Saturday, October 31, 2009

(+) Sayed-Khaiyum on Press Freedom and Journalists' Responsibilities

Those criticizing the Government for its restrictions on the media should at least consider the points raised by the Attorney-General and decide which, if any, they can fault.  Click here for the link to Pacific Scoop.

I'm informed a group of journalists have objected to Khaiyum being allowed to speak to journalism students at USP because of his "lies". A friend comments: "So we have the rather disturbing notion that journalists should fight censorship with their own censorship!! Whatever happened to the belief that journalists should 'get all sides of a story'? This surely begins at journalism schools where they have guest speakers from all sides of debate."
 

(G) Five Years Not Enough, Says Bainimarama

I had a touch of nerves when I read this FijiLive heading but was somewhat, though not entirely, reassured when I read on. Bainimarama said the military does not have enough time to achieve its plans and objectives before the 2014 elections but -- “The elections must and will be held in 2014 just as we have promised our people.” Addressing a parade at the Queen Elizabeth Barracks, he reminded the soldiers of their mission to bring about a united Fiji. "We don’t want to return Fiji in a very bad state where hatred still exists amongst the people, the different ethnicities, and religious groups. We do not want to be part of that!” he said, adding that critics were delaying the process. “I will be talking to you often about the challenges posed by people who want us to return to the ways of the past,” he told the soldiers.

Across town,   People's Charter Advisory Council chairman and PSC Chairman Josefa Serulagilagi was warning  permanent secretaries they would lose their jobs if they did not work hard to achieve the nine pillars of the People’s Charter. The first progress reports from permanent secretaries were received in June; the next are due in December. The Council will monitor progress on the People’s Charter, the Strategic Framework for Change and the  Roadmap for Democracy and Sustainable Socio-Economic Development.   Photos: Fiji Village.

Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On


Allen Lockington is a self-employed customs agent and business consultant who has regular articles published in www.connectme.com.fj/news/opinion. I thank Allen and Connect for permission to reprint some of them in this political blog. Theyremind us that life goes on, whatever the political situation. And it's good to know that.

Vanuatu kava is potent

The reason for the yaqona (kava) surplus in Fiji is because yaqona suppliers are importing the Vanuatu species of the yaqona plant. This species is mixed with the Fijian plant to give it potency. Having spoken to fellow grog drinkers, we are of the opinion that the Vanuatu species gives you a headache. While we are all different and yaqona affects us differently, it is no coincidence that many of us have headaches in the morning from consuming Fijian yaqona mixed with the Vanuatu species.

Because yaqona is classified as a food item, I plead with the Ministry of Health to investigate and do tests on the Vanuatu species. Or control its importation so that our farmers many benefit.  Why do we need to import yaqona when we plant it here?

Friday, October 30, 2009

(o+-) An American Young Woman in Fiji


American postgraduate student Kelly Schumann spent six weeks in July-August in Fiji doing volunteer work and asking just about everybody she met what they thought of the political situation.

She lived much of her time with a family in Lautoka, had a week at Litivia village, rafted on the Upper Navua, mountain biked in the Nausori Highlands, and spent a short time in Suva where, quite by accident, she met Bainimarama. In all, she visited three islands, two rural villages, two cities and a number of small towns. Most of the people she spent time with were ethnic Fijians.

 Her report  "Fiji in the Summer of 2009: Impressions of Society and the Post-Coup Regime" is an honest, in parts insightful, and in some ways a curious document. It is curious because it comprises two accounts that do not quite match. The first account is based on what she actually experienced and heard in Fiji, most of it positive; the second  is based on what she read and viewed after she left, all of it negative.

"I’ve been amazed at what a different experience I had and what a different impression I got," she writes. "Is it possible that all these reports and stories are wrong or exaggerated? Or could I really have missed all these terrible things going on around me?" Unable to reconcile the two, she concludes, not very convincingly, that she had not spent enough time in Suva where most of the negative happenings occurred.  But Lautoka had its share.

What follows below are brief extracts of her Fiji experiences, intentionally tantalizing, that I hope will persuade you to read the  full report


Thursday, October 29, 2009

(G) Cabinet Actions on Just One Day; Public Service Reform Expectations

Yesterday's Cabinet meeting approved: the use of funds to rehabilitate ex-offenders; the Radiation Health and Medical Imaging Technologists Decrees; the development of St Giles Mental Hospital as a regional institution; strategies to revitalise Healthy Islands  programme for Fiji and the Pacific (endorsed in 1995), and the National University Decree. To get a better idea of what Government is doing, much of it not reported in the printed media, go to the Government website.

To read about Government plans and expectations from the public service, that include placing people at the centre of performance and how these plans derive from the People's Charter and the Roadmap for Democracy and Sustainable Socio-Economic Development (RDSSED) 2009-2014 click here. Government says the reforms are needed to "build a strong nation state and, by empowering all our citizens, by fixing up decades of neglected infrastructure, by putting in place sustainable institutions and laws that will create accountability, transparency, fair play and modernity.”

I've published these items, partly because the printed media has not done so, but mainly to show that Fiji is not all about the police and the military.  The military-led government is actually doing many worthwhile things.  It would, of course, be better if they were the work of an elected government but for the moment, and some would argue for good reason, this is not possible.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

(-) Further Concerns About Power of Chief Registrar

The Citizens Constitutional Forum has issued a further news release on this topic.  See my earlier and now updated post "Concerns About Powers of Chief Registrar."

(o) Blog and US Got It a Little Wrong on Religious Freedom


 The Coupfourpointfive blog heading reads "US Report Says No Religious Freedom in Fiji" but the US report (and indeed the blog text) pointed to a decline in religious freedom in Fiji, not its demise. The International Religious Freedom Report 2009 by the US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor released on October 26 attributed the decline to the Police flirtation with the New Methodists and their Christian Crusades which, we earnestly hope, is now over. 

These matters need to be brought to our attention but the blog should not dramatize the situation with a misleading heading and it should not leave readers unaware the situation has recently improved.  The so-called Christian Crusades -- and, as far as I know, the inclusion of New Methodist  sermons at the compulsory weekly police parades -- have been abandoned.

