News and Comments Tuesday November 1, 2011
|It's now November!|
Welcome to a new month.
Many thanks to my well wishers, and even to the one who, tongue in cheek, said don't worry, we get all the news we want from Sharon and the Fiji Sun, and the other one who said I'd be sorely missed because I was the only person who could make a brutal dictatorship look reasonable.
URAI ARRESTED. There are unconfirmed reports that Daniel Urai has been arrested, rekindled fears of trade union repression. Here is the ACTU comment. A reader comments: "Hi there Croz,It appears that the military backed regime is at it again –in fact my suspicion is that there has been an on-going undercurrent of threats and intimidation of dissenters together with the detention of those who courageously stand up to the bullying and intimidation.The arrest of the FTUC President is totally unacceptable in this day and age; and should be widely condemned."
My opinion? Government should not have passed the Essential Industries Decree. It was quite unnecessary and has stirred up a hornet's nest. But Urai and other several other trade unionists took an anti-government stance from the start and have done nothing to improve their relations with Government (or Government, for that matter, with the unions.) The Public Emergency Regulations should be lifted, and perhaps they would have been but for the ongoing actions of people like Urai, but Urai's comments in Australia were clearly in breach of PER. But he has been muzzled in Fiji. What else could he do? His arrest was an inevitable outcome of these events. And so the story continues with no end in sight unless both parties sit down and talk over their differences. But ...
POSTSCRIPT. Police have finally confirmed (No.MOI 1991) that Urai has been "taken in for questioning" as part of "ongoing criminal investigations" and charges will be laid soon. There will be no further announcements until the investigation is complete.
CONSULTATIONS WITH BUSINESS. Last week's consultation took place between the Commerce Commission and business people. They were held primarily to listen to the business sector on how the Commission could work with them to not only comply with the Commerce Commission Decree 2010, but also to ensure business activity was promoted for the broader good of the country.The forum discussed the apparently "major increase in cases of unfair trading practices" and the ultimate lifting of price controls.Further consultations will take place soon in the West and North. Great! The Commission is setting an example to other branches of government that should be holding more consultations, with the trade union movement and NGOs, for example.
UNIVERSAL PENSIONS NEEDED. Senior citizens are calling for immediate introduction of Universal Social Pension Scheme.This was recommended during the talks on the Draft National Policy Framework on Ageing and Elderly at the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing discussions. FCOSS director Hasan Khan says a social pension scheme would be in line with the National Framework on Elderly and Ageing, and help elderly people who do not have FNPF or receive any other forms of assistance.
UN AMBASSADOR WINSTON THOMPSON discusses the opportunities and challenges facing the county. I will publish the interview in full in next Weekend Readings.
QANTAS PLANES GROUNDED. Air Pacific has not been affected.
MASSIVE JOB LOSSES IF MECHANIZATION GOES AHEAD. The moderate anti-government blog FijiToday says it "has been reliably informed that FSC has a plan in place for fully mechanised harvesting of sugar cane from next season. This will make redundant 80% of the present cane-cutting crews. A fleet of 4WD 30 tonne bin trucks will be purchased to transport the cane to the mills. This will replace the current truck and train system.
Fiji Sugar Marketing Company Limited (FSM), Sugar Cane Grower Council (SCGC) and the Fiji Sugar Commission (FSC) has been dissolved as part of the restructure."
They further speculate that "The sugar unions will be included under the essential industries decree immediately after the end of this sugar season and before these announcements are made."
Note: Cane-cutting crews are recruited over a large area, mainly from inland Fijian villages. The loss of these jobs will be a major blow to precarious inland economies where, contra wise, Government has been trying to improve basic infrastructure. The FSC plans, if true, should synchronize and not compete with Government initiatives. But most of all, consultations are needed with those most affected.
A LAW SOCIETY CONVENTION planned for later this month has been forbidden under the PER regulations. Surely PER, if it really is needed, can be implemented less clumsily. Why not let the convention proceed, with whatever restrictions are deemed essential, and monitor its proceedings. In the first few years after the 2006 the Law Society, with a far from "clean" record itself, was outspoken in its opposition to Government. It's now time for both parties to move on.
TUVALU WATER. A Fiji ship, holding 450,000 litres of fresh water, has arrived in Funafuti. To date NZ desalination plants have built up a reserve of 1½ million litres of water stored in Tuvalu government and council water tanks on Funafuti and a Red Cross desalination units on Nukulaelae are producing just over 3,000 litres of water a day.