FIJI: FWCC and FWRM Make Constitution Presentations

Friday, October 12, 2012
Pacific Scoop
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“While both the organisations sent in our full documents to the Commission on the 10th, as per the deadline for written documents, due to time constraints, we chose to highlight a few of the main points in our oral presentation today,” said FWCC Coordinator Shamima Ali.

Both FWCC and FWRM have concerns about the legitimacy of 2012 constitution-making process. The Fiji Constitutional Process Decrees (Numbers 57 and 58), eliminate certain principles from discussion on the basis that they are “non-negotiable”, and contain demands for immunity.

“As organisations that have consistently advocated for democracy, the rule of law and human rights, we uphold the 1997 Constitution Amendment Act 1997 and the 2009 Court of Appeal Judgment of Qarase v Bainimarama ([2009] FJCA 9),” said Ali.

“We believe the issue of immunity for coup perpetrators can only be decided following a truth, reconciliation and justice process. We are also proposing a parallel citizens assembly, to support and expand the opinion base of the Constituent's Assembly, as we remain concerned how the official Constituent's Assembly will be formed and function. We are also troubled by the current environment in which this constitution-making process is taking place, in particular the continuing restrictive atmosphere in which citizens attempt to participate and the news media must operate,” said FWRM Executive Director Virisila Buadromo.

“We also believe that to create an enabling environment for appropriate access to justice, the role and the independence of the judiciary needs to be addressed. We also feel that in order for these processes to proceed in earnest, there is a need for military personnel to withdraw from the structures of government so that people may participate freely and fairly and without fear in any process which determines the future of our country,” said Ali.

Nevertheless, the importance of this exercise and the hope it represents in this opportunity to start afresh is welcomed. We are taking part because of our responsibility to the women of this country to speak for them and to advance the cause for meaningful gender equality. And so we embark on this journey with a fragile faith and a faint trust that, despite our deepest fears surrounding the Constitution Commission and the unfathomable intentions of those in power, a new Constitution will presage the restoration of the rule of law, democracy and free and fair elections by September, 2014.

We take the 1997 Constitution as the foundation from which we make our recommendations on the 13 areas.

In some cases we build upon the existing provisions of the 1997 Constitution, while in other recommendations we suggest alternatives, and in others entire new provisions.

“Under the Bill of Rights, we have suggested appropriate clauses based on international standards regarding substantive equality and the definition of discrimination. Two new proposals include special protections for human rights defenders, and a section on the link between human rights and the environment. We have also extensively discussed and made recommendations regarding temporary special measures for women in national decision-making. Suggestions include quotas or party lists that are aimed at ensuring 50 per cent representation of women at national level. These measures are temporary and we have recommended that they are reviewed after 20 years,” said Buadromo.