Fiji Times Survives, Election Preparations Underway, Women Need Financial Independence, Police Restructuring

FIJI TIMES SURVIVES. Yesterday's announcement that the Motibhai Group has purchased the Fiji Times from Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd for an undisclosed sum is good news for Fiji and the paper's workers but we may not learn the full story for a while yet.

It seems likely News Ltd has not exercised its option to retain 10% of the paper, which would be a good thing because it would give the new owners access to News Ltd expertise. It is also possible the sale does not include the paper's properties but why these should be excluded is anyone's guess.  Perhaps News Ltd hopes to buy back the paper some time?  It would seem likely the senior executives responsible for the papers never-ending tussle with Government will need to be replaced, if only to help Motibhai win Government trust. This would probably see Editor-in-Chief Netani Rika take up a position with News Ltd in Australia.

The really big question, though, is whether the sale will speed the lifting of the Public Emergency Regulations that some though were retained because of the Fiji Times under its present leadership. If this was the only reason, PER can be lifted and "responsible journalism" left to the Media Decree. The sale requires final Fiji regulatory approval that is hoped to be completed by September 22.

VOTE SUPERVISOR IN UK AND ONE DAY ELECTIONS.
The Acting Supervisor of Elections, Soro Toutou, is presently in the UK studying their electoral system and administration. His study programme will also draw on comparative experience from other countries in Europe, in particular the administering of the Proportional Representative (PR) List Voting System which is recommended in the Peoples’ Charter for Change.

With this knowledge, and his earlier observation of the recent one day election in the Solomon Islands, it is expected that Fiji -- where voters previously voted over several days leaving the way open to voter fraud, impersonation, and tampering with ballot boxes -- should not have any major problem with one day polling and the count to proceed immediately after that. The three crucial elements of one day election are the right sizing the Elections Office, capacity building, and investment in information technology. The new system will also save millions of dollars.

ELECTIONS 2014 PREPARATIONS ON TRACK. Strategic Framework for Change Deputy Secretary Filimoni Kau,  says until 2012 Government will be focusing on economic and social development. Extensive consultations on electoral reform will commence in September 2012. The preferred electoral system recommended by the National Council for Building a Better Fiji is the open list system.

But, as noted above, technical and administrative work on the elections has already started. Other work still be be done includes voter registration. From January this year, elections officials have been visiting the remotest and furthest villages and settlements in the interior of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu that are not accessible by roads, and the outer islands, conducting surveys and sites inspections in order to confirm the number and locations of Voter Registration Centres around the country.

It is envisaged that Fiji will be having its first-ever biometrics voter electoral database for both national and municipal elections by 2012 with only 20 or so months left, for the Elections Office to prepare for its complex elections-proper processes on the new voting system. -- Based on 2010 No:1442/MOI.

WOMEN MUST BE FINANCIALLY INDEPENDENT. Minister for Women, Social Welfare & Poverty Alleviation, Dr Jiko Luveni, who was an SDL supporter before joining Government, thinks there is a close link between women's earnings, self-support  and independence. She was speaking at a ‘Train the Trainers’ workshop organized by the Department of Women. “

As outlined in the Roadmap for Democracy, Sustainable Economic and Social Development 2009 to 2014, Government is promoting alternative livelihood for women, especially  in the rural areas, by training and providing them with skills to utilize the resources available to alleviate the social and economic status in society.” She spoke of micro-enterprise opportunities in vanilla farming, honey and virgin coconut oil, bread making and sewing, with tourism providing an important sales outlet for many produce. For more information on Government events and decisions, log on with www.fiji.gov.fj this link to the official website.

POLICE RESTRUCTURING.     Some senior police officers have been reposted or  asked to leave as part of police restructuring.

Comments

Interesting Times said…
I see Mahendra Patel is saying he'll announce the new publisher of the Fiji Times on the 22nd. This person will run the FT has a separate division within the Motibhai group of companies. And he'll presumably help Patel choose a new editor and senior editorial team. Crucially, Patel is indicating a change to the FT's current editorial line, saying it'll be positive and contribute to Fiji's development. That seems to indicate the replacement of Netani Rika, who does neither. Whoever emerges has to lift the abysmal editorial standards of the FT, mentioned in previous postings. The paper has to refocus itself towards its readers with a quality product as well as work within the current political framework. Both are easily achieved with the right team so let's hope Motibhai can get it right. Can we really look forward to something worth reading after the lost years of declining standards and pointless conflict with government? One interesting thing about the deal is that News Limited keeps its properties. So Motibhai will be paying Murdoch a large amount in rent for the foreseeable future. Is this to get around the laws regarding the repatriation of funds abroad? Or does Murdoch envisage buying back the Fiji Times once democracy is restored? Intriguing.
Tow the line said…
Motibhai will tow the Military line 100%. As sucessful as they are they can't afford to be on the wrong side of the military. Their whole business empire would be at stake if they where critical of government - and they would not risk all that has been built over generations of hard work.

I actually see this as move by Motibhai to win favour. Mahendra was very close to LQ and one of the early ones to be deposed from boards. He used to be vocal but has learned to be silent.

Sadly it is almost impossible today to be successful in Fiji without blindly supporting Frank and his men in green. The only thing business people worry about is how far to go because they know it could change again any time and the retribution of the a new government would be just as strong as this one...sadly.
Next said…
Watch what happens next. Having forced New Limited to sell the next kick in the guts will be the RBF blocking the sales proceeds being repatriated out of Fiji. This has happened many times. The other thing that is likely to happen is some disputed tax amount. This happened to BP.

At the end of the day this forced sale is another blow to Fiji's reputation for foriegn investment. It's a shocking place to put your money.
Step up said…
This is a good outcome for the Fiji Times and for the country, it also show investor confidence, although rumour has it that the FT was a money making machine, so no wonder it was snapped up so quickly. however the best news is that Netani Rika will be leaving but his side kick Sophie Foster will be staying. At least lets all praise the lord that we have got rid of one bad egg and hopefully the Fiji Times can be restored to what it once was.
sara'ssista said…
So presumably after this sale and in six days there will be rush to lift PER?? Oh nad I not that the acting supervisor of elections is travelling to the UK ??? to get some insight into free and fair elections. hang on, I though fiji is such a 'unique and speical case' where no-one would understand their unqiue 'situation' except fijians like the military, and was seeking help from it's chinese fiiends, why not go there for help ?? I though Hong Kong is model this miltiary would love to have as its legacy.
Radiolucas said…
How is being blind to reality meant to "help Fiji's development"? This government is blind to its own faults and will do all it can to ensure that everyone else is just as blind as they are.
. said…
@ Radio Lucas and Sara'ssista... Make my day and write something different. I know you are both skeptical about the Government, and you are not alone in this, but some specific criticisms please, and more importantly, some realistic suggestions about how to help Fiji.

All your remarks are targeted at the Bainimarama Government. Is there nothing others, for example, the SDL, the chiefs, the Methodist Church, NGOs, overseas governments, can do to help?
Invictus said…
Radio Luca.

You are a regular bright spark arent you or maybe when the troops comes marching you fade into the darkness.

Tis your MO.

Whatever the outcome Fiji will never be the same infact from now on its onwards and upwards.

Shoot for the stars they say.

All the best to the progress of Fiji thanks Bai. You the man.
Radiolucas said…
Croz. Thank you for the invitation. As is apparent, most of my comments are in relation to the military regime's government - because noone else is allowed to have any say or open influence in government. Having said this, I believe that there is a lot that other parties (not just political) could do to help Fiji. However, they need to be allowed to help.

If the military chose to do so, as a first step they could simply invite an open dialogue with the political parties - a dialogue with a promise say, to go to elections as soon as possible - although I am sure that this could be with a proviso (perhaps even a different form of government structure?) to lessen the amount of racial politics in the future.

Open dialogue, accountability for their actions (even if we agree to "forgive" them following say a sevusevu for it) and showing a willingness to do more than simply talk the talk would then encourage international aid, investment and development in Fiji. That would be positive. It would be a good first step for all.

I don't particularly want anyones head on my mantlepiece - just something more than nothing. Rule by decree and the threat of imprisonment or assault is a repugnant form of "government". A semblance of some form of self determination for the people of Fiji would go a VERY long way to allowing us to trust the military regime.

