News and Comments Thursday 29 March 2012

A super-majority shareholder?
QANTAS POWERS OVER AIR PACIFIC REMOVED. Government has changed airline ownership rules in a new Civil Aviation Ownership and Control of National Airlines Decree which now takes away the veto and super-majority rights given to Qantas, that owns 46.3%,  in Air Pacific. Government owns 51%. Despite its minority shareholder position, Qantas had previously  maintained effective control of Air Pacific through super-majority and veto rights over significant areas of the company including the appointment of the Air Pacific Chairman, Deputy Chairman, annual operating budget, any expenditure, new air routes, variations to Air Service schedules, management appointments, employee incentive schemes including bonuses, and numerous other key areas of oversight, control and decision making.

TIKOITOGA WRONG, CHAUDHRY RIGHT. Land Force Commander, Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga says FLP leader Mahendra Chaudhry was "sacked from his ministerial portfolio [in the Bainimarama] because of nonperformance.” Chaudhry, rightly, denies the accusation. He resigned in August 2008 so that he could contest the 2009 elections that never eventuated. And all media reports at that time with confirm his denial.  It is not clear why a  military spokesman should be speaking on behalf of Government.  One would have thought this would be the role of the Ministry of Information and other Government ministries but if Tikoitoga insists on speaking he would be well advised to first get his facts right.
TIKOITOGA CLAIMS FLP-SDL PLOT. Co. Tikoitoga also claimed the RFMF "knows of plans by politicians to combine to oust the Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama-led Government in the 2014 elections." His remark is important for three reasons: It came from the military that, in my view, should leave such accusations to Government; it was a reaction against a well publicised, and hardly secret, announcement by Chaudhry; and it suggests that Bainimarama will, as many have thought, contest the 2014 as the head of a Government-led party.  One hopes the FLP-SDL announcement and Tikoitoga's reaction will not detract from the Constitution reform process due to commence soon.  Meanwhile, Bainimarama has urged Chaudhry to channel his remarks to the Constitution Commission (of which Chaudhry does not approve.) 

BAINIMARAMA SAYS CONSTITUTION WILL NOT ADDRESS ROLE OF MILITARY. From May to July a civic education programme, in English, Fijian and Hindi,  will be conducted to highlight issues for Fijians to think about before they make their voices heard to the Constitutional Commission.
The PM is reported to have "dismissed calls for the Fiji constitution to address the role of the country’s military." It is to be hoped he will changed his mind.

There should be no prior imposition on what the Commission and Assembly can and cannot discuss; and the role of the military, that has been active in all Fijis' four coups, is too important not be be included. If Bainimarama wishes to break the "coup culture" the role of the military has to be clearly spelt out.

 I would assume most people would be happy to see a role (a) withstanding foreign interventions and attempts to illegally depose elected governments, (b) assisting during national emergencies, and (c) ensuring that elected governments do not contravene the Constitution, and in other stated ways upholding the Constitution. In each case military action would only be on the instruction of the President and in his absence the Vice-President.  The Constitution Commission and Assembly may also wish to at least air the possibility of the military having representation in some ancillary Government body such as Senate, if it is decided to retain Senate in some new form.

PINA MEDIA SUMMIT AND PasiMA. For 40 years the Pacific Islands News Association has represented news media in the Pacific but in 2010 a group of journalists from Cook Islands, Tonga, Samoa and Vanuatu formed PasiMA, the Pasifika Media Association, arguing that PINA had compromised its principles by not taking a stronger stance agains the Bainimarama government. PINA countered by saying more would be achieved by engagement.

This week Bainimarama opened the PINA summit in Fiji which is about  “Building a healthy and responsible media culture”. There are  sessions on indigenous media ownership, social media, anti-corruption, climate change and non-communicable diseases in the media, and building public trust in media.

Cook Island News publisher John Woods says the summit  a “junket” of journalists who have “sold out” to the military regime.The whole gathering is utterly appalling. It’s a sham and they are paying homage to corruption and evil."

Matai Akauola, PINA manager, disagreed.  “We are taking a Pacific perspective rather than a white man’s perspective. We need to engage with Governments, to talk and dialogue. We used to not engage and we would make statement after statement but that got us nowhere. We are taking this stance, it might be different, but it is not wrong.” Akauola said accountability went both ways and the media in Fiji needs to “clean up its act” before it can demand accountability from its governments.

“We aimed for 150 delegates, and now we have almost 180 people here. We are just disappointed that our traditional friends from Australia* and New Zealand* cannot be here. We thought politics didn’t play a part in Pacific media but obviously it does.”

“They (Woods, Samoa Observer editor Malifa and Vanuatu Daily Post publisher Marc Neil Jones) can throw stones but they should be here to discuss, not on the outside. We have Kalafi Moala (also a PasiMA member) here, we invited anyone and everyone. And we are disappointed that Radio New Zealand International is not here. We need professionals, academics, all kinds of people to be here and join the discussion.”   The Summit concludes tomorrow Friday.

-- Based on Alex Perrottet, contributing editor of Pacific Media Watch. 
 * But Australia's Graham Davis and NZ's David Robbie are at the Summit so we expect to be able to published more soon.


Cin Cin said…
'....I would assume most people would be happy to see a role....... (c) ensuring that elected governments do not contravene the Constitution, and in other stated ways upholding the Constitution....'

Actually I think most people would prefer that the courts performed this role.

As for 'upholding the constitution' its been a while since the RFMF understood, let alone followed, that concept.
Pacific Media Publsihers' Mafia said…
Rather surreal listening to a bunch of media company owners pontificating about media freedom when all have used their papers and influence to leverage their businesses. These companies are ripe for study to expose some hypocrites.

