QUICK ROUNDUP Tuesday 17 September 2013
What the NFP is up to is still anyone's guess. Their meeting in Nadi indicates they will stay with the United Front for a Democratic Fiji because they (or at least Attar Singh) think the Bainimarama government is a greater evil than SODELPA (the old SDL) and FLP parties. It's ironically that the political system approved by these parties denied the NFP any seats in recent parliaments.
I do, however, share their concern about open lists. The closed list system is more likely to see more women, youth, minorities and marginalised representation in parliament because they can be selected by the political parties to ensure wider representation.
FLP's Mahendra Chaudhry says he will raise the basic wage, increase pension eligibility, and increase the retirement age if the FLP is elected to government. And then wait for the next coup!
SODELPA spokesman Pio Tabaiwalu has warned people against the new constitution, saying the decrees should have been analysed first. But most of the decrees are only part of the constitution until the elections, when the incoming government can remove them.
He said, "The things that we [the UFDF] have in common are democratic rule, free and fair elections and freeing up the media." I find the claim hard to swallow. His comments, and those of the NFP and FLP parties, are fully reported in the media. The former SDL was subject to racist influences, the electoral system it supported gave votes unequal values, and undue powers to the unelected Great Council of Chiefs. What unites the UFDF is not democracy; it is the need to survive.
Three youth groups, the Arya Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji youth group, the Youth Coordinator for the Serua Province and the the Namosi Provincial Youth Coordinator, have said youth have no problems with the new constitution.
NZ's Murray McCully's statement that some travel bans will be lifted, scholarships re-opened and electoral assistance offered in recognition that some progress has been made towards elections was met by Bainimarama who said the offer was "insincere, unneeded and too late."
My guess is that the Fiji government is no longer really interested in these minor concessions. It wants a genuine change in policy that would see NZ urging Fiji's immediate return to the Commonwealth and the EU to resume aid to the sugar industry. Others have said Fiji is far more interested in what the new Australian government has to say.
Bainimarama also said Fiji was not interested in re-joining the Pacific Islands Forum. They consider it too much influenced by Australia and NZ.
Government has advertised for a new Supervisor of Elections who must have at least 15 years experience in conducting elections; be able to conduct an election in one day, and pass on skills to local people. Applications close on 25 October and the expectation is that an overseas person will be appointed.
Under the new Constitution, the appointment should be made by the Constitutional Offices Commission that includes the Leader of the Opposition and another person appointed by him. This raises a question, with no Leader of the Opposition at present. Will Government make the appointment itself, or invite two reputable people to represent the Opposition, and if so, who would would be widely accepted as reputable?
Of non-political news,
- Jittu Upgrading. I was pleased to read that another upgrading of the old Jittu Estate squatter settlement in Suva is now complete. Some 53 Lagilagi households will soon move into new homes. The initiative has cost $5m funded by Government and the German Catholic NGO MISEREOP. Peoples Community Network Semiti Qalowasa says it will take another $5m to complete stage 2, of double- and three-storey buildings totalling 150 units.
- The Consumer Council registered 10,769 complaints worth $16.3million over the past five and a half years, and recovered $6.7m by solving 6816 complaints through mediation. The Council and the Commerce Commission mediation workshop being held in Lami this week aims to enhance the knowledge and skills of mediators from Small Claims Tribunal, Fiji Commerce Commission, legal practitioners and the council."Mediation is a useful tool to alternatively resolve disputes to save money and time." Chief Justice Anthony Gates said the judiciary "have found the dialogue with and positive criticism from the Consumer Council very helpful, focused, reasonable, and just." He said new laws and new courts in the consumer field were in the pipeline and would bring about a healthier approach to consumer concerns.
- Micro-finance. The Reserve Bank has announced awards in micro-financing that are soon expected to involve 150,000 "unbanked people", an increase of 20,000 on those already receiving awards.
- Telecentres. Some 31,500 people (school children and adults) now have access to telecentres, and the number continues to increase as more schools get broadband access. And access costs the users nothing.