I also acknowledge that you (as a third party) have also tried to advise and encourage the military regime to move forward with their high aims.

The problem for our great leader at the moment is that he has received a lot of bad advice and has burnt a lot of bridges with political parties, their constituents and our most influential international neighbours. As a result he may find himself in the situation where he may now believe that the only way forward is HIS way forward: ergo we have some sort of vague plan, but not a plan that can be articulated beyond high level process-driven aims set out in bullet points - we don't have a time frames for anything. Just his assertions that something is being done. So the military, despite it's misgivings, truly does need help - whether it can stomach accepting help, is another thing altogether.

Of course, a last suggestion may be for our leader to resile himself from his multiple portfolios, return to barracks and ask another person to step in as a leader - someone that has less of a personal stake in government - so that they can get on with the job of government, not petty and childish politics that are going nowhere.

Do you have any suggestions?
. said…
@ Radio Lucas ... Thanks for this. I'll use it, if I may, as the framework for a reply to the issues you raise. One more request, you didn't answer my second question, re what the SDL and others can do. It would be much appreciated if you would do this in reply.
Negotiation 101 said…
Negotiating is an important part of business and politics. As my kids grow I'm finding it's a skill you need for a happy balance family as well.

I learn't early on to be successful in negotiating you need to be flexible and you need to be prepared to give and well as take.

As I see it our PM needs to learn the basics of negotiating. Perhaps he has spent too much time at the top of the chain of command.

He wants help, he wants recognition and he deeply desires legitimacy. He needs to learn to negotiate for it.

Here is a suggestion how he could start. He could say something as simple and as short as...

"I believe with the international communities full support it would be possible to bring elections forward by as much six months to April 2014..."

One simple sentance could start a thousand discussions and lead to much needed support. He has to show he is flexible because the hard 'my way or the highway' never works.

And when you think about it nothing is going to start at present until 2012 on the elctions/constitutions part so it would be easy to bring it forward.

I get sick of hearing what the international community in particular Australia and New Zealand has to do. The PM holds all the cards in Fiji and it up to him to swollow his pride and take the lead and show us he is genuine in finding a way forward.

Negotiations 101 - make a start.
Horowhenua horrors said…
Croz, another night of too much Ti Toki in Horowhenua, I fear. Radio Lucas hasn't said anything remotely new or enlightening, just chanted the usual mantra of the anti-regime forces. Back to barracks, open up a dialogue, blah, blah, blah. Nothing whatsoever about racial equality or electoral reform, which is ultimately the dead giveaway with people like this. The "acceptable" face of the SDL, but the SDL nonetheless. Of course, you invited him to proffer his wisdom on the national condition and he did. But that doesn't mean he deserves the pat on the back you've given him, let alone being given any prominence on your site. With you so plainly in the grip of the grape, forgive me for quoting what my dear grandma used to say. The devil comes out of the bottle, my child. You've been warned.
Countdown said…
Great to see the countdown link to elections up and running. Let's hope and pray the military don't waste a day as they tick by very fast.
Invictus said…
Radio Lucas.

“Open dialogue, accountability for their actions (even if we agree to "forgive" them following say a sevusevu for it”

Allow to me start by saying the reign of the Qarase and his SDl party was the most destructive of all political parties because they ruled with impunity and were despicable in their approach to other nationalities.

Members and beneficiaries of the reprehensible SDL party not only lacked accountability but were found morally bankrupt.

You along with representatives of the SDL party may consider making amends by apologising to the rest of the nation for their abhorrent behaviour.

Yes “A semblance of some form of self determination for the people of Fiji would go a VERY long way to allowing us to trust the military regime”

As for the former I feel there was an overkill of self determination in fact Qarase’s government bred not only incompetence among public servants but enshrined them as little demigods where almost everyone had their snout in the trough.

The later is more or less and equalising force especially when democratic principles goes awry.

Thus far you have not offered an argument of any significance worthy of discussion it seems you a kowtowing to you masters wishes.

