Saturday, April 30, 2011


Scroll down to the main postings ▼    WEEKEND READING.  Allen Lockington Column ♦ Graham Davis on Ratu Tevita and much more   ♦ Fr Barr reflects on the Fiji National Provident Fund Symposium 
Sunday 22.5.11
KEY HAPPY WITH NZ's POSITION on sanctions and travel ban. No change for charity trial or World Cup.
USE BIKETAWA DECLARATION. This is CCF's Rev Akuila Yabaki's suggestion to resolve the Tonga-Fiji standoff. The Declaration provides Forum leaders with several options to resolve or contain conflict. The Forum Economic Action Plan Eight Principles of Good Governance and the 1997 Aitutaki Declaration obliges Forum Leaders, including Tonga, to respect the principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of another member state.

HAS NZTV1 BREACHED Broadcasting Standards Authority requirements with its constant use of old film footage showing armed soldiers in the streets (some from the 2000 Speight coup)  as backdrops to current news items on Fiji, and presenting hearsay (Barbara Dreaver says that Ratu Tevita says that he has been told that...) as evidence of reliable news?  Does the news provide us with a balanced account of events in Fiji?

FIJI POLITICAL PARTY OFFICIALS AT ANU. The Centre for Democratic Institutions is currently hosting its 6th annual Party Development course, funded by AusAid. The only Fiji participant noted in the programme is Mrs Priscilla Singh of the National Federation Party but I understand FLP and SDL are also represented. Thank you, Australia, for your detached interest but  my guess is none of these parties will contest the 2014 election unless they re-invent themselves as genuine multi-racial parties with multi-racial policies and agendas.

COUNTER-TERRORISM. Fiji will soon implement a security framework to counter terrorist activities and also highlight border security for Melanesian  Spearhead Group countrie, says Police Director Operations SSP Erami Raibe.

Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On

Allen TanoaAllen 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.

Water Ransom
Well here is an interesting twist to things. We read (FT 24/4) that the Water Authority of Fiji is investigating a water ransom allegation. Some residents of Nasau in Nadi allege that they are being held to ransom by WAF workers who have asked to be paid to turn on water. If investigations find this to be true and the men are charged, what fate awaits them? I ask this because there is a law that’s states that a person will be heavily fined or spend up to ten years in prison in found guilty of tampering with water meters. 
What penalty is there for the ransom holders?  In my opinion this is worse than someone tampering with water meters. This is fraud because they are asking for money for something that is not theirs. Reticulated water belongs to local councils and the Water Authority.
I await the outcome of the investigation. And I hope someone cops the heavy  fine or prison sentence.  An example needs to be made so that others will think twice about doing such things.

The Mauritius Miracle by Joseph E. Stiglitz

joseph stiglitz
 Joseph E. Stiglitz is University Professor at Columbia University and a Nobel laureate in Economics. His latest  book, Freefall: Free Markets and the Sinking of the Global Economy, is available in French, German, Japanese, and Spanish.

 NEW YORK – Suppose someone were to describe a small country that provided free education through university for all of its citizens, transportation for school children, and free health care – including heart surgery – for all. You might suspect that such a country is either phenomenally rich or on the fast track to fiscal crisis.

People’s Charter, Pillar 9 (Knowledge-Based Society) : For Discussion

Readers are asked to consider and comment on Government’s progress towards these goals. 

Peoples charter logo
Critical Problems and Issues:
  • In the wake of the coups since 1987, and with persisting  political instability and a growing sense of insecurity, our  nation has lost, through emigration, substantial numbers  of its experienced professionals and skilled workers. The  skills gap that has emerged cannot be readily filled  because new entrants to the labour force lack expertise, education, experience and training.
  • Over 10% of Fiji’s children aged 5-14 years do not attend  school. More than half the total numbers in final year of primary school do not progress to secondary education.
  • The need to address access and equity issues to support  social justice and promote unity and harmony. The difficulty of access because of poor infrastructure in rural  and remote areas combined with the meagre incomes of  most families are among the major factors contributing to  the high dropout  rates, and also the disparities in academic achievement between the poor in rural and urban areas and the welltodo  families.
  • Of the 16,000 students coming out of the school system,  only about 8,000 are being absorbed in the formal job market.
The Way Forward:
The following key measures and actions must be taken with due  priority and urgency  :
  • Ensure access to quality education for all.
  • Establish a statutory body for Community and Non-Formal Learning.
  • Establish a modular system of education.
  • Establish a coherent national tertiary education system.
  • Increase access to tertiary and higher education.
  • Ensure improved overall quality of teaching and learning  through better trained educators.
  • Implement a progressive and responsive curriculum.
  • Strengthen early childhood education, especially in the rural areas and the outer islands.
  • Improve the financing of education.
  • Enhance the skills base and vocational training.
  • Introduce a system for the distribution of all education grants that specifically recognises and is based on the disadvantage of schools.