It does, however, speak poorly of a regime that claims to seek a break from the bigotry of the past that they ever took place.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Snippets: Punja, Post Fiji, NFU, Air Pacific, Reserve Bank, Methodists, PACER

(o-) Hari Punja Blames Government's Vacillating Policies for Fiji Flour Mills Loss ...of $6.4m  on price control measures and what he says were arbitrary government decisions on duties and import policies.  Click here for full report. Photo: Radio Fiji.

(o+) Proposed Rationalisation of Transport 
Talks are under way on the proposed merger of Fiji’s road and motor vehicle regulator, the Land Transport Authority, and the country’s road safety agency, the National Road Safety Council.The merger of several educational institutions into the Fiji National University was reported earlier.

(o+) An Earlier Decision by Post Fiji to Cut Employee Wages...

by 10 percent for ten weeks to cut costs has been rescinded following discussion with the Ministry of Public Enterprises.

(-+) Farmers' Claims Against Military to be Investigated

The Fiji Labour Party reports that Defence Minister, Ratu Epeli Ganilau, has asked the military’s chief of staff to look into claims made by the National Farmers Union of intimidation, harassment and torture at the hands of the military.

(o) Good News for Tourists and Tourist Industry but ...

bad news for Fiji's national carrier Air Pacific that with a large financial loss in the 2009 year will now face more competition  from Australian discount carriers Virgin Blue and soon-to-arrive Jetstar airlines.

 (+) It's Earlier Days Yet But ...
the Reserve Bank claims its policy efforts to cushion the Fiji economy against the global financial crisis and other natural disasters has been successful.

(o) Nine Methodist Ministers and Officials ...
 were in court this week charged with organising meetings in contravention to the Public Emergency Regulations. The case will be recalled on November the 10th.

(o) Fiji Has Suspended Part Two ...
of the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) after its pleas for inclusion in trade talks among Pacific Island countries fell on deaf ears.

(-) Concern about Powers of Chief Registrar


UPDATED. SEE FURTHER  CCF STATEMENT AT END OF THIS POST


I would welcome comment and advice from informed readers  on this disturbing press release by the Citizens’ Constitutional Forum. CCF is a highly respected NGO that "educates and advocates for the Constitution, democracy, human rights and multiculturalism in Fiji." Readers wishing to learn more about CCF may contact them by email or visit their website.


The danger is that in its haste to spell out its "new legitimacy"  following the Abrogation of the 1997 Consitution, especially with respect to the judiciary on account of the negative actions of the Fiji Law Society,  Government may - or may not - have foreseen how some of its decrees could be used to curtail the rights of those it claims to protect.   Either way, CCF has raised an issue that requires an answer.

Decree Gives Superior Powers to the Chief Registrar

The Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF) expresses concern that a Decree gazetted on 20 July 2009 has given superior powers to the Chief Registrar, making that office more powerful than the highest court of Fiji.

Under this Administration of Justice (Amendment) (No. 2) Decree 2009, a decision by the Chief Registrar or a Tribunal to issue a Certificate for any Court or Tribunal proceedings cannot be challenged in any court or tribunal. This effectively provides superior powers to the Chief Registrar or Tribunal to terminate Court proceedings, even before a hearing before a Judge or magistrate.

“The basic human rights ‘Right to Remedy by a Competent Tribunal’ and ‘Right to Fair Public Hearing’ are being undermined by this decree. It forecloses the right to an appeal by defendants,” CCF Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Rev Akuila Yabaki said. “This is wrongful as a Decree should be used for enhancing the protection of rights, rather than for undermining the rights of residents of Fiji.”

“The freedom of Fiji’s judiciary has been further compromised through this decree. The Courts are no longer the highest authority in the land, capable of providing justice,” Rev Yabaki said. “This is a sad day for Fiji, as the Courts will not be able to play any significant role in certain national matters of conflict resolution and justice.”

The Administration of Justice (Amendment) (No. 2) Decree 2009 provides a new section that states: “Certificate of Chief Registrar or Tribunal conclusive 23A. – (1) A certificate issues by the Chief Registrar or a Tribunal under section 5(5) or section 23(3) or (5) is, for the purposes of any proceedings in a Court or Tribunal, conclusive of the matters stated in the certificate.  (2) A decision of the Chief Registrar or a Tribunal to issue a certificate under section 5(5) or section 23(3) or (5) is not subject to challenge in any Court or Tribunal.”

Rev Akuila Yabaki
Chief Executive Officer

 UPDATE
Chief Registrar violates independence of judiciary by prosecuting lawyers

The Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF) expresses concern that the Chief Registrar Ms Ana Rokomokoti will be compromising the independence of the judiciary by personally prosecuting senior lawyers in the proceedings of the Legal Services Commission next week.

“The Legal Practitioners Decree 2009 gives the Chief Registrar powers to commence proceedings before the Legal Services Commission – section 109(1)(c). However, the Decree does not provide express powers to the Chief Registrar to prosecute or appear in proceedings before the Legal Services Commission,” CCF Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Rev Akuila Yabaki said.

“When a Court Officer such as the Chief Registrar prosecutes people before a Commission, the independence of the judiciary and the Commission is compromised. In effect, a judicial body is playing the role of both prosecutor and judge at the same time, which violates principles of impartiality, fairness and due process,” Rev Yabaki said.

If the decision of the Legal Services Commission is challenged in Court, the Chief Registrar has absolute powers to dismiss those proceedings, which she prosecuted herself. The Administration of Justice (Amendment) (No. 2) Decree 2009 provides superior powers to the Chief Registrar to terminate Court proceedings, even before a hearing in Court. Any prosecutions by the Chief Registrar would violate the UN Basic Principles of the Independence of the Judiciary and the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct.

“Justice must be seen to be done. Former High Court Judge, Justice John Connors should disqualify himself from hearing any matters prosecuted by the Chief Registrar, until the interim government appoints an independent prosecutor, such as the Director of Public Prosecutions Office,” Rev Yabaki said.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

(o) Fiji's Three Universities: Everything's Political in a Way


USP, the University of the South Pacific,  is the oldest (1968) and largest university in Fiji but it is not a Fiji university. It is owned by the governments of its 12 member countries: Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Samoa. Australia, NZ and the UK have been major donors since inception and are represented on the University Council.  The main, Laucala, campus is in Suva, and there is a campus in all member countries. A look at a map of the Pacific Ocean gives some idea of the immense distances covered.

One recent development was that NZ apparently slapped a travel ban on Iqbal Khan, one of the Fiji government's nominated members on the University Council. If this is true, it is most strange. Only the Fiji Government, that puts substantial funds into the University, can nominate its own representatives.  There is at least one earlier instance of gross NZ interference in the proper management of  University affairs but since "all's well that  ends well," I'll say no more.


The University of Fiji is a new (2005) university, founded by the Arya Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji. It  main campus is at Saweni, close to Lautoka in the west of the main island. Its other campus is in Suva.

What is most impressive about  this essentially Hindu-conceived and funded institution is the extent to which it has sought to be multicultural. All students must take courses in Contemporary Fiji, Governance and Ethics, Introductory Fijian and Hindi. The belief is that these efforts will go a long way towards creating "one country, one nation and one people".

The University now awaits funding for a Centre for Indigenous Studies which, when complete, will be a teaching, research, performing and exhibition centre for indigenous and multi-ethnic arts and culture for the whole of Fiji.




The Fiji National University will become Fiji's third university next year.  The FNU will incorporate the former Fiji School of Medicine, Fiji College of Advanced Education, Fiji School of Nursing, Fiji College of Agriculture, Fiji Institute of Technology and Lautoka Teachers' College. This initiative to rationalize the use of resources was taken by the Interim Government led by the Minister of Education Filipe Bole (photo).

Saturday, October 24, 2009

(o) New Zealand Celebrates Labour Day

Labour Day is celebrated all over the world, usually on May 1st. New Zealand's Labour Day is celebrated  in the third week of October.  This weekend is NZ's Labour Day weekend and Monday is a public holiday. It commemorates a day in 1840 when carpenter Samuel Parnell won a world-leading eight-hour day for workers in the Wellington settlement: “It must be on these terms or none at all!” he said.

To see videos on NZ's labour history -- and hundreds of videos on other topics -- visit  the free NZOnScreen website.  For a centre-left interpretation of events in NZ, visit Scoop.  It is sometimes refreshing to see the world differently than the usually right-wing media.  For a damning video on how TV1 and TV3 twist the news to improve their ratings, link to this Scoop story.   Not relevant to Fiji? Don't believe it. Everything is interconnected, some things more than others.

Bainimarama: The "I am a Nationalist" Debate


PM Bainimarama made yet another of his unclear, so-easily-misinterpreted statements last week. He said ""I am a nationalist, Fiji for the Fijians, for, even Indians" leaving us all wondering what on earth he meant. 

The term "nationalist" in Fiji usually means an extreme or ultra-nationalist who in putting ethnic Fijian rights first, makes all others second class citizens. The term "Fijian" usually means ethnic Fijian but the draft People's Charter recommends it as the name for all Fiji citizens.  And what on earth did he mean  by "even Indians?" I have no idea.

For a release on his statement, and very informative and interesting comments on the statement, click here for the Coupfourpointfive website.

My own views?  There's nothing sinister in the remark but he desperately needs a public relations officer.  The stakes are too high and the issues too important to allow them to be defined by ambiguous off-the-cuff remarks.

Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On

Allen Lockington is a self-employed customs agent and business consultant who has regular articles published in www.connectme.com.fj/news/opinion. I thank Allen and Connect for permission to reprint some of them in this political blog. They remind us that life goes on, whatever the political situation. And it's good to know that. 

Slashing Imports

The Reserve Bank of Fiji governor Mr. Sada Reddy wants imports to be slashed by 87 percent.  It’s not as easy as that. Rice, potato, lamb, beef, milk amongst other things are all imported. Local production in insufficient.Sheep projects have being an ongoing thing for almost fifty years. Copies of the Fiji Times dating back to the 60s tell you this. Nawaicoba Research Station is one of them.

May I ask if we will be doing research for the rest of our lives? Will we ever be able to say that research is over and farming can begin? Then we can say thank you to New Zealand and Australia for the support they gave us over the years, and they in turn allow us to export sheep to them.

The Sigatoka Valley is rich in produce, yet hotels still import for the sake of their tourists, because the local produce is not the standard they require.

Did anyone notice that lamb neck is now almost $8 a kilo? Lamb neck is 85% bone.

Friday, October 23, 2009

(o) New Zealand Acts Justly and Sensibly: Anjala Wati and Infant Son Granted Medical Visa


If only my country were more often as wise and compassionate.

Read all about it by clicking here.

(o+) Australia and New Zealand May Be Pushing Too Hard and Too Soon


UPDATE FROM FIJI. Click  here.


Australia and NZ continue to push for greater speed to establish a Pacific free trade agreement that will include all PI Forum countries. As more PACER Plus* talks get underway in Cairns today and tomorrow -- without Fiji -- Oxfam NZ executive director, Barry Coates (photo), warns that any rigid free trade deal would mean a loss of government jobs and revenue in the region and worsen poverty and health problems.

"What is needed," he said, " is an economic cooperation agreement, with the Pacific’s development at its core. The first step should be proper consultations with business and community groups within the island countries. A rush to start negotiations without this preparation could cause irreparable damage to the islands’ economies and their development prospects."

Fiji Foreign minister, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, echoes Oxfam's concern, and has called on Pacific island countries to exercise “the fullest extent of caution” in their dealings with Australia and New Zealand. Most Forum Island Countries (FIC), he said, have not yet completed extensive national consultations with stakeholders to identify national positions for PACER Plus negotiations, and until this is done they should defer making commitments on the timelines, the coverage and the mandate for the new Chief Trade Advisor.

Fiji has repeated its claim its exclusion from PACER is illegal and it will not be bound by any decisions to which it is not a party. Fiji has given the Forum nations 30 days to re-instate it as a member of PACER, claiming its suspension was a material breach of its interests, leaving his Government no alternative but to suspend Part Two of the PACER agreement. It is under this clause that the parties are conducting negotiations today and tomorrow in Cairns.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Snippets: Aussies Warm to Fiji, Economy Downs But Some Ups, Tourism, New NGO


(o) Aussies Feel Warm Towards Fiji
Australian Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Duncan Kerr, is pleased a recent Lowry Institute survey showed Australians still feel warmly towards Fiji. Kerr said this showed they were able to distinguish between Fiji's people and its military-based government. Possibly. But the poll asked nothing about causes, and Australians who approve what the Fiji Government is attempting to do would also presumably feel warmly towards Fiji. Warm cuddles usually have little to do with politics, of any persuasion.


