July 20, 2012
RESPONSE TO CONSTITUTION COMMISSION
Ministry of Information
Jul 20|08:32 am
The Government of the Republic of Fiji is committed to a constitution-drafting process that is transparent, credible, fully inclusive, and open to all points of view. We wish to encourage a healthy discussion in which all Fijians can express their views freely and without fear.
Yesterday, following Cabinet approval, Government issued two decrees to set out the rules and the procedures for the constitutional process. As you will all note, the decrees sets the framework for a free, fair, and open constitutional process, and we note the positive reaction of some Fijian political leaders and representatives of civil society.
Government notes the views of the Constitutional Commission, whose members share our commitment to this process, and we appreciate the members’ willingness to make constructive observations. The Commission is independent, as it should be, and it expresses its own views.
We note particularly that immunity is a provision that has been used in many nations as a means of promoting reconciliation and focusing energy on the task of building a better future rather than dwelling on the divisions of the past. Having a provision for immunity in the Constitution does not preclude any discussion of issues relating to persons having immunity.
The decrees also provide for the Prime Minister to provide the composition and members of the Constituent Assembly. They ensure that a broad cross-section of the society is represented. We have clearly laid out the requirement for a broadly representative body, and we invite all Fijians and other observers to judge for themselves how successful we are in meeting that objective once the appointments are made.
We are concerned, however, about three factually incorrect assertions made by the Commission with respect to media freedom, access to the courts, and powers of the security forces. The Fijian people have vigorously exercised their right to redress through the courts under this Government. We have an independent and impartial judiciary, which adjudicates proceedings of all nature, including proceedings against Government in accordance with law.
We categorically dispute the allegations made by the Commission that the security forces have wide-ranging powers. The security forces are subject to the laws of Fiji. Indeed, members of the security forces have faced charges.
The Media Decree ensures that the media in Fiji operate independently and responsibly. To date, nobody has been taken to media tribunal and no one has been charged with an offense under the media decree. Furthermore, the State has in no way interfered with the independence of the Media Tribunal. The code of conduct laid out in the Media Decree was taken verbatim from the Code of Conduct of the Media Council, and has been in force since the 1980s.
In fact, none of the issues raised by the Commission concerning the media, the security forces, and access to the courts have any bearing on the Commission’s mandate as laid out by the decree that created it.
With the conditions for the process of drafting the constitutions now in place, we look to all participants to contribute constructively to the work ahead of us and to enjoy a civil, frank, and thoughtful exchange of ideas focused on the future.