Chandrika Prasad’s bravery proves one has to fight for rights and freedom
The upholding of the 1997 Constitution by the High Court in 2000 as well as the Fiji Court of Appeal in March 2001 is a shining example of how both the Judiciary and those in national leadership at the time respected and adhered to rule of law, said National Federation Party Leader Professor Biman Prasad.
However, he said a little over 8 years after the landmark Appeals Court decision, Fiji bore witness to a painful, tragic and illegal act of the 1997 Constitution being abrogated for the 2nd and last time, supported by the interim administration headed by the same military commander who abrogated it on 29th May, 2000, only for it to be restored by the judiciary.
Professor Prasad said it took the bravery of an ordinary citizen like Chandrika Prasad, forced out of his home as a result of the May 2000 coup, to fight for his rights and freedom, by seeking a Declaration from the Court that the 1997 Constitution was still the supreme law of the Land, despite its abrogation.
He said Mr Prasad took on the combined might of the military and its then Commander, armed thugs, the coup makers and the interim government, aided by brave members of the legal fraternity and succeeded in achieving justice and recognition of the fact that the rule of law was sacrosanct, not only for himself but for Fiji and all its people.
The NFP Leader said Mr Prasad epitomized the fundamental and most important principle of standing up for truth, justice and righteousness.
“Mr Prasad didn’t bow to thuggery and lawlessness. He didn’t fear the then military commander Frank Bainimarama who forcibly abrogated the 1997 Constitution by falsely claiming he was doing so to save the lives of members of the People’s Coalition government held hostage in Parliament”.
“But the evidence of Frank Bainimarama, as pointed out by the Appeals Court in its judgment clearly show that he was justifying the abrogation of the 1997 Constitution by basing his actions on claims of the Constitution not fully protecting the rights of our indigenous community”.
“Not surprisingly, evidence of Bainimarama, given through his affidavit, wasn’t accepted by the Court”.
“8 years later, Bainimarama lent support to the trashing of the Court of Appeal judgment, that declared the December 2006 illegal, resulting in the abrogation of the 1997 Constitution and forcible creation of a new legal order, leading to his re-appointment as Prime Minister and ruling un-elected for another 5 years until the September 2014 elections”.
“The rest, as they say, is history”.
“However, this is not the time to talk about the fast waning political fortunes of a man and his dictatorial government clutching at straws. This is an occasion to pay tribute to and recognise how Chandrika Prasad’s actions remind us to fight for our rights and freedom”.
“Mr Prasad cared for and cherished equality, self-dignity, respect and justice. And these priceless values have been the unbreakable principles of the NFP since the party’s inception 59 years ago in 1963”.
“This is the greatest lesson that Mr Prasad leaves behind for all of us as we approach what will be the most critical general elections in Fiji’s 52-years of Independent history”.
“There is no denying that Fiji is at a critical crossroad. The decisions that we take and the choices that we make will determine the kind of future that we bequeath to our future generations”.
“And it should be a future where the rule of law is upheld and respected at all times to ensure that our people can be proud to have a government that works for them at all times, with absolute commitment for care, compassion and empathy for every Fijian”.
Professor Biman Prasad Leader