This is not freedom that you so desire is it?
sara'ssista said…
The aeasy retort is always, i would ove the same opportunity to publicly disagree with this military regime but that is not allowed in fiji. I am still unspurprised that many on this blog actively defend the need for this, until of course they are victims themselves or the miltray regime turns on them, perhaps like MH. At least my principles are consistent. I have no particular loyalty to any current or former government, and while i am big believer of non-racial poilitcs, as I have said previously any intitiavives taken by this illegal regime, is tainted by the very process they have used to enforce their will and their tactics, so no futrue government(elected)or judiciary need to feel remotely bound by any decree or 'laws' promulgated by this disgraceful band of hypocrates. My concern is that all of this planning for 2014etc will be for nothing and only amount to needless timewasting for this regime so they can 'look like' they are progressing an agenda, that at best is going to be forced on this country.
Radiolucas said…
@ Croz

As for what the SDL could do - probably quite a lot. I am not involved with any particular political party (despite whatever assertions anyone else may make) so I cannot really say what they could do with any certainty.

My "educated" guess would be that open dialogue and negotiation with the military regime between political parties and third parties such as the methodist church would give the military regime an opportunity and a greater chance of succeeding in enacting their aims to "reform" politics in Fiji - to develop a better thought out plan, one which has the open support of the majority of the representatives of the population.

However, in saying this, I am not sure what any third party could specifically say or do to encourage the military to rethink its strategy. Perhaps an offer to work with them? But this is problematic for any political party at the moment as the demise of MC and the resulting backlash against the FLP shows just how capricious this relationship may be - especially if that party wants to maintain its legitimacy with it's supporters.

(The above of course is predicated on the idea that the military is open to dialogue.)

Perhaps there are further ideas that others can proffer? Does anyone else know what the SDL, FLP, NFP could suggest as a way of moving forward? Perhaps you should ask others Croz?
Radiolucas said…
@ Horrors

In vino veritas perhaps.

Is there any simple solution, that you can type in 300 words to solve electoral and racial issues?

What are your specific racial issues anyway? That there are different "races" in Fiji? That racism seems to be used as a political tool? Are they Fiji's issues alone? Don't other nations have the same problems?

Racism is a loaded question and usually it is the first person to bring it up who is seen to be against racism, the respondent being the "racist". Its flogging a very dead horse. Noone likes or celebrates racism in any form - it only seems to be used in these forums to degenerate arguments.

Further, you (like my old mate Invictus) refer to me as "people like this" thereby removing any individual discussion and attempting to reduce anything we talk about as being another boring us v them argument. Whats the point of this attitude? Why argue over nothing - unless you have no real argument? Why not put ideas for dialogue forward? What is bad about this?

I am not sure whether everyone shares your concerns with "dialogue" - though some have said that those that fear truth are those that have things to hide.

Even if the SDL decided, in some bizarre fashion, to apologise for everything bad that has ever happened to Fiji - how would this really help anything now?

Sara'ssista is quite cogent in expressing the fear that most people have in Fiji today - that the military regime has no real intention of relinquishing political power in 2014 and we will continue to be ruled by draconian decree and censorship.

None of this helps to "develop" Fiji or encourage us as a nation to anything more than rule by fear and coercion. It is a frightening, but very real, prospect.
Radiolucas said…
@ Croz

(Not sure whether you wish to post this)

Isnt there a better countdown clock for the site? I have seen some templates and html for clocks that are not just a link to a third party site. Would look better.
. said…
@ Radio Lucas ... I have to publish this. What other way can I reply without your email address?

I agree, it's a lousy countdown but the clocks I checked out couldn't extend beyond a year, and 2014 is nearly four years away. If you, or any other reader, can find a better one, please let me know.
The party's over said…
As far as the Military Council, the PM and the regime as a whole are concerned, party politics as we know it in Fiji is finished. Their view is that racially based political parties, and especially the SDL, are the cause of Fiji's problems and are a cancer on the body politic. So any notion of dialogue between the regime and the SDL, the NFP and the FLP is just wishful thinking. This idea exists only in the minds of Radiolucas and his political Sara'ssista. As for the Methodist Church, the regime's view is that it has no place whatsoever in political life and exists solely for spiritual development. End of story. It's not as if these guys haven't been totally upfront about the new paradigm, to coin the phrase of the moment in Australian politics. So why do you guys keep harping on about it? I say abolish race-based parties and have an executive presidency like the Americans and the French, with a smaller parliament/congress elected along regional lines on the basis of one man one vote. And keep the talatalas out of politics unless they're prepared to stand for office just like everyone else.
Horror in 300 words said…
Radiolucas, "horror" here and back again with a clearer head. OK, I'm sorry if you feel I dismissed you too lightly. But, yes, you can address the racial issue in 300 words. And that is that any political party in Fiji formed to advance the cause of one race is banned. Yes outlawed, and legislation enacted to equate racial politics with racial injustice or inequality. Sure, they have the Maori Party in NZ but it has never advocated the kind of racist policies the SDL were pursuing before they were crash-tackled by the Commodore. That's why the SDL, and the NFP for that matter, need to be dealt out of the equation. It's pretty simple really. We need to be voting for quality people because of their ability to govern for everyone, not because they eat kakana dina or roti or spruik the vola tabu, Koran or Bhagvad Geeta. Was that 300 words?
MJ said…
@Radiolucus