(-) Economy in "Terrible State"
Former USP and ANU Professor Ron Duncan's  report to the Lowry Institute says the Fiji "economy is in a terrible state." Sugar, bottled water and garment industries are all doing poorly, tourism is still not raking in the desired results in terms of revenue and remittances are down as a result of the global financial crisis. He is not sure the earlier Fiji Reserve Bank decision to devalue the Fiji dollar was a wise one.   Research led by Fiji Institute of Technology’s Commerce and Tourism Studies Dean Dr Mahendra Reddy  supports Duncan's general conclusions and states Government measures to cushion the economy have so far had little effect. Stop Press: Government will give $300,000 over 3 years to promote garments "Made in Fiji."

(o) The Causes of the "Terrible State" are Many:
A sugar industry for many years in desperate need of reform and funding; the garment collapse with the departure of "fly-by-night" Chinese manufacturers seeking duty-free exports to the US; the global financial crisis, and the withholding of much needed aid and loans from the EU, the Commonwealth, Australia and NZ as a result of the political situation. The political crisis is a contributing factor, but Fiji would have been in trouble, with or without the 2006 Coup. Indeed, signs of the downturn were evident well before 2006. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

(o+) Getting Personal: Anjala Wati and My Experiences of Some Immigration Officials


See Comments to "Snippets: NZ Immigration ..." (Click COMMENTS under the post)

One reader commenting on my post on Anjala Wati* said he/she would prefer to believe the NZ High Commission's side of the story rather than that of the Aiyaz Khaiyum, the Attorney General. I can understand this position. The reasonable assumption is that Immigration at a High Commission office makes just and sensible judgments.

My experience suggests this is not always the case. Give some minor officials a taste of power and they can behave in unbelievable ways.  I will give  three personal immigration examples.

(+) More on Ratu Naiqama: Chiefly and Clerical Abuse of Power


Letter from a Reader

Dear Croz,   Your recent report on Paramount chief Turaga Na Tui Cakau Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu was well-put. Even so, you missed a more recent episode in his chiefly career:

Towards the end of August last year (2008), the National Council for Building a Better Fiji (NCBBF) offered to explain the draft Peoples Charter to participants at the annual Methodist Church Conference; however the offer was rejected by the church’s ‘Think Tank’, shortly thereafter resulting in the church [read, ‘it’s leaders’] rejecting the draft Charter. Immediately following the rejection, the heads of all three confederacies (Ro Teimumu Kepa – Burebasaga; Ratu Naiqama – Tovata; Ratu Apenisa Cakobau – Kubuna) presented a tabua to the Methodist Church as a token of their support for the church’s stance on the Charter.

This act was perceived as the chiefs using the Methodist Church and their own symbolic status to promote the interests of the SDL (the three are open supporters) – and by accepting the tabua, of the Methodist Church conducting a political campaign on behalf of the SDL to stop people exercising their individual rights with respect to the draft Charter.

In addition, I perceive the act – offer and acceptance – as evidence for and strengthening of the close relationship between the Methodist Church and the chiefs, that commenced in the mid-1800s with missionaries Cross and Cargill and was otherwise openly demonstrated during the 2008 (or was it 2007?) Methodist Conference in Macuata when 84 turtles were presented (dead, of course) to the Methodist Church leaders: as far as I am aware, in Fijian custom turtles are presented ceremoniously only to chiefs.

With reference to your report therefore, and recalling the 2005-06 'qoliqoli bill' that helped to precipitate the installation of the current Fiji government, it is interesting to muse over Ratu Naiqama's position regarding that bill.


[Name withheld]

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Snippets: NZ Immigration; AusAid, Journalism & Democracy; Aussies Study Pacific

Compassion Please, New Zealand
Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum has accused NZ  of denying a medical entry visa for Hon. Anjala Wati (photo), a judge in the Family Court, who is seeking to bring her 20-month old child to New Zealand for an urgent eye operation to prevent the permanent loss of eyesight in one eye. Arrangements had already been made with Auckland's Starship Hospital for children.  Khaiyum said she was advised of this decision in an "undignified and disrespectful manner."

But a spokesperson for NZ Immigration said the visa was lodged late last week and a decision is yet to be made. My understating is that it normally takes at least 14 working days to issue visas, so Khaiyum could  be jumping the gun.  Let us hope  NZ will show good sense and compassion in this case.  Fiji needs a family court no less than a women's crisis centre (see story below). Even the Aussies could work that out.

It would be ironic indeed if NZ forestalled help for this child. New Zealander Fred Hollows spent a lifetime providing free eye surgery in the Pacific and other developing countries. His Foundation still carries on the good work. 

FWCC and AusAid

The Fiji Women's Crisis Centre will receive A$5.3m ovesr the next six years thanks to AusAid.  FWCC Co-ordinator and longstanding critic of the Interim Government, Shamima Ali said the money will be used for counselling, legal advice, advocacy, training, education, awareness and other support services for women survivors of violence.

Unanswered Questions about Fiji Journalism
The special issue the Journal of Fijian Studies is on democracy and journalism over the past 20 years. The Pacific Scoop review of the issue by Thakur Ranjit Singh raises several unanswered questions about the racial compositon of newsrooms and the dearth of Indo-Fijian editors; the failure to investigate corruption leads; the derailing of the Labour-led Government; support for the SDL party;  and the lack of support for the USP journalism course. He also asks what foreign aid sense it makes for the Australians to support a new journalism programme at the Fiji Institute of Technology when a well-established but under-resourced programme already exists at USP

Another review titled "The Politics of Fiji News Media Under Scrutiny" is posted on David Robie's  Cafe Pacific together with a clever, mischievous cartoon of Bainimarama and the media.

Two End of the Telescope
The Australian Association for the Advancement of Pacific Studies website includes its 2009 annual report that focuses on "a national strategy for the study of the Pacific ... designed to revive and enhance the excellence in teaching and research that had once marked Australia as the leader in the field [although we say so ourselves]. AAAPS also acknowledged the increasing concern in Australia about security, good governance, stability and development assistance in the neighbouring region."

Meanwhile, rumour has it that a group of eminent Pacific Islanders are planning a regional programme to study Australian and NZ --  with courses on security, good governance, stability and development assistance!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Snippets: Ratu Naiqama, Fiji Times, FNPF, Pacer Plus


Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu 
Cakaudrove paramount chief, the Tui Cakau Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu (photo) has said all money earned from the province's qoliqoli (traditional fishing grounds) will be used only for education.  It is pleasing to read about Ratu Naiqama talking on fishing, though I doubt he's consulted any of the numerous mataqali who "own" the qoliqoli.

Far better than his support for the army mutiny at Sukanaivalu Barracks in Labasa during the 2000 Speight Coup, or his parliamentary leadership role in 2001 as an ethnic extremist CAMV politican, and far, far better than 2003 when, unbelievably, he called for all political authority to be returned to Fijian chiefs -- like it was before 1874! -- starting with the Great Council of Chiefs replacing Senate.


A Political Item by The Fiji Times! 
PM Bainimarama says Rugby Union acting chief executive Keni Dakuidreketi has to resign while he faces corruption charges. FRU chairman Bill Gavoka begs to differs. The Fiji Times reported this exchange, its first political feature in months.  Dare we say, Welcome Back.

FNPF Needs to Have Some Investment Offshore. Fiji Market Too Small

In 2005 (before the Bainimarama Coup) the Reserve Bank told the Fiji National Provident Fund to repatriate over $300m in offshore investments to bolster critically low foreign reserve levels. This unexpectedly saved the pension fund from the global financial market crash, but it is now preventing the Fund from diversifying its portfolio and earning "good" returns for its members.

It is difficult to put its $3 billion-plus investment portfolio into the domestic markets, though the Fund has invested in government bonds, government papers, treasury bills and bank  fixed deposits. It's attempt to diversify into the hotel industry was a disaster and the Fund is now trying to sell three non-performing hotel projects. Click here for full report.

PACER Plus
Fiji Live reports: the PI Forum Trade Ministers will meet in Brisbane next weekend to negotiate the PACER Plus regional trade agreement -- without Fiji.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

(o+) Mahendra Chaudhry's Diwali Message:



The Leopard Who  Only Appears to Change His Spots

The full text of the FLP leader's message may be read courtesy of RawFijiNews, the anti-Government blog that last year could think of nothing nice to say about him.  How things change, as Chaudhry himself acknowledges in his opening comment, first a biased media (when he was part of the Government), now a media-gagging government (when he is not):

"This year again, as last year, I have been unable to convey to you my message on the auspicious occasion of Deepavali through the media. But the reason for my inability to do so this year is different from that of last year. In 2008 it was because of a hostile and biased print media; this year it is because of the media gag put in place by the interim government on April 10 following the abrogation of the constitution and the imposition of Emergency Rule."
Mahendra Chaudhry is an accomplished politician who most times turns every event to his own advantage. The only time he got things  seriously wrong was when Labour won the 1999 election. To survive,  he should have allowed Tupeni Baba to be the PM;  been far more cautious on proposed land and lease reforms that could so easily be distorted by rabid Fijian nationalists, and he should have heeded warnings about the prospects of the 2000 Coup.

Following the 2006 Coup --that some say he helped engineer-- he became  Minister of Finance in the Interim Government, but disassociated himself from the Bainimarama Government early this year.  My guess is  he  foresaw the July judicial findings and the inevitability of the events that followed, including the abrogation of the 1997 Constitution.  At some point he decided his long-term political survival (that rests on race-based Indo-Fijian politics) gave him more things in common with Qarase and the SDL party than with the Interim Government.  I think he's hoping that one way or another, the Bainimarama government will be overthrown before the 2014 elections.

The censors should not have stopped his Diwali message. They should have advised the media to print it -- as an advertisement.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

(+) Somare: He Says It, He Says it Not


Following the meeting of Melanesian leaders in Fiji last week, veteran PNG prime minister Sir Michael Somare (photo) was reported to have said the Fiji economy was picking up, foreign reserves were up dramatically, and everything was slowly returning to normal. Fiji's "dictatorship" was different, he said, as he called on the Pacific Islands Forum countries, particularly Australia and New Zealand, to treat Fiji more leniently and accept Cde Bainimarama. Fiji needed "time to get out of its political mayhem."

RNZI reported Sir Michael as saying post-coup Fiji is like any democratic country ... and Australia and New Zealand should stop shunning Bainimarama.  Australia's Nine News had Somare saying "It will be difficult for them to change but with a lot of explanation and understanding, if Australia and New Zealand see what is happening in Fiji, there could be a change of mind and attitude." Nine News continued: Somare was upbeat on the situation in Fiji. "There is no feeling of military regime. Infrastructure is in place. The economy is picking up. Fiji is like any other democratic country." He added that Bainimarama was trying to end friction with the ethnic Indian minority. "What he wants to see is a real multiracial society."

One might think that Somare had made himself abundantly clear, but no, the foreign media decided some investigative journalism was required. As if to say, even though we reported this ourselves, it couldn't really be true, could it?

Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On


Allen Lockington is a self-employed customs agent and business consultant who has regular articles published in www.connectme.com.fj/news/opinion. I thank Allen and Connect for permission to reprint some of them in this political blog. They remind us that life goes on, whatever the political situation. And it's good to know that.

Politricks
 
I was watching a documentary about politics and was amused when it said that all societies are the same. From politics, to families, to communities, to education and even the church - money is the main driving force.

One example is tobacco. Smoking is bad for the health but we can’t shut the factory down because it generates a lot of excise tax for the government. We put aside health issues for the sake of money. Ironically we spend millions of dollars on people who have been affected by the ills of smoking.

I learnt that all societies are driven by powerful business people. They have the final say because they are the biggest contributors a government’s coffers.

And I also learnt that politicians do not do much when they are in power. It’s the tacticians and engineers who actually do the work, they have the ideas and the plans, and the politician just goes and discusses when the plans have to be implemented. Most of the elected politicians are not trained in technical work.

