Showing posts from November 1, 2009

(o) The Brij Lal Incident: Disentangling the Consequences

All acts have consequences. In Brij's case, from one act (and a history of previous acts) there were three consequences in Fiji and more, in happier circumstances, in Australia.

The act? Giving interviews to foreign media when on a visitor's visa to Fiji where emergency regulations are in place expressly forbidding such activities. While his criticism of the Government was relatively mild, any such statement put him in breach of his visa requirements and the Public Emergency Regulations. This assessment makes no judgment on PER. It merely recognized its reality.

The consequences?
First, the detention. We may not like it, and it certainly should have been by the police, and not the army, but the detention was almost inevitable because of what Brij said, where and when he said it, and who he is. And surely Brij must have known this.

Secondly, the interrogation at the Queen Elizabeth Barracks. He should have been taken to the Suva Central police station, not the barracks. He should…

Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On

Allen Lockington is a self-employed customs agent and business consultant who has regular articles published in I thank Allen and Connect for permission to reprint some of them in this political blog. They remind us that life goes on, whatever the political situation. And it's good to know that.
The picture of Paralympiam Iliesa Delana clearing the high jump bar should be an inspiration for the able bodied person.

For a disabled person to be physically active in sports is a phenomenon.
Grammatically the words disabled and sports should not be used to describe a physical activity. But as shown by Iliesa - disability is not a barrier.There are many able bodied persons in Fiji who will take sick leave if they get a headache in their big toe. The paralympics has shown us if there is a will - disability is not an issue.

A huge able-bodied vinaka to Iliesa and all the Paralympiams, you are an inspiration. The only thing left is for the TV c…

(o+) The Australian Criticizes Hard Stance on Fiji; New Promulation Protects Women, Road Map, Mindpearl

Before taking a breather from the tense and disputed happenings of the past few days, I invite readers to reflect on the insight of today's NZ Herald one-eyed editorial in which it claimed "With every such incident, the regime becomes more malodorous to the people of this country." I suggest the anonymous editor talk around a little and ponder why NZ tourist numbers are up.

 Across the "ditch" The Australia-Fiji Business Council has called on the Australian Government to soften its hard-line stance saying it's bad for business and hurting ordinary Fijians.

Greg Sheridan in The Australiantakes the matter further by accusing his government of "a classic case of moral grandiloquence producing absolutely rotten outcomes."  "Now," he writes, "we don't have a high commissioner in Fiji and they don't have one here. Congratulations, Canberra, a brilliant result.We are in grave danger of making a very bad situation much worse. We can…

(o) Prof. Brij Lal Says He Was Not Physically Assaulted

AMENDED. The false information referred to was mostly from Coupfourpointfive  and not from "Bai." My comment is therefore now redirected to them.

It seems reasonable in the light of Brij's denial (see below) to ask who told you he was physically assaulted, spat at, hit in the mouth several times and had his glasses broken.  You may also care to correct the error on your blogsite.

I know abuses occur, but so too do intentionally false reports of abuse.  This wasn't you, of course, but for your own interest (if not mine) you may care to trace the relaying of this false information back to its source.

It is, of course, quite possible your source was partly correct and  that Brij "played down" the incident when back in Australia. But he did deny there was physical abuse, and this should be reported

I note also Brij was not beyond making this hyperbolic political comment on his arrival in Australia: "My personal agony and difficulties are nothing compa…

(o) Professor Brij Lal's Detention and Deportation

Please note that this incident was unreported by the Fiji 
media  due to the Public Emergency Regulations

Croz to Bai.
Thanks Bai for the information on Brij's detention (Click here.) There is no excuse for the physical attacks on Brij (if substantiated, they are abhorrent and must be condemned) but we would all be very naive if we thought an outspoken opponent of the regime, with pronounced political views, who is no longer is a Fiji citizen, and who presumably entered Fiji on either a tourist or work permit, would be immune from detention and deportation if he made anypolitical comment during a time of national emergency. This is not to condone his treatment  or the continuance of the Public Emergency Regulations (PER) -- far from it -- but no one, least of all Brij, should have been surprised at his deportation.

