|FIJIANS: Struggling to hang on to their land and customary rights.|
Detractors might be rubbing their hands with glee, but the long awaited submission by the country's biggest political party promotes honestly - and without apology - the interests of native Fijians.
The SDL party, which reminds the Constitution Commission that it had the majority to form the country's last two democratically elected governments, makes a good case for the rights of the indigenous community.
Denouncing the campaign by the Bainimarama regime to deliberately trample on customary rights by removing traditional power structures such as the Bose Levu Vakaturaga as part of a 'bigger agenda to plunder Fijian resources', SDL says the key to a stable Fiji is recognition of the rights of native Fijians.
So, yes, there is support for Fiji to be a Christian state, for Fijian to be the first language, for parliamentary seats to be allocated according to ethnicity and population but there is also commitment to nation building and achieving 'peace and security in a multi-racial country'.
Note: C4.5 has added some headings to these excerpts from the submission to summarise the information. The full submission at end of story:
Preamble in the submission
Preamble in the submission
The SDL Party has reservations in taking part in the exercise and this should not be construed as lending legitimacy to the process but nevertheless, are taking part in this exercise, for one reason and one reason only. It is the means, as opposed to the many others that are available, that the Military Regime has accepted to facilitate its return to
the barracks and return this country to democratic rule. We are all acknowledging this gesture, because we owe it to the people to return this country to a democratic government.
Indigineous rights are not 'discriminatory'
It is now clear that the Regime's intentions are to remove entrenched customary laws and institutions in order to create their own idea of a unified Fiji. This will not work without the prior consultations and approval by the Fijians. History has taught us that what is imposed will never last whatever the good intentions may be.
There are less than 600,000 Fijians the world over. To take away these customary institutions is an attempt to undermine and deny Fijian cultural identity. The very essence of being Fijian in their own land is grounded in their culture, heritage, identity, language, resources, land, traditions and values and contained in their institutions.
There is nothing racial or discriminatory about upholding your birth right, your right to indigenous land ownership and your right to be identified with a particular race or tribal group. Fijians should not be ashamed to be identified as such. To deny Fijians these rights, is in direct violation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, 20075; particularly the ILO 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 19896; which had been ratified by Fiji.
The challenge as contained in the Declaration is the need to balance indigenous rights with the rights of others so that one does not trample over the other but there is no doubt about the Regime’s intent to trample over these rights.
The Fijians comprise the majority of the population, approximately 57% and owning more than 87% of the land area, were never consulted on the issues above on their representation on the NLTB, removal of the Fijian name, reduction on the entitlement of chiefs and the termination of the BLV.9
The recognition of indigenous rights is not lost when their population becomes a majority as the self-identification criterion of being indigenous or tribal is sufficient for their protection under the provisions of the ILO 169 Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989.
An observation of the submissions already presented to the Commission reveals that
the predominant issues emanating from Fijians is that of insecurity arising from the trampling of their right to be consulted on issues that affect them. This confirms their high level of dissatisfaction with the treatment they are receiving under the Regime.
The global economic agenda
Unprecedented demand for the world’s remaining resources, combined with new technologies to extract previously inaccessible resources in the remotest regions, are putting indigenous peoples under increasing threat from governments and private companies wanting to profit from the resources found on or under their lands.
Indigenous peoples all over the world have either been poorly compensated or forcefully removed from their ancestral lands to make way for mining, forestry, electricity dams, weapons testing, or tourist development. Some examples from the Pacific include: the people of Nasomo in Vatukoula Fiji, Banaba in Kiribati, Nauru, the Kanaks in NewCal edonia, Mururoa in Tahiti, Enewetak in the Marshall Islands, and Bikini in Christmas Islands.
It is now 72 years from the time Fijian chiefs agreed to the request by the government to hand over the control of their land to the Native Land Trust Board. Previously the voice of the indigenous Fijians was heard in the Board through the group’s representatives’ of the BLV. The Regime is in full control of the NLTB since 2009. And yet, there are numerous commentators who stridently propound that Fijians have nothing to fear about their land and institutions; that all is secure. This must be exposed for the fallacy, that it is!
Agenda behind the removal of the Bose Levu Vakaturaga
The unilateral suspension of the BLV by the head of the Regime therefore was not an
isolated incident; it was part and parcel of a bigger agenda to plunder Fijian resources by weakening the apex of Fijian institutions. It is not the first time, this is happening, but unfortunately, it is the first time after independence when we should be in control of our country and our resources and it is being done presumably with the support of the Fijian military. The advice and the action taken represent the worst form of neo-colonialism inaction in Fiji.
We acknowledge that there will indeed be compromises, these compromises must be made in a transparent and amicable manner and we are prepared to sit and talk through the difficult issues in consultation and dialogue with other communities and agreement under the appropriate forum. It is our hope that we can once again adopt a Constitution that addresses the concerns and hopes of all. It must be a Constitution by the people for the people. It cannot be imposed. Only then can we move forward as a united nation with a united vision.
We certainly have reservations about the process. From the beginning the process has been fundamentally flawed. Firstly, members of the Constitution Commission were appointed by the without any consultation with key stakeholders. There are serious reservations about the independence of certain members of the Commission who are perceived by the people to be too close to the current Regime.
