The Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF) held its National Public Forum (NPF) in Labasa as part of a 2 part series under the European Union funded C3 project – “Upholding Citizens’ Constitutional Rights for Democratic Consolidation in Fiji” project.
The NPF was focused on encouraging a constructive engagement between elected representatives and the citizens of Fiji whilst discussing the theme of; “Thematic Perspectives on the Current System of Democracy in Fiji.”
CCF’s Chief Executive Officer, Louchrisha Hussain said this NPF on democratic accountability was aimed at increasing the awareness of citizens and civil society organisations (CSO’s) on the concept of accountability with the methods and channels for engaging with the State.
“This is the first of the many that we’ll have here in the north. CCF realises the importance of having conversations like this on principals of human rights, democracy, accountability and transparency – to not only occur in the central part of Fiji. It is essential that opportunities like this is given to people outside the central division to engage with discussions and dialogue with one another, but also engage with policy makers,” said Hussain.
“A vibrant and sustainable democracy is one that provides opportunities, processes and avenues for citizens to freely access and engage with their elected representatives.”
“This will foster an understanding that exercising one’s constitutional rights does not end after an election,” added Hussain.
The NPF had a fair turnout from an audience that travelled from different parts of Vanua Levu, with some travelling as far as Vuna in Taveuni, Kubulau in Bua and Rabi. Questions that were raised by those present were based around grass-root level issues; they wanted to know the services provided by Consumer Council of Fiji, and questions were also raised on complaint mechanisms of public services that were addressed by the Deputy Commissioner Northern Division – Mr Vishwa Deo.
Member of Parliament (Opposition), Hon Mosese Bulitavu said this forum has encouraged people to come and raise their issues, and also access me as a member of parliament to take their issues forward in the November sitting of the Fiji Parliament.
“Access to information and right information is important for the people; information that they need to help develop themselves and I think these types of forums brings various types of stakeholders together and government officials in the north. This was a chance also for policy makers to rethink the barriers that may deny people access to information that will eventually deny their development,” said Bulitavu.
“I thank the CCF for such forums to engage and raise their concerns in terms of government service delivery and the difficulties that they face in their communities. As a parliamentary representative, we are there for the people and make sure that they are represented well and no one is left behind,“ added the member of parliament.
In addressing the audience, Head of the European Union (EU) Delegation for the Pacific – His Excellency Sujiro Seam said we support democracy consolidation here in the pacific and we do so in Fiji through this program – Upholding Citizens’ Constitutional Rights for Democratic Consolidation”.
“It’s very important for the EU to partner with civil society organisations such as the CCF which organized the forum that was aimed at allowing citizens to exercise their civic duty to be better informed and to be better citizens when the next elections comes”, said the EU Ambassador.
The panelists at the NPF included Mr Vishwa Deo (Deputy Commissioner Northern Divison), Vani Catanasiga (Director of the Fiji Council of Social Services), His Excellency Sujiro Seam (Ambassador and Head of the European Union (EU) Delegation for the Pacific), Hon. Mosese Bulitavu (Member of Parliament – Opposition), Dr Gordon Nanau (Senior Lecturer – School of Government, Development and International Affairs), Nanise Veikoso (Consumer Council of Fiji – Labasa Regional Coordinator). Mr Stanley Simpson was the moderator for the event.
C3 is a project that is partnered by the following civil society organisations or CSO’s: the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), Pacific Centre for Peacebuilding (PCP), Dialogue Fiji (DF), Media Watch Group (MWG) and the Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF).