The Fijian constitution

December 23rd, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

ZB reports first the bad:

’s ruling military has warned it will closely monitor parliament when the coup-plagued nation finally elects a new government, as officials wrapped up work on a draft constitution. …

However, the role of the military, a key political player in the Pacific nation that has endured four coups since 1987, remains contentious, with the author of the draft constitution calling for it to stay out of politics after 2014.

But in a submission to the commission tasked with working on the new constitution, the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) indicated it had no intention of restricting its role after the elections.

The military exists “to deal with both internal security situation and external threats,” said the submission, which was seen by AFP.

“The forces cannot and will not be complacent in dealing with situations that undermine national interest.”

The military said it would not allow any government that won office in 2014 to undermine its reforms.

This has always been my concern. Fiji will be a pseudo-democracy. The people will be able to elect a Government, but only if the Government does things the military approves of.

Kenyan academic Yash Ghai, the head of the five-person Constitutional Commission that handed the draft document to the government on Friday, said the military should be subject to parliamentary oversight and focus on national defence.

“We think the professional military, their conscience should be to defend Fiji against external aggression and we would rather the police handle internal disorder issues,” he told Radio New Zealand.

“We feel that the military must be responsible to the government and to parliament and they have to act within the confines of the constitution.”

But sadly this will not happen. Fiji’s future appears to be a series of military rulers. They won’t interfere most of the time, but will grant themselves the right to intervene purely because they have the guns.

The new constitution is intended to guarantee, through a People’s Charter, principles such as one-person-one-vote, an independent judiciary and transparent governance, as well as establishing a secular, corruption-free state.

And that is the good. But the military must be accountable to the elected Parliament, and not above the Constitution.

Tags:

22 Responses to “The Fijian constitution”

  1. Azeraph (604 comments) says:

    It’s their Fiji, not mine. One day they will relax as the coup generations breed out.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  2. Redbaiter (9,098 comments) says:

    “But sadly this will not happen. Fiji’s future appears to be a series of military rulers. They won’t interfere most of the time, but will grant themselves the right to intervene purely because they have the guns.”

    I wonder if this will ring any bells with the liberals who say guns are only to be possessed by governments and not by citizens.

    Doubt it.

    Critical thought has been like the dodo in NZ for a few decades.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  3. kowtow (8,522 comments) says:

    The only thing that guarantees what passes for deomcracy in Turkey is the military.

    Strange how a “progressive” institution like the EU is generally happy with a democracy that survives only by the threat of military coup.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  4. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    Who cares, just stop giving thme NZ aid money and say “bugger off.”

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  5. Azeraph (604 comments) says:

    Well, human nature is human nature. You are a well behaved human when under observation.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  6. Whaleoil (767 comments) says:

    I don’t see anyone protesting the form of democracy China has…or Saudia Arabia…or Pakistan who have had far more coups than Fiji..or Thailand…same as Pakistan.

    Yet for some bizarre reason we expect Fiji to behave the way we want them to. We place sanctions on them that we won;t on other countries…why the difference.

    Of course David you haven’t been to Fiji, not even recently…so your comments are really moot…actually they border on ill informed.

    [DPF: It is all about direction. Fiji was a democracy. Now it is not. China has not been a democracy ever but is becoming more democratic. NZ should encourage countries to become more democratic and discourage those who move away from the fundamental principle that the people are sovereign and have the right of self-determination. Why should the Commodore be ruler for life, just because he has more guns?]

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  7. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    We placed sanction on Fiji because they are in the South Pacific and thus should do what we and the Australians say. Comparisons with other authoritarian regimes around the world are spurious because they are too far away for us to care, or too powerful for them to care about us. Fiji is in the right zone for us to patronise and bully.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  8. Carlos (683 comments) says:

    If we reject Fiji, then I think Fiji will turn to China more and more giving China a stronger presence in the South Pacific.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  9. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    Carlos

    I don’t really think China needs Fiji as a stepping stone for world domination, it just needs to withdraw large amounts of cash from a few banks and bingo!

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  10. Paul G. Buchanan (294 comments) says:

    A year ago I gathered a few comparative thoughts on Fiji given my background writing about regime transition scenarios. Upon reflection in light of this not-too-surprising news, it looks like I was not too far off the mark: http://www.kiwipolitico.com/2011/12/baimimarama-channels-pinochet/

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  11. Redbaiter (9,098 comments) says:

    “If we reject Fiji, then I think Fiji will turn to China more and more giving China a stronger presence in the South Pacific.”

    Many pretending to be political moderates in NZ would secretly have no problem with that outcome.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  12. MT_Tinman (3,203 comments) says:

    I agree DPF, it would be far better that Fiji returned to the dictatorship of a few self appointed, outright racist “chiefs”.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  13. gump (1,650 comments) says:

    @Redbaiter

    Please tell us exactly what is wrong with China building a stronger presence in the South Pacific.

