The Citizens’ Constitutional Forum notes with concern the amendments to the Fiji Constitutional Process (Constitution Commission) and Fiji Constitutional Process (Constituent Assembly and Adoption of Constitution) Decree 2012 which will now compel the members of the Constitution Commission to renege on their assurance to the citizens of Fiji – that they would be given an opportunity to express their views and make comments on the draft constitution
The amendments to the decrees state that the Constitution Commission and the Constituent Assembly respectively are no longer required or empowered to neither present the draft Constitution to the people of Fiji for their comments nor hold public meetings for the collection of submissions or the hearing of views on the draft Constitution.
From the outset, the Bainimarama remained adamant, as outlined in his statement on March 9th, that the Constitution Commission will be a wholly independent body, thus it should be allowed to operate independently and not have the government dictate its terms through decree’s to suit its own agenda.
All Fijians who made all efforts to make submissions to the Constitution Commission are eagerly waiting to have an opportunity to view the draft document as a matter of transparency and accountability before it is presented to the Constituent Assembly and hence adopted as the Supreme Law of the land.
Members of the Commission, including the Chairperson Professor Yash Ghai, personally informed citizens’ during the consultations that a copy of the draft will be made available for further views from the general public as was outlined in the original decrees.
The amendment to the decrees also brings further issues of concern as it could deter individual citizens and groups from accepting appointments to the Constituent Assembly, as the amendments further prohibit the Constituent Assembly from debating the views of the people of Fiji on the draft constitution.
It is vital that the members of the Constituent Assembly be permitted to take the draft constitution to their constituents, to get feedback before they can constructively debate these issues in the Assembly’s deliberations as this is the first time Fiji has resorted to a Constituent Assembly in the absence of a democratically elected parliament.
The amendments to the decree also bring into question the assurance by the Bainimarama government that the Constituent Assembly will consider the draft constitution in an inclusive and transparent process.
We urge the Bainimarama government to reconsider the amendments and allow the Constituent Assembly to consult the citizens on the draft constitution as in the end, the path to legitimacy will be based on the peoples’ acceptance and confidence in the final document; that it does reflect their views.
CCF continues to reiterate its position for the need to move away from ruling by decree without proper public consultations.