News and Comments Friday 23 February 2013
Coming Up. I intend to publish a full article on the dilemma of the media in the next few days, and the final article on the Political Parties and the Military once the new draft constitution is available.
PARTY REGISTRATIONS. Government's amendment to the Political Parties Decree within days of promulgation, and its further clarifications about the SDL acronym and its warning to the press not to refer to un-registered political parties as political parties, leaves some people thinking the goalposts are constantly moving, which does not help confidence.
Comment. Knee-jerk reactions to events rarely reflect sound tactics. Government needs to re-examine the political scene to see who it can work with in the old and yet to be registered political parties. The NFP perhaps, the Fiji Workers Party, or the less extreme and less abrasive people in the old SDL and FLP? It cannot go it alone.
FIJI TRUTH MOVEMENT ON TWITTER. This tweet from Twittter, "@crosbiew is wrong its Fijians being robbed of their identity. Who cares about power if its corrupt. Fijians want their voices & their Chiefs."
Comment. Now, what should true democrats make of that?
McCULLY SAYS ITS WORRYING under a heading in the international news that reads "Opposition parties banned from campaigning in Fiji". The article by Brian Soper goes on to say only one of Fiji's 17 political parties re-registered. True, but what he does not say is that most of these parties won under one percent of the vote in the last election, and that of the two big parties, Qarase's SDL wants the Great Council of Chiefs to have powers that would control Parliament and Fiji to be declared a Christian State, and both parties, the SDL and Chaudhry's FLP, want to retain race-based electorates.Not the sort of thing I would expect the NZ Minister to support.
NZ Foreign Minister Murray McCully says the crackdown is worrying. "I think most people would regard that (the ability of opposition parties to canvass) as a key element of a free and fair election. Obviously the political party decree passed recently has caused a good deal of concern, not just for Fiji but also amongst those who are watching developments there. Certainly, we've moved past the point of debating whether there is likely to be an election in 2014, that's good news. Whether it's going to be free and fair is still very much in the balance, and that's something we're watching carefully."
Comment. I suggest Soper and McCully read the submissions of these parties to the Constitution Commission, or my summary of their positions, and re-think what is really at stake in Fiji. The Bainimarama Government will not retract their non-negotiable principles, nor should they. To do so would be to unwrite history and Fiji would be back to the old racially divided country it was. Going forward, as McCully says, may be bumpy and Fiji will not immediately become the full liberal democracy he wants, but it will be forward and, if the military keeps to its promise to stay out of politics if the new Constitution to be decided by the Constituent Assembly is upheld, it will be more democratic than it was.
BAINIMARAMA OVERPAID. The Public Accounts Committee reports the Army Commander, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama has completely paid off the overpayment of his leave compensation. After analyzing the Auditor General’s Special Investigation Report of 2009, the committee said seven other senior officers have either paid off the leave compensation overpayment or have made arrangements through fortnightly salary deductions. Four officers who had underpaid leave have been
compensated accordingly. The Public Accounts Committee said the problem originated in 1988 when a the major change in entitlement occurred. Those previously enjoying 10 days leave got 24 and 29 working days.
FURTHER PROTECTION FOR NATIVE LAND. Government has further strengthened the protection of iTaukei land by closing a loophole that allowed some of it to be converted into freehold land, to the benefit of some at the expense of the iTaukei landowners. Under the new Decree any iTaukei land which is exchanged for portions of State land can no longer be exchanged for private freehold land. The Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said that despite having provisions in previous Constitutions that entrenched iTaukei land laws, this practice was still allowed to happen. “This demonstrates that having entrenched provisions did not safeguard iTaukei land ownership,” the Attorney-General said. “The law must always be practical and effective in ensuring the protection rights – including property rights.” The Government’s policy is absolute. No native land can be permanently alienated from its owners.
ROADS ON TRACK The Fiji Roads Authority has commended road maintenance works that have taken place around the country since January despite the teething problems faced. Various contractors working in each division have undertaken repair works on hundreds of kilometers of road in urban areas and on main rural highways. In addition some 1,500 tons of asphalt has been used to fill in excess of 20,000 potholes, enough to fill a large swimming pool. Close to 1,500km of road have been graded, while drainage works are progressing and in some cases roads that have been closed for years have finally been reopened. FRA chief says, “It will take time, but we are working hard to make sure the priorities are right in everything we are doing”.
GETTING OUR HOUSE IN ORDER. An article in Grubsheet by Graham Davis that was commended by Fiji Today, the only reasonable anti-Bainimarama blog.
HELP THE FIJIAN LANGUAGE. Dr Apolonia Tamata from iTaukei Trust Fund says, while Government is trying its best to promote the language, its people are losing track because of lack of resources. There is not enough learning materials in Fiji for the iTaukei people to promote their mother language She said iTaukei institutions should come together and try put something for their future generation .The iTaukei Ministry has urged more indigenous people to write books in their mother language.
Comment. This is the sort of initiative one might have expected from the GCC over the years, not just for Bauan, the "official" iTaukei language, but for the other dialects that are even more threatened. They wrote about the preservation of the language in their Constitution Commission Assembly but it's hard to see what they have actually done about it.
FLP SUBMISSION. I can't find the FLP submission to the Constitution Commission on their website www.flp.org.fj. The FLP manifesto is prominently shown but the submission is hidden or absent. I wonder why.
THE CASE OF RATU TEVITA MARA is still before the courts because he fails to turn up.. The Suva Magistrates court again adjourned the case, this time until the 29th of May. Uluilakeba Mara is charged on a count of uttering seditious comments.
CCF WANTS ELECTION TRANSPARENCY. The Citizens' Constitution Forum , a non-government organization that educates and advocates for good governance, human rights and multiculturalism in Fiji that is not aligned with any political party, wants government to appoint an Independent Supervisor of Elections outside the control of the Attorney General's Office that it claims "has a tight leash on the Elections Office and current and prospective political parties through their continuous interventionist decrees." CEO Rev Akuila Yabaki warns people will lose faith in the constitution process if this is not done.
Comment. Forget the old political parties that failed to register. Concentrate on the new ones. A fair democracy will never be achieved under the SDL or FLP.
STUDENT LOANS. A loan package totalling $2million is now available to students from low-income families who are accepted into universities but are not able to pay their fees. The PM says that no Fijian student accepted into university should be denied an opportunity to attend because they cannot afford it.