Coup of Many Colours, Kerr Says Australia Needs to Rethink, Kubuabola Responds to Gillard, Lomaiviti Meeting, Budget Day, Invite to NZ Law Society

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COUP OF MANY COLOURS. I was reminded by a comment to Sanjay's weekend article of how the 2006 Bainimarama coup has been relabelled over time. It started in 2007 with Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi saying indigenous Fijians saw it as an Indo-Fijian counter-coup. By 2008 it had become an Fiji Labour Party coup. By 2009 it was an Indo-Fijian Muslim coup,  and now it's apparently an Indo-Fijian business big business cum Muslim coup with possible Al Qaeda links.

The commentator wrote: "The fact is that all political parties lost out because of the coup, except the National Alliance Party of Ratu Epeili Ganilau. Then again, the military has made it clear that no previous political parties or party-affiliated individuals will contest any future general elections. Indigenous Fijian provincial chiefs slowly realised that Ro Temumu Kepa and Mere Samisoni style resistance was futile and as a result, the chiefs that wanted Bainimarama evaluated for mental stability have run up to him with a volley of tabua in a colourful display of matanigasau. Even Ratu Inoke Takeiveikata — the mastermind behind the Speight putsch — has reconciled, and there are similar overtures from the Methodist Church. Former nationalists like Kubuabola are now the international affairs face of the Fiji Government.

"Indo-Fijians generally support any political initiative in Fiji which is free from all forms of racial discrimination. Bavadra tried to bring about change through democratic elections, he was deposed and Chaudhry met a similar fate in 2000 but Bainimarama has started a new political paradigm of re-engineering indigenous institutions so that they are aligned to his reforms. Some academics, union leaders. NGOs do not share Bainimarama’s social engineering but as in any situation, there will be support and resistance to any form of political change and Fiji is no different."

KERR SAYS AUSTRALIA NEEDS NEW STRATEGY. Australia's former Parliamentary Secretary for the Pacific Island Affairs Duncan Kerr says Australia needs a new approach to Fiji, and should "move towards a strategic re-engagement." He said the re-engagement of other countries with Fiji, including the US (that was concerned about China's rising influence in the region) suggests it is time for Australia to follow suit.

"What I want to do," he said, "is distinguish between Australia maintaining its opposition to the form of governance in Fiji. That is, expressing diplomatically that we must continue to press for a democratically-elected regime. But, on the other hand, getting involved in the practical things that will prevent whoever gains governance in Fiji inheriting a wasteland."  Re-engagement could include assistance with  poverty alleviation, the sugar industry, land reform and allowing Fiji back into the PACER-plus regional trade talks.

He said Fiji's economic situation was serious; Australia should not normalise diplomatic relations, but it should support "the prospects that Fiji can move effectively towards democratic elections in 2014 ... We can act without giving sanction to the legitimacy of the regime [and] recognise that the present policies are leading everyone into a place where no-one wins."

Mr Kerr says both countries could take steps to show goodwill towards each other."The government of Fiji might, for example, withdraw the state of emergency. There are steps they could take that would show stronger goodwill towards the outcome of moving back to normalcy and the commitment to democratic elections in 2014," he said.

"But [Australia] could also take steps forward which give a sense of our goodwill... we need not to everything at one time, as we could perhaps make some initiatives." But we may want to also flag some things that would be conditional on steps forward, concrete achieved steps by the government of Fiji that would then in a sense be benchmarks for further re-engagement."

Editor's Note: I think there is now sufficient evidence to say that there has been a shift in international opinion on Fiji, no doubt accelerated by Hillary Clinton's recent visit.  The unrealistic demand for immediate elections has been dropped; it is more widely accepted that the Australian and New Zealand "isolation" policies have failed politically, but there is as yet no acceptance that these same policies have caused immense economic damage to the Fiji economy and its people.

I think it reasonable that Australia should expect to see evidence of "concrete steps" towards normalcy, starting with the lifting of PER. But it is equally reasonable to expect Australia and New Zealand to progressively lift their sanctions, starting with the travel bans. They should also take steps to persuade the UN,the EU and the Commonwealth to lift the damaging sanctions they urged them to impose. But what Kerr says is not what Gillard does. It takes two to tango. Read on ...

