Swinstead's Fiji Times, Grassroots Women's Federation, Closer Pacific Ties with Fiji

ANONYMOUS COMMENTS are still not being published.
JOKE OF THE WEEK. A few days ago the anti-government blogs reported that Col. Pita Driti had arrested Bainimarama and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. One called it an early Christmas present.  Before heading overseas late last week the unarrested Bainimarama appointed Col. Driti acting commander of the military. The A-G is still out of the country.

NEW FIJI TIMES PUBLISHER EXPLAINS HIS POSITION. ABC interviewer Geraldine Coutts   asked the Times's new publisher Dallas Swinstead (photo)  how he was going to handle free speech. Swinstead:

"Freedom of speech - my original answer was my parents gave me a pretty fair idea of what you can say and get away with, and when you stepped out of line and they ran the show they knocked you over. So, I mean, I don't like that happening. I am tenacious, but I am a good mediator and a facilitator, and I will be trying to talk to people in government to lead them to understand how valuable a free and open press is. But look, it is a developing country with lots of problems and I am sympathetic to them and I am not angry about censorship or anything else. That's life. 

Local Motibhai Group bought the paper from Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd last week. Motibhai Chairman Mahendra Patel said: "The Fiji Times will operate as an independent separate unit. Dallas Swinstead and his staff are the people that will fashion the editorial content of the paper. We will not interfere with that. The staff are empowered to operate and run independently – of course we will be there to guide, but we will not interfere.”   Read also the Cafe Pacific story.

THE FIJI WOMEN'S FEDERATION. Approved by Cabinet last year, the FWF is an important unit in the Department of Women, which advises the Minister for Women on national issues concerning development and works in partnership with women's NGOs to achieve a coordinated approach to programme implementation. Unlike many umbrella women's organizations in the past, the FWF is open to all races.

Most FWF activities are based on centres and involve a great deal of self-help supplemented by government assistance.  Eight centres should be built by the end of this year and 14, one for each province, by 2014.  The women's husbands and male relatives build the centres; government provides the money for materials. The elected president of each centre sits on an advisory committee at the Ministry.

The centres also work closely with divisional planning offices to identify the needs of women specific to their communities, and training is provided in capacity building, alternative livelihoods, and other activities to help generate income for the women

The Advisory Committee is charged with the implementation of government's Women’s Plan of Action (WPA) 2010 to 2019 that spells out five priority areas for the development and advancement of women:

1. Formal sector employment and livelihoods
2. Equal Participation in decision-making 3. Elimination of violence against women
4. Access to services (Health and HIV/AIDS, education and other basic services)
5. Women and the Law.

FWF informs women about the international Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); its centres are places of informal education and shared experiences, and training grounds, perhaps, for women's greater involvement in politics.

When I met the Minister of Women, Dr Jiko Luveni, in June, she told me of government actions to empower women, and said: "For years we've been waiting for this."  This spoke words for a woman who initially was opposed to the Bainimarama government and whose husband was a member of former PM Qarase's SDL party.

For readers and organizations in Fiji that would like to know more about the FWF, email the Secretariat at   rtavakaturaga@yahoo.com -- Based, in part, on 2010 No:1415/MOI.

AFTER NATADOLA,  PACIFIC CO-OPERATION. Following on from the Natadola meeting (see report on  communique) that was held in place of the abandoned Melanesian Spearhead Group in June, several Pacific Island countries have expressed interest in closer relations with Fiji. Tuvalu, the first to sign a MOU, is now joined by Kiribati, and expressions of interest have also been received from Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste.

The memorandum of understanding was signed when the Kiribati President the Fiji PM were in New York for the 65th session of the UN General Assembly. Broad areas of co-operation include education, medicine, and fisheries. The PM will deliver Fiji's national statement during the general debate session of the Assembly.

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Winds of Change said…
Dallas Swinstead seems to be adopting a pragmatic approach to the regime and his comments will give little comfort to those who want the Fiji Times to continue as some kind of de facto opposition. If you look at the full interview with Radio Australia, he gave short shrift to the interviewer when she pressed him on the issue of press freedom, dismissing her at one stage with a curt "with respect, that's a pretty dumb question". The subtext seems to be that rules are rules and one needs to abide by them to avoid being "shut down". None of this will be music to the ears of editor-in-chief Netani Rika, who's being given a clear message that the winds of change are gathering at the top of Butt Street. Swinstead's point that Fiji is a developing country and that the same media standards that exist in Australia and NZ don't apply, is the antithesis of how Rika and his News Limited bosses approached the Fiji Times. How long will it be before Bainimarama is referred to as the PM in the Times? I'd say hours and days rather than weeks and months. At last, a publisher who seems reasonably sensible, aside perhaps from the clumsy analogy with his own family's insistence on him playing by the rules as a child. I'm sure Sharon Smith-Johns will be a lot tougher on Swinstead than his mother ever was, if he steps out of line.
Me said…
Great new quotes. Sadly this government believe no critism = successful government and reform.

If you step back and look at this this lot as a government (forget the fact they came to power by guns have suppressed freedoms etc) their performance is pretty lactusture. I certainly can't see anything that suggests they have outperformed.

The economies performance has been the worst in many years - negative GDP every year. Foriegn investment remains low and new foreign investmnet neglible. Relations with most neighbouring countries are at a low point. Educated Fijian's continue to migrate. Foreign reserves still remian under pressure. The sugar industry continues its decline. Land issues not solved and the country more deeply divided than ever.

And the positives. Tourism had finally rebounded (not forgetting the major negative impact was the coup itself). A few timely law updates. A bit of window dresing on poverty (bus fares, micro finance). Setting up of FICAC (but it's failure to expose any fraud of previous government), some reduction in public service numbers, tighter control on spending (except military who seem to be able to spend what ever they like).
Blogs blog said…
Blogs not providing any credible alternatives ?

This might be true but I don’t think it is fair to really expect much for from them at this stage. It’s easy to forget that retribution and persecution is just around the corner in Fiji for anyone who speaks out against the military. Despite that many people where prepared do so prior to April 2009 when the constitution was thrown out. Now the PM and his military appointed government have complete control. The stakes are much higher and the PM has made it clear he will not tolerate any debate or criticism.

The big difference between now and then is the consequences. First of all now no government decision can be questions in a courts of law – that’s a big change. Second we have the constantly rolling PER which the military use as a free ticket to deal with anyone or anything they don’t like. It also stops all meetings – so if you have some criticism of the government, even a slightly different view it does not matter how useful your comments are. You have to shut up. You also can’t meet and discuss your ideas with others – that illegal as well.

So we can’t expect too much from blogs. A lot of the talk is frustrated people venting. Other talk is those that still feel strongly about what has happened. Others have personal agenda or have suffered personally. This government does not forgive – it isolates and punishes.

For credible alternatives and helpful suggestions to emerge in Fiji government must drop PER and allow reasonable debate. Even the SDL and Labour might just come up with something useful but the likes of the CCF could definitely help if allowed. Without persecution individuals in time could also come forward.

On a slightly different issue I see the PM remains very upset that the Fiji Times won’t call him PM and expectation that new publisher will change that quickly. I think the PM title is fair enough once he resigns as commander. Or perhaps interim PM (he has referred to himself as that before and on the RFMF website) of course his interim will be twice the distance of an elected government.
ass about said…
The PM and Military want all their opposition (even their percieved opposition) to feel the function of pain. They deeply desire no criticism and only agreeable Fijian citizens.

Perhaps Frank had read Churchills quote somewhere but just got it ass about ?

"Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things. -- Winston Churchill (1874-1965)."

