Taking ownership of the constitution making processes

The Citizens’ Constitutional Forum stresses that the processes for formulating Fiji’s next Constitution must be led by the citizens of Fiji and people are urged to start talking and discussing in their homes, villages, religious and social groups on how to get involved.

CEO Reverend Akuila Yabaki says that the people must take ownership and prepare to make constructive contribution in the Constitutional Consultation process from the drafting to having a final say on the contents of the document.

“A unique opportunity presents itself to all Fijians to build a sustainable democracy for this country through a Constitution which takes into accounts the dreams and aspirations of all the people of Fiji,” says Reverend Yabaki.
CCF stresses that the Bainimarama government must ensure that the processes are participatory and not just consultative and the end result is a document made by the people by encouraging submissions on the content of the Constitution from all sectors of our society.
CCF has identified what we believe are ideal guiding principles which should be adopted in the Constitution consultation processes and pave the way towards having a legitimate document in the lead up to elections in 2014.
CCF recommends that:
•The process for developing a Constitution for Fiji should begin immediately in order to meet the deadline set for holding democratic elections in September 2014.
•The process should seek to develop a Constitution for Fiji, building upon the worthy values and lessons from previous approaches.
The CCF is a non-government organization that educates and advocates for good
governance, human rights and multiculturalism in Fiji. We are not aligned with any
political party.
•An Independent Constitution Commission should be established to direct and oversee the process for developing a Constitution for Fiji.
•A code based on core set of good governance principles should be agreed and used to guide the process of developing a Constitution for Fiji. (E.g. transparency, accountability, inclusivity etc)
•As much as possible the process must allow for all citizens including ethnic minorities and marginalized groups to have their views represented.
•The process for developing a Constitution for Fiji should begin with an extensive programme of civic education. Civic education should also be incorporated in to the national curriculum of all schools in Fiji.
•All issues, however contentious, should be open to discussion during the Constitution development process.
•All laws that restrict free and open discussion should be lifted during the process of developing a Constitution for Fiji. It must be noted that the provisions under the Public Order Act of 1969 are sufficient.
•Views and submissions to help inform the development for a Constitution for Fiji should be encouraged in every possible format and that the means for putting forward views should be effectively communicated to citizens.
•The role of the international community should be to provide the relevant resources and funding as well observing and monitoring the process of developing a Constitution for Fiji.
•The role of external experts should be limited to providing technical advice during the process of developing a Constitution for Fiji.
•The role of Non-Governmental Organizations and Civil Society Organizations during the process of developing a Constitution for Fiji should include:
oCivic education
oAdvocacy
oPublic participation
oLobbying
oCreating submissions
oConsulting with the State
oRepresenting marginalized groups
•The role of the police and military should be limited to maintaining law, order and security during the process of developing a Constitution for Fiji.
•A Constituent Assembly should be established to approve and adopt the Constitution for Fiji. With options for a referendum, a transitional government or a government nominated by the Citizens’ Assembly also being considered.
“It is our hope, that every citizen will stand up and have their voices heard in every stage of the constitution making process as it is the right of every individual – regardless of ethnicity, faith, gender or sexual orientation – to take part in the process of creating laws which will lead to lasting peace and democracy. This is a right enshrined in Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states Everyone has the Right to participate in government and free elections,” says Reverend Yabaki.

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