News and Comments Friday 18 January 2013

• Daylight saving • Download copies of recent decrees, the leaked draft and submissions • Corrections to my party decree article  • Commendable code of conduct for political parties    • Father Barr, Judas and the PM
• Methodist church turns over a new leaf • Victor Lal, Mick Beddoes: the heading tells it all • Mark of the Beast

DAYLIGHT SAVING. Sunday 20 January. People in Fiji should put their clocks back one hour at 3am otherwise their children may arrive an hour too early at school on Monday when Term I commences.

These and other files may be seen on the "Resource Material" page under the blog' main heading.
Copies of all decrees may be downloaded from the government website 

And most submissions from the Constitution Commission's website Weebly

Highlight the file you wish to see, copy it as an URL address, and press enter.

CORRECTIONS TO MY PARTY DECREE ARTICLE. In my article "Political Party Decree Misconceived" published yesterday I erred in assuming the new decree applied to new parties.  It applies only to previously existing parties.  New parties will be able to register up to 28 days before the elections. The statement on the exclusion of the President, PM and Cabinet members  from the list of public officers requires further explanation. The PM, for example, is seen to hold an office and a position. If he wishes to stand for elections he must resign his office as Commander of the RFMF but not his position as PM.  The Ghai draft constitution proposed the withdrawnal of the PM and Cabinet before the elections and denied them a right to stand as candidates in the election.  My article omitted to mention that the RFMF is on the public office list.

Having now read the decree I can now add more details.  • If any of the existing parties fail to meet the conditions of registration within 28 days, they are considered deregistered. • If the Registrar refuses to register a political party, he must provide the reasons in writing, and his decision can be appealed in the High Court. • No one who has been declared bankrupt or who has served a prison sentence of six or more months within the past five years can be a registered member of a political party or stand for election. • The internal organization of political parties comes under closer scrutiny to ensure that they are internally democratic. No member may be expelled, for instance, unless he or she is seen to have infringed the party constitution and is the offered a fair opportunity to be heard before a party's internal disputes committee. This provision may have helped the FLP avoid the internal disputes between the Chaudhrys and Krishna Datt and the trade unionists. • The names of all party members and officers, its sources of funding and the financial situation of the party, must be provided to the Registrar.This information must also be kept in the party offices and may be inspected by the public upon payment of a fee. This provision has the merit of transparency but  it could also be seen to infringe on a person's privacy and be  subject to abuse and intimidation.

These provisions seem reasonable.  The two unreasonable elements in the decree are  those concerning (a) the high membership numbers and geographic representation requirement, and (b) the exclusion of "public officers" from party membership.  

COMMENDABLE CODE OF CONDUCT FOR POLITICAL PARTIES. The first schedule of  the Political Party Decree outlines a code of conduct for political parties. They fall into three categories.

First, those promoting good governance, integrity, transparency and accountability within the party (e.g., the fair election of officers and nominations: compliance with the rules of its constitution).

Secondly, proper behaviour outside the party (e.g., discouraging violence by members and supporters, peddling influence, bribery and other forms of corruption; the acceptance or use of illicit or illegal money; use of public resources other than those allocated to the political party). All these provisions may be considered commonplace but there have been too many instances in Fiji where political parties have not followed one or more of these requirements.

The provision in the third category are unique and necessary.  They require all parties not to "advocate hatred that constitutes ethnic or religious incitement or vilification of others or any other communal antagonism",  to respond to the interests, the concerns and the needs of the citizens of Fiji; to respect and uphold the democratic process as they compete for political power so as to implement their policies; to promote consensus building in policy decision making on issues of national importance; to promote national patriotism and national unity; and respect, uphold and promote democratic values and principles, performing inclusive participation of political party members and accountable representation in governance" and to "respect, uphold and promote human dignity, equity, social justice, equality and non-discrimination."  There are more along similar lines.

Everything in the Code of Conduct is commendable. If only similar wisdom and foresight were evident in all of the decree's provisions, it would have be welcomed by all who wish Fiji well.

FATHER BARR, JUDAS AND THE PM. Fr Barr wrote a letter to The Fiji Times questioning whether the PM's proposed new flag for Fiji would consist of a smaller version of the Chinese flag.  He had previously cautioned against the level of Chinese investment in the country.  Readers familiar with the use of satire in the English language would have seen it as a tongue-in-cheek letter.  But, with respect, Fr Barr should have known better.  The PM is not familiar with the subtleties of the English
language and often reacts too quickly to what he sees as personal insult.

