Monday, August 29, 2011

A Reader on the Fiji Methodist Leadership

We need to let those who live in Fiji to decided. The Methodist Church is not the voice of reason during these difficult days — as it had showed its true colours in the past. Why pick on the Catholics what about the other Religions in Fiji or the breakaway Methodist Groups! Whenever it is convinient we get those who seek to promote themselves for whatever agendas they have, get up and say stupid things. This is one of those occasions. 

Mara: Who’s Calling Who Mad?

toy soldier white horse
"I see him there on his tall white horse"

The latest press release from Ratu Tevita Mara must be seen as more embarrassing than usual by his more educated supporters.  It certainly outdoes his previous releases for wild adjectives, hyperbole and the misrepresentation of events.


 There is almost a  Shakespearean quality about the release.  I think of Banjuo’s soliloquy “Out, out damned spot” after he murdered Macbeth***, and Churchill’s “We will fight them on the beachheads …  we will never surrender” speech.   I picture Ratu Mara practising in front of his mirror. 

The release focuses on the collapse of the Gaddafi’s regime in Libya, drawing supposedly obvious parallels with Fiji and the kerfuffle over the Methodist Church. It concludes with a call to join the “Viti Revolutionary Forces (VRF).”  Here  are some extracts:

“Together, like the brave and valiant people of Libya, we will remove, in the very near future, the tyrant Bainimarama and his evil, corrupt and brutal regime. And together, we will rebuild Fiji … They will no longer ‘turn the other cheek!’”  

I see him there on his tall white horse leading the virtuous into battle, and, victorious, receiving the accolades of the hoi polloi as he picks up his father’s mantle.

He goes on to praise the Rev Koroi who “defied the military goons that were sent to take him to the RFMF Headquarters for a beating by the tyrant Bainimarama."
In fact, a car had been sent for him to join the other Methodist leaders who were meeting with Government at the Barracks.  And none of those who attended were beaten.   

“This venerable soldier of God prevailed over the tyrant Bainimarama. It was also a victory for democracy. The Dictator Bainimarama and his conman Khaiyum, cancelled the Methodist Conference because the three top Church officials refused to bow down to the military junta. The officials won a victory for democracy.”

At least two of the officials supported the 2000 Speight coup that deposed the democratically-elected government of Mahendra Chaudhry, and went on to support the racist legislation of the Qarase government. 

He says the Methodist leaders 
“were seized by the RFMF and taken to military HQ. I do not know what transpired but I do believe that their dedication to God and to his Ministry was stronger than Bainimarama, his hooligans and their guns. This was another victory for democracy.”

They were not seized and it was  no victory for democracy to have such an influential religious body used for political ends, ends that entrench the power and influence of chiefly elites like Ratu Mara.  It would have been a victory for democracy had the church leadership changed its stance and supported the far more democratic and multi-racial aims of the People’s Charter, that it opposed from the beginning, not on moral but on political grounds. 

Ratu Mara  then spoke directly to people living in Fiji:  
“People of Fiji, the Viti Revolutionary Forces (VRF) have also started their campaign to remove the illegal military junta and to return freedom, democracy and the rule of law to Fiji. Lend your support.
     Stand up and denounce the oppressive and illegal military junta led by the murdering power mad Bainimarama and Khaiyum. Support the Methodist church. Start civil resistance now. Go on leave, distribute confidential documents and ignore orders or lend your support however you can. Satyagraha! 
The mad Bainimarama and villainous Khaiyum are “old hat ” but the Viti Revolutionary Forces is new one.  Does it really exist? Where is it based? What is its support? And who it its Commander-in-Chief? When is he going to call on NATO forces to oust the dictator?

If only Ratu Mara made less dramatic releases. Calmly worded accounts, with fewer condemnatory adjectives and less hyperbole, would have far more impact, at least among educated Fijians, especially if they were supported by facts — or at least a more balanced interpretation of events. 

*** A reader corrects me, correctly. It's a long time since I read Macbeth and acted Banquo's ghost in a school play. The words quoted were Lady Macbeth's and Macbeth killed Banquo. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On

Weekend Readings • Allen Lockington Column • Michael Field's Dubious Reporting • Samoan Observer criticises Barbara Dreavers's reporting,  and by far the most important and interesting,  • Dr Brij Lal's reflections on Sir Paul Reeves, who died last week, his work on the 1997 Constitution. and his work for Fiji.

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.

Cooking on Fire

Waiyavi is a beautiful place just before daybreak. As I stand from my vantage point in the dark looking down over the many homes and just before the first rays of the sun start to peek over the hills I see little specks of fire in the distance. And as the night turns to day I see little plumes of smokes snaking up from many homes.

