The article looks back at the process initially adopted by Decrees 57 & 58 and how the regime derailed that by throwing out the draft Constitution of the Ghai Commission.
A FAÇADE OF DEMOCRACY
The Draft Constitution, which will be inevitably shoved down the throats of the people of Fiji, symbolises the facade of a democracy that the military regime led by Frank Bainimarama and Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum have been seeking to entrench.
Many analysis of the draconian and regressive document have been done.
There has been thorough scrutiny of the unconstitutional provisions of the Draft. Worst among them are the immunity provisions that give the regime blanket immunity for human rights violations that the immunity provisions envisage until the September 2014 elections. This is like giving the regime a signed cheque with the date left blank.
|Illustration courtesy of Discombobulated Bubu|
Therefore, this draft constitution is tailor made to entrench the dynasty of Bainimarama and Khaiyum. Both will control the judiciary and all constitutional offices by virtue of being appointing authorities.
Note, Bainimarama as PM controls all security forces namely the RFMF, Police and Prisons (Correctional Services).
The RFMF has also got its wish that it expressed through its submission to the Ghai Commission. The military wanted the provision in the 1990 Constitution (Section 94 (3)) incorporated in the new Constitution. …” the responsibility….. to ensure at all times the security, defence and well-being of Fiji and its people” – page 13 of RFMF submission to Ghai Commission.
Section 130 (2) of the regime’s Draft thus states “It shall be the responsibility of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces to ensure at all times the security, defence and well-being of Fiji and all its residents”.
So much for the warped logic of all rof the egime’s cronies and supporters who justified the December 2006 coup and the Peoples Charter by saying this coup was to end all coups.
Essentially, it was never the intention of the regime to return Fiji to genuine parliamentary democracy and constitutional rule. The goalposts kept shifting.
But his lie of blaming the political parties for the abolishment of the proposed Constituent Assembly was downright gutter.
On Thursday 21st March Bainimarama claimed a lack of commitment by political parties to register under the Political parties registration decree, saying the practice of racism, fraud and impersonation led his regime to abandon the Constituent Assembly.
Nothing can be further from the truth. The Constituent Assembly should have been appointed in the 2nd week of January this year and it should have started meeting from the third week of January.
The Permanent Secretary in PM’s office Pio Tikoduadua had told the media soon after expressions of interest for membership of the Assembly closed on 31st December 2012 that more than 300 applications were received and more were flowing in a week after the deadline.
Then on Thursday 10th January the President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau announced that he had rejected the Ghai Draft and a new Draft was to be prepared. Immediately after Nailatikau’s announcement Bainimarama told the nation that the new Draft Constitution would be available for deliberation by the end of January 2013.
He added: "Prior to that and upon my return from the G77 meeting, I shall send out invitations to various individuals and organisations to participate in the Constituent Assembly. The Constituent Assembly is to have its first sitting in February 2013. We expect as announced last year, that a new Constitution should be in place by March of this year”.
“While history tells us that some individuals and organisations tend to act in their own interests, I urge all political parties, organisations and individuals who are invited to be members of the Constituent Assembly to participate”.
In the same address on 10th January he said by Tuesday (15th January) “we will put in place the Registration f Political Parties Decree which will set new and internationally accepted standards of political party governance. Indeed many provisions of the Ghai Draft”.
Although the Decree was not what the Ghai Draft had prescribed for political party governance, three political parties complied with the regressive provisions of the Decree, (which disallowed trade unionists from holding political party office holders) and submitted documentation for registration.
No party was registered until 2nd May – which was two days after the closure of the Consultation process on the regime’s draft.
So when Bainimarama announced that a new Decree was about to be promulgated in respect of political party governance, he must have known that parties would have 28 days (until 15th February) to submit their registration documents.
But at the same time, he announced that he would send out invitations to political parties, amongs others, to participate in the Assembly that would have its first meeting in February.
But on 10th January Bainimarama was deliberately misleading the nation and lying. He knew that no invitations would be sent out for membership to the Assembly, no political party would be registered, the Constituent Assembly would never be formalized and have its first meeting in February, and no new Draft Constitution would be available for deliberation by end of January 2013.
The readers must be reminded of what Bainimarama told the Attorney-Generals Conference at Inter-Continental Hotel, Natadola on Friday 7th December 2012, respect of the process following the completion of the Ghai Commission’s Draft Constitution and its hand-over to the President for him to refer it to a Constituent Assembly for deliberation.
He told the Conference, “The Constituent Assembly will consist of the broadest possible cross-section of Fijian society, as set out in the relevant decree. But to qualify as members of the Constituent Assembly, individuals and organisations will need to demonstrate that they represent a significant constituency in the country. They must also be guided by a commitment to the interests of the nation and the Fijian people as a whole”.
He even accused those responsible for previous Constitutions after Independence of being a band of elitists.
He said, “For we cannot again allow a narrow band of elite to determine our future. We have already had a handful of men determine what our constitution would be after independence, we have already had the 1990 constitution imposed with almost no consultation at all, and we have already had the key recommendations of the Reeves Commission overturned by a joint parliamentary select committee”.
“This will not happen again,”he emphasised.
But what has happened now, Bainimarama? Aren’t you leading a narrow band of elite to determine our future?
Aren’t you and your regime imposing an unjust Constitution on the people without any consultation?
For all intents and purposes the Constitution imposed by the regime will be a façade on democracy.
Editor's Poser: Is there a special significance to August being the chosen month to reveal the draft or is it that it's finally ready - seven months after it was supposed to have been done?