During elections one word that becomes prominent is ‘manifesto’. It sounds like ‘hey presto.’ Magicians use it when doing their tricks.

A word coined by Bob Marley comes to mind - politricks. It means what it sounds like.

Friday, October 16, 2009

"Not Going to Waste Time" Bainimarama

Fiji won't be "wasting time" seeking readmission to the Forum or Commonwealth, says PM, but he was sad Fiji athletes would miss out. Click FBCL - News here.

(+) Grassroots Democracy: Government and the Poor


Set against the usual run of negative postings from anti-government bloggers and foreign media, it is a pleasure to report Government's positive response to a grassroots petition on school bus fares facilitated by ECREA.


This is the latest in a number of measures taken by Government to ease the lot of the poor.  Earlier measures included legislation on minimum wages (soon to be extended to poorly-paid media workers!),  assistance to urban squatters, rural road developments, islands shipping, Rotuman exports, and support for new rural crops. Government is also urging people to buy Fiji produce to reduce imports and increase local incomes.

For a press release on Government's decision, click here. A month ago Government approved bus fare increases. Click here to read what an anti-government blog had to say.  Read on to see how ECREA persuaded Government to make school bus fares free, at least until the end of the year, and what less prejudiced people had to say.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

(+) RadioNZI , Rupert Murdoch, President Obama and The Fiji Times


The Radio NZInternational heading reads "Fiji Interim Government Sacks its Reformer from Sugar Ministry" but then reports that Parmesh Chand had been relieved of his permanent secretary for the Sugar industry duties in order to concentrate on the reform of the public service.  How is this being sacked?

Half a world away media mogul Rupert Murdoch's Fox News has been banned from interviews at the White House because of persistent negative reporting. The TV channel's latest is that President Obama is a racist (!) and his acceptance of the Nobel Prize for Peace proof that he puts the globe before his country. 

And while you're recovering from that nonsense, ask which paper in Fiji is most hostile to the Interim Government, and before that most hostile to the  Labour Coalition Government deposed by the Speight Coup. Yes. The Fiji Times. And who owns the Times? News Ltd, a subsidiary of  News Corp.  And guess who owns* News Corp? Rupert Murdoch. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

PNG urges Australia, NZ to support Fiji

PNG urges Australia, NZ to support Fiji

Snippets: PER, Pryde, Hindus, Rice, World Bank, NLTB, Tourism


The Public Emergency Regulations have been extended for a further 30 days from 5 October.  No reason was given but it is generally known PER will continue to the end of the year.


Solicitor-General Christopher Pryde (photo, Fiji Village)  is now also the Permanent Secretary for Justice, Anti-Corruption and Electoral Reform, as Lt Col  Pio Tikoduadua becomes the new PS at the Prime Minister's Office.


The Diwali message to its 200,000 members from Shree Sanatan Dharm Pratinidhi Sabha leader Pundit Dewan Maharaj was "work together and move the nation forward."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Flashback: The 2006 Coup and the "Impartiality" of the Media


Initially, The Fiji Times had no doubt where it stood:
Outrageous and criminal ... We have witnessed how one moment of madness will set this country back by decades. This illegal takeover must end. The democratically elected People's Coalition has to be restored.
The Fiji Times never repeated that message and in fact later in the five weeks appeared to strongly sympathise with the rebels.

The newspapers quickly referred to "self-proclaimed head of state" George Speight when clearly there was only one legitimate President, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara. Likewise, Ratu Timoci Silatolu was being called "interim prime minister". Just because the elected government was being held hostage, it did not mean that it was no longer the legal government.

The Fiji Times published the only profile about Speight's pyramid sales and insurance career - written by a News Ltd journalist. (A Murdoch News Corporation subsidiary owns The Fiji Times.) (Fiji Times, 2000b) There was no in-depth local profile written, something matching a mahogany-and-Speight piece in The Sydney Morning Herald by Marian Wilkinson which exposed how the coup leader stood to gain a financial "killing" from an American timber resource company - until the Chaudhry Government was swept to power and trashed the deal.  By day seven, The Fiji Sun was already calling the rebels the "Taukei civilian government".


(o+) Commonwealth Games Federation Bans Fiji But ...



The news that the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) has banned Fiji from the 2010 Games in New Delhi shows there are always several ways to interpret news events.  Here are some:

Fiji is only the second country in the history of the Games to be banned. Nigeria was the first. Fiji's misdemeanors, therefore, must be judged worse than those of all 71 member countries and territories.  Or perhaps the Commonwealth is less concerned about countries that "legally" breach human rights so long as they hold elections however fake the results. Or perhaps it's just a question of size and influence in which Fiji has no chance against the advocacy of Australia and New Zealand. Or perhaps earlier actions -- by Australia, NZ, the Forum countries, PACER, the Commonwealth Heads of Government, the EU, aided by their respective media -- had done such a good hatchet job isolating Fiji that the CGF decision was a "given" even before it met. Who knows?


Twist in the Tale
But there's a twist in the tale that also needs interpretation. On the initiative of Mike Fennell, the 74-year old Jamaican who has been president since 1994 (photo, right), the CGF endorsed his "proposal to lead a delegation to the Commonwealth Secretary-General requesting him to take forward to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting a recommendation from us that sport be removed as part of the sanction imposed upon a nation suspended from the Commonwealth.” If this proposal is accepted, which I doubt, Fiji could participate in the New Delhi Games.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Diwali: "Fiji the Way the World Should Be"


Some 2,000 mainly Australian tourists arriving in Suva on the Sun Princess today were disappointed the shops were closed due to Fiji Day.  But they were also closed as Indian shopkeepers prepare their shops for the five-day Hindu celebration Diwali (Deepavali) that starts this week. This is the Festival of Lights that brings families together and -- on one of the days when Hindu (and Sikh) families invite their neighbours, friends and colleagues of all faiths to their homes to celebrate --  it also brings together many parts of the nation. 

