Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Should we be reshuffling cabinet without reshuffling our approach?


A rearrangement of chairs on the deck of a sinking Titanic? Or a better and efficient team more capable of implementing the President’s mandate to the Interim PM? Another set of masks for rule by military elite? Or the revenge of the 2006 election losers? A confusing set of choices that belie the prospects of an early return to democracy? Or just what the nation needs to take it successfully and unerringly toward a non-racial multicultural future?

Despite the plethora of opinion about the new-look Interim government cabinet, no one can really say.

Fiji has one constitution that until the end of 2006 seemed to be doing its job. It still has it in place, but a People’s Charter is being proposed and urged – a charter whose process and status will presumably have to be judged by the present Constitution.

And a charter that must ultimately meet the standards of an elected parliament.

How will the new line-up cabinet guarantee the compatibility of both the charter and the Constitution and the acceptance of the Charter by a new parliament?

The Charter has been proposed in the context of talk and advocacy about the need for building a better Fiji. This is something that no one could fail to support. We definitely need a better Fiji. But is a People’s Charter the best way to build a better Fiji? On the face of it, won’t it just add more legalism to the system already overloaded with legalism?

More fundamentally, does Fiji really need more law-like documents to make things work better? Can our problem really be solved by writing another set of words and phrases, clauses and paragraphs about what is to matter and what isn’t?

Don’t we just need more faith in each other? More trust in each other? Haven’t we learned over the past 37 years that no matter how well composed, how lofty the governing document, if the faith and goodwill toward each other is not there, nothing will work, the document will be effectively torn up, and back to square one for the nation?

Will a People’s Charter produce the faith, goodwill and trust that we so vitally lack and which are absolute prerequisite conditions for producing a respected democracy?
We hope so. If not, all the cabinet reshuffles in the world will be mere ritual charades not worth swearing-in about. ‘I aimed at the public’s heart’, wrote the famous American anti-corruption crusader, Upton Sinclair (in his classic novel The Jungle), ‘but by accident I hit it in the stomach’. Indeed, the real work of any new-face Interim cabinet will be to get its Charter right and win the hearts of a Fiji public still winded by the events of 2006.

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