The FLP National Council meeting held in Ba on Saturday 24 March discussed the constitutional roadmap as outlined by the Prime Minister and has called for it to be replaced by one that is truly independent and genuinely inclusive.
The Council sees the constitutional process announced by Prime Minister Bainimarama on March 9 as an imposition of the regime’s own roadmap on the people of Fiji.
Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry with Council members after the meeting in Ba
The various steps outlined therein were determined without any consultation with political parties or civil society organisations. The entire process is heavily driven by the regime and this is unacceptable – it cannot be seen as being inclusive and participatory.
The process to be credible, has to be independent of the regime; it must be inclusive and participatory and not just consultative. To ensure this, the FLP recommends that the President’s Political Dialogue Forum (PPDF) abandoned after the abrogation of the Constitution in April 2009, be resuscitated to determine a roadmap based on consensus.
The proposed process as outlined is too haphazard and seriously flawed –appointments to the Constution Commission and the Constituent Assembly have not been fully determined, and there is a danger of these bodies being stacked to ensure a particular outcome. We have already been told that chairmen of Provincial Councils will be appointed by the regime and not elected by members of the council as was the practice up to now.
In order to facilitate genuine consultations and full participation of the people, all restrictive Decrees and policies that impede freedom of assembly, association, expression and movement must be removed.
Political parties and civil society organisations, including trade unions, should be free to meet and consult with their constituents without having to seek permission from the authorities
- for proper and genuine debate and exchange of views, the media must provide fair, balanced and accurate coverage. It has been noted that certain media organisations are exercising bias and not giving fair coverage to all political parties. Statements critical of the process are often heavily edited and given delayed coverage while government statements get immediate and prominent coverage.
- decrees such as the State Proceedings (Amendment) Decree that give unfair advantage to the regime by granting it privileged protection must be removed to facilitate a level playing field and to ensure fairness
- representatives of political parties, NGOs and civil society organisations should be included in the civic education programmes to ensure that the people are accurately informed and that these programmes do not become indoctrination sessions pushing a preconceived agenda.
The Council noted that other political parties, trade unions and several civil society organisations have expressed serious reservations about the regime’s roadmap. In light of this, the Council recommended that the FLP Management Board consult with their leaders to arrive at a consensus on the way forward.
A revised constitution
The Council questioned the need to write up an entirely new constitution noting that the 1997 constitution was promulgated following wide consultations with the people, and that it had the broad agreement of all the communities.
A practical alternative to holding early elections under a revised constitution would be to use the 1997 Constitution as the base document with appropriate amendments and additions where considered necessary.
The role of the military in the nation’s governance should be thoroughly considered and appropriate safeguards provided in the constitution restricting it from engaging in politics.
It is critical that all functions connected with the next general elections, including the voter registration process, be handled by an independent elections office headed by the Supervisor of Elections. This office must be completely detached from the administration.
The Council expressed concern that State resources were being used by the regime to hold political sessions with people in villages and settlements. These propaganda campaigns at public expense must cease.