Saturday, October 30, 2010

Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On

Readers are reminded that ANONYMOUS COMMENTS will not be published.
WEEKEND READING. Scroll down to  ♦ Scott MacWilliam reviews Michael Field's Swimming with Sharks ♦ Thakur Ranjit Singh on Brij Lal's book about Jai Ram Reddy ♦ Subramani on Misconceptions about the Media Decree ♦ Marist Spirit Leaves Mark.  

See also Friday's postings. The decision to remove CoupFourPointFive from my 'moderate' blog list produced some interesting and revealing comments.


Allen Lockington is a self-employed customs agent and business consultant who has regular articles published in Fiji. I thank Allen 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.
 
Scenic Route

It's amazing what you see and experience on a drive from Lautoka to Nadi. For me the drive is scenic all along the 25 kilometer or so drive.

Book Review: Michael Field's "Swimming with Sharks"


Subramani on the Media Decree and Overseas Journalists' Misconceptions

 

Brij Lal's Book on Jai Ram Reddy


The life of Fiji’s statesman Judge Jai Ram Reddy: Dr Brij Lal’s “In the Eye of the storm.” 
-- by Thakur Ranjit Singh
 
India’s first Prime Minister and Indira Gandhi’s father, Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru once said that history is always written from the viewpoint of victors. So is true about Fiji’s history, especially those relating to the suffering of the indenture and the trials and tribulations of its descendants.

Marist Spirit Leaves Mark

Friday, October 29, 2010

Stop Press on CoupFourPointFive

CoupFourPointFive's posting today on Driti and Mara is incredulous. They write that the two military leaders were reinstated after they apologized to Bainimarama for plotting to depose him. The blog must take their readers for fools if they think they will believe this. Someone plots to depose you; they say sorry and all is forgiven?  The blog should just admit their first report was wrong, rather than trying to wriggle out of it with another tall story.  Errors happen all the time when one relies on unsubstantiated, anonymous rumours.

Their second posting was on Sharon Smith-Johns and it is deeply offensive and libellous. The accusation was first published months ago on another anti-government blog and has no more substance now than it did then.  I am quite frankly shocked that a once reputable anti-govenment blog should have stooped so low.

CoupFourPointFive no longer meets the criterion of a 'reasonable' anti-Government blog and for this reason I have removed  the link to the blog on this site. The decision will be reviewed when CoupFourPointFive shows signs of returning to its previous status.

I trust RadioNZ International and other international media will think twice before again using CoupFourPointFive for their  information, and they should certainly never publish anything from this source until they have verified the information.

'Disgusting' Comments, ABC and RNZI Slips are Showing, Sugar Suing, MSG Laughing Stock

WEEKEND READING.  ♦ Allen Lockington's column ♦ Scott MacWilliam reviews Michael Field's Swimming with Sharks ♦ Thakur Ranjit Singh on Brij Lal's book about Jai Ram Reddy ♦ Subramani on Misconceptions about Media Decree ♦ Marist Spirit Leaves Mark.

RACIST, SEXIST AND DISGUSTING COMMENTS ON COUPFOURPOINTFIVE
have drawn comments from readers on this blog. Check out both sites.

ABC INTERVIEW PINA. ABC's Geraldine Coutts bowled several leading question at Matai Akauola of the Pacific Islands News Association in an interview yesterday.

Geraldine: Fiji's still got censors in every newsroom. 
Matai: They have been removed. 
Geraldine: Fiji's second to last in the International Press Freedom ratings.[Let's not mention Mexico and the Philippines where journalists have been killed.]... Matai: It depends how you look at it. We want to move on.
Geraldine: Fiji journalists are at risk... Think of the molotov cocktails ... Fiji media still suffering from ... x and y.
Matai:  The new Media Decree (MIDA) can open doors for discussions with government. We want dialogue with government.

Geraldine's approach was not necessarily anti-Fiji of course, though ABC's record on impartial Fiji interviews leaves much to be desired. But why has it become almost standard practice for journalists to probe for negatives. Is absolutely nothing positive happening in Fiji?  Is it worse or better than it was? What is the government trying to do? Has progress been made? How are things since the Fiji Times changed ownership? Repeating the same old questions (and most are very old) cannot possibly help their readers and viewers to understand the situation better.

CONGRATULATIONS TO MICHAEL FIELD.  Dear Michael, Your coverage of the Hobbits saga was excellent.  A balanced report putting some facts into the fictions. A most welcome reversal of approach. Keep it up. Croz

IS RADIO NZINTERNATIONAL  LOSING THE PLOT?  Radio NZ International informs us that a previously unheard of international monitoring group has given Fiji 0 out of 100 on budget transparency. Trawl even deeper and they might find the last orange roughy.

Radio NZI also reminds us that Fiji has not commented on "its continued exclusion from Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index which lists 178 countries", an index that "lists countries and territories according to the level of perceived corruption in a country’s public sector." 

I have three questions:
1) Why should the Fiji Government comment?  Did the government of Vanuatu that ranked 73 comment? Or Kiribati at 91, Tonga at 101 and Papua New Guinea at 154? Or  the governments of NZ, Denmark or Singapore that were near the top?;
2) If governments in these  countries "kept mum" (the RNZI words for Fiji's non-response), why did RNZI single out the Fiji government's non-response for mention?
3) Why is RNZI keeping on about Fiji's place on these indexes, and no one else's?
My explanation is that RNZI is more concerned about making a point than reporting worthwhile news. If this is the case, they exceed their role as a state broadcaster, and I think the NZ Broadcasting Standards Authority would agree.

FIJI SUGAR TO SUE INDIAN VENDORS.The Fiji Sugar Corporation is pursuing legal options about suing the Indian authorities responsible for the failed $86million mill upgrade.An independent consulting engineer is also expected from India next month to determine action against vendors who failed to complete work to an agreed standard. The failed mill upgrades have adversely and seriously affected the sugar industry and the national economy. FSC lost an unprecedented  $175.1m last year, following a downward spiral with losses of $19.3m in 2008 and $36.8m in 2009. This was attributed mainly to frequent mill breakdowns and inefficient cane processing and sugar production.

The mill upgrade program was initiated in 2006 and was supposedly completed prior to the beginning of crushing in  May this year.

FORMER SOLOMONS PM SAYS MSG MADE LAUGHING STOCKClick here.

DIWALI  DINNER NIGHT. The Fiji Hindu Society will hold a “Diwali Dinner Night” this Saturday at the Kshatriya Hall starting at 6pm. to assist poor families. Funds collected will be given to poor families to help them with their Diwali shopping.  Diwali will be celebrated on November 6th.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fiji's Muslim League Thanks Fiji, and PM's Address to Da’Wah Council

'We’ve Been Treated Well'
The Fiji Muslim League has applauded the Government for the equal treatment Muslims have enjoyed over many decades.

League national president Hafizud Dean Khan (photo, right)  said Muslims living in Fiji have not suffered the indignities or bigotry many Muslims around the world face.He made the comments at the presidential dinner of the 26th Executive Meeting of Regional Islamic Da’Wah Council of South East Asia and the Pacific (RISEAP) held at the Natadola Intercontinental Golf and Spa on Monday night. The Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama was the guest of honour.

“You hear about western countries where there are protests about Muslims building a school or a mosque or the Muslim wearing a ‘hijab’ or a veil or whatever. We don’t have that situation in Fiji,” Mr Khan said.

“Muslims feel free and we are only six to seven per cent of the population. Yet we feel this is a Muslim country, although not strictly because it’s a country for everybody.”

“But in no way has there been anything disparaging placed before Muslims, either in the faith they belong to, they go to the mosque, they go to school, or the way they are dressed, or the way they eat. Nobody bothers them. This has been the hallmark of all governments in Fiji regardless of who was in power.

“And with that respect we are grateful to the people of Fiji at large. But particularly the chiefs and the landowners who have given us land for schools and mosques."

PM on Just, Fair Society

The Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama has called for greater partnership in the achievement of a just and fair society. Commodore Bainimarama was speaking at the presidential dinner of the 26th Executive Meeting of Regional Islamic Da’Wah Council of South East Asia and the Pacific (RISEAP) held at the Natadola Intercontinental Golf and Spa on Monday night. 