Then, briefly, Fiji appears to be the "way the world should be" as you sit in the home of your Hindu host and hostess in the company of people of all beliefs. And then perhaps pass through a rural settlement or the peri-urban houses of the Hindu poor after sunset to see porchways and flower gardens lit with lines of diya (wicks in small clay pots filled with oil). Or drive around the wealthier suburbs in the larger towns to see the homes of the rich festooned in thousands of coloured lights.

The origin of Diwali lies deep in Hindu tradition, with details varying from region to region,  but the spiritual essence is the same: awareness of the inner light (Atman) and the underlying oneness of all things (Brahman). At a shallower and more symbolic level it celebrates the homecoming of Rama after his 14-year exile and defeat of the evil Ravana, and so seen it celebrates the victory of goodness over evil. Each day has a special significance. The first celebrates the birth of the goddess Lakskmi, the second the defeat of Ravana (or Naraka by  Krishna in another tradition), the third is Diwali when Lakshmi has a central place. The fourth day, the first day of the Hindu new year, is a day of prayer, and the fifth is dedicated to sisters, when brothers are invited to their homes.  

The Wikipedia entry explains the festival's deeper meaning: "Central to Hindu philosophy is the assertion that there is something beyond the physical body and mind which is pure, infinite, and eternal, called the Atman. Just as we celebrate the birth of our physical being, Deepavali is the celebration of this inner light, in particular the knowing of which outshines all darkness (removes all obstacles and dispels all ignorance), awakening the individual to one's true nature, not as the body, but as the unchanging, infinite, immanent and transcendent reality. With the realization of the Atman comes universal compassion, love, and the awareness of the oneness of all things (higher knowledge). This brings Ananda (inner joy or peace). Deepavali celebrates this through festive fireworks, lights, flowers, sharing of sweets, and worship."

Diwali this year falls on Saturday 17th October.

Diwali's message has special relevance to Fiji at the present time. Happy Diwali Everyone!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Snippets: Travel Ban, Police Christian Crusade, Supposed Bainimarama-Teleni Clash,Melanesian Spearhead Group, Scarr Book Launch on Ratu Mara

(o) Reddy's Orbital Transit
Coupfourpointfive reports that according to its sources Reserve Bank Governor Sada Reddy, who had intended to transit through Auckland on his way to the IMF meeting in Instanbul, was denied access to NZ because his PR (permanent resident) status had been revoked.  I'd always thought a transit lounge had a different status than normal entries through immigration and customs.  No matter, Reddy got to Instanbul via South Korea. Photo: Reserve Bank building, Suva.


(+) Reddy's Economic Initiatives
NZ's Indian News Link reports on Sada Reddy's plans for the Fiji economy.

(-+)Teleni's Police Christian Crusade
RawFijiNews claims it had "been reliably informed that the reasons behind the 24 hr change by the Fiji Police Force to switch its proposed, planned and confirmed Police Crusade to a Police Roadshow was because Police Chief Teleni was ordered by Bainimarama to do so otherwise he has to find himself another job." The blog saw this as evidence of deep-seated and ominous conflict between Esala Teleni and the PM that would one day come to a head.  I was hoping the cancellation was due to the PM (or Teleni) reading my blog! However, Coupfourpointfive said Police spokeswoman Ema Mua told The Fiji Times the cancellation was because "the majority of police officers did not support it" but later she said she was misquoted. So much for reliable information!

(G) Fiji Day 10.10.09


Saturday was the 39th anniversary of Fiji Independence.  Celebations started on Friday and will continue to Monday which is a national holiday. The crux of PM Bainimarama's address to the nation was that all Fiji citizens need to work together in order for Fiji to move forward. “If we want to create a better country for ourselves," he said,  "we all need to work harder – and smart – think outside the box and make positive paradigm shift. We need to find suitable solutions together to our deep-rooted problems.

“The theme for our celebrations this year, of Educating Fiji Towards Change Peace and Progress , affords us all an opportunity to strive forward in purpose and confidence to move Fiji into a non-racial – culture vibrant – united – well governed and truly democratic nation – where the marginalized and disadvantaged in our society are uplifted and fully participate in a modern progressive society.” --  Fiji Broadcasting Corporation

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On

Allen Lockington is a self-employed customs agent and business consultant who has regular articles published in www.connectme.com.fj/news/opinion. I thank Allen and Connect for permission to reprint some of them in this political blog. They remind us that life goes on, whatever the political situation. And it's good to know that.

Ethics

There will be a lot of resistance to the idea of introducing casinos to Fiji.

In my opinion, Fiji can do with casinos, just restrict them to six star hotels and ban locals from playing the games and we are set. Anyway, it’s a huge revenue earner, just look at Las Vegas. I am for introducing legalized gambling, provided our citizens can never have access to them.

We will ban locals. But what if a tourist comes to ruin in our country because of his or her foolishness and gambles away their life savings? Will it be ok?

It’s just a thought, because while we protect our people with regards to ethics, does our ethics extend to foreigners?

This is not a religious question; it’s simply about contradicting ourselves.

Friday, October 9, 2009

AN APPEAL TO READERS

Would readers able to do so please draw the attention of people in or close to Government and the Military Council to my Monday posting, "Football Shows a Possible Way to Easing PER and Renewing Dialogue." The title may seem frivolous but I think the suggestions have merit.

I'd also welcome readers' opinions on these suggestions, and ideas and suggestions in other postings that look to the future. While postings in many blogs are overwhelmingly negative, this blog includes several postings on possible ways forward, including the posting immediately below.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

(B) Election Formats: Part II Walsh - "New Election Playing Fields and Outcomes"


Last week I summarized two articles by Prof.Wadan Narsey on Fiji's election system, and provided links to the originals. The articles explained proportional voting and the list system which seem likely to replace the AV system used in Fiji's 2006 election. Using the 2006 election results, Wadan showed that irrespective of the system used (AV or proportional representation), the SDL would have been elected and Indo-Fiians were not under-represented by either system. The only difference was that the "fairer" proportional voting system would have seen two minor parties, the NFP and NAP, win 5 and 3 parliamentary seats respectively.

