New Book: Fiji in Transition: Towards a Sustainable Constitutional Democracy

Fiji has just witnessed its first general elections and the first sitting of Parliament under the Constitution of the Republic of Fiji 2013 (the 2013 Constitution). The Citizens Constitutional Forum shares in the excitement felt by many Fijians about the emergence of a democracy based on human dignity, equality and freedom.

CCF recognises the progressive steps Fiji has taken towards a sustainable democracy, and in an attempt to continue with this progress, CCF has released the publication Fiji in Transition: Towards a Sustainable Constitutional Democracy. This publication contains a substantive analysis of parts of the 2013 Constitution, and we hope it will inspire informed and open debate directed towards active citizenship and a vibrant democracy.Fiji in Transition

The publication includes three discussion papers that provide substantive expert analysis on technical constitutional issues. The first, on the Transitional Process, describes international and comparative best practice for nations emerging from military-backed rule to civilian rule. In this paper, the transitional provisions in the 2013 Constitution are assessed against international and comparative best practice. It also provides some suggestions on ways in which the 2013 Constitution can better support a successful transition back to civilians rule.

The second discussion paper tackles the constitutional issues surrounding the doctrine of Separation of Powers. It highlights the importance of appropriate checks and balances on the executive power, including strong oversight powers in the legislature and an independent judiciary. This is discussed in the context of the importance of the Separation of Powers in nations emerging from military-backed rule.

The third discussion paper explores the 2013 Constitution’s Bill of Rights. It highlights the importance of a strong Bill of Rights in protecting citizens during a period of transition. The paper analyses the latent application of the limitation clauses contained in the Bill of Rights, and suggests key actions for Parliament and civil society to better protect these exhaustive rights and freedoms.

The publication also investigates the Fijian public’s understanding of the 2013 Constitution through a Constitutional Perception Survey involving 275 participants. This survey documents a small portion of Fiji citizen’s thoughts and opinions of the Constitution, and assesses their sense of ownership over the document. The publication concludes with a Constitutional Monitoring Report, which monitored and documented the implementation of the transitional provisions in the 2013 Constitution.

CCF presents these papers and recommendations as a starting point to encourage informed discussion and debate. It takes international and comparative best practice and applies this to a Fiji context, taking into account the unique history, culture and political environment. CCF hopes this publication is well received by all, and inspires Fiji’s people to ask fundamental critical questions. “We have an elected government and a functioning Parliament for the first time in eight years: how can we further improve these advancements to achieve full democratic governance?’

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