    I’d like you to be as specific as possible. If the threats are as important as you say, you should have no problem producing a list.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  14. UglyTruth (4,551 comments) says:

    “Fiji will be a pseudo-democracy. The people will be able to elect a Government, but only if the Government does things the military approves of.”

    How is this any different to NZ’s situation, when NZ military have sworn to serve the commander in chief of the British Armed Forces, the same commander in chief who appoints and dismisses NZ ministers of parliament?

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  15. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    It is lot different from New Zealand’s situation, where the New Zealand military swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen of New Zealand and we have a strong tradition of constitutional government, which includes well tried conventions about the political role of members of the armed forces ie, they have no political role.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  16. UglyTruth (4,551 comments) says:

    One political role involves the marginalization/oppression of minorities (particularly brown-skinned ones), for example the Canadian religious genocide.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  17. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    A discussion on the difference between the respective roles of the militaries in Fiji and New Zealand might be relevant, but your ‘Canadian religious genocide’ is probably well off topic.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  18. Paul G. Buchanan (294 comments) says:

    The hallmark of the Western professional model of civil-military relations is the subordination of the military to the legitimately elected political authorities of the day, regardless of the ideological persuasion or corruption of that government. So long as the government dos not trifle with the constitution, the military has no reason to intervene. That is why constitutional roles need to be well defined, particularly with regard to the role of the armed forces. Most Western professional militaries eschew an internal security role except in the event of dire national mergence or existential threat. I only say this because the Fijian high command have Western professional training, officer training including in Australia and New Zealand.

    On the other hand, the “new professional” (non-Western) model of civil-miitary relations makes the military a guardian of internal as well as external roles, with a self-defined mandate as “guardians” of the nation and/or constitutional order. This appears to be the model that the Baimimarama regime is attempting to construct for post-authoritarian Fiji. The model emerged in Latin America but follows on the histories of Arab secular military-nationalism and East and Southeast Asian military-bureaucratic regimes where the military defined what was in the national interest.

    Many countries have justified continued military influence if not veto power under conditions of electoral rule in post-authoritarian regimes on the venalities of civilian elected politicians, then and now. That may true in Fiji as well as elsewhere. But if that logic prevails than what results is a “guarded” pr “protected” democracy in which the military are the ultimate arbiters of the national interest.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  19. UglyTruth (4,551 comments) says:

    mikenmild, the point is that the NZ military serve a political purpose.

    Paul, the “legitimately elected authorities” serve that same purpose because they swore an oath with the same allegiance as the military. How would the military even recognize unconstitutional acts by the government when the existence of the government itself is not constitutional – it was simply “deemed necessary” to exist?

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  20. Paul G. Buchanan (294 comments) says:

    UT:

    I disagree that the elected political authorities serve the same purpose as the armed forces. Existence of government may or may not be unconstitutional, but in mature democracies the military role is not defined by or reducible to the constitutionality of elected government. The latter serves as collective oversight, which means that their roles vis a vis the military need to be well-defined–and the hierarchical ties in and between them well specified–in order for “constitutional” governance to obtain. If elected government does not perform or abrogates its constitutional roles, it is for the electorate, not the military, to remove them. If the electorate is ignorant of their own interests, as some military advocates argue, then it is a matter of political education rather than military usurpation. In Fiji as in other military bureaucratic regimes, the transition scenario envisions the military as the “guardian” of the elected regime, with all of the paternalism that entails.

    The new professional military assumes internal as well as external roles and often has a civilian electoral facade to legitimate its rule. The military nationalist secular regimes that are now crumbling in the Arab world had trappings of that, but the Latin American and Central and Southeast Asians have strong records in that regard. They worked hard on their transition scenarios and some succeeded, and some not. Fiji as the benefit of many learning curves i that regard.

    The China angle is interesting because the PRC is a good example of a “professional revolutionary” model of civil-military relations in which a moblizational party that includes the military hierarchy at its core rules based upon a defense of ideological goals. These goals may shift over time as in the PRC, but the triumvirate of Party-Security Apparatus-Civilian Bureaucracy remains as the dominant political coalition. It is not impossible for such a regime to emerge in a post military-bureaucratic transition.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  21. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    Ugly probably wants to move this thread on to one of his pseudo-legal constitutional history hobby horses.
    Its good to have Paul pointing out some of the more nuanced situations in which authoritarian regimes have existed and will continue to exist. Moving New Zealand discourse re Fiji beyond ‘democracy good, military government bad’ would be very helpful.

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  22. UglyTruth (4,551 comments) says:

    Paul, the common political purpose that I’m referring to is the marginalization/oppression of minorities. Naturally their roles differ in other respects. You seem to be in favour of education rather than intervention, can you suggest an appropriate medium for that given the political bias of the MSM towards intervention (eg Murdoch’s call for further gun control)?

    Vote: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote