Showing posts from May 24, 2009

(o+) The 55+ Retirement Age, the Fiji National Provident Fund, and Pensions

As with most Government announcements these days, the decree making 55 the compulsory retirement age (except in some circumstances) is seen by some as a diabolical act with horrendous consequences. This post seeks to provide a more balanced account.

Government says the move is to save Government expenditure by reducing the size of an over-heavy civil service; create job opportunities for some of Fiji's 1,000 unemployed graduates and other young unemployed people, and encourage some of those retiring to start their own business or otherwise enter the private sector. A Fiji Times editorial on March 15 agreed with the Government decision.

Anti-Government Bloggers, however, say the money saved will be spent on the military, and the decree will be used as a way of getting rid of civil servants the Government does not like. NZ Public Service Association Nat.Sec. Richard Wagstaff, who lives in a country with longer life expectancies and far lower levels of unemployment, says it's a…

Snippets: Police Brutality; ACP and Vanuatu Support; Fiji Live; Corruption Comment; I Sometimes Get it Wrong; My Biases

(o) Brutal Assault on Fellow Police Officer
In what looks like an initial revenge assault followed up by sheer police brutality, Police Officer Raj Shavendra Prasad was so badly beaten up by assailants, including senior police officers, during the weekend of 16-17 May, that he spent six days in hospital. Coupfourpointfive understands that he has received a letter terminating his police appointment and, despite a magistrate ordering the assault be investigated, no investigation has yet been made by the police. For a full account and disturbing photos of Prasad's injuries, click here.

The incident has nothing to do with the political situation or with race (both Fijian and Indo-Fijian officers were involved in the assault) but in not insisting the incident be made public and in abolishing the Fiji Human Rights Commission, Government must assume some responsibility. The abolition of the FHRC means there is now no avenue for complaint against government servants unless a complainant ca…

(+) Corruption Charges Proceed

A little reported event in early May was the three-day visit to Fiji of a UN delegation there to assess Fiji’s compliance with the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). The team is reported to have said the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) showed promise and needs government support.

Papua New Guinea and Australia are also parties to UNCAC from the Pacific, but only Fiji has volunteered to be part of the pilot review programme.This is probably because getting rid of systematic corruption in the civil service was a major reason given for the 2006 military takeover.

Government opponents have ridiculed this motive, and made much of FICAC's lack of success in obtain convictions against those charged with corruption. As previously stated, this an incredibly difficult task without forensic accountants, that only countries like NZ could have supplied. But last week (22 May) we reported on one case under the heading "Corruption Charges and Pitiful…

(o) Fiji's New Legal Decree Shares Much with Australian States' Practice

[This post looks at what one blogsite said was said about the new Legal Practitioners Decree, what was actually said, how the decree compares with the practice in some Australian states, and what the decree might - and might not- mean for Fiji. It is written because people in Fiji need a more balanced assessment and because more uninformed comment will soon reach the international media, if it has not already done so.]

There's more than a semantic difference between the Coupfourpointfive headline "Australia Law Council Condemns New Decree" and what Coupfourpointfivewrote on what ALC President John Corcoran actually said. He is reported to have expressed "grave concerns about the future independence of the legal profession in Fiji after the interim Government yesterday issued a decree removing the Law Society’s power to issue practicing certificates ...this could be the first step in the interim government's attempts to control the country's legal profession,…

(o+) The Legal Practitioners Decree 2009: Facts, Opinions

A new Presidential decree, the Legal Practitioners Decree 2009, makes the Registrar of the High Court responsible for the registration of lawyers, and complaints by members of the public will be dealt with by a new Independent Legal Commission. These roles had been the responsibility of the Fiji Law Society from 1996 to 2009. All legal practitioners will need to re-apply for their practicing certificates with the Chief Registrar before their licences expire on June 30th.

Details of the decree differ in detail from previous media reports and blog speculations that had the Attorney-General responsible for these two functions, and the disbandment of the Fiji Law Society. The Decree sets out the establishment and continuation of the Society but with voluntary membership. Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the role of investigating complaints against lawyers was given to the new Independent Legal Commission following public complaints of delays when investigated by the FLS.

The decr…

(o) "Michael Field, Pacific Journalist"

This once respected journalist on Pacific Affairs seems bent on destroying his own reputation for independent, informed and balanced commentary by a stream of one-sided, highly personalised articles on Fiji. He also seems to have launched himself on a personal crusade against Bainimarama.

Witness, for example, his latest comment "Warrant to Arrest:Fiji." This could have been an informed account of the Fiji Registrar of the High Court taking files from the offices of the Fiji Law Society. It could also, legitimately, have used words such as "raided," "seized," "in plain clothes," and linked the incident to post-Abrogration clamp downs, including Government's surprise last-minute cancellation of Mahendra Chaudhry's meeting with cane farmer unionists in Labasa, reported on Coupfourpointfive. With Field's past knowledge of Fiji and Chaudhry, his opinions on possible reasons for this cancellation, and the one earlier in Lautoka, could…

(o) ACP "Concerned ...Calls for Inclusive Political Dialogue"

The Committee of Ambassadors of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States has issued a statement on the political situation in Fiji, in which it expressed serious concern about recent events and called "for the opening and strengthening of inclusive political dialogue with all parties concerned with a view to quickly restoring constitutional order and holding democratic elections as soon as practically possible."

The announcement, while expected, will come as a disappointment to Government, and PM Bainimarama who attended a ACP meeting in Guyana and an ACP-EU meeting in Brussels in the hope of achieiving a more favourable outcome, particularly with regards to EU aid to the Fiji sugar industry and subsidised sugar exports to EU countries

(-) Sydney Fijians March Against Bainimarama Government

Sunday's march in Sydney against the Interim Government, organized by the Fiji Democracy and Freedom Movement, attracted a crowd of between "more than 150" (Sydney Morning Herald) and "up to 500" (the FFDM website, under the heading Fiji Democracy Marchers Bring Sydney Traffic to a Standstill.)

Marchers were addressed by Ballu Khan, NZ-resident businessman, Pramod Rae, National Federation Party, and Ted Young, a former minister in the Qarase Government. Marchers urged Australia to put more pressure on Fiji so that it will "return to democracy."

(o) Wherefore Art Thou Romeo? The Non-Specific Mr Smith

I wasn't going to report this item. In terms of substance it contained nothing new. But I changed my mind when I reflected on the lack of substance, the choice of words, and learnt more about the speaker.

ABC Online reports that Australia's Foreign Minister Stephen Smith (photo) says Australia is prepared for the "long, hard, tough battle" to restore Fiji to democratic rule. "We will do everything we can to return Fiji to democracy and we'll do that in conjunction in the Pacific. We'll also do it in conjunction with our friends in the Commonwealth."

Curious to know more of the Minister's background, I visited his ministry's website to learn what he knew about foreign affairs, the Pacific and Fiji. Mr Smith, a lawyer from Perth, Western Australia, has at various times been the Australian Labor Party's shadow minister of Trade, Resources and Energy, Communications, Health, Immigration, Industry and Infrastructure, Industrial Relations, and…