He said the Government was focused on building strong state institutions through good governance. “Building such a society requires first of all participation of all its citizens, it requires honesty, candour, and transparency,” the Prime Minister said.

“It requires laws that are equally applicable to all and when applied are justly applied. Having a just and fair society is not only the job of Governments.  It is also the role of all citizens, business houses and organisations such as yours. Individual organisations must function and act in a fair and transparent manner. For example, as I have seen many times nepotism and clientalism become the norm in many NGOs. This must not be allowed to happen.”

Commodore Bainimarama said justice should be also exercised through allowing everyone access to basic needs. He urged RISEAP to help Fiji in allowing this access. 

“Today in the world and I am sure it is the same in your respective countries, the lack of access to basic needs such as food, water and housing are causing not only social problems but it also lends to political unrest and prejudices,” the Prime Minister said. 

“It provides fertile ground for the fundamentalists to recruit the underprivileged.” -- 2010 No: 1722 /MOI






Scholarships by Merit and Need, Not Race and Influence; CoupFourPointFive Going Downhill

MAJOR CHANGES TO SCHOLARSHIPS.  Major changes are expected in the present race-based scholarships funded by government.

Up until now Fiji has had two separate scholarship pools, one for i-taukei and Rotumans, the other for Indo-Fijians and the minority communities. There is no financial cut-off point for itaukei and Rotuman applicants, anyone can apply irrespective of what their parents earn. But for Indo-Fijian applicants their combined parents' annual income must not exceed $10,000, and for Other Ethnic applicants $15,000.

It does not take a wizard to see how this worked. The ethnic Fijian elite had their children's education subsidized by government, using taxes paid for by all communities. Their children, given generally better schooling and parental support) would be likely to obtain higher higher school grades. These grades and their parents' "connections" meant they were more likely to be awarded scholarships than children from poorer itaukei families, with poorer schooling,less parental support, and fewer "connections." In other words, the system favoured the relatively small number of better-off itaukei at the expense of the vast number of other itaukei.

The poor were eligible for the scholarships and some would receive them. But the competition with more favoured children would be tough.  I suspect many  of those itaukei now living overseas who are opposed to the Bainimarama government once received these scholarships.

The situation was reversed for Indo-Fijians and Other Ethnics. Their elite — and families earning more than $10,000 or $192 a week (the Basic Needs Urban Poverty Line in 2003 was $150) — received NO assistance from government, although, of course, they paid taxes to help fund ALL scholarships. Only Indo-Fijian children with parents whose combined income was LESS than $10,000 p.a. were eligible to apply for scholarships. This, incredibly, would effectively cut out almost all whose school grades were high enough to win a scholarship on merit.

In reporting this, FijiLive said "no reason has been given for the different criteria set but this seems to be the norm" but whatever the reason, the effect was to award a disproportionate number of scholarship to the children of the itaukei elite — and the Indo-Fijian (and Other Ethnics) poor — at the expense of the itaukei poor and the bulk of the non-itaukei. Thank goodness the PM has announced new criteria for scholarships that will be merit and need based, not race based, and a merger of the itaukei and non-itaukei separate pools.

One further factor needs to be fed into the scholarhip situation. Itaukei are also eligible to apply for scholarships from a raft of funds available from provincial councils, fund-raising activities,land lease money, and other sources. Such money I see as an entitlement. It derives from itaukei sources.  It is the way government-sourced money, derived from all races, has been used that raises questions of fairness, justice and citizenship.

The People's Charter has a vision to have equal opportunities for all Fiji citizens irrespective of their race or religion. It also states that there should be merit-based equality when it comes to opportunities.

COUP FOUR POINT FIVE used to be a reasoned anti-government blog, far better than most of the others. It has changed its editors more than once since it started in June last year, and its current editors are not in the same class as its founders.  This is what one of my readers wrote after visiting the blog:

"I made the mistake of visiting Coup 4.5 to see what the others were saying. Some of the comments there are very depressing. It's as if a collective madness has taken hold.

"Apart from the three-line group-speak and general sense of delusion, what's really jarring is the constant stream of abuse and racial and sexual invective.

"The recent stuff on Ana Rokomokoti is appalling. How the gatekeepers on that site can pass some of the things that have been said about her - from her sexual performance to her racial origins -is reprehensible. This is late night bar talk among drunks in some sleazy dive, not for general publication.

"It all smacks of frustration and utter desperation, the last days in the anti-regime bunker. As in Hitler's last days, every little pyrrhic victory is seized on, no matter how inconsequential, every nay-sayer is a traitor and any notion of dispassionate analysis, let alone truth, has given way to the basest propaganda.

"They've lost the plot, the moral high ground and, it seems, the battle. And for the first time, one senses that they know it. Four years of fruitless agitation - as long as the Great War - has come to nought."

Note. I provide a link to CoupFourPointFive on this blog.  They have removed the link to my blog on theirs.  I accept all reasonable and original comments from all sources.  CoupFourPointFive refuses to accept my comments.

If you broadly support the position taken on most issues by this blog, please visit their blog, leave a reasonable comment, and let me know if it was published. Vinaka.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Rumours and the Mara-Ganilau Multiracial Vision

See New QUOTE FOR THE WEEK in Right Sidebar

'Smoke Without Fire' has left this comment on your post "Pita, Tevita and the Cheshire Cat":

I can understand the speculation about Pita Driti, Croz, because there have been constant rumours of tension between him and Bainimarama, mainly over the PM's unwavering support for Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. Driti can't stand Aiyaz and doesn't care who knows it. But taking on Frank would be an entirely different matter and Driti simply doesn't have the numbers on the Military Council to mount a plausible challenge. He'll be only too aware that the last person who took on Frank, Jone Baledrokadroka, barely escaped with his life and has to be content nowadays with fueling the rumour mill from the safety of the ANU in Canberra.

But let's just look at Tevita Mara, aka Roko Lui, and what motive he might have for moving against Frank. Even if you buy these rumours — and that's all they are — I don't think this member of Fiji's most distinguished family would move without the support of the rest of the Mara-Ganilau clique. And what motive do they have for moving against Frank?

One of Tevita Mara's sisters, Adi Koila, is married to the President, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, and has long expressed the family's support for Bainimarama as the nation's only hope. Another sister, Adi Ateca, is married to the Defence Minister, Ratu Epeli Ganilau. Surely it would require all of these people to have become disillusioned with Frank for Roko Lui to mount a serious challenge? Were he to do so otherwise, he'd come into direct conflict with his brother-in-law, the President, who's also commander-in-chief of the military.

Can anyone point out a single instance of Ratu Epeli Nailatikau showing disenchantment with Frank? If they can, then I'd be prepared to consider an alternative hypothesis. Yes, Frank was instrumental in removing Roko Lui's father, Ratu Mara, from the presidency in 2000. Has young Tevita been seething about this privately ever since? Yet where's the evidence for that? The fact is that all along, Frank has upheld the Mara multiracial vision as the only path for Fiji to follow. He's also never criticised Ratu Mara publicly and maintains that the extraordinary events of 2000 were only made necessary by the Speight gun at his head. Tevita Mara is constantly in Frank's presence at various public events and the body language between them doesn't suggest animosity. So surely Frank is safe so long as he retains the confidence of the Mara-Ganilau dynasty.

Their two great patriarchs, Ratu Sir Kamisese and Ratu Sir Penaia, made it their life's work to try to produce a prosperous, multiracial Fiji. Are their children any less likely to want the same thing? Everything these people say and do indicates that they remain faithful to the cause, the cause being pursued by Frank Bainimarama. We'd need to accept that either the family has turned or that Tevita is a renegade, more interested in his own personal agenda and the pursuit of power through yet another upheaval at the point of a gun. And there's no evidence of either as far as I can see.

All these people, along with Roko Lui, would have had to have become thoroughly disillusioned with Frank Bainimarama for any of these rumours to have credence. Adi Koila and Adi Ateca are Tevita's elder sisters. Even if you accept that he's the golden boy of the family, especially since his brother Ratu Finau stepped down from public life, it's inconceivable that he'd act independently of them. Adi Koila, especially, is a person of great mana in her own right, not only traditionally but as a former senator. You'll remember that she was held hostage by George Speight when he seized the parliamentary complex. She hates the indigenous extremists with an absolute passion and has always advocated the multiracial vision for Fiji espoused by her late father.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pita, Tevita and the Cheshire Cat

PITA DRITI AND RATU TEVITA ULUILAKEBA MARA. There has been much speculation over the significance of these two senior military officers taking extended leave.

