The People's Charter was released to the public on August 6, 2008. Deposed Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase was critical of its content. He dismissed as "unreasonable" its proposal to dissolve political parties which "engage in activities that breach important values of the Constitution". Qarase also opposed the proposed change in the country's demonym, which would enable all citizens of Fiji to refer to themselves as "Fijians": "That term is embedded into the indigenous population. It is a very sensitive issue and it will be opposed very strongly." Qarase stated that the Charter made a number of good suggestions, but that it would, on the whole, increase inter-ethnic tensions. He stated that "ome of the key proposals in the charter, if implemented without the approval of an elected parliament, would be contrary to the provisions of the 1997 Constitution." He called upon the Charter to be voted on by an elected Parliament, and, alternately, suggested a referendum to decide the issue. He added:
- "The composition of the NCBBF is not representative of the people. It is biased in favour of the Labour party, the New Alliance Party, the interim Government and coup supporters. The intention of the interim Government to implement proposed electoral changes before the elections would be illegal and in contravention of the 1997 Constitution. The intention of the IG to make the charter binding on future elected governments without the authority of Parliament would be illegal and contrary to democratic principles."
Ousted Opposition leader Mick Beddoes also expressed his opposition to the Charter. The Fiji Labour Party, whose leader Mahendra Chaudhry is a member of the interim government, officially supported the Charter.
Academic Brij Lal, one of the authors of the Constitution, described the Charter as "too prescriptive", commenting that it appeared to aim at creating an unfeasible utopia. He added: "I think that for the charter and some of the recommendations to have credibility, they have to be endorsed through parliament."
The Methodist Church of Fiji and Rotuma has confirmed its opposition to the Charter, both because it originates from a government that came to power by force (despite the Church having openly supported the coups of 1987 and 2000), and because the Church deems it to be an "an illegal, dangerous document that, if followed, will have a negative impact on the lives of Fiji citizens". Following a Church conference, Church general secretary Reverend Tuikilakila Waqairatu told the media:
- "While the charter proposes some noble principles, the Conference is of the view that the interim government and the National Council for Building a Better Fiji do not have any moral or legal authority to impose it on the people. ny attempt to impose and legitimise the charter outside the Constitution and by an authority which does not have the people's mandate is morally unacceptable. It defies God's authority because it lacks any legal basis and it limits the free choice of the people to act according to their conscience."
The National Federation Party has called upon citizens to boycott the charter consultation process, claiming that the Charter would disadvantage Indo-Fijians. Referring to the proposed abolition of the communal voting system, to be replaced by a "one man, one vote" electoral process, party secretary Pramod Rae stated:
- “We’re alarmed at the proposal to disenfranchise large sections of the Indo-Fijian community, which will really be left without representation in parliament. Currently our community is guaranteed 19 seats in parliament. This charter proposal proposes to remove those.”
Ousted Vice-President and lawyer Joni Madraiwiwi has sought to take a balanced and cautionary view:
- "There is a critical need for dialogue and engagement in fora in which the interim government and its political opponents can participate without preconditions. The National Council for Building a Better Fiji (NCBBF) can continue to develop the principles for a charter for good government. But there has to be another means for finding common ground. The onus is upon the regime, as the party holding the reins of power, to engage. Without this, the country will continue to drift, as divided and fractured as ever, with a charter and a new electoral system being imposed, and the constitution abrogated to allow the implementation of both. The implications, both internally and internationally, hardly bear thinking about. The tragedy is that many beneficial features in both the proposed charter and the electoral system would be discounted because of the manner of their implementation.
- The NCBBF must proceed with haste on the drafting of the charter. Given the determination of the commander and the military to implement what emerges from the consultations, so be it. Let us see what emerges. The debate will centre on how the principles to be enshrined in the document are to be incorporated in the constitution. If the interim government wishes to force it and a new electoral system upon us, they have the backing of the military to silence dissent. But a new dispensation pushed on the people of this country will not be sustainable. In the long term, the will of the people will prevail."
Jone Dakuvula, of the Citizens' Constitutional Forum, has commented favourably on the Charter:
- "The ‘People’s Charter’ is an attempt to build a stronger liberal and secular republican democratic framework in a multi-ethnic state that continues to be dominated by an ethno-Fijian nationalism. The hardline pursuit of ethno-nationalist policies during the five years that the SDL and Conservative Alliance–Matanitu Vanua (CAMV) were in power sharpened conflicts within the indigenous Fijian community . The draft People’s Charter is an attempt to further reform our liberal/republican state so that the exclusivist tendency of indigenous ethno-nationalism is moderated and reoriented towards a broader concept of a multicultural, multi-ethnic nation state that stresses the civic principles of the nation as the regulator of political discourse and other interactions, thus contributing to the stability needed for overall national development. While, in the last 18 months, the opposition to the interim government has not presented a coherent alternative for the way forward to the people of Fiji, there has at least been a concession that the draft People’s Charter advances ‘noble principles’ they cannot disagree with. They only disagree with the fact that the draft People’s Charter has been initiated by a regime they regard as illegal and illegitimate. They have yet to answer the realistic question: Where do we go from here?"
Bainimarama has attacked some of his critics, labelling their objections self-serving:
- "They are trying to hang on to the last straw as we make in-roads in giving a real voice and say to ordinary people in the country. Naturally, there are some power hungry ethno nationalist SDL Leaders and followers, supported by the leadership of the Methodist Church and some chiefs who would not want ordinary people to be empowered in terms of decision making and aspiring for better things in life. They want to continue to remain in power and in the process ensure that the common people remain disenfranchised."
In October 2008, the Fijian Teachers Association objected to a proposal for the Charter to be presented to children at school, describing the idea as "propaganda".
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