As I take a brisk stroll in the cool morning breeze  and take deep breaths  and smell the wood fire it takes me back to my primary school days when we lived in Veisari some ten miles out of Suva. The mornings were always a beautiful time for us kids, sitting on the road side and waiting for a car to go pass. The road was still gravel and had lots of dust. Cars were few and far between, it was always  a treat when we saw one go pass and someone would say, “Isa! That car could be going to Suva" For many of us Suva was so far away. And suddenly someone would call out, “Hey you kids found any firewood or not?” And we would get up and go into the mangrove swamp to get some.  We usually cut old branches and left them to dry up. In about two weeks or so we would go and bring it home for our firewood. There would be times when we went to the spot and our fire wood was gone. 

Then I would suddenly come back to my senses when a car zooms pass. And I realise that we were in the heart of a city and I was dreaming of a very long time ago far, far away for the heart of a city.  We had a little kitchen on the outside and we cooked only on the fire . Yes, it was almost forty years ago. Not much has changed, because, like we usually say, times are tough and the fuel price has gone up and people today prefer to cook with firewood so they can save a bit of money. But back then we got COLA and it was sweet.

As for us, Sundays are reserved for cooking on the fire, that’s when we reminisce about the old times. For many of my neighbourhood friends, I pass them on my early morning walk with loads of fire wood, and I wonder where they are finding it.

Tough times? Could be. 

Another Michael Field Report Seen as "Deliberately Misinforming the Public"

 A reader commented that the Fiji media is only reporting one side (the Government side) of issues, and Felix Anthony has  said the same.  In an ideal world ...

Sir Paul Reeves and Fiji by Brij V Lal

Sir Paul Alfred Reeves, ONZ, GCMG, GCVO, CF, QSO (6 December 1932 – 14 August 2011) was Archbishop and Primate of New Zealand from 1980 to 1985 and the 15th Governor-General of New Zealand from 22 November 1985 to 20 November 1990. He is of pakeha and Te Ati Awa (Taranaki) descent. In 1996, he was appointed Chairman of the Commmission of Enquiry that made proposals leading to the 1997 Constitution, and during 2009 and 2010 he was the Commonwealth's Special Envoy to Fiji.  During this time he urged Bainimarama to engage in dialogue with his opponents and the NZ Goverment to moderate its stance on Fiji. 

In this article, special to this blog, Dr Brij Lal, who shared Sir Paul's work on the Commission of Enquiry and who has never lost touch with him since,  reflects on the man, the Constitution, and Sir Paul's work for Fiji. Vinaka, Brij.

The Samoan Observer on Barbara Dreaver's Reporting. No different than on Fiji

See also the report on, and criticism of, Michael Field's coverage of a tourist death in Fiji. Croz.
Barbara Dreaver: The evil side of journalism

Friday, August 26, 2011

Weekend Reading

Weekend Readings • Allen Lockington Column • Michael Field's Dubious Reporting • Samoan Observer criticises Barbara Dreavers's reporting,  and by far the most important and interesting,  • Dr Brij Lal's reflections on Sir Paul Reeves, who died last week, his work on the 1997 Constitution. and his work for Fiji.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Methodist Administration Meetings Banned

All administrative meetings of the Methodist Church have now been banned  other than a meeting with church stewards or Tuirara levu from the different divisions that is currently underway. It is understood the meeting will ask church president Reverend Ame Tugaue and general secretary Reverend Tuikilakila Waqairatu to make a decision on whether they will step down. Earlier reports were than Rev Tuqaue had offered to step down but not Rev Waqairatu.
The demand comes from the Military Council that has special powers under the PER regulations. They claim that both clergymen face charges under the regulations and should therefore not be eligible for senior church appointments. The ban on the meetings will sorely affect church administration and  funding.

See also earlier postings.

The moral issues here are:

(1) The circumstances and the extent to which any government may make demands on a church, or for that matter any other civil organization;
(2) The circumstances and motives of the two clergymen in not standing down, and of the church assembly in hastily reappointed them;
(3) The circumstances, extent, and  moral and practical reasons for a church to accede to a government's demands;
(4) The silence of the Fiji Council of Churches (and major Christian, Hindu and Muslim organisations) on an issue when one might have expected expressions of concern and attempts at mediation.

Methodist Church Clean Up 'Long Overdue' Rev Koroi Tells Fiji Times

The Rev Koroi, always a moderate church leader, tells of when he was ousted as President by present Church leader Manasa Lasaro after the 1987 Coup. He says today's  problems can be traced to these earlier political events, and tells how the media story of his being forced to go to the Barracks got it wrong.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fiji Military Seizing Methodist Church Leaders |

Click to read Stuff story Fiji Military Seizing Methodist Church Leaders | 
Story amended.
Rev Ilaitia Tuwere and his wife Jese
The difficulty for overseas readers in reading this is that they will equate the Methodist Church in Fiji with the Methodist Church (and other churches) in Australia, New Zealand or elsewhere.  They do, of course,  share similar spiritual roles and both are engaged in "politics."  But there the similarly ends.