It is refreshing to read your comments above. From your previous contributions to this blog (and others like you) it would have seemed that there was no chance of common ground. While I still dont agree with all you have said, when you make more constructive comments like these you can start to see that there might be areas where we all agree on. Congratulations for taking the effort.

On the other hand .. Sara'ssista.. you still dont understand what a great opportunity Fiji has now. You say that everything that will come of this will be tainted. But dont you see that everything in Fiji has been tainted since Rabuka's first coup in 1987? The 1997 constitution was modified from what was recommended then approved by a parliament that was elected under the even more racially based 1990 constitution. So how was that not tainted? And we all know that Qarase was tainted.

We now have the closest to a clean slate that Fiji has ever had in its history (or will ever have again). While it was not ideal to get here from a coup, due to the taint from the original 1987 coup it could never have happened any other way. How could politicians “elected” from constitutions (and a cultur) tainted by numerous nationalist coups, ever put in place a fair constitution for all? The important point was that this coup was not driven by racial nationalism. If you really want a better Fiji for all, and not just for yourself, your village, fellow chiefs or your race; then you should see that you will finally have that chance. However, if you want to be part of it you will need to start thinking about how Fiji can and should move forward in a positive way.
Time's up said…
The Sydney Morning Herald website is carrying a bizarre AAP story saying that it's onwards and upwards for the Fiji Times and new owners Motibhai aren't planning any editorial changes. Anyone who believes that is deluding themselves. Like all of the Gujarati elite in Fiji, Mahendra Patel knows what side of the roti his ghee is on. He was once closely aligned with Qarase and the SDL but must now realise they're never coming back. So here's his chance to ingratiate himself with the newest main man, who isn't going anywhere fast. It doesn't take much imagination to envisage the removal of Netani Rika in particular And the installation of a new regime with a mandate to be "positive" and "put Fiji first". It will be all about falling into line with Frank because what's good for business will be what's good for the Motibhai-Patels. No Guji in Fiji has ever done anything else and those who think otherwise don't know the country from Adam. Or Mahendra.
Radiolucas said…
@ The party's over

Interesting.

Your Fiji v US/French examples are very different. They have multiracial BUT largely monocultural societies. Fiji has two predominant racial groups which coexist but are separate as cultures - no matter what anyone says, they are different. This is not an excuse for "racism" but to simply disregard entirely it is ridiculous and condescending.

So say it all goes to plan… who can we vote for in 2014? Or is there only one candidate? Without political parties what are the choices? By dictat? What is to prevent another SDL / FLP party emerging?

The SDL and FLP were not mean to be "racial" - that certain voting groups voted for them is just a result of what happened in Fiji's politics - each party ran its own agenda and sought votes on those agendas. How do you legislate against it? Ban everyone in Fiji from voting?

