The Week That Was: to September 26

ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL NOW BE DELETED. It's the easiest thing to use your real name or a pseudonym, and it greatly assists communication. 

This is a long posting but so much can happen in some weeks. You may prefer to read it in more than one sitting.  

Don't forget to read, read the comments, and comment (using your real name or a pseudonym) and on the earlier postings numbered 1-5. 


International reactions
Internationally, congratulations to the new government flooded in, New Zealand improved on its previous unwarranted travel advisory,  Fiji is giving consideration to its re-admittance  as a full member to the Commonwealth,  it attended a Pacer Plus meeting on its own terms, and the EU looks likely to resume its aid to the country. 

The PM is in New York where he will speak at the United Nations on Monday.  UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon congratulated the PM on the conduct of the elections and its result; he  hoped Fiji would continue to play a leadership role in regional development, particularly as the world moves toward the challenges of the Post-2015 Development Agenda, and he thanked Fiji for its peacekeeping role in the Middle East. 

The Election results
 The Multinational Observer Group has left having given a green light on the election results, despite claims of major irregularities and vote rigging by some opposition groups. 

The elections office has satisfactorily answered some concerns about electoral irregularities, notably the delay in in the arrival of ballot boxes from Lau,  changes between preliminary and final figures, the slow release of final figures, and questions of safe storage. All ballot papers will be retained for six months at a secure facility in Lami. 

PDP and NFP have withdrawn their objections but SODEDLPA says it will follow through with its call for a parliamentary enquiry into the election. 

My view is that SODELPA would be better advised to let the issue rest. It is beginning to sound like sour grapes. It will not be successful in trying to get the matter discussed in Parliament because it does not have the numbers, and it would be far better to focus on other issues and on analyzing what went wrong in their election campaign, which  Ro Teimumu also promises.  

With so many chiefs and two paramount chiefs in their parliamentary line up, she might also heed the advice of the Ratu George Cakabou, a likely contender for the Kubuna paramount title, that chiefs should more directly serve their people, and stay out of party politics. 

Whatever. If SODELPA is to survive as a possible government, it needs to create a new,  less chiefly, more multi-racial  image for itself as a party "for the people" before the next election.

The future of the small parties
The future of the small parties  is uncertain. It's my opinion that the United Freedom Party will fade away but the One Fiji party could still be around at the next election.

Division still wracks the FLP (how can it be otherwise with Mahendra Chaudhry still leading the party) and  former PDP leader Felix Anthony promises to keep Fiji first to its promise to restore human and trade union rights. He looks forward to the tabling of the Auditor-General's report as also promised, and the increase of FNPF employer's contributions to 10 per cent.

It will not have escaped notice that had the FLP not divided, the combined vote given to FLP and PDP would have been sufficient for them to have passed the 5% threshold and win 2-3 seats in Parliament. Division is typically a hallmark of the political left, usually on ideological grounds, but in Fiji it is more the procuct of divisive personalities.  If Chaudhry would step down, there's a good chance of reconciliation between the FLP and PDP and the emergence (or re-emergence) of a single, united party.  But I wouldn't take bets of MC agreeing. 

The new Cabinet (full list at end of article)
The new Cabinet  was sworn in,  and for the first time Fiji has a woman Speaker, Dr Jiko Luveni. Altogether, there will be eight women in the next parliament, fewer than hoped for from the proportional representative system, but more than previous parliaments.

I think this is one weakness of the open list system. The closed list system, where the parties —and not the public— rank candidates,  would have assured parties of a better gender and ethnic balance, and the mix of talents they need in Parliament.

Church-State relations
The ugly face of church-state relations was again seen last week. The PM struck out at the Methodist Church over a letter that had been sent out to its divisions calling on church members to vote for parties that mentioned God in their manifestos. Even a numbskull could see this was saying:  Don't vote for Fiji First; vote for SODELPA. The PM irreverently (sic!) called the church leaders a bunch of liars. The church President-Elect Rev. Tevita Banivanua later said he was unaware of the letter but would be looking into it. One might hope so or he's likely to see more members lost to the pentacostals and not be on the best of terms with the new Government. 

The blogs
The blogs were a little quieter this week, with a little less name-calling and a little more discussion on the reasons for FijiFirst's political victory. My blog, as indicated by the last postings numbered 1 to 5, will now try to encourage more reader thought, comments and discussion on particular issues facing the nation. Your ideas for topics are most welcome. 

