The launch of the three-day symposium on “Democracy Reimagined” last night was well-received as hundreds of students, members of youth groups, civil society organisations and academics gathered to participate and engage with our leaders.
Hosted by The University of the South Pacific (USP) Laucala Campus, the event provided a space for dialogue with respective political party leaders. It is also a testament to Fiji’s democracy and a resounding affirmation of the people’s collective appetite for Fiji politics and parliamentary strengthening.
Delivering his keynote address, Professor Vijay Naidu shed light on the seismic shifts in Fiji’s political landscape and the country’s constitutional landing points post-independence.
In summarising his account of Fiji’s history after gaining independence in 1970, Professor Naidu said current leaders have a lot to do to unite Fijians and ensure democracy is reflected not only at the national level but in all societies and communities.
“Fiji is a new country with a checkered history over the past 53 years and has encountered many complexities.”
“The major challenge for political leaders now is to work towards a bipartisan for both government and opposition based on the consensus on the clauses of the 2013 Constitution that need to be changed.”
Also contributing to the discussion, Deputy Prime Minister(s) and Minister for Finance, Strategic Planning, National Development and Statistics, Honourable Professor Biman Prasad and Minister for Trade, Cooperatives, Small & Medium Enterprises & Communications, Honourable Manoa Kamikamica made remarks on the work being undertaken by the government not only to allow for inclusivity but to ensure democracy is reflected.
Honourable Kamikamica, in his address, said, “Fiji, as a country, needs to commit and dedicate itself to democracy. We must not entertain any discussion about the illegal takeover of any government, ever.”
He also applauds the Citizen’s Constitutional Forum (CCF) for collaborating with the USP School of Law and Social Sciences and the Australian National University (ANU) for co-organising the symposium that provides an opportunity for young people to ask questions and a space to start thought-provoking dialogues.
Last night’s audience started the symposium with an exciting line of questions about women’s representation, minority group inclusivity or the lack thereof, and youth participation.
In response to some of the questions raised, Deputy Prime Minister Professor Prasad emphasised that “It is the responsibility of all politicians to condemn any attempt and advocate for a path towards not having a military coup and making sure we support democracy at all times.”
He added that the “Democracy Reimagined Symposium is timely and further stressed that democracy is about a peaceful change of government.”
USP Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Pal Ahluwalia also actively participated in the launch of the symposium and thanked the coalition government for creating an atmosphere where debate is encouraged rather than throttled.
“USP has a history of contributing to social transformation, and I am glad that we are now back in a way where we can really have an open discussion.”
The launch was also attended by the Social Democratic Liberal Party General Secretary Viliame Takayawa and Fiji’s former Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, who provided great insights about Fiji’s state of democracy over the past five decades and what must be done for a successful collective future.
The three-day symposium continues today and will conclude tomorrow (August 16, 2023).