Friday, January 11, 2013

You Can't Please Everyone- Fiji's Draft Constitution

Jenny Hayward Jones latest post on The Interpreter on Fiji's draft constitution has some valid points, buttressed by conjecture:
This announcement was the culmination of a campaign from the Fiji regime to distance itself from the Commission it had itself established, which begs the question of why the regime bothered with the expense and effort of engaging international expertise, attracting support from donors and seeking the views of the people[...] It is difficult now to see how the Constituent Assembly, even if it has a fair representation, will have a reasonable opportunity to provide independent advice on the new constitution. It seems likely it will be hounded into rubber stamping the regime's new draft, with only a month promised for consideration.
Grubsheet post addressed some of the reservations Jones had penned:
Some, of course, will accuse the Government of disregarding the advice of the constitutional referee it appointed because what he came up with didn’t suit its purposes. Others who appeared before the Commission or lodged submissions will be aggrieved that the views they expressed are being ignored. Yet as the Bainimarama Government sees it, there are sound reasons for it to take the course it has and also to be aggrieved about many of the provisions of the document bequeathed to the nation by Professor Ghai and his fellow Commissioners.

Croz Walsh latest post, further provides salient points and reminds the astute political observer of the ineffable setbacks on Fiji's path:
The road from December 2006 to the promised elections in 2014 was never going to be an easy one. The potholes and patch-overs have proved to be far worse than those on Fiji roads.  And, as with the roads where cyclones, floods and poor workmanship, have often undone the good work, so also in the political scene.  Promising steps forward have too often been followed by too many steps back.
Jones while seemingly concerned about the democracy in Fiji, however- Jones' florid sentiments on Fiji's future democracy are incredibly disingenuous and misleading:
Fiji may end up with a flawed democracy but it wouldn't be the first flawed democracy to participate in international forums and enjoy stable diplomatic relations with the world's powers. Many flawed democracies have improved over time and even though Fiji has a way to go, there has at least been a public discussion about the future, which cannot be undone.
Croz outlined the benevolent policies :
There is far more to the credit of a government that launched the People's Charter that won the support of two-thirds of the adult population, despite opposition from these self-same critics and others in the old political establishment.  I cannot believe that a government that has placed so much emphasis on racial equality, a shared Fijian identity, national unity, and has done so much towards improving the country's physical and institutional infrastructure, not to mention its efforts to assist rural communities and the poor, is merely in power for self-serving purposes.
It is rather reprehensible of Jones, to gloss over the exceedingly greater flaws of preceding democracies in Fiji, in comparison to the existing path mapped out by the current Fiji Government.

Unfortunately, Jones has some disconcerting history of blatantly flippant analysis on Fiji's domestic politics, as highlighted by a 2009 SiFM post:
Interpreter's Melanesia specialist Jenny-Hayward Jones has got it wrong yet again, along with the biased media reports from ABC. Jones' latest posting, unashamedly uses the talking points of the SDL segment, highlighting the 2 pillars of society, warning of imminent danger to the general public if their dual-pronged influence is permanently removed from the landscape of Fiji politics.
Ironically both pillars were also intimately involved with Fiji's 1987 and 2000 coups and it is rather myopic and repulsively selective for Jones to obfuscate that well documented fact.
Radio Australia host Bruce Hill interviews Brij Lal, the academic from Australia National University on retainer, who cynically (as usual) opines on the draft constitution . Unsurprisingly, Bruce Hill's maker's mark of yellow journalism was underscored in the interview, by the routine absence of alternative perspectives in providing balance. Furthermore, Croz Walsh had highlighted in a blog post, the journalistic bias in Bruce Hill. Croz also posted the defense by Radio Australia of Bruce Hill.

 (Interview of Brij Lal /Bruce Hill posted below)

Brij Lal appears to echo his default reaction to any changes to the 1997 constitution, as addressed in a 2009 SiFM post:
Dr. Lal, later questioned the issue about the consultation phase, regarding this new Fiji Constitution. However the ABC host did not bother to challenge Lal's remarks or even bother to compare the present and continuing consultations, to the diluted 1997 version. Neither did ABC offer any other opposing views, apart from their favorite talking heads, in their so called forum.

A surreptitious version of due diligence; that was formed during Lal's celebrated and at times, over-glorified tenure as 'architect' of the 1997 Fiji Constitution. Irregardless of the glaring failures of the 1997 legal document; in the context of racial equality- a crucial issue which Brij Lal has vacillated on repeated occasions.

Video of Fiji President and Prime Minister's joint address on the draft constitution (posted below).

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