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were in the military and the military has always been seen as representing the indigenous Fijian interests. It was not until the 2000 coup that the military moved away from the pro-indigenous stance towards a more independent position. However, the paradox was that it became too “independent” for the civilian government to control. The challenge for the new constitution is how to bring the military under civilian control.

Having stated these, one of the

questions to be asked is: why hasn’t there been any all-out civil war in Fiji as in the Solomon Islands or even Rwanda or Kosovo? Tension in Fiji was very much

limited to power contestation amongst the ethnic elites and did not necessarily trickle down to the masses. For any civil war to erupt, tension has to be bred and nurtured within the community. Relationships amongst the grassroots indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians was reasonably harmonious, partly as a result of the multiracial experiment of the Alliance Party after independence. Secondly, the indigenous Fijian

culture has a very strong restraining, forgiving and peace-building capacity. Many Indo-Fijians looked to indigenous Fijian chiefs for support and safety at the time of the coups. Paradoxically, indigenous Fijian culture can be used for ethno- nationalist mobilization and for trans- ethnic conflict resolution. Thirdly, the reaction of Indo-Fijians in the face of aggressive indigenous ethno- nationalism was not to reciprocate with force but rather to appeal to legality or migrate. The potential for peaceful integration is embedded in both communities and would go a long way in nation building.

Dilemmas of the constitutional review process The election scheduled for 2014 is important not only for the purpose of internal re-democratization but also as a pre-condition for Fiji’s acceptance by the Commonwealth, which suspended it in 2009, and by the Pacific Island Forum from which Fiji was expelled in 2009.

The stages of the election process are:

(1) civic education (May to August 2012);

(2) Public consultations (July to September 2012);

(3) Preparation of initial draft (October to December 2012), and

(4) Constituent Assembly (January to March 2013).

A Constitution Commission

(CC) of three women and two men has been appointed and is now reviewing the constitution. It is chaired by Prof. Yash Ghai of Kenya, one of the leading constitutional experts in the world and someone with a long association with Fiji. Other members are Prof. Christina Murray of South Africa, Ms Taufa Vakatale (an indigenous Fijian), Ms Penelope Moore (a Euro-Fijian) and Prof. Satendra Nandan (an Indo-Fijian). Because of its complex ethnic configuration, South Africa has had a strong appeal to Fiji over the years and was one reason for Prof. Murray’s appointment. Although the members do not fully reflect the population of the country, the commission work has been received with overwhelming support by the military as well as supporters and opponents of the coup because it provides an opportunity to move Fiji away from the current political quagmire towards re-democratization. The Fiji Constitutional Process

Decree (CPD) 2012 gazetted on 18 July 2012 formalizes the CC and provides a number of “non-negotiable principles and values”. These include: common and equal citizenry, secular state, the removal of systematic corruption, an independent judiciary, elimination of discrimination, good and transparent governance, social justice, elimination of ethnic voting, proportional representation, a voting age of 18 and the concept of one person, one vote, one value. However, the debate has been

whether these non-negotiable principles should be imposed by the regime or whether principles should be left to the people to decide

through the consultation. Another issue is whether members of the Constituent Assembly should be appointed by the Prime Minister, Commodore Bainimarama, as the CPD suggests or whether it should be left to the various organizations and communities to decide. An area of tension between

the CC and the government is in relation to the perception of the “independence” of the CC. In response to Prof. Ghai’s statement that there are still restrictions in place, Prime Minister Bainimarama accused the CC of listening too much to his opponents and urged them to be “completely independent”. In a political situation of political hostility and suspicion, the notion of independence becomes susceptible to politically driven and arbitrary interpretations.

A possible electoral and parliamentary solution Perhaps one of the most significant issues to address for long-term stability is political representation because it has often been the trigger for ethnic tension. All the coups since 1987 immediately followed elections. The problem was the incompatibility between election results and expectations of ethnic groups. A solution would be to move

away from the zero-sum system to proportional representation and power-sharing to keep ethnic mobilization and ethnic entrepreneurship at bay. One way of doing this is to have a list system where each political party is constitutionally required to put up a multi-ethnic line up which represents the national demographic distribution of 57 per cent for indigenous Fijians, 37 per cent for Indo-Fijians and six per cent for other minorities. There should also be reserved seats for women to ensure more gender balance. This ethnic and gender balance

should be manifested in membership of Parliament and cabinet. This would not only provide visible and institutionalized representation based on equality and fairness, it would also make sure that every community’s concern is taken care of. It would

address indigenous Fijian fear of being politically overwhelmed and the minority groups’ and women’s fear of being marginalized. The Great Council of Chiefs, which was abolished by the regime for its support of indigenous nationalism, may still have a role as a cultural body, separated from direct political involvement.

Resolving the underlying issue Perhaps one of the major issues is the distinction between state-building and nation-building. The constitutional review process is aimed primarily at institutional state-building with the assumption that having a fair and just set of institutions and norms will somehow “trickle down” and shape people’s political values and culture. While this is commendable, there really hasn’t been any attempt at nation-building through inter- and intra-community dialogue, national reconciliation and consensus-building to address tension, distrust and social disconnect within the community as a result of the 2006 coup. This should have been integrated into the constitutional review process to ensure long-term sustainability. One of the problems in the past

was that after every coup, Fiji quickly moved towards elections, prodded by threats of expulsion from international bodies and sanctions. There was no time to address the fundamental tensions and fractures which led to the coups in the first place. It is important that conflict

resolution mechanisms should be integrated into the constitution to ensure peaceful relations and sustainability and avoid conflict becoming public and uncontrollable. Civic education on multicultural engagement should be integrated into the education system as a way of transforming the political culture. For long-term sustainability,

internally devised rather than externally imposed solutions are absolutely necessary. The current reform heralds in new hopes for a bright future. But without national reconciliation and uncertainty about the future role of the military, how long will the exuberant optimism last?

The Parliamentarian | 2012: Issue Three | 191

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