Mid-Week News and Comments 4 June
CHAUDHRY'S SHORT MEMORY. Once again we have an example of Mahendra Chaudhry's problematic memory.
Earlier his FLP announced its support for the Great Council of Chiefs that, they seemed to forget, was instrumental in removing FLP from power in 1987 and 2000.
Then there's their partnership in the United Front for a Democratic Fiji that puts them in bed with SODELPA, the successors of the Qarase Government that sought to forgive the coup perpetrators that ousted them in 2000.
Now he is warning supporters in Labasa not to be swayed by the introduction of free education and bus fare schemes by the Bainimarama government (Why not? It would seem sensible for people to support a Government that actually does things for them, other than talk) urging them instead to remember events of the past that he chooses to remember. Such as the now lifted 2009 Public Emergency Regulations that "had taken away the rights of people", and referred to other temporary legislation that placed restrictions on freedom of speech.
He also applauded the 1997 Constitution that "safeguarded" people's rights, failing to mention that the Constitution was an expedient, but flawed, means of reconciliation that embedded racial voting and was never amended as its architects intended.
TAUKEI LAND SAFE OR NOT SAFE? As previously reported, the Vunivalu of Nakorovatu went to Suva last week to counter arguments by SODELPA that indigenous land ownership was no longer safe. He said Government has strengthened iTaukei land rights not eroded them. Former Trust Board general manager and SODELPA candidate applicant Niko Nawaikula disagrees.
He claims “The decrees that terminated the Great Council of Chiefs simultaneously took away control of native land, removed iTaukei representatives from the iTaukei Lands Trust Board, removed their names and took away management of mahogany and many tracts of native land under the land use decree... The 1997 Constitution in comparison to the 2013 Constitution finds the Great Council of Chiefs has been removed with all its powers and the entrenched provisions that guarantee government cannot interfere with land without the prior consent of the iTaukei."
However, as the FijiLive http://fijilive.com/news/2014/06/i-taukei-land-no-longer-safe-nawaikula/57862.Fijilive report pointed out:
· Section 28 (1) of the 2013 constitution says that the ownership of all iTaukei land shall remain with the customary owners if that land and iTaukei land shall not be permanently alienated whether by sale, grant, transfer or exchange except to the state in accordance with section 27.
· Section 27 (2a) says that a written law may authorise compulsory acquisition of property when necessary for public purpose and (b) on the basis that the owner will be promptly paid the agreed compensation for the property or failing agreement, just and equitable compensation as determined by a court or tribunal after considering all relevant factors.
· Section 28(2) says that any iTaukei land acquired by the State for public purpose after the commencement of this constitution under section 27 or under any written law shall revert to the customary owners if the land is no longer required by the State.
Nawaikula said what the chief (the Vunivalu of Nakorovatu) said was the opposite of the truth as seen in the 2013 constitution and the various land decrees issued by the government. He said the media should stop taking advantage of the lack of knowledge and exposure of the iTaukei regarding their land.
ONE DAY ELECTIONS. While overseas voters and people living in remote areas will be able to vote before election day, most voters will vote on one day, 17 September. FLP's Mahendra Chaudhry says Fiji has not yet developed the capacity to hold elections in one day, and this year's election should be spread over one week like previous elections.
"If elections will be held in one day, he says, "there will be almost 1,700 polling stations. For every party to have one of its members to be present at every polling station will mean each party has to have 1700 members. Where are we going to get so many people from? Also, hundreds of voters will miss out if it's just a one day election and it will be chaos."
He's also concerned that party sheds now have to be 300 metres away from polling station. "Before, the distance used to be 50m. This will also create a problem for the elderly who will have to walk 300m to the polling venue from their party's shed." The absence of party symbols on ballot papers will also pose difficulties for many voters. "We believe this is one of the things that is being engineered to confuse and frustrate the voter", he said.
HELLO BRIJ. My former colleague esteemed historian Prof Brij Lal has joined the Opposition in questioned the impartiality of the Supervisor of Elections Md Saneem because he registered the FijiFirst party despite the presumed-to-be-valid objections of its opponents.
Brij says he was not surprised because Saneem was appointed by Saiyed-Khaiyum, the Minister of Elections. Beyond this, he says nothing. He does not consider Saneem's reasons which one might have expected from an academic, only saying,
"The regime makes up the rules for itself as it goes along. You're not likely to get an open and transparent answer to the kinds of important questions that individual stakeholders are asking about the activities of the Fiji First group."