Dennis Singh on Facebook's Fiji Economic Forum made several observations that deserve a wider audience. His  wrote:

1. Sodelpa got done by the 'limuri' effect [People saying one thing to please, and doing another thing] 2. Majority of itaukei would not want to vote out their right to fair and equal lease money distribution by voting out incumbent. 3. First time since 1987 Fijians of Indian ethnicity have voted overwhelmingly for an Itaukei leader. Dr Bavadra being last.4. #279 did amazingly well in many itaukei village voting centres, even more so in the West, in one village he got around 90% of the votes. 5. Itaukei's are not gullible, they respectively listen to chiefs and high chiefs at pocket meetings, but come election day, they make their own minds. 6. Social media has helped many to be better informed. Vodafone! Power to You! 7. Mick Beddoes and MPC are bad losers. 8. Unions may rest in peace.9. AG was badly underestimated. 10. Frank never swayed away from his focus, a  united and multiracial Fiji.

Dr Narsey to the rescue
 Dr Waden Narsey blames everyone else for the FijiFirst victory. But in retrospect he  now sees  how the Bainimarama Government  set the stage for a FijiFirst win. And in some ways he is correct. 

It remained in government right up to the elections, rejecting the Yash Ghai recommendation it stand down well before the elections, and was thus in a position to use government resources and what he called last minute policy vote buying.  The new Constitution called for multi-ethnic parties, a single constitution, a small 50 seat Parliament, and a 5% threshold, all of which favoured FijiFirst.

But a contrary argument is also valid if it is recognized that the old-style political framework was an impediment to a 21st Century Fiji. There was every likelihood, had there been no changes, that Fiji would have reverted to the divisive ethnic politics of the past, re-fuelling hatred and distrust.  The last eight years would count for nothing. 

It is no secrect that Government's main task has been to establish the foundations for a new Fiji, and it could not do this without removing some of the foundations of the old Fiji, in particular the voting system.  Hence, Bainimarama's constant call for a "change in mindset" and the need for "nation-building." It is no accident that all citizens are now "Fijians" or that the name of the PM's party is FijiFirst. 

However, while the future is by no means assured, it is tempting to believe that Graham Davis is not too far off the mark when he writes about a "new democracy."

The doomsayers and the economy
Dr Wadan Narsey hasn't been the only doomsayer on the Fiji economy but, as an economist, he was presumably one of the more qualified.  

Between them, Wadan and other doomsayers had Fiji on its knees with little hope of recovery. GDP was down, business confidence low, inflation and food prices had gone through the roof, poverty was rampant, the casino development was a write-off, the sugar industry was gutted, FNPF members had been cheated, its money was being used for risky investment, and the Government had been borrowing at a rate that would be a burden for generations yet unborn.  And that was only some of it!

The economy as others see it
But Economics is not an exact science and many, if not most, economists would not agree with Wadan or the doomsayers.

ANZ's CEO for Fji and the Pacific, Vishnu Moha, for instance,  spoke far more optimistically of the Fiji economy.  In discussing trade, he noted:

Total trade between Fiji and the world increased to about $US3billion ($F5b) in 2013, an increase from $US1b ($F1.8b) five years ago and more than double a decade ago.
Fiji had increasingly tapped Asian supply chains for trade, adding 43.6 per cent of trade last year was with Asia and the Pacific Islands. This ratio, Mr Mohan said, had climbed from 25 per cent a decade ago.
"Total trade flows between the Pacific and Asia have risen from $US1.7b ($F3.2b) in 2000 to almost $US10b ($F18b) in 2013.
Australian trade with Fiji, nearly $US450million ($F854m) in 2013, however,  appears to have "been a steady state level as over the past 15 years total trade has averaged $US458m ($F870m) between the two countries."

The bank CEO spoke of signs of "robust"economic health and "strong" investor confidence.

The ADB assessement
The Asia Development Bank also paints a very different picture:  
Fiji continues to grow solidly, and the economy remains on track for a fifth consecutive year of expansion.

The gross domestic product (GDP) growth projection for 2014 has been revised up by half a percentage point to 3.3%, based on strong growth in the first half in visitor arrivals and export earnings - particularly from sugar and mineral water. Growth is expected to remain robust, but is seen to ease slightly as sharp increases in consumption and investment expenditures in 2013 are likely to moderate.

