The Constitutional Commission is putting the finishing touches to a draft Constitution that will be examined by a Constituent Assembly in the New Year ahead of promised elections in 2014 to return Fiji to a democracy.
The documentary film which will be shown on TV in Fiji picks up the theme of Human Rights day "My Voice Counts".
Speaker:Reverend Aluila Yabaki, CEO, Citizens' Constitutional Forum, Fiji
YABAKI: It's quite timely that this country, Fiji, is yet again involved in a constitutional process and as you have said rightly, the Constitutional Commission, headed by Professor Yash Ghai, has been around the country and the key word is participation and I think that has been the case, many people, different voices, diverse voices, participated and I think they got to about 7,000 submissions, individuals, groups, institutions and diverse as well, as will be seen in the film which we have made clearly on the Constitution process and that will be screened or launched, as it were, this afternoon, Fiji time.
COUTTS: So it's a series of testimonies from people who have taken part in the process?
YABAKI;. Oh yes, and it certainly goes with the theme of the day International Human Rights, "My Voice Counts" and the voices, they don't have to all agree, of course, but diverse voices. There's some concerns about land, some concerns about that there have been coups and not just one, immunity which was decreed and there's some reaction against that. But I think the key word is that in the 21st Century, constitution making is a testimony to a participatory process and I think Fiji can own up to that process this time.
COUTTS: Were there any comments or testimonies in the documentary voicing their feelings about the fact that the draft that has now been prepared by Yash Ghai, as you mentioned, isn't going to have a public debate?
YABAKI: We're not quite sure that is the case, there was an important conference last weekend called the Attorney-General's Conference and I've been speaking to people who were there and there seemed to be a turn of a events and I think the draft Constitution will be available.
In any case, the draft Constitution is to go to the Constituent Assembly and have been assured that the people there will not just be the elite, but be representative of society and I think the way the Constituent Assembly is going to do its work will require committees and I think it's inevitable that there will be people, people can participate. The fact that there's a Constituent Assembly representative of the whole of Fiji society and it will be running for a month or so will mean inevitably that there will be people who will see the draft and make their presentations. The people who are there are, there on the behalf of other groups, so it's inevitable that there will representation of voices.
COUTTS: Now Fiji, as we're aware has been criticised for its negative impact on human rights in the country since the coup in 2006, particularly in more recent times with the trade unions. Will the regime take this opportunity today to try to address some of their failings in this area?
YABAKI: Well, the trade unions have been quite sharp in their reactions, their public statements, and I think that's very welcome. We don't need to teach them much about human rights, except that they need start taking into account he human rights of others, because about rights and responsibilities and I think we cannot grant that the country's human rights record is at its best. They've still got their decrees, the censorship legacy still there. We don't get everything we want to, not all our voices get published in the papers or the media, so that still goes on. But there's an opportunity to make some noise about that at this time.
At the end of the day, the participatory process, which is taking place, in terms of the Constitution making, that to me is a key to the understanding that people are not slow to voice their opinions and their views and these have been assured they've been taken into account in the process.
COUTTS; And, how, apart from launching your documentary "Our Voice, Our Future, Our Constitution" will you be recognising the International Human Rights Day?
YABAKI: Oh yes, I think there are is a march, which I'm still crossing my finger think. The weather is not very welcoming, but there is a march and a permit been given and the human rights, the NGO Coalition Human Rights, which is an organisation which has been rather divided since the 2006 coup. In fact, a move towards expressing a common voice.
I was at the CERD, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination Reporting of Fiji, I was there myself as a bonafide observer and I was able to speak or to contribute on behalf of a submission that was put together by nine NGOs as opposed to the 2010 UPR, a submission of the NGO Coalition of Human Rights, which were only signed on by three organisations, so they're putting their heads together and I think today would see a more participatory process, which is good news, working together.