Saturday, October 13, 2012

Leave Contentious Issues to Elected Parliament - Wadan Narsey

Wadan Narsey

In his submission to the Ghai Constitutional Commission, Professor Wadan Narsey has called for major and contentious constitutional issues to be dealt with by an elected parliament and not by the proposed Constituent Assembly tasked with adopting the draft constitution.

 Narsey also argues that the Commission should refer to its draft constitution as "Revised" and not NEW as to do so would be endorsing the abrogation of the 1997 Constitution. He lists the various court judgements and legal precedents upholding the supremacy of the 1997 Constitution and affirming its integrity even if purportedly being abrogated by the current military regime.

The submission also reminds in one of its footnotes (page 41) of the ongoing intimidatory tactics of the Bainimarama regime aimed at its opponents. Narsey reveals that:

"This economist, upon his return from Australia, was read "precautionary" charges on "sedition" (arising out of his articles defending pensioners' rights), questioned very politely for three hours at CID HQ, his home searched (for files on FNPF!), a computer taken away (still not returned yet), and all the records from his mobile phone down-loaded. Sources indicate that the charges originated from the highest levels in the Regime, and that he has also been placed on the "Watch List" (effectively discouraging him from travelling). This file will presumably be kept "open" in order to intimidate the critic into silence. "

Below is an excerpt from his impressive submission.

125. Since 2006 there have been fundamental changes brought about by decrees without any referral to elected parliaments in a number of areas. These include:

* the abolition of the Great Council of Chiefs,

* the declaration that the term "Fijian" should be used to denote all citizens of Fiji

* the appointment of Presidents

* the attempted conferral of wide-ranging immunity for the events since 2000, etc.

126. Strong arguments may be made both for and against these measures and decrees, and I have written on many of these issues earlier, for instance on how the GCC could and should be reformed. It is clearly possible for the Commission to make recommendations on many of the issues listed below.

127. Nevertheless, these are not matters to be decided by military decree or even by some Constituent Assembly appointed by the Regime. It is vital that they be determined with the full deliberations and concurrence of elected representatives of the people, in order that the changes be sustainable. Should the Regime insist on going ahead with these changes, it would be an exercise in futility, since no constitution can stop future parliaments from changing them again.

128. This submission suggests to the Commission that despite the apparent reticence of Fiji 's intellectuals to either publicly state their views through the media, or make in-depth and substantive recommendations to the Commission itself, there is a depth of talent and ability available in the country, which would willingly avail their services to any Select Committee of the next elected Parliament.

129. This submission suggests to the Commission that however tempting it may be to recommend a comprehensive "Constitution" on all the contentious issues, they would be taking on a burden upon themselves which should rightly sit with the citizens of this country, who in the past have appeared all too eager to let foreigners provide them with solutions to their national problems of their own creation. The Commission can and should demand real accountability from the nation's citizens to deliberate and decide on contentious matters on which their future lives will depend.

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