The new Fiji constitution

August 25th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

has released what is basically the final constitution for next year’s elections, and thereafter. It is embedded below.

The constitution is a vast improvement over the former constitution which was racially divisive. It has many laudable aspects to it.

I blogged in March on the draft constitution and said:

  • Explicitly rules unconstitutional any future coups, or immunities for future illegal actions. A valiant attempt to stop the coup culture. But the wide role five to the military allows them to intervene in future and claim it is constitutional
  • Clearly defines Fiji as a secular state with freedom of religion, and that religious beliefs are subservient the the constitution and laws.
  • All citizens are equal, regardless of racial background.
  • A comprehensive bill of rights but the freedom of speech section has a long list of limitations which could in fact lead to fairly restricted speech.
  • A 50 MP proportional representation Parliament, with one national list. Was previously proposed to be a 45 MP Parliament with four regional lists.
  • No hereditary upper house
  • A four year fixed term
  • A neutral President appointed by Parliament. President is Commander-in-Chief, not the PM as originally proposed. President may not be a member of a political party
  • An independent Judiciary
  • The PM appoints the Commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces.
  • The role of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces is “to ensure at all times the security, defence and well-being of Fiji and all its residents”. I think that is far too wide a role, and can be used to justify the military doing almost anything they want, so long as they believe it is necessary to the “well-being” of Fiji. It is not their job to decide. Their job should be to protect Fiji from external threats.
  • Grants immunity to all those involved in past coups etc, and this section can never be amended or repealed.
  • Constitution can only be amended by a bill in Parliament that is then ratified by a three quarters majority in a referendum, and unclear if it needs three quarters of those voting or three quarters of all registered voters

The major problem with the constitution is the process, not the substance. It has been decided upon by the Commodore, and will be proclaimed by him without any public vote. Furthermore it is very very difficult to change it in future, and the clauses dealing with immunity are stated to be beyond amendment or repeal. So you have a document proclaimed by one man, that will be supreme law, and parts of it can never ever be changed even if 99% of Fijians want it.

But the reality of Fiji is they have imperfect choices. The constitution is generally very good, and greatly superior to what they have had in the past. It allows for elections next year, and hopefully a path back to democracy.

The true test for Fiji will come if there is a time the Commodore contests an election, and does not win. I suspect he will win next year, but then he will have an opposition who can criticise him more vigorously, a Parliament that provides the opposition with a voice, and hopefully a more free media. That means that his current advantages may not last forever.

Not that I have a view on whether or not he should remain PM. That should be a judgement of the people of Fiji based on how good a job he does as PM in growing the economy, providing good education and health, uniting Fiji and the like.

2013 Fiji Constitution by Cam Slater

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16 Responses to “The new Fiji constitution”

  1. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,797 comments) says:

    If New Zealand and Australia had not acted so beligerently, Fiji might now already have had an election under it’s new constitution.

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  2. Whaleoil (766 comments) says:

    “The major problem with the constitution is the process, not the substance. It has been decided upon by the Commodore, and will be proclaimed by him without any public vote. ”

    What a load of rubbish David. There was a year long process with many, many public meetings open for all to submit. Last year when I visited was the least week of public submissions and I even attended a meeting in Suva where people were providing input into the document.

    the last constitution was imposed on Fiji and drafted by NZ and Australian busybodies that entrenched racism…are you suggesting the same process?

    No one complained when the revolutionary government in the US produced their own constitution…except the Poms of course.

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  3. Whaleoil (766 comments) says:

    In fact i might add that Fiji’s process for constitutional reform was far more robust than the current gerrymander going on in New Zealand.

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  4. UglyTruth (4,000 comments) says:

    Using the meaning of “system of principles by which a community is governed”, no written document is a constitution. The best a civil state can hope for is paper representation of what they think a constitution should be.

    constitution (n.)
    mid-14c., “law, regulation, edict,” from Old French constitucion (12c.) “constitution, establishment,” and directly from Latin constitutionem (nominative constitutio) “act of settling, settled condition, anything arranged or settled upon, regulation, order, ordinance,” from constitut-, past participle stem of constituere (see constitute).