Those opposed to the Bainimarama government claim the situation reflects serious divisions in the military and an attempt by Bainimarama to forestall action against him. Those promoting this interpretation include the blog CoupFourPointFive (that first published the story), former Land Force Commander Jone Baledrokadroka (now studying at ANU), RadioNZ International (that most unusually cited a blog as its source of information!) and journalist-cum-blogger Michael Field with his usual bag of weighted words and colourful phrases.

Field writes: "Key members of a colonel’s clique that backed Fiji’s 2006 military coup have been sent on indefinite leave by military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama amid wild rumours of further action. Two key figures were dumped yesterday following the unexplained departure of another last month as Bainimarama appears to be fending off challenges..."

Reports from Suva, however, suggest there is nothing unusual about the move.  The Fiji Sun  reports:  "A huge amount of outstanding leave has led to two senior temporary appointments within the Republic of the Fiji Military Forces.Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga has been appointed acting Land Force Commander and Major Amani Suliano is temporary commanding officer of the 3rd Battalion Fiji Infantry Regiment.They will hold the fort for Brigadier Pita Driti and Lieutenant-Colonel Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba, who are on leave." [My italics.]

So where does this leave independent observers?  Should they believe the story started by CoupFourPointFive, that a month ago reported that Voqere Bainimarama and Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum had been arrested (when Bainimarama was actually at a meeting and Khaiyum was overseas) or should they believe the official story?  Both sides are credible and both sides want us to believe what they say.  For the moment, I'll observe the old Cheshire saying, "When in doubt, do nowt."

"`Cheshire Puss,' [Alice] began, rather timidly, as she did not at all know whether it would like the name: however, it only grinned a little wider. `Come, it's pleased so far,' thought Alice, and she went on. `Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?'
`That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the Cat.
`I don't much care where--' said Alice.
`Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat.
`--so long as I get SOMEWHERE,' Alice added as an explanation.
`Oh, you're sure to do that,' said the Cat, `if you only walk long enough.'"

                                                         --From Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.

FLASHBACK JULY 2009
. From the blog Archives 15 July 2009."Last week CoupFourpointfive reported Bainimarama had suspended Land Force Commander Pita Driti and Commanding officer of the 3rd Infantry Regiment Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara. But on Monday the story was that it was Driti and Ratu Tevita telling Bainimarama to step down, and yesterday (Wednesday) it's back to Bainimarama telling Driti and Ratu Tevita again. Yet both officers were reported taking morning tea on Monday at the barracks and neither has made a public statement. To keep the pot boiling, the blogs also reported tension "within the ranks" over Bainimarama's cancellation of the Methodist Conference, saying "inside sources" said the Conference will go ahead despite the cancellation.

As you may see, I think it's a little early to take the CoupFourPointFive story too seriously.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Japan Will Assist, MSG Chair, Fiji-US Relations, Namosi Gold, Carnival of Lights

NOTICES.  1) Reminder: Anonymous comments will not be published. 2) Fiji Daylight Savings started yesterday. 3) Check out the Weekend Readings and comments. 4) Tomorrow posting: Driti on leave?


JAPAN READY TO ASSIST. Japan's willingness to assist with the electoral and other reforms could herald a major improvement in its recognition of the ongoing developments that will lead to elections in 2014. The offer was made by Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara during discussions with his counterpart Ratu Inoke Kubuabola last week.

Mr Maehara emphasised the importance of the election date and urged Fiji to try to engage the international community in its reform process. Other bilateral relations issued discussed were Japanese Official Development  Assistance (ODA), trade and investment relations, and the possibility of Pacific Environment Community (PEC) Funds being managed through the Japanese Embassy in Suva. Japan will discuss this possible arraangement with the Pacific Islands Forum.  Click here.

MELANESIAN SPEARHEAD GROUP. The special meeting that was to have taken place in Honiara this week -- at which  Vanuatu was expected to pass the relay baton to Solomons and Solomons to Fiji has been postponed indefinitely but the Solomon and Fiji PM's are expected to meet soon.

Alfred Sasako, Solomon Islands PM's Press Secretary   interviewed by ABC said, "I am not aware of any pressure, but I think there seem to be a lot of undercurrents at the moment that perhaps it is in the best interest of every stakeholder, that the whole issue is sort of left to cool down and then therefore I think the decision was taken rightly that the meeting ought to be postponed indefinitely."

NORMALISING US-FIJI RELATIONS.  Frank Gaglioti writing on the World Socialist website identifies several moves that suggest the US hopes to normalise relations with Fiji, possibly due to concerns about growing Chinese influence in the Pacific. US and Japanese pressure on Canberra could also bring about a change in Austalian policies. Click here.
 
MORE FROM THE LOWRY INSTITUTE
. I wondered which researcher could have written such tripe, and then I saw he was from the Lowry Institute.

GOLD AND COPPER IN NAMOSI are expected to deliver an annual income of about $1 billion a year within the next four to five years. The claim is made by Lands Minister Netani Sukanaivalu (photo).

CARNIVAL OF LIGHTS. The Fiji Broadcasting Corporation and Digicel are  hosting a three day ‘Carnival of Lights’ at the Valelevu grounds from this Thursday, the 28th. Organiser Ronny Kumaran  says the event is about building relationships with one another. ‘The carnival will help us all understand and respect each other. We know you will enjoy the carnival of lights as there will be opportunity to meet and mingle with all races in order to create mutual respect amongst the cultures of Fiji.’ The Carnival, open from 8am to midnight, will have "exciting programmes during the day" and Live entertainment and fireworks displays in the evening.

Diwali, the Hindu "Festival of Lights," is a week later on Friday 5th November.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Scroll Down to Weekend Reading

 ♦ Allen Lockington's column    ♦ Does the Government Accept Criticism? 
♦ The Weakness of Australian Policy    ♦ Media Freedom and Racism in NZ, I and II, 
♦ Some Lessons from Mauritius. ♦ Friday's lengthy posting --- and check out the comments under the postings.

Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On

Allen Lockington is a self-employed customs agent and business consultant who has regular articles published in Fiji. I thank Allen 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.

Cutting Corners

From BBC reports, BP Oil has published a report on why the oil well in Gulf of Mexico blew up and sank killing eleven men. According to the report, they have spread the blame. The report says it is a “sequence of failures involving a number of different parties" was to blame for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP says. Ok fair enough but lets the experts analyse the report. Survivors of the disaster were interviewed on BBC radio it has been established that the operators were cutting corners to save costs. How far that is true will soon be found. Forensic investigators will also look into the matter and then have their say.

But I bring you back home. The recession has hit us pretty badly. Only one country in the world did not get affected by the financial recession, which was Poland. I hope we can find out how they did it and learn from them. But that’s another story. Many companies in Fiji have taken precautions to keep themselves afloat. They have made people redundant, shortened working hours, people took pay cuts because at least they will have something to take home. For the employees they will now cut corners at home. Some luxuries will be forgone; some may even go by bus and leave the car at home on alternate days. Ice cream and soft drinks will be out. Going to the usual restaurant will be out. Bills will be held to the last minute and then paid. People will be buying the inferior but cheap mutton curry pieces. Oh believe me I have seen the packets in peoples shopping carts. Cheap foods will be bought health will be at risk.

From world reports it has been established that some companies will capitalize on the recession, send home employees who have experience and on decent wages and rehire people with no experience and pay them less. Some will even stoop lower and employ people who are desperate and accept any wage because they would have been earning nothing and probably destitute.

Can a survey be done here in Fiji to determine what impact cutting corners to save cost will have on Fiji as a whole?  I bet we will find a lot of interesting things.

Does the Government Accept Criticism?

This issue was discussed in three comments to a posting last week. They are republished here for readers who, in not regularly checking comments to posts, can so easily miss out on one of the blog's most valuable features — the open exchange of intelligent opinions.


Debate and Opposing Views Needed said...

