News and Comments Friday 12 April 2013

Murray McCully
Several important meetings were held this week. Some 300 attended a meeting in Suva of the United Front for a Democratic Fiji (former political parties) that rejected the Government's draft constitution and called for a return to the 1997 constitution. The Citizen's Constitutional Forum launched a report on minority rights. The visiting Forum Ministerial Contact Group met with the PM and A-G, and Government continued with its consultations on the draft constitution meetings in the Northern and Western Division. A Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group team (CMAG) is also visiting Fiji of which more next week.

HE AGREES, THEN RECANTS. On the side, in a major surprise announcement, Timoci Bulitavu, an official of the former SDL government said he agreed with the Bainimarama Government’s draft constitution but later denied the videoed message heard by a Labasa audience of 300.. He said the draft constitution protects indigenous land owners more than the previous 1997 constitution. “We have been enlightened that the i-taukei land is much more secure from 1997 and the i-taukei land and its laws are now much more secure than before.”

IN HOW MANY COUNTRIES DOES THIS HAPPEN? A Fiji Sun article asks: "Who says there’s no robust debate on issues in Fiji? Yesterday the discussion on the draft constitution was again transparent and robust, as it should be. Full credit to the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General. The PM has regularly gone on FBC talkback radio and TV to discuss the draft, listen to the views of the people and answer their questions. It is the same as he has been doing all along in his regular visits to rural areas. Commodore Bainimarama has also – heeding requests from some callers to his FBC sessions – extended the consultation period. Meanwhile, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum has launched a series of face-to-face public consultations. He is inviting questions, even from known critics. Then he is sitting in front of them answering them fully and fairly. In how many countries are Government leaders so easily accessible to the people?"

 IS THE FORUM PLEASED WITH PROGRESS? Four different headings, four different stories on the present visit of the Pacific Islands Forum Ministerial Contact Group charged with reporting on Fiji's "progress to democracy", a condition for the lifting of its suspension from the Forum.

The Fiji Times reports "Forum team queries constitution process"; the FijiLive notes "MGC notes Fiji's commitment"; FijiVillage writes  "Ministerial Contact Group pleased with progress", and the Fiji Sun was too late to report today.

Here is the FijiLive account:

The Pacific Island Forum Ministerial Contact Group is pleased with the progress Fiji has made so far in preparation for the their elections in 2014.  In a press conference this afternoon, Chairman of the Group and New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said the Ministers noted progress Fiji made in 2012 towards election including extensive consultation and work of the independent Constitution Commission, which had generated a level of popular engagement and interest which was unprecedented since 2006.

McCully said in that context the group expressed concerns about departures from Fiji’s previously announced Roadmap process and emphasized the need for a constitution building process that enjoyed the support of the people Fiji and the respect of the international community. According to McCully, they were pleased to have the commitment reiterated in today’s meeting and noted that the decision to extend the consultation period for the draft constitution and the announcement that permits were not required for political meetings to discuss the draft constitution were welcomed. He said the group will continue to watch Fiji’s actions closely and reaffirmed the Forum Leaders willingness to support Fiji’s return to democracy."

 FLP, SODELPA AND NFP REGISTRATION ANOMALIES. Registrar of Political Parties Mohammed Saneem has given the three parties have until midday next Friday to explain explain anomalies in their applications to register for the 2014 elections. The anomalies include apparent impersonation, incorrect member details and names that do not exist in the Electronic Voter Registration Database.

SHOULD THEY OR SHOULD THEY NOT? The military obviously have a political viewpoint. There would not have been a coup in 2006, and they would not have made a submission to the Ghai Constitution Commission, if they did not. But there is a difference between holding a cluster of views in broad agreement with the draft constitution and supporting a particular political party in the 2014 elections. Or, at least, there normally would be. But given a choice between the political voices now being heard, that of the UFDF (read: the old political parties) and the Bainimarama government, they probably thought they had no choice at all. Support the UFDF and undo what has been achieved in the past six years and forsake the ideals of a racially equal, fairer Fiji; or offer ongoing support for the government now that the PM and his new 'government' political party will contest the 2014 election.

These thoughts came to mind when RFMF’s chief of staff, Brigadier-General Mohammed Aziz said the military want to see Voreqe Bainimarama lead the country after the 2014 General Election, and will “give him our support to keep his leadership.”

The PM, he said, has started a new political path for the nation, which was totally different from what the nation had experienced from past governments. Something of that path has been seen already. Previously promises were made by politicians as a way to win votes, but it was rather sad that these votes were never translated into meaningful change. This has not been the case with the present government.

