News and Comments Thursday 10 May 2012

THE ROLE OF THE MILITARY. FijiToday picked up Col. Tikoitoga's comment that the new constitution will spell out the future role of the RFMF  and asked, "Does this mean he already knows what is in the constitution?"

This is not the first time one or another of the anti-bloggers have tried to diminish the constitution reform process by hinting the constitution is already written. (See Disinformation #1 published on March 23.)  But this time surely everyone knows that the new constitution must spell out the role of the military for not to do so would be a terrible omission given the military involvement in all four coups.

Here is an abbreviation of the Fiji Sun's article on the issue:

RFMF Land Force Commander, Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga confirmed that the new constitution will clearly define the role of the Republic of the Fiji Ministry Forces (RFMF).Allegations of the future involvement of the RFMF in politics  were unfounded. The RFMF was apolitical and will remain that way.

In an earlier interview, he said, the RFMF intervened in the political leadership of the nation in 2006 for good reasons, the level of corruption.The RFMF was obliged to clean-up the dirty politics that had misled the people. The military takeover in 2006 was specifically for a clean-up campaign.

“The rot set in around 2000, and the military acted only after they had endured a deteriorating situation over a long time, putting up with scams, corruption and bribery.” Colonel Tikoitoga also said the military was not happy with what it viewed to be politics of favouritism that promoted corruption and abuse of office. The RFMF's current role is to oversee the security of the nation and protect all Fijians. This is why the military has given its full support to the time frame set out for the formulation of the new constitution.

Matilda Bogner
THE MEDIA DECREE AND SELF-CENSORSHIP. In response to claims by  Matilda Bognor, the Regional representative for UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) A-G Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the Media Industry Development Decree 2010 outlines a transparent code of ethics and practice; and included provisions that provide protections from false or misleading information; discrimination; obstruction of justice; subterfuge; harassment; protection of consumers and provisions to support balanced reporting.

Matilda Bogner said despite this, it appears that a culture of self-censorship continues to exist for journalists in Fiji. “A preliminary media content analysis conducted recently by my office, comparing Fiji’s two main daily newspapers, The Fiji Times and the Fiji Sun, before and after the lifting of the PER, suggests that there has been no distinguishable change in the level of criticism of the Fiji Government observed in either newspaper.”  Bogner said the research also suggests that in both papers there is a tendency to rely heavily on the Prime Minister and Attorney-General, Fiji government department spokespeople, sports people and private sector leaders, as sources, with little to no prominence given to alternative or critical voices, such as those from opposition political parties or civil society.

Sayed-Khaiyum did not address the self-censorship accusation directly but said Bogner had oversimplified the Media Decree and failed to recognize the historical factors that produced it.

 “Under Section 80 of the Decree, if the Minister has reason to believe that any 'broadcast or publication may give rise to disorder...and cause undue demands to be made upon the security agencies or may result in a breach of the peace...promote disaffection or public alarm...or undermine the Government and the State of Fiji' in a way that incites violence, or threatens national security, then the Minister may prohibit such broadcast or publication.”  He said the media is free to approach whoever it wants to for comment, including Ms Bognor, but "before issuing such sweeping claims about the media environment and by inference commenting on Fiji's political environment, any reporter must undertake an equally expansive analysis of all media.”

Ms Bognor's remarks were made on World Press Freedom Day (May 3) and referred to all Pacific Island nations. She said that for the most part, the media is free to actively debate and discuss issues and express opinions but that self-censorship remains a concern."Press freedom is indeed a delicate flower in the Pacific. It needs to be nurtured in order to grow."

Earlier, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay welcomed the lifting of the PER in Fiji as a step in the right direction and encouraged the Fiji Government to build on the momentum with concrete steps to ensure full respect for the rule of law and human rights.

SENIOR IMMIGRATION OFFICER JAILED for bribery and abuse of office.

