Fiji’s current trend of passing bills into law with little to no public participation and consultation is worrying, says the Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF) Chief Executive Officer Louchrisha Hussain as part of the organisation’s Constitution Day message.
Today marks the 7th Fiji Constitution Day, a public holiday that began back in 2016, commemorating the adoption of the 2013 Constitution of the Republic of Fiji.
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. The preamble recognizes the Constitution as the Supreme law of the country that provides the framework for the conduct of government and all citizens.
Ms. Hussain reiterated that any proposed changes to a law that affects citizens should undergo public consultation and adhere to proper principles of democracy.
“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. Certain freedoms under the Bill of Rights in the Constitution are limited by a number of ways and one being through written laws. 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.”
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.
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.
Over the years, CCF has emphasized the importance of government systems and processes being inclusive of all citizens.
Ms. Hussain says, “We need to take the time to read and understand the Constitution, and how it affects every aspect of our lives.”
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.
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.
“We support the promotion, respect and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms whilst promoting multiculturalism, good governance and the rule of law. These are key elements to bringing about prosperity in all aspects of development in Fiji. “