The PM rang Fr Barr and let loose with both barrels in language that he should not have used, which should not be repeated, and which the PM, some time later, probably regretted using. My guess is that he felt let down by Fr Barr who he had previously considered a friend.  The PM  also threatened Fr Barr with the withdrawal of his work permit at the end of the year.  Fr Barr emailed  an account of the phone call to his Archbishop and the Australian High Commission, which was a sensible
precaution.  Unfortunately, he also copied the email  to a small group of people he assumed were his close friends under the heading "For your eyes only" — failing to remember that there's usually a Judas even in the best company.

We don't know who the Judas was but in no time at all Fr Barr's email was being published and republished by the anti-Bainimarama blogs. Now, every Tom, Dick and Harry (and even Michael Field) knows about it, and many will use it to further their cause.  This was not Fr Barr's intention in sending the email to "close friends."  The blogs have intruded on Fr Barr's privacy and made reconciliation with the PM that much more difficult but that, presumably, was part of their intention.

Far be it for me to offer advice to Fjii's most well known and most highly respected priest.  Fr Barr's record as an activist for the poor, most recently as chairman of the Wages Council, member of the Housing Authority,  and his  work in the People's Community Network  demonstrates his concern for social justice which his sees as as part of his role as a priest.

This was probably also the reason for his recent interest in the newly formed Workers' Party.  But there is a difference. This is a political party and  being seen on stage with Felix Anthony and visiting trade unionist Sharan Burrows at the party's formation meeting in Nadi last weekend will be seen by some as a political act, and contrary to the conditions of his work permit. My advice, Father, is to continue working for social justice, including the rights of trade unionists, but steer well clear of would be politicians who are most likely using you.  My advice the the PM?  Continue working for social justice and be reconciled with this good friend of Fiji.

METHODIST CHURCH TURNS OVER A NEW LEAF. The leaders of Fiji's largest Christian denomination - the Methodist Church - who take up their roles this year want to work closely with the government. Church general secretary Reverend Tevita Nawadra said the new leaders, during a standing committee meeting, decided they would work with government. They also decided that the government must listen to the church's needs. Mr Nawadra said with the new year, those leaders who had been causing trouble for the church and its members were out and the new leaders would move the church to new levels.

Rev Nawadra  said the past four years for the church were tough as far as its relationship with the government was concerned. There have been divisions within the Church, membership has dropped and relations with other churches had not been good.

"We want to better our relationship with our members and with other churches in Fiji.  ...We believe Fiji is one and all the churches are one ... and we want to reconcile with all churches". he said. It was time for the church to do away with suspicious thinking and move towards a better Fiji.

VICTOR LAL, MICK BEDDOES, THE HEADING TELLS ALL. "Carrying on Regime's Propaganda against Draft Ghai Constitition: Bob Carr the Unelected Australian Senator and Minister of Foreign Affairs 'Bobbying' Against Great Council of Chiefs and National Peoples Assembly." This was the heading in the  Fiji Today article by Victor Lal. It's a fair summary of the article.

In this diatribe, Victor Lal claims the Australian Foreign Minister has no right to speak because he was not elected. Victor, if that's a shortcoming, its a product of the Australian political system, not a fault by Carr. Australia does not appoint its Foreign Ministers who cannot speak.  You should note also that the Ghai draft that you support recommended the appointment of non-elected members to the Fiji Cabinet. You did not challenge this recommendation. Nor did you  mention that  non-elected members of the Fiji Senate often  served in past Fiji Cabinets. Why single out Bob Carr?

You also refer to Prof Yash  Ghai as  "the world's leading constitutional lawyer"(prominent, yes;s leading disputable).  You then  accuse  Carr  of "perpetuating the Fiji regime's propaganda" because he raised questions about the draft's  recommendations on  an  unelected National People's Assembly and an unelected Great Council of Chiefs.

Down goes one man because you disagree with him and up comes  among because you agree with him. This is hardly an academic approach, Victor.   Attack the argument,  not the man.

Mick Beddoes has also leapt into the attack condemning what he called Bob Carr's  "endorsement of the Regime’s unilateral decision to ‘scrap’ the Draft Constitution." In fact, all Senator Carr said was that he could "understand" why the Fiji Government acted as it did. He did not endorse the Regime or its actions.  Nor for that matter did the Government "scrap" the Ghai draft. It is amending it.  The use of imprecise, emotional language cannot help our understanding of what is going on, and why.

