Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Fiji Public to Have NO SAY on Draft Constitution & Decision Time for Ghai

by Sai Lealea

"Yes I'm afraid that is quite true, there has been massive interference. Now I get emails from PM to do this or not to do that, and this is a kind of harassment. We've also been now told to publish any newspapers ads for which we pay, every single expense we have incurred since the beginning of July. Now while we greatly welcome transparency and indeed there's a provision in the decree for which I'm responsible, which commits the commission to account to the people a report of our processes and funding, as well as a very professional audit of our financials before we are formally wound up in December. And it's also a little bit puzzling that a government which is so wedded to secrecy should suddenly be converted to transparency." Yash Ghai in interview with Radio Australia

Call it conspiracy theory if you like but the latest move by the illegal Bainimarama regime in a decree to exclude public consultation on the draft constitution being put together by the Ghai Commission only confirms everyone's fear of a blatantly arrogant and dictatorial move. It undoubtedly calls into question both the integrity of the whole exercise and the personal reputation and professional credibility of Commission chair Yash Ghai.

The decision to  exclude the wider public to have a say in the draft constitution is another blow to open and transparent governance and tilts the balance further in favour of the regime's own Constituent Assembly. It basically means the regime will be able to change and modify the draft document in its favour by choosing the people on the Assembly. This was one of the real fears by  regime opponents and the public at large. Surely everyone who had provided submissions would be keen to see how the commission has weighed the competing arguments and integrated their contributions into a whole document. They would therefore want the opportunity to shape the final one hence the sense in another round of public consultation over the draft. Anything less would only mean the people of Fiji are once again being denied the right to determine the rules and laws that is to govern them - a key requirement under any sort of democracy. 

For the illegal Attorney General to suggest that the public has already had sufficient say and that it has been comprehensive is a blatant farce and we all know what is behind it. The regime is now running scared given the direction and thrust of the majority of submissions and it just DOES NOT LIKE IT! Therefore the decision to throw a spanner into the process at this stage is only to be expected and of course is consistent with the regime leader's acute sense of paranoia at self preservation and fear of being rejected by the people in a free and fair election.

 Deviating also from the initial approach would make all of the Ghai Commission efforts todate worthless. After all its chair, Yash Ghai, would have taken the assignment on with a mind to the fact that the wider public was going to have another contribution over the draft constitution prior to the select lot in the regime's Constituent Assembly having its turn. Any reputable consultant and ethical professional would have noted such condition in the process as key to ensuring a good quality product. The hiring of Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi would also have this objective in mind given the much more challenging task of weighing and integrating the feedback on the draft unlike the straight out taking of initial viewpoints in the completed submission.

Yash Ghai now has a major decision to make. Does he soldier on under a revamped approach midway in the process which has the real effect of yielding a substandard product? If he does he risks a huge dent in his professional reputation and credibility. He would have at least ensured his reputation remains intact if he comes up with a good quality product and widely endorsed document prior to its consideration by the tainted and rigged Assembly. He could still walk away with his pay check knowing the rest is up to others. Nevertheless he would still risk aspersions being cast his way on his departure.

Yet Ghai must have known from day one that the regime and its leader are not to be trusted given their bulldozing tactics and that they have ulterior motives. For the regime, all the work todate is about securing other hidden personal goals such as the Immunity Clause to be forced into the constitution. Well the public in its submissions, have voiced their views loud and clear on it and no doubt Bainimarama and Khaiyum's ear drums must be close to bursting from the cacophony of opposition to it. So expect it to be forced into the document at the Assembly if not in the draft.

Ghai knew what he was getting himself into with his appointment. All who know Bainimarama would have told him of his unpredictable nature and shifty character. This latest turn in their relationship was always coming given the diametrically different intellectual and professional standpoints they come from. It was also going to impact on the approach adopted as, for Bainimarama, it is key for him securing what he wants from the whole constitution-making exercise. The slightest indication of his personal goals not being achieved has spurred Bainimarama to throw a spanner in the works and passing blame on others as he always does. As a result, Fiji and its people are once again being held hostage by the greedy and cowardice actions of one tyrant and dictator.


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