Saturday, August 24, 2013

Public Policy Fraudulently Dressed up as Rights

by Sai Lealea
Another way to assess the just unveiled Bainimarama Constitution, is to weigh out the array of new so called "rights" which in reality are public policy prescriptions, best left to governments to fulfill via their manifestos and people can judge them against it during each election.

Often, when such policy intentions are turned into rights, they are meaningless and worthless unless there are the means, often money, to afford its provision. How best to use public monies is the business of everyday governing as it involves making choices among competing priorities.

So in knowing this and yet still include it as a right, it serves more as a bribe by sponsors of the constitution to wave around just like Khaiyum has been doing, knowing full well it is practically unachievable. Protracted legal wrangle will then ensue wasting time and focus away from the business of governing and providing much needed services. It is a very fertile ground where often the phrase "there is no such thing as absolute right" often dominate. And guess who would be more likely to be arguing this point? Yes in the end, the government in power.

In essence, all that is needed are fundamental rights as in the 1997 Constitution with provisions for limitations to the power of the State in exercising its power, including key structures for exercising the various functions of government for the benefit of citizens and interest of good, honest and transparent government. Anything more, as in the unveiled constitution, of trumpeting the inclusion of various new rights is a dishonest way of raising expectation because it is impractical and often unattainable.

Bainimarama and Khaiyum's approach to their constitution is very much problem focussed and designed to serve them more than Fiji and its people. If they only stop to think that Fijians have some ideas about other better alternatives than what they have been given. Once we know which option is better for us, like the 1997 Constitution, there is no way we can be forced to like something we don't feel we own or have a part in developing. That is why the Bai and Khai constitution is doomed to fail and be rejected by the people no matter what new rights they include in it.


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