So what IS the new paradigm for the military? Does anyone know?
New paradigms said…
Radiolucas, I don't you've grasped the fact that whatever your own views about race in Fiji and the need to accommodate that politically, the new paradigm doesn't allow it. Finis, finito, oti vakadua. That's the point about a non racial political system. As far a new paradigm for the military, some cite the Turkish model as the way to go - guarantors under the constitution of a non-racial, secular, unitary state. Some mightn't like that in the Fiji context in the same way some don't like it in Turkey. But it's held the Turkish nation together in a way that few would have thought possible at the time, with much deeper divisions than in Fiji. In any event, what's the alternative? Sending the military back to barracks and holding an immediate election - as Jone Baledrokdroka is advocating on another website - isn't an option. They're not going to comply until a better political system is in place under Bainimarama, Roko Lui or anyone else. That's the Walter Mitty option and there's no point in dwelling on it. We're lucky that the Fiji military is pretty straight compared to some in Africa and elsewhere. I'm always hearing stories on the coconut radio in Suva about corruption in the military but does anyone have any real evidence? What's wrong with having the FMF as constitutional guarantors so long as they follow Bainimarama's exhortation to pursue "na ka dina e na ka savasava"? ( the true and clean way ).
sara'ssista said…
MJ you are right to a degree, yes everything was tainted from the Rabuka coup. That is my point, I don't care how you try to legitimise this regime, the next bunch will tear it down.This is going to be the plaything of every militray commander who gets a Napolean complex. Fiji has created this issue for themselves.

@the partys over...I never encouraged dialogue with this regime. I am sure there a some good people who wish to good things, none of them are connected with this regime. The most recent VP is one. Really decent people who do not wish to give this regime any air to gloat about wearing down opponents and co-opting critics.They accept no critisim or oversight they blame all the ills on race based politics (BTW the army is 99% i-taukei) perhaps that is great place to start, seriously. or is it all too hard and do as I say rather than what i do. They model themselves on other military regimes then have the audacity to send an election official to UK for a fact finding mission. Get your house in order, accept civilian control, get back to barracks and call for a government of national unity with well respected/eminent fijians to create a new constitution with International backing , then you will have my thanks.
Anonymous said…
@ Radio Lucas and Sara'ssista

In a general and conflated overview you both appear to be mistaken on a number of facts which point to partial knowledge but insufficient to prove your points. France is definitely today NOT a monocultural country (but it would still like to be). It has a population of Muslims from all over the Midde East and from, especially, Algeria, Morocco and, to a lesser extent, Tunisia and Libya. Neither are Turkey or Germany. These countries have muslim country-originating settlers and workers numbering millions. In the United Kingdom there is a population of Asians from the Indian sub-continent of well over 4 million in a total population of over 60m. The views of all these permanent citizens and residents must be accommodated through democratic elections held every four years. Most governments elected in these countries attempt to accommodate their minority groups but Turkey struggles (it is trying hard to adjust to prepare itself for entry to the EU). Fiji must learn once more to prepare itself for a dialogue (but not with failed, unreconstructed politicians) and then structurally adjust for full and properly held elections in 2014. This is a mammoth, costly task for a small country. The former SDL governments and those governments and administrations prior to the SDL, all failed to fully address the views and the services that should be afforded minorities. They completely failed to address the situation of women and children, the disabled and surviving elderly and their aspirations for secure and equitable living standards:lives free from fear. The same was true for homosexuals and anyone professing unbelief in any religion. Freedom of conscience: a basic human right which should be enjoyed in liberty. In lieu, the population was enjoined to religious belief (mostly Protestant Christianity) by loud rhetoric and by compulsion in their daily lives through threats and overt attempts at domination through fear. The 'soli' system just one example. This is not governance, let alone good governance, by any yardstick or benchmark. It was and is both overt and covert compulsion and it leads to a mindset of alienation, impunity and mental devastation. A moral and intellectual Wasteland. This is no recipe for nation-building. The rumour-mongering that so swathes Fiji in constant subterranean uncertainty is a symptom of this now ingrained malaise. The symptoms are morbid and may yet become terminal.

If you fail to grasp any of this, then dialogue will be lengthy and difficult and may yield little of worth. Further antagonism is not helpful now. There must be a move towards accommodation of ideas with lashings of understanding. Ultimately, one is inclined to believe that "A Constitution of Liberty" of the Friederich Hayek description may lead us out of our black hole. Full liberty and freedom with full responsibility of the most democratic and accountable kind. But the role of culture will have to be fully examined in the light of such drastic change. To what extent does culture enslave many of us? We have learned to love our enslavement. Why? Because there has been no way out. The onerous yoke of culture must be re-examined wholly and piecemeal adapted and adjusted to modern productive living. Darwinian "Adapt or die" comes to mind.

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