Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Public Emergency Regulations, Poverty, Race & the Charter, NZ Policies, Sugar Costing

  Speaking to the UN Human Rights Council in June, Ambassador Peceli Vocea said:

"The calls for the lifting of the Public Emergency Regulations are contained in Recommendations 27 to 35. I am pleased to convey that Fiji generally accepts the content and intent of each of these recommendations. The Government of Fiji in February this year has pronounced that it will lift the Public Emergency Regulation as soon as the Fiji Media Decree is promulgated." And again."The Government of Fiji has pronounced that it will lift the Public Emergency Regulation as soon as the Fiji Media Decree is promulgated." But then it didn't. Why did it change its mind?   Was it a wise decision?

I put these questions to the Sharon Smith John, the PS for Information:

Q. Why was it not lifted when the the Media Decree took effect, as previously promised?
A.It was decided to let the media work with the media decree before lifting the PER.

Q. Why is it now being extended on a month to month basis? Why not fix a date 6, 12 or even 18 months in the future?
A.There are several sections in the PER. It is feasible that section 16 (which relates to the media) will be lifted in the near future. However, other parts will continue. 

Q. I know it is easier to administer the country with PER in place and am aware of Bainimarama's cautions about the influence of chiefs and clergy, but, with the Media Decree in place, government should be able to refute false rumours and claims.
A. As for monitoring the media, there is very little of that happening. I have said this publicly, in fact so little in fact the media are relatively free to write what they want.

Q. Most importantly, how can any sort of dialogue take place with PER in place?
A. The PER does not stop dialogue. In fact in the past few weeks, we have seen a lot of dialogue taking place not just within government, but outside.

Maybe, but I am not convinced. Some dialogue, inside government and out, is not enough. Much more dialogue is needed on a large raft of issues  between government and the "outside"  and the outcome of the dialogue needs to be made public.

There are valid security reasons for maintaining PER and valid dialogue and confidence reasons for lifting them.

Lifting PER soon would give Government an enormous boost in the eyes of all moderate Fiji citizens  and be taken as evidence of its sincerity by the international community. Given the odds, a gambling man would opt for lifting them.  The longer the delay in lifting PER, the faster the loss in confidence. People will ask what further promises will be be broken or delayed.

. The Poverty Eradication Unit from the PM’s office is adamant they will be able to fulfill the millennium development goal of reducing poverty. Unit Officer John Sowani says affirmative action in 2000 by the Qarase government had been racially-based. Sowani says their focus now is on disabled people and the vulnerable group of women and children.

"Our role is to coordinate and monitor the implementation on the framework and to conduct impact assessment that is the crunch of our work. Of all pro-poor programmes that have been done with all the stakeholders including government, non-governmental organisations and the private sector, and to identify remedial strategies to provide equal opportunities. To review, evaluate and formulate poverty reduction policies. We work under pillar eight of the people’s charter to reduce poverty to a negligible level by 2015."

[Great. But the Unit would be mistaken if it thinks poverty is confined to the disabled, women and children. And, with the poor -- the primary stakeholders-- not included in its consultations, it can hardly claim to have worked with "all the stakeholders." A major fault of well meaning, top-down, pro-poor policies over the years is that they have been framed by  people with no specialist academic training or experiential knowledge of the  ramifications of poverty.]

THE NZ LISTENER  has had two not well informed editorials on Fiji over the last couple of years but no substantive or informed article. My earlier effort to interest them waned when one of their editors left. But there has been the occasional letter, including this one in the current issue: Anyone with a faint idea of what's going on in Fiji must despair at the Government's foreign affairs policy. NZ just snubbed Fiji;s invitation to attend an 'Engaging Fiji' meeting in Nadi. This could have been a good opportunity to hear from the house's mouth what the military government plans in terms of introducing democracy and fair elections. Instead, we hang onto our black-and- white view that a military government must be evil per se. Why, then are they kowtowing to the dictators of China?....." The letter was signed by Ulli Weissbach, North Shore.

Sugar cane farmers say  that inefficient crushing mills are costing them money. National Farmers Union president Surendra Lal Sugar cane farmers in Fiji are worried that inefficient crushing mills are costing them money. National Farmers Union president Surendra Lal says the amount of can harvested this year is well down on last year. He says constant breakdowns and delays at the crushing mills means a lot of the harvested cane is lying in the fields losing its sugar content. Mr Lal says the farmers are doing their best to produce good quality cane, but the Fiji Sugar Corporation needs to upgrade its equipment or see the harvest increasingly go to waste. says the amount of cane harvested this year is well down on last year. He says constant breakdowns and delays at the crushing mills means a lot of the harvested cane is lying in the fields losing its sugar content. Mr Lal says the farmers are doing their best to produce good quality cane, but the Fiji Sugar Corporation needs to upgrade its equipment or see the harvest increasingly go to waste.

ANTICIPATING A SINISTER EXPLANATION of why a replacement is being sought for Col. George Langman as deputy head of FICAC (the corruption commission), the actual reason is that, as military's most senior qualified engineer, he's needed back in the RFMF to head the engineering corp. The Chinese government is  giving the RFMF $5m worth of machinery to carry out rural development in line with government’s policy.


