# BLUEPRINT FOR A BETTER FIJI

imagesThe final version of the 2013 Constitution that will underpin the first genuine democracy in Fijian history has been released to the public. His Excellency the President will give his assent to the document on September 6th. It will be the supreme law of the country and pave the way for elections by September 30th 2014 conducted, for the first time, on the basis of equal votes of equal value. It is in line with the constitutions of some of the world’s most liberal democracies and provides a framework for the development of a modern, progressive state.

As previously flagged by the Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, the final version differs from the Draft Constitution by containing specific provisions that guarantee and strengthen the protection of communally-owned i’Taukei, Rotuman and Banaban lands. During the consultation process that followed the release of the Draft in March, a large number of submissions were received calling for explicit protection clauses. These have been accepted and incorporated into the final document. They provide greater protection and security for I’Taukei, Rotuman and Banaban land than ever before.

 

In addition, for the first time, an extra provision gives any landowner the right to a fair share of royalties derived from the exploitation of resources beneath the surface.

 

 

 

The 98-page constitutional document in English has also, for the first time, been translated into the two main vernacular languages – i’Taukei and contemporary Hindi. In the 15 days before His Excellency the President gives his assent on September 6th, members of the public are invited to read the vernacular versions and provide feedback on their accuracy. Some of the legal terms and phraseology in the English language do not have equivalent words in the vernacular and therefore may be open to interpretation.

 

 

 

The Constitution provides for a single chamber 50-member Parliament – up from 45 in the Draft document- which will be the country’s supreme authority and be elected on the basis of one person, one vote, one value. Elections are to be held every four years and every Fijian over the age of 18 is entitled to vote.

 

 

 

In another alteration to the Draft document, individual regional constituencies are abolished. There will be one national constituency covering the whole of Fiji, as in The Netherlands and Israel. And every voter will get one vote, choosing the candidate who they believe best serves their interests under a proportional representation system.

 

 

 

A Prime Minister who commands the party with the most seats in Parliament will head the elected Government and, in line with current practice, a President will be the Head of State and perform the ceremonial function of Commander in Chief of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces.

 

 

 

Among the Constitution’s major provisions are:

 

 

 

·      A common and equal citizenry.

 

·      A voting system of equal votes of equal value.

 

·      A secular state and religious liberty.

 

·      An independent and impartial judiciary and equal access to the law.

 

·      The right to legal aid assistance.

 

·      Specific protection of the ownership of I’Taukei and Rotuman lands and recognition of their unique culture, customs, traditions and language.

 

·      The protection of the rights of leaseholders.

 

·      Specific recognition of the culture and language of Indo-Fijians, other Pacific islanders and other immigrants and settlers.

 

·      A Bill of Rights containing specific provisions guaranteeing a range of civil and political rights and, for the first time, social and economic rights. These include the right to education, economic participation, a just minimum wage, transport, housing, food and water, health and social security.

 

·      A free media and freedom of speech, expression, movement and association.

 

·      The safeguarding of the environment.

 

·      The compulsory teaching of the i’Taukei and Fiji Hindi languages at primary school level, along with English as the common language.

 

·      The right to multiple citizenship but a provision that only Fijian citizens be entitled to stand for Parliament.

 

·      The right to fair employment practices.

 

·      The right to join, form or campaign for a political party.

 

·      The right to privacy.

 

·      An Accountability and Transparency Commission which, for the first time, will hold all public office holders accountable.

 

·      A Code of Conduct for public office holders.

 

·      A provision requiring public office holders such as civil servants, members of the disciplined forces and trade unionists to resign before contesting a seat in Parliament.

 

 

 

The release of the Constitution follows a community consultation process during which the Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, and his team conducted 19 public meetings in urban, rural and maritime areas throughout Fiji, including Vanua Levu, Taveuni, Kadavu, the Mamanucas and the Yasawas.

 

 

 

Submissions were also sought and 1,093 written submissions were received.

 

 

 

The Government urges all Fijians to read the full Constitution document, which is available from the following sources:

 

 

 

·      In hard copy from the Office of the Solicitor General, Level 7, Suvavou House, Victoria Parade, Suva.

