News and Comments Monday 22 October 2012

Rodin's The Thinker
A THOUGHT TO START THE  WEEK. Change is not made without inconvenience, even from worse to better. -- Richard Hooker.

MY VIEWS ON THE OLD AND NEW SENATE. The old Senate comprised 32 members, 14 of whom were appointed by the President on the advice of the Great Council of Chiefs to represent the 14 provinces, 9 by the Prime Minister, 8 by the Leader of the Opposition, and one by the Council of Rotuma. The old senate reflected chiefly power and replicated parliament without adding anything to its skills or representativeness.

The new Senate could be an assembly of some 24 representative experts with authority to receive public petitions, advise Government, and perhaps defer certain legislation for further parliamentary consideration.

Membership could, for example,  comprise the Vice-President as chairman, and one or two representatives each from  designated sections of society such as the professions, educationalists, lawyers, accountants, environmental scientists, trade unions, employers' associations, religious organizations, ethnic minorities, women, youth, and the disabled, all preferably elected or nominated by them from among  their membership.

The chiefs and the disciplined forces (military, police, correction services) could also each have two members, and certain officers (for example, the PM, Leader of the Opposition, Ombudsman) or their nominees  could be ex officio members with or without voting rights. Senate could meet for one or two days six times a year when parliament is sitting, and senators could be paid a sitting fee and expenses.

FTUC-PAFCO MANAGEMENT MEETING STOPPED BUT ... The meeting in Levuka between PAFCO management and the Fiji Trade Union Congress  to discuss issues faced by workers in the fish canning factory began at 10:15am on Friday and at 11:15am police officers arrived and said they were under orders from Suva to stop the meeting,  but later agreed the meeting could continue but only if police officers were present.The union refused the demand.

Anthony complained unions continued to be faced with disruptions from the authorities despite Government assurances that they can work freely. He condemned the action taken by police and seeks an explanation on the legitimacy of their behavior, and demands that the names of those from Suva who had ordered such actions undertaken by the Levuka Police be revealed. --Based on Radio NZ International.

... POLICE LEFT ARM DIDN'T KNOW WHAT RIGHT ARM IS DOING. Police Chief Operation Officer ACP Rusiate Tudravu said the PAFCO meeting was stopped when their officers acted on a report lodged in Suva regarding the meeting. After consultations with the Commissioner of Police they instructed their officers to allow the meeting to continue as the case that was the subject of the Suva report  had nothing to do with the Levuka meeting.The meeting resumed shortly after.

Police chief operations officer ACP Rusiate Tudravu  expressed the authority’s regrets for any inconvenience caused.

Comment. The police apology should be welcomed but this is not the first time a "breakdown of communications" within the Force has impacted on union activities. This was not a public meeting and the police should have had no role to play. It could help relations if the officer responsible personally apologized to the union officials, Anthony and Urai, and the PAFCO management. Such an apology is part of the "Fijian way." Radio NZ International was quick off the mark with the Anthony accusation but failed to report the police apology.

SINGAPORE THE WAY FIJI COULD BE. Speaking at the eighth year of the annual Pubic Service Excellence Awards function last week, the PM thanked the Government of Singapore for making available Peter Ho, who so eloquently shared his experiences of being a public servant "in a country that is a benchmark for excellence itself.

"No country in the Asia Pacific region inspires us more than Singapore. In 50 years, this small island nation, approximately the size of Taveuni, has grown – through good governance and hard work - into one of the economic giants of the region,” the PM said." Singapore has successfully forged a range of individuals and groups into a united, peaceful, non-corrupt, modern, well-educated and dynamic nation.Singapore is the way Fiji aspires to be, the way Fiji will be if Fijians work as hard as Singaporeans to make it happen.”