  1. ...still looking for the hopefully not mythical road map

    Croz - can you ask Sharon perhaps to provide a copy of the presentation given at Natadola please. I am assuming it must have been fairly detailed and convincing. Maybe it could have a positive impact on the international community to see what the Pacific leaders endorsed ?

  2. Media are free to write what they want ?

    I don't think so. Straight into custody for questioning and most likely overnight if you where to publish anything negative about PM.

    Or what about a opinion piece that suggested the PER be lifted immediately and election be brought forward... it would be Ok to report that then ?

  3. Regardless of the theoretical reasons for extending the PER, that the government see no need to keep it's word or at the very least issue a public justification does not bode well.

    Even more disappointing is that their Secretary for Information then lies through her teeth when asked about it.

    This government is riding on the back of several promises ... and this is not a good look to wear.

  4. Alter ego ... Nearly didn't publish this. Personal attacks are not welcome on this site.

  5. The PER is just another indicator of failure by the junta. It is also a sign of insecurity by those who have overthrown the elected government. If the junta is as popular as they would like us to believe the PER would not be needed? It is only a matter of time before this all explodes.

  6. Fair enough re personal attacks but the PM
    can't seriously expect anyone to suppoty
    him when he let's us all down again and again.

  7. The PER has not been lifted simply because the Government is scared, very scared of its own citizens. They know that whatever they are doing is illegal. The PER is a way to keep the citizens in a tight lid jar.

  8. Croz, when the regime can break a promise to lift the PER, it is quite capable of breaking its promise to hold elections in 2014.

    I think the scenario will unfold as follows:

    1/ Many months will pass before even the most preliminary preparations begin on electoral reform and setting up mechanisms for a poll based on one man, one vote.

    2/ An international team will be assembled to supervise the process, possibly with input from Australia and NZ as Fiji progressively meets their conditions for preparing for elections.

    3/ Time will run out and it will be the international experts who say an election can't be held before the deadline because of the magnitude of the task before them.

    4/ The regime can say the delay is procedural and Frank gets to stay in power until everything is ironed out.

    5/ Its critics will accuse the regime of not starting preparations for an election soon enough but that won't be enough to derail the re-engagement of Fiji's traditional partners.

    Sound far fetched? Remember this prediction, Croz, because I'll wager that's the plan and that's what will happen.

  9. Still looking for the Road Map...

    Croz - please answer your many critics on this one. Does it exist ? Is there a document that outlines the return to democracy or are we all being led down the garden path.

    I have, as you suggested searched your site. There is lots of references to the road map, it is mentioned all the time in speaches but I just can't find the road map they are referring to.

    Please prove me wrong on this one and publish the actual roadmap or at least provide a link to it. I note you provided a link to what you thought was the roadmap earlier but have removed it because it was the SDL/Labour multi party led governments road map. The language in it was strikingly similar to that in the many current government speaches but it was not the current PM's roadmap.

  10. I was at the launch of he road map in 2009

    ...and I have to say I left bitterly dissappointed. It was a bunch of economic reform statements (mostly positive) but lacked any real detail about returning to democracy except to say they would not start work on that for some time. No big news there as it was pretty clear they had done none to date.

    I know you are no fan of Jenny Hayward Jones but her summary of the same speach is pretty spot on so have pasted it below:

    Fiji’s interim Prime Minister, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, gave an address to the nation on 1 July setting out a strategic framework for change for the next five years. Although Fiji’s media is heavily censored by the interim Government, the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation at least has a live streaming facility, so I was able to listen to the speech live right here in my office in Sydney.

    The address was expected to establish a detailed roadmap for reform and a return to democracy in Fiji. But it was essentially a blueprint for economic reforms to entice international financial institutions and donors to re-engage with Fiji, with only vague promises of political reform.

    For those sceptical of Bainimarama’s commitment to democracy, the speech offered little to persuade them otherwise. Bainimarama renewed his commitment to hold elections in September 2014 and outlined a new promise – the preparation of a new constitution by September 2013. While this was inevitably the consequence of the abrogation of the 1997 constitution on 10 April this year, it is not clear why he decided public consultations on the drafting of a new constitution cannot commence until September 2012.

    Commodore Bainimarama said the new constitution would derive its impetus from the recommendations of the People’s Charter for Change, Peace and Progress. That document has been in the public domain for at least six months and has already been subjected to a consultative process. It is therefore strange that Fiji’s citizens have to wait another three years for an opportunity to participate in the process of determining their own future. If there are to be public consultations, why not start now? It would have cost the interim Government little and demonstrated to the region and the international community that Fiji was serious about political reform.

    Bainimarama’s emphasis on economic reforms and the importance of economic growth to Fiji was a positive development. Despite his optimistic rhetoric about the Fiji economy, he appears to have grasped that Fiji needs external help to stabilise its deteriorating economy. In language clearly aimed at international financial institutions, he promised pro-growth and pro-poor policies: to modernise government infrastructure, reduce expenditure, divest government shares, close non-performing entities, amalgamate departments, outsource to the private sector, rehabilitate roads and reform tax laws.

