Fiji to get caretaker government ahead of 2014 election | Pacific Beat

Fiji to get caretaker government ahead of 2014 election

Fiji to get caretaker government ahead of 2014 election

Updated 28 December 2012, 9:11 AEST

The idea of having a caretaker government in Fiji in the runup to the 2014 elections may not be palatable to the coup installed military regime.

That's according to Professor Wadan Narsey, a Fiji economist and academic who has studied the draft constitution produced by the country's Constitution Commission, headed by prominent international constitutional scholar, Professor Yash Ghai..

Electronic copies of the document are available on various anti government websites, but so far the printed copies have yet to be distributed within Fiji itself.

The interim government has released a statement saying that the Draft Constitution is with the President, who will hand it to the Chairman of the Constituent Assembly when that person is chosen by the Prime Minister in the New Year.

It is not a Government document but one written by the Constitutional Commission - an independent body - for the consideration of members of the Constituent Assembly, who will represent a broad cross-section of the Fijian people.

The interim government statement says they have always said that public discussion of the document will begin when the Constituent Assembly meets. It is therefore the task of the Assembly, not the Government, to release the draft when the time comes.

The Government regrets that the Draft appears to have been leaked but deems it inappropriate to make any comment under the circumstances.

Professor Narsey says there are several reasons why the interim government of Commodore Frank Bainimarama might be unhappy with the provisions contained in the document.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker: Professor Wadan Narsey, a Fiji economist and academic.

NARSEY: We can look at the constitution in two ways; first of all there's an ideal constitution that is supposed to be a legal guide for people of any country anywhere, and it's not always(?) a good one. And academics might like to debate about how we can be any different from the 1997 constitution which it claims to replace. But to me the most important part of this draft constitution are the very pragmatic recommendations made by the commission, which was set up by the military regime themselves you've got to remember, into what the people in Fiji need to do in order to get to the 2014 elections, September 2014 elections, which this year's commission very, very clearly stipulate as the way forward.

HILL: Has there been much reaction from Fiji? My understanding is that although it's all over the blogs and it's all over the internet and people have got electronic copies, no one's actually spotted any hard copies yet. Do you know what's happened to them?

NARSEY: No idea, I think the people have thought the regime has limited the circulation of it, to be honest there's no idea whatsoever.

HILL: Why is that do you think? I mean this is something that the interim government has accepted, it's their big thing, there was a big ceremony, they handed it over to the President, you'd think that they would make more of a big thing about this than they are?

NARSEY: Well I think the problem for the interim administration maybe this, the commission recommends a number of very clear transition arrangements before the September 2014 elections. I mean once the President is supposed to have signed this constitution it comes into effect on the effective date. And then six months before September 2014 there's supposed to be an announcement of the election. And upon that announcement, then the interim regime has to give way, they have to give way to a transitory advisory council, which the … report clearly outlines.

HILL: So this is basically a kind of a caretaker government for the six months leading up to the elections, that's an interesting approach. It would give people confidence in the whole process I guess if the current government isn't actually running the country and it doesn't give their candidates an unfair advantage I suppose?

NARSEY: Yes well that's it, I mean the caretaker government is supposed to come in and they will comprise of former civil servants and public servants who clearly have no vested interest in the politics of the country, and they will run the country for six months up to the election. Now this transition advisory council it's also supposed to be a very independent set of people, comprising two people appointed by the Bainimarama regime itself, but also one appointed by the three vice chancellors in Fiji, chairman of all these other independent commissions which are being recommended by the … commission, and people recommended by civil society. So they will essentially guide the country, they will be a caretaker government in place comprising of former civil servants, and once the elections take place under the revised electoral system, which I think everybody accepts will be a major improvement on what existed in the previous one, then you presumably will have a democratic accountable government in place by 2014.

HILL: That sounds very interesting, but is it likely to actually happen that way, because this constitution still has to go to this constituent assembly first, and I believe the members of that will be hand-picked by the interim government?

NARSEY: Yes and there's also a tribunal which will be appointed by the regime, the Chief Justice, which will vet this constitution for primarily I think for the immunity provisions, and … the constitution has granted all the immunity provisions that the military regime demanded through their decrees right from 2000, not just up till now, but right up to 2014. I suspect that what may be riling some people in the regime is that the draft constitution also recommends that a number of decrees, which have been passed in the last five-six years which are inconsistent with basic human rights, which are at the heart of this draft constitution, and of course also the previous 1997 constitution, these decrees will have to be either totally injected or changed in significant respects. And I suspect that there are some in the regime who are not just satisfied with the immunity provisions, essentially which will mean that those people who have committed treason between 2006 and supported it from then till now, they will really be getting off scot free, they want the icing on the cake too at the moment. And the real challenge for the people of Fiji will be can I … this constituent assembly and … and will they put up a struggle for even the few things that are very, very important to them pragmatic in the 2012 draft constitution.

Contributors

Bruce Hill

Bruce Hill

Presenter

Bruce is one of the Pacific’s most experienced journalists with nearly 20 years covering the region and has won several international awards.

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