The controversial issue of land, for example, was used as political tool to gain votes from the iTaukei landowners but very little was done to tackle major land issues by past governments, and most landowners received rents far less than the rents paid by tenants. By contrast, the present government's land reforms have made more land available for commercial use, particularly in the mining and natural resources sector, on new favourable terms and conditions to landowners and tenants. Grassroots landowners now receive almost all rent money, with the chiefs bypassed and the ILTB administrative costs kept to a minimum. And reforms are now in place is to eradicate abuse and corruption in land dealings.

Should the RFMF's chief of staff said these things? Probably not, but they needed saying.

CCF AND MINORITY RIGHTS. The Citizens’ Constitutional Forum, in partnership with London-based Minority Rights group (MRG) launched “Fiji: The challenges and opportunities for diversity” on Wednesday. The report is part of an MRG/CCF program to improve inter-ethnic relations and reduce discrimination in Fiji. Published by the Minority Rights Group (UK) and the CCF the report was authored by Professor Vijay Naidu and sets out to provide insight into two of the most divisive issues that the current constitution making process initially set out to address: tackling discrimination and exclusion based on ethnicity, and improving inter-community relations.

VANUATU APOLOGIES. Vanuatu Deputy PM Edward Natapei presented a traditional apology to Foreign Affairs Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola for actions taken by Vanuatu during his time as PM in 2010 when he opposed Fiji getting the chairmanship of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) and later as opposition leader, he again opposed Vanuatu Prime Minister Sato Kilman who supported the plan to make Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama the MSG head. "I speak on behalf of my government and the people of Vanuatu to say sorry for all the things we've done," he said. "As a chief and government leader, I feel that it is always right to seek forgiveness in the traditional and Melanesian way."

THE METHODIST CHURCH said it is not going to be involved in the 2014 elections in any way. General Secretary Reverend Tevita Nawadra says neither the head office nor any of their branches will have anything to do with politics, and the church will not affiliate itself with any political party. He said political involvement in the past has hurt the church. “The Church has learnt their lesson from the past and we are coming out of that and we are even discouraging the use of the Methodist Church building or premises for politics because we have suffered from that in the past.” The Church is yet to make submissions on the draft Constitution.

HYPERLINKS. You can download the MOI's Focus Newspaper on this link Its programme on investing in the Northern Division on this link. For daily MOI updates log on to or visit the Ministry Facebook page.

Visit the Fiji Pensioners' website and read what Dr Shaista Shameem had to say about a mullah's Easter message.

NORTHERN DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM. The NDP has approved 1500 projects worth $9.8 million in the last five years. The NDP oversees and assists in the setting up of small and medium enterprises. Its objective is to stop internal migration as hundreds of people were leaving Vanua Levu due to a lack of economic activity in the North. Program Manager Waisale Tuidama says the initiative is bearing fruit. The projects have assisted about 22,000 people, or about 19% of the populaton of Vanua Levu, and provided direct 0r indirec employment for about 4,300 people (9% of employment), mostly in the informal sector. The most common projects under the NDP are Dalo and Yaqona farming, but Tuidama says there are new plans for 2013.

 DID HE, DID HE NOT BREAK THE LAW? The Qarase-led cabinet in June 2006 converted 68.7 hectares of i-taukei land to a Crown grant to freehold land for the Momi Bay Resort project. Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says although the native land related laws were entrenched at the time and clearly prevented anyone from converting i-taukei land to freehold land, this was done in this case. The land was swapped with freehold land that the developers gave to the state. Lawyer Adi Litia Qionibaravi, however, says that the landowners had given their consent in this case. Qarase denied any wrong doing.

MORE FOR WOMEN. The government draft constitution does not make any special mention of women, nor is there any mention of political parties being obliged to reserve seats for women MPs. Several women’s NGOs and former politicians have questioned the omission and will no doubt make their wished known to Government during the present consultations. In response, A-G Sayed-Khaiyum says the Government has passed more laws specific to women than any previous government , and asks why the same politicians that are protesting now never nominated or pushed for a high percentage of women to be their candidates in the past elections.