    His encouragement of the private sector to seize the opportunity to engage with the interim Government is constructive. However, he failed to address the fundamental problem that the abrogation of the constitution, the absence of true adherence to the rule of law, the lack of an independent judiciary and media censorship deter rather than attract private investors, no matter how committed the Government is to modernisation.

    More worryingly, the lack of any reference in the address to the future role of the military in Fiji was a strong indication that Commodore Bainimarama does not intend that the military retreat from its dominance of government and politics beyond 2014.

    This address was an opportunity for Bainimarama to show Fiji and the international community that he could walk and chew gum; to make difficult decisions about economic reform and increase his commitment to accountability by engaging in open discussion about the nation’s political future at the same time. He did not convince.

  11. @Croz
    Respectfully. This dialogue with Sharon Smith Johns does not give me a sense of confidence at all. I find it rather alarming.
    In the absence of any real roadmap to take Fiji forward I offer the following to be implemented immediately:
    1. The military publically announce they will return to the barracks immediately and Bainimarama will stand down as self appointed leader of Fiji.
    2. The Fiji Police take immediate control of internal security (as is their role) and international resources are provided to assist them as required.
    3. An interim administration is appointed which is representative of all people in Fiji and includes respected personnel from other Pacific nations.
    4. A respected leader is appointed as interim leader of Fiji until elections are held.
    5. A clear and unamibiguous roadmap is put in place which returns Fiji to democracy ASAP.
    6. The newly appointed democtaric government is monitored by the international community, NOT the Fiji Military.
    7. All those who have benefitted inany way from this military regime, including those appointed to all senior government or judicial appointments, are investigated and brought before an internationally managed court to provide them with an opportunity to clear their name.
    8. All assets of above personnel and their families are seized until the above courts makes its decision on each junta appointee or person associated in any way financially with this regime.

  12. @ Still looking for the Roadmap .. Yes it exists as the Anonymous below you confirms, but my understating is that while its main constructs and dates are know (as reported in this blog), the actual document is still a draft. I'll follow this up when I have more information.

    @ A way forward... Sounds great, and so simple. Qarase and all anti-government people would agree with you. There's only one hitch: you describe the way back, with nothing achieved over the past four years, and there has been much.

  13. I have again recently heard in a movie a character paraphrase Thomas Jefferson by saying 'people should not fear their government, their government should fear the people'. This regime not only doesn't trust the people, or their representatives (political or traditional), nor even a judiciary (eve if they illegally appoint it), unless they all 'fall into line'. My real concern is that even after the so-called commitment to elections, we haven't heard the last of this, and i am yet to hear from croz and others how this will work after an elected government has a mandate to govern or investigate, or a judiciary deigns to rule against it, with a military waiting to step in when they see fit.

  14. what are the 'valid security reasons' for PER? I think others would like to know also.

  15. The bottom line

    Not lifting the PER is another broken promise and another step backwards.

    Sure the PER makes life easy for government. How comfortable is life when there is no visiable opposition to anything you do or say ? Very comfortable.

    We don't want a government that is comfortable and relaxed. We need them to be on there toes and running flat out.

    Lift the PER now. It will actually mean government will have to lift its performance.

  16. I have just read the original Frank and friends road map to democracy and encourage everyone else to do so. It promises all the things the new road map does (not that anyone has ever seen the new one other than PM's speach in 2009). Anyway the speach in 2007 and 2009 has all the same promises and promises and promises. I have also read the 2007 - 2011 strategic plan by the SDL government and guess what. Lots of the same promises in there.

    So I suggest no one applaud this government or any other government on what they promise. Only on what they deliver.

    The military government have delivered :

    Negatives first....
    1. A economic downturn (like all coups create)
    2. Isolation of Fiji in the international community
    3. Cut off much need aid money
    4. Caused fighting with neigbours in Pacific and Au and NZ
    5. Had us suspended from the commonweatlh and PIF
    6. Removed many capable people and caused many more to migrate
    7. Silenced people in general

    1. Fixed a few laws (it's easy by decree)
    2. Made some good social calls (schooling, min wages)
    3. Made a start on corruption (but why can't they find something serious of LQ and ministers - was this not the reason for overthrowing them ?
    4. Got more serious about looking north
    5. Paid and promoted many in the military (good for them, not so good for tax payers)

  17. Any honest assessment of the current situation in Fiji would indicate that the nation has never been more divided since Dec 2006. Those who understand Fijians know they will say little about the current situation, sit back, let everything unfold, then pick the right opportunity to respond. And when they do choose torespond it will be 'meaningful' in the absolute sense.
    Most of the pro junta support commentary is coming from palagi coup supporters or indo-Fijians who already live overeas. Definately not a good sign for sustainability.
    The FLP, mainly indo-Fijans are well aware of the mistakes that has been made and are increasingly anti the military junta. They know the cost of supporting this coup will be high.
    So the best thing to do is to sit back and just wait. Leave sanctions,let the junta go north (that can be corrected in 2-3 days), leave status quo and slowly slowly let it all takes it course. The outcome is inevitable if we just remain patient.


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