KUBUABOLA DISAPPOINTED WITH SKEPTICAL GILLARD.  Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola has expressed disappointment about the Australian PM's comments that she is “very skeptical” that the 2014 elections will be held and that the best thing to be done was to “maximise pressure on Fiji.”

Ratu Inoke said elections would be held in 2014 not because of Australian Government pressure  but because it is the firm commitment of the Fiji Government under the nation’s strategic framework for change. Moveover, the elections will be held under universal suffrage without regard to race for the first time in Fiji’s history. 

Minister Kubuabola said there was much positive preparatory work to be done between now and 2014 by Fiji and its international friends, and it would not be deterred by skeptics. Meanwhile, all 14 Provincial Councils have endorsed the Roadmap and the great majority of the international community has expressed their support and understanding.

The Minister said he failed to understand why Canberra was still sowing seeds of doubt with its “very sceptical” message. Nor did he understand how Canberra’s position could be constructive or in any way good for regional stability. He said if Canberra was genuine about wanting dialogue and engagement, Fiji’s door was open.  He said he hoped such dialogue could be conducted in a spirit of positive diplomacy and that Canberra would soon drop its prescriptive and negative policy on Fiji. -- Based on 1851/MOI. Note: Her actual position may have changed following the Clinton visit.

LOMAIVITI MEETING
. In reaffirming government’s support for the chiefly status of the ‘vanua’ and its leadership when he opened the Lomaiviti Provincial Council meeting yesterday, the PM urged the chiefs  to have regular dialogue with their people in order to achieve government’s initiative of uplifting their living standards, and cautioned that new submissions to the village bylaws should not contradict national laws and legislation.

The PM said Lomaiviti had used $5.6m for family assistance schemes, 29 self help programmes, road upgrading works on Gau, Koro and Ovalau Islands, farming assistance schemes, Cyclone Tomas rehabilitation programmes and rural electrifications in 2009. He added that four companies had shown an interest in harvesting and treating pine logs in the province. -- Based on 2010, No: 1855/MOI.

BUDGET DAY ANNOUNCED
. The PM and Minister of Finance will deliver the 2011 National Budget to the nation on Fiday 26th of this month at the FIRCA complex in Suva. Submissions from various organizations are currently being made to the Finance Ministry as the government works out its expenditure allocations and revenue measures for next year.

INVITE TO NZ LAW SOCIETY. Solicitor-General Christopher Pryde has invited the President of the NZ Law Society Jonathan Temm to attend the 12th annual Fiji Attorney-General’s Conference next month, and while in Fiji to observe how the law is being applied in the country.Christine Gounder reports for RNZI that the conference is "normally attended by members of the Fiji judiciary and legal profession, diplomats and policy-makers. Mr Temm will have the opportunity to exchange views with Fiji’s Attorney-General and members of the legal profession.”

Among topics likely to be discussed is the deregistration of the Fiji Law Society which deprived the FLS of its power to issue lawyers' licences practice and making membership voluntary.

Comments

keep trying said…
Keep trying croz - keep trying. You could always beat your head against a concrete post - might be easier?
Perhaps you could try selling the Burma or North Korea coup? They might be easier?
Salute to the Croz said…
Croz, I think you're to be highly commended for the moderate and even handed way you've reported these positive advances for Fiji in recent days. Contrary to some of the criticism you've been getting, you've reported the developments faithfully, accurately and with no sense of triumphalism, as you might have been expected to do. I've had to suppress a rather unattractive urge to gloat as we now see independent commentators and the likes of Duncan Kerr starting to listen. But you just keep on doing what you've always done, explain everything fully and fairly and engage with your critics very much on the merits of their arguments. I don't always agree with what you say but you're a very important part of the continuing debate about Fiji and are doing the country a great service. Never mind the odd barb. I think you're a national treasure. Vinaka and may God bless you and your family in your quest for the truth.
What Kerr really said said…
Kerr did not criticise the australian government - he suggested engagement may be needed to "avoid an irreversible slide into poverty and authoritarian rule". We all know that. Fiji under the junta is falling backwards at an alarming rate. As for engagement with a dictatorship? No way? As an australian taxpayer I don't care what the regime does - with china or anyone else - if they want to destroy the future of their own children, that's their problem. But my taxes are not subsidising the failures of a military junta!
sara'ssista said…
I would suggest that Aus and Nz need not change their stance one bit until we can be assured of what the plan is for the election that allegedly will take place in 2014. i couldn't care less about the steps up to that point if the actual event is going to be be predetermined, and exclude any and all that oppose this regime. If there is going to be an election then we need to know who will be precluded, what are we not allowed to say or report, what we are not allowed to discuss or who we can meet, whether this military regime actually intends to relinquish power or just change into civilan clothes and carry on.There seems to be a signifcant number of preconditions from this regime, that needs to be looked at.
Proud Fijian said…
@ What Kerr really said said

