Dr. Brij V. Lal is a Fijian historian of Indian descent. He was born in Labasa, on the northern island of Vanua Levu. He was educated at the University of South Pacific, the University of British Columbia and the Australian National University. Image Credit: The Australian National University
The Real Survivor Fiji – Coup-less vs Clueless
An article in the Fijian news outlet Fiji Live ponders whither the overthrow Government formed through the latest coup headed by Commodore Frank Bainimarama will stand up to a legal challenge in the Fiji court system … or will the military change the constitution.
We at MAXINE could not believe what we were reading!
Look, we all like an intellectual exercise but the discussion initiated by the leading academic in Fiji just seems a little, well, Clueless!
Any Government that is established through a coup can not be legitimate … so why is the issue even a process open to an exploration in a court system that only exists at the behest of Commodore Frank's marauding party.
Of course, Commodore Frank will “SHAPE” the previous constitution to meet the needs of HIS idea of what Fiji should be and THAT would be the point of the military takeover in the first place.
We really are beginning to wonder about Fiji … does the island nation want to remain Coup-less or Clueless?
Excerpts from Fiji Live -
Regime may abrogate constitution: Lal
Fijilive.com - Saturday June 30, 2007
Fiji's interim regime may decide to abrogate Fiji's Constitution to get itself out problematic situations, says leading Fiji academic Dr Brij Lal.
A series of lawsuits are already being processed by Fiji Courts on the legality of the December 5 coup. Leading this is the litigation by deposed Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase and members of his ousted government.
Lal said the regime's "real challenge will come when the legality of the military overthrow is tested before the courts in the months ahead".
"Those challenges will take place within the provisions of the 1997 constitution, the very constitution the military claims to be withholding," he said.
"What happens if the courts decide against the military is anyone's guess. But by proclaiming that the 1997 constitution is still alive and well and functioning complicates the military's position.
"Of course the military may decide that the best way forward for it is to abrogate the constitution."
Lal said then some of the leading members of the regime "who had a hand in fashioning the 1997 constitution will have to explain why they are now advocating its abrogation".
"Fiji has been in a constitutional conundrum for the last six months," he said.
"A coup took place, but the constitution remained intact. It was claimed to be a 'constitutional coup but there is no such thing as a 'constitutional coup.
"No democratic constitution provides for its own overthrow by a military coup."
Lal said some of the changes the military wants to introduce are good, "such as removing racial voting, but they have to be introduced in the proper way".
"What people have to realise is that constitution making in the modern world is a comparative exercise," he said.
"It cannot be done in isolation.
The regime justified its "clean-up campaign" resulting in the termination of members of the civil service, government heads and government statutory bodies through a mandate given by the President Ratu Josefa Iloilo post December 2006.
"But in the Westminster system, the President acts on the advice of the elected government," Lal said.
"The mandate that the interim administration is claiming is so wide ranging, so sweeping, that it will take years to accomplish."
Lal said it gives "an entirely new meaning to the word 'interim.'"
When asked to comment on whether the abrogation of the constitution could be employed by the interim administration, Interim Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said, "the interim administration does not respond to speculation".
"We are guided by a mandate given to us by the president," he said.
"One of the clauses in that mandate is to uphold the constitution."
The last time Fiji's Constitution was abrogated was on May 30 2000 by military commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama who appointed Qarase as interim Prime Minister five days later.
A High Court verdict in November 2000 and a subsequent Fiji Court of Appeal decision in March 2001 declared that the 1997 Constitution was not abrogated by Bainimarama and remained intact.
Hey Fiji, Frank is an impatient man and the Fijian constitution be damned.