It took Fiji 43 years and three constitutions to come this far, but the blueprint for the future Fiji is here. The words of His Excellency Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, President of the Republic of Fiji, echoed throughout the nation on Friday, September 6, 2013, when he gave his assent to the 2013 constitution. Calling it a historical event, Ratu Epeli stated that the 2013 constitution comes into effect right away and will be the supreme law of Fiji.
Ratu Epeli addressed the whos who of the Fijian aristocracy that were present at the Government House to witness history unfold. Amongst the invited State guests were representatives from every sphere of life: high school students, the physically impaired, religious leaders, media persons, etc. Every word he uttered during his address at the State House was met with nods of approval, a proven indication of the support rallying behind the new constitution.
This new constitution establishes the principle that every Fijian is equal whoever they are, wherever they come from or whatever their religious or political beliefs, Ratu Epeli stated.
In comparison to previous constitution, the 2013 constitution does not define and divide its citizens by ethnicity, instead citizens are bestowed the title of Fijian while celebrating and recognizing their respective cultures. This is a magnificent achievement based on the most fundamental of democratic principles-that all men and women are created equal, he added.
The President envisioned a modern, progressive, and enlightened state Fiji could become, if some of the provisions in the new 2013 constitution are embraced by everyone.
Then Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama took the platform. In his address, he stated: Fiji meets the standards of the worlds great democracies and will join their ranks.
This day marked the completion of the revolution which the RFMF and the Commodore Bainimarama embarked on six years ago. The revolution was to put our nation back on track after years of turmoil. They had a vision. To fulfill our vision at independence, of a just, vibrant, and multicultural economic powerhouse in the Pacific, he said.
After both addresses were made, the 2013 constitution committee were officially handed copies of the new document. The whole formalities were done within a span of two hours, and then guests were treated to drinks and refreshments. An amiable atmosphere permeated the room as guests mingled with each other. The soothing music by a live RFMF Jazz Band played softly at the background as wine and finger foods continued to flow.
At the reception were a few provincial leaders. Each lauded the new constitution as a success.
This is all we need. This new constitution is a clear direction, a compass to our new our new journey as a nation — Tui Lomaiviti, Ratu Peniamini Velitokaduadua
This is a new beginning for Fiji — Roko Tui Ba, Ratu Timoci Tukana.
Brief Facts on the 2013 Constitution
- For the first time, the constitution has been published in the two main vernacular languages and has been widely distributed and read
- For the first time under the terms of this constitution, every Fijian has a voice
- For the first time, any child born in Fiji gets a much better chance of gaining knowledge and skills, with specific undertakings about access to primary, secondary and tertiary
- For the first time, the new constitution has made it compulsory that the two principal vernaculars I Taukei and Fiji Hindi be taught in all Fiji primary schools
- For the first time, anyone over the age of 18 obtains the right to vote
Images from the ceremony