IT’S interesting that our Prime Minister seeks to inform United States President-elect Barrack Obama that Fiji is “also pursuing Change” in governance for the achievement of “genuine and true parliamentary democracy”. This is as if Fiji is on par with the kind of democracy enjoyed by citizens of the US.Obama’s ‘change’ has got the backing of the American people in free and democratic elections. Of course Obama’s election is “a wonderful expression by the people” of the US on their confidence in his leadership and ‘change’ agenda. But it’s more than just an expression. It’s an exercise of right so guaranteed and facilitated by the US Constitution and the rule of law.
Obama’s ‘change’ is being promoted and put forward under this system. The same cannot really be said for Fiji. ‘Change’ here is imposed without the people’s consent through sanctioning by their lawfully elected representatives in Parliament. The US Declaration of Independence clearly states that governments derive just powers from the consent of the governed. This is facilitated by free and fair elections, the rule of law and a check-and-balance system of governance that ensures leaders are held to account.
The US has always promoted democracy and political freedom. It also upholds the right of the individual as sacrosanct and limits this only if and when it impinges on the rights of others. The US Presidential Election and Obama’s victory shows us how democracy works.
It also shows the kind of leadership and the persona of leaders that the people want.
Fiji has a lot to learn.
And the military-led regime needs to learn another aspect of US democracy – that relating to the status of the military. US Ambassador to Fiji, Steven McGann pointed out that the US Constitution demanded civilian control over the military and the military “enthusiastically” pledges to uphold the Constitution “without question”.
This is an area that our leaders need to consider seriously if we are to rid ourselves of the so-called ‘coup culture’. Our military need to be inculcated with this concept of subservience to the Constitution and the rule of law. The US system stands as the model on which democracies around the world try to emulate.
That system is always evolving, but evolving within the confines of the system itself. There are limitations in the US system of democracy, but these have been addressed within the confines of the Constitution, the rule of law and good governance. Fiji can do the same. We can ‘change’, but we should do so from within the system and not by force of arms. By resorting by force and extra-legal means, we perpetuate the ‘coup culture’ and teach future generations that these are the ways to change.