If you don't really care what happens to Fiji's children then what are you doing voicing you opinions here.

The fundamental discussion here (if you haven't realized it yet) here is the future of Fiji (and therefore its children.)
Joe said…
Who will Jonathan Temm be talking to? Graham Leung, Richard Naidu, Jone Madraiwiwi, Qarase, Chaudhary, Dorsamy Naidu? The answer is: NONE OF THE ABOVE. What is the point then? Will he ask Aiyaz why the PER is still in place when there is no emergency?
coup is a coup said…
Lest just call it (2006) what it was - a coup. 1987x2 and 2000 - they where coups also. People who are not elected wanting power anyway and using force to get it.

You can walk around the margins of who had a better reason than who and who announced better intentions post coups but at the end of the day they all acted wrongly.

Fiji's 1987 coup perpetrator has admitte he was wrong to take the action he did. 2000's perpertrator is still in prision and in time even though he is likely to escape jail i suspect in his twilight year Frank will admit he is was wrong too.

Sadly for as long as Frank fails to see his mistake we can expect more coups in Fiji. As my father always taught me it's not what you say but do and Frank has taught every young mind in Fiji it is OK to use guns to get what you want.
RFMF coups said…
It might be better to call them all "miliary coups" because that is the common factor in all four.

The RFMF has not provided leadership.
cheap shot said…
Inviting Temm to Fiji is nothing but cheap grandstanding. Could he ask about the the removal of the constitution. Would he free to talk to anyone ?

Oh thats right we have Public Emergency in Fiji right now. no opinions allowed.
PER said…
The reason why so many reconcilliations have happened is simple. If you don't sit at the PM's feet you will have now economic opportunity in Fiji. It's as simple as that. Retribution and silencing critics is a top priority for Frank and team. Thats why we have PER. Everyone knows that.
Fiji PM please take the lead said…
@ croz on "I think it reasonable that Australia should expect to see evidence of "concrete steps"

I agree with you but lets not always look to Australia to lead the dance. Our PM (Fiji's) needs to take the first steps. Lets see some concrete steps. After that if Australia does not shift then by all means have a whinge (in private).

A smart PM would stop all this ego posturing and front up to AU government with a solid proposal....here is what we are going to do starting today. We will announce it today but we need to see Australia is genuine as well. Can you lift the travel ban of (or provide a exception mechanism) for senior civil servants ?

Lets not forget that if the PM had stuck to his original roadmap all manner of support and aid would be flowing in.
military government said…
No one has picked up on the way Mrs Clinton refers to Frank and CO - "Military Government". If any expat used that in Fiji they would be thrown out. This was a key reason to get rid of Fiji Times.

KUBUABOLA promises elections becuase the FIJI Government promises them. Actually it is only the FIJI MILITARY who can promise this will happen. "Government decisions" are only valid as long as military supports them.
In the wrong jobs said…
Will the minister for Finance take questions on the budget this year ?

I doubt it very much. Beyond mastering the speech he still knows very very little about money.

It remains a weakness of this government that he pretends to be sugar minister and finance minister.

You may as well make me the military commandor - that would make just as much sense.
PER said…
sorry I meant to say "No economic opportunity" not "now economic opportunity" - typo on my behalf
Croz Walsh said…
@ Keep trying ... please see the Quote for the Week in the right sidebar.

@ Salute to the Croz ... Vinaka. Very much appreciated.

@ Sasa'ssista ... Why do you keep saying if? It has been made abundantly clear that there will be elections in 2014, and equally clear that race-based parties and racist politicians will not be allowed to stand. Do you have any problems with that?

