Friday, April 13, 2007

Fiji: demolishing the constitution

Something I missed yesterday: Fiji's military dictator Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama yesterday purportedly dissolved the Great Council of Chiefs after they rejected President Ratu Josefa Iloilo's (or rather, Bainimarama's) nominee for the Vice-Presidency. Apparently this made them "a security threat", and so their funding has been redirected to other government departments and they will now be allowed to meet only at the direction of the military regime. So, another foundation of Fiji's constitution has been demolished by the regime.

As for why, it's a matter of the long-term survival of the regime. Currently, the military regime exercises power through the executive power of the President (in the same way that, legally speaking, the New Zealand government exercises power through the Governor-General as advised by the Executive Council). However, Ratu Iloilo is old, reportedly ill, and potentially uncooperative (he initially denounced the coup, before acting as its puppet). The legal Vice President, Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi, was "sacked" during the coup and subsequently resigned. While there's no automatic succession as in the US, the Vice-President can act in the place of the President whenever they are absent or unable to perform their duties (if, for example, he was ill or under de facto house arrest). So, getting a VP would allow the regime to free itself from Iloilo and sideline him, while continuing to legally exercise power, as well as potentially establishing an orderly succession in the event of Iloilo's death. By refusing to endorse the regime's nominee, the Great Council of Chefs have just thrown a king-sized spanner in that plan - and to add insult to injury, reiterated their belief that the interim regime is illegal and unconstitutional. You can see why Bainimarama is pissed...

As for what happens next, President Iloilo has declared that he will appoint a Vice-President by proclamation. This is expressly unconstitutional - the Fijian Constitution is quite explicit in stating that it is the GCC which appoints the President and Vice-President - and its difficult to see it surviving a court challenge. But then, the same is true of the whole regime. The question, as in 2000, will be how far the courts are willing to go in standing up for the constitution versus creating legal chaos by declaring the regime and its decisions illegal. Unfortunately, Bainimarama's purge of the judiciary doesn't bode well on that front...


The Commodore digs himself and his country into an even deeper hole!

Meanwhile - the military is off to another Peace Keeping tour of duty at the request of the UN. Now I understand the reasons why Fiji have developed such a force - the country is well blessed with many fit young males who need some form of active involvement. The country has few natural resources. UN Peace Keeping is a very good source of income. The image is good too. Unfortunately having a large military is NOT good for Fiji as again the Military have overstepped the mark. I understand the need for the UN to employ Peace Keepers but are these soldiers the right ones? Stopping the use of Fijian soldiers indefinately from Peace Keeping would - deny the military of much needed funds, and send a further message to the Commodore and his cohorts that their actions at home are completely UNACCEPTABLE to the rest of the world

Posted by Macro : 4/14/2007 09:47:00 PM