26th December 2013
YOUR EXCELLENCY RATU EPELI NAILATIKAU
The President of Fiji
Re: 2013 Constitution
I write on the above subject, wishing to raise certain concerns on the same as it relates to the 2013 Constitution. I note that in the current instant you hold executive authority pursuant to the purported abrogation of the 1997 Constitution.
The 2013 Constitution is a document that has been drafted without consultation with the people. That is the first and most important criticism that it has and continues to attract. A constitution must reflect the will of the people. The 2013 document does not do so.
The second issue that the Fiji Labour Party has with the 2013 Constitution is that it fails to acknowledge and include the role of the Bose Levu Vakaturaga (GCC). The GCC has had an important constitutional role in Fiji as reflected in all our previous constitutions, including the Ghai constitution and for good reason. Historically, the GCC has been the trustee and guardian of indigenous interests.
The GCC has been the representative body for the indigenous peoples since the Deed of Cession in 1874 and has played a myriad of roles to ensure that indigenous interests were protected. It has been an august body, which arrived at important decisions affecting the Fijian people, in particular, and the nation, in general, by way of deliberation and consensus.
The GCC has also been responsible for moving Fiji back to democratic rule after the political crisis of 1987 and 2000 and actively participated in the constitutional process under the Reeves Commission. It has thus acted both constitutionally and under its statutory provisions under the Fijian Affairs Act. It represents the views of the ordinary Fijians collectively and in accordance with the communal nature of Fijian decision making. Its removal from the political and constitutional role by the Bainimarama regime is thus an affront to the indigenous peoples. It will create instability as Fijians will feel insecure about matters that they hold dear to themselves individually and as a group. It may be apposite in this instance to quote Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna on the role of the chiefs in Fiji, and whose words hold much reverence in the Fiji of today:
“We are the High Chiefs of these islands. We are the leaders of the people. On us is the duty of pointing out to them the right course. Bear this in mind. We have to lead on two points- hold back those who advocate radical changes (for which we are not sufficiently educated) and enliven the laggards before their ignorance destroys us."
By its absence, the Fijian people will not have a representative body to represent their interests. Their absence will be a cause for concern given the current incursions by the Bainimarama regime into native land, mining of Namosi and Bua (in the face of considerable objections), issuing of offshore mining licenses and removing the independence and autonomy of provincial councils.
I ask that you reconsider the absence of the GCC in a constitutional context and include it in the 2013 Constitution, and for it to have a role, elected or appointed, or a mix of both in the next Parliament.
The third issue is the electoral system as proposed under the 2013 Constitution. The single member constituency will mean that electors will not have specifically defined constituencies. As such, the people will be neglected and politicians will only play to parts of the country where they have electoral support. This will mean that the outer regions and the interior parts of the main islands will continue to be neglected and will reinforce their claims of having been neglected.
I ask that you call for fresh submissions from political parties on the electoral system and to incorporate such views by way of relevant section/s in the 2013 Constitution.
Similar submissions must also be called and considered on the proposed immunity clause, amendments to the Constitution and appointment of judicial officers.
Your Excellency, the issues raised herein have caused considerable concern amongst the peoples of Fiji. It is my duty to raise it with you at this juncture given the deadline of 31st December 2013 when the 2013 Constitution is to come into force..
The UFDF says Fiji’s 272 day journey towards re-establishing a truly transparent and accountable democracy will not be easy nor is it without risk, but achieving it can only come about with the full support of the people.
As we begin the first day of our 8th year under the repressive regime of Bainimarama, with yet more broken promises and lies from 2013 [ No Electoral Act, New Commander not named, No details of proposed Amendments to the 2013 Constitution] to add to the litany of lies of prior years that has become the hallmark of the Bainimarama regime, the UFDF reminds all the citizens of Fiji who long for a free, democratic and transparent society that with only 272 days remaining till the promised 2014 General Election is scheduled to be concluded, there is a need for everyone to ‘dig deep’ and muster the courage and determination to take ‘action’ in support of the UFDF’s efforts to regain our democracy.
