Constitution holiday… an absurdity!

  • 26th August 2015
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So we are now told to observe 7 September (2016 onwards) as a holiday for a Constitution that is an abhorrent imposition on the people of Fiji.

It is the height of absurdity. The 2013 constitution is seriously flawed and undemocratic. It has come under severe criticism from international organisations as well as local critics. What is there to celebrate about it?

It is not a people’s constitution as it has had no input from the people. It was specifically crafted to extend the status quo under Bainimarama’s authoritarian rule. So why would the people want to celebrate its imposition on them?

The Citizens Constitutional Forum has produced a comprehensive critique of the 2013 constitution, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) in its Universal Periodic Review of Fiji in November 2014 raised some 137 concerns in relation to the imposed constitution. The provisions relating to the judiciary have also come under criticism from international legal bodies.

The UNHRC in fact called on Fiji to appoint a Constitutional Review Commission to undertake a comprehensive review of the constitution to ensure it is “reflective of the will and aspirations of the people of Fiji”.

It recommended that the legislative and constitutional framework be amended to:

• maintain separation of powers
• cease executive interference with the
independence of the judiciary and lawyers; and
• ensure that the processes governing the discipline
of lawyers and judges are free from political interference.

Draconian decrees enforced since 2009 continue in force under this constitution, seriously undermining and overriding its human rights provisions as well as those relating to the Judiciary. Fiji is already under scrutiny of the International Labour Organisation for the continuation of decrees that violate core international conventions and instruments on the basic rights of the people, in particular the workers and trade unions.

None of the provisions in the Constitution for good governance particularly those relating to the Accountability and Transparency Commission, Code of Conduct, and Freedom of Information legislation have been complied with. Parliament remains a farce with a Speaker whose partiality to the government has been widely questioned.

It is obvious that the Constitution holiday has been thrown in as a red herring to detract attention from the real issues plaguing the nation, ie.

• record level of unemployment
• ever escalating cost of living
• unprecedented levels of poverty
• high crime rate
• lack of decent housing for the poor
• chronic shortage of everyday medicine in our hospitals and clinics
• appalling road conditions
• frequent disruptions to water supply etc etc

No, the people don’t want a public holiday to celebrate an unwanted constitution – they want the 1997 Constitution back.