The 2015 growth projection is maintained at 3.0%, but this is subject to significant upside and downside risks. Reduced uncertainty following the September elections is seen to boost investment and tourism, and the overall economy is expected to strengthen with reintegration and renewed engagement with development partners.

However, factors seen to temper growth in 2015 include: ongoing dry weather conditions that are expected to persist into next year and lower output of agricultural goods besides sugar; and possible fiscal tightening after recent expansions in public expenditure.

In sum, economic confidence comes from the type of economic policies being pursued by Government, boosted by the stability that should result from the elections.

Analysis, and more coming
Finally, for a surprisingly accomplished report  for a young journalist as she covered the elections, listen to what AUT journalism student Alistar Kata has to say about what she saw and heard.  I think she assembled its many conflicting parts into a most convincing whole — and she did not even need to look at notes!

Soon, in the new year, we can expect to see more detailed analyses of the Bainimaram Government legacy and the  election results. Dr Steve Ratuva is editing one book and  ANU is likely to produce another. 


As some of you know, I'm writing a review for Steve's book on  the influence of the media, especially the social media, on the elections, and for this I need lots of people of different political beliefs, to complete  this short survey.  If you already completed it, my many thanks, and if you will now complete it, my many thanks in anticipation. 

Would all readers please bring the survey to the attention of family, friends and colleagues, in Fiji and overseas,  who support the different parties, especially SODELPA, NFP and the minor parties.

Vinaka vakalevu. 
Croz

The New Cabinet

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama will lead a 20-member cabinet in the newly-elected Fijian government.

Former Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum is now the Minister for Finance, Public Enterprise, Trade and Tourism while lawyer, 

Faiyaz Koya is the Attorney General and Minister for Justice.

Former Permanent Secretary for Justice Mereseini Vuniwaqa has been  appointed Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources.

The former CEO for Fiji Pine Trust, Osea Naiqamu is the new Minister for Fisheries and Forests.

Former Special Administrator of Ba and Lautoka, Praveen Kumar is the new Minister for Local Government, Housing and Environment.

The former PS in the Prime Minister’s Office, Col. Pio Tikoduadua is the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport.

Former Labour Minister, Jone Usamate has been appointed Minister for Health and Medical Services.

Ratu Inoke Kubuabola has retained the portfolio of Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Inia Seruiratu has also retained the position of Minister for Agriculture, Rural Development and National Disaster Management.

Former Transport Minister, Timoci Natuva is the new Minister for Immigration, National Security and Defence.

Former Commerce Commission chairman, Dr Mahendra Reddy is the new Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts.

And retired senior army officer, Jioji Konrote has been appointed Minister for Employment, productivity and Industrial Relations.

The new Minister for Youth and Sports is Laisenia Tuitubou.

Rosy Akbar is the new Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation.

Assistant Ministers

Paralympics gold medalist, Iliesa Delana is one of five Assistant Minister appointed.

Iliesa Delana is the new Assistant Minister for Youth and Sports.

Veena Bhatnagar is the Assistant Minister for Health and

Joeli Cawaki has been appointed Assistant Minister for Agriculture, Rural development and disaster management.

Hotelier Lorna Eden is the Assistant Minister for Minister for Finance, Public Enterprise, Trade and Tourism and 

Vijay Nath is the Assistant Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts. 


Comments

Lipstick on a pig said…
Hi croz
Yes it is great that the international community that respects democracy has expressed pleasure that Fiji has finally appeared to return to democracy after a number of years of human rights abusive dictatorship. It is also good that Fiji has been readmitted to the Commonwealth now that the dictatorship has been removed. The international community (that matters) certainly made their points loud and clear what they thought of the military sloppiness that caused so much damage to Fiji. The EU has also recognised that the poorly led military appears to have woken up to itself.
It will be a long struggle for Fiji to recover from the terrible situation it has been confronted with but with the help of SODELPA and the Fijian Christian commitment it will rebuild as a nation that once again the Fijians can be proud of.
Thanks for your help in this recovery from unmitigated disaster Croz. Hopefully the judiciary (probably the most damaged) will also recover in time?
Joe said…
You are full of shit, and dont know what you are talking about. You should rename yourself "Lipstick on a pig's arse."
Ratu Naita said…
@Lipstick on a Pig