The UFDF says despite all of the odds against the possibility of a lasting unity among the mainstream political parties and unions, given the differences that once separated them, the UFDF has remained a united and cohesive umbrella organization for the main opposition political parties and the relationship and cooperation between the group has never been better.
The UFDF says that while they are aware that many people are keen to know what plans the UFDF have for Fiji moving forward, they seek the people’s understanding that given the realities of Fiji’s current situation and the delays in the implementation by the Regime of some key elements of the election process that set out the rules of the conduct of elections such as the Electoral Act and appointment of the Supervisor of Elections ,the UFDF plans, although well advanced cannot be finalized without these important steps being in place.
The UFDF assures the people however, that its member groups are continuing with their preparations so that individually and collectively the UFDF will be ready when the time comes.
The UFDF says Fiji’s 272 day journey towards re-establishing a truly transparent and accountable democracy will not be easy nor is it without risk, but achieving it can only come about with the full participation of the people.
The UFDF acknowledges that the past 7 years of threats and intimidation on the people, has had its toll and that many citizens live in fear of being victimized by authorities if they express their support for the UFDF or the individual parties that make up the group.
For those who are fearful, the UFDF encourages them to look to the courageous people who were jailed and released for protesting at the signing of the constitution and the launching of the 2014 Budget and like these brave ‘patriots’ every registered voter must muster the courage within and stand up and face off with the usurpers of our democracy.
The UFDF says this journey back to a democratic society that we start today can’t be left to the politicians or the political parties alone to achieve for us, it is a journey that every eligible registered voter who rejects coups, treason, oppression and suppression must take because no one else will take this journey for us and neither should we expect them to.
The UFDF says when our future generations look back in judgment of our role in bringing this crisis to an end; we will through our actions this year encourage them to judge us with a sense of pride and gratitude for our collective effort and action in 2014 that brought about the restoration of Fiji’s democracy that they all enjoy.
A Happy and Democratic 2014 to all citizens of Fiji
The UFDF asks the Regime to tell the people of Fiji if it plans to make good on its promises of 2013 or will they too be added to the litany of lies of the prior 6 years and carried forward to 2014? The UFDF says there were many promises but some of the more important ones include for example:-
Ø Frank Bainimarama announced that he would step down as Commander of the Military by the end of the year
Ø He said he would announce his replacement?
Ø The Regime promised the release of the new Electoral Decree this year?
The UFDF also calls on the regime to release to the public the submissions for amendments to the constitution it has received and which of the recommendations received it is giving serious consideration to and what planned amendments are likely?
With less than 36 hours remaining for the end of 2013, the UFDF says a number of promises made by the regime regarding critical steps towards the promised 2014 elections have not occurred and the regime has remained largely silent on these matters? These promises include but not limited to:-
Ø Lie No 8: New Military Commander: Frank Bainimarama’s announcement that he would step down as Commander and announce his replacement by the end of the year?
The UFDF says the end of the year is 24 hours away, can the people expect Bainimarama to make good on his announcement that he will step down and name his replacement?
Ø Lie No 9: The Electoral Decree: Has been promised before the year end and tomorrow the year ends with no Electoral Decree in sight?
Ø Lie No 10: Constitutional Amendments: The Regime’s constitutional amendment window ends December 31st 2013, but the Regime remains silent on any recommendations it has received, who has sent them and what they are proposing as amendments?
The UFDF calls on the regime to release details of all submissions received and list all of the amendments proposed and to highlight which amendments it is considering for change and why?
The UFDF says the regime has gone to great lengths to give everyone the impression the constitution is the ‘people’s constitution; yet the secrecy surrounding the possible amendments to the 2013 constitution only serves as a reminder to the people that this is no more than ‘window dressing’ on the part of the regime and their real intent remains the exclusion of the people’s input and the inclusion of the amendments to ensure their prolonged illegal rule.
The UFDF says the lies of the regime have been many and as we approach the end of their 7th year rule it might be useful for people to be reminded of some of the lies that the regime has accumulated over the past 7 years that makes up the Litany of Lies that is the hallmark of the Bainimarama Regime.
