The Director of the Institute of Peace and Democracy in Bali, Indonesia, Dr I. Ketut Putra Erawan presents his lecture. In the background is Dr Bruce Yeates (left) and the Indonesian Ambassador to Fiji, His Excellency Mr Aidil Chandra Salim (right).
A public lecture looking at the constitutional reform process of Indonesia was held at the University of the South Pacific on 22 May, 2012.
Organised by the Faculty of Arts, Law and Education (FALE) in conjunction with the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia, the public lecture was facilitated by Dr I. Ketut Putra Erawan, Director of the Institute of Peace and Democracy in Bali, Indonesia. The public lecture was convened by Dr Mohit Prasad, Associate Dean (Research and Graduate Affairs) from FALE.
The event was a timely one for Fiji as the country gets ready to undertake a nationwide constitutional consultation process in preparation for the General Elections in 2014.
Professor Vijay Naidu, Head of USP’s School of Government, Development and International Affairs, reiterated that it is an opportune time for people in Fiji to learn from the experience of other countries including Indonesia on matters of constitutional reform.
He added that amongst others, the constitutional reforms in Indonesia sought to make the military more professional. He urged youths and women to make submissions to the Constitutional Commission.
Professor Naidu concluded his opening address by saying that Fiji was a confused republic over the last 25 years with the Union Jack in its flag, the Queen's effigy still displayed on Fiji's currency, and a public holiday on her birthday.
Delivering the welcome address at the Laucala Campus in Suva, the Indonesian Ambassador to Fiji, His Excellency Mr Aidil Chandra Salim affirmed that his country was ready to assist Fiji in such a process.
“Indonesia would like to walk along with Fiji in her reform process and consultation period by sharing Indonesia’s experience of the constitutional evolution,” he highlighted.
Reflecting on the history of Indonesia, the Ambassador said that his country has experienced a few Government systems through a formative period of almost 15 years from 1945 - 1959 due to the fundamental changes in the Indonesian Constitution better known as Undang-Undang Dasar 1945.
Following Indonesia’s political upheaval in 1998 and the subsequent fall of the New Order regime, the 1945 Constitution (Indonesian’s current Constitution) had undergone several amendments. These amendments were done four times at sessions of the People’s Consultative Assembly in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002.
The major amendments, among others, include the direct presidential election by the people; the presidential term of office from unlimited to only two; expanded section about civil rights; the establishment of new government institutions such as Constitutional Supreme Court (MK), Regional Representatives Council (DPD), and the Judicial Commission (KY) to name a few.
In his presentation, Dr Erawan spoke at length about of the challenges, choices and lessons of constitutional reform and how Fiji could learn and model the Indonesian experience as both are archipelagic states.
These include Indonesia’s transition from three decades of authoritarian rule to a stable democracy which is responsive to the needs and aspirations of its people.
Dr Erawan said that everyone must come together and be part of the constitution-making process because it is sacred.
If handled properly, he pointed out, constitutional reform can contribute to democracy building.
A panel discussion on issues relating to the constitution-making process in Fiji was held at the conclusion of the public lecture. The panelists included USP academics, Dr Alumita Durutalo, Professor Peter Larmour and Mr Nainendra Nand as well as the Chief Executive Officer of Citizens Constitutional Forum, Reverend Akuila Yabaki.
Meanwhile, the Attorney-General of the Republic of Fiji, Honourable Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum who was also present at the public lecture, said that values and principles are the most defining and vital features of a constitution.
“The constitution consultation process outlines some non-negotiable measures which include equal and common citizenry, one person, one vote, one value, elimination of ethnic voting and socio-economic rights for all citizens,” he stated. The Attorney-General made these comments after the panel discussion.
The event was well attended by representatives of government and non-government organisations, diplomatic corps, USP staff and students, media and members of the public.