Showing posts from December 6, 2009

(o) Are Our Feminists Being Used?

A Reader Comments

"Regarding your commentary on Amnesty International New Zealand's award to Shamima: I thought I'd forward you something from the International Center on Non-Violent Conflict website.  I joined the forum in February; posts come at least once a month, and this is the first 'front page' story they've devoted to Oceania, and Shamima's award leads the posting. [They had received it from the extreme anti-Bainimarama blog Raw Fiji News!]

"The award reminds me of Condoleeza Rice's award to [anti-Bainimarama activist]  Virisila Buadromo a couple of years ago.

"I certainly have problems with Bainimarama's regime, but I also worry when a country's feminists and women activists are clearly being used by outside organizations and agents to undermine constructive civic engagement and conflict resolution at home."

(o) Independent Appraisal of Effects of ANZ Policies

Notes from a Fiji friend
This is a quick response on the negative consequences of Australian-New Zealand sanctions against Fiji.

The sanctions over the last 2years and 10 months have not significantly contributed to changing the political or constitutional situation in Fiji, if anything they have led to a deterioration since April 2009 with the abrogation of the 1997 constitution and the imposition of the Public Emergency Regulations (PER).Efforts had negative portrayal of Fiji’s security situation (fortunately largely ignored by Aussies and Kiwis) affect the country’s tourism industry on which very many ordinary Fiji people rely for employment and to market their goods (handicrafts to vegetables and fruits) and services; this industry also relies heavily on the import of food and beverages from ANZ.Travel sanctions have seriously affected the quality of civil service appointments and appointments to boards of statutory bodies and state owned enterprises. The only people …

(B) Fiji, Australia and New Zealand: the Bitterness of an Unresolved Contradiction

By Scott MacWilliam

There is a paradox or contradiction at the centre of relations between the military government of Fiji and the governments of Australia and New Zealand. The latter would like the Fiji military to be involved in politics only when it suits their foreign policy objectives: the RFMF* continues to see its role in nation-building, rather than occasional, instrumental terms.

In all societies there is a tension around the most desirable role for the armed forces in domestic politics: in Australia soldiers have been used to break strikes, and add prestige to governments. In the USA, the President, an elected politician is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and soldiers have been regularly used against strikers, student protestors and any other ‘threats’ to domestic order.

It is therefore a fiction that the military stays out of politics in any country. However in Fiji, at least since 1987 the relationship between the military and domestic politics has been centra…

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.

No more Fiji Time at Police Station?

The Police have raised their vetting and clearance fees. Some as much as 500%. But I’m glad that Minister of Defence and National Security Ratu Epeli Ganilau has reassured us that with it will come exceptional service.  Well, with a hike like that we can only say “Thank God” we will get good service.

And the good old “Fiji Time” will be a thing of the past in the Police department. A mate said: “Allen, with that kind of fee, you just have to think of what you want and it will be delivered to you.”
Tax breaks

The tax threshold has been lifted to $15,000. If you earn that or below you don’t pay tax. If a husband, wife and t…

(+) Shamima is AI New Zealand's First "Human Rights Defender"

RadioNZ International reports that Amnesty International New Zealand has named Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre's Shamima Ali its first ever Human Rights Defender.

I have mixed feelings about the award. Shamima has done tremendous work for women and their families over the years and on this count alone she deserves full recognition.  But why was this award created --  and created by Amnesty International New Zealand  -- at this particular point in time?

The citation was ostensibly about women's rights but AI executive Patrick Holmes spoke of another reason. AI, he said, "saluted Ms Ali for the immense courage she has shown in challenging the 2006 military coup and in continuing, despite threats and intimidation, to document its impact on the people of Fiji."

Unkind thoughts surface, detracting from Shamima's work. What does AI NZ really know about Fiji? Our media certainly would not have helped a proper assessment. Is the award at least a teeny bit political? Is the…

(o+) NewstalkZB Host Says People Gave "Thumbs Up for Frank"

NewstalkZB’s Leighton Smith has just returned from a long weekend away in Fiji. This is what he said: 

“Much of the time that I was there was spent working (and) discussions with many people, suffice to say it confirmed firmly my belief that Australia and New Zealand have approached Fiji in totally the wrong way. We are dealing with Fiji out of ignorance, superiority and quite frankly political stupidity and I will do my best to convince of exactly that (if you need convincing by the way)…………An Australian up there said to me, (one of the number I spoke with), ask people who think that Fiji is going down the drain – in which ever way – ask them if they are aware of any ex-pats up there who are packing up and coming home. And the answer is none, they are not because they like it and they approve and both Fijian and Indian with whom I spoke all gave the thumbs up for Frank.”