Lie No. 1 – Salary: On 6 January 2007, Commodore Bainimarama in accepting the appointment of interim prime minister promised that he would continue to receive only one salary – that of RFMF Commander. Since 2010, it has been reported that the Prime Minister is receiving a super salary of $1million plus – paid not through the Treasury but reportedly through a private Suva accounting firm with close links to an aunt of the Attorney General. This has not been denied by the regime or Ms Nur Bano Ali despite it being reported widely in the public domain
Lie No 2. – Benefits: Bainimarama also declared that no one in the Army would benefit from the 2006 military intervention; however, we now find that top Army officials are holding executive positions in the civil service and receiving highly inflated annual salaries of approximately $¼ million. For example, Pio Tikoduadua, PS in the Prime Minister’s office and Francis Kean, PS Ministry of Works now get $221,894 a year, Lt Col Vaniqi gets $160,000 a year while the pays of Ministers Inia Seruiratu and Timoci Natuva in the Cabinet are being kept secret from the public as is the pay of other cabinet ministers. They have also been appointed to Boards of statutory bodies and government commercial companies thus double-dipping at the tax payers’ expense.
Lie No. 3 – Transparency & Accountability: In the same address to the nation, Bainimarama promised good governance based on transparency and accountability. However, his own salary, that of the Attorney General and the rest of Cabinet are paid secretly – no one knows what cabinet ministers are getting. Government financial reports and accounts and the Auditor General’s reports have not been published since 2008 after Bainimarama took over as Finance Minister. Government contracts and consultancies are being awarded without proper procedures being followed.
Lie No 4. – Elections: Bainimarama promised both the people of Fiji and the International community that elections would be held in March 2009; but then in April 2009, he abrogated the Constitution and said elections would not be held for another five years until 2014. We have yet to see if it will be held at all in 2014!
Lie No. 5- Constitution: Bainimarama initially promised to uphold the Constitution but had no hesitation abrogating it to save his own skin. He then promised a new constitution under a process that would be inclusive and participatory. But then, the draft constitution written by the Ghai Constitution Commission after widespread consultation with the people was trashed by Bainimarama as was the promised Constituent Assembly which was to debate the draft. He has now imposed the regime’s own constitution which is hardly democratic, provides unconditional immunity to perpetrators of coups and has been crafted to perpetuate the regime’s rule.
Lie No. 6 – Corruption: Bainimarama promised a “clean up campaign” in 2006 to wipe out corruption. The truth is that with a total lack of transparency and accountability from government, corruption is more entrenched now than ever before.
Lie No 7 - Sale of former Ministerial 4 wheel drive vehicles- Shortly after the Dec 5th 2006 coup the regime paraded the lineup of the SDL/FLP Government Minister’s Vehicles telling the people the purchase of these 4 x 4 wheel vehicles was a sign of the excesses of the Government. They vowed to sell them and use the money for the poor? 7 years on and the Bainimarama Regime has bought more top line 4 wheel drive vehicles than all the previous government’s combined. The people see the white tinted vehicles with flashing lights, breaking all the speed limits, parking in all the no parking areas. The regimes 2013 Budget allocation for ‘Vehicle Leasing’ is $30 million and they have added another $10 million for fuel and related matters? This excess is equal to building 2000 new low cost homes for the needy. No details of these excesses are known by the people because the Audited Accounts have not been made public for 6 years.
The UFDF agrees however that the Bainimarama Regime is consistent for one thing and due credit should be given which is the consistency with which they have been lying to the people. The past 7 years of the Bainimarama Dictatorship is littered with lies and broken promises.
The UFDF says the regime would do well to clean up its own backyard before pointing the finger at others and as the heat of elections draw closer Bainimarama will have to start answering to the people for his misdeeds and excesses as an ordinary aspiring candidate like the rest of us and cannot rely on the Military to bully his opponents with threats as he has done for the past 7 years because he will no longer be Commander [assuming of course that he keeps his promise] so as he sinks deeper into the arena of real politic where personal exchanges and fiery debates are the norm, he may well find he is way out of his depth.