27 Aug 2013

New Fiji constitution is workable, says Rabuka

5:10 pm on 27 August 2013

A former Fiji Prime Minister says the country's new constitution is a satisfactory document that can take Fiji back to parliamentary democracy.

Fiji's government last week released its constitution after months of delays.

Sitiveni Rabuka says the document gives Fiji the right foundation to move forward from the last coup, even though he believes the 1997 constitution was not properly abrogated by the current regime. Johnny Blades spoke to him.

SITIVENI RABUKA: They are the ones who are now running the government. They are the ones who say that the debt is abrogated. The Supreme Court, or the High Court, ruled that it was not properly abrogated. But in the absence of a proper determination of whether the 1997 constitution is still in force or not, this one is a workable document to take Fiji back to parliamentary democracy.

JOHNNY BLADES: And what do you think about the provisions for the new parliament - 50 seats and I guess no constituencies as we understand them?

SR: It'll be a nationwide multi-member constituency. It'll be a very big ballot paper, but it should be workable for Fiji. I don't know they're going to do the logistics and the technology to support it, but it can be done. There are other countries who have done the same. There are countries with bigger populations that have had it work.

JB: I'm not even sure what the particular reason for that single constituency idea is - do you know?

SR: They didn't ask for any reason from anybody or any argument or any suggestions from anyone, so we are in no position to say it's good or bad. All we can do is go in and compete according to that rule. And if we have to make any changes we make those changes from within parliament.

JB: And how about the role of the military in general? Do you think that's been addressed?

SR: That has been properly addressed for the moment also. And all those things can be changed once we're in parliament. At the moment there is no point in talking about whether it's right or wrong. It is a workable document for us to get back into parliament where we can make the changes just as we did with the 1990 constitution. This constitution gives us a better starting point than the one that was promulgated in 1990. But the 1990 constitution only allowed us to go back into parliament in 1992 and then we amended the constitution, which came out at the 1997 Constitution Amendment Act, which we generally call the 1997 constitution. So this is the same sort of document as the one we put out in 1990.

JB: Overall, are you satisfied that the right things are in place pertaining to any fall-out from the Bainimarama coup, in terms of his immunity?

SR: They had the immunity, including those who participated with him, added on to Chapter 14 of the 1990 constitution which was retained in extenua by the 1997 constitution. And they have added to that provisions to cover those who were involved in the 2006 military take-over.