Thursday, April 04, 2013

Rewa Province Strongly Oppose Illegal Regime's Draft Constitution

Rewa Paramount Chief Ro Teimumu Kepa (Coup 4.5 Photo)


4th April, 2013
The Solicitor General 
Mr. Sharvada Sharma
 Level 7 Suvavou House 
Victoria Parade SUVA

Mr. Sharma,

Submission to the Interim Government’s Draft Constitution – 2013

We, the undersigned, in our indigenous traditional cultural roles as Turaga i Taukei, and on behalf of the people of the Vanua ‘o Rewa, hereby register our gravest objections and opposition, in the strongest possible terms to the Draft Constitution of the Interim Government which was released on Friday 22nd March, 2013.

We must state from the outset that the Bose Vanua ‘o Rewa, has since the illegal takeover of the lawfully elected government, remained steadfast in upholding the resolution of the December 2006 Great Council of Chiefs in not recognising the illegal takeover of the properly elected government. The Fiji Court of Appeal, on 9th April 2009 declared the takeover of Parliament by Voreqe Bainimarama on 5th December 2006 as illegal. That judicial decision has not been stayed or set aside.

In the last six years, the interim government has continued to weaken and ridicule our indigenous institutions, our traditional leadership system and anything that we, the indigenous people claim to be our rights as the first settlers of this land. We attach at Appendix I a list of special privileges and rights of indigenous Fijians which have been removed or weakened and belittled by the Interim Government. 

Be that as it may, the interim government’s announcement in April, 2012 on the establishment of the Constitution Commission under the leadership of Professor Ghai, the Kenyan Constitutional world renowned authority, had us, believe in that constitutional processes and progress was finally being initiated. We deliberated over this announcement and decided to participate in the constitution making process in order to present our considered opinions on how best our beloved country could get back to parliamentary democracy. We were satisfied that the “views of the people were being solicited” and we trusted that the processes outlined would be complied with. Notwithstanding this statement, we remained committed to our view that the 1997 Constitution remains the supreme law of Fiji. Very briefly towards the end of 2012 there was renewed spirit of confidence, hope and relief that our nation was finally moving towards Parliamentary rule through the General Election in 2014. This was not to be. 

The much awaited Draft Constitution developed by the five-member team led by renowned Kenyan Constitution lawyer Professor Yash Ghai was dispensed with by the Military Regime on 10 January, 2013. The people of Fiji were promised that the revised constitution would be released by the interim government at the end of January, 2013. This passed by quietly and so did the end of February. The Interim Government’s draft constitution that was released on 22nd March, is not only a regressive document; the dispensation of the Constituent Assembly in return for the direct participation of the people of Fiji within 13 days of the release, is a total farce and only serves to entrench the power and authority of three Offices, being the Prime Minister, Attorney General and the Chief Justice. 

We are seriously concerned with the removal of the entrenched legislations that safeguard the indigenous institutions, resources, tradition and culture as well as the protection and the rights of the Rotumans and Banabans. We are alarmed with the absence of provisions on group rights, land owners and tenancy provisions, the restrictions placed on the provisions of the Bill of Rights. We are disgusted with the provisions on the amendment of the constitution. If adopted, the constitution will simply not be amended because of the stringent requirements stipulated in the draft. The removal of the Commander in Chief’ role from the President to the office of the Prime Minister is another major issue of contention. 

As customary chiefs we implore you to understand that the very reasons why this  country was annexed as a Crown Colony in 1874 was to protect the group rights of native Fijians relating to our customary lands, our chiefly and customary institutions. Those rights were recognized within the Deed of Cession (Clause 4 and 7) and have remained entrenched  in every constitution of this country until removed by the Draft Constitution that is now presented by the interim Government. 

At the 81st Cession of the UN Human Rights Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), members of that esteemed  committee had warned that the termination of the Great Council of Chiefs, the abstraction of the term Fijian, and the various amendments to the Fijian Affairs Act and the Native Lands Act to consolidate the government control of these institutions was contrary to the purpose and intent of the ILO Convention 169 and the 2007 UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The 8st CERD Committee’s  resolution is a warning to the interim Government that it must consult fully with the indigenous Fijians and obtain their prior and informed consent before it changes any legislation or policy affecting them. 

Our Bose Vanua again met on 25th March and we have unanimously rejected the interim government’s draft constitution. We submit that the stability, peace and progress of our beloved country can only be achieved if the rights of indigenous Fijians are recognized and respected. 

Our forefathers had made compromises and had exercised goodwill and restraints in the unique role they played in facilitating the establishment of proper governance in Fiji. We remain steadfast in our resolve to stand by the resolution of the Great Council of Chiefs in rejecting the unlawful takeover of the properly elected government. We believe that the way forward for Fiji is to return to the 1997 Constitution and necessary changes shall only be made through an elected parliament.

Yours faithfully,

Ro Teimumu V. Kepa Na Gone Marama Bale na RokoTuiDreketi Vanua ‘o Rewa Vale Levu Lomanikoro REWA

Ratu Isoa Damudamu Dona Takalaiyale Na Tui Noco Nai Liuliu ni SauTuraga Vanua ‘o Bureonoco Lomanikoro Nabudrau REWA NOCO

Ratu Meli Todua Saiasi Navulagilagi Na Tui Toga Na Tunidau Vanua ‘o Naqavoka Vanua ‘o Nadilo Navatuyaba Muana-i-Cake TOGA

Sanaila Mudunavosa Joave Tukitoga Na Tui Suva Na Rokobaleni Vanua ‘o Nadonumai Vanua ‘o Navakavu Suvavou Navakavu SUVA MUAIVUSU

Ratu Timoci Matanitobua Ratu Kevueli Tavainavesi Na Tui Sawau Na Tui Raviravi Vanua ‘o Nacurumoce Vanua ‘o Raralevu Dakuibeqa Nawaisomo SAWAU RAVIRAVI¬¬

cc: Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, Voreqe Bainimarama, Aiyaz Syed Khaiyum

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