MARCH FLOODS COST GOVERNMENT $90 MILLION, more than twice the costs of the January floods. 

FLOOD FOOD RATIONS. Around 50,000 flood-affected families in the West  have so far received food rations.

MARA'S WARRANT EXTENDED. Fugitive Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara's bench warrant  has been extended to July by Chief Magistrate Usaia Ratuvili.

WHY NO PASSPORTS AGAIN? The Immigration Department is awaiting  word from the Solicitor-General's office on whether Oberthur Technologies has breached their contract obligation with the delay in sending of passports to Fiji. Some 40,000 new passports are now expected arrive on the 14th.


Surplus to requirements? said…
Who is Matilda Bognor? Where is she? In the Western Division of Fiji where we have suffered now from three horrific flood events since January 2012, we have never laid eyes on her.

Yet, we are told, she is the the UN Representative of the OHCHR? Que? As another contributor occasionally is wont to remark.

If the EIU (Economist Intelligence Unit) is correct, and we have indeed lost around $300m from the Fiji economy PRIOR to the March 30, 31, April 1 Flood - which would suggest far higher losses, then Ms Bognor should be "putting herself about"? Losses in Nadi Town alone to private enterprise are now placed at $20m alone. 42 businesses will never reopen: all has been lost, uninsured.

We fully expect to meet with her soon. Why was she not at the USP-funded FORUM last week at the FNU?

Otherwise, she would appear to be surplus to requirements.
Anonymous said…
What about the "rot" within the military itself ? Constant over spending and refusal to be audited. Frequent beatings. A senior leader found guilty of manslaughter after being drunk and king hitting (then kicking them on the ground) retaining his job and being promoted. What about the "above the law" attitudes. What about the coup in 2006 and the subsequent removing of the constitution.

There is plenty of rot in the military as well.
Let the debate begin said…
Yes the constitution must spell out the roll of the military but first we must debate the roll they play today. That would mean Frank and co would have to allow others to argue their role has been destructive, disruptive and set the country back at least 10 years economically. They have also exercised poor judgement (look at all the people promoted then removed), they are not transparent and practice their style of nepotism. The military where getting pay rises when no one else. Coup supporters have been rewarded with government rolls. They frequently travel at great cost. Abuse of leave, provisions and other entitlements is frequent (and why would it not be when the PM himself set the standard by taking all that back pay ! They talk multi-culture but ensure they remain 99.9 with fijian by only speaking Fijian...including the PM when he addresses them. They failed to protect democracy by returning labour to power in 2000.

Yes we need the debate but will the PM allow it when their is picture out there very different to his illusion and spin....
Might have to go fishing said…

Is the head if immigration still a military appointment ? I suspect so as that could be the only reason they could have kept their job. This fiasco has gone on for years now. Other military appointments to this role have been promoted even further !!! Any civilian would have been sacked and removed.

Waiting for my passport
yea yea said…
In 2006 the RFMF said the PM & his minister where corrupt - yet no evidence has emerged on this, so this reason is quietly forgotten.

They also promised to fix sugar within two year. Sugar has gone backwards every year for 6 years.

They also promised no one in military would benefit from the coup. Of course the biggest pay rises and the most promotions since then have happened in the military. Col Tikoitoga is one such person to benefit hugely from the coup. The their are all his soldiers now holding plum government roles !
RFMF IS political said…
The military was apolitical and will remain that way ? What a load of rubbish. They are heavily, heavily involved in all arms of government right now. They keep the current government (appointed by the military) in power. They have also said they would not tolerate a return of SDL - is that not a political view ?

Sorry this new Col and spokesperson for government (how could that be apolitical) makes a mess everytime he speaks.
don't trust the military said…
Re: Role of the Military

This is a very legitimate question to ask.

The new constitution is very important for all the military and any others involved in the coup of 2006 and then the abrogation of the constitution in 2009. They have all committed treason and should they ever lose power will be open to criminal prosecutions and lengthy jail time.