If the phrase sleight of hands could be extended to sleight of tongue, you would be a classic.It's healthy to have an opinion and to air it through Freedom of Speech but to continuously "flog a dead horse" is very unhealthy especially in Fiji's case. Yes, Frank came through the "muzzle of the gun" and was a "dictator' in your eyes and many more but some people also saw him as a hero who had the guts but more importantly the drive to weed out inequality in Fiji's political stratosphere which eventually affects the everyday lives of all Fijians. Bottom line Lipstick is Frank got voted in by more people than any other candidates. In fact, if you care to work out statistics amongst current world leaders, he is the most popular in terms of people that voted for him versus population proportion; even better than Pres Obama. The fact that 202,000 voters voted him personally is staggering in any ones political language considering approx over 450,000 voters in total casted their choice in the ballot box.
You are beginning to sound like those immature Labour and Sodelpa Party leaders who have clearly shown their political immaturity by refusing to accept that the people of Fiji have spoken and their services to lead the country is not what they want. In everyday lingo, one could say that they are just plain bad losers. Get your tinted glasses off and smell the roses. After all, Frank in his address at the 69th UN Assembly this morning has extended his hands to his political leaders and everyone that didn't vote for him to work with him constructively to lead Fiji in a new direction that guarantees equality regardless of your colour, race and creed. This could also mean regardless of which animals you like pigs, dogs or monkeys.
Get over it, he won fair and square and "rooted" all opponents in the ballot box.
Peter Reith said…
The international observers were very happy with the conduct of the elections

http://m.smh.com.au/comment/keep-holidaying-in-fiji-for-democracys-sake-20140922-10kab6.html
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Joe said…
This is exactly what it is, couldnt have said it any better. It seems a level playing field does not suit these old politicians.
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Ratu Naita said…
Cola Naita Bill Wadely, dede qai rogo tale mai na voqa mai Rockhampton. To be brutally honest, I am over this "childish" attitude by some fijians; certain politicians and their supporters. They asked for a democratic election, they got it. And when they get annihilated in the polls they start crying wolf. What did they expect given their lethargic, tired, negative approach during the campaign period? You dish out peanuts, you will get monkeys. As earlier alluded to in one of my post prior to the election, SODELPA and Labour just did not have any policies that was "forward thinking". Their strategy was wrong, approach lame and pitch was so out of synch with the shift in political landscape in Fiji, you didn't have to be a rocket scientist to work out that they were heading for trouble. The ONLY good thing they ever did, was to remove Qarase as the face of their campaign but by that stage, he had done more damage than good. It was too late for damage control. Right now what they should be doing is, for their politicians that got voted in to start thinking about working constructively as members of the opposition. The party strategist (if they had any) should conduct an entire review on what went wrong during the campaign. If I was a senior member of Sodelpa, I would even suggest an independent review. Once that is completed, work on the findings and start restructuring their processes, rewrite visions etc and I would even start this before mid-next year.
This would help them thoroughly prepare for the next General Election and with more time on their hand. If they don't (I will borrow your phrase), Sodelpa will be "consigned to the dustbin of history" just like SDL.
Ni kalougata tiko nite.
Petre Wreath R .I. P said…
IT can be finally said that through crime and deviance, Bainimarama has used people like Aiyaz and Nazhat and Tony Gates to further his course of the year 2000 George Speight coup albeit in the guise of equality this time around. He is one smart cookie having learnt his trade from one General Pinochet of some obscure South American country that I no longer remember. The smartest man to have outsmarted ther so called equal right campaigners is none other than Frank the man , First he ousted Mahendra Chaudry, the Ratu Mara , then ILOILO, then the 1997 constitutuion ,whilst being assisted by wannabe lawyers nazhat shameem with a 2nd grade pass in law from England and one Aiyaz Khaiyum, 6th form failure who did law after becoming 21 years old to beat the UE requirements to go to university. Bainimarama is truly a very smart strategist to have used many and then discarded them after using them......
Petre Wreath R .I. P said…
FURTHER HIS CAUSE......as well
God Help Fiji said…
And now diplomats and (so called) soldiers are off to Moscow for training. Cuba repeats itself?
Anonymous said…
Ratu Nite. Ni bula. Agree that SODELPA should, if they are really serious, set up an independent review to establish what went wrong and how they can improve. All parties (and organisations) should do that after a momentous event. They should identify lessons learnt and make adjustments accordingly. For me, and I have said this before, having Ro Teimumu as leader was a bad decision. She has the charisma of a shoe, cannot go sit and drink yaqona with ordinary folk to discuss everday issues, hardly smiles, very serious looking and does not inspire as a leader. SODELPA should start looking for another leader to take them into the 2018 elections. From the current crop of SODELPA MPs I cant identify anyone who can step up to the plate and lead from the front in the way that Frank did with the FFP.