Secondly, the restrictive environment in which the constitutional process is taking place will not encourage free and open discussions on the subject. Draconian decrees that suspend and violate human rights especially the right to freedom of expression, assembly and association, remain in force as instruments of fear and intimidation. The local media is still operating under constraints that undermine its freedom to disseminate news fairly and in a balanced manner without fear of repercussions from the Regime.
A civic education programme on the Constitution has been completed but key stakeholders, such as, political parties, trade unions and other important civil society organizations have been excluded from participating in this exercise.
Furthermore, while NGOs and other selected civil society organizations are allowed to hold as many meetings as desired under a one-off application for permit, political parties and trade unions have to seek separate permits for any meeting. Political leaders and party activists are still being closely monitored and harassed by the security forces.
We re-iterate, no meaningful dialogue or consultations can take place in such a restrictive climate. In short the process is not inclusive or participatory and it lacks credibility and legitimacy.
Christian state and protection of language
The SDL proposes that the Republic of the Fiji Islands is a sovereign democratic Christian state
The SDL proposes that the Fijian language be the national language (lingua franca) 30 of Fiji
The SDL proposes that fluency in the Fijian language be a pre-condition for entry into the Fiji Public Service
The SDL Party proposes that “Christianity” be proclaimed the state religion of Fiji
The SDL Party proposes that dual citizenship in Fiji should not be allowed
The SDL recommends that the term “sexual orientation” under Section 38 (2) (a) to be deleted
The SDL party therefore expects a Constitution which respects marriage and establishes its parameters according to Biblical order, historic Christian practice. Same-sex marriage is not an option.
I) Chapter 6- The Parliament
· The SDL Party proposes that the Parliament should continue to consist of the President, the House of Representatives and the Senate.
· It is proposed that the House of Representatives should continue to consist of 71 members. But of the 71 members 25 are to represent different ethnic communities, roughly in proportion to their numbers in the population. At this time, the allocation of the 25 seats could be as follows:
i. Fijians (56%) - 14
ii. Indians (36%) - 9
iii. Others (8%) - 2
Role and powers of the president needs to be reined in
The SDL proposes that the powers of the President are to be clearly defined in the Constitution and there be no ambiguity in the limits of his powers particularly in the perceived retention of “reserve powers”. The Constitution is to clearly state that the President has no reserve powers except those that are defined in the Constitution.
The powers of the President have been at the core of legal interpretations in the court cases in regards to the coups particularly the perceived reserve powers of the President. It is crucial that the powers of the President be clearly defined and that he or she acts within these.
There have been instances in the recent past especially prior to and during the coups
whereby individuals have had undue and excessive influences on the office of the President. The Constitution is to state clearly the protocol and procedures wherein the President is to receive advice and for him to act in his own deliberate judgment.
· The SDL proposes that the Constitution to state that there be no undue and unwarranted influence on the office of the President.
· The SDL proposes that the Constitution to establish a Council of Advisers38 to assist the President when he is required to act in his own deliberate judgment.
Back to the barracks for the military
There should be provisions in our Constitution and in other laws to effectively deter the RFMF or anyone else from contemplating the illegal removal of future Governments.
· It is proposed that Section 112 (1) of the 1997 Constitution be amended by removing reference to the 1990 Constitution.
The RFMF should be subservient to the Government of the day. There should be no room whatsoever for the military to intervene in the political leadership and governance of Fiji.
· The SDL proposes appointment of the Commander is to be made by the President on advice of Cabinet.
· The SDL proposes that Parliament must review the Fiji Military Forces Act to undertake the following: determine the size of the military as approved by Parliament from time to time; the minimum qualifications requirements of the Commander.
The military in Fiji has one of the highest ratios of military personnel relative to Fiji’s population. They have consequently also become a very heavy burden
A change from the advice of the Minister to that advice to be given by Cabinet for the appointment of the Commander of the RFMF
Chapter 8 - Bose Levu Vakaturaga (BLV)
· The SDL Party proposes that the BLV be established under the Constitution;
· The Party also proposes that a BLV Act be passed by Parliament, setting out the role, functions, powers etc of the BLV.
(ii) Amnesty not immunity
· The SDL Party proposes that immunity should not be granted unilaterally to the coup perpetrators in this and future Constitutionsas it would desecrate the sanctity of constitutional documents.
Immunity from prosecution was granted to those involved in the 1987 coup
· The SDL proposes that if amnesty is recommended following investigation by a Special Commission on Coups and amnesty could be offered to those who have met all the conditions. After appropriate investigations by the Special Commission on the Coups, the following would apply when and if amnesty is given:
That all military leaders be:
i. terminated from their positions and dishonorably discharged from the military including all military personnel taken in the civil service after the coup;
ii. stripped of all military awards, medals and honors/decorations;
iii. not be allowed to take part in political elections for life;
iv. not be allowed to take up any public office for life.
Furthermore all plaques or public monuments made in their name be removed.
· The SDL proposes that for those that aided abetted or were in active support of the coup to be:
a) immediately terminated from their public positions in government or statutory organizations;
b) not be allowed from taking part in political elections for life;
c) not be allowed to take up any public office for life.
· The SDL proposes that there should be thorough investigation into all alleged cases and appropriate legal measures undertaken.
The SDL proposes that a Caretaker Government be appointed on 1st April next year 2013 to oversee the smooth transition of Fiji through to the general elections and the appointment of the new Government in 2014.
SDL submission in full