"Politics" for overseas church leaders means working to promote social and moral issues for the perceived benefit of all the population. "Politics" for the Fiji Methodist leadership means advancing what they perceive to be the interests of ethnic Fijians (or, more precisely, perceived traditional relationships) with scant regard for other races, many of whom are neither Christian nor Methodist. Some 95% Fiji Methodists are ethnic Fijians. Some 43% of Fiji's population is not ethnic Fijian.

To better understand the situation one needs to trace its roots. The separation of spiritual and secular authority, and economic and political power, which emerged in the West as societies evolved from feudal to capitalist societies, was not evident in  Fiji.   And what was assumed to be traditional practice was left untouched by colonial authorities, who found it cheaper to administer ethnic Fijians indirectly, through their chiefs.

"Fijian 'collective consciousness' and 'identity' was — and is" — what a former, and more liberal, Church leader, the Rev. Ilaitia Tuwere, in 1997 called the "inseparable union of vanua (land), lotu (church) and matanitu (state). Their union is so complete that if one is affected, the whole is affected." [My emphasis.]

The Methodist Church assumed the mantle of lotu in this triumverate, and for this reason some of its leaders endorsed the 1997 Rabuka and 2000 Speight coups when ethnic Fijian hegemony — and control of the Fiji matanitu (state) —  was seen to be threatened following elections which resulted in their 'approved' political party losing power.

Church leaders promoted and took part in the Speight coup which overthrew the legally elected government led by Mahendra Chaudhry.   And they supported Qarase's SDL-led party that was ousted by Bainimarama in 2006. This is why they oppose the Bainimarama Government, the People's Charter and early attempts at dialogue,  and why their leadership refuse to comply with Government's insistence that "politics" be kept out of the Annual Conference meetings. Overseas Methodists do not tell their members to support a particular political party. The Fiji Methodist Church endorses one or another ethnic Fijian political party. This is a very importance difference. "Politics" has a different meaning.

In the current standoff, the Fiji Church had the right to decide who would chair its meetings, even if asked not to do so by Government. It chose to ignore Government requests because its leaders were upholding their lotu role, handed down from an idealised and largely fossilised tradition that is under threat from social change — no less than from the Bainimarama government. They are part the ethnic Fijian "establishment" (a role they share with the Great Council of Chiefs, the Fijian Affairs Board, the Native Lands Trust Board or Fiji Holdings Ltd) that has perverted democracy in Fiji for many years.

If Fiji is to move towards a more genuine and inclusive democracy, its institutional structures need to be  modernised: with the role of the Great Council of Chiefs limited to ethnic Fijian matters and the Methodist Church limited to spiritual, social and political affairs — without party political strings attached. Fiji now belongs to all its people, not just the itaukei,  and governments must ensure it remains so.

One wonders what the Rev. Tuwere would advise. Would he have urged the Church to take the political step of defying Government, or would he have recommended the Church adopt a more conciliatory position, with the intention of allowing the Conference to proceed?  And what would he had advised Government  whose answers to too many issues seem to rely on force, rather than persuasion, no matter how many times the persuasion has failed?

This is what he said two years ago as reported on ABC's Pacific Beat: "A former President of the Fiji Methodist Church has called for the controversial church conference next month to be cancelled to save the country from further unrest. Several top church leaders are now facing charges over their decision to go ahead with the annual conference in open defiance of the interim government's decision to ban it.

Reverend Ilaitia Tuwere says blame for the standoff should be equally shared between the church and the interim government. The former church president says that the Methodist leadership should have dropped all political issues from its conference agenda, but the has government overreacted with its series of arrests. "
-- Crosbie Walsh

News and Editor's Comments Tuesday 23.8.11

Tuesday 23.8.11

SO RUGBY LOCK Leone Nakarawa was granted a visa after all and I suppose some people would say it was a sort of compromise, though hardly the ideal Pacific Way. Nakarawa resigned from the army and Minister McCully fast-tracked his visa application. See separate posting on the launching of the Flying Fijians Official World Cup song.

PER SYMPTOMATIC OF LACK OF TRUST. A reader writes, "What is needed is a form of conversation where the participants are able to accept that the opposition is well intentioned and motivated by a genuine desire to help Fiji adopt sustainable democracy.
   The trouble is that there is little trust between the most articulate elite groups. The least privileged in Fiji seem to be the most comfortable with conversing with people on all sides of the political divide.
   The most privileged have the greater number of vested interests, thus the lack of trust. The PER seems to be symptomatic of this fundamental lack of trust."

