Showing posts from February 8, 2009
Fiji Last Week III: Second Week of February 2009

[Flashback: New Zealand and Fiji lost out in the Wellington Rugby Sevens last weekend. John Key and Voqere Bainimarama declined to comment. But these are not the times for political humour.The kerfuffle over the Elections Office's possibly humourous but unwise video skit on democracy in Fiji, major headlines last weekend, with Elections Supervisor Felicity Heffernan's job reportedly at stake, appears, thankfully, to have blown over.]

* Check Out Three Major Posts during the Week
Bainimarama's about-face on wages and bus fares
Qarase's abuse of office charges
Facts and opinions on the 1997 Constitution

A Letter from a Friend. "The UN/Comsec team of four officials are here this week to talk to the regime and other worthies about the President's forum and the process of political engagement. This is probably the best opportunity we have for a dialogue. The regime 's attitude will be critical because the political pa…
(-B) Bainimarama's About-Face: Delays Application of Minimum Wage Order and Reverses Cut in Bus Fares

Crosbie Walsh

"Nobody ever claimed the market economy would produce social justice." Joseph Stiglitz, American economist and Nobel Prize winner.

The Interim PM has overruled two recently announced Government decisions that would have helped the poor. His move has raised questions about his commitment to social justice and his army-style of leadership.

Responding to an employers' argument that this is not a good time to increase wages because of the floods and world economic crisis (and the intended-to-scare threat that 3,000 jobs could be at stake) he has delayed the increases until July. The bus fare reduction was reversed because of an earlier removal of subsidies to bus companies.

The move has been criticized by Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry, chairman of the Wages Council, Fr Kevin Barr, and most significantly by the writer of the otherwise totally pro-governme…
(B) The Corruption Charges against Former PM Laisenia Qarase

Former PM Laisenia Qarase has been granted a bail variation to allow him to visit family members in Australia but must return to Fiji before his March court hearing. Qarase is charged by FICAC (Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption -- directly accountable to the President so that no one is above the law) with two counts of abuse of office with regards to family share holdings in extinct mataqali funds and shares in Fijian Holdings Limited.

Comment. While there can be little doubt that there is a political factor in charging Qarase (how could there not be in the circumstances?), on the face of it there does seem to be a strong case against him.

The main charge is that between 1992-95 when he was a director of Fiji Holdings Ltd (established by the Rabuka government to ensure greater equity participation by provincial councils and Fijian institutions…
The Election-Constitution Dilemma

(-o) Brij Lal on Why Only Parliament Can Amend the Constitution

Condensed from Fiji Sun article 2.2.08 . My emphasis.

Co-author of the Reeves Commission report which led to the 1997 Constitution, Professor Brij Lal, says only parliament can amend the Constitution. Anything else will have no legal validity. He says there are no shortcuts. The best course of action for the Commodore would be to put his proposed electoral changes before the President’s Forum for discussion by all stakeholders. Any consensus reached there could then be inserted into the constitution by a recalled parliament.

We know that the High Court has legitimised the appointment of the interim administration by the President through reserve powers derived by convention under common law (and that this ruling is being challenged in the Court of Appeal by ousted PM Laisenia Qarase) but the key question today is: How can the constitution be amended without a parliament? There is a constitu…