Not 1 Sq Metre said…
Not 1 square metre of i-Taukei land will be in any way taken by khaiyum and his clan. Never. The i-Taukei military will see to that. Once the leadership of the military is renewed with professional and courageous leaders, those who have committed treason against Fijians and hate crimes against Christians (including the cowardly islamic attack during Easter on khaiyum controlled FBC) will be brought to justice. With a proper judiciary and return of the rule of law.
Crosbie Walsh said…
@ Not ... What are you going on about? No one is trying to take land away from iTaukei. You merely repeat an imaginary threat that has been used over and over for political purposes. Similarly, one "mad mullah" is hardly a threat to Christianity in Fiji. Keep on with imaginary fears like this and you won't be able to sleep. All is well with iTaukei land ownership and the profession of Christianity in Fiji
Croz and his mad mullah said…
What are you on about? What do you mean by the 'profession' of Christianity? I always thought is was a religion? In your view is islam also a profession?
I do agree with you however that this fool that ranted against Christianity on regime controlled FBC run by khaiyum's brother is a 'MAD MULLAH'. Why then did khaiyum allow this 'MAD MULLAH' (to use your term) to rant his hate crimes especially over the Christian Easter? This fool can spruke his madness whilst the views of ordinary Fijians are suppressed?
An apology from the junta is needed immediately.
Cin Cin said…
So we have a draft constitution that completely strips away the protections afforded to Fijian land in previous constitutions ( eg. the veto rights of the GCC appointees in the Senate) and decrees such as the 2010 land Use Decree, giving the PM discretionary powers previously covered by statutue - real or imaginery, I suspect this issue has a long way to go before it is played out.
Crosbie Walsh said…
@ Croz and his mad mullah ... Thanks. I should have checked more closely before posting. The "expression of Christianity" is closer to what I meant. The "mad mullah" tag is Dr Shaista Shameem', not mine. She agrees with you on his Easter message and on the FBCL giving his hate message air space.
Anonymous said…
Those who condemn the anti Christian rant should also condemn the anti Muslim rant on some blogsites. Why do I think the condemnors are also the ranters?
Dr Shaista Shameem said…
Hey Croz,

I never said 'mad' mullah. Where?
Patriot said…
This nation needs constructive views. All the rubbish of the past will never corrupt us again. Thanks from a BA chief recently on radio... The elites are crying now? Why? Womens rights? Native fijian land being used by the elite clans? Ha... they all had the chance to fix all the ills of this nation but no-one did anything about these issues!! The Forum can say whatever they like we are a actual member of the MSG not the Forum. As for the MCF they can go and get screwed!! I dont think this nation should join the forum ever.. we should move on and build our own nation. They can keep all their boomerang Aid ... besides we dont want any interference in our internal elections. Same goes for the EU... we want to keep our clean fish .. you want it.. then pay for it!! This nation is progressing... the Forum sanctions have failed... failed!!.. the old parties are dead too... The future belongs to young of this nation to push us into a more assertive role for the Pacific. As for the Polynesian brothers they can continue to lick the Forum because that is all they have!! Onwards Fiji.. you have my vote!
Korvis Kaos said…
@ patriot stale roti
Agree - we should forget the past. Tell your daddy to move on from his stubbed toe he got running from his own shadow.
As for your denigrating comment against Polynesians, we look forward to you making the comment face to face you cowardly little boney arse....oh no, you stubbed your little toe again...squeal squeal
Crosbie Walsh said…
Sorry Shaista. I must have seen it in a heading to someone's email.
Ai Sokula said…
LOL @ the guy crying over some words.

The mullah can criticize christianity all he wants, just as church pastors regularly criticize hindu and muslim beliefs.
Doing so is protected under the 1997 constitution, and will be so under any future constitutions. This is what freedom of speech is all about. Strangely, some of these "pro-democracy" thugs think that freedom of speech only applies to kind words.

There is no such thing as a RIGHT TO NOT BE OFFENDED.

On those terms, I fully support the right of anyone, mullah or priest or beggerman or polictian, to say whatever they want.

Now with all that said... it was VERY unfortunate that FBC broadcast the message on Easter. Had they broadcast it on any other day, it would have been fine. To broadcast it on Easter suggests that the mullah sought to annoy and hurt christians, and for that he is a downright bastard. He ought to be named and shamed, and if he is foreign, to be deported.

As for the FBC, they failed miserably, but as Hanlon's Razor says "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity". It's possible they heard the entire sermon before broadcasting it, but I personally highly doubt it some young technician sitting in a dark room in FBC is going to bother hearing an entire sermon given to him by the adverstising department.

