Postdate: 11/ 02/ 2002
Recommendations (pdf) The Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF) in consultation with Fiji’s civil society organisations and representatives of minority communities, has proposed the following recommendations as broadly defining a way forward for Fiji at this critical time in our history. The recommendations are the result of research, analysis and consultations. They are further informed by the provisions of the Republic of the Fiji Islands Constitution, international human rights standards and the obligations of Fiji as a Member of the United Nations and the Commonwealth. The recommendations are directed to Fiji’s government and its leaders. The recommendations provide a way to move beyond the divisive politics of race and towards a more united multicultural, democratic and progressive nation.
- The SDL led government and all political parties represented in Parliament should form a Government of National Unity (GNU) after the Court of Appeal Opinion on the constitutionality of the Cabinet and Senate appointments of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase is handed down. A GNU will be a vital foundation for reconciliation between our divided communities and for cooperation (in the spirit of the Compact Chapter of the Constitution) in government and at all levels of society This will assist our leaders to find broadly acceptable solutions to the country’s problems and need.
- Once established Fiji needs to consolidate its multi-party system of government. Political parties must improve the participation of women and smaller minorities in the Cabinet and in parliamentary committees using their Senate appointments to achieve this in the short term. Parliamentary committees and the Cabinet must keep each other in check to ensure an effective diffusion of power across the political system. Parliamentary procedures must be reviewed to enable multiparty system of government to operate effectively.
- Parliamentary Committees should consult widely with all stakeholders before proposing policies and legislations affecting all communities are introduced. This will enhance political participation and consensus building between political parties and leaders and consultation with institutional stakeholders, community organisations and representatives of minorities. Wide consultation with institutional stakeholders, community organisations and representatives of minorities will ensure that the interests of all groups and especially minority communities are advanced and protected throughout all government programmes. It will enhance consensus building at all levels.
- Civil society and the Government working in partnership should ensure that citizens, community groups and political parties are fully aware of the provisions of the Constitution, including its provisions for the protection and advancement of group rights and interests.
- The Social Justice Act, which was passed in December 2001 sessions of Parliament, contains anomalies that need to be reviewed and amended as soon as possible. These weaknesses in the Social Justice Act exist because it was promoted as a General Election promise based on the racially biased “Blueprint for Indigenous Fijians and Rotumans Development” programme of the Government.
- Social Justice Policies and Programmes should have clear definition of what are the criteria of disadvantage consistent with the Equality and Social Justice provisions of the Constitution. They need to specify means testing, precise measurable criteria for monitoring, public accountability, time limitation, periodic review, reporting to Parliament, training and use of quotas and targets.
- To improve public accountability, the Government should complete work on the Code of Conduct and Freedom of Information Bills and introduce them to Parliament because they are required by the Constitution and they are long overdue. These Bills should be referred to Special Committees formed by resolution of Parliament so that they are open to public submissions.
- The Fijian Government should take its international obligations more seriously and report regularly to the U.N Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (C.E.R.D) and the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (C.E.D.A.W) on the human rights situation. The government should also respect and observe the Commonwealth declarations and policies on good governance, the rule of law and racial discrimination.
- The Government should be seriously committed to strictly observe and implement judgments of the court on constitutional issues, especially those that rule against the political interests and beliefs of the Government.
- The Fijian education sector needs well-researched programmes to improve its infrastructure, especially in rural and depressed urban zones; to enhance educational access at all levels, including professional education for members of disadvantaged communities; and to ensure that curricula fully reflect and foster Fiji’s divergent languages and cultures, and the principles of democracy, human rights and mutual respect.
- The Education Curriculum should be developed with a strong component of education on the Constitution, the democratic system of government, good citizenship and multicultural understanding. This civics curriculum must be developed in consultation with teachers trade unions, civil society organisations, religious leaders and leaders of minority communities.
- Policies are urgently needed to promote the economic participation of poorer indigenous Fijians, Indo-Fijians and the smaller minorities such as Banabans, Melanesian Fijians and Rotumans. Such policies should be cohesive and transparent, based upon accurate research, involve training, be time specific, and subject to public scrutiny and review. They should be consistent with the Constitution.
- Government should support viable self held community initiatives of the minority groups that are disadvantaged in the areas of business and education with interest free loans, subsidies, scholarships and other appropriate incentives.
- Representation in public institutions by marginalised minorities should include increasing the number of Indo-Fijians and smaller minorities on public boards, public corporations, the Police, Fiji Military Forces and employment in state services at all levels.
- The promotion of minority languages and cultures through the public media, and a greater visibility of minority and smaller communities in all aspects of governance, must become a national priority. Minority communities should decide on who their representatives will be in institutions of governance. The Fijian government should ensure that public and private media provide outlets for minority languages.
- The Government, assisted by the international community, must build consensus through inclusive policy development involving Parliament, civil society, and multilateral and bilateral development institutions, in the formulation, implementation and review of policies and programmes. It should promote dialogue and understanding on the conflict dimensions of development, to ensure that development is equitable and inclusive across all of Fiji’s regions and among all of its communities.
- The Government supported by the international community, must respond urgently to the large-scale displacement of Indo-Fijian and other tenant farmers in rural areas, and facilitate the establishment of new areas of economic activity in peripheral urban regions for displaced tenant households.
- The Government must seriously attempt to find a compromise between landowners and tenants on a new legislative framework to ensure security of tenure, economic rent, an efficient mechanism for settling disputes and more regular dialogue between landowners and tenants at the grassroots level.
- The gender composition of government, public services and state institutions must be improved within an acceptable period. The participation of women should be promoted within an acceptable period. The participation of women should be promoted in conflict prevention, poverty alleviation, the promotion and protection of human rights and reconciliation.
- The government should establish a Reconstruction, Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address underlying issues that cannot be accommodated via social justice provisions. Such a Commission will have to assure all communities that violence, as an instrument for advancing political claims, cannot be tolerated.
The Commission should concern itself with the victims of the upheavals of 2000, enabling them to restart their lives through sustainable economic activities; investigate those responsible for the overthrow of the People’s Coalition government in 2000 and for the associated violence and harassment; and initiate meaningful cross-community dialogue to promote the healing of inter-ethnic hostility. This work should be supported by international development agencies with expertise in crisis prevention and peace building.
The CCF is a non-partisan non-governmental organisation. It is committed to promoting constitutionality, democracy, transparency and accountability in government and other institutions of the State and civil society in general. It supports effective participation of civil society in the decisions that affect them. In co-operation with other NGOs, it fights for the protection and enhancement of human rights and respect for international standards. CCF always welcomes to its programmes the participation of interested individuals and representatives of broad based multi-ethnic organisations who share the same values and interests.