    Meaning “action of establishing” is from 1580s; that of “way in which a thing is constituted” is from c.1600; that of “physical health, strength and vigor of the body” is from 1550s; of the mind, “temperament, character” from 1580s. Sense of “mode of organization of a state” is from c.1600; that of “system of principles by which a community is governed” dates from 1730s; especially of a document of written laws since the U.S. and French constitutions, late 18c.

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  5. BlairM (2,287 comments) says:

    Fuck process, the result is what is important. And this constitution could have happened by no other process.

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  6. David Farrar (1,855 comments) says:

    Cam – they may have had public meetings, but they effectively sacked the independent body that was meant to draft the constitution. At the end of the day this is a constitution decided by one person. Now it’s not bad, but surely the people of Fiji should get to vote on whether or not they want to adopt it?

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  7. UglyTruth (4,000 comments) says:

    Fuck process, the result is what is important.

    The ends justify the means, eh? Machiavelli would have been proud.

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  8. UglyTruth (4,000 comments) says:

    surely the people of Fiji should get to vote on whether or not they want to adopt it?

    Constitutions are not the product of popular opinion. All they have is a written statement of public policy, nothing more.

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  9. Griff (6,803 comments) says:

    Edit
    Expect it to be an issue in Our coming election.
    http://www.ourconstitution.org.nz/article/513/Acknowledgingahealthyconversation.html
    latest news

    The topics for consideration included whether or not Aotearoa New Zealand should have a constitution written down in a single document, the role of the Treaty of Waitangi and the Bill of Rights Act in(as) our constitution, Māori representation in local and national government, and a range of electoral matters.

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  10. Kea (11,878 comments) says:

    Constitutions are not the product of popular opinion.

    Ugly, so how would you draft a [unpopular] constitution and based on what authority, since you disregard the views of those effected by it ?

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  11. Kea (11,878 comments) says:

    What is the bet that Ugly would scream bloody murder if he thought his “rights” had been in any way violated by the authorities ? ( check out his crazy site) Yet he regularly comes on here saying the laws passed by our elected leaders don’t matter and nor do the views of the people !

    What a miserable arrogant little man, who seems to think the law is something that only applies to the rest of us. We really need to be far less tolerant to these oxygen thieves in our midst.

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  12. Griff (6,803 comments) says:

    Wingnut love how cute.

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  13. UglyTruth (4,000 comments) says:

    Wingnut love how cute.

    LOL

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  14. Kea (11,878 comments) says:

    Do you get picked up by the cops much Ugly ? Your a Nelson boy ?

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  15. kowtow (7,634 comments) says:

    Sorry, no referendum then there’s no legitimacy. It should be endorsed by a clear majority of the electorate.Otherwise it’s not a republic.

    It’s really a commodorocracy.

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  16. Whaleoil (766 comments) says:

    David you are wrong again, they didn’t sack the body meant to draft it, you really should stop quoting stories from bloggers who aren;t even in the country. That whole story was a stitch up as I told you and blogged at the time.

    Unfortunately you seem want to repeat the words of banned journalists and bloggers who are as far from Fiji as you are rather than talking and communicating with people actually living in Fiji.

    It is not a constitution drafted by just one person. The people of Fiji never got to vote on the last constitution either, that was imposed on Fiji by NZ and Australia, was racist and ultimately led to the further coups.

    But hey keep taking your purist view about process and Fiji and ignore the fact that we can and do deal with all sorts of regimes around the world but for some reason all get our knickers knotted over Fiji…it is ridiculous that we can sign a free trade agreement with China, hardly a democracy and yet place bans and restrictions on Fiji.

    It is beltway bullshit.

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