The Mummy Returns: Fiji's Undead Constitution
Late last month, the remains of kolinio Tabua, a supporter of the coup that toppled Fiji's government last year, were dug up from the grounds of Parliament and moved to a tomb in his village, near Suva. But when the new government files into the House for the first time this week, it will have another reburial on its mind: that of the constitution.
Indigenous nationalists turned on the multiracial constitution in 1999, when Mahendra Chaudhry became the country's first ethnic-Indian leader. When George Speight took Chaudhry's government hostage, one of his first acts was to declare the constitution dead. Military-installed Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase did not revive it; instead he set about preparing a new constitution to bar Indians from political power. But in March, the Court of Appeal ruled that the constitution was still in force: the mummy walked.
On Sept. 10, Qarase was sworn in at the head of a coalition government that includes Speight. Under the constitution, Chaudhry's Labour Party is entitled to several cabinet seats, but Qarase has frozen it out, calling the rule "unrealistic and unworkable." The constitution's framers "saw the necessity for politicians to rise above their differences if the country was to progress," says Suva lawyer Richard Naidu. "Our politicians have resolutely shown that they are unable to do this."
Qarase's United Fiji Party and Speight's Conservative Alliance have vowed to produce a new, pro-indigenous constitution. The existing one "led to continuous turbulence," says C.A. spokesman Metuisela Mua. "We need to stabilize things by guaranteeing Fijian leadership." That would have been easy when the constitution was a dead letter. Now that it has been revived, however, it can't be changed without the consent of two-thirds of each House-numbers, says Naidu, that "Qarase just doesn't have." Difficult as it will now be to rebury the constitution, Qarase's flouting of its power-sharing clause-and his inclusion of just one Indian in his 27-member cabinet-will make it harder still for Fiji to rest in peace.
On the Learning Curve
Amonth after the country's first democratic elections, East Timor's new political leaders are finding out just how much they have to learn. Among them is Fernando de Araujo, a prominent student activist during Indonesia's occupation of East Timor, who contested the polls as head of the newly formed Democratic Party. Now the first-time politician is Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Ministerial Council led by Mari Alkatiri. That's meant a crash course in new skills, De Araujo says: "I have to do many things I have never done before-dealing with diplomats, writing diplomatic letters." He juggles these tasks with attendance at daily sittings of the Constituent Assembly, which is working through what he calls "technical problems"-such as how to run a meeting for 88 politicians: "None of us have had experience in dealing with this kind of job." The Assembly's most urgent task is to write a national constitution within 90 days. As of last week, it hadn't started. "We want to have a good constitution," de Araujo says, "and I don't think 90 days will be enough."
Sealed with a Fish
Zoo-goers may love them, but as far as Tasmania's fish farmers are concerned, seals are the rabbits of the sea. Wily fur seals are treating salmon farms along the state's southeast coast as a daily smorgasbord-and outwitting all the measures aquaculturists have come up with to protect their pens. "They bite through nets, jump into cages and respond to sound scarers like dinner gongs," says Tasmanian Salmonid Growers Association officer Vicki Wadley.
Male seals-which can weigh up to 360 kg-are also becoming more aggressive. "We've had cases where they've ripped workers' legs open," says association president Peter Bender. Pending a report on the problem by the Marine Industry Council this month, farmers stress that they don't want the seals killed, except as a last resort. When State
Parks and Wildlife Minister David Llewellyn expressed a similar view last October, he provoked a public outcry.