PM CONGRATULATES CIVIL SERVANTS. Speaking at the same function, the PM said it was an honour for him to congratulate a selected few who had worked beyond the call of duty and who contributed to building a better Fiji. “It is your skill that is delivering best practice, your hard work that sets the standard for others, your integrity that keeps the Civil Service free of the widespread corruption that used to mar its performance,” Commodore Bainimarama said.

The prime minister said although there was incompetence, laziness and corruption it should not be an excuse. “We all know there are elements in the Civil Service who have not  met the high standards we require. There is incompetence, laziness and corruption. And there is no excuse for this,” Commodore Bainimarama said.

“This, of course, is a small minority. Fortunately, the majority of civil servants take their duties seriously. And some,like the winners tonight, aspire to greatness.”

The PM announced that as from 2013, individual civil servants would be assessed on their individual
performance and paid accordingly.

“This is one of the most basic reforms of all – to reward individual effort and encourage initiative and
innovation. We are freeing our smarter workers from the straightjacket of being grouped with their less ambitious peers and giving them the opportunity to excel and reap the benefits.”

KEEPING HIMSELF RELEVANT. Former Fiji coup-maker, Sitiveni Rabuka,  has suggested military and civilian leaders co-operate in a special committee after elections in order to avoid future coups. He said the committee would be a way of keeping tabs on relations to prevent them breaking down again.

Rabuka told delegates to a conference on Democracy in the Pacific at Canterbury University in Christchurch there was hope for better relations after the 2014 elections and the committee should only be a temporary solution for restoring full democracy.

“The conference system I suggest here could be the best bet in maintaining good civil/military relations. And while it provides a great check and balance venue, it removes the fallacy of the democratic victor taking all in a democratic society.” Rabuka said he might stand as an independent in the elections.

He also suggested an offer of forgiveness from the Great Council of Chiefs for regime leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama as a way forward.-- Radio NZ International/Pacific Media Watch.

CHINESE CONTRACTORS NOT PAYING FNPF CONTRIBUTIONS. Water Authority of Fiji Chief Opetaia Ravai has expressed "disappointment" with Chinese contractors China Railway Five Company for allegedly failing to pay FNPF contributions of its local workers. The FNPF has confirmed receiving complaints from employees. “We are definitely concerned we’ll speak to them in no uncertain terms if they want to operate in Fiji they need to abide by the laws of the land. So we’ll speak to them about this.” The company is contracted to carry out water and sewerage works.


jimboy said…

Republishing a news article, is good but only sometimes.
Readers may have already seen the news article on Rabuka speaking at University of Canterbury.

What is more warranted is getting your opinion on what he said or possibly reflect on the irony of Rabuka, lecturing on democracy. Thanks
Scott said…
Given the size of the Fiji population, there is no need to have two houses of a national parliament on the public payroll. So abolish the Senate altogether is the first, and I believe most desirable option. More importantly however, if there is to be a Senate, do not give its members any power to `defer certain legislation for further parliamentary consideration'. However chosen, the Senators will be unrepresentative, in a popular democratic sense, and giving them any powers at all will be anti-democratic. It took a long period for the UK to strip the House of Lords of its powers. In the US, where the Senate comprising 2 members from each State regardless of population size can block/filibuster and otherwise impede a popularly elected President and House of Representatives there is now constant grid-lock. If politicians want expert advice, there are myriad ways this can be obtained without having an upper house.
While hopefully there will be no Senate, recognising those bastions of the past, chiefs, with appointments to the Senate simply because they are chiefs is not advisable for numerous reasons. A major achievement of the current regime is to attack racism and heredity in many institutional forms. Chiefs continue to embody Fiji's hereditary and racist institutions which the regime is committed to abolishing. For many years the UK has been hamstrung in attempts to modernise it by the continued existence of all forms of heredity and religious bigotry (lords, ladies, Anglican church officials etc.) and Fiji does not need to replicate the British experience.
Crosbie Walsh said…
@ Jimboy .. Agree but many may not have seen this, and my heading "Keeping Himself Relevant" says something about what I think.

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