News and Comments Monday 7 January 2013
QUOTE OF THE WEEK. The game is to stir up emotions, polarise people and make rational debate and compromise impossible. Sadly, rational debate and compromise are two foundations of democracy, and actively discouraging them has resulted in an increasingly dysfunctional Government. -- Letter in the NZ Listener.
|Margaret Twomey. Australian HighCom elect.|
Graham Davis has argued in Grubsheet that the Australian action on the visa is due to trade unions influence on Julia Gillard's beleagured Labour Party government. And so it might be but if this is the case it should have been a signal to the Fiji Government to seek support from its own unions.
This may seem an impossible tactic. The Fiji unions first sought and won overseas union help over Government's unnecessary repressive Essential Industries Decree. But times have changed. The draft constitution recommends all decrees that may compromise human —and trade union—rights be redrawn. The situation lends itself to a quid pro quo solution: union help with the sanctions; Government's assurance the controversial decree will be reviewed. And if not this quid pro quo, another that will lever the unions away from supporting a coalition of the old political parties. An urgent meeting now with union leaders to discuss their representation in the Constituent Assembly would be a good place to start. Finesse makes for good diplomacy; not threats and tit for tat exchanges.
THE AUSTRALIAN HIGH COMMISSIONER ELECT. Graham Davis has this to say about her:
The great shame about Fiji feeling obliged to turn away the new Australian High Commissioner to make its point is that Margaret Twomey is such a terrific appointment. She knows Fiji well, having been Deputy Head of Mission in Suva several years ago and has many local friends and acquaintances. She understands Fiji like few other diplomats and is known to be sympathetic to its challenges. The fact that she was due to come to Suva from the prestigious post of Ambassador to the Russian Federation was also a reflection of the importance Bob Carr and the rest of DFAT place on a successful outcome in 2014. But alas, all that – it seems – will come to nought.
FIJI SUN. HALF MY STORY. The Fiji Sun's front page on Saturday had the heading "ACCUSED. Neutrality of Yash Ghai's Commission questioned" in which part of what I had written in "Making Some Sense of Recent Developments" immediately preceded what Col. Mosese Tikoitonga had to say which left us looking like babes in arrms. The Sun did not misrepresent what I said but it only published half of it — the half sympathetic to Government. I'm pleased to report that the Sun's publisher Peter Lomas has agreed to publish the whole article in today's issue.
THE FIJI FLAG. The FLP has protested PM Bainimarama's announcement that plans are afoot to change the Fiji flag and I have to agree with them. A new flag may be needed to symbolise Fiji's new identity but other matters are more pressing and no change should occur until the people have been consulted. A nation-wide competition, as was the case with the present flag, and its adoption after a new Government is elected, is the way to go. No flag-ation without representation could produce another Tea Party.
CHAUDHRY STAKES HIS CLAIM. Mahendra Chaudhry continues to claim "the regime" needs to explain why it is keeping the draft constitution secret . “It is a public document," he says on the party's website. "The people have every right to know what it contains. We all know that the Constituent Assembly will debate it. But the Assembly is not an elected body – it will not have the mandate of the people ... FLP’s position is that the composition of the Assembly should be transparent and fair and [note this] take full cognizance of the elected representatives of the people."
Wrong, Mahen. See the amended decree. The draft will become a public document when it is presented to the Assembly in which your party has been invited (and apparently declined) to participate. Methinks your "mandate" is now a little old. You really do have to decide whether the FLP intends to participate in the Assembly, or oppose it. Or do you wish to sit back —as you did with the Constitution CommiSsion— to see whether it accepts all the FLP submissions, before giving or withholding your approval?
FLP AND THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY. With the names of members likely to be announced next week, the Fiji Labour Party has denied a Fiji Sun report it has asked to be represented. Instead, it has sought information on the size of the Assembly and the allocations to be made for each political party, civil society and other organisations invited, the criteria to be used to decide on seat allocation and the number of seats to be allocated to the Fiji Labour Party. A not very promising view of their likely uncompromising attitudes even before the curtain has raised.
A THOUSAND SCHOLARSHIPS FOR THE POOR. Among key targets in the Public Service Commission’s annual corporate plan for 2013 is the award of at least 1,000 scholarships and loans for those below the poverty line, the upgrading of 80 government quarters, and the provision of 100 local training programmes to civil servants.
SUGAR NEWS PROMISING. News that many evicted cane farmers are showing an interest in land availability (Sugar Cane Growers Council's acting chief executive officer, Sundresh Chetty, said his phone had been ringing non-stop) is encouraging "This renewed interest." says Chetty, " has been buoyed by a huge improvement in mill performance, increased support from industry stakeholders and the government and also a significant increase in the actual cane price expected for last season's crop." Incentives such as a reduction interest for loans for lease renewals by the Sugar Cane Growers Fund and the waiver of lease surrender fees by the iTaukei Land Trust Board negotiated by the Sugar Ministry and Committee on Better Utilisation of Land (CBUL) have also helped.
Another encouraging sign is that some 200 cane growers in the Western Division have received lease renewals for 30 years, and more are expected in 2013.
RAIWAI HOUSING PROJECT STOPPED.The Suva City Council has issued a stop work order for the Public Rental Board project at Raiwai contracted out to China Railway First Group (Fiji) Company Limited. The action is the result of a long dispute between the contracted company and the Public Rental Board over the building code. In 2010 the Board signed a $20-million commercial contract with China Railway First Group for the construction of 500 flats at the Raiwaqa and Raiwai sites in Suva to provide low to middle-income earners with affordable rental housing. Some $11m was to be used for the construction of one and two-bedroom flats at Raiwai and $9m for the same in Raiwaqa. It is hoped the dispute will now be quickly resolved.
AGRICULTURE IN 2013. Fiji Live reports on the new agricultural scholarships for school leavers announced by government last year that will culmnate with graduates receiving substantial assistance to start their own farms Other 2013 initiatives include the Demand Driven Approach Programme that promotes exports and reduces imports for local vegetables, dairy, beef and root crops has been given a funding of $2.2million dollars for 2013. Rice, coconut.cocoa, ginger and cottage industries, developments in the Saivou Valley and Nadarivatu will also be assisted. Nearly $3 million will go to livestock rehabilitation, the dairy industry and apiculture. Funds have also be allocated to research programmes. and land and drainage work.