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Blueprints and Constitutions
17 July 2000
Te Karere Ipurangi Fiji Coup Supplement
by Ross Nepia Himona
On 13th July Laisenia Qarase, the interim Prime Minister of Fiji, presented to the Great Council of Chiefs a "blueprint for the protection of Fijian & Rotuman rights and interests, and the advancement of their development".
The interim government has also indicated that a new constitution would be ready for promulgation on 24th July.
The two themes in the blueprint are the protection of Fijian and Rotuman rights, and the adavancement of their development, including the protection of indigenous land rights.
The process being instituted by the Qarase government mirrors the process which enshrined the protection of indigenous Malay rights, and the advancement of Malays, in the Malaysian constitution promulgated on 31st August 1957. This makes ethnic Malays eligible for special reservations in educational institutions and in jobs, both in the public and private sectors, and priority in governmental grants and subsidies.
The Malaysian constitution, Part VI Chapter 4, is a long chapter about land, and is very clear about the preservation of states and individuals rights concerning Malay land. Fijian and Rotuman land rights are aslo a major component of the Qarase blueprint.One is drawn to the conclusion that the Qarase government is not unaware of the provisions in Malaysian constitutional and legislative law, designed to preserve indigenous rights, and indigenous paramountcy, dating right back to 1957. One is also drawn to the conclusion that if the provisions of the Malaysian constitution have been accepted by the Commonwealth, and the rest of the so-called international community, for this long, then they will have no basis for crticism of Fiji if Fiji chooses to model its constitutional and indigenous development on Malaysia.
If that proves to be the case, it would be hypocritical and very difficult for the Commonwealth to continue its selective suspension of Fiji. Very difficult for Australia and New Zealand to continue their criticism of what they call racially-based constitutional provisions for the protection of indigenous rights and indigenous paramountcy.