration have been irresponsible with fiscal spending.
Public spending must also be commensurate with the needs of the people and development funds must be allocated and accounted for in the context of priority and need. Greater emphasis and budget must be allocated areas which need development and where investment of public funds will yield a return.
A further consideration must be that the civil service must be apolitical and not be ‘loyal to the government of the day.’ The civil service is funded by the public and its duty is not to parochial political interests but to the country at large.
All public spending must be accounted for the auditor general be given greater powers of audit.
Retirement age must be restored to 65.
The judiciary must be independent. All post 2006 decrees must be relooked at by Parliament and repealed or sanctioned by Parliament.
Magistrates and judges must deliver judgments within 3 months of hearing cases or be asked to show cause by Parliament why the offending judicial officer should not be disciplined. This must be a constitutional prescription.
All judicial officers must be appointed on merit and all Magistrate and High Court judicial officers must be locals. All appellate and Supreme Court judges must be expatriate to avoid any issue of conflict.
All judicial officers sacked after the 2006 takeover and after abrogation must be compensated, except for Nazhat Shameem who became a paid consultant to FICAC a month aftet the abrogation and has continued to receive lucrative government consultancies.
Parliament must be representative of the people. Its composition must be free of any discriminatory practices. Seats must be contested on equal suffrage. Persons over 65 must not be eligible to contest parliamentary elections. It is not a post retirement profession.
Parliament must appoint the President, in consultation with the GCC.
This body must be restored to its former seat of deference in the social and cultural affairs of this country. Its views and not sanction of the appointment of the President must be sought. The State must establish a school of traditional leaders under the GCC secretariat as it is vitally essential that the Fijian chiefly system is preserved and one way of doing this is to groom young Fijian traditional leaders.
All State land must be leased only to Fiji citizens. No State land must be leased to foreigners and all land leased to foreigners under the interim regime is to be re possessed without any compensation. Foreigners knew that the regime was illegal after the Court of Appeal ruling yet continued to do business and as such they must be prosecuted and property accumulated to be confiscated and retained by the State. This will discourage other persons who may be contemplating supporting this interim regime.
Native land must be held in trust for Fijians and administered by a new and independent entity. The NLTB has too much baggage and is not the entity to take native land into the 21st century. Native land must be professionally and commercially managed with maximum return to the landowners. A certain percentage of say 1% should go towards an indigenous scholarship fund.
Media must be free from any constraints on publication or ownership. What people need is to be well informed and such information or news to be free from any government distilling or censorship. Any guidelines of media ethics must be determined by Parliament as the voice of the people and the remedy for private rights breaches of inaccurate news reporting lies under the Defamation Act and for public rights breaches – a duly constituted body by Parliament can decide the appropriate course of action.
The role of the military must be microscopically examined by the constitution review team. I suggest that military expenditure be reduced over a 3 year time frame from its current bloated levels to no more than $20 million a year. For this the military will need to be downsized and made more professional and marketed as peace keepers for troubled regions in the world under the aegis of the United Nations. For this the UN should be asked to nominate a commander for our military to instil discipline and better practices.
All military officers over 50 years should be retired with a package equivalent to their taxable salary. All officers over 45 years must be offered a package equivalent to 7 years of their taxable salary. This may be criticised by some or many but it is a measure that has to be taken to downsize the military without punishing the officers.
All political parties who have a threshold of more than 20% of seats in the elections should have their political offices funded by the tax payer. Elected politicians have a duty to all citizens and not just their party. To provide such a non-partisan electoral service constituency offices must be funded by the tax payer - with proper checks and balances. This practice is synonymous in civilised democracies and Fiji should aspire towards such practices rather than practices in dictatorships such China and Indonesia.
There must be a full time constitution commission office to receive input from the various organisations and the public. It can also make certain recommendations to Parliament for consideration on constitutional matters.
I hope my suggestions are considered in the spirit in which it has been put to make Fiji a better place with no more threats to freedom by the military.
A concerned and loyal citizen
Name and address withheld for obvious reasons