The state of un-forgiveness and vengeance is a cold desolate place in which no one should linger for too long.”
Those were the words of former Vice President Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi at the launch of the handbook “Constitution: Making and Reform; Options for the Processes” at the Holiday Inn, Suva last night, hosted by the Citizens’ Constitutional Forum.
Speaking in front of over 80 invited guests, including the Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, former Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, Fiji Labour Party stalwart Krishna Datt, High Commissioners and Ambassadors amongst others, Ratu Joni stressed that the handbook is timely as we are about to begin the process of drawing up a new constitution.
Ratu Joni outlined that if one accepts the need for a new constitution, the handbook sets out a number of options to be considered. He says if there is a real opportunity to devise a new constitution for which the process of public participation and consultation is thoughtfully and creatively devised and implemented, it may well be the best chance we have at laying the foundations for long term peace and stability.
In his review of the handbook, Ratu Joni highlighted the tasks involved in the constitution making process which include:
1. To think through and research the issues facing the country
2. To consider the choices of constitutional arrangements that will best respond to the issues
3. To educate and consult the people about the issues and the choices
4. To negotiate among the major political groups and those with powers of decision making about the legalized choices
5. To administer and manage the constitution making process
6. To debate and adopt a new constitution document
7. To make arrangements for implementation of the new constitution.
Ratu Joni stated that the focus of the handbook on constitution making as peace building is a relatively new and welcome concept. He says the emphasis enables the citizens of a state to come together with a genuine commitment and a passion to create structures, institutions, and systems that will be engaged in the betterment and welfare of society as a whole. He also stressed that the constitution is not only a symbol but to be a tool for building peace continuously.
The former Vice President stressed the need to search for and create the compromises necessary to healing and reconciliation as the past still weighs heavily on people’s minds and many find it difficult or impossible to forgive and forbear and it is true it cannot be forced, imposed or usurped.
Ratu Joni says he recognizes a new opportunity to build afresh and that this time there is a very real prospect of laying a foundation that lasts.
In his opening remarks, CCF CEO Reverend Akuila Yabaki also highlighted that it is by sheer coincidence that the handbook, recently published by Interpeace and co-authored by Professor Yash Ghai, Jill Cottrell, Michele Brandt and Anthony Regan, comes at a time when we are about to embark on our constitutional consultations.
Reverend Yabaki says the handbook notes Fiji’s various attempts at Constitution making and stressed not to leave the third time to chance and make sure that our third attempt will indeed prove to be a success.
He says drawing from more than a hundred constitution experiences including Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, the handbook stands as a relevant guide for us as we prepare to go into constitution consultation. It also provides practical guidance on how to design transparent, nationally led and owned processes that are also participatory and inclusive and through the book launch last night, CCF hopes to generate constructive Discussion, Debate and Dialogue and find ways to reach consensus on the path towards Constitutional Democracy.
A copy of the handbook “Constitution: Making and Reform; Options for the Processes” can be accessed through the Interpeace website www.interpeace.orgor downloaded directly through the link: http://www.interpeace.org/constitutionmaking/sites/default/files/Constitution-Making-Handbook.pdf