Pacific countries still adjusting to political systems
An expert on the law of small island countries says Pacific nations are still adjusting political systems.
A New Zealand law professor says Pacific nations are still grappling with the one-size-fits-all approach of political systems devised for western countries.
Tony Angelo is an expert on the law of small island countries and delivered a key note speech on constitutional law in the Pacific at the University of Victoria's Pasifika Law and Culture Conference held in Wellington.
He told Daniela Maoate-Cox much of the political unrest in Pacific countries can be attributed to inflexible systems.
TONY ANGELO: It is relatively new, 120 years at the most and in some cases much less. Whether this is a cultural phenomenon of the same nature as what we're seeing in Europe or not but we're seeing really across the Pacific more and more challenges to the system and as I say, whether that's purely a generational factor or whether it's people are more aware of the nature of what they got and think 'my golly it's not very much us'. The constitutions that most the Pacific countries have, are in a lineage from West Africa through East Africa, through the Indian Ocean. The Fiji constitution is very like the Mauritius one which I think was the British one immediately before. Then you look at Tuvalu, Kiribati, and Solomon Islands and they're sort of all out of the same drawer.
DANIELA MAOATE-COX: So is if fair to say the issues that have been cropping up in various countries in the Pacific lately are to do with that clash of the law and the structures and trying to make it work? Or is that a generalisation completely off the mark?
TA: No, I think we could define and define but it seems to me a pretty fair generalisation. There are two aspects of the making it work. One is, do people respect the law and abide by it and there are plenty of examples where they know the law and they just ignore it. But the other aspect and sometimes they're combined, one is an excuse for the other, if the law is not well adapted to the local circumstance, a bit easier in Polynesia where there were power hierarchies in many cases but in Melanesia there was no unified structure and Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea particularly I think have struggled with that transition to a central overriding system.
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