Croz, I noticed a growing trend from your bloggers celebrating the silencing or removal of the remaining government/military critics. I have no problem with people getting excited about the fact that Fiji has silenced pretty much everyone - that's their right to say as much. It is worry though.

What is worrying is they seem to think that removing all criticism will some how make everything better in Fiji. I suggest it won't. I suggest it makes for a complacent and lazy government.

We need critics, even biased and sometimes misguided ones have their place to draw attention to issues.

For example I at time hate with a passions the unions i have to work with. They are not professional, always angling for a fight and the execs usually are more interested in securing their roles by creating noise than actually doing something for benefit of the majority of their members. Despite all that I fully support the rights of unions to exist. They keep me on my toes as an employer.

Fiji without critics and without debate will become even more lazy than pre-2006. Many of the quotes you have posted sum this up better than me but just thought I would throw in my two comments.

Anonymous SOE said...

@ Debate and Opposing Views needed....

 No need to fear unnecessarily about a failure to ventilate views. That will take place while reforms continue with greater ease as people of character and good qualifications are increasingly positioned where they are required. Previously, under Qarase and earlier governments, the qualifications were there but no character or good judgement to speak of. Often, highly qualified people were perfectly assured that their actions were justified and endorsed in some way: by whom, by what code of conduct, in whose best interest? Their own.

Anonymous Critical Boundaries said...

    @ Debate. No-one is saying all criticism is bad, including, incidentally, the regime, though it is plainly oversensitive when it judges that criticism to be unfounded or unfair.

The problem is that many of the regime's critics are harping critics, unable or unwilling to give it credit for anything lest they be seen to give it even the slightest legitimacy. The main criticism is always the government's refusal to hold an early election. In the absence of electoral reform, this presupposes an election held under the pre-2006 racially based system. For the regime, this is unacceptable and non negotiable. So it judges any criticism about this issue as unacceptable and gets highly irritated when its critics press home the point.

The other sensitive issue is anything to do with the economy and especially comments that the regime judges capable of undermining confidence in Fiji. This is why people like Warden Narsey cop a bucketing even when they're not specifically in the ranks of the regime's political opponents.

On both the aforementioned issues, I think many people would sympathise with the regime even if they're not staunch supporters. We desperately need to remove race as the determining factor in Fiji politics. Now that Indo-Fijians are in the minority, there's no valid reason whatsoever not to adopt the principle of one-man-one vote. And no reason whatsoever to further empower indigenous Fijians with things like qoliqoli rights when their hold over the land is so inviolable and absolute.

On the economy, only the most hard hearted SDL zealot would want to see ordinary people in Fiji suffer from an economic collapse. Yet that's precisely what would happen if the regime can't maintain at least a modicum of confidence in its economic program and keep the tourists coming. Whatever the present threat to general prosperity, you'd have to admit that that likes of Sada Reddy have done an impressive job in keeping Fiji afloat against a tsunami of negativity.

And the maintenance of law and order has been a key factor in hundreds of thousands of Aussies and Kiwis ignoring their government's advice not to visit Fiji in the four years since the coup.

Also to be fair, Frank Bainimarama is showing more practical determination to fix the chronic problems in the sugar industry than any of his democratic predecessors since Ratu Mara.

And thousands of ordinary people in rural areas are starting to see basic services like water delivered after decades of inaction and neglect.

Is any of this acknowledged by the regime's critics? No. Start giving credit where credit is due and some of the intolerance to dissent you refer to might abate. But back the regime into a corner and keep whacking it then it's plainly axiomatic that you'll get whacked back.

The Weakness of Australian Foreign Policy


Missing the Messerschmitts:
The Weakness of Australian Foreign Policy
by Dr Scott MacWilliam
Crawford School of Economics and Government
Australian National University


Whenever the current Australian policy toward Fiji’s military regime is questioned, one standard response is along the following lines: unless there is to be permanent military rule, it is necessary to ‘keep up the pressure’ for change. That pressure supposedly is maintaining various forms of sanctions, isolating Fiji from regional forums and always repeating ‘military bad, democracy good’ as the guiding foreign policy principle.

It is time to subject the idea of pressure to serious examination, and what better way to start than with a sporting story.

During the northern summer of 1945, a series of cricket games were held between England and Australia, dubbed the Victory Tests to celebrate the end of WWII in Europe and the Allied triumph. A young Australian who was especially successful in the Test matches was Keith ‘Nugget’ Miller, who still ranks among the best batsmen-bowlers-fielders (all-rounders) to have played the game. Before one of the Tests, Miller, who had been an RAAF fighter pilot during the war, was asked about the pressures of playing cricket. To quote biographer Roland Perry, Miller’s response was: ‘I’ll tell you what pressure is. Pressure is a Messerschmitt [a very advanced German fighter-plane] up your arse. Cricket is not.’

Current Australian government policies and practices toward Fiji bear the same relationship to pressure on the military regime as did cricket on Miller.

Exerting popular pressure is in important respects ruled out by the very nature of a military regime: the members of the RFMF are not elected nor in any parliamentary sense representative. The senior officers are not members of political parties affiliated either formally or informally with Australian or New Zealand parties. Now that all three major newspapers in Fiji are owned locally, the outlets for Australian propaganda which could bolster popular opposition to the regime must come from sources overseas and thus have limited local reach. There is little pressure for change from this direction.

As has been demonstrated over the past four years, economic sanctions have limited effect too. Officers are by and large not dependent upon commercial success for their livelihoods, as might be senior soldiers in some other countries. Squeezing local commerce by punitive measures could be expected to have few direct consequences for soldiers’ incomes. While travel bans are irksome for some existing officers with connections to Australia and New Zealand, the next generation will be more familiar with Malaysia, India and China, countries where they have been trained and where Australia’s capacity to influence government policies regarding the military regime in Fiji is limited.

Where measures to affect the wider economy are concerned, the regime is also proving especially adroit in gaining support from some important local business people, while taking punitive action against others who oppose their policies. The transfer of ownership of News Ltd assets is a brilliant example of rewarding supporters while punishing opponents. Even to ask if Australian pressure assisted News Limited’s survival in Fiji is to emphasise the insignificance of any support which may have been rendered to Rupert Murdoch, the former Dirty Digger, now Wall Street Wallah.
The regime’s nationalist instincts also are starting to have some attraction for businesses aiming at areas where import substitution can take place, even if the more ideologically rigid economists continue to oppose policies favouring this direction. The growing proliferation of countries with whom Fiji is dealing commercially and for aid is illustrated by the most recent news that Turkey is considering providing assistance with a long-awaited hydro-electricity project in Buca, Cakaudrove. Today, October 21 an important Chinese delegation from the International Poverty Reduction Centre in China (IPRCC) arrives in Fiji. The Fiji Muslim League has announced that they will use their traditional connections with other Muslim countries, including Indonesia and Malaysia, to help secure aid for Fiji. Nothing more needs to be said about the failure of Australian policy to discourage tourists who are invariably more concerned with prices and personal safety than electoral democracy.

Although there is some wisdom in maintaining a range of aid projects, their existence does not constitute pressure against the military regime either. Indeed these can as easily be read as hypocrisy, even a further instance of neo-colonialism. Australia trying to pick and choose the form of contacts on a wink-wink, nudge-nudge basis with government officials hardly indicates consistency, especially when it is the military regime with which Australian aid officials are dealing, either directly or through proxies. Is there anyone, apart from Australian politicians and diplomats, who thinks that the continuation of aid doesn’t represent a formal recognition of the military regime’s authority? When military officers hold senior posts in so many government departments the recognition becomes personalised as well.

Last but not least given the military comparison employed by Keith Miller, the regime is not under threat of foreign invasion, particularly after former Australian defence minister Kim ‘Bomber’ Beazley Jnr’s departure for Washington and the unforgettable helicopter crash off Fiji. While some academic and other opponents of the regime have hoped for a domestic revolt supported by Australia (and New Zealand) against the current military regime, this is unlikely and could even be counter-productive for democratisation. Advocates of the ‘keep up the pressure’ direction now freely admit that they can not see any likely challenger to PM Frank Bainimarama. A revolt in the army leading to civil war is recognised by serious analysts as unlikely to advance the cause of democratic reform either.