Marc Neil Jones a campaigner for media freedom in Vanuatu? This guy is famous for his paternalistic attitude and colonial mindset. Time and again has used his paper to further his own political and pecuniary interests in tourism. It's called cross-marketing.

His rag is foremost for promoting his opinion and his grievances. Where else will one see a paper in which the editorial and front page and news pages are about the publisher and his grievance with PINA? Is this journalism? Marc Neil style?This was evident when PINA was held in Vanuatu. Stories were blatantly one-sided and even carried a half page photo of paper's staff with Neil jones at the helm

Marc shamelessly played politics with PINA when the conference was held in Vanuatu and used his paper to the hilt. Not a peep was heard from the so-called champions of freedom like Woods and Malifa, who in their own minds believe they can do no wrong. Very good at criticising others but turn blidn eye to own faults. We have a cabal of pacific island publishers here.

What is Marc's journalistic background? what are his qualifications? Judging from his newspaper, i do not think he even knows the difference between news and opinion, something even a cadet reporter knows. Or does marc think he can get away blurring fact and opinion since it is his paper?

Marc's paper is there first and foremost to push his company interest. Paper is not much respected by Vanuatuan's but it is a virtual monopoly, big fish in small pond.

Marc sees fault in everybody and everything bit not in himself. This guy is not capable of any kind of reflective thinking; he just lashes out at critics. Sickening to hear him pontificating to Fiji/PINA while shamelessly using his paper for his own agenda. I do sympathise with his assault, totally unacceptable, but this should not stop people from asking the hard questions.
Croz Walsh said…
@ cin cin ... Thanks for picking me up on this. The first call should, of course, be with the courts. My suggestion was more in line with 'if all else fails.'
Gutter Press said…
(a) … and attempts to ‘illegally’ depose elected governments?

Probably best to ignore the legal condition - just deposing will do. After all, those responsible for the four coups have all sought legal justification for deposing the elected government and all four have achieved this, even if it meant ignoring the court to determine their own version of what is legal and what isn’t.
Gutter Press said…
I felt a little dizzy after reading the justification for the latest Civil Aviation decree.

Talk of Qantas’ ‘conflict of interest’ in being a shareholder of Air Pacific while at the same time having their low cost airline Jetstar fly into Nadi should be read in the context of Jetstar only being given permission to fly into Nadi in 2010 - by this government.

“This situation only recently came to our attention….”
If Qantas has had powers of veto since 1998, then it would seem that they’ve not used them – otherwise the situation would have come to government’s attention a lot sooner.

“The move by the government now corrects the activities of prior governments which appear to have allowed foreign citizens to control Fiji’s national airline”
And this government corrected the situation by appointing a foreign national in the form of David Pflieger?

As you wrote in your last post 'the disinformation continues...'
Blatant Racism said…
So when the junta supporter Akauola makes his blatantly racist and stupid comment against 'white man' does he include you and Davis? Perhaps he will apologise for his racist comment as the now military dominated FRU had to apologise for their terribly racist comments against the Phillipnes rugby 7s team?
Military Intelligence????? said…
Goodness me Tikoitoga has the benefit of great military intelligence. He has uncovered a plot “to oust the Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama-led Government in the 2014 elections.”

We have been away from democracy for a long time if Tikoitoga thinks it is a plot for a politician to try and win an election.

What devilishly cunning plan will the mastermind Tikoitoga devise to stop this fiendish plot from succeeding?
Scott said…
It isn't at all clear what `addressing the role of the military' in the new Constitution would mean. Apart from assigning Presidents, monarchs and such office-holders the formal role of Commander-in-chief of the armed forces, what could be said? Such a reference doesn't proscribe the use of the military in domestic politics. Think US President Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression using the military to attack the poor marching on Washington. Think WA Deputy Premier David Parker using the SAS against striking workers on the North-west Shelf. Think the massacre of university students at Kent State by military reservists. Sometimes, as in the USA in 1952, it may even take putting a soldier, General Dwight D Eisenhower into a civilan role to limit the power of another soldier General Douglas MacArthur. Each of these and numerous other examples simply demonstrate that trying to say what the military can and can not do through a Constitution would be a waste of ink, a pretence. Politics everywhere is militarised, only in different ways. Keeping the military out of politics is as vacuous an idea as keeping politics out of sport. All that can be hoped for is that elected civiian authorities have sufficient political power to be able to rule wihtout too extensive a use of the military-and no written constitution will guarantee this.
Taher said…
The noises that we hear recently from Titoitonga and Bainimarama are certainly not suitable to instill confidence into the constitutional dialogue and the elections scheduled for 2014. Why can't this undoubtedly highly intelligent gentlemen gives us all a break? They rule now for six years and have told us in no uncertain terms what we have to do and think. Now, that some sort of return to democracy seems within the realm of possibility, there are plots to oust Bainimarama in the election and there is a ban on discussing the role of the military in the constitutional dialogue. Why is the military preempting everything? Why is there no open consultation?
Chaudhry not 'sacked' said…
mahen chaudhry was not sacked. he was forced to resign after it was discovered Fiji's Robin Hood had undeclared $2m stashed in personal bank account. Technically it is the same as sacking.
Anonymous said…
So can we stop with the niceties and charade that this is a government, whe n it has always neen a regime, a junta - being run by and for the military. Why always this veneer of a 'interim govenrment' when we ALL know excatly what it is. Why are they so desperate to be seen as legitimate? Why bother?

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