Showing posts from February 22, 2009

(o+B) Why Elections Cannot be Held By December

Felicity Heffernan,
Supervisor of Elections

The Pacific Islands Forum insists the Interim Government announce an election date by May 1st and hold an election no later than December, or face further sanctions and possible suspension from Forum membership. This would be a most undesirable outcome for Fiji and the Forum. Qarase and others opposing the Interim Government insist these deadlines can be met. Bainimarama and Chaudhry say they can not. Who is right? Well, they "sort of" both might be. It all depends on what is meant by an election.

The 2006 election took only ten months from the time of registration to the elections. But this was a most imperfect election. Electorate boundaries, based on a ten-year old census, were left unchanged (so no allowance was made for extensive internal migration, especially to Greater Suva where the key Open electorates were located). An elected government was in place, aid money was available, and all political parties co-operated with a ful…

Wellington Lawyer on Fiji Situation

Richard Fowler, the President of the Wellington District Law Society, was in Fiji recently. Of his several observations, as reported by Kiwiblog, here are four :

"I have no problems with holding a referendum on a new constitution first, and then elections."[I'm not sure what he means by this. A referendum to change the Constitution and then hold elections based on the changes? Or a referendum binding on an incoming government elected under the present Constitution? Whichever, it's an interesting legal opinion]

On the NZ media's persistent insistence on a "pervasive military presence" in Fiji: "In the whole of the week I was in Suva I never caught sight of one soldier, and further the interim government during that week lost a very public Court challenge to the legitimacy of some of its actions and did not reach for extra-legal remedy."

But-- he thinks "the Commodore should have stood for election on the grounds of changing it, not done a co…

Preferred PM, and Bainimarama's Performance : You've Got to Laugh

Most serious social scientists have doubts about the accuracy of public opinion polls. Their questions, questioning and sampling procedures and analysis are often faulty. In Fiji the ethnicity of the interviewer also influences replies. This may be the case with a Times-Tebutt poll put to 11256 (surely 1,256) Viti Levu people in December --- but the results are interesting nonetheless.

Preferred Prime Minister: Qarase 52% Fijians; Bainimarama 37% Indo-Fijians. Qarase 34% Females; Bainimarama 27%, Males 28% each. General Voters were 23% for Qarase and 20% for Bainimarama.
None of these figures added up to 100% because 18 other people were also mentioned as preferred PM (how much they polled was not disclosed) and 20% "did not know"(further reducing its value). But with Sevens rugby icon Waisale Serevi fourth behind former PM Mahendra Chaudhry (8%) one must suspect a sample bias towards humorous pollsters.
Possibly more reliable were the results on Bainimarama'a performance

Solomon Community Wants to Return "Home"

24 February 2009

FijiLive reported it so calmly. "A group of 28 families of Solomon Island descent want the Fiji Government to [help them or] pay their passage to the land of their forefathers if they are forcibly evicted from the land that has been their home for over a century".

Thus spoke community spokesman Josefa Selo expressing his disappointment with the Housing Authority that had issued a 30-day extension to an eviction order that will allow a housing project at Namara, Tacirua near Suva --- and see 28 families with nowhere to live. Selo said the community paid rent lease to the Fijian mataqali owning the land and was assured verbally when the lease expired that the land now belonged to the community. Informal renting by mataqali is a common, almost traditional, arrangement in many parts of urban Fiji.

There was no public outcry. No ethnic Fijian hung his head in shame. Nothing was said by those who usually condemning the Interim Government for its alleged abuses of hu…

Samoan PM's Comments Inflammatory and Unhelpful

In what FijiLivecalled "an extraordinary verbal attack on a neighbour", Samoa's PM Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi claimed the Fiji military is planning to stay in power for another decade; PM Bainimarama is "stealing public money", and that Fiji has no need for the military. He called on Fijians (sic!) to "Wake up now. Stand up and reclaim your government. It is your God-given right." He called Bainimarama's appointment of Police Chief Esala Teleni, the appointment of one "madman" by another, an action "reminiscent of Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler." He also accused Bainimarama of lying to the Pacific Islands Forum that Samoa, or any other country, coerced smaller Pacific states into supporting a harder line against Fiji.

Tuilaepa is an economist, born in 1945, who was elected by other matai (chiefs) to parliament in 1980. He was instrumental in the major financial reforms of the early 1990s and for closer economic ties with China.


Last Week in Fiji: Third Week of February

To see the Noticeboard (a new item), scroll down to the very last posting.

Last Week. See Postings that follow ---Teleni---Elections---Sahu Khan---Chaudhry and FLP------Registered political parties---Fiji and Fiji Hindi for teachers---Wages---Baledrokadroka's claim---Qarase's Aussie "holiday"--- McGhie in NZ Listener
Media Man of the Week Teleni. The media, some NGOs and local and overseas blog sites, mostly anti-Interim Government, had a most enjoyable week, from Tuesday on, gorging themselves on the reputation of Police Chief Teleni. The most balanced blog summary is provided by John Liebhardt. See also "Picky Eater's" thoughtful comments to my post on the subject. I have four comments to add: (1) I am not convinced Teleni's comments were racist. (2) I am uncomfortable when religion is so intensively expressed, and see no place for it in the police force -- but that is Fiji. (3) I do not like intimidatory sergeant-major-type commands -- but that is…
Electoral Commission chairperson Mohammed Kamal-Ud-Dean Sahu Khan died of a heart attack early on Saturday morning. Sahu Khan’s appointment as Electoral Commission chairman was announced in May 2007 together with three new commissioners. He was the only remaining member from the previous Electoral Commission.

(o) Elections Impossible this Year

Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry says there is no way the general elections can be held this year.He said given the time needed to prepare and addressing issues in the electoral reform, elections were impossible. Chaudhry said this had been made known to the international community.

He said it was therefore vital to proceed quickly to the President’s Political Dialogue Forum (PPDF) which would consider issues revolving around holding elections and the return of an elected parliament. He said the UN and Commonwealth had talked with political parties, a mediator for the PPDF had been named. This showed Fiji was working progressively towards democracy. Asked if the FLP would support changes in the Constitution, Chaudhry said this was where the PPDF was necessary as all parties concerned needed to reach an amicable agreement on what changes, if any, were to be made to the Constitution.

With regards to fears of suspension from the Pacific Islands Forum, Chaudhry said all parties, l…

(o) Chaudhry, the FLP, Sugar, the Economy, and the Interim Government.

Rumours circulating during the week, heightened by a meeting with Bainimarama, had Mahendra Chaudhry returning to the Interim Government as Minister of Finance and Sugar, possibly accompanied by other FLP members. This prospect, however, may be judged premature if discussion at the FLP national committee meeting at Nadi are any indication.

The meeting was critical of Government's "commercial" decision to dissolve the Sugar Commission, Sugar Marketing Ltd and the Sugar Research Institute, transferring their responsibilities to the Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC). Chaudhry thought FSC dominance could marginalise the growers to whom 70% of sugar proceeds belonged, stating that the Sugar Cane Growers Council (SCGC) should play the lead role in marketing sugar. He called on Government to hasten the completion of the sugar industry reform and restructure programme, and to invest heavily in the natural resources sector to boost exports and create much needed employment.

The Party al…

(B) At last count 16 Political Parties are now registered

.... with the Supervisor of Elections and there's probably more to come. The sheer number will add to electoral confusion, although some only have local appeal. The Green Party of Fiji (Bernadette Rounds-Ganilau) is new to the scene. Others are more familiar, and the re-emergence of some (notably, the extremist Nationalist Vanua Tako Lavo Party (NVTLP) and Conservative Alliance Matanitu Vanua (CAMV)) is quite frightening.

Other registered political parties include United People's Party (UPP), Justice & Freedom Party (JFP), Soqosoqo ni Vakavulewa Ni Taukei (SVT), National Federation Party (NFP), Fiji Labour Party (FLP), Social Liberal Multicultural Party (SLM), National Alliance Party of Fiji (NAPF), Soqosoqo Duavata Ni Lewenivanua (SDL), Party of National Unity (PANU), National Democratic Party (NNDP), , Fiji People's Party (FPP), and General Voter's Party (GVP), Coalition of Independent Nationals Party (COIN) and Party of the Truth (POTT).
[For a detailed account of…

(G) Fostering Understanding Between Fiji's Two Main Ethnic Groups.

Last week all workers in Education (including teachers and officers at headquarters, and all section heads) started the same one-half hour a week language learning programme in Conversational Fijian and/or Conversational Hindi already been implemented for Class 5 students. The programme, aimed at bridging the ethnic divide that has so long plagued Fiji, comprises two components: a) Conversational Fijian or Hindi, starting at beginners’ level then progressing to intermediate, then onto an advanced level; b) Basic Culture studies, i.e. Fijian culture or Hindi culture. This component will be situational learning, either by visiting/assisting a family or through projects to enhance cultural understanding. [What is so amazing is that it took from Independence in 1970 to 2009 to implement such a programme. The earlier pre-1970 period is discounted: the British had nothing to gain from inter-ethnic understanding. Modern Fiji most definitely has!]

(-) Fiji Trade Union Congress president Daniel Urai

... in an advertisement stated that the intgegrity of the Wages Council had been compromised by the interim PM's deferment of the minimum wages order to July. He said not a single employer had presented audited accounts to the Wages Council, as requested by Wages Council chairman Fr Kevin Barr.

(-) More on Baledrokadroka's Claim

... of the Military's Political Involvement in the 2006 Coup. In an interview with Fijilive, former Land Force Commander Lt Col. Baledrokadroka revealed that "a lot of politicians were going up to the camp prior to the December 5, 2006 coup and were colluding with the army". FLP Leader and deposed PM Mahendra Chaudhry said Baledrokadroka should produce proof and name them. [See last week's post, noting this correction: Allegations that Baledrokadroka conspired against Cdre Bainimarama were dropped. He was suspended in January 2006 and resigned in May 2007.]

(-) Qarase's "Grandchildren"

I don't suppose you can blame him, but Qarase was allowed to leave Fiji pending a court case to visit his family and grandchildren. He now admits he is on a fundrasing tour to defray SDL legal costs, and SDL leaders Samisoni Tikoinasau and Peceli Kinivuwai will soon join him. Some 30 Brisbane Fijians attended a fundraising dinner last Saturday. The low turn out? "Many people did not want to get involved as they did not want to be seen at the event." The ABC reported Qarase as saying the interim government was ruling through fear, and that his life remains under threat from the military-led government. “I was warned by an anonymous callers that I would be killed or thrown into jail.”[This was months ago and the claim was investigated by police] Qarase also said he wanted the other 12 Forum countries to apply a travel ban similar to the "very effective" ban imposed by Australia and New Zealand. Of the Interim Government he said “Their message is ‘Agree with the r…

(o) Former NZ Diplomat and ...

... chairperson of the NZ chapter of Transparency International Gerald McGhie had a short article "Fiji's Gordian Knot" (although it covered Pacific-wide issues) in this week's NZ Listener. The issues raised were poor governance ("weak governance has made a number of Pacific power brokers very rich. Strong institutions would disrupt the flow of easy money."); corruption ("the most serious threat to future stability and development"), and New Zealand's need to understand the Pacific ("sometimes a strident tone has crept into NZ's Pacific statements ... [we need] a NZ voice that reflects an understanding of Pacific realities rather than the agenda of other countries... Our task is to take a lead. This will require intelligent diplomacy"). On the Fiji situation: "Unless there is a radical shift in the voting process, further elections will .. fail to make any headway." [A question for the NZ Listener: Doesn't the commi…