@ Jo ... Temm is concerned about the FLS. Let's see who he meets.

@ RFMF Coups.... "The RFMF has not provided leadership." What is it providing then?

@ Fiji PM please ... The "concrete steps" until 2012 are institutional and infrastructural reform. As has been repeated ad nauseum, constitional and electoral dialogue and reform will start in 2012. I would like to see this started earlier, and PER lifted much earlier, but that's the way it is, fixed in concrete.

@ PER said ... Ro Teimumu has commended the government for its work in Rewa. You are surely not suggesting she sits at Bainimarama's feet? See Thurday's posting.

@ Cheap shot ... Do not prejudge. Temm seems likely to accept the offer and he's no pushover. We should be welcoming the visit not condemning it before it takes place. See my Thursday posting.

@ Military government ... I see no problem with Clinton's statement of fact but the FT went much further than this. There's a strong military presence in Cabinet, but Cabinet seems to be governing, not the Military Council per se.

@ In the wrong jobs ... Welcome military commander.
Joe said…
Is there such a thing as an expression of interest by stake holders to meet Jonathan Temm, and if so, who facilitates such proposed meetings? Will Mr Temm be in breach of the PER if he talks to people other than supporters of the current regime? Will Mr Temm be arrested by police if he has lunch with MC and goat curry is on the menu? Is Mr Temm aware that there is no such thing as "freedom of speech" in Fiji.

Have a good time in Fiji Jonathan. As I read it, you are there to observe how law is applied by lawless men who should be tried for treason. You really should not be amongst such people in the first place. I find it disturbing and absurd that the president of NZLS has agreed to patronize in an illegal conference hosted by an illegal AG of an illegal govt. Being a guardian of law, I expect you, Mr Temm, to have an audience with others apart from the ones you are rubbing shoulders with. We shall stay tuned and monitor what transpires.
Islands in the Stream said…
The creation of "a wasteland" to be inherited through democratic elections? How does that sound? Anyone with any sense of justice or morality would instinctively be repelled by such a notion. The very fact that anyone may allude to such a concept proves that the policies promoting 'wastelands' are to be condemned: the grounds are self-evident. Are we ever likely to be unmindful of this? How do you build a credible, sustainable future with those who promoted the creation of a 'WASTELAND'?
Ratu Sukuna alive and living in Butt Street said…
Croz, to follow is the kind of sloppiness that irritates me about the Fiji Times. This is today's editorial to mark Remembrance Day so it must have been written by Fred Wesley or someone very senior. It talks about the risk of people in Fiji forgetting the sacrifices made on their behalf.
----
Today marks another year in the lives of the remaining veteran soldiers from World War One and Two.
-----
All you have to do is google "surviving world war one veterans" to find there are only four in the entire world - two Brits who are 109, an American who is also 109 and a Pole who is 110.

If there's a surviving world war one veteran in Fiji, I'll lay the King's Road for the Chinese contractors with my teeth.

Only one indigenous Fijian served in World War One - Ratu Sukuna, and that was with the French Foreign Legion because the British wouldn't allow i"taukei to enlist.

Ratu Sukuna is remaindered alright, but not in the way the Fiji Times might think. The Great Man died en route to London aboard the liner Arcadia in 1958.

But yes, he deserves remembering for having won France's highest military honour, the Croix de Guerre. He was also both famous and regarded with a degree of suspicion on P&O liners. When a waiter once asked if he wanted to see a menu, he demanded to see the passenger list instead.
Historical deathtrap said…
Croz, I've been castigated over the above entry by a friend of mine who had a Kai Valagi relative from Nausori fight in World War One.

For the record, Fiji sent a detachment of troops to the Great War but indigenous soldiers were prevented from joining until the final stages of the conflict.

Having been refused entry into the British forces. Ratu Sukuna went off to join the French and won their top military honours, not just a Croix de Guerre but a Medale Militaire. But later in the war, he also joined the British war effort after the ban on indigenous Fijians was lifted.

I'm also told that while the passenger list story has been attributed to Ratu Sukuna, it's also been attributed to other Fijians chiefs who travelled on P&O and may well be apocryphal.

I hope this has set the record straight. My apologies to anyone who might have been offended by my previous comments.

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