Comparative law and justice/Fiji
Part of the Comparative law and justice Wikiversity Project
- 1 Basic Information
- 2 Brief History
- 3 Economic Development, Health, and Education
- 4 Governance
- 5 Courts and Criminal Law
- 6 Family Law
- 7 Constitution/Rights
Fiji, officially known as The Republic of Fiji, is comprised of approximately 330 islands located in the South Pacific; southwest of Hawaii, and north of New Zealand. The two largest volcanic islands are Viti Levu which contain the capital; Suva and also the majority of the Fijian population and Vanua Levu. These islands account for eighty-seven percent of the country's total land area. The whole group of islands lie in a rectangle between fifteen and twenty-two degrees south latitude and one hundred seventy-five degrees east longitude. As of 2010,the population of Fiji was 847,793 people, ethnically including Polynesian and Melanesian peoples. Melanesian and Polynesian peoples settled in the Fijian islands some 3,500 years ago. There are three major languages of Fiji; English, being the most common, as well as Fijian and Hidustani. By the nineteenth century, the primary religion of the Fijian people was predominately Christian, but Hindu and Muslim communities are present among the islands as well. Fiji's average life expectancy at birth is 74 years and it's illiteracy rate is 8% of it's population. Fiji's total surface area is 7078 sq. miles. Fiji remains to be one of the more developed countries in the Oceania region, due to their sugar processing industry, as well as frequent tourism. Fiji's agricultural industry is also extremely prosperous with products including; sugarcane, coconuts, bananas, rice, sweet potatoes, etc. The climate of Fiji is extremely tropical and the temperature stays consistently warm, with only slight changes. Most of the smaller islands of Fiji are inhabitable due to their mountainous terrain and volcanoes. Even though these volcanoes such as, Nabukelevu Volcano located on the third largest island in Fiji; Kadavu are not active, they still cause frequent earth quakes during the course of the year.
The first and original settlers of Fiji were the Polynesians and discovered by Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman. In 1874, Fiji became a British colony for nearly a century. Under rule of the British, Fiji remained a colony until gaining their independence on October 10th, 1970. This marked a major turning point for the country and the people of Fiji in hopes to developing a democratic way of government. However, Fiji's plan was briefly interrupted by many military coups during the nineteenth century, having great negative impacts on the country as a whole. The coups took place between 1987 until the final one, occurring in 2006. During this time Fiji also experienced a number of name changes.  From its name Dominion of Fiji, the nation was newly named, The Republic of Fiji. Then again in 1997, resulting in its final name change to The Republic of the Fiji Islands. The National Anthem of Fiji is called "God Bless Fiji" which was adopted in 1970.
Economic Development, Health, and Education
Since Fiji is one of the most industrialized, more developed Island in the South Pacific, it's economy is prosperous. Industrial trade and tourism account for the majority of Fiji's economic development and source of revenue. Since the 1980's Fiji's tourism has increased immensely and has become the leading source of economic activity for the islands and continues to be it's main source of foreign currency.Sugar processing makes up one-third of industrial activity but is not efficient. Fiji's tourism industry was damaged by the December 2006 coup and is facing an uncertain recovery time. In 2007 tourist arrivals were down almost 6 percent, with substantial job losses in the service sector, and GDP dipped. The coup has created a difficult business climate. Sugar exports, remittances from Fijians working abroad, and a growing tourist industry. Fiji's annual tourism rate total is about 400,000 to 500,000 per year. Fiji's gross earning from tourism were 430 million dollars, doubling it's amount from its leading trade exports. Fiji's GDP (official exchange rate) is 3.154 billion dollars in 2010. Also Fiji's per capita rate in 2010 was $4,300 dollars. Poverty has stricken some parts of Fiji leaving the population living below the poverty line at 25.5 percent, as well as the unemployment rate at 7.6 percent in 1999. Exporting and importing makes up a great deal of Fiji's international revenue for the country. Specifically, the United States makes up 15.21 percent of Fiji's exporting partners. Some commodities that are exported include; sugar, garments, gold, timber, fish, molasses, and coconut oil. Another important aspect that the Fijian economy relies heavily on is importation. Some commodities that are imported into the country are, manufactured goods, machinery and transport equipment, petroleum products, food, and chemicals.
Fiji practices a common law system of government, based on the British system. Fiji is a parliamentary democracy, comprised of four divisions of administration. The government type is a republic. The President,Ratu Epeli Nailatikau who has been serving since July 30, 2009 is selected by general election and serves as head of state and head of armed forces. He serves a term of five years and is considered privileged to be in such an honorable position, idolizing the British powerful roles in the past. The prime minister, Laisenia Qarase serving since September 10 2000,serves as head of the government, and a bicameral parliament consisting of a Senate made up of thirty-two seats and an elected House of Representatives consisting of seventy-one seats. Most of the governance headquarters mostly exist within the Nausori.  Prior to this Fiji had experienced much hardship when numerous occurrences of coup d' etats leaving Fiji's economy devastated and it's government actually fell in 1993. The Constitution was completely reviewed and restored, not only with the help of the government,encouraging multiculturalism and multiparty government mandatory. They accepted their new Constitution and believed it to ensure political and economic stability. Fijian residents and non-residents are taxable according to income under the Tax Act of 1974.