An official explanation of and justification for the ‘keep up the pressure’ basis for Australia’s foreign policy toward the regime in Fiji is warranted. A parliamentary statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs along these lines is overdue. In the absence of any detailed and convincing defence of this policy direction, including an outline of its achievements so far, the obvious conclusion seems to be that Australia has no Messerschmitts in its foreign policy armoury. Perhaps it is time to explicitly acknowledge the inability to exert any meaningful pressure and try other ways of changing outcomes over the next few years in Fiji.


Media Freedom and Racism in New Zealand: II

Racism in NZ Media
By Subhash Appana

In the run-up to the XIX Commonwealth Games in Delhi there was a sudden frenzy in the NZ media to gather and show negative footage about the Indian preparations so that just before the games started the NZ public had all but decided that India would not be ready and the games would be cancelled. When the games did start and proceed without the expected disasters, many began to wonder what the clamour had been all about.

Media Freedom and Racism in New Zealand: I

Paul Henry, Media Ratings and NZ Politics
By Subhash Appana

The ganging up in the NZ media goes on as most influential media personalities continue to rue the Paul Henry saga – HenryGate – where the TVNZ breakfast show host took repeated digs at things Indian in the lead-up to the XIX Delhi Games and exposed a latent negative sentiment that appears to be gaining traction in NZ. I do not wish to rehash what happened as that appeared in my earlier piece on 17/10. What troubles me is the fact that the issue is not being allowed to rest by the same people who supported it.

Some Lessons from Mauritius


Dr Satish Chand
From: pactrade@yahoogroups.com

I spent a week last month in Mauritius as a guest of their national university. Right from the moment the plane landed at the airport to the moment of departure from the island, the landscape and its people kept reminding me of many islands nations of the region and Fiji, particularly.  The sugarcane fields, the mountains in the backdrop, the greenery, and the people look deceptively similar to Fiji. There were a few dissimilarities too. Three that stood out for me included the use of Creole (‘pigeon French’); the dense population; and, the notable absence of abject poverty we often encounter in many of our own islands.  

Friday, October 22, 2010

MIDA Step in Media Evolution, ID Card and '666 Mark of the Beast,' Misleading NZ Travel Heading, Cakaudrove Prevaricates

WEEKEND READING.  ♦ Allen Lockington column ♦ Does the Government Accept Criticism? ♦ The Weakness of Australian Policy ♦ Media Freedom and Racism in NZ, I and II, ♦ Some Lessons from Mauritius

DAYLIGHT SAVINGS. Fiji will switch back to daylight saving time from this Sunday 24th tober at 2am. This means members of the public will be required to switch their clocks one hour ahead from 2am to 3am. It is expected to end in March 2011, a date is yet to be confirmed. --  2010 No:1568/MOI. Fiji will then be on the same time as NZ that commenced its daylight savings two weeks ago, and be two hours (instead of the present three hours) ahead of EST in Sydney.

MEDIA AUTHORITY NEARLY READY. Media Industry Development Authority (MIDA) chairman Prof Subramani  expects the Authroithy to befully operational within the next month. The secretary's position has been advertised and office space obtained. Subramani said MIDA will be proactive in working with the media, and constructively help support the development of quality media services, as well as interpret the provisions in the media decree.

Commenting on overseas negativities he said many people had not read the Decree carefully enough and have misconceptions about it. He says the Decree provides for media guidelines that were previously not present and should be looked at as a stage in the evolution of the media industry in Fiji.

ID CARDS AND CHIP 666. Some not very well informed people in Fiji are frightening their fellow citizens by linking the proposed ID card to a microchip Chip 666 that will be inserted under the skin (666 is the Mark of the Beast/Devil).  The Chip 666 story has its origins among small "wacko" pseudo-Christian religious sects in the USA, some of which claim the Obama government plans to insert the chip while pretending people are getting a standard health injection. Google "Chip 666" to check them out. The email circulating in Fiji warns "the Bible predicted it will come and  now it is here.  Let's  pray that our loved ones, friends and work colleagues do not fall from eternal glory with Jesus Christ by planting this chip into their bodies. Please circulate and pass on to all you know (leave no one out) so you may not be answerable if your friends do not make it to HEAVEN…GOD BLESS!!!" 

"FIJI OUT OF FAVOUR WITH KIWI TRAVELLERS."
There's apparently been a minor dip in recent NZ tourist arrivals in Fiji. There's nothing strange or significant about that. There are alway short term swings in tourism. It's a seasonal business affected by many factors. But as one Fijian reader wrote:"Surely they could have use a different headline that didn’t imply a negative connotation for Fiji? Click here.

"I am now never ... surprised at the insidious propaganda of the MSM these days. The great masses of the unthinking hoi poloi swallow everything hook line and sinker, and are completely unaware that they are subtly controlled by vested interests whose agendas are completely beyond their ken. And, using the contaminated information gleaned from a corrupt Fourth Estate, vote your politicians into power in a so-called democracy. Free media? I don’t think so! Democracy? Think again.

"The irony is that most New Zealanders feel sorry that Fiji does not have what they would construe as free and fair elections, and that we are ruled by a “dictator”, when, if they stopped to think about it, they are just as much to be pitied , or more so than the Fijian electorate, because they don’t understand that their system is as bad as ours! Even worse because of the insidiousness of the system."

CAKAUDROVE STILL PREVARICATES. Although the Cakaudrove Provincial Council and the Tui Cakau Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu have generally endorsed the changes being ingtroduced by Government, they have still not endorsed the People’s Charter for Change, Peace and Progress: Government's primary document on the way forward on which the Roadmap and Strategic Framework for Change are based. 

The Tui Cakau  persuaded the Council to defer a decision on the Charter until some issues that he declined to specify were clarified with the PM. They appear to be related to changes since the Abrogation of the 1997 Constitution and the Public Emergency Regulations. “I need to hear the views of my chiefs first and at the same time I have to tell them what I think is best for us,” Ratu Naiqama said. He said this was not an easy decision to make because the lives of his people are paramount. He did, however, say that as a chief he needed to follow the protocols that come with it which meant that his views would have to be endorsed by the other chiefs of the province.

We shall have to wait to see what all this means but I am less confident of a genuine reconciliation than I was yesterday when the Tui Cakau was reported as saying he "agreed with the changes imposed by the Government for the betterment of the country" and urged his people "to forget the past and ... work together to make Fiji a better place to live in."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Good News from Cakaudrove, SFO Threatens NZ Journalists, EU's €, Bruce Hill, Usaia's FDFM and Me

GOOD NEWS FROM CAKAUDROVE. Reports from the Cakadrove Provincial Council meeting in Somosomo, Taveuni,  are that the paramount chief of Cakaudrove, the Tui Cakau Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, who is also the head of the powerful Tovata Confederacy, comprising, Cakaudrove, Bua, Macuata and Lau, says he now agrees with changes imposed by the Government for the betterment of the country, and that it is time to forget the past and for everyone to work together to make Fiji a better place to live in. 
Map from Walsh: Fiji: An Encyclopaedic Atlas, 2006, USP.


This, in my view, constitutes a major change in the Fiji political scene and offers hope of early reconciliations and faster progress with the reforms leading to the 2014 elections. Its significance is confirmed by the response of Sai Lealea,  a popular anti-goverment blogger, on his blog Fiji Coup 2006. He writes from Wellington:

"Coming from my paramount chief, this is indeed a monumental decision. It is one I will have to consider in terms of my position against the current illegal regime in Fiji, if indeed it is confirmed as a statement from the Tui Cakau ... I have been heavily guided in my opposition to the illegal takeover of the government of Fiji in 2006, by the principled stance taken by the chiefs of Fiji and the Great Council of Chiefs ... In the event the Tui Cakau's call  to the people of Cakaudrove to support the current regime's initiatives is confirmed, I will be reconsidering my current stance in line with my paramount chief's direction.  In such a case, I will be emboldened by the fact that his call is for supporting the initiatives currently implemented to benefit the people of Cakaudrove, especially those greatly in need of assistance, and those who contribute to the coffers of government through taxes."