MARK OF THE BEAST.  It's the funny season in Fiji. Otherwise intelligent people are circulating an email which likens a presumed US requirement for health care recipients to have a microchip identity implant in the forehead or arm to the "Mark of the Beast" prophesied in the Book of Revelations. The email urges all Fijians to prepare for the Rapture —the End Time is Coming!  And these people vote!


The Dictator's Friend said…
If as you suggest Father Barr was/is a friend of Fiji's human rights abusing dictator then he deserves all he gets, and aptly fits the term used by the dictator to describe him?
Anonymous said…
I agree that Bainimarama's command of English needs some work as does the rest of his education. And he is certainly not mature enough to understand anything humorous or satyrical. A great leader, indeed. But it was indeed all Judas fault, not Bainimarama's. Croz, your ability to put a pro regime spin on things is truly eye watering. Shoot the messenger.
Scott said…
The proposed provision in the Political Party Decree which limits the formal involvement of public officials in membership, and by extension office holding in parties deals with a more complex matter than is perhaps realised. Being `partisan' often collides with being `impartial' where public officials are concerned.
A central feature of much administration practice under colonialism relied upon public officials not being able to also be involved in commerce and in party politics. Straddling between a public position and private accumulation of wealth was often barred, which assisted in checking corruption. In Papua New Guinea, for example, for much of the period after World War II, public servants could not also be coffee planters, forcing several - including George Greathead and Ian Downs - to resign senior administration positions.
These rules tended to be relaxed from the late colonial period on and became non-existent, or just not enforced, after Independence. Much that is now regarded as corruption occurs when public officials use their offices for private gain, for themselves, relatives and friends. There is at least one prominent case before the courts in Fiji which revolves around the appropriate separation between holding public office in a development bank and using this to advance private commercial activities.
Where political parties are concerned, here too the opportunities for corruption increase when public officials are permitted also to be party members and by extension, party officers. This does not mean barring public officials from voting as they desire in the privacy of the ballot box under one vote, one value rules. However the possibilities for corruption as well as exercising direct and covert partisan political influence are reduced by limiting the activities of public officials within parties.
Anything which opens space for broader political participation and reduces the `closed shop' nature of politics in Fiji, with a relatively small number of people of the traditional, educated and commercial elites dominating all public spheres also should be encouraged. That it may take a relatively undemocratic regime to bring about such opening is one of the turns and twists the advance of democracy sometimes takes.
Anonymous said…
You can argue on whether it is difficult to register a political party or not but please do note that there is an opportunity for people to do so; this seems very different to any other dictatorship;

The Ghai draft was a joke - there would be no MPs to represent an electorate but rather MPs for a whole region; NGO appointed Senate - the NGOs are enjoying all the perks of their position currently with all their overseas travel - if anyone has the time get the NGOs to report overseas travel by key staff NY, Geneva, London, Bank, Washington.

NGO slush funds said…
And how much they get paid by who and how much is spent on administration salaries and overseas travel and how much goes on consultants from donor countries and what conditions are imposed in exchange for aid. You must employ our man? You must not employ anyone who is not our man? Oh dear the tide has turned, and suddenly our man is not our man! The games played by donor agencies and NGO's are well known.
wati s said…
I suppose we should expect nothing less. A bizarre attempt to share around the blame for a military dictator with ALL the power to jail, deport etc, threatening and abusing a priest. Only you Croz would again warn Fr Barr to behave himself while explaining away, again the dusgusting behaviour of someone I pay,(don't know how much though or for how long i will keep having to). But I do find the Bainimarama is 'just not good at english and ignorant' angle.
Anonymous said…
I also remember how few condemned Caucau for the Indians are weeds comment in Parliament.
Joe said…
Why are these unionists so vocal against the decree? You blokes have a lot of time at hand to register your new party. The only difference now is that you choose one or the other. You cant double dip anymore. Why should the workers pay you 2 salaries, ie, union fees, which you fat cats thrive on, and on top of that, tax, out of which comes your second salary should you get elected to parliament.Isnt this in the best interest of the country and its people? You cant exploit the system anymore. It is a level playing field now. Get used to it, times ahead will be good and fair to all.
Anonymous said…
Croz, you have addressed Carr as the "unelected Senator". Why are you doing the same for Frank, Aiyaz and the rest of those who have taken office by force?
Anonymous said…
I hold no brief for Victor Lal. Professor Croz what Victor pointed out was that Carr himself was unelected and was plucked out of retirement - six years - to become Foreign Minister. You says its the system - well, we could say the same - the GCC and other non-elected members were acting and behaving because the system was created for them to be in positions of power - again, the President and Prime Minister had no right to tear apart the Ghai Constitution - it should have been decided in the Prime Minister's Constituent Assembly - again, if Professor Ghai was going to create an un-elected National Peoples Assembly - what is the President and Prime Minister planning to do - precisely, inviting safe ad hand-picked people to rubber-stamp their own version of the Constitution!
Anonymous said…
Victor Lal has provided a roadmap to disentangling ourselves from this Cabal of arrogant, incestuous, self-seeking, dysfunctional, malformed, ethically-challenged, lying individuals. Many are allegedly criminal by the yardstick of their own Decrees (all 84 of them or is it now 86?). Their Rule of Diktat shall go down in the History of the Asia-South Pacific Region for the aberration and mis-governance of a generation. They require being named individually. They shall be compelled to publicly divest themselves of all assets acquired through the abuse of their multiple offices: gains and assets since taking office in early 2007. They will be mandatorily required to attend Reparations Hearings in which they shall account for their arbitrary, illegal and morally repugnant actions to the Nation-at-Large. Somewhat more than 28 days shall be set aside preparing for this exercise. A thorough cleansing of the Augean Stables is needed first.