Since the country's independence, Fiji has held nine elections. The members of the Senate are not elected, they are nominated. In order to participate in the voting elections in Fiji, a citizen must fulfill the following criteria; must be twenty-one years of age, must be a resident of the colony, must be able to read and write, and must be a British subject. Elections held under the new and latest Constitution resulted in a victory of the Labor party, which was led by the Prime Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry. The President is elected by the Great Council of Chiefs for a five year term and is eligible for a second term. Supreme Court judges are appointed by the president, similar to the United States. The political parties that make up Fiji include the Fijian Democratic Party (FDP), The Fijian Labor Party, The Fijian Freedom Party, etc.
Fiji does have judicial review, under the Human Rights Act of 1998. It also holds jurisdiction, with some reservations and exceptions. Detainees have the right to judicial review of the grounds for their arrest. Even though not referenced in their Constitution, Fijian Courts use English Common Law as a precedent. The judicial decisions made in the High Court have been found to be very persuasive in other surrounding pacific countries.
Courts and Criminal Law
The Penal Code 1944 preserves liability for common law acts. It appropriately states; provides for the allocation of criminal jurisdiction among the Courts of Fiji. Provides general offenses to criminal liability such as, lack of intention, insanity, intoxication, immature age, defense of person or property, previous acquittal or conviction, or execution of court orders. Prescribes sentences that may be imposed and defines the principal criminal offenses. Under the Probation Act of 1952, the Court may order one to three years of probation to an offender in place of a sentence as an alternative. Fijian Juvenile Court uses a separate system, only for offenders seventeen and younger. The judges consider the well-being of the juvenile and emphasize education, removal of surroundings, maintenance, and training. In the event that a juvenile is convicted under an aggravated violent crime, he will be detained and placed in prison. Civil proceedings must begin with a writ or summons in order to appear before a Magistrate; who regulates all civil proceedings. Also, a Magistrate may dismiss minor charges if there has been a proper apology or just compensation has been payed. In the High Court, the judge is accompanied by two lay assessors for advice on the decision. If the judges so chooses, he can disagree with the lay assessors and give a valid opinion to the Court as to why in his decision. The procedures to follow in order to appeal to the Court of Appeals from the High Court is a notice of appeal. Magistrate Court> High Court> Court of Appeal. The standards of liability in tort law in Fiji is similar to the system of common law jurisdictions, with little involvement by parliament. The system is largely based on roles of the statues, with areas of strict liability as well as areas of limiting liability. Among the torts dealt with in Civil Court, the comparative negligence standard is applied. Under this standard, the court can authorize a reduction in the plaintiff's damages "to such extent as the Court thinks just and equitable having regard to the claimant's share in responsibility."
Fiji does have capital punishment, but for only violators of treason and genocide. Fiji's maximum penalty for murder, rape, arson, as well as other serious crimes is life in prison. Under The Penal Code offenders that are convicted of a violent crime are eligible for corporal punishment. A male between the ages of seventeen and thirty-five can receive up to twelve strokes.
Legal Personnel in Fiji is extremely limited and has decreased significantly. The shortage of legal professionals resulted in the late 1980's, when the majority of the Indians who held such positions, (150 at the time) left the country seeking more opportunity. In order to be considered into the legal profession, a person must contain a law degree and then be admitted to practice as a solicitor by the Chief Justice for one year. Fiji has no law school, but students who wish to obtain a law degree frequently travel to Australia, New Zealand, or Papua New Guinea. Fiji has a large number of government corporations which devote a large amount of money and public service to economic activity and regulatory services such as; Fiji National Bank, the Civil Aviation Authority,Housing Authority, Ports Authority, Sugar Board, etc. Fiji is a member of the United Nations as well as The World Bank. Fiji is also a member of the South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Agreement which allows them entry from goods from other Pacific countries. The major human rights issue that still needs resolving since the 1990 constitution; which created a racially- favored parliament where more seats allotted to indigenous Fijians than to Indo-Fijian. Currently however, both races now represent the parliament and significant changes have been made to reduce the problem of discrimination among the Fijian people. 
The Fijian Police Force is maintained by the National Security Council, made up of the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs, the Attorney General, the Commissioner of Police, and the Commander of Military Forces. Local civilian authorities maintain control and order within the populated cities. The Ministry of Home Affairs, headed by the minister for defense, oversees the Fiji Police Force, which is responsible for law enforcement and the maintenance of internal security. After the 2006 dismissal of the police commissioner and his deputy, deputy army commander Captain Esala Teleni was appointed commissioner. Also, The Republic of Fiji Military Force (RFMF) has maintained since 2005 it has a broad constitutional responsibility for national security that also extends to domestic affairs. Since Fiji has a unified police force, the Commissioner of the Police Force has control over the entire police force and has administrative power as well. He is appointed by the Constitutional Office Commission and oversees appointments below him in accordance with the Fijian Constitution.