Click "Comments" below to read similar remarks from another visitor who's just returned f…

(o+) Human rights still exist in Fiji - Fiji Times Online

Thank goodnesss someone with the stature of the Rev. Akuila Yabaki has said  that basic human rights are still respected in Fiji. Limitations on human rights have only affected the media and those human rights activists who have not been prepared to give the Government a chance to prove its sincerity.  This is not ideal, of course, but it's a far cry from the picture presented in our NZ media. And it's great to see the Fiji Times coming in from the cold and printing this kind of story, at last.  Click here for full story.

(G+) Updates on Government Actions Against Corruption

Part of the Roadmap.

Since February 2007 when the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) was formed, the corruption unit has received close to 9,000 complaints of alleged corrupt practices within Government Ministries and commercial arms of Government as well as NGOs that have received Government assistance, but to date only 400 charges have been laid and 79 people prosecuted.

With the backlog of cases and the number of complaints increasing (there were nearly 4,000 this year), Government has announced a new Office of Accountability and Transparency; given more teeth to the Reserve Bank, and approved stronger penalties at corporate and individual level to fight corruption. More, and more specialized, staff will be employed to pursue outstanding cases that include charges against deposed PM Laisenia Qarase and former heads of Government-owned institutions.

A further measure, announced by the PM in his Budget address, will be the establishment by the Reserve Bank of an Expo…

(o) Japan Says "Keep Engaging with Fiji"

The Fiji Sun reports Japanese leaders will continue to engage with the Bainimarama Government until Fiji is able to restore an acceptable democratic process for the way forward.
Japan's Ambassador to Fiji HE Yutaka Yoshizawa (pictured) said he was regularly in touch with the PM on critical issues of good governance and the democratic process because Japan believed engagement  would comfortably allow Fiji to make a guaranteed transition into what it wants for its people.

He also revealed he was speaking with certain sectors of society that were becoming comfortable with Mr Bainimarama’s plans for Fiji although they were feeling the pinch of a downturn in the economy.

“Small changes make certain differences for Fiji and we are watching with a lot of hope that the Commodore will begin to pave the way forward in his reform process. I believe in the end, he must conduct an early election because it will be good for Fiji,” Mr Yoshizawa said. 

“I have also talked with the Commodore on a ve…

(o) Tuvalu Speaks for Pacific on Climate Change

Tuvalu speaks out at the Copenhagen Climate Change summit.Full story.

(o) Today is Human Rights Day

While Government opponents continue to focus on restrictions to some human rights in Fiji, visiting UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay says one of the most dangerous forms of discrimination is racial and ethnic discrimination, a  concern that seems to have escaped the attention of many of today's Government critics.  Full report.

(o+) Croz's Live Interview by Radio NZ National

I was interviewed live by Bryan Crump on Radio NZ National on Wednesday evening. I spoke mainly on what the Fiji Government has done and is trying to do, and what I think the Government, its opponents in Fiji and the Australian and New Zealand governments need to do to kick start dialogue.  A lot of ground was covered in the 17 minutes.  To listen, click on this link to this  programme, and let me know what you think.Thanks, Laminar_Flow for the link.  Laminar's blog is Stuck in Fiji M.U.D. See Links to Moderate Blogs. Scroll down in the lefthand column.  Six comments so far.

P.S. The link now provided works. You download in Windows Media Player.  Sorry for the inconvenience.

(o+) How the Poor Fared in the 2010 Budget

In this important paper,  Fr Kevin Barr (photo, left)  of ECREA, the Ecumenical Reseach, Education and Advocacy NGO, says he knows Government is genuinely concerned about the poor and intent on putting measures in place to greatly reduce poverty, but he is not convinced the 2010 Budget is a pro-poor budget. 

I am surprised the paper was not published by the mainstream Fiji media and wonder whether this was due to censorship.  If so, the censors should think again.  This is precisely the sort of helpful commentary Government should welcome.

An ambitious ten point economic plan announced in the 2010 Budget included the statement: “Poverty to be reduced from current levels to less than 5 %”. This certainly is ambitious. 

A number of times throughout the Budget we were told that there would be “targeted assistance to the poor”. But it is not always explained how this will be done.
We are told that:
Those already on the FAS will receive an extra $30 in food stamps;The free bus fare scheme …

(o) Public Emergency Regulations Extended Another Month

Xinhuanet reports that the  Public Emergency Regulations (PER) have been extended for another month, from 3rd December.  This announcement has not yet been published by Fiji's on-line media.

While one can understand the need for their continuation (the previous post records numerous calls for violence in the anti-Government blogs), this blog urges Governnment to be as flexible as possible in their application.

As indicated in an earlier posting, I would commend greater media freedom (with "yellow warning cards" issued to media that transgress acceptable boundaries) and freedom of assembly.  It is, I think, absolutely essential that reasonable men and women should feel free to openly and collectively discuss the Roadmap and issues relating to electoral  and constitutional reform way before next year's official discussions.