The military are aware of this and I am sure they will not leave their futures in the unpredictable hands of the people of Fiji. They will need to be reassured about their future security if they are to give up power to an elected Government.

Bainimarama has always said some things about the new constitution are non-negotaible. He has mentioned some such as one man one vote and the new voting age. He has never said he has announced all the non negotiable parts of the constitution. I think we will find that some references in the constitution about the military will be non negotiable as will pardons for all involved in the 2006 coup.

In addition to this what Tikoitoga said is at odds to how Aziz responded when asked about the return of the soldiers to the military barracks by the MCG last week..
“My reply to them was, we’ll come to a decision after all the constitutional processes had been implemented”

That seems to say the military will make a decision about their own future once the new constitution is in place.

It is also completely opposed to your own comment “But this time surely everyone knows that the new constitution must spell out the role of the military for not to do so would be a terrible omission given the military involvement in all four coups.”
Anonymous said…
We will never have an enquiry re passports nor will there be one for the flashflood in Nadi river; ie. a 2 meter rise in 30 minutes.
What role did the Water Authority play in this.

Both scenarios, put paid completely to the idea that we have a peoples army that has the citizenries welfare at heart.
What we have is a Military Council that is nothing more than a self serving committee to pander and protect the Dictator.
Paula said…
Thanks for letting us know what the Sun reports. This wonderful publication full of unbiased and intelligent reporting has a recent history of pointing out the way forward. As far as the role of the military is concerned, we should not overlook a simple fact: They have never bothered to obey they law. Coups were illegal in 87 in 2000 in 2006 and 2009. Why should we believe that this time around they would obey another piece of legislation that constraints them to the normal role of a military force in a democratic society?
Croz Walsh said…
@ Paula ... I read and use ALL sources available to me (including the Fiji Sun) and, unlike other blogs, I cite my sources. Perhaps this is why I cannot predict outcomes as confidently as you. On the RFMF, you could be right, partly right, or completely wrong. I don't see Bainimarama handing over power without strong assurances of immunity, but I do think there will be elections in 2014. What actually happens will probably be decided in the forthcoming months as the Constitution Commission and C. Assembly set to work. The best outcome depends on how people and parties opposed to Bainimarama react. So far, I have not been very impressed.
Suggestions part 1 said…
Dear Croz,

You asked for suggestions on this so here goes….

Steps the PM could take to improve his and his government’s credibility:

1. Set a time line for the withdrawal of all military personnel from government roles. I suggest by the end of 2012. For those doing a great job (I believe there a couple who fall into this bucket) they could continue but should fully resign from the military and accept a civilian career. AU & NZ have said they will lift sanctions on citizens taking up roles to replace the military so no one can roll out old excuses.

2. Replace the Police commissioner or (as I also believe he is doing a pretty good job) he should resign from the military. The police will never be seen as independent as long as we have them effectively reporting to the Military.

3. Appoint a Finance Minister. The charade of having the PM being the Finance Minister has gone on too long. Find a professional and someone who actually knows something about money. The AG has enough to do without having to look at finance as well.

4. Publish the salaries of the PM and all government ministers. Set a standard that all other governments must follow. PM and all ministers should also register assets and any related businesses. Remove the doubt around nepotism and excess salaries. The AG has already suggested a register idea for future elected government so why not apply now to the current government?
Suggestions part 2 said…

5. Start referring to them selves as “interim” and stop pretending they have some sort of “mandate”. There is potential for good to come from their coup but no amount of time or spin will change the fact they came to power by way of their guns.

6. Make a public apology to those directly affected by the coup. Especially those who suffered at the hands of military beatings or where publicly shamed. I don’t believe it was a large group of people or is happening now but the memory haunts many.

7. It’s probably too late to do much about Francis Kean now but government should make it clear there will be no more special treatment for Military, Police or government supporters. In fact the Military and Police should be held accountable to a higher standard given their training and role model status in society.

