HELPING develop a national identity among Fijians and the political integration of its diverse communities is a challenge faced by the Constitution Commission.
And commission chairman Professor Yash Ghai said Fiji had paid a high price for the dominance of communalism in the public and private lives of its people, adopting uncritically the colonial policy of "divide and rule". "The constitution must fashion politics within a framework of national principles that help the people to transcend narrow communalism in the wider interest of Fijians," Professor Ghai said in an interview with this newspaper.
However, he said, Fiji was not the only country that was faced with this problem.
He said his country Kenya had paid an even higher price than Fiji on account of what they called tribalism.
Professor Ghai said there was a particular challenge to the political leadership of Fiji.
He said a successful constitutional process was not one which would merely produce a constitution.
"But one which calls in question people's perceptions of reality, promotes understanding of the circumstances of and challenges to the State, and which helps to develop a new vision of the country, promotes democratic values and practices and strengthens national unity," he said.
Professor Ghai said this would happen only if political parties, civil society, the government and the numerous communities of Fiji both divided and united by the ocean in its vastness, used the consultations process to understand the fears, anxieties and aspirations of Fijians and build a consensus around a set of policies that responded to those anxieties and aspirations.