Bill Wadely
Lord Sharma said…
@ Ratu Roti
Is there some reason you are pretending to be a Fijian and are ashamed of your indian background and name?
Anonymous said…
Lord Sharma. What makes you think that? Just coz an indigenous Fijian can rationalise and articulate issues in an intellectually acceptable way, you think he must be someone other than a i'taukei. How racist is that? Please pull your head out of your arse.

Bill Wadely
Anonymous said…
Well they (soldiers) cant go train in Australia, NZ, the UK and the USA because of their policies towards Fiji, so Fiji is simply making the best of the situation and accepting offers they cannot get anywhere else. Likening Fiji to Cuba is drawing a very low bow indeed. Fiji will never be a communist state ala Cuba. We can now claim to be a parliamentary democracy.

Bill Wadely
Ratu Naita said…
@Lord Sharma

I am not pretending to be a Fijian or I'Taukei, it is my birth right. And I certainly respect all people regardless of their race, religion and creed. In saying that, I do hold special respect for fellow Fijians of Indian ethnicity because without their forefathers "sweat and tears", Fiji will not be where it is today economically (obviously minus the political turmoil which is not their fault).
If you don't have anything constructive to add to the discussion, maybe find a board game or something. It's small-minded pretentious people like yourselves who hide behind the cloak of RACISM that need to be eradicated. And I would not give a flying f&ck if you are I'Taukei or Fijian of Indian ethnicity.
GROW UP!
Ratu Naita said…
@God Help Fiji

What's wrong with soldiers off to Moscow to train?
Crosbie Walsh said…
Bill (Wadely) ... You seem to be having a problem with the "Reply as." Click on the down arrow to go to "Name/URL." Write your name and click "Publish." Best wishes, Croz
Anonymous said…
Vinaka Croz. I can vouch that Ratu Naita is like me, an i'taukei. Why do we have to accommodate know-it-all scumbags like 'Lord Sharma' who is obviously an Fiji born Indian (lets cut the crap with the 'Fijian' nomenclature if Lord Sharma wants to play the game this way).

Billy (the Kid) Wadely aka Vili
Anonymous said…
@ God help Fiji the Fiji military recently upgraded their artillery with 105mm howitzers from South Korea. Will this lead to war in the Korean peninsula? The Fijian military also ordered light armoured troop carriers from Indonesia and replacement patrol boats from China because Australia has shut Fiji out from the Australian patrol boat program. Will this lead to instability in the region?

Get real mate.

Fiji is entitled to explore the available international market to maintain its military. We are Fijians and are proud of our military. We need to keep them strong as a countervailing force to the threat of radical i'taukei ethno-nationalism that tore us aprt in 2000. Thats what makes Fiji different from other Pacific Island states.

Bill Wadely
Marika said…
'All ballot papers will be retained for six months at a secure facility in Lami'. So we can presume with the regimes history of accountability and transparency we are all safe in the knowledge that all is well..Ahhhh
Tev34 said…
There is no groundswell of support for a multiracial fiji, you belive there marketing campaign. i-taukei were just bought off. Indians voted how we all expected. From all the poeple i talked to, attitudes to race haven't changed a bit on either side, and yes they are still called 'indians'. I am a Fijian.
Marika said…
No dougbt depite all their bluster, Fiji will now expect payment for having an electioin and want Aus , NZ to pay for their purchases.
pay me said…
No, what makes you different, is that you have thugs that get a kick out of beating on their own people and see advancement for themsleves in running the country and dictating how much they want for themsleves in the budget. They just luv the trappings of power and expect their family will get cushy jobs too. Lets hope Aus release all the transcripts of phone calls they have been listening to for the past eight years. Bring on Wikileaks 2.

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