Reserve Bank: Macroeconomic Policy and Monetary Policy Changes

Reserve Bank Macroeconomic Policy Committee Press Release 28 April 2011
Click on the  link to download.

Reserve  Bank Announces Monetary Policy Changes
The Board of the Reserve Bank of Fiji, at its monthly meeting on 28 April 2011, agreed to reduce the Overnight Policy Rate (OPR) to 1.50 percent from 2.00 percent.

While announcing the board decision, the Acting Governor and Chairman of the Board, Mr. Barry Whiteside stated that “while the rising crude oil and food prices pose ongoing concerns for households and businesses in the economy, the current settings of slowly improving domestic demand and a healthy foreign reserves outlook validates a continued accommodative monetary policy stance”.

Dispute Resolution for Customary Lands: Some Lessons from Fiji

Customary land tenure involves a complex and detailed array of tenure rights which are often difficult
to reconcile with western systems of land tenure. Land disputes arising from customary land tenure are
costly, time consuming and often hinder the operation of governments, land administrators, developers,
investors, proprietors and land users. These disputes may be the result of the customary system or the
result of the tensions of a dual tenure system. This paper discusses the experience of Fiji in addressing
disputes involving customary land and proposes a framework for resolving disputes in customary land.

Revolution and State Failure

By Sudarsan Kant

Among the many discoveries awaiting State prosecutors and investigators in the post-Mubarak era is the billions of dollars that were whittled away by the regime during their three decades in power. The revolutions in the Middle East underscored the rage of ordinary people who were justifiably fed up after decades of abuse and neglect by governments and demanded change from the status quo. The State had simply failed on a comprehensive scale to deliver basic goods and services to its citizens, while enriching venal and brutal elite with largesse bordering on the obscene. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Jumping at Shadows: the Purpose and Effects of Rumours

jumping at shadowsRumours will continue to flow as long as Government maintains PER and restrictions on the flow of information, and to this extent they have only themselves to blame when false and misleading rumours— that are invariably anti-government—spread doubt and uncertainty among the public,  as  is their intention.  

Two rumours have been circulated by anti-government bloggers over the past few days.  One was that police Chief Operations Officer, Henry Brown, was taken to the Barracks for questioning, possibly about corruption, but was subsequently released.  This rumour was refuted by Police Inspector Atunaisa Sokomuri  who said Brown was not only still the Chief Operations Officer, “He is on the ground as we speak. ” 

This was followed by the rumour that  the PM’s brother-in-law Francis Kean had been replaced as Navy Commander.  The PM denied this, saying “He is still the Navy Commander but has got an extra job.”

Fiji Today helped circulate this rumour under the heading: “ More jumping at shadows as Frank reacts to rumors that his son-in-law has been replaced.   They got two things wrong here: first, the rumour; second, the relationship.  Kean is Bainimarama’s brother-in-law, not his son-in-law.  

Never mind.  It was a good story as long as it lasted. But not as good as the one last year that had Bainimarama off to China for a heart operation or the other one that had Bainimarama and  Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum both under arrest when, in fact,  Bainimarama was overseas and the A-G was still in his office.

So what purpose do the rumours serve and what are their effects?  Some incorrect rumours are genuine mistakes, spurred on perhaps by a touch of wishful thinking, but there can be little doubt that others are deliberate fabrications (or lies), created or passed on by blog informants, that are intended to undermine public confidence in government, boost the ebbing confidence of government’s opponents at home and abroad, and keep government off-balance, not knowing how strong its opposition is.  

This latter effect is particularly serious because it lends support to those in government who wish to retain PER and delay dialogue, and  makes it that much more difficult for more moderate members of government to argue for the lifting of  PER and the start of more extensive dialogue with civil society.  The uncertainty generated by rumours also leads to further detentions which, in turn, create further uncertainty — and possibly less support for government.  And the wheel keeps turning.  

Will rumours of this type help produce a good outcome in 2014?  That, of course, depends on how you define "good" but whatever your definition, continuous rumour-mongering is likely to limit and delay the inclusive dialogue that is needed over the next  two to three years.  Rumour perpetuates distrust that will not help reconciliation. And rumour will not help a peaceful transfer of power to a civilian government. 

But the more ardent anti-government bloggers and their informants probably don't want this, anyway. Life was better for them under the racist regime of Laisenia Qarase.