Thanks for the quote Croz.
Computer says No said…
Croz, a fascinating story just breaking about 857 new Fiji citizens being created with the dual nationality laws introduced last year. The real story is buried in the detail - the fact that 1054 people applied for blue passports between June 2009 and June 2010 but nearly 200 were knocked back. On what grounds? You can bet we never find out. All applications are said to cross the PM's desk and he personally decides yay or nay. Intriguing.
Croz Walsh said…
@ Blogs Blog ... I agree with much you say but (1) I think you are too sweeping with "no govt decsion can be challenged in a court of law." My understanding is that it is the law itself (i.e., the Decree) that cannot be challenged. All other decisions can be challenged. (2) "Retribution and persecution": this may be true for blog publishers in Fiji, but my information is that all but one ant-govt blog is published overseas where they cannot be persecuted.
Blogs blog said…

Yes Croz agreed on 1) but it would be a brave man indeed (perhaps a foolish one) to try and take legal action against any of this governments decisions. On 2) I think the most helpful comments will come from inside Fiji and for obvious reasons people can't put their names to them - even on overseas published blogs. While the PM and Military hate anti-government blogs they most definately read and monitor them !
Accounting said…
Military Spending

Quite a few blogs reporting on Military over spending and poor practices as identified in audit report. Has anyone out there seen the actual report ? I would like to read the original.

If the $45m blow out in the 207 budget is correct then heads should roll and if half the other items being reported are true then FICAC should be called in.
M.B.N said…
Here is a article straight from Fiji SUN. Military must be feeling very comfortable to let this one through the censors.

If a Chairman, Board member or CEO of government entity such as LTA. Ports or FEA retrospectively approved something like this they would have been sacked long ago by this government. Many have been removed for much smaller issues. And since cabinet retrospectively approved they should be sacked as well. Given the many blurred areas and lack of control FICAC should definately investigate and the Commandor should be held accountable.

OK now back to the real world...for the PM/government/military everything and the rest of us...the full rule of law.

Audit reveals military overspending


The Republic of Fiji Military Forces incurred a total expenditure of $126.3 million in 2007 against the appropriation budget of $80.7m resulting in an overexpenditure of $45.5m.
This was revealed in the Public Accounts Committee report on the Auditor-General's 2007 Report.

It said the over expenditure were mainly in the:

l SEG 1- established staff

l SEG 3 - travel and communication

l SEG 4- maintenance and operation

l SEG 5- purchase of goods and services

"The committee was concerned that the excessive overexpenditure was regularised through a retrospective approval by Cabinet," it said.

"However, the RFMF assured the committee that there was now close monitoring of their expenditures.

"The training conducted on the new FMIS (Financial Management Information System) would ensure that the overexpenditure did not re-cur," it said.

The committee also expressed concerns on the purchasing of various equipment for the force.

Equipment purchased during this period cost $21.2m and for which no funds were allocated in the budget resulting in an overexpenditure of $20.2m.

"The RFMF purchased goods and services totaling $1.1m from a preferred selection of the suppliers that had not gone through the normal tender processes nor were competitive quotations obtained from them," the report said.

"A retrospective approval was given by Cabinet for the regularisation of the overexpenditure and a waiver for approval by the Major Tender Boards.

"The committee viewed this as a dangerous precedent particularly for the large sums involved."
More $$ wasted said…
Perhaps we could have some views from Father Barr or yourself on the $45 overspent by the Fiji military? Doing what? this is a lot of money that could have been spent on health or children's education. We all sadly have to accept a military junta controls the nation but some accountability and governance surely is not too much to ask?
Joe said…
Why would you waste valuable web space in relation to Swinstead? He is just another Aussie like Gillard and Abbott, ie, say this and do that. Just waiting to see if FT turns out to be another fijisun.
Anonymous said…
@ Global Citizen

This post makes it plain neither you nor many others like you have ever been in any Fiji Court and certainly not since the abrogation. If you had, you would know better and see things rather differently. Before you make any further comment, come on into Fiji and sit in a few courthouses for a few hours and closely watch and listen to what takes place. There is a huge improvement in the functioning of the courts. The DPP's Office is also achieving convictions. That never happened back in the days of 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006. Even in 2007, 2008 the lack of training, capacity and the failure of integrity of so many court and judicial officers meant no justice was delivered to the people of Fiji. Do not write of what you so clearly do not know or even understand.

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