 

·      On the Internet at http://www.fiji.gov.fj/Govt–Publications/Constitution.aspx

 

·      In Friday’s Fiji Sun.

 

 

 

 

 

These are some of its highlights in detail:

 

 

 

PREAMBLE:

 

 

 

WE, THE PEOPLE OF FIJI,

 

RECOGNISING the indigenous people or the iTaukei, their ownership of iTaukei lands, their unique culture, customs, traditions and language;

 

RECOGNISING the indigenous people or the Rotuman from the island of Rotuma, their ownership of Rotuman lands, their unique culture, customs, traditions and language;

 

RECOGNISING the descendants of the indentured labourers from British India and the Pacific Islands, their culture, customs, traditions and language; and

 

RECOGNISING the descendants of the immigrants and settlers to Fiji, their culture, customs, traditions and language,

 

DECLARE that we are all Fijians united by common and equal citizenry;

 

RECOGNISE the Constitution as the supreme law of our country that provides the framework for the conduct of Government and all Fijians;

 

COMMIT ourselves to the recognition and protection of human rights, and respect for human dignity;

 

DECLARE our commitment to justice, national sovereignty and security, social and economic wellbeing, and safeguarding our environment;

 

HEREBY ESTABLISH THIS CONSTITUTION FOR THE REPUBLIC OF FIJI.

 

 

 

PROTECTION OF i‘TAUKEI, ROTUMAN AND BANABAN LANDS AND OTHER LAND:

 

 

 

28.—(1) The ownership of all iTaukei land shall remain with the customary  owners of that land and iTaukei land shall not be permanently alienated, whether by sale, grant, transfer or exchange, except to the State in accordance with section 27.

 

(2) Any iTaukei land acquired by the State for a public purpose after the commencement of this Constitution under section 27 or under any written law shall revert to the customary owners if the land is no longer required by the State.

 

(3)   The ownership of all Rotuman land shall remain with the customary owners of that land and Rotuman land shall not be permanently alienated, whether by sale, grant, transfer or exchange, except to the State in accordance with section 27.

 

(4)   Any Rotuman land acquired by the State for a public purpose after the commencement of this Constitution under section 27 or under any written law shall revert to the customary owners if the land is no longer required by the State.

 

(5)   The ownership of all Banaban land shall remain with the customary owners of that land and Banaban land shall not be permanently alienated, whether by sale, grant, transfer or exchange, except to the State in accordance with section 27.

 

(6)   Any Banaban land acquired by the State for a public purpose after the commencement of this Constitution under section 27 or under any written law shall revert to the customary owners if the land is no longer required by the State.

 

29.—(1) All ownership of land, and all rights and interests in land, including land tenancies and leases, that existed immediately before the commencement of this Constitution, shall continue to exist under this Constitution.

 

 

 

Protection of rights and interests in land

 

 

 

(2) All land lessees and tenants have the right to not have their lease or tenancy agreements terminated other than in accordance with their lease or tenancy agreements, and any amendment to any law governing lease or tenancy agreements shall not adversely affect any existing lease or tenancy agreements.

 

(3) All land that existed as freehold land immediately before the commencement of this Constitution shall remain as freehold land, unless it is sold or is acquired by the State for a public purpose under section 27.

 

 

 

RIGHT OF LANDOWNERS TO FAIR SHARE OF ROYALTIES FOR EXTRACTION OF MINERALS:

 

 

 

30.—(1) All minerals in or under any land or water, are owned by the State, provided however, that the owners of any particular land (whether customary or freehold), or of any particular registered customary fishing rights shall be entitled to receive a fair share of royalties or other money paid to the State in respect of the grant by the State of rights to extract minerals from that land or the seabed in the area of those fishing rights.

 

(2) A written law may determine the framework for calculating fair shares under subsection (1), taking into account all relevant factors, including the following—

 

(a)   any benefits that the owners received or may receive as a result of mineral exploration or exploitation;

 

(b)   the risk of environmental damage;

 

(c)   any legal obligation of the State to contribute to a fund to meet the cost of preventing, repairing or compensating for any environmental damage;

 

(d)   the cost to the State of administering exploration or exploitation rights;

 

 

 

THE SECULAR STATE:

 

 

 

4.—(1) Religious liberty, as recognised in the Bill of Rights, is a founding principle of the State.