Ratu Naiqama said this was a new beginning for the people of Cakaudrove and he hoped there would be widespread support for whatever decision was made. He said development efforts undertaken by the Government continued to lift the standards of living of the people [and] he had never heard of Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama trying to stop the assistance to his people. The latter remark is especially significant because overseas anti-government critics had claimed Government development moneys were only being spent in rural areas loyal to government, or used as bribes to win over areas with uncertain support.

The Roko Tui Cakaudrove Ro Aca Mataitini said the two-day meeting would ensure that the people embrace the reforms outlined in the People's Charter for Peace and Progress. The Government would always respect the Vanua and in return the Government hoped the Vanua would do the same. He said the people of Cakaudrove needed to open their hearts and accept the changes that were currently in place. After the two day meeting which ends today, the Tui Cakau, Provincial Council Chairman Emitai Boladuadua and the Roko Tui Cakaudrove will make an appointment to meet the Prime Minister. For the FijiVillage account, click  here.

I DIDN'T KNOW THIS.
Our media raised hell about the Fiji Media Decree.  What it didn't tell us was that the Serious Fraud Office Act 1990 gives the SFO powers to execute search warrants on media offices and to charge journalists who attempt to "obstruct investigations" with imprisonment for 12 months or a fine of up to $15,000; with publishers facing a $40,000 fine. I only found out because of "Sarah's" comment on yesterday's posting.  Had we known this when the international media was calling the Fiji Media Decree "draconian" we would have been in a better position to form an informed opinion. Source:  Scoop.

EU ASKED TO RECONSIDER ITS STANCE. EU Ambassador Peceli Vocea has requested the EU to relax its stance on Fiji. EU suspended assistance amounts to over €24 million in sugar subsidies (and  would do This means withholding development aid worth about 30 million euros ($44 million) and subsidy payments to sugar farmers amounting to 115 million euros ($169).

TRYING TO BE AN IMPARTIAL JOURNALIST. Bruce Hill rang me after my postings (19 October) which suggested a lack of balance in his interviews with Rev Yakabi and Usaia Waqatairewa, and I thank him for that. I think he genuinely tries to be impartial but his choice of topics and those interviewed indicate just how difficult it is to modify the internalised positions we grow up with.

Bruce thinks democracy is the best system of government and has no sympathy for those who overthrown democratic governments. I agree. But I doubt Fiji under Qarase was a democratic government and I think Bainimarama is just as genuine as Bruce in wanting a democratic government.  Bruce thinks some people in Fiji would not talk to him because they were afraid but it is just as possible they are tired of answering the same loaded, anti-government questions. I suggested he ask people what questions they would like to be asked, and thought he would get a better response with this approach.

Bruce knew little about Usaia Waqatairewa and the FDFM but thought they represented a significant number of emigré Fijians. He cited their recent meeting which drew people from all over Australia. My information is that they struggled to get 200 people to the meeting and those attending were exclusively ethnic Fijians.

In the course of the conversation Bruce directed me to his earlier interview with three ethnic Fijian SDL supporters who had been declined refugee status in Australia. The abuses they cited were in 2007 and towards the end of the programme the Australian authorities said they had no information to support claims of ongoing abuses.

Here is the link to Bruce's programme. His interview is fair but why the choice of topic and informants, and the late denial by Australian authorities?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fiji 'Refugees', Eradicating Poverty, NZTV Condones Racist Comments, Fiji Media, Fuel and Gas

FIJIAN 'REFUGEES' CLOG AUSSIE ASYLUM QUEUE. A small handful of ethnic Fijians in Australia may have genuine concerns about returning to Fiji because of their political views,  although there is no evidence that the Fiji government has persecuted any returnees, and there are certainly no instances of imprisonment, torture or deaths that would warrant concern today.  News that Fijian refugee applications are causing delays in applications from other countries where persecution is real leaves one thinking how selfish the bulk of these applications must be.  Economic and anti-Bainimarama migrants masquerading as political refugees – and, I assume, using refugee quotas far more deserved by others – says much about the gullibility and paranoia of the applicants.

ECONOMY NOT POLITICS DRIVING EMIGRATION.
USP's Development Studies Professor Vijay Naidu,  says his studies reveal economic reasons are the main reason for people leaving Fiji.“We are not having everyday political turmoil in the country but the economy is not expanding and the labour market is not expanding. The cost of living is going up and so they are looking for opportunities elsewhere.” Some 5,000-6,500 people have been migrating overseas each year since 1995. The latest figures show 2009 numbers were at just over 5,000. Professor Naidu said before the 2006 coup emigrants were mostly Fiji Indians but indigenous Fijians are now making up more of the diaspora.

ERADICATING POVERTY. Sunday was the day the UN set aside as  International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Today and tomorrow Government's Eradicating Poverty Unit has organised campaign at the Civic Auditorium.  Minister Leweni said the main thrust will be on showing ways to access to decent work and opportunities for learning and training. The poor needs to be "empowered to effectively participate because they play a vital role in combating poverty.” NGOs will display the crafts they were taught during the skills training that was conducted as part of the build-up to the Poverty Eradication Day.

Government has in place a number of pro-poor programmes in the various ministries which include: Family Assistance Scheme, Poverty Alleviation Program, Care and Protection Program for Children, Food Vouchers, Grants to Voluntary Organizations, Women Plan of Action, Cottage Industry Development, Free School Tuition, Textbooks Assistance, Bus fare Assistance, and more land made accessible for productive and economic purposes. -- Based on 2010 No: 1731 /MOI.

NZ MEDIA IRRESPONSIBILITY
. There were 1,500 public complaints to the NZ Broadcast Standards Authority about the comments of TV1 broadcaster Paul Henry. On his Breakfast programme Henry, referring to the Governor-General's position,  had "jokingly" asked PM John Key if he was "going to choose a New Zealander who looks and sounds like a New Zealander this time?"

Our present GG is Anand Satyanand, New Zealand-born and raised, of Indo-Fijian parents. A few days earlier Henry had mocked a senior Indian politician and Commonwealth Games official Shiela Dixit (pronounced Dix-it), calling her "Dick Shit."  Earlier still he had disrespected or mocked immigrant doctors, a woman with prominent facial hair and  a woman with learning disabilities..." Listener Columnist Diana Wichtel wrote (16 October): "From mispronouncing names that don't sound Kiwi to deploying the 'c' word to calling people retarded: many ill-advised thoughts, having bypassed his brain, come to of his mouth." She thought there was "now nothing left for him but set his pants on fire to get attention."

As the Listener editors pointed out, when the daughter of former UK PM Margaret Thatcher "made a single off-air racist remark... she was dumped by the BBC." Not so with TVNZ.  First it said Henry was only saying what many quietly thought (sic!), and a day later announced his "temporary suspension." The Listener said his employment "by any other reputable public broadcaster would [have] ensure[d] his dismissal." 

The Listener called for Henry's hide and the hides of the TVNZ management that condoned his outbursts because they helped TVNZ's popularity ratings and advertising earnings.  The Listener pointed to the "progressive slide" in the quality of of TV news and current affairs "to the point where it's debatable the public is getting the quality of service expected of a state-owned broadcaster: full, fair and reliable coverage of news." 

So, if we turn this NZ situation back to Fiji: it's always a question of balancing media freedom with media responsibility. In Fiji, we hope recent signs of responsibility will be matched with more freedoms.  In NZ, we too often need less freedom and more responsibility — and, to quote the Listener,  the occasional "full, fair and reliable coverage of news" on Fiji.  [The issue will receive more attention in this "Weekend Reading".]

MEDIA IN FIJI
. Calling overseas comments on the Fiji media "superficial" USP Journalism head Shailendra Singh said “there are people in Fiji fed-up with the media fixation on race and politics year-in-year-out. The fact that the media is reporting ‘cat and dog’ stories is not necessarily a bad thing." He said "some overseas journalists, full of “idealism” but out of touch with the ground realities in Fiji, were giving a misleading impression of the everyday situation in the country." “What kind of journalism should Fiji journalists practice?” he asked.“ Fiji journalists were being realistic, pragmatic and operating and surviving as best as they could in the environment that they were working in. 

