The US Way Forward and 2014; Three Items on Helping the Poor, One on Corruption

WEEKEND READING. Allen Lockington's column, Between Blogs and a Hard Place, The Rich-Poor Gap, Kava and US Cafe Culture, "The End of Press Freedom in Fiji": When a Paper Becomes a Blog, numerous comments and today's posting.

US WANTS DIALOGUE. During a 75 minute meeting on Wednesday US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told senior Pacific Islands' Leaders that the US was committed to working closely with Fiji and the Pacific Islands. She also paid tribute to the commitment to global security by Tonga in the Solomon Islands, Fiji in Iraq and Sinai, and Vanuatu in Timor Leste. Assistant Secretary of State Asia-Pacific Kurt Campbell, who had attended the Vanuatu post-Forum dialogue in early August, told the meeting that the dialogue going forward was based on the profound recognition of Fiji's central role in Pacific matters.

In turn, Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke  Kubuabola had explained to Clinton Fiji's Strategic Framework for Change, welcomed the reopening of the US AID office in Suva,  and spoken of Fiji's greater attention to combating human trafficking and intellectual property rights infringements. Secretary Clinton said the US wanted dialogue with Fiji and beyond to support partnership. The Pacific delegations expressed great satisfaction at the meeting that the US Secretary of State was committed to, and that the US was now demonstrating, a higher level of involvement after many years.

US STATEMENT CONDITIONAL BUT ACCEPTS 2014.  Easing of US sanctions is conditional on progress towards democracy and holding free and fair elections no later than 2014 says US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia, Kurt Campbell. Fiji "is the centre, sort of architecturally, of transportation and the like in the Pacific... It is high on the American priority to figure out if there's a way that we can be helpful in engaging diplomatically... We are stepping up our coordination and dialogue with New Zealand and Australia who we also believe have key critical interests in Fiji."

KEEPING FOOD AND FUEL PRICES DOWN. Cabinet has approved a Price Control Order which gives the Commerce Commission power to set prices on a range of essential items including some food and fuel items.The Order is the result of concern about the high price of some goods under Price Control, particularly those which are imported duty free.

The items that will be subjected to the Order are: Milk including baby milk, baby food, imported butter, chicken, corned beef and mutton, edible oils, imported dried leguminous vegetables, garlic,ghee, imported fish and other seafood, margarine, noodles, onions, imported potatoes, imported rice, sheep meat, sugar, tea, medicine, premium unleaded petrol, kerosene, white benzene and premixed out board fuel. – Based on 2010 No:1580/CC.

RENT FREEZE CONTINUES. The rent freeze has been extended to 31 April 2011. During this period landlords may not increase rents for any premises that falls under the residential tenancy, including ground rentals, to which the Commerce Commission Decree 2010 applies. In making this announcement Attorney-General and Minister for Trade & Commerce, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, said the extension would allow an overall review of existing rent legislation and  enable the Commerce Commission to carry out an independent assessment review of the residential rent market. He said the review would look at ways to protect tenants and landlords, and how to provide clear dispute and independent mechanism. -- Based on 2010 No:1555/AG.

SUVA FOR SALE. The Consumer Council has urged customers to shop wisely, know their rights, and be wary of being cheated as the capital kicks off the week-long "Suva on Sale" event this Saturday.  I can't recall any such advice in the past. The Consumer Council is doing a great job.

FICAC TARGETS POSTAL EMPLOYEE. A former Fiji Post employee is in court charged by the Corruption Commission of several serious thefts.

THRASHING A POINT.  The previous four items  are typical of many of my posts, and some readers ill disposed to the Bainimarama government ignore them and call for "real news" by which, of course, they mean "when are the elections that they hope will bring back the good old days that favoured sections the Fijian elite and fooled other Fijians into believing it was their interests that were protected."

More open-minded readers would recognize that these examples of "small news" are parts of the unwritten "real news" because they are examples of Government's commitment to the People's Charter, the Strategic Framework for Change and the Roadmap.  But if I keep saying so, some will think I'm unnecessarily thrashing a point.

Comments

Why not 2011 ? said…
Croz,

Your reporting suggests a big difference in US v the rest of the free world. It's not a big difference and when you read the full statement you see they are saying the same as Au/NZ/PIF/EU an the Commonwealth in that no progress has been made...you should have perhaps also printed this part:

"Fiji’s coup leaders have not taken any credible steps to restore democratic institutions. After breaking a promise to hold elections in 2009, they now promise to begin work in 2012 to craft a new constitution and hold elections in 2014. They also promised to lift public emergency regulations, but the regulations remain in place, the press remains heavily censored, and the right to assembly is severely restricted. Fiji has failed to restore democracy or institute structural reforms. The entrenchment of authoritarian rule indifferent to criticism has become a dangerous model for the region and the global community."

And here is the crunch. A "promise" to start reform in 2012is just not good eneough for the international community because it's five years post coup and the PM's track record on promises is not good. Forget the international commnnity it is not good enough for my humble self !

Yes the PM is getting on with the job of government. He was hopeless ealry but better now. Much of your news items you publish are day to day stuff any reasonable government is expected to do. And yes there is a bit of public service reform as well but the pace is slow and not spectactulor. On sugar reform it has been a dissasster. Tourism is perhaps something they can hang their hats on after the Coup then Mahen seeked to destroy it.

What we would all like to see is a shifting of the work that is to begin in 2012 to 2011. Then it would be reasonable for the international community to step up but until that happens everyone is asked to backing only a promise and this PM does not have the goodwill for anyone to back his promises.

PM and advisers - please take this suggestion seriously.
Croz Walsh said…
@ Why not 2011? ...

I could have spelt out the US concerns as you say but I thought my sentence, "Easing of US sanctions is conditional on progress towards democracy and holding free and fair elections no later than 2014" sufficed.

I wanted to highlight the differences from EU, Commonwealth, Forum and AusNZ statements, particularly the acceptance of 2014 as the election date. I think it's the first time I've seen that. You, clearly, think 2011 a better date. I disagree. If everyone accepted 2014 as a firm and unchangeable date, I think the acceptance would do much to soften Govt's approaches on many things -- PER, dialogue, you name it.
why not 2011 said…
Croz,

Sorry if I was not clear. I just want them to
Bring forward the date to start work on everything
to 2011 - so there can be no excuses and slippage
later on. Plus everyone will start to feel better
if they see things happening and the internatipnal
Community I belive will step up.

Wait to 2012 and you cut it all too fine and
leave room for slippage plus another year of
wondering in the PM is serious
Croz Walsh said…
@ Why not 2011 ... My apologies. I misunderstood you, thinking you meant elections in 2011. I agree with you. Dialogue on constitutional and electoral reform should start earlier, and have said so several times on the blog. Elections in 2014 or a little earlier but the earlier the dialogue, the better.
Croz Walsh said…
@ Anonymous ... Your comment slipped through. Sorry I had to delete a valuable comment, but the rule is clear. Anonymous comments will not be published. Please re-post using a pseudonym.

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