Showing posts from March 1, 2009

(o) Again: a Dismissal, No Explanation, Media Speculation, Government Reports, Media ......

The Attorney General's removal of Australian Gary Sweeney as chairman of the Commerce Commission has produced the usual media speculation, and the usual retort from the Interim Government. Sweeney says Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum had no power to dismiss him except for "misbehaviour, incompetence, incapacity or failure to comply with the obligations not to participate in a decision in which the member had a pecuniary interest." The A-G confirmed that Sweeney was not removed because of non-performance as speculated by some media organisations. He said there were "a number of issues before the Commission that needed to be addressed ."[With the A-G so reticent to reveal reasons for the dismissal, the media had little choice: speculate or say nothing.]

The media speculates his removal was related to resumed investigations into whether Vodafone was trying to preserve its market dominance by restricting the introduction of a new TFL wireless service. Sayed-Khaiyum said the Com…

(B) Two "On the Eve of the 2006 Coup" Articles are Well Worth Reading

Steven Ratuva on "The Politics of Preference (Voting)"
"The popular political myth is that democratic elections are won and lost on the basis of people’s direct choices.What we forget is that people’s choices have to go through the complex mechanics of the electoral process, endorsed by some ambitious politicians and drafted by some overpaid lawyers, which become the vehicle through which our democratic choices are legitimized." So wrote USP political scientist and commentator Steven Ratuva in the Fiji Times (May 1, 2006) just before the 2006 election. The election, using the contentious Alternative Voting system, hinged on six key Open seats in Greater Suva. The result saw Qarase's SDL party (with extreme Fijian nationalists and Speight 2000 Coup supporters as part of his team) returned to power. The slide towards December's Coup had begun. To read the whole article, click here.

Steven Ratuva on "Officers, Gentlemen and Coups" (On the Role of the M…

(o) Ratu Isoa on Military Men and Diplomats

Former diplomat and Permanent Secretary of Foreign Affairs Ratu Isoa Gavidi thinks the media has played a role in the Fiji-PI Forum relationship that is causing participants to be more outspoken and straight-talking than usual. "Currently," he told ABC News, "I think there is a lot more hype in the media. Sometimes it may sound harsh. It's really a total new development in the Forum that borders on what you call diplomatic niceties are now crossed. Leaders of the forum are now saying exactly what they think."
Speaking of Cdre Bainimarama's outspokenness and leadership style, Ratu Isoa said in his personal view Bainimarama was a military man and his perspective and perception of things were based on his military background, whereas a lot of the other political leaders came from different walks of life. "So I think this is part of where the problem is ...It's just two different experiences leading to clashes between leaders ... the military is basic…

(o) Bainimarama Desperately Needs a Public Relations Officer

Commodore Bainimarama may speak as he chooses; Prime Minister Bainimarama should not. The Interim Government needs every friend it can get, and the PM desperately needs a public relations officer. Military personnel often lack the skills of diplomacy.

When the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group's predicable but very moderate announcement on Fiji was made on Wednesday (“should sufficient progress not take place... Fiji Islands will be fully suspended from the Commonwealth at the Group’s next meeting in September 2009”), he had a golden opportunity "to win friends and influence people."

He should have made no media statement until he had heard from Commonwealth GenSec Kamalesh Sharma, and in speaking with Mr Sharma all he needed to say was:

"Mr Sharma, I want you to know that we value our Commonwealth membership and fully understand your present predicament.* We thank you for understanding that progress must await outcomes from our President's Forum. We will annou…

Last Week in Fiji; Fourth Week of February

New Postings Sunday 1 March
[Major papers in red]
(o) The President's Political Dialogue Forum (PPDF)
(o) Fiji's 1997 Constitution failed ....
(G) The People's Charter outreach
(o) Beddoes calls for Government of National Unity
(-) Fiji Law Society modifies stance on Interim Government
(G) Media Law Nearly Ready
(+) US Human Rights Report Unfair and Unbalanced
(-) PSA at Odds over Pay Increases
(-) Qarase in Melbourne
(+) Solomon Is.Sogovare disagrees with Samoan PM

Mid-Week Posts
(Bo-) Why Elections Cannot be Held by December
(o) Wellington Lawyer on Fiji
Preferred PM An hilarious Tebutt Poll
(B) Solomon Island Community Wants to Return "Home"

Making Something Out of Nothing
Two further examples of what must be called ongoing, negative "media-generated news" hit the streets last week. FijiLive asked Pramod Rae (NLF general secretary) what he thought about Bainimarama's temporary change of residence. Rae found it "a bit suspicious" that Bainmarama is to …

(o) NZAid Gives More for Flood Relief

NZAid is adding $3 million to the $600,000 already given for Fiji flood disaster relief and rehabilitation. The money will be directed to "reconstruction, providing social services, and helping to mitigate the impact of future disaster events in Fiji. Support will be channelled through local, regional and multilateral organisations working on the ground in Fiji ... [there will also be]...scope for partnering with other donor governments providing assistance." For more information, contact

(o) Beddoes on Government of National Unity

Former Opposition leader and acting President of the General Voters United Peoples Party, Mick Beddoes is urging the Interim PM and political leaders to consider forming a Government of National Unity (GNU). Beddoes said such a government should be convened if a “timetable to parliamentary democracy” was not reached “within the next 12 months”.

He said getting the country back to democracy was urgent, citing the current state of the economy and worldwide financial crisis. He said while the recommencement of the dialogue process on March 13 was “most welcomed” there was a need for leaders, especially the interim PM, to consider “alternative options.”