The blanket application of PER will result in Government's opponents rubbing their hands in delight for they know PER  does more than check anti-G…

(-) Anti-Blog Roundup 1: Sai Lealea's Fiji Coup 2006

It's instructive, from time to time, to see what the rabidly anti-Government blogs are doing to bring about a peaceful and acceptable resolution to the situation in Fiji.  These are the latest postings in Sai's blog:

ANZAC NEEDS TO INTERVENE NOW IN FIJI. A re-post from Realfijinews that calls for Australian and New Zealand intervention. "It would therefore be in ANZAC's permanent interest to intervene now to free Fiji from tyranny and return the country to its peoples." [A pretty direct invitation to invade Fiji.]

PAUL REEVES NEEDS A REALITY CHECK. A re-post from Rawfijinews criticising Commonwealth Special Representative to Fiji Sir Paul Reeves for calling on New Zealand to moderate its approach to Fiji.[Only a month or so back they were praising him.]

FRANK'S GOONS RACIST AT HEART because someone calling Brij Lal a “turncoat girmit baini” and Warden Narsey an “Uncle Tom Indian.” A re-post in FijiDemocracyNow from RawFijiNews.[ I do not see either accusation n…

(+) Surely it is Time New Zealand

Letter to the NZ Listener December 5-11 2009

Surely it is time New Zealand discarded its pith-helmet and swagger-stick treatment of Fiji ("we know what is best for you") so typical last century of Britain's attitude to some of its former African colonies. Our imitation of this was first obvious under Prime Minister David Lange, who regularly used a friendly commentator to go straight from his office to relay on RNZ's international news service the policy he was demanding Fiji follow. Helen Clark's administration followed by constantly demonising  Fiji's self-appointed leader, Frank Bainimarama, whose responses, blunt and clumsy, were entirely predictable.  She imposed punitive measures on some classes of Fiji citizens, sought to undermine its tourist industry by telling us not to holiday there, successfully sought its expulsion and the imposition of sanctions from Commonwealth and Pacific bodies and referred to weapons of economic destruction that could drizz…

(-) A Little Light Relief from Intelligentsiya

"No YOU Are Wrong Sir PaulThis chap and his recent views disappoint and concern us greatly. So much so, we can hardly believe that he was one of the key architects of our Constitution. No Sir Paul, YOU are wrong. And bloody damned well wrong too."[Intelligentsiya is an extreme anti-Government blog, and probably the first political blog to be published after the 2006 Coup.]

(o-+) Goff and Labour on Fiji, and the Travel Bans

Labour Opposition Leader Phil Goff spoke to participants at last week's Pacific Islands Political Science Association in Auckland, focusing on Pacific Island concerns. Overall, he gave a relaxed, well thought out and convincing account of NZ's and Labour's concerns and policies, though some will need more convincing on the benefits to the Islands of free trade, and not everyone would have agreed with his interpretation of events in Fiji.

He seemed to think:
The attempted assassination of Bainimarama in 2001, "a personal affair," was the primary cause of the 2006 Coup.The Abrogration of the Constitution and abuses of human rights (he spoke of media freedom) could never, ever, under any circumstances, be justified according to UN "laws."Military coups have never produced democratic outcomes.Bainimarama and the military have no intention of ever giving up power.  I wish I could be so confident in my explanation of world events.
"Cause" is usually m…

Snippets: Sanctions, Roadmap (Housing, Education, Rural Dev.), Forum, Commonwealth, PACER, Air Fiji

The Freeze is Not Working, So What About a Thaw?
Gleeful that Australian tourism is "up 27 per cent" despite Canberra's harsh rhetoric against the regime in which he serves as Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, is urging the Rudd Government to back down on Fiji. 

"In the earlier Fiji coups they left themselves room to move. They condemned the takeovers, but they kept talking," Sayed-Khaiyum said. "Now they refuse to visit the Prime Minister and they only entertain people opposed to the regime and, like New Zealand, they fund various NGOs to be their proxies. In past coups judges were locked up and MPs were taken hostage and the governments operated by decree, but full diplomatic relations continued and there was no suspension from the South Pacific Forum. Read Paul McGeough in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Government's New Housing Plan: 1. Part of the "Roadmap"
USP Economics professor Biman Prasad has commended Government's new housing plan…

Fiji Political Blogs: Cybernet Democracy or What?

Readers interested in my presentatiion to the Pacific Islands Political Science Association conference in Auckland on Friday may download a pdf copy from Mediafire by clicking here. The file you're looking for is "AKL presentation."  A table and a graph have not copied well but the remainder of the paper is all there.  Click on the file, click start download, and open as a pdf file. The process is simple and quick. In case you think I've chosen the cartoon to make a political statement, I searched the ether for Fiji political cartoons and found dozens, but not one that could be called pro-Bainimarama or even neutral. Media freedom -- or what? Cartoon:PMC