Could it be that an historian with a grudge against Government also makes his own rules rather than sifting and weighing the evidence as one might expect?
THE STUDENT WHO HAD HIS SCHOLARSHIP CANCELLED. I have sent this email to Fiji contacts and await their replies:
"Friends, Unless there's more to this that meets the eye, I'm all with the student. Being politically inactive should not be a scholarship requirement. Indeed, if political and other community activities do not interfere with their studies, such activity should be encouraged.
"Further, this is precisely the sort of petty action by Government that plays into the hands of its opponents and makes thinking people who might otherwise support Government have second thoughts.
"I would be pleased to learn how you think on this. Croz"
Meanwhile Roshika Deo, the independent candidate the student was assisting, says she is receiving death threats on the social media and Fiji Times editor Fred Wesley has written an editorial condemning such acts. Join the club, Roshika. Many of the comments on my blog are in the same league. I completely agree with Fred but there's little we can do to persuade our angry critics to exercise more moderation.
RESERVE BANK UPDATE. Performance across key sectors varied, but remains positive. Tourism continues to expand. Electricity production saw a 3.3% yearly increase.. Timber production was up as woodchip production more than doubled. However, gold production is down by 4.1% and the the fishing industry continues an annual decline in production. Consumption and investment activity remain strong. The Bank's latest review review shows the buoyant demand in the economy is well reflected in the labour market. The number of jobs advertised increased by 17.2 percent, led by high recruitment intentions in the manufacturing sector. Inflation rose to 0.1 percent in April from -0.2 percent recorded in March.
FORMER LAWYER LOSES APPEAL.Muhammed Azeem Ud-Dean Sahu Khan was accused and found guilty of misrepresentation by falsely claiming that he was a UK barrister who had been admitted at Lincoln’s Inn. When he appeared before the Independent Legal Services Commission for the first mention in June 2013 he admitted the allegation and was fined $20,000. He lost his appeal and was fined a further $3,000 to cover court costs. Note that contrary to anti-government claims, the ILSC still exists and is clearly doing good work.
MEDICAL COMPLAINTS TO BE EXAMINED. The Fiji Medical Council and Dental Secretariat have sought the services of an overseas specialist to investigate some of the complaints received against medical and dental practitioners.
FIJI COMMENDED FOR A CHANGE. The Pacific Island Forum Secretariat (PIFS) has commended Fiji’s financial sector for the great strides it has made in financial inclusion in the past few years. Some 150,000 Fijians now have bank accounts and insurance policies, a target set by Fiji’s Financial Inclusion Strategy in 2009. Many people, including the marginalized and poor, now have access to the financial sector. Financial Literacy studies have also been included in the school curriculum to encourage the younger generation to learn how to budget and plan. PFIP is assisting Fiji in this and helping to develop a new Financial Inclusion Strategy that will run from 2015 to 2020. Source: Islands Business.
FIJI LOBBIES ON BEHALF OF SMALL ISLAND STATES. http://www.islandsbusiness.com/news/fiji/5422/fiji-lobbies-for-pacific-sids-interests-on-sustain/ Click here.
EUROPEAN UNION ALREADY HELPING ELECTIONS.The EU is proving technical, legal and voter education assistance to the Elections Office
The EU Deputy Head of Delegation in the Pacific Johnny Engell-Hansen said “The experts provided are not EU officers but independent international experts working for the Fiji Elections Office and financed by the EU ...The electoral expert currently attached to the FEO supporting the training process is part of the next phase of our assistance. He will be followed shortly by two other EU-funded experts to help with the delivery and implementation of the training plan ... we are also supporting voter awareness activities as well as the preparations for the functioning of the newly elected parliament,” he said. -- Based on a http://fijilive.com/news/2014/06/eus-assistance-to-go-beyond-election/57861/ FijiLive report.
FIJI FREE ONLINE MEDIA SHRINKING. FijiLive and FijiVillage provide invaluable information for those of us who do not live in Fiji, most especially because they often include political stories not covered well by the online Fiji Sun and Fiji Times. To read FijiVillage one now has to pay an annual subscription of $70. Goodbye FijiVillage. We have to hope FijiLive will not follow suit.