Crime Rates and Public Opinion
Police statistics indicate that Fiji, with a crime rate of 28 per cent, has one of the highest per capita crime rates in the world. Compared to the United States, Fiji's murder rate was 2.90 per 100,000 population, while the United States was 4.55. Most crimes occur in the larger population centers of Viti Levu, in cities such as Suva, Nadi and Lautoka. The Following is a table provided by the Fiji Island's Bureau of Statistics of Crime with data from 2006 to 2008.
|Robbery with Violence||884||807||800|
|Unlawful Use of Motor Vehicle||328||247||285|
|Murder & Attempted Murder||27||23||20|
|Rape & Attempted Rape||162||130||191|
In 2004, Fiji repealed the Dangerous Drugs Act which implemented new laws that strengthened the existing enforcement of illicit drugs in aspects of possessing,trafficking, manufacture, storage, administration and use. Illicit drug trading has separate consequences. This Bill allowed for more effective enforcement and regulation. Convicted offenders of these may experience long jail sentences and heavy fines. This Act also introduced a system for the Court for mandatory sentencing for illicit drug offenders. The illegal drug problem in Fiji pertains mainly to the cultivation, possession and use of marijuana. Fifty percent of people under the age of 25 are drug offenders in Fiji. This trend is recognized at a national level and is similar to international statistics of marijuana. There has been one major drug operation organized and implemented by the Fiji Police Force in October 2000, involving authorities from other countries that resulted in the obtainment of large amounts of heroine.
Marriage may be contracted by males of the age of eighteen and females of the age of sixteen with consent of a parent. Fijian people who have been married in a civil ceremony do not consider themselves officially married until they undergo an Indian religious ceremony. Polygamy is not recognized in Fiji nor is legal. The grounds for divorcing or voiding a marriage are as follows; adultery, willful desertion, habitual cruelty,rape, sodomy,habitual drunkenness, continuous living apart, conviction of attempted killing, unsoundness of mind (insanity), etc. The concept of no-fault divorce does not exist in Fiji. The custody of any children under the age of eighteen must be made when the marriage is dissolved or separation is in act. The Adoption Act of Infants of 1944 has made adoption of an infant available to a married or unmarried person. The person must be twenty-five years or older and must be at least twenty years older than the infant. Illegal customary adoptions are extremely common in Fiji, but are not recognized by the law. Only approximately one hundred adoptions are completed legally under the Adoption Act per year. Abortion, under the Penal Code is a crime in Fiji and is punishable up to seven years in prison. Unless a doctor in "good faith" believes it is in the interest of the pregnant women to terminate their pregnancy. There is no legislation in Fiji that regulates the compensation of personal property of interest. In Fiji a person eighteen or older may create a will. The will must be written and signed by the person making it. All Fijian people who join the military are required to make a will and are permitted to make a verbal one in this case. Inheritance laws in Fiji require the surviving spouse, if not specified at least two-thirds of the deceased estate, and income.
The 1990 Constitution states that it is the supreme law of Fiji and anything else is void. It includes guarantees of individual liberty and places limits on the parliament to enact laws. The Constitution can be amended with the agreement of three-quarters of the Senate. Fiji also have statues that incorporate and reflect all of the amendments. The Fijian Constitution preserves the following rights to the people; right to life, right to personal liberty, from slavery, forced labor, inhuman treatment, deprivation from property, freedom of expression, movement, assembly and association, from racial discrimination, etc.
There happens to be occasional complaints about the police, violating human rights of the Fijian people, but most are dealt with and members of the police have been charged and tried. Search and Seizes provisions in Fiji permit a search without a warrant is the person is validly arrested, a search without a warrant is the police have reasonable suspicion that the search will reveal stolen property, the search with a warrant that was ordered and obtained by a magistrate. Fiji Courts will not eliminate evidence that was obtained during an illegal search, even if the search violated the person's constitutional rights. The right of the Fijian people from the government taking of their land is protected under the Fijian Constitution. Property must be compulsory acquired if; reasonable notice for intention to take is given, an order by the High Court to take is given, the purpose of taking is for a public purpose that satisfies the High Court, the High Court authorizes an agreement of compensation. The Employment Act of 1964 provides the Fijian people with a support and assistance, if concern or problems arise that affect their employment and labor. This act applies to all employers, private as well, but does not apply to the police or military. This act also requires that employment contracts more than six months must be in writing. This act prohibits the dismissal except for certain circumstances, deductions from wages, employment of children under the age of twelve, employment of women and children after 8:00pm and before 6:00am, etc. Fijian people are entitled to workers compensation if eligible. A person is eligible according to a predetermined scale of injury arising out of or during employment. This right also provides the Fijian people with compensation from a work related disease that results in disability or death.