Citizens’ Constitutional Forum CEO, Louchrisha Hussain says Fiji’s current trend of passing bills into law with little to no public participation and consultation is worrying and any proposed changes to a law that affects citizens should undergo public consultation and adhere to proper principles of democracy.
Hussain says one of the purposes of the Constitution is to protect the rights of all citizens, and to establish and guide institutions through a system of checks and balances, to ensure that government does not take advantage of positions of power.
She says the preamble recognizes the Constitution as the supreme law of the country that provides the framework for the conduct of the government and all citizens.
Hussain says fast tracking of bills into law disregards the very basis of a true democracy, and it is important for government to ensure that democratic due processes are followed.
The CEO says certain freedoms under the Bill of Rights in the Constitution are limited by a number of ways and one being through written laws.
She says if our rights can be limited in such a way, amongst others as stated in the Constitution, then this gives more reason for laws affecting citizens of Fiji to undergo a thorough consultative process.
Hussain says when democratic due processes are followed, these allow for citizens to be aware or, made aware and understand exactly what is being proposed to become a law and how it will affect them.
She says CCF believes that Constitutions should set the foundation for the promotion and protection of democracy, especially the rights and freedoms of citizens, and that it should be realised through proper democratic implementation and course of action on the ground.
The CEO further says over the years, CCF has emphasized the importance of government systems and processes being inclusive of all citizens.
She adds we need to take the time to read and understand the Constitution, and how it affects every aspect of our lives.
She says understanding the Constitution will allow citizens to not only demand for the protection and promotion of basic human rights but also allow citizens to make informed decisions that have a wide reaching impact on their communities and the nation.
Hussain says as part of its’ ongoing efforts to create awareness and understanding amongst citizens, the CCF community education and advocacy team, implements education awareness workshops around the country on the Bill of Rights as stipulated under Section 2 of the 2013 Constitution of the Republic of Fiji.
She says they support the promotion, respect and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms whilst promoting multiculturalism, good governance and the rule of law and adds these are key elements to bringing about prosperity in all aspects of development in Fiji.
As Fiji celebrates 9 years of the Fijian Constitution, the theme for this year is celebrate our right to a clean and healthy environment which includes the right to have the natural world protected for the benefit of present and future generations through legislative and other measures.
In a statement released by the Fijian government, it says that this is the only constitution in the history of our nation that gives every Fijian equal citizenry, socio-economic rights and is inclusive of the rights of the most vulnerable in society such as our disabled and our children.
The statement adds that in the 2013 Constitution, every person has the right to early childhood education; primary and secondary education; further education and the State must take reasonable measures within its available resources to achieve the progressive realisation of the right to free early childhood, primary, secondary and further education; and to education for persons who were unable to complete their primary and secondary education.
The Fijian Government also states that through the provision of free education from Early Child Education to High School and the free bus fare and textbooks scheme, they have ensured that no Fijian child will be deprived of their right to education.
Through TELS and Toppers, the government says they have turned so many dreams into reality.
It further states that the government will continue to support the ambitions of our young Fijians through the allocation of additional tertiary education support schemes such as Skills Qualifications and our National Youth Training Centres where they will provide higher education for free.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister will be delivering his address in an event that will be hosted by the President this afternoon.
National Federation Party Leader, Professor Biman Prasad asks what is there to celebrate about the 2013 Constitution when fear pervades throughout the country with ordinary Fijians afraid to openly express their views.
Prasad says it is despicable that a few ministers of the FijiFirst Government claim that because of the 2013 Constitution, devotees can freely worship and gather at temples when the fact of the matter is that places of worship were established by our forefathers, most of them when Fiji was under colonial rule.
He says in 2013, the Bainimarama Military Government imposed the 2013 constitution on the country by force.
He further says do not forget, it suppressed and literally set on fire the draft constitution prepared by the Ghai Constitutional Commission, which asked the people about the laws they wanted.
The NFP Leader says a constitution is supposed to protect the human rights of citizens.
He says this Constitution instead protects military government decrees ahead of human rights, and the FijiFirst Government even tramples over the rights that people have left.
Prasad says the Government passes almost all its laws in Parliament under urgency, without consultation or debate.
He says laws such as the Electoral Amendment Act and the Media Industry Development Act appear from nowhere.
He says the Constitution is supposed to ensure social rights such as health and education when instead both these sectors are in a state of decay, collapse and demoralization.
Prasad says people are afraid to exercise their rights of expression, association or political rights.
The NFP Leader says opposition parties are repeatedly harassed and investigated.
He says Fiji is at a real turning point now.
Prasad says the FijiFirst Government cares about no one and nothing except itself.
Questions have been sent to the Attorney General and Fiji First General Secretary, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.
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