Personally, I thought his comments on the High Commission happenings fair and reasoned, and there can be little doubt PER should be lifted.  But the incident further ag…

Some Comments on Ratu Epeli's Appointment and a Short Biography of the President and First Lady

As diplomatic relations with Australia and New Zealand continue to deteriorate, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau was today inducted  President of Fiji for the next three years. No vice-president is to be appointed. If the President is absent, Chief Justice Anthony Gates will act on his behalf. Ratu Epeli has been Acting President since Ratu Iloilo retired in on 30 July.

Following his induction as President, Ratu Epeli read the 13th century prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi - Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.

"Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy." (Fiji Times)

Earlier, Government spokesman Neumi Leweni said the appointment was discussed by cabinet "quite a while ago." Why a decision was delayed for three months is anyone's guess, but the much quoted Dr Jonathan Fraenkel

(o) NZ Travel Advisories Update: How to Escalate the Tension. Go and Enjoy the Warmth and Sunshine

NZ has changed its Fiji travel advisories. NZers thinking of visiting Fiji are warned
Fewer services will be available at the High Commission now the acting High Commissioner has left Civil unrest cannot be "ruled out" Check your insurance policy  
Fewer services because there's one staff member less?To my knowledge no visitor or tourist has ever been injured, harassed or had travel plans disrupted  as a result of civil unrest during any of Fiji's four coupsInsurance policies may not cover all eventualities directly resulting from civil unrest. Neither do they insure against strikes but no advisory mentioned this -- nor were the strikes  mentioned on the main TV News -- during the recent New Caledonian strike when stikers barricaded northern towns and troops were employed in Noumea suburbs.  MFAT has to  update advisories. The media has to report them (and, for a personal touch,  ask Minister McCully what he thinks: "Civil unrest cannot be ruled out"…

(o) Tit-for-Tat Doesn't Work:'Smart' or Dumb Sanctions

Why ANZ Sanctions for Fiji Suck 
Or Elevating Inflexibility

Scott MacWilliam, formerly USP, currently ANU

The most recent development in ANZ-Fiji relations shows clearly why the model of sanctions being imposed on the South Pacific nation-state encourages tit-for-tat, ill-conceived moves by all parties. While one view is that ANZ governments have been deliberately egging on the Fiji military government to become ever more extreme, this seems a less likely explanation than another possibility. I favour the view that none of the three countries’ governments have much idea of how to resolve the current break-down in relations.

Australia and New Zealand are following an internationally favoured sanctions template, which has the virtue that it reduces the need for tactical thinking based in local knowledge. The Fiji military too, understands this template and is in a no stronger position to understand why the ‘super-powers’ of the South Pacific seem only to be capable of punitive actions.


(o) Fijj Expells High Commissioners. Sad Day for All

Coupfourpointfivereports  that Fiji has given Australia and New Zealand 24 hours to remove their representatives. Fiji will also be recalling its High Commissioners.  The recent visa issues involving Fiji's judiciary are the obvious reason. Fiji sees these incidents as interference with its judiciary and an attempt to undermine an essential function of the state. I think Fiji's reaction an unwise over-reaction of no  benefit to the country. But this is not the first time Bainimarama has acted like this. I wonder why Australia and New Zealand did not anticipate his response. But perhaps they did! 

It is time all parties showed some skills in diplomacy. Knee-jerk reactions and inflexible policies have done nothing to improve the situation for the past three years.

(+) Australia's DFAT in Denial Mode

First NZ over Anjala Wati's visa. Not denied, just a long time processing.  Now Australia over the Sri Lankan judges. Not denied, just eight days to process --  and a few "friendly" warnings. 

Interesting also that ABC's Pacific Beat, in reporting DFAT's denial, continues to seek and report comments from anti Fiji Government experts. This time Brij Lal; other times Jonathan Fraenkel.  Why didn't they also contact Rod Ewins in Tasmania (see earlier post) or -- more obviously -- one of the Sri Lankan judges?

