"FIJI's problem is not the Constitution."
Those were the words of Fiji Labour Party (FLP) leader Mahendra Chaudhry while making a submission to the Constitution Commission at the parliamentary complex at Veiuto in Suva yesterday.
Mr Chaudhry said the problem was the lack of respect Fijians had for the constitution and the rule of law in the country.
"We can write up a dozen constitutions - they can all be trashed unless certain elements in our society learn to show respect for the constitution as the supreme law of the nation," he said.
He told the commission that the new constitution may be trashed if the electoral outcome in the next general elections was not to these certain elements' liking.
He said constitution writing in Fiji had become something of a charade.
"We have had three substantive documents since independence in 1970, and several more attempts at writing new constitutions that were shelved partway," Mr Chaudhry said.
"Writing a new constitution is not going to solve the deep-rooted problems of our society," he said.
"We can try and write in safeguards — but they will be thrown out," he added.
Mr Chaudhry said Fiji's basic need was to inculcate in the people the need to respect the constitution and rule of law.
"We need to find a lasting solution to the problem," he said.
He also proposed that the constitution should protect the poor by requiring the State to follow the principles of natural justice in such circumstances.
"We recommend the introduction of a State Pension Scheme," Mr Chaudhry said. "(This is) to cater for all senior citizens above the age of 65 who are not in receipt of any other pension or other benefits and who are without adequate means of support to provide for their basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter," he said.
This was the final submission by FLP and a follow-up to the party's preliminary submission in September.