The biggest downside is that this was a gift to the "pro-democracy" thugs who are just giggling with joy that they were handed this great opportunity to rile up christian and turn them against all muslims.
Gatekeeper said…
@ Ai Sokula

This is not just 'unfortunate'. This is a failure of Good Corporate Governance and it is allegedly a crime under the Crimes Decree # 44 of 2009. The dissemination of religious or any other form of hatred against groups/ethnicities/genders/religions or beliefs which might incite violence or ongoing instability is a very serious matter indeed. Not to be overlooked; not to be ignored; not to avoid bringing the relevant person(s) in authority to book. A tidy little phrase: 'to book'. Yes, to account. Then, penalties shall be applied. Due Process shall determine them. But we are waiting to see how this shall be handled?
Gatekeeper said…
@ Ai Sokula ditto....

You appear to imply that giving grave offence under the specifics mentioned above is permitted under the right to Free Speech. But most constitutions in enlightened parts of the world attach limitations for national security reasons. The UK, for instance, has tightened its limitations under the law since the 7 July 2005 Terror Attack on the London Underground and a London Bus by jihadist extremists: 65 civilians were killed and many more severely injured. Since we happen to be aware that at least three Fijian nationals are now training with the Taliban in the NW area of Pakistan, adjacent to the Afghan Border, we would have some concern about this and the security implications, would we not? Hardly just a throw-away affair, to be forgotten as though it never occurred? Those who were in London on that day, have profound thanks that the Home Office acted urgently and stringently. The period of remand is now greatly extended for anyone suspected of promoting or plotting/planning terrorism. The necessity to protect civilians prevails.
Ai Sokula said…

Yes of course there are limitations on free speech, but 'criticism' of a religion is not hate speech. I can criticise the bible, koran, or harry potter any time I want.

As far as I know, the mullah was criticizing a book, not telling muslims to attack/hate christians. He was basically telling his muslim audience that christianity is wrong and full of wrong things (in his opinion) and that therefore they should not be drawn to it but to be strong muslims.
This is no different to the sermons I have heard in my life where pastors deride the hindus for their matakau worship.

> Since we happen to be aware that at least three Fijian nationals are now training with the Taliban in the NW area of Pakistan,

No. The claims have not been substantiated by any reputable new organisation. Some guy in Pakistan said that they have recruits from all over the world, including some from fiji. This could just have been a guy trying to claim popularity for his organisation. I could call up the FIji Times now and claim that I have taliban training for me in the nakauvadra ranges and they would print it without ever seeing it. That's what they did in the pakistant case.

As for your desire to see the guy punished... have you lodged a report at your local police station? If you don't report an alleged crime, the police will not investigate to find out if a crime occurred when a man spoke some nonsense opinion of his. As far as I know, people are only huffing and puffing on blogs, but nobody has lodged a police report.

If nobody does that, there will be no consequences (deserved or otherwise).
Joe said…
Well said mate, as I said in another post, they are making a mountain out of a mole.
Women hold up half of Heaven said…
No specific provision for women in the Draft Constitution document? At this juncture of the 21st century and with 2015 MDGs to be revisited? It might be said, of course, that women are citizens and ought not to be specifically provided for. However, things would have to be demonstrably equitable now for that to apply. The violent crime alone to which women in Fiji are subjected and the manner in which their rights at law and due process are so often trampled, does not permit a specific provision to be made for both women and children. Places on boards/councils and on all Public Company Boards in particular? Thirty percent (30%). In some countries of Scandinavia they are now aiming for 35%. Women must be adequately equipped through education and experience to sit. In the political field: Party Lists should be obliged to have at least 35% women candidates for selection and progressively moving towards 50%: demonstrable and measurable.

"Women hold up half of Heaven". (Ancient Chinese Proverb).
Polyman said…
Ha ha... I have daddy to smack anyone who mishaves... sorry if patriot has hurt the small, loud puppets of the Pakeha...apologies.
Anonymous said…
Maybe it was the mad mullahs? Just before he was cloned?
Dangerous places...... said…
Former US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has said that any nation which demonstrably fails to have women in positions of power 'is a dangerous place'. This is fairly extreme. But is it true? In the main it would appear to be. Drafting and promulgating laws is one thing. Empowering and appointing women to the highest positions of power is quite another. The late Baroness Thatcher is a moot example. She rose to power through her own undoubted efforts and had a broad education in both Chemistry and the Law (Oxon). However, her gifts in economics and in leadership were extraordinary. It all came in the one package. Lady Thatcher knew that taking hard decisions did not offer popularity. However, empowering the poor and the middle classes did. Leaving, of course, the hard-line dissenters. Leadership in war is yet another matter: she possessed that also with an iron purpose. The Falkland Islands remain what they choose to be: a British Protectorate.

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