The Annual Delegates Conference of the Fiji Labour Party met in Nadi today and called for the appointment of a caretaker government to take charge of the process of restoring Fiji to democratic and constitutional rule.
The current constitutional process sanctioned under Decrees 57 and 58 are fundamentally flawed, lack credibility and integrity and cannot be seen as inclusive and participatory.
The entire exercise is being driven by the regime in a pre-determined direction to serve its own interests and agenda.
Delegates took note of the strong reservations expressed by the Constitution Commission about the manner in which the process was being driven, in particular, the provisions of the two decrees which undermine its credibility, integrity and independence.
There were two overriding concerns:
· the provisions relating to immunity for the perpetrators of the 2006 and earlier coups; Delegates felt that writing immunity provisions into the constitution merely encouraged further coups by taking away the penalty for such treasonous crimes. It was strongly recommended that perpetrators of coups be barred from holding public office for life and that they be made answerable for their treasonous acts.
· the absolute powers vested in the interim Prime Minister to control the size and composition of the Constituent Assembly. Commission Chair Professor Yash Ghai told a media conference on 19 July that the provisions were tantamount to ignoring the essential principles of democracy and negating the independence of the Assembly.
The Commission has also expressed worry that the environment in which the constitutional talks are being held are not conducive to free and open discussions – in particular, controls over the media and the wide reaching powers of the security forces.
The Conference felt that interference by the regime in the constitutional process was making a mockery of the entire exercise. It needed to be detached from the regime and made the responsibility of a caretaker administration.
Indeed, to ensure the credibility and integrity of the process, the only lawful and legitimate way forward for Fiji was to abide by the ruling of the Fiji Court of Appeal in April 2009.
The Appeals Court had found the 2006 takeover of power unlawful. It had recommended that the President appoint a distinguished person, independent of the regime and political parties, as a caretaker Prime Minister who would then appoint a caretaker government to oversee the process of holding general elections and restoring constitutional rule.
The conference noted that the President had the powers to implement the roadmap recommended by the Appeals Court.
Delegates spoke in favour of retaining the 1997 Constitution which had wide support among the people of Fiji.
However, some amendments and additions were considered necessary, particularly those relating to the electoral system and good governance. The insertion of safeguards to hold elected governments accountable for their actions were also needed.
These could be discussed and agreed to in an appropriately constituted forum similar to the aborted President’s Political Dialogue Forum of 2009.
The conference called for the involvement of the Commonwealth Secretariat and the United Nations in an advisory capacity to assist in the transition to democratic rule.