he Presidential and government interference in the constitution making process announced yesterday marks one of the saddest days for Fiji since the purported abrogation of the 1997 Constitution in April 2009.
The Citizens’ Constitutional Forum stresses that through the decision taken, the government has pre-empted and nullified the role of the Constituent Assembly. The announcement is also in breach of Decree 57 which empowered the Constitution Commission to base their decisions upon “the wishes of the people of Fiji” and also breaches the Principles of Decree 58.
CEO Reverend Akuila Yabaki stresses that all the concerns raised by the President are items that the Constituent Assembly should be tasked to discuss and determine for themselves through consultations with the citizens.
CCF reminds the Prime Minister of his promise to the people of Fiji when he stated in his announcement of March 9th, 2012 that “formulating a new constitution that will be relevant to a new and modern Fiji will require that we unselfishly, patiently, and inclusively complete the process with integrity and honesty.”
“The aspirations of the people of Fiji has been dealt a cruel blow through the decision by the Bainimarama government to amend the draft constitution prepared by the State appointed Constitution Commission,” says Rev Yabaki.
He added that an unprecedented 7000 submissions were received by the Commission from citizens in the hope that the new document would truly be a peoples’ constitution and the non-mandated intervention by the President goes against the initial decrees and assurance of independence of the process.
“This unjustifiable intervention by the state will significantly undermine the people’s confidence in the process, the final document and a democratic future for Fiji. Any enduring document must have the support and ownership of the people if it is to ensure sustainable constitutional democracy in the country,” stated Rev Yabaki.
We would also stress that the government cannot act against the principles of democracy by promulgating the proposed “Political Party Decree” as it is wholly an issue for the new constitution to determine.
The CCF stands by and supports the draft constitution by the State appointed Constitution Commission as it is consistent with good constitution making principles and reflects the voice of the people of Fiji.
“We urge the Bainimarama government to rescind its decision and allow the constitution making process to take its course as set out in Decree 58, 18 July 2012, and let the Constituent Assembly, representatives of the people, to decide what changes, if any, are warranted in the draft constitution,” says Rev Yabaki