Te Karere Ipurangi
Fiji Coup Supplement
May 27, 2000 - 11.00pm
Fiji: A Proposed Remedy to the Crisis
The following paper has been sent from Fiji by those concerned about finding a workable solution to the coup crisis. For reasons of their own they do not want to be named.
It comprises an analysis of the 1997 Constitution from a Fijian perspective, and points out some factors that the Australian and New Zealand governments should heed well before they make any more unwanted and unrealistic demands on the Fijian peoples.
The analysis is followed by a recommended process to either affirm the validity of the 1997 Constitution, to amend it, or to scrap it and start again.
The process is designed to achieve that which does not exist at the moment - a universally accepted and workable constitution for Fiji. It is no use demanding that Fiji abide by a constitution that has not been approved or ratified by the all the people of Fiji, or even by a majority of the people through referendum.
The following proposal calls for the 1997 Constitution to be submitted to referendum as the starting point for a process to find a workable constitution for Fiji.
To the governments of Australia and New Zealand I say read this proposal from Fijian people and wake up to reality.
Ross Nepia Himona,
Resolving Fijis Coup Crisis
The response of the Western community to the Fijian hostage situation thus far is to demand a resolution based upon the legal framework established under the 1997 Constitution. In assessing the practicalities of this demand it is worth noting that:
- The 1997 Constitution was REJECTED by 12 of the 14 Provincial Councils.
- The 1997 Constitution was NEVER vetted for extensive public discussion and extensive public debate.
- The 1997 Constitution has NEVER been affirmed by a referendum. In this regard it is important to note that when Australia wanted to amend a very minor clause in its constitution relating to its Head of State, the Queen, the issue was publicly vetted; extensively debated; extensively discussed both within and without Parliament, and finally submitted to a referendum. Fijians deserve no less treatment of their 1997 Constitution which was foist on them principally by pressure from New Zealand and Australia.
- The 1997 Constitution is deeply unpopular with many sections of the Fijian community.
- The coup was inspired, and is being sold and defended, as a reaction to the widespread dissatisfaction with the 1997 Constitution
Of course the Western observer notes, correctly, that this Constitution was passed by both houses of the Fijian parliament. The conundrum flowing from the juxtaposition of an accepted but deeply unpopular constitution arises because of a mode of thinking and operating, familiar to those in the Pacific, that puts consensus ahead of analysis in a situation of acute uncertainty.
Confronted by a complex document, the details of which have implications the full import of which was not understood, the natural reaction of those charged with evaluating it is to accept the document on the understanding that if it proves, in practice, a mistake, it can always be ignored or thrown out. Such thinking may seem politically immature from a Western perspective, but in the context of a society making the transition from tradition to modernity in all its forms, it remains a prevalent reality.
Given this pattern of reaction, the Fijian concept of the bloodless coup, serves as a critical safety valve. Were it to be denied, the substitute, in all likelihood, would be not a legal remedy issuing from the Constitution, as Western commentators seem to want, but in all likelihood, a bloody coup.
What other avenue would be available to the many supporters of Speight who advertise that they are quite prepared to die for their cause? This real possibility is precisely what the Great Council of Chiefs (GCC) is trying to prevent, yet incredibly, their efforts are now being ridiculed by the West as a wholly inappropriate violation of international norms. But what are the relevant norms for an indigenous society that has not been reduced to relic levels that struggles to make the transition from tradition to parliamentary democracy?
Remember too, that the political stability of Australia, New Zealand and the USA has been predicated upon the successful ethnic cleansing of their own indigenous populations: perhaps before their representatives begin to lecture Fiji they should try to imagine the political landscape of their own countries were, say, 50% of their population to be still indigenous!
The Consequences of yielding to Western Pressure (ie. allowing the 1997 Constitution to be rammed down Fijian throats).
If the mainly white/European countries bully the Great Council of Chiefs into accepting the 1997 Constitution as the sole framework for addressing the current crises, Fijians would have learnt some very valuable lessons:
- The Constitution can no longer be overturned by bloodless coups such behaviour is unacceptable to the international community and will occasion both opprobrium and economic sanctions on Fiji.
- Since the vast majority of Fijians are unhappy with the 1997 Constitution they have to conduct their displeasure in more internationally acceptable and civilised ways anonymous assignations, anonymous sabotage, and unofficially sanctioned wholesale harassment of the Indian settler community. This will provide the nascent foundation for an indigenous peoples war of liberation. When the war of liberation is won, assorted statuary can then be erected to the various war heroes as is in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and America.
Additionally, with the 1997 Constitution rammed down Fijian throats, lets see how rapidly it will take before cordial inter- personal relationships will return between Fijian and Indo-Fijians as they did after the two bloodless coups of 1987!
Finally, in light of the above, it should be emphasised that while the Fijian pattern of bloodless coups, and the cultural context from which it arises, may cause righteous indignation in the West, the Wests lecturing is equally naïve. Rather than trying to understand and respond constructively to the home-grown efforts at a resolution that is both possible under, and compatible with, local mores and conditions, it seems determined to impose a solution out of which chaos is a real possibility.
Fijians of all persuasions are now asking is this really the best the West can offer?
A Proposed Remedy
Within 45 days of releasing the hostages held at Parliament, submit the 1997 constitution to a referendum:
- If more than ? of the electorate affirm the constitution then KEEP IT, but address the grievances of the taukei.
- If more than ½ but less than ? of the electorate affirm the constitution then there is room for improvement, so AMEND IT accordingly and address the grievances of the taukei.
- If less than ½ of the electorate affirm the constitution then SCRAP IT AND START OVER AGAIN.
In the latter instance (i.e. SCRAP IT AND START OVER AGAIN) the following procedure may be useful.
- Appoint a multi-party Constitutional Committee to create a DRAFT CONSTITUTION.
- Vet the DRAFT CONSTITUTION in every village, town, city, municipality, and province. In this instance vetting implies detailed explanation of every clause in the constitution. This in turn, will generate public debate and public discussions of issues. It is anticipated that vetting will take approximately ONE YEAR.
- Incorporate changes in the DRAFT CONSTITUTION that arise from the vetting-debate-discussion process, this will produce the SECOND DRAFT CONSTITUTION.
- Vet the SECOND DRAFT CONSTITUTION in every village, town, city, municipality, and province. This should take no more than 6 months.
- As an outcome of the second vetting, incorporate necessary changes in the SECOND DRAFT CONSTITUTION; this will now become the FINAL DRAFT CONSTITUTION.
- Submit the FINAL DRAFT CONSTITUTION to a referendum. If the FINAL DRAFT CONSTITUTION is affirmed by more than ? of the electorate, then we have a PEOPLESS CONSTITUTION now lets see who will dare overthrow the PEOPLES CONSTITUTION that has been thoroughly vetted and affirmed by a majority of the electorate.
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