 

(2) Religious belief is personal.

 

(3) Religion and the State are separate, which means— (a)        the State and all persons holding public office must treat all religions equally; (b)     the State and all persons holding public office must not dictate any religious belief;

 

(c)   the State and all persons holding public office must not prefer or advance, by any means, any particular religion, religious denomination, religious belief, or religious practice over another, or over any non- religious belief; and

 

(d)     no person shall assert any religious belief as a legal reason to disregard this Constitution or any other law.

 

 

 

 SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC RIGHTS:

 

 

 

Right to education

 

 

 

31.—(1) Every person has the right to— (a)early childhood education; (b)         primary and secondary education; and (c)   further education.

 

(2) The State must take reasonable measures within its available resources to achieve the progressive realisation of the right—

 

(a)   to free early childhood, primary, secondary and further education; and (b)     to education for persons who were unable to complete their primary and secondary education.

 

(3) Conversational and contemporary iTaukei and Fiji Hindi languages shall be taught as compulsory subjects in all primary schools.

 

(4) The State may direct any educational institution to teach subjects pertaining to health, civic education and issues of national interest, and any educational institution must comply with any such directions made by the State.

 

(5)  In applying any right under this section, if the State claims that it does not have the resources to implement the right, it is the responsibility of the State to show that the resources are not available.

 

 

 

Right to economic participation

 

 

 

32.—(1) Every person has the right to full and free participation in the economic life of the nation, which includes the right to choose their own work, trade, occupation, profession or other means of livelihood.

 

(2) The State must take reasonable measures within its available resources to achieve the progressive realisation of the rights recognised in subsection (1).

 

(3) To the extent that it is necessary, a law may limit, or may authorise the limitation of, the rights set out in subsection (1).

 

 

 

Right to work and a just minimum wage

 

 

 

33.—(1) The State must take reasonable measures within its available resources to achieve the progressive realisation of the right of every person to work and to a just minimum wage.

 

(2)  In applying any right under this section, if the State claims that it does not have the resources to implement the right, it is the responsibility of the State to show that the resources are not available.

 

 

 

Right to health

 

 

 

38.—(1) The State must take reasonable measures within its available resources to achieve the progressive realisation of the right of every person to health, and to the conditions and facilities necessary to good health, and to health care services, including reproductive health care.

 

(2)   A person must not be denied emergency medical treatment.

 

(3)  In applying any right under this section, if the State claims that it does not have the resources to implement the right, it is the responsibility of the State to show that the resources are not available.

 

 

 

 

 

Right to reasonable access to transportation

 

 

 

34.—(1) The State must take reasonable measures within its available resources to achieve the progressive realisation of the right of every person to have reasonable access to transportation.

 

(2) In applying any right under this section, if the State claims that it does not have the resources to implement the right, it is the responsibility of the State to show that the resources are not available.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Right to housing and sanitation

 

 

 

35.—(1) The State must take reasonable measures within its available resources to achieve the progressive realisation of the right of every person to accessible and adequate housing and sanitation.

 

(2) In applying any right under this section, if the State claims that it does not have the resources to implement the right, it is the responsibility of the State to show that the resources are not available.

 

 

 

Right to adequate food and water

 

 

 

36.—(1) The State must take reasonable measures within its available resources to achieve the progressive realisation of the right of every person to be free from hunger, to have adequate food of acceptable quality and to clean and safe water in adequate quantities.

 

(2) In applying any right under this section, if the State claims that it does not have the resources to implement the right, it is the responsibility of the State to show that the resources are not available.

 

 

 

Right to social security schemes

 

 

 

37.—(1) The State must take reasonable measures within its available resources to achieve the progressive realisation of the right of every person to social security schemes, whether private or public, for their support in times of need, including the right to such support from public resources if they are unable to support themselves and their dependants.

 

(2)  In applying any right under this section, if the State claims that it does not have the resources to implement the right, it is the responsibility of the State to show that the resources are not available.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 22nd, 2013