RUSSELL HUNTER, former publisher of the Fiji Sun and deported from Fiji 18 months ago for his anti-government position, has now, without warning, resigned as development editor from the Samoa Observer from which he periodically lobbed long-distance shots at Fiji and helped form the new regional media association PacMA. He said, “I do not feel that I have delivered what I came here to deliver and am not convinced that I will be able to do so. I wish the Samoa Observer every success in the future." Editor-in-chief Savea Sano Malifa and publisher Muliaga Jean Malifa of the Samoa Observer News Group (SONG) accepted his resignation.  -- My source: Pacific Media Watch.

FUEL SELF-SERVICE. Having failed to persuade Government to ease price controls, the country's fuel retailers will switch to self-service today, at a cost of  400 attendants losing their jobs.

OIL AND GAS IN FIJI?
A geologist thinks one prospective offshore drilling site 30km from Suva could meet 50% of Fiji's demand.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Na Sala Cava Cakaudrove? MSG: Bruce Hill, Usaia, Natapei, IDs: Bruce Hill, Akuila Yabaki, ID Official Release, Complaints Against Lawyers, Rice Back?

THE CAKAUDROVE QUESTION MARK. The province still seems to be divided in its support for government which is understandable given the political record of its Paramount Chief the Tui Cakau Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu (photo).  But the Roko Tui Cakaudrove Ratu Aca Mataitini has confirmed that the Tui Cakau will open the Provincial Council meeting at Somosomo, Taveuni, on Wednesday, and this is a good sign. The  Bose Vanua (meeting of chiefs) meets today. Ratu Aca said proper utilization of land for agricultural purposes is one of the issues to be discussed in the two day Provincial Council meeting. He hopes the people of Cakaudrove will follow plans set by the Government which is covered under the People's Charter for Change. We hope it will also be supported by the Tui Cakau.
 

WHO RINGS WHO FIRST, BRUCE HILL OR USAIA? Usaia Waqatairewa of the Australia-based Fiji Democracy and Freedom Movement seems to get an extraordinary amount of time on Radio Australia.  He is urging the Melanesian leaders to "open their eyes to the obvious divide and rule techniques Commodore Bainimarama is using to get the leadership of the sub-regional bloc" and deny Fiji the chairmanship. I thought it was Vanuatu's Natapei who was the odd man out. Read on ...

VANUATU NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE. Opposition leader, Maxime Carlot Korman, said he has the backing of 27 of the 52 MPs and is calling for PM Natapei to resign. Yesterday Carlot Korman accused Natapei of causing division in the Melanesian Spearhead Group by cancelling July's summit in Fiji. Korman says if the Speaker accepts his request, the vote could be taken as early as Monday.

YABAKI ON ID CARD. Radio Australia's Bruce Hill tried to get CCF's Rev Akuila Yabaki to condemn the proposed ID card. Click here. Yabaki's lack of concern is interesting because one would have thought he'd be among the first to express concern if he thought the card would be misused. Read on ...

OFFICIAL ID UPDATE RELEASE. The proposed national identification card is essential because it will provide and carry vital personal information. Ministry of Defence, National Security and Immigration official, Mr Joji Washington told a consultation forum the proposed national ID card was to help curb cases of false identification.

He said there had been cases of passports and birth certificate falsifications. “This is why the Ministry of Defence has taken this proactive approach to introduce the national ID card,” Mr Washington said. “Government will include a bio-metric feature, which will be encrypted into the card to add to its value otherwise it will be just an ordinary card.”

Mr  Washington said most countries had adopted this concept because of its ability to interface with e-passports. He said the global approach was for Fiji to introduce a card which had bio-metric security features. “The project runs concurrently with the e-passport platform. Fiji needs to look at it holistically and each government department and ministry has its own input into the introduction of the card,” Mr Washington said. He said the project would benefit the Ministry of Education, Elections Office, Fiji Police Force, (BDM) Births, Deaths and Marriages, FIRCA, Immigration, FNPF, LTA and many more. -- 2010 No: 1712 /MOI.

COMPLAINTS AGAINST LAWYERS. The Independent Legal Services Commission (ILSC) was established under the Legal Practitioners Decree 2009 to hear complaints against lawywers, relieved the Fiji Law Society of this role following complaints that the FLS had not dealt effectively with complaints. The main purpose of the the ILSC, according to the Commmission Justice John Connors, is to protect the public from lawyers who misbehave, hear their complaints against lawyers and, where applicable, discipline the lawyers.

Justice Connors says having a transparent and an independent system in place to look into complaints against lawyers has been well received by the public and he is "hopeful that by dealing with complaints in a timely manner and the imposition of appropriate penalties will hopefully encourage more lawyers to behave appropriately," The ILSC has so far dealt with and handed out verdicts on seven complaints and another six cases are pending.-- Based on 2010 No:1678/AG.

RICE. Fiji used to grown much of its rice consumption, mainly in the Dreketi (Bua) and Navua areas. The removal of import duty on milled white rice in 2008 changed all this.  Fiji Rice Company CEO Ram Bajekal hopes that with government now promoting more locally grown rice, rice production will increase and and its mill will be once again put to full use. FRC has been importing 30,000 tonnes of rice a year at a cost of about $40m.

ECONOMIC TIDBITS.
    FMF Group announces $11.6M   profit
    Lautoka Sugar Mill kept like a  junkyard, says PM
   Acting CEO FSC recommends closure  of Rarawai (Ba) mill

Monday, October 18, 2010

IDs, Asian Links, 'Doom and Gloom', Tourism, Domestic Violence, New FNU Campus

NEW QUOTES FOR THE WEEK. SUGAR QUESTION ON NA SALA CAVA. Right sidebar.


NATIONAL ID CARD PROPOSAL. The suggestion by Ministry of Defence and National Security Senior Official Joji Washington that Fiji should introduce an national ID card was always going to raise eyebrows. There's no question it would "strengthen the work of law enforcement, immigration, customs, bio-security, border police, AFL security, airline security, port security and outsourced security personnel." It may also prove to be efficient for the general public.

Singapore has had compulsory ID cards for many years and while they seem not to be been misused by the authorities, it could be that people have just got used to having them.  It's handy having only one number to remember for tax, pension, wages, driving, voting, travel and other arrangements. Similar suggestions have surfaced in New Zealand over the years but they have always been opposed by the civil liberties lobby who argued that liberty is more important than efficiency.

In Fiji we can expect similar arguments. Could this efficiency be misused by Fiji authorities? The answer is obviously yes. Few would quibble with a card that will help detection of illicit activities and assist in police investigations. The problem is with its possible use to monitor opponents of the government. But it's more complicated than that. Monitoring activities that could result in civil disorder, threats of violence, bomb scares and assassinations (and all of these have happened) would, I think, be accepted as legitimate uses, but monitoring what in other countries are seen as normal political activities most definitely would  not.

But how to draw the line? Joji Washington talks as if the card is more than a proposal, and I've little doubt his suggestion will appeal to government.  But if it does, mechanisms must be put in place to ensure proper use. There must be checks on who can access information on the cards, and for what purposes. Appeal to the courts must be assured in the event of misuse. My advice for what it's worth would be not to go ahead with the proposal.  Coming in the wake of the telephone and cellphone registrations and delays in lifting PER, it will send out the wrong vibes.  Its negative reception overseas is assured (Michael Field has already started the ball rolling)  but if I were in government,  I'd be more concerned about the sense of unease among Fiji law-abiding citizens. It is possibly, with further study,  a good idea for the future –  but for the present, I think it would produce more  loses than gains.

The cards will contain a micro-chip containing personal bio-data, picture, fingerprint, passport system, ID number, and barcodes for TIN and LTA watch list verification.   For Michael Field's abnormally "even-handed" account, click here. His pilot fish blogger associates will join him soon. And this is TVNZ's balanced coverage.

AS WE WENT TO PRESS: 

GOVERNMENT BEGINS NATIONAL ID CONSULTATION "The Ministry of Defence, National Security and Immigration has begun consultations on the proposed national identification  card. Senior government officials of various departments and ministries took part in a consultation this morning on the way forward. Permanent Secretary for Defence, National Security and Immigration, Mr Jale Fotofili says Government believes there is a need for a national ID card. “We made a presentation to Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama on the issue, he has accepted the idea despite other issues pertaining to its implementation,” Mr Fotofili said. “These ID cards, once in place, will expedite the elections within a day – and thus the reason to carry out the exercise.” he says.  He said that all ministries and departments must be consulted before the project was implemented. -- 2010 No: 1711/MOI. 
[Ed. note: Consultations are needed far beyond ministries and departments. What do the genral public think? And if election efficiency is the issue, there is no hurry.  It's far more important to publish the Roadmap. The  ID would only be issued to future voters and the information contained would be limited.]


