Letters To The Editor, Monday April 13, 2015

Govt has final say Dr Sushil K Sharma, Lautoka The Leader of the National Federation Party (NFP) Professor Biman Prasad recently politicised the issue of our national flag, by rejecting
13 Apr 2015 13:33
Letters To The Editor, Monday April 13, 2015

Govt has final say

Dr Sushil K Sharma, Lautoka

The Leader of the National Federation Party (NFP) Professor Biman Prasad recently politicised the issue of our national flag, by rejecting the government’s flag “change proposals”. Instead he called for a referendum on the flag issue, citing the example of the New Zealand government.

The Leader of Opposition Ro Teimumu Kepa, worked more strategically. She submitted a petition on the flag issue to the Parliament, signed by some 1500 of her supporters, and then passed it to the Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights.

Further she tried to throw a “spanner in the wheel” of the recently announced “Flag Committee” , who have been tasked with the selection process of the new flag design, as per the government’s vision and pathways. The new flag will be hoisted on October 10, 2015.

Ro Teimumu Kepa further threw cold water on the responsibility bestowed on this new “flag committee”. She said that she did not “recognise the need to have a flag committee looking into this when we have a Standing Committee which will be open to the public.”

She said that the flag committee would just be duplicating the work of the Standing Committee — wasting taxpayer’s funds.

He message to the nation was that Fiji did not need a new flag, as she rejected Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s invitation to have two Opposition members sit on the flag committee.

Ro Teimumu Kepa and Professor Biman Prasad both seem to think that they can do as they please. They fail to recognise that the government of the day has a final say on this issue. Attempts to short circuit the issue, via the Parliamentary Standing Committee will not help either, as this Committee at the end of the day, reports to the parliament.

The government of the day has an overwhelming majority in Parliament. The parliamentary Standing Committee’s have no powers to override the wishes of the government of the day, unless it wants to listen to their voice of dissent. However there would hardly be any dissent, as the majority vote will prevail in any deliberations of the Standing Committees –which has a government membership majority.

Thus what do you think Ro Teimumu Kepa will accomplish by her “short circuit method” towards the flag debate, rebuff, refusal to provide her two nominations, et cetera?

New Zealand is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy. The Head of State in New Zealand is the Queen Elizabeth II, who though based in Britain, is fully represented in New Zealand by her nominated Governor General   for daily affairs of the State. “God Save the Queen” is one of two national anthems of New Zealand, the other being “God Defend New Zealand”.

Thus the Queen and as a result the Union Jack is very much ingrained as a part of the culture of New Zealanders, as their head is still the monarch. Much more sensitivity would be required not to offend the existing apparatus in New Zealand, in order to change its flag, as the citizens still are the Queen’s subjects.

None of the above is applicable to Fiji since the last four and a half decades. In fact Fiji became an independent sovereign state on 10th October 1970. From that day Fiji was no longer a crown colony.

Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, first Prime Minister of independent Fiji, received from Prince Charles the Instruments of Independence, which is a legal document that established Fiji’s independence from the United Kingdom.

Young Prince Charles, who had only 10 months and 26 days earlier celebrated his twenty-first birthday, was sent by his mother the Queen Elizabeth II, to represent the British Monarch. The same queen is still the Queen of New Zealand, a country which still looks to the United Kingdom Privy Council, as the final arbiter of all its judicial matters.

The PM, Voreqe Bainimarama has set in motion some guidelines that need to be followed towards the new Fiji flag. Opposition to that is a needless exercise, as the government of the day has rightfully looked at the issue at hand and tried to deal with it in the most democratic but in the least expensive and efficient manner possible.

New Zealand will spend NZD$26 million (FJD$40 Million) towards its referendums. Given Fiji’s situation and rationale, we should be able avoid this needless cost. There is no suggestion of me taking sides with the PM of Fiji on this issue, as way back in 2012 I had personally made extensive submissions on the Fiji flag issue, as part of the review and constitutional reforms in Fiji, by the members of the 2012 Fiji Constitution Commission.

This change would re-align the nation to a new beginning and to erase all the past influences, and to make symbolical changes which would make a visible impact of the ongoing reforms and large expectations from the Fiji community to safeguard the new constitution.

The rationale given earlier by the PM for the need to change, and the time frame, process and procedure to be followed, in a transparent and inclusive manner, appears fully credible and should give no objections to Fijians.

The 1970 Fiji flag of today, as “designed” by Tessa Mackenzie (FT 05/02/15) is not an original work of art and neither can it be called to have been strictly her own design. On the contrary it is a direct copy of two items, placed strategically, on a “banner blue”.

A copy of the Union Jack is placed on the far left hand top corner, which Tessa Mackenzie copied, as an idea from the New Zealand and Australia flags, which had been in existence at the time, placed exactly in the same manner.

Then for the other symbol, she looked up the coat of arms of Fiji and did a direct copy of it, with some exclusion, placing the shield exactly as it was on the coat of arms, on the middle right hand side of the flag.

Thus there is nothing original as a work of exceptional art, if artistic drawing talent is the yardstick for measurement. However given this recognition, full credit should be given to Tessa Mackenzie for thinking of the concept of the 1970 flag.

Any thought of changing the colour of the 2015 Fiji flag to any other colour then “banner blue” may mean that the Fiji National Anthem wordings would need to be also changed, unnecessarily.

The PM of Fiji and many other Fijians have already shown a very keen interest to retain this colour, which makes sense from the point of view of not having to change the lyrics and many recordings of the present Fiji National Anthem.

I personally feel that there should be a caveat that “banner blue” has to be the retained in all designs presented during the competitions for the new flag, and this should be advertised clearly in advance.

With a positive frame of mind and with a sense of national duty and pride, your constructive efforts may become the choice of all, as the new Fiji flag is hoisted gracefully on Fiji’s independence day of Saturday, 10 October 2015,

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