A good step forward for Fiji

The Fijian Government has announced a timetable for a new constitution. This is well overdue, but better late than never. First the principles that will make up the constitution:

  • A common and equal citizenry;
  • A secular state;
  • The removal of systemic corruption;
  • An independent judiciary;
  • Elimination of discrimination;
  • Good and transparent governance;
  • Social justice;
  • One person, one vote, one value;
  • The elimination of ethnic voting;
  • Proportional representation; and
  • A voting age of 18.

The commitment to a secular state, an independent judiciary and the elimination of ethnic voting is especially welcome. Hell, maybe one day we’ll do the same in New Zealand and our Head of State won’t have to be a particular religion, and we won’t have race based seats.

Some of the issues to be discussed are:

  • Do we want economic and social rights to be included in the Bill of Rights? In other words, should there be a right to basic housing, to clean drinking water, to basic health services, to electricity?
  • What should be the size of Parliament? Should it be reduced from previous numbers?
  • How do we attract better quality candidates to Parliament?
  • Should we have a Senate? If so, should Senators be elected or selected?
  • How should the judiciary be selected?
  • Should political parties and their office holders disclose their assets and liabilities?

The Chairperson of the Constitutional Commission will be Professor Yash Ghai, who is an  internationally renowned constitution and human rights expert.

The timetable is:

  • July 12 – Sep 12 – Public consultation
  • Oct 12 – Dec 12 – Commission writes a draft constitution
  • Jan 13 – Feb 13 – Constitution considered by a Constituent Assembly

The one area for concern at this stage, is that an unelected Constituent Assembly approves the constitution. It would be better to have the Assembly amend the draft and finalise it, but have a public referendum on approving it.

But overall it looks a positive step forward.

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