Monday, July 07, 2008

Academic picks at military

Academic picks at military
VERENNAISI RAICOLA
Monday, July 07, 2008

WHATEVER electoral system in place in Fiji will mean nothing if there is no desire among people, especially the military, to respect the verdict of the ballot box, says one of the architects of the 1997 Constitution, Professor Brij Lal.

"That is the fundamental problem in Fiji," he said.

Professor Lal said the deep-seated cause of instability in Fiji was the military.

"We need to know what should be the military's place in the broader scheme of things in Fiji."

He said we could talk about all kinds of things but unless the root cause of our problems was addressed, all would come to nothing.

"Increasingly, it is becoming clear that the interim administration has been infected by the virus of hubris and narcissism."

Professor Lal said the arrogance of power was constantly on display.

"There is no accountability, no transparency in what it does or in what it says.

"They talk about inclusiveness and dialogue but resort to the sledgehammer approach."

He said there was a pretence of working within the law but if it conflicted with their agenda, they simply disregarded it.

"They may try and introduce electoral changes by decree but things done through fiat don't work." He said in the ultimate analysis, they would have to go to the people.

"That is the only way."

Professor Lal was responding to moves by the National Council for Building a Better Fiji to change Fiji's electoral voting system.

The NCBBF communiqu last month stated it would make an extensive nationwide consultation on why changes to Fiji's electoral system were necessary before the election.

They would also recommend to the people the replacement of the alternative vote by a system based on proportional representation and providing for the open list voting system.

The NCBBF proposed the adoption, in all future elections, of the common roll system as a substitute for the ethnicity-based communal system.

The NCBBF believes:

- Fiji's electoral system is undemocratic in that it does not accurately reflect the will of the people and violates UNconventions by not providing for one vote to have one value,

- The system fails to adequately address representation for certain groups such as women and small minorities,

- That communal representation and voting contributed to ethnic division and entrenched ethnicity-based politics which have been detrimental to our national development, and

- The electoral system is too complex and a hindrance to the conduct of a free and fair poll.

While the NCBBF has agreed to take the proposed NCBBF election reform package back to the people for study and endorsement, it also proposed the new electoral system be implemented before the next election.

Other resolutions by the NCBBF include incorporation of specific anti-discrimination laws in the Electoral Act.

to strengthen our resolve to establish a system based on equality, the voting age be reduced to 18 years, the mandatory power-sharing provision in the Constitution be repealed, and compulsory voting be abolished.

In making these landmark and historic recommendations, the NCBBF affirms that the time has come for the leaders of this country to move the country forward in a direction that ensures sustained democracy through equality for its entire citizen.

"National unity and development must be promoted and ethnic division and race-based electoral systems and politics must become history" were the general sentiments echoed by members of the NCBBF.

The NCBBF based its decisions from the various reports received and discussed by its Working Group and National Task Team, and also from the public submissions.

"Majority of people who made submissions to the NCBBF called for a review of the electoral system and the introduction and implementation of a fairer, simpler and people-friendly system," says the communiqu.

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