Showing posts from March 8, 2009

(o) At Last, Some Good News

CORRECTION. No one has been endorsed at the Political Parties meeting last Friday to be Chief Mediator in the political dialogue process in Fiji. This will be decided at the next Political parties meeting on April 3rd.  Sir Rabbie was one of the names proposed.

Yesterday's meeting of political leaders was the second of three that set the stage for the President's Political Dialogue Forum -- and the outcome was good. The agenda was accepted by consensus, and former PNG PM Sir Rabbie Namaliu (photo) was endorsed as chairperson by all but two minor political parties.

Fiji Live reported that former PM and Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL) Party leader Laisenia Qarase "hailed the second political leaders meeting ... and described it a fruitful one ... The atmosphere of the meet was good and there was a genuine intent among leaders to come to a consensus regarding issues that have to be ironed out before an election is held.”

The only matters on which all did not agree were th…

(G) Fiji Leaders Agree on PPDF Agenda

Fiji Live 13 March 2009. Full text.

The Democratic Experience in Fiji, Parliamentary Reform, Electoral Reform, General Election and the People’s Charter will be the agenda of the upcoming President’s Political Dialogue Forum (PDDF), it has been confirmed.Political leaders today agreed to this after their meeting at the parliamentary complex in Suva.

The meeting which ended late this afternoon agreed that while the input of the Commonwealth and UN was appreciated, Fiji must decide its own future.

It was agreed that there will be 23 representatives from the registered political parties, including the Government and membership will be as follows: Government 3, Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL) 2, Fiji Labour Party (FLP) 2, New National Democratic Party (NDP) 1, Justice and Freedom party (JFP) 1, National Alliance Party of Fiji (NAPF) 1, National Federation Party (NFP) 1, United Peoples Party (UPP) 1, Soqosoqo ni Vakavulewa ni Taukei (SVT) 1, National Vanua Tako Lavo Party (NVTLP)…

(o+) How to Stir the Pot by Pramod Rae

Wednesday 11th March. The Fiji Times (11 March 2009) reported ("Police Search Two News Media Offices for Letters") that police have searched FijiTV and FijiTimes offices for letters addressed to the Interim PM. Police wanted to obtain copies of the letters and know how they had been obtained. Earlier the PM said he had not yet received one of the letters. If this were true, someone was tampering with the mail, and passing it on to others to whom it is not addressed, who then made the letters' contents public. Police must respond to accusations of theft or the publication of letters to which an individual or the media has no legal right.

The very same day, Wednesday, relying entirely on what they had been told from Fiji, the International Federation of Journalists condemned police (and by inference Government) action as "harassment of Fiji media". "The search warrants and questioning of Rika appear to be part of a systematic campaign of intimidation against …

(o) Media Did Distort What Ambassador McGann Said

I've now had the opportunity to read the Ambassador's speech in the original. I thought his remarks were totally appropriate for a speech on the occasion of Prophet Mohammed's birthday. Almost all the speech was on American-Muslim relations, and on religion freedom. He barely mentioned the Fiji political situation but what he did say, the media misrepresented, as I had supposed. The misrepresentation cannot have been accidental. Read the speech for yourself by clicking here. Then compare it with my posting and those of the media.

A commentator on my original post thought my emphasis on "semantics" missed "the larger point .. the media failed [to raise the issue] ..."the US does not call for democracy in China, Saudia Arabia; why then does the US State Dept have a different standard for Fiji?" This, of course, is a valid question but the issue I raised was the probable distortion by the media of what the Ambassador actually said about Fiji. Playing w…

(o) The PM's Unwise Decision on PPDF Meeting: Opinion

The Interim PM's decision not to invite* three hostile political parties (Qarase's SDL, the Indo-Fijian NFP, and the racist Vanua Tako Lavo) to the President's Political Dialogue Forum process meeting (due to start tomorrow to decide the PPDF's terms of reference and agenda) can only be bad news for Fiji. Perhaps the worst in a long time.

The reason for their exclusion is obvious. Their collective record over the past two years has not helped Fiji, and they would almost certainly have sought to disrupt the Forum process, or walk out having not agreed to the agenda and terms of reference. From this perspective, Bainimarama's position seems perfectly understandable (“we want people involved in the political dialogue process who are loyal to Fiji and will discuss issues in terms of the national interest of the people of Fiji.”).

But it is also besides the point. This is a process leading to dialogue, not a rally of political supporters. You cannot arrive at an acceptabl…

(o+) What, Exactly, Did the Ambassador Say?

I'm a little perplexed. Surely ambassadors are bound by code or precedent not to comment negatively on the internal political affairs of the country to which they are accredited. If this were not so, diplomatic channels between many countries would clamp shut as their ambassadors were sent home. The whole point of a foreign embassy is to keep channels open.
So what exactly did US Ambassador Steve McGann say at the Prophet Mohammed Birthday celebration in Nadi? The FijiLive heading read "US: Pressure Government to Hold Polls" and the text: "The people of Fiji have to work together to pressure the interim government to hold elections." But neither heading nor text was in speechmarks so we do not know if these were the Ambassador's actual words or the interpretation put on his words by FijiLive's sub-editor who wrote the heading and its reporter who wrote the script?
What we do know he said (because of the speechmarks, and if reported correctly) is “We cal…

(+) Un-Pacific Neighbours

Auckland-based journalist and political commentator Thakur Ranjit Singh (TRS) has a weekly column in the Fiji Times. Last week, in "Un-Pacific Neighbours", he reflected -- fairly but a little sharply -- on recent comments by Samoan PM Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegao that he thought aggrevated the situation and could make Bainimarama more resistant to calls from the PI Forum.

Here are some extracts.

Tuilaepa advised Bainimarama to seek advice from his Church leaders.
TRS: "He fails to realise that the Methodist Church has become a political wing of the SDL Party and has been so heavily embroiled in politics that it has overlooked its manifest functions of promoting spiritual enhancement, love for neighbours and moral values."

Tuilaepa advised Bainimarama to return to the barracks.
TRS: "I shudder to think of the outcome of Tuilaepa's advice to Bainimarama: allow for elections within this year to fulfill the Forum's demand, return to the barracks and make the mil…

(B) Who Owns the (Pacific Is.) Forum?

Read what its former Director of Economic Governance, Dr Roman Gynberg, had to say in a major article in the Fiji Times 9 March 2009. He starts by looking at the Forum's history, and the momentous decision on whether or not to include Australia and New Zealand, and concludes that even with all its warts the Islands still need the Forum. [Implicit comment suggests A and NZ may also need the Forum.] In between, he argues that Australia and New Zealand set the economic and political agenda -- not infrequently in their favour. Is the Forum "a place where free nations can exchange their views openly ...?" He doubts it.

Last Week in Fiji: First Week of March

Punch Drunk and the 3R's

It's been a bad week for the Interim Government. First they were hit by the US Human Rights Report; then the International Bar Association Report ; then the Commonwealth CMAG Report (each with opportunites for umpteen opponents to make umpteen comments) and, if that was not enough, this weekend produced some bad economic signals from Moody's and the tourism industry, on which brief comments below. I will comment on the "human rights" reports later in the week.

Postings this week included:
* Commerce Commissioner dismissal
* Two important "historic" comments by Steve Ratuva
* Ratu Isoa on the role of the military [Major post]
* Walsh on Bainimarama's need for a public relations
officer --- the Commonwealth announcement [Major post]
(o) The Commonwealth Ministers' Action Group.
I thought their decision very reasonable. They didn't ask for elections by September; only …