Fiji taking public ideas on future flag laws
Fiji is taking submissions on a bill that will set down rules on Fiji's new flag.
A Parliamentary Committee in Fiji is currently taking submissions on the National Flag Protection Bill, which proposes new laws on the use and misuse of the future flag of Fiji.
The bill includes fines and jail terms for defacing the new flag, as well as referendum provisions for future changes of the flag.
The Chair of the committee, and Government MP, Ashneel Sudhakar, says it wasn't inconsistent to exclude the public's vote on changing the current flag.
He spoke to Alex Perrottet.
ASHNEEL SUDHAKAR: Putting it to a referendum is more complex than it sounds. Who will be the people, who will be the class of people voting in the referendum. Would it be the racial voters only? Because we have got primary school citizens, secondary school citizens who are below the age of 18 who are very interested in the flag and who have submitted their designs to the other committee. If we have a referendum those guys will be left out altogether because they don't form part of the electoral roll.
ALEX PERROTTET: Changing it the next time round according to the bill will mean that three quarters of eligible voters will have to vote and that won't include children from high schools and primary schools under the age of 18.
AS: That's something that's at a discretionary stage in that bill. There's nothing stopping us from recommending that a referendum of another sort could be held.
AP: So you're also discussing whether to broaden the eligible voters to include school children?
AS: That is an idea that I had floated and the committee hasn't yet elaborated on that because as I said we are only in the second day of submissions.
AP: There's also the idea about clothing and the representation of the new Fiji flag on garments and other things that are sold or worn in public. I know that the committee member Brij lal made comments that he's a little bit concerned that would be a disrespect to the flag, others disagree. What's the committee going to lean towards there do you think?
AS: There's no decision on that yet but there were views when it comes to respecting the flag. We obviously wnat to see that the flag is used in an appropriate manner and it would not be a good idea, as the committee member suggested, to have the flag printed on parts of the attire especially the undergarments. It's not law yet but just a general floating of the idea that some control has to be on that as well so that our flag is not seen as being somewhere inappropriate for a flag to be.
AP: That means if there was going to be a change there'll have to be some exceptions to section 5 but it would be a pretty hard one to police whether someone was wearing the Fiji flag on their undergarments or not.
AS: Well that depends on each individual. We always see that the USA flag, even the Australian and New Zealand flags are used on swimwear. Fiji is a very closeknit society. Fiji is a very traditional society as well and we have a lot of respect for our flag as compared to some other countries, I would say. Whether it's difficult to police or not didn't concern (inaudible). To what extent do we respect our flag because the words of section 5 are general and clear. The flag shall be respected by every citizen of Fiji.
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