A "Lance Armstrong Moment" is arriving sans Oprah Winfrey to cushion the blow. We have resistance to being lied to twice. For lying twice is no accident. Armstrong himself believes he lied only once. But the lie was spun out for more than ten years! Can we believe it?
The lie was a narrative for more than ten years. Lance Armstrong himself used this literary term (which suggests he had been coached). All tyrannies use lies and bully their subjects: the willing and the not-so-willing. If we were reading the narrative, we would "get this". The Oprah Interview is compelling viewing: A Hollywood Moment in the making? The mindset of bullies is an interesting and well-visited one. Their body language is key. Always a crucial give-away. Try as they might, they reveal their innermost selves. Always stand up to bullies! And if political parties are to rein in violence in their ranks, what of the Senior Service? Paid for by the taxpayers to protect and defend them against all known threats and to meticulously prepare for the unknown. Are they not equally accountable to us all? And if not......WHY NOT?
Scott said…
Senator Carr is not unelected in the sense in which it has been used in this blog and elsewhere. He was appointed/nominated by the ALP in NSW to fill the vacant seat to which another ALP candidate had been elected previously. The Senate in Australia is constitutionally a States house with equal seats per state regardless of the population of that State. Tasmania gets the same number of Senators as Victoria or New South Wales. Half of the members are elected every three years, showing the US influence, except if a double dissolution occurs. When Paul Keating described the members of the Senate as `unrepresentative swill' he did not call them `unelected swill'.
However it is also in practice a party house. When voting for the Senate in Australia, candidates are identified by party and the distribution of votes, first and all subsequent preferences is primarily according to parties. Relatively small numbers of voters vote outside party lines. Some Independents run but are rarely elected, especially in the most populous States. Even more rarely are Independents re-elected. If candidate A from party X gets more than a quota required to be elected, the surplus above the quota is not distributed just to any candidate regardless of party but to the next candidate B of party X. This distribution means that candidate B gets votes from people who did not give him/her their first preference but voted along the party lines which ordered the candidates.
Whatever the assessment anyone wants to make of Senator Carr as Foreign Minister, his position in the NSW ALP, dominated by one of the most entrenched machines in party politics anywhere, was responsible for his nomination to fill the Senate vacancy to which the retiring ALP candidate - another ALP NSW Right politician - had been elected at an earlier election. The procedure for filling vacancies is now constitutionally determined: whenever a vacancy occurs it is filled by the party from which the retiring Senator came.
Senator Carr holds an elected seat, just not a seat to which candidates are elected on the same basis as for the lower, House of Representatives with its single member constituencies. The Australian Senate is not the British House of Lords with hereditary and nominated members for whom there is no electoral process at all. The GCC membership is/was akin to the House of Lords not the Australian Senate.Heredity in the British and Fiji meanings of the word plays no part in filling seats in the Australian Senate. It is helpful if debates bear some relationship to the differences between parliamentary and other governing institutions in separate countries.
Victor who? said…
In Victor Lal's shadowy world, spite and gossip pass for journalism.

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