JUDGE CORRECTS INJUSTICE. A prisoner who spent two months in solitary confinement because he did not keep his head up when addressed by the Prisons Commissioner in 2010 (sic!) has been awarded $5120 compensation at the expense of the Director of Public Prosecutions Office. Suva High Court judge Justice Thurairaja called his treatment unprofessional, adding "The Office of the Director of Public Prosecution is common to all citizens and the accused expects justice and reasonableness from that high office."

VILLAGE BOUNDARIES. The survey of i-Taukei village boundaries that was suspended by the Qarase Government in 2003, will be resumed between 2012 and 2015. Increased population in some areas has resulted in people living outside accepted village boundaries. The survey will prevent disputes about land ownership and contribute to long term stability.

GOD HELPS THOSE WHO HELP THEMSELVES. The PM didn't quite say this but he did talk to the people of Nairai about village mentality that led people to think nothing can be done without government assistance. He cited the unnecessary request to cementing their pigsty,  a task they could surely complete themselves.  While on the island he also met the people on Tovulailai Village where a proposed new jetty costing $2m is expected to begin next month. Plans are also underway to construct roads on the island in order to link the five villages who depend mainly on boat to travel from one village to another. It is to be hoped the villagers will show sufficient initiative to justify these costs to central government.

. Fiji’s mining exploration projects contributed a combined $74million in revenue to the economy in 2009 and 2010 according to the Department of Mineral Resources.

CORRUPTION WILL BE ROOTED OUT.The PM  says the current reforms around the country are addressing the systematic corruption that existed over the years and will help expose "corrupt practices, especially from those holding high positions." Fiji's anti-corruption work was recently acknowledged by the UN.

FLASHBACK. SUVA, Fiji, 9 April 2009
From Islands Business. ---- THE four political parties asked to comply with certain conditions by Fiji’s interim head Voreqe Bainimarama were barred from today’s political leaders forum for failing to comply to these conditions. Barred from the meeting were the leaders of the SDL, the Nationalist Vanua Takolavo Party, the NFP, and the United People’s Party.

Bainimarama told the opening of the forum that he had written to the four parties asking them to give urgency to solving matters like electoral reform, eliminating ethnic voting, the need to work together on a national basis, the need to support government policies particularly with the global recession being felt. "They needed to give certain commitments in an unambiguous manner to moving Fiji forward,” he said. "They have failed to do so thus their exclusion today.” So who declined dialogue then?

NATURAL DISASTER WARNINGS. Fiji is among countries that will be the first to benefit from state-of-the art techniques that allow them to assess risks from natural disasters such as earthquakes and tropical cyclones.

CHILD SEX ABUSE.  UNICEF Pacific’s chief of child protection, Johanna Eriksson-Takyo,  says her agency welcomes a recent police initiative to combat child sex abuse in Fiji.

Congratulations, Radio NZ International, for publishing this story, it's your first positive news from Fiji for months.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Official Song for Flying Fijians: Whatever the Result, Fiji Will be Proud of You

FHL Launches Official Song for Flying Fijians

Lockington’s Everyday Fiji … Life Goes On

WEEKEND READING. Scroll down for items on • the Pacific Islands Forum •Sir Paul Reeves and Rupert Murdoch

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

Sevens rugby is said to be Fiji's national game


FORUM: Auckland summit—make or break for Forum  
New leaders don’t see it quite so special

Rowan Callick

Sir Paul Reeves: Some Words in his Praise

Click to hear what former Commonwealth Secretary Hon Don McKinnon and others have to say. Sir Paul Reeves to be honoured with state funeral | NATIONAL News 

Click to Harold Koi in the Fiji Times

As it happened: Sir Paul Reeves farewelled

This is a chronological account of the funeral.  Readers may prefer to read it from bottom (9:30 am) to top (1:10pm)

Sir Paul Reeves's Address at 2009 PIPSA Meeting (Vinaka, Steve)


Not all Pacific leaders made it to the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Trinidad.
Commodore Bainimarama was barred and Nauru's President was not there because Nauru had not paid its membership fees. But the Prime Minister of Vanuatu must take the prize for the strangest reason for being absent.

Rupert Murdoch Experiences Karma

By Bill Ralston  NZ Listener Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011.

If you were of a New Age bent you’d call it “karma”. The biblically inspired would intone “You reap what you sow”. I’ll stick with the more mundane refrain of “What goes around comes around”. The King of “Popular Journalism”, the man who made a multibillion-dollar fortune and became one of the most powerful people on Earth through promoting sensationalist news, has himself fallen victim to the scourge of Red Top’s whip.

Friday, August 19, 2011

News and Editor's Comments Friday 19.8.11

Weekend Reading • Allen Lockington column • Forum Futