Saturday, March 10, 2012

Fiji: Fijian Prime Minister Announces Constitutional Consultations Process

SOURCE Republic of Fiji

Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama announced Fiji's plan to formulate a new constitution, laying out the basic principles and timetable for the Constitutional Consultation process.

The twelve-month process includes a civic education programme for Fijians in urban, rural and maritime areas, and will consist of meetings throughout the nation in which all Fijians are urged to actively contribute their ideas. A five-member Constitutional Commission will oversee the process and a Constituent Assembly will discuss, debate and approve the new Constitution.

"The consultation process is guided by universally recognized principles and values that are non-negotiable," Prime Minister Bainimarama said. These principles include:

  • 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.

During the months of May to July, a civic education programme will be conducted to highlight issues for Fijians to think about before they make their voices heard to the Constitutional Commission. This process will be conducted both in English and in the vernacular languages.

From July to September, consultations will take place under the leadership of the Constitutional Commission. Transportation will be provided to Fijians beyond the reach of the public transportation system.

The Chairperson of the Constitutional Commission will be Professor Yash Ghai, internationally known constitutional and human rights expert.

Two of the three distinguished Fijian members of the Constitutional Commission include:

  • Taufa Vakatale, the first female Deputy Prime Minister of Fiji; and
  • Satendra Nandan, Academic writer, former Member of Parliament.

The names of the two other members of the Commission will be announced in due course.

Upon completion of the consultations, the Commission will draft a constitution by the end of December 2012 and submit it to the Constituent Assembly.

The Assembly will consist of representative civil society groups and organizations that are Fijian-registered, including faith-based organizations, relevant institutions, political parties, and Government.

The Assembly will debate the draft, making amendments where necessary, and ultimately approve the Constitution before presenting it to His Excellency the President by the end of February 2013.

Fiji has democratic elections scheduled for 2014.