“If the [PPDF] meeting is unable to reach agreement on a timetable that allows elections within a reasonable timeframe, then consideration for the formation of a government of national unity will allow more time for preparations, without putting at risk thousands of jobs and the collapse of businesses that would surely occur, if things rema…

(o) The President's Political Dialogue Forum (PPDF)

A special meeting of political parties and other stakeholders will be held on March 13 to determine the agenda and the terms of reference, drafted by independent interlocutors Dr Sitiveni Halapua and Robin Nair. The PPDF will be convened when these matters have been resolved. FijiLive reports likely topics for inclusion are a proposed Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) Act to prevent the future overthrow of democratically elected governments, recommended changes to the 1997 Constitution, outcomes from the People's Charter and timelines for implementation, electoral reforms, and the timeline for the next General Elections. The central issue will be a stable return to parliamentary rule, from which the agenda items for the proposed PPDF will flow and give shape to a measurable timeline for a general election. Condensed from Fijilive

(o) 1997 Constitution Did Not Stop Communalized Politics

(o) "Fiji's 1997 Constitution failed to stop the drift to more [ethnic] communalized politics, although this time its power-sharing provisions have produced a multi-party cabinet.* In the long term communalization will not enable political stability, although seeking to remove communalizaton is not likely to be immediately possible politically. Nonetheless, at least three amendments to the Constitution need to be addressed, the first being the adoption of a system of proportional representation instead of preferential voting to give scope to the increasing diversity of positions within all communal groupings, so that no one feels excluded; the second being the amendments to compulsory power sharing in government (guidelines for communal responsibilities in cabinet might be more effective); and the third being the ability to redistribute communal seats after each census on the basis of population without recourse to Constitutional change. These changes would allow Parliament …

(+) US Human Rights Report Unfair and Unbalanced

The 2008 Human Rights report released by the US Department of State is not fair or balanced, says FHRC Chairperson, Shaista Shameem. She said it was a picture of what some people have told the Americans. The FHRC was not consulted. Dr Shameem noted that that the USA report did not deal with Israel's war on Gaza -- another gap for political expediency. "Human rights reports done by the USA are not known for their fairness or balance," she said. "Hopefully under Obama's administration this state of affairs will change."

(G) People's Charter Outreach Community Programme

The People's Charter outreach community awareness programme, involving teams made up of government officials and NGO representatives, started last week. It will be on a smaller scale than the last round of consultations. Department of National Planning's
Filimoni Kau they will also be monitoring the implementation of the Charter in various Government ministries through their 2009 cooperate plans. FijiVillage

(-o) Fiji Law Society's Dosami Naidu Recommends Modified Stance

Fiji Law Society Dorsami Naidu has modified his stance on the Interim Government. He now thinks the Society "needs to at least
partially engage with the interim Government, to ensure judicial standards are not compromised" because it has become increasingly
difficult to attract the right calibre of people to serve on the judiciary." He said "talented people don't want to be seen to be associated with this regime" and "the travel bans placed by the Australian and New Zealand Governments stop potential candidates from applying." [The bans, of course, affect all areas of government where they produce effects similar to those Naidu describes. From what he says, they appear to have produced effects opposite to those intended.] [Naidu earlier confirmed that he had paid the $20,000 outstanding from 2007-2008 he owed over his failed application in the Angie Heffernan case, as ordered by the court.] Fijilive

(G) Media Law Nearly Ready

All laws pertaining to the media -- its freedoms, restrictions, professional standards and Code of Ethics -- will soon be consolidated. This should remove anomalies in existing legislation. Once overseas experts have drafted the promulgation, the Ministry of Information will discuss it with other stakeholders before becoming law. The promulgation will establish
an independent tribunal (chaired by an independent judge appointed by the Judicial Services Commission) to hear appeals on complaints lodged with the Media Council. FijiLive

(-) PSA at Odds over Pay Increases.

Cabinet had approved the Job Evaluation Report 2003 conducted by Mercer Human Resource Consulting awarding pay increases to the disciplined services and the general civil service but, according to Major Neumi Leweni, military personnel will forego their entitlement. However, the Public Service Association secretary general Rajeshwar Singh says the FPSA does not accept the report because the pay increases were not negotiated in accordance with the terms of reference the State had signed with the public sector unions six years ago."Only those above the SS02 level will receive a pay increase and that's about 500 civil servants. FPSA has also filed a trade dispute with the Ministry of Labour, citing constitutional breach to the collective bargaining agreement. FijiLive.

(-) Qarase in Melbourne

Laisenia and Leba Qarase were invited to Melbourne by the Vanuabalavu community living there which raised money to pay for their hotel accommodation at Rydge’s, and all their expenses during their two-day trip. In addition they aim to raise a further $A10,000 towards legal bills incurred by the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL) party in its fight for parliamentary restitution. Qarase was Chief Guest at the community’s lovo dinner, attended by 300 invited guests. Qarase departs
Australia on Sunday for Fiji where he is expected in court on Tuesday.

(+) Solomon Island Leader Differs with Samoan PM

Solomon Islands Opposition leader Manasseh Sogovare says Samoan PM Tuilaepa Sailele's criticism of Voreqe Bainimarama is not shared by other Pacific leaders. Samoa is one of the Forum countries that have taken a joint position on how to assist Fiji. "I don't think the statements he has been making so far are shared by other leaders in the Pacific." Australia Network News via FijiLive.

(+) US Human Rights Report Unfair and Unbalanced

The 2008 Human Rights report released by the US Department of State is not fair or balanced, says FHRC Chairperson, Shaista Shameem. She said it was a picture of what some people have told the Americans.
The FHRC was not consulted. Dr Shameem noted that that the USA report did not deal with Israel's war on Gaza -- another gap for
political expediency. "Human rights reports done by the USA are not known for their fairness or balance," she said. "Hopefully under
Obama's administration this state of affairs will change."