China Helps Reduce Livestock Feed Dependence

Fiji’s dependence on imported feed for its ducks, goats, pigs and cattle will end later in the year when, thanks to Chinese assistance, the country will operate its first feed mill at Koronivia Research Station between Suva and Nausori.  This will mean that in times of drought and flooding, feed in store will be able to feed the country’s livestock. At such times imported feed can make up more than half the cost of operating farms.   The mill will process  local agricultural waste and by-products such as refuse from municipal markets and sugar cane tops and turn it into feed pellets. Source: Xinhua. This is another example of an infrastructural development that is part of the Roadmap.  The map itself may not have been published (as countless readers have pointed out and which, in my opinion, it should have been) but the route that is being followed is crystal clear.  

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Itchy Grass: Predicted 43% Drop in Sugar Production

Rottoboellia in cane
Rottoboellia amongst sugar cane
The anti-Government blog Fiji Today reports that  a weed is infesting cane farms in the Nadi area. The weed is nearly a metre tall, has sharp thorns  and can only be handled with gloves on. The Sugar Industry Research Institute —that so far has received  no  information from farmers about the weed—  thinks it may be Rottoboellia that will need to be cut out and  sprayed with Veltar K4 to destroy it  for good.   Meanwhile, Fiji Today has predicted a possible “43% drop in sugar production.” They are clearly advised by a  statistician who is a probability genius. 

A Multi-Ethnic Cadet Force: Is This Where to Start?

Photo: MOI
Posted by Picasa 

Nasinu Secondary School put on a fine display for visiting  reviewing officer and chief guest Land Force Commander Mosese Tikoitoga yesterday. The Ministry of Information said, "History was rewritten as the whole school participated in a cadet pass out parade."

With a school roll of 570 and a location in an residential area where all races are represented, why couldn't we see a Fiji-Indian face in the parade?  We understand the history behind a Fiji military force that is 99% ethnic itaukei, but if history was really rewritten at Nasinu yesterday, we'd have expected a start to have been made towards making the military multi-ethnic. Very disappointing, given the People's Charter goals.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Why the Fiji Time is Offline

My thanks to this reader who supplied this information -
I have a close friend who still works at the Fiji Times and this is the
situation: if a journalist doesn't add his byline as required by the new
media decree, these are added by sub-editors as they layout pages etc.
However the way that the website had been formatted by News Ltd to
automatically pick up and upload stories, meant bylines added by sub-editors
were not always showing up on the website layout. There were additional
problems with photobylines, that would appear in the newspaper, but would
not format correctly and were not being automatically picked up for the

And to this reader who asked -
... Why doesn't Fiji Times print why they are offline?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Women’s Centres: Great, but are they Really Open to All?

Mrs Nacobi (L) and the Minister at the Raibeca Centre. 
Raibeca Women’s Centre is situated at Tacirua, north of Suva. A recent report by  its president Mrs Filimaina Nacobi  reminded me of the plans for helping poorer women outlined by the Minister of Women, Dr Jiko Luveni, that I published in September last year.  It is well worth a re-read because, in this case,  it allows us to monitor Government intentions on social justice with respect to women and poverty.  

The Raibeca Centre belongs to the umbrella Fiji Women’s Federation that links some NGOs to the Ministry.  As the elected president of the Raibeca Centre Filimaina sits on an ministerial Advisory Committee that  is charged with the implementation of government's Women’s Plan of Action (WPA) 2010 to 2019 (see the September post for details).

Monday, April 25, 2011

Cheerful Headings from the Anti-Bloggers: Have a Happy Week

Baring teeth smileCoup2006 (Sai Lealea, Wellington). ♥ Sign petition to UN and stop Abusive Fiji Military ♥ Fiji dictator and son free riding it at Hong Kong Sevens (from Coup4.5)  ♥ Illegal PM orders officials on to FBC for talkback – what a joke! ♥ Illegal regime to appoint seven new magistrates  ♥ Sister of QEB Goon waiting for New Zealand visa (from Coup4.5) ♥ Patel and Mau handed prison sentences ♥ Illegal regime cabinet approves money grabbing infringement notice ♥  Rewa’s Bose Vanua to make final decision as illegal threatens stance
Smile with tongue outCoupFourPointFive (team, Auckland).  ♥ Easter bunny free ride (to Hong Kong Sevens) ♥ ‘New police uniform will make us laughing stock’ ♥ Sister of QEB Goon waiting for New Zealand visa ♥ Magistrates quit citing ‘personal reasons’
Winking smileFiji Today (‘Peter Firkins’ and team, Fiji?).   ♥ Permanent Secretary for sugar, Manaqsa Vaniqi talks up confidence in sugar ♥ Suva City Council forces businesses to get trading permit at 24 hrs notice, Small man with big power syndrome strikes again   ♥ Taxi operators going broke! ♥ Additional US$20million  loan from China hidden in the small print  ♥ Cane farmers to start 2011-12 season $6m in debt  ♥ A loaf of bread under Fijian price control 
Be right backMy Blog. Meanwhile, there’s been a spike of anti-government comments on my blog that some have interpreted as a sign of dwindling support for the Government.  You can choose to believe this if you wish, but all it actually shows is that more anti-bloggers have chosen to use Easter to  comment on the blog.  Before someone asks, I hasten to add that I have no idea  how pro-government readers spent their Easter — but I doubt this is of any political relevance either.  To paraphrase Aristotle,  one (or two) swallows do not a summer make, whichever way they are flying.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

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.

Priceless Donation

On Thursday I took a few friends from Lautoka to donate blood at the Lautoka hospital. We got tested and gave 750ml of blood. It was interesting because when we arrived we were asked what patients we had come to give blood to.

There were a few men sitting outside the office and I asked them what they were there for. They said that they had come to give blood to a relative. It's interesting that people will only go up to the blood bank to donate when a relative needs blood. My friends who are taxi drivers decided that they wanted to give back to society something and they came up with a blood donation.

Someone said taxi drivers had been taking from us. Yes, but what they gave back was well over the cost of a taxi fare. So freely given, it was priceless.

A Note on Mining: Lessons from PNG and Elsewhere

By retired NZ diplomat Gerald McGhie
Gerald with Rev Yabaki March 2011

I wonder whether the current outbreak of mining in the Pacific will produce the expected returns to governments and landowners. 
The key question relates to governance. Do Pacific governments have the resources to manage the huge amounts of money at stake? The evidence to date is not encouraging.

People's Charter Pillar 8 (Reducing Poverty): for Discussion

Includes that part of Chapter 5 of the State of the Nation Report relating to poverty. For earlier Pillars, type Pillar and 1 or 2, etc in the Search this Blog facility. 
I urge readers to compare these goals with what Government has so far undertaken towards their realization.

Critical Problems and Issues:
  • We live in a land where there is a strong practice of faith but a strange lack of compassion and togetherness.
  • Increasing numbers of our people are having to face a bleak future; one that guarantees nothing but poverty and hopelessness, in the rapidly growing squatter settlements in the urban areas, and in our rural communities.
  • Almost 4 out of every 10 persons in our communities live under conditions of poverty.
  • A large proportion of the poor, while in full time employment, constitute the “working poor”; 55% of the wage earners earn incomes that are below the poverty line.
  • Income inequalities in our nation remain deep: the poorest 20% of our people receive only 6% of the national income while the richest 20% receive 48% of the national income.

Charlie Charters on the Corruption Commission

Charlie Charters was marketing manager of the Fiji Rugby Union and CEO of the Pacific Islanders Rugby Alliance in the early 2000s. He is married to Vanessa, the daughter of  Mere Samisoni, a former SDL politician and a prominent anti-government activist. My personal view is that his article is excessively negative — surely the FICAC must be doing some good — but it is published for its helpful ideas in the hope it will stimulate discussion.


I don't know whether you want to run this as is, cherry-pick or spike the whole thing. Whatever. Your discretion. But given the debate that your blog tries to engender I thought I'd make my contribution. So here goes ...

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Good Friday Reflection

This is essentially a political blog on Fiji. Readers seeing this Good Friday article may suspect a change in direction.  If they read on,  they will see just how relevant Fr Kevin Barr's religious reflections are to Fiji's political situation.
 A Good Friday Reflection 
Kevin J. Barr 

Too many Christians today have spiritualised the death of Jesus and are satisfied to say simply that Jesus died for our salvation – “the blood of the Lamb has washed away our sins”. While this may be true theologically, these Christians tend to ignore the stark reality of the gospel story and the real historical context in which Jesus lived, preached and died. Moreover this approach can keep us trapped in a devotional Christianity often unrelated to the world in which Jesus lived and in which he preached his message of the Kingdom.

Thakur Ranjit Singh Writes of Indo-Fijian Differences and Modern Day Inconsistences

The Indo Fijian Easter conventions should unite the people

Thakur Ranjit Singh

Easter is a time for the Christian community in Fiji to celebrate the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is also a time, in a deeply religious Fiji with harmonious interfaith activities, when Indo-Fijians of Hindu, Sikh and Islamic faiths come together in sporting and social events, and when Indo-Fijian Diaspora from around the world descend on Fiji to show family, religious and ethnic unity. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What is to be the Media's New Role?

Prof Subramani, Chairman of MIDA, the Media Industry Development Authority that was established under the Media Decree to monitor and work with the media industry,  says the media has to build up trust in order to win the freedom it is asking for, and trust is gradually won through performance.

Readers familiar with the biased and sensational reporting of the past, most particularly by the Fiji Times, know that Fiji's media often promoted divisions and distrust in an already divided Fiji.  They will not be surprised at that MIDA has urged the media to redefine its priorities in the context of their developmental role, and find alternatives to conventional goals and practices. The media, says MIDA,  needs to be at the forefront of nation-making, and work for progress towards a truly pluralistic and modern Fiji.

Monday, April 18, 2011

PM Visits Kadavu

The PM continues his provincial visits this week with a tour of Kadavu and its outlying islands, some 90 km south of the main island of Viti Levu. He will visit  Buliya, Narikoso, Vabea and Ono tikina (districts) before journeying further to the mainland districts. There he will inspect several government projects ranging from food  security programmes, seaweed and dalo projects to basic infrastructural developments. He will also open the new Vunisea Jetty on Kadavu.

Peter Firkin and the Pickled Chippy: Who's Kidding Who?

Excuse my use of Peter Piper, the old English nursery rhyme and tongue twister, but it has,  as you will see, a bearing on a story published on Peter Firkin's anti-government blog Fiji Today.

The story was supposedly written by a young and surprisingly well educated Suva carpenter who called himself Chippy. His English is so flawless and he so methodically covers the routine, well-trodden road of objections to the Bainimarama government, that I'm left wondering about young Chippy.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

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.

A True Sportsman

Burying a Blogger: Uneven Corruption Reporting

The Pot Calling the Kettle black: Coup 4.5 Shames the Concept of Democracy and a Fair and Just media

Thakur Ranjit Singh

[Ed. The author's comments are of special interest because they show how selective non-reporting helps to distance the former SDL government from the corruption of which it was an essential part.]

The following response was posted by yours truly on the blogger comments form of the SDL site, Coup 4.5 blog on 19 March, 2011. This was just days after those found guilty in the Agriculture Scam court case were convicted and jailed:

People's Charter Pillar 7 (Provincial Development): For Discussion

Readers are encouraged to use the blog's search facility to see what Government is doing about physical and institutional infrastructure in rural and provincial Fiji, and what yet needs to be done.  To read Pillars 1-6, write Pillar n in the Search facility.

Pillar 7. Establishing an Integrated Development Structure at the Provincial Level.

Critical Problems and Issues:
  • The dual system of governance at the local level, through the Provincial and Advisory Councils, is ethnic-driven and conflicts with the vision of one nation, one people.
  • The “Fijian Administration” or Tabacakacaka i Taukei, as a system of governance for indigenous Fijians, despite some successes such as in the promotion of culture and heritage, has failed in the areas of economic and social development.
  • Coordination of efforts in the planning and execution of social and economic development programmes at the local levels remain fragmented and ineffective.

The Way Forward:
The following key measures and actions must be taken with due priority and urgency  :
Establish representative Provincial Development Boards (PDBs) for each Province by integrating the present Provincial and Advisory Councils:
For the detailed recommendations and proposed implementation actions, see the Report on the State of the Nation and the Economy.
The Ministry of Provincial Development (or equivalent) to be the central agency/ministry playing coordination role at divisional, provincial and district levels.
Effective reviews of the roles and functions of the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs, Department of MultiEthnic Affairs, Ministry of Urban Development, and the Ministry of Provincial Development to eliminate duplication, ensure optimum use of resources, and increase efficiency.
Indigenous Fijian development interests to be mainstreamed into national development plans and programmes with line ministries and other implementing agencies responsible for implementation.
Upgrade the professional capacity and skills at the divisional levels to ensure robustness in the delivery of development services.
The integrated Development Boards at the national, divisional, provincial and district levels are to be the key consultative and planning forums for development, in line with budget, planning and formulation processes.
· Revitalize economic activity in rural areas and the outer islands through the PDBs and provision of basic infrastructure including town and centres.
· Upgrade the skills, leadership abilities, and professionalism of staff of the PDBs.

Poverty Alleviation and Poverty Statistics

By Kevin J. Barr

The Poverty Alleviation Unit estimates that in recent years $1.5bn has been spent on poverty alleviation programmes yet poverty does not seem to decrease. Rather it seems to be on the increase. Why is that?

My opinion is that while government is spending money on poverty alleviation programmes for urban and rural areas:
  1. It is not sufficient for the needs;
  2. Many of the policies government follows negate the effects of the poverty alleviation programmes.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Mau Patel Trial

Mau (L); Patel (R) Photo: Fiji Village
I have not commented on this trial as it progressed.  The Corruption Commission (FICAC) claimed that the alleged offence was abuse of  office when in 2003 the two accused did not follow proper and ethical procedures in the purchase of a $75,000 Post Office clock. At the time Peni Mau was managing director and Mahendra Motibhai Patel a board member of the government-owned Post Fiji Ltd. The clock was purchased from Patel's Motibhai and Sons. Mau was said to be doing Patel "a favour", and Patel wanted to made a quick buck.

Fiji does not have a jury system.  Instead, three assessors assist the judge to reach a verdict. In this case, two of the three assessors found Mau guilty and Patel was found not guilty.  The judge overruled the not guilty recommendation and sentenced Mau (63) to 9 months jail and Patel (71) to 12 months. They did not express remorse for their offence.  Justice Goundar's full judgment is posted below. The Weekend Readings include a post that deals with how one anti-government blog has handled this and other cases of corruption. 

One reader comments:
On the one hand this good. It is the first real victory by FICAC and sends the strongest possible message to the community about corruption to date. The decision in my view looks right and the sentence hard but fair. People will think twice now before using positions of power and trust for personal gain. This speaks far louder than the PM's words on the topic.

On the other hand it is bad - it highlights much of the unfairness we have seen over the last 4 years. These two have been found guilty but dozens of CEO's and board members where removed with no-recourse, no charges. We have seen bigger issues at FHL Board recently but presumably because this involved a military-appointed board (and a key military person) it seems to have been swept under the carpet.

I applaud FICAC on pursuing this one but for real change the government needs to ensure FICAC treats its own the same way....and not just when they fall out of favour with the PM (think former finance minister).

And another reader writes:The trial seems to have depended on the evidence of Adish Naidu, the architect for Post Fiji. The judge accepted his evidence, and convicted both the defendants. The sentence was within the tariff for abuse of office cases. In fact Kunatuba in the Agriculture scam got a heavier sentence. I understand they are both appealing and that they will ask the Court of Appeal for bail. The case is a good example of everyone being equal before the law. The criticisms I have heard of the conviction and sentences seem to be more about the status of Motibhai, and less about the evidence.

WEEKEND READING.  ♦ Allen Lockington Column ♦ Burying a Blog: Uneven Corruption Reporting ♦ Poverty Alleviation and Poverty Statistics  ♦ People's Charter Pillar 7 (Provincial Development): For Discussion

The Mau Patel Case: Justice Goundar's Judgment in Full

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Two Human Rights Reports

They read like a tale of who vaguely similar cities. The recently published 2010 report on human right in Fiji published by the US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor is a pretty chilling repetition of its 2009 report. Nothing has changed.

Government continues to ban, censor, attack, arrest, prosecute, imprison, dismiss, deport, restrict and intimidate (and similar verbal impartialities). "Police and the military act with impunity ...prison conditions are poor, and "Other continuing human rights problems"  include (as if any more were needed): "government corruption, deep ethnic division, violence and discrimination against women, and sexual exploitation of children." This is also pretty scary. Such US accusations have been known to precede an invasion. 

A far more authoritative critical report is by the Citizen's Constitutional Forum (CCF) in its Monthly Legal News Bulletin Constitutional Matters. For readers unfamiliar with what is still wrong in Fiji, click  here to  read the report.  For those already familiar with what is wrong and who want to get on with making things better, I suggest you concentrate on issues like lifting PER, using the Media Decree, getting more civilians in government, more dialogue, more government transparency, better PR, and from the "opposition" — remove racist leadership, support the People's Charter, work towards inclusion in constitutional and election dialogues. Say something, anything, even one thing, positive about what the government is doing. And urge Australia and New Zealand to "Get real."

As for the US Bureau, they need to get up to date with someone on the ground in Fiji to see what is being done about corruption, ethnic divisions, prisons, women and children.  Since none of these are new problems, they could also ask why they failed to made similar accusations before 2006, when Fiji was a more "compliant" state.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Massive Naboro Prison Breakout: Coup 4.5 Again

The following is the sort of mischievous nonsense CoupFourPointFive continues to feed to its readers.  The item was published on the fourth of April, prior to the announced Suva manoeuvres of the RFMF when the President was in Vuda and the PM was preparing for his Indonesia trip.

"Sources say prisoners at Naboro maximum security are being moved because of a massive  breakout rumor. Prison officers are said to have been working overtime in the last week to move prisoners to other locations.

"A prison officer has told us they were directed to empty the maximum prison because the army will also be carrying out mass arrests very soon and that all political prisoners will be kept at Naboro.  It's believed allocation has been made for 50 prisoners and that they may include:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Fiji Labour Party, MH, Food4Less and NZ Food Prices Compared

The Fiji Labour Party website recently  published prices for 30 food and household items pre- and post- devaluation. Its stated aim was to see the effects of devaluation, and the 21.2% increase in VAT in January 2011. Its unstated aim was probably to discredit Government's financial management.

A number of items selected by the FLP would only be purchased by Fiji's middle class. Not many households, for example,  would be buying wheetbix or milo, and they were shop prices. Nothing was included from the  market.

By January 2011  the prices of almost all items (except rice, which had fallen 20%, and tinned mackerel that fell 33%) had substantially increased  from the pre-devaluation price in March 2009.

I took 18 of the FLP's  21 food items listed and compared them with March 2011 prices in MH and Food4Less in Suva and Pak n'Save in NZ.

In Fiji, MH prices in March were up on the FLP's January 2011 figures, although chicken, potatoes and carrots were lower, but the prices of most items at the local Food4Less shop across the road were much lower than MH and many items were also lower than, or unchanged from, the FLP January figures.

Of equal interest was that the NZ figures*, on average, showed higher prices than in Fiji both before and after devaluation, and higher percentage price increases (NZ compared with FLP Jan.2011) than those experienced in Fiji after devaluation.

Oops! But What Do You Expect Under PER?

 It would seem that my previous post on police requirements for the observation of the Hindu festival of Ram Navmi was incorrect.   There was no police requirement to register although many Hindus thought there was, and the multi-religious umbrella group Interfaith went so far as to protest the presumed requirement.   What lessons can be taken from this misinformation?  

It would appear the original story was spread by people opposed to Sanatan Dharm Sabha (and possible also to Government) but with absolutely no response from the police or news items in the media yet another six was scored by those opposed to the Bainimarama government.  They must be loving the inept PR.

The main problem is PER (the Public Emergency Regulations) that makes everyone so jittery and unwilling to seek out further information that false news is allowed to spread and fester.  But even with  PER retained  surely someone in the police or government could have leapt into the breach to quash the misinformation before it spread.   No more on this for the moment but would those readers who have the ear of a Cabinet  Minister please do tell him or her  just how damaging these situations are, and how easy it is to avoid them.

Thakur Ranjit Singh's comment on the post "Police Heavy-handedness Shows No Understanding of ..." explains all:

It has now been confirmed by Radio Tarana in Auckland, through an audio recording from the General Secretary of Sanatan Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji, Mr Vijendra Prakash that there was NO such requirement or directive from any authority about any restrictions on celebrating Ram Naumi. He said that there were no restrictions on celebrating Ram Naumi but police permission may be required for large gatherings. He did not define what "large gathering' meant. But he reiterated that there was NO RESTRICTIONS OR CONDITIONS on celebrating Ram Naumi. He attributed the misinformation to mischief makers, who were fellow Hindus who were trying to tarnish the good name of Sanatan in Fiji.

Hope this clarifies this matter for time-being and Croz may wish to get back to his source of information to obtain documentary proof if any restrictions were placed. Otherwise we should believe what has been clarified by Vijendra Prakash of Sanatan in Fiji.

As a former Executive of Sanatan Sabha in Fiji I can vouch for the principles of freedom of religion promoted by Sanatan in Fiji and I cannot believe they would ever go ahead to place any such restrictions.
[A copy of Radio Tarana audio file (in Hindi) was provided to Croz Walsh]

UN Ambassadors Informed on MSG Summit and Fiji

Fiji Ambassador Peter Thomson and staff
Ambassadors from more than 50 countries have been told in New York that the Melanesian Spearhead Summit has recognised Fiji’s Strategic Framework for Change, Roadmap for Democracy and Economy Reform Agenda as a “credible home-grown development agenda for Fiji”.

Police Heavy-handedness Shows No Understanding of Hinduism

A reader writes: Ram Naumi (Ram Navmi) is the celebration of Lord Rama's birthday. He is one the leading Hindu deities, an avatar of Vishnu the Protector.

Until this year, celebrations have been organized by local communities and various religious groups but it has come to light that for this year next week's Ram Naumi celebration is only allowed if these groups register with the orthodox Hindu organization, the Sanatan Dharma Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji (SDPS)  is an unprecedented action inFiji's history!

It is quite a remarkable turn of events. Not all Hindus belong to the Sanatan denomination. Many Fiji Hindus belong to other denominations such as Arya Samaj, the Sai Baba movement, Kabir Panthis, and numerous other groups. Hindu Indo-Fijians also belong to cultural groups such as Gujerati and South Indian organizations which do not necessarily regard the Sanatan organisation as their lead organization.

