4 Sep 2013

Fiji human rights activist urges critical analysis of constitution

5:01 pm on 4 September 2013

A human rights activist in Fiji, Tura Lewai, says people should critically analyse the constitution and not just celebrate they have one.

He describes it as self-serving, and a way out for the military regime.

Mr Lewai says people should look at the constitution-making process, question the reason for the document's provisions and examine how it will affect bread and butter issues in future.

TURA LEWAI: We shouldn't just look at the constitution as a way out. Let's look at it again and ask ourselves 'Have the people of Fiji been involved? Have we engaged in this process?' If we are the owners of this constitution, then why is it that many of the processes that were there to get people's views and opinions on this constitution were actually thrown out? A constitution is as good as the power that the people give it, and this constitution is not fuelled by the people, it's not owned by the people. It's owned by the regime, it's owned by a few hand-picked people that have drafted this piece of paper and it's owned by the military in itself.

SALLY ROUND: What good will it do, though, to look at it in those terms, because the Fiji government has said that this is going towards elections next year, this is another step on the way, so that will mean an elected government next year.

TW: I think, like anything, we need to keep looking at things critically. Let's not take things open-handedly and say 'Wow, we have something. Let's go with it'. In terms of the boundaries or the constituencies there's still some question as to how is it going to work, how are people going to vote? And this type of voting, from what we've read, has only been done in two countries in the world. And why Fiji?

SR: What are human rights activists like yourself, what is left open for you to do, given your dissatisfaction with the whole process?

TW: We will continue to advocate for the human rights approach. We will continue to lobby people to not accept it as it is, to start asking questions. We are going into our own communities. Even with the time that is given to us, we want people to critically analyse it and we want people to do something about it. We want people to look at this piece of paper and say, 'OK, how is this going to affect my bread and butter tomorrow?'