Admittedly, ABC's Pacific Beat correspondent Campbell Cooney once rang me from Melbourne.  He seemed a reasonable bloke and we spoke for a while, but as far as I know he never used what I said, and he never rang back. And this also goes for other media too!  For the record: ABC receives funding from the Australian Government  but insists it is independent.

Australia and New Zealand Stuff Up in Fiji
"It is very revealing that with travel to Fiji b…

(o+) More on NZ, Australian Travel Bans

(o) NZ Refutes Gates' Allegation
Fiji Village reports the NZ HighCom as saying the delay in issuing Judge Anjala Wati's medical visas was because some issues needed clarification. If the visa had been denied, as claimed by Chief Justice Gates, the Wati family passports would have been returned. Instead, they were retained by the HC and returned later with the visas included. New Zealand says travel ban exemptions have always been made where medical, humanitarian, or compassionate grounds have been substantiated.

Who to believe? There's probably some truth in both statements. No absolute denial; just a little bit of preliminary intimidation.

For a full account, including details of Anjala's interview at the High Com in NZ Stuff, click here.

(+) Ewins Rescues Australia's Reputation. He writes ...
Bravo to Chief Justice Gates for his statement on the travel bans imposed by Australia and New Zealand on the judiciary and magistracy of Fiji.The instances he cites, from Judge…

(+) Australia, How Low Can You Go?

The Fij Timesreports that the Sri Lankan judges and magistrates seconded by the Sri Lankan government to Fiji for 2-3 years were denied transit visas through Australia and had to travel via Korea. In addition, the judges were telephoned by a visa officer from the Australian HighCom in Colombo counselling them against taking up the appointments in Fiji, and warned that if they took up the appointments they would not be allowed to travel to Australia during their time in Fiji and they would not be allowed into Australia for medical treatment.

Snippets: Soldiers to Iraq, Rokomokoiti, Free Bus Fares, Water Pipes, Housing, Chinese Loans, Tourists, FSC Losses, EU Claim, Commonwealth Games, Melanesian Spearhead Group

UN in Iraq. Land Force Commander Col. Pita Driti  (photo) will lead an 86 member taskforce to Iraq this month. They will join over 200 Fijian soldiers already there. Col.Rt Tevita Uluilakeba Mara will become acting Land Force Commander.

The cases the Chief Registrar Ana Rokomokoti is prosecuting -- and about which CCF objects because of her roles as Registrar and prosecutor-- involve two lawyers and a law firm. Between them the lawyers face 21 charges of alleged professional misconduct, one from six years ago.

Free Bus Fares for Elderly and Disabled. The Land Transport Authority is proposing the elderly and disabled pay no bus fares between 9am to 2.30pm and half fares outside these times. A levy on fuel would meet the cost. The LTA is also proposing it should collect all outstanding court fines which now stand at over $28 million dollars.

More than 2,000 water pipe leakswere repaired along the Suva Nausori corridor between January and June. Most of the pipes are more than thirty years …

(+) Fiji Must Have a Judiciary

New Zealander Anthony Gates, Fiji's Chief Justice, has criticized his own country and Australia for what he called interference in Fiji's judiciary. His comment came after NZ's initial denial of a visa to Family Court judge Anjala Wati. (NZ said her visa was not denied, only being decided upon).

Gates said “Fiji must have a judiciary. And it is not for Australia and New Zealand to tell us we cannot have one or to tell us who we are to appoint. No international convention allows such a supervisory role to a neighboring state.”

Meanwhile,  the Sri Lanka Government has seconded some of its serving judges and magistrates to help Fiji’s judiciary get back to its full capacity. Sri Lanka first offered judicial help to Fiji in 1987 following the Rabuka Coup. The CJ  said it was "an extremely generous offer of support at this critical time."  The judges and magistrates begin arriving tomorrow Monday.

* A reader has corrected me. (See Comments, below).  CJ Ga…