To draw a parallel with Christian denominations, the changed requirement for 2011, would mean that all Christian denominations will need to register with the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma to celebrate a Christian festival (Easter or Christmas).

Interfaith Search Fiji (the ecumenical organization that seeks to promote religions dialogue and understanding) has strongly and correctly objected to this change as interference in the freedom to worship.

The attempt to privilege the Sanatan organization over all other denominations is political interference in Hindu religious practice in Fiji.

This is absolutely unacceptable.

Ed. Comment. The term 'denomination' does not quite fit. SDPS is an umbrella organization, not a church. This link  to their website explains all. Hindus, unlike Christians,  may, and often do, simultaneously follow the teachings of several paths to God, and non-Hindus in Fiji have never been able to fully understand this.  Thus, at the 1996 census over one-fifth  of Hindus were classified as Other Hindu, compared with a mere 4% of Other Christians. The high figure was due partly to people following several teachings, and also because many census enumerators were insufficiently informed to classify them otherwise. (See my Fiji: An Encyclopaedic Atlas, section 11 on Fiji's Religions.)

The police —and by extension the Government— is similarly insufficiently informed. The police requirement is unacceptable not only because it impacts on religious freedom; it also displays a level of ignorance, intolerance and heavy-handedness that runs counter to the spirit of  government's stated intentions for a better Fiji.  Government needs a broader and more representative group of advisers.

One last point: The Public Emergency Regulations need to be applied with good sense.  Since when have Hindus been a threat to law and order in Fiji?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

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.

Protect Our Records

People's Charter Pillar 6 (Land) : For Discussion

It would be useful to tick off the recommendations government has already done and others still in progress. If you need assistance write land in the Search this Blog facility.

Making more land available for productive and social purposes

Critical Problems and Issues:
  • Ethnonationalists and those politicians who seek power on the basis of divisive, race-based politics have tended to make land a highly emotive issue.
  • The principal issue regarding land in Fiji is not one of ownership; it is about access, its productive use and ensuring an equitable sharing of benefits. The issue of ownership is fully protected under the Constitution, and must so remain.
  • Vast amounts of land in Fiji currently lie idle or are greatly underutilized.

The MSG Summit: Reflections and Implications

When the raging rhino shoves aside Australia and NZ Zealand to woo China and its own Melanesian brothers
Thakur Ranjit Singh

As the aroma of the authentic Fijian lovo (hangi) pig and the sumptuous spicy chicken curry cooked in Indo-Fijian style drifted from the lavishly laid buffet table, the tang of delicious Fijian kokoda (raw fish in coconut milk and lemon) simultaneously hit the olfactory nerves. This made it difficult for the Pacific delegates to choose what to eat. However, there was no such dilemma when it came to show support for Fiji and Bainimarama’s path for the nation.

Fiji's New Diplomacy

Time to Rethink When 'Bad Guy' is King of Pacific
By Graham Davis*
Source: The Australian/PacNews

Australia’s impotence in influencing events in its own back yard is being demonstrated in dramatic fashion this week as Fijian leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama fulfils his long-held ambition to assume the chairmanship of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

All the other Melanesian leaders - from Papua New Guinea, the Solomons, Vanuatu plus the Kanak FLNKS from New Caledonia - are joining him for the group's summit in Suva tomorrow. It's also being attended by representatives from Indonesia, East Timor and - strangely - the European Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

The humiliation for Australia and New Zealand comes with the authority Bainimarama will now wield as the leader of a virile regional grouping - backed by the Chinese - that's increasingly regarded as more important than the long-established Pacific Islands Forum.

Another Successful Bond Issue

T.K. Jayaraman
Republished from the Fiji Times, Saturday, March 12, 2011
Fiji made it.

Fiji’s second international bond issue for US$ 250 million was fully subscribed, early this week. In fact it was oversubscribed by midday, with the order book closing almost 3 times oversubscribed within 12 hours of launch.

It is a clear indication of the recognition of Fiji’s credibility as a credit worthy nation. It also heralds a new dawn of opportunities and challenges for a nation that has been hit by shocks of all kinds since 2006, both domestic and external, including the ongoing Great Recession since 2007.

The improvement in S&P’s rating of Fiji two weeks ago from “stable” to “positive” in regard to level of international currency reserves was a major factor in influencing overseas investors’ decision. International reserves stand at F$ 1.3 billion at the end of January 2011. The reserves are equivalent to about four months’ imports of goods and services. This is due to reduction in trade deficits and rise in export earnings.