PM SLATES NAYSAYERS. The PM  has berated "the same group of people who continue to criticize everything the government does." They say nothing positive, everything is doom and gloom.  They influence many people, including the overseas media. He wonders why the media listen to these "same old critics rather than making their own assessments on the situation on the ground in Fiji" and whether "they really know what has been happening to the economy over the years." Many things were not functioning and the country was going nowhere with the way things were done in the past. Roads were not being constructed, electricity was not being connected to rural areas, and not much development work was carried out in the past, but his government was now changing this.

The PM said the critics should know that he is not bothered by what they are saying because he is focused on implementing the social, political, electoral and economic reforms that will bring true democracy in Fiji before the next elections.

Speaking at the launch of a new electricity power service at Natoaika Village in rural Naitasiri,  he said people are being mislead into thinking "everything was okay in the past. He told the villagers that while his government is not an elected one, it is working  hard and has a definitive plan to hand over a better Fiji to a new government in 2014. He called on people not to be swayed by the lies that are spread through by those working to undermine his government.

'Pacific Plate' Moves North

Three short items that support Prof Herr's contention that Australian (and NZ) policies are not helping them to maintain their influence—and business— in the South Pacific.

PACIFIC BROTHERHOOD. Meeting with "interested investors" from China and Singapore this week, the PM urged them to consider opportunities in other South Pacific island countries. “When you invest in Fiji also look at opportunities in Samoa, Tonga, the Cook Islands, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. We do not want to be just the leader but we want to move forward together with our Pacific neighbours.” -- Based on 2010 No:1670/MFA.


SINGAPORE TRADE OFFICE. Fifteen visiting Singapore business people have urged the PM
to open a trade office in Singapore. “We would love to have one trade office in Singapore because of our strategic location and it will help the Fiji Government in its look north policy,” said one of them.

CONFUCIUS, RENMINBI, WEAPONS, HIGH LEVEL CHINESE VISIT. The Chinese and Fiji foreign ministers meeting in Beijing this week discussed a wide range of bilateral exchanges, cooperation and other issues. China will be establishing a Confucius Institute in Fiji and will explore the notion also of establishing sister cities with some of China’s fast growing metropolitan cities. Ratu Inoke  acknowledged the Chinese authorities’ desire to extend assistance to improve public service excellence by offering places to the Fiji Public Service Commission for training opportunities of Fiji’s senior civil servants in the China Executive Leadership Academy in Shanghai.

The duo also discussed the possibility of including the Chinese fast growing currency; the (Renminbi) RMB, into the basket of Fiji’s trading currencies. “This initiative will assist tremendously in facilitating Fiji’s trade with China and is also part of Fiji’s Look North Policy,” Ratu Inoke said. Further, Fiji is now
seriously looking at the prospect of purchasing weapons from Chinese manufacturers to assist Fiji’s effort in participation in UN Peacekeeping and Peace building Missions. Foreign Minister Yang confirmed that he would like to formally visit Fiji in the near future and advised on the necessity of building strong political and bilateral relation founded on mutual respect and trust. -- Based on 2010
No:1669/MFA.
************

ALL IS NOT 'GLOOM AND DOOM'. Permanent Secretary for Women, Social Welfare and Poverty Alleviation Govind Sami said Prof Waden Narsey's 'gloom and doom’predictions told only part of the story. He said his Ministry continues to target rural areas that receive 70% of their poverty alleviation funding. To lay blame on the 2006 Coup and to ignore the negative impacts of Australian,New Zealand and the EU was "misplaced. “The sugar industry earnings were always likely to nosedive after the decision by EU to take away subsidies and the failure of the mill administration to moderise, improve rolling stock and rationalisation of operations were thwarted by politicians." -- Based on 2010 No:1667/MOI.

VISITOR ARRIVALS for May were up nearly 10,000 more compared with the same month last year. This represented an increase of 24.9% to 47,062 when compared to 37,666.  Most visitors were from Australia, about 22,941, a 48.7% increase,followed by New Zealand with 7,070,  an increase of 15%.  -- Based on 2010 No:1674/MOI.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE. Last month Shamima Ali of the the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre claimed people were unaware of Government's Domestic Violence Decree 2009. The Attorney General and Minister for Justice Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum denied this claim but in response has announced another workshop on the Decree's implementation. Other workshops have already been conducted for the police, prosecutors, NGO’s and the judiciary. The new workshop to be chaired by former High Court Judge Madam Nazhat Shameem  will be held at Suvavou House next Thursday 21st. An invitation has been extended to the Minister for Women and her Permanent Secretary, the Solicitor General, the DPP, the Chief Justice, the Chief Registrar, the Chief Magistrate, the Family Court Judge, the Commissioner of Police and representatives of all relevant non-government organisations for women.

FNU $40m NADI CAMPUS. The PM opened Fiji National University's new $40m Nadi campus last week, saying that the extension to the West makes tertiary and vocational education more accessible to all income groups. With its proximity to major tourism destinations and Nadi international airport it will offer specialized courses in hospitality and aviation. The PM hoped the hospitality training would provide the "opportunity for many of the hotel properties, who hitherto have not done so, to use Fijians in senior management positions." Other specialised courses planned include landscaping and horticulture, and centres are planned for Tavua, Rakiraki, Ba and Sigatoka. Some 5,000 students will be enrolled at the Nadi campus.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Open Letter from Artist Stan Blanch to Radio New Zealand

Attn. Programme Manager, Radio NZ

Dear Sir,
Listening to Radio NZ via streaming on the internet from here in Suva Fiji, I was bowled over by Mike Field's comments and  disinformation this morning. I am in the progress of painting a landcape in oils on canvas and almost dropped my brushes!!!!.

What a load of complete nonsense Mike told you. Mahendra Chaudhry, former PM of Fiji, was arrested a few days ago. He is now out on a $500 bail and  has to report to a Police Station once a week until his trial.

What Mike didn't tell you that Mahendra is a trade union activist and is believed to be associated with multiple recent sabotages of sugar mills around Fiji.The men with him were also trade union organisers. Alleged sabotage has been frequent and is always associated with the boiler systems in the plants affected.

Further to this, Chaudhry is facing criminal investigation and  charges for making substantial cash gifts to his family of Government monies and secreting very large sum of money out of Fiji into an Australia Bank Account.

Just drinking Kava with friends????  Ha! The police here have better things to do here than hassle people for the sake of it.

The Man is corrupt. Mike Field's is simply pissed off for being banned from Fiji and using RNZ as a vent for his spleen.

My family has over a hundred year old association with Fiji. I have an Uncle who has served in NZ Washington and London as an ambassador. Also a Cousin who served as Fiji's Chief Justice until 2008.

I can tell you first hand Fiji is great at present. You can ask any man on the street, things are growing and stable. The people who are not happy are some of the Ratus who were strangling the Indian cane farmers with lease increases that threatened their economic viability. Also, A handful of top Indo-Fijian businessmen who were able to grease the wheels of their businesses with bribery and paid almost no tax.

Under the old system pre-Bainimarama era, the country's infrastructure — roads, education, health, telecommunications — were being terribly run down. These days capital is being injected, money is spent and these dishonest bludgers who paid no tax, now have more auditors crawling over them than fleas on dogs. Fiji is a lovely place!.

The general consensus on the street from Fijian and Indian alike is that Bainimarama is doing a great job.

In future just try & get a balanced commentator.

Stan Blanch J.P(NZ), Dip.Tchg, Dip Art ( Honours)


* The painting is by Stan Blanch, 'Atiamuri, the place where I grew up.'  He now spends most of his time in Australia.

Editor's note.  The letter has been edited following what, in retrospect, I see as legitimate complaints from readers. To me the letter is of interest because of his gut reaction to Michael Field's unbalanced report and his observations of opinions on the street.  There have been several complaints about the NZ media recently. I'll report on some of them later in the week. The letter was originally published in Scoop.