SS2Given the published reactions to the Government’s draft Constitution 2013, it would be sensible to hold the promised Constituent Assembly in the terms that were decreed by your Government initially.

While it may be correct that not all political parties have been registered, for various reasons as you pointed out in your address to the nation on March 21, the Constituent Assembly does not have to include individuals who represent only political parties; it could instead include their opinion-shapers and policy makers, and others in the body politic in Fiji, for example religious leaders. Everyone should be part of a publicized discussion on what the next Constitution of Fiji should look like, including people whose views we do not like or who have, in the past, expressed objectionable opinions based on race, gender or any other kind of prejudice.

For the Constituent Assembly, the Government’s 2013 Constitution can be the main document on the table for discussion but people should not be prevented from debating aspects of Fiji’s previous constitutions if they are relevant to the Government’s draft Constitution.

Such a Constituent Assembly should comprise individuals and representatives who sent their names to your Permanent Secretary on or before the deadline of 30th December 2012, as stipulated.

This process would allow members of the Assembly to (i) fix up the weaknesses in the drafting of your Constitution 2013 and (ii) debate issues intelligently with each other, with a view to the national interest, and make recommendations to the Government on what the new Fijian Constitution should be, in light of the Preamble of the current draft which states…”We the People of Fiji…hereby establish this Constitution for the Republic of Fiji”. How can people respect the next constitution of Fiji if they feel they have not actually been given the opportunity to ‘establish this Constitution of Fiji’ as the Preamble says?

In order to make it inclusive for everyone, the Assembly’s proceedings should be transmitted live to the public via the media.

Whether or not any political parties have been correctly or legitimately registered should not detract the Government from the very important fact that the 2013 Constitution will represent the ‘social contract’ between the people and the Republic of Fiji. As in any legal contract the two parties to it should have an equal say in the clauses that are to be included in this very important basic law document so that it can be sustainable for generations to come.

Dr Shaista Shameem