Over Christmas, I blogged about how the military dictatorship that runs Fiji had set up a commission to review the constitution, prior to returning power to the people through free and fair elections. And how the police’s decision to seize and shred all the copies of the commission’s draft constitution sort of threw some doubt on the regime’s commitment to the process! (Doubts already fired up by the conditions put on the commission by the military regime, such as requiring that everyone involved in the regime be guaranteed immunity for everything they’ve done since the 2006 coup.)
Now, the President and Prime Minister have announced that they plan to write their own draft constitution, which will be put to a hand-picked constituent assembly. The army’s last minute submission to the commission – before its output was destroyed – demanded a role for itself in overseeing the shiny new democracy. That would be the army that overthrew Fiji’s last democratic government: clearly their plan is to make seizing power an unnecessary effort in the future.
The Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC), whose submission to the commission called for the Fijian people to run Fiji (actually it was longer than that, but it’s an accurate summary), have described the regime’s latest farcical episode as ‘disappointing’ and its rationale ‘unconvincing’. They could have been forgiven for being somewhat more forthright – but under Fiji’s dictatorship, anything stronger might have been illegal. FTUC leaders and activists are already too used to arbitrary beatings, arrests and harassment.
ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow is in Fiji as I write this, attending a special FTUC delegates’ conference. Hopefully she’ll be tweeting developments @sharanburrow. But it’s clear that the international community has given the Fijian dictatorship the benefit of the doubt over its professed commitment to a return to democracy for too long.