8. Make a public commitment to reduce travel. The PM appears to be away on a junket every other week. There is much to do at home. For essential travel a max the number of two people. The practice of taking family members along should stop immediately. Ministers and government officials take their lead from the PM and he travels too much and at too higher an expense for a small pacific country. I sat next to Hari Punja on a plane recently and he didn’t need an entourage.

9. PM to make it clear if he is going to run in the 2012 election or not. If the answer is yes he should outline a clear timetable for when he is going to 1) resign from the military? This is a must if he is to run. And 2) When is he going to step down as interim PM ? I would suggest this be done at least 12 months before the election. The PM must avoid the temptation to stay in power and use his government’s money, decrees and control of the military to win an election.

10. Why not allow the SDL/Labour parties to nominate a candidate for constitutional commissioner.
how to react said…
“The best outcome depends on how people and parties opposed to Bainimarama react. So far, I have not been very impressed.”

I find that a very curious statement to make. Please tell me what type of reaction would impress you?
Paula said…
@ Suggestions
Fully support your constructive list of steps. I suggest three more:

Take voter registration out of the AG's office and appoint an independent election commissioner. It is very unlikely that the electoral process is controlled by someone with very strong interest in the election outcome

Invite international election monitors even for the voter registration and particularly for the election itself

Repeal the Public Order Decree and other restrictions on public debate. Allow people to be 'disaffected' with the regime. They have not earned anyones affection.

Well, I do not pretend to now the future. I have only cited undeniable empirical evidence and ask the question why should we trust the military now? Because you say so?
Perfidious Folly or...... said…
@ Croz

How would you react, can you imagine, had you no passport and were unable to travel out of a land encompassed by endless draconian and ever more creative decrees for over a year or more? It is something akin to a nightmarish Russian novel, is it not? No wonder the Russian Foreign Minister,Sergei Lavrov feels so At Home en passant? His eternally-present boss, Putin, is back for a six-year term as President. But he never really left? And presumably never will? A prolonged charade which Russians are beginning slowly to perceive: perfidious Folly or Faustian deal?
Self-censoring as an idea said…
What is wrong with 'self-censorship'? We all do it, all the time for a variety of good reasons.

Good taste


Care not to unduly offend

Careful monitoring of our prejudices (against certain foods? or habits?)

A balanced sense of how we and what we write MAY be perceived or misinterpreted

Observation of a code of conduct: ethics

Cannot see at all what is wrong with this or why it should be targeted as misconceived or misconstrued?
Anonymous said…
It was 3 meters in 20 minutes at Mountain View, Martintar, Nadi

Only time to get out with our clothes on our backs, laptop and a couple other items.

It was around 9 am. If water was released from Vaturu dam, it must have happened when ex pwd employees who are now water authority employees arrived at 7am and decided to open up all the stop cocks at once to destroy Nadi.

Water Authority must be so proud.
Slings & Arrows - Wiles and Guile said…
@ Suggestions Part 2

10) The SDL and Labour Parties need to reinvent themselves.

That is self-evident. Their leadership and leadership-style.

No invitation should be made until they have done so with tests applied. The tests should be of universal application; they should be transparent; they should be rigorous. They should be inclusive and honest with their potential constituencies.

Failing this, dispense with them. Neither may be said to be formerly honest or lacking in wiles and guile. We have all suffered for 'the slings and arrows' of their outrageous fortunes.
Walker Texas Ranger said…
Senior Immigration Officer jailed for bribery? Oh yes? Are they still being bribed and permiting persons charged with Crimes Against Humanity like rape to abscond overseas? Aided and abetted by corrupt lawyers? Or corrupt Police Officers?

Or both? We need to find out immediately. No overseas country adjacent to Fiji should be permitting entry to such persons. They must be barred entry. Rape is now a matter for only the High Court of Fiji. Any interference with Due Process will not be tolerated.

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