In Part II I comment on Wadan's articles, the NCBBF election proposals, the importance of the "split vote", the abolition of communal seats and ethnic minorities, Independent candidates, the number and size of constituencies, open and closed party lists, minimum votes needed to win a seat in parliament, and (thanks to notes by Ranjit Singh) on useful lessons from New Zealand's experience with its proportional and party list election system.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

(o) Tarte Retirement: End of an Media Era


CORRECTION. SEE NOTE BELOW.
Pacific Freedom Forum has a brief tribute to Daryl Tarte (photo) who recently resigned from the Fiji Media Council, after 13 years service in what became one of the most difficult jobs in the country. The FMC attempts to improve media quality and "provide a neutral and trusted link between media houses and a public complaints process" but since 2006 the Council has had the unenviable job of mediating between a generally hostile media and a short-fused Government. Striking a balance that called for media independence and freedom of the media on the one hand, and responsible reporting on the other hand was a particularly challenging task.

Snippets: Police, Misspent Billions, UN Peacekeeping

Police Roadshow to Replace Christian Crusade
The Police have cancelled the nationwide Christian Crusade scheduled to begin today and replaced it with a road aimed at informing the public about police work and how they can assist the community. The suddenness of this last minute decision makes one think it is a result of the widespead criticism of the forced "christianization" of the Force. If so, the decision is particularly welcome because it shows Government is receptive to public thinking.The roadshow will be opened by Police Commissioner Cde Esala Teleni, the instigator of the now hopefully-abandoned Crusades. Click here. Photo: Police Marching Band. The Fiji Times.

All Strangely Agree on Reform Substance -- Really?

There are comments to this posting. Click 'comments' below.

"The strange thing is I have talked myself to political leaders in Fiji and all of them agree strangely enough on the substance of the reforms which are necessary."

These are the words of Roger Moore, the European Union's Director for Development and Relations with the Pacific, after his recent return from Fiji where he met government and opposition leaders. He was speaking yesterday to NZTV's Paul Holmes.

Comment
It is indeed strange. It is also the first time I've heard the claim. One wonders why, if it is so simple now, the political leaders did nothing to implement the reforms when they were in parliament. Why they have constantly tried to undermine and detract from government's reform efforts. And why they themselves have done nothing to advance reform except to talk in non-specific terms to overseas visitors.


Monday, October 5, 2009

(+) Football Shows a Possible Way to Ease PER and Renew Dialogue


The Emergency Regulations (PER) curb the exchange and spread of opinion, pro- and anti-government alike. They make it difficult for Government to get its views out in an acceptable way. They inhibit public feedback. They allow negative rumours to proliferate. They make public discussion impossible.

My view is that the continuance of PER will soon become counter-productive, producing far more long-term disadvantages than short-term security is worth. It may be too early to resume the President's Political Dialogue Forum (PPDF) but it is not too early to relax PER, and progressively increase dialogue. Relaxing PER is Government's first step to regain support from Fiji's "middle ground," the genuine democrats whose support has turned luke-warm in recent months.

With respect, therefore, I urge Government and the Military Council to consider the following suggestions on how to permit dialogue and media freedom without jeopardizing public security.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On

Allen Lockington is a self-employed customs agent and business consultant who has regular articles published in www.connectme.com.fj/news/opinion. I thank Allen and Connect for permission to reprint some of them in this political blog. They remind us that life goes on, whatever the political situation. And it's good to know that.

Sugar Exports

It is heartening to read about the $32m sugar export, however, we all know that we are capable of exporting more. The Fiji Sugar Corporation had trouble starting the mill. We all know that things could have been better, but that’s another story. Sugar can still be the backbone of our economy, or run parallel with tourism. Agriculture can be the sustaining force propping up everything else.

If we have to, let’s give the land to those who are better toilers and farmers, those who have a greater desire to work a little bit harder. Let’s give the land to those who have a little more endurance than us and let’s all benefit a little at a time.

Having said that, I had a meeting with business partners in which we would share the spoils – equally. One of the partners said that in time greed would rear its ugly head when one partner would think that his input was more important than the others. Guess what! It hit me like a ton of bricks. It brought me down to earth. I learnt a very important lesson that day.

Many famous rock bands ended when one musician thought he or she was better than the other and thus everything comes crashing down. So let’s acknowledge that we can share what we have. While we twiddle our thumbs, time moves and cane fields turn to weeds.

By the way, is there a market for paragrass somewhere overseas?

Friday, October 2, 2009

(o) People Who Deceive Lose Credibility: AI, Apolosi Bose, Peter Waqavonovono

There are comments on this posting. Click 'comments' below.

An email from Peter Waqavonovono of the Fiji Young Peoples Concerned Network invited me to read "a new report by Amnesty International of Fiji condition." He said the report, published on 8 September, "reveals Fiji's human rights violations."

The"latest violations" reported and written by AI's Apolosi Bose ( a Fijian national) were the detention of Adi Teimumu Kepa and the Methodist ministers who violated the public emergency regulations in July. But, coupled with violations and alleged violations dating back to 2006, all these earlier events were fuzzily presented as recent.

Whatever they might think of the Bainimarama Government, the recycling -- and repetition-- of old news as new, and urging people to act on it, is just straight-out deceit. People who deceive lose credibility.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

(+) Blog Rumour Foul*-Mongering and PERs Backfiring



There are comments to this posting. Click 'comments' below.

Some blogs are built on gossip, rumour and hopeful speculation. In the case of Coupfourpointfive, the usually more reasoned of the anti-government blogs, most rumours concern different government officials getting sacked or being moved on. My guess is that their purpose is to keep the pot boiling on supposed divisions within the military and Bainimarama government. As the saying goes, "If you throw enough mud at a wall, some of it is sure to stick." Another blog, based on its "reliable sources", had the military about to revolt and Methodists determined to hold their conference, whatever the odds.

Sometimes the rumours prove true, but most times one waits in vain for the axe to fall on an unsuspecting official. Coupfourpointfive never comments, corrects or apologies for its errors.

(B) Election Formats: Part I Narsey on Proportional Representation and the List System

In this two-part series USP economics Prof. Wadan Narsey and I come to rather different conclusions on the possible outcomes of electoral reform. Wadan's two related articles, Electoral Reform Not about Racial Justice and Does the Military Really Want Electoral Reform? were previously published by Pacific Scoop. I abridge and summarize their contents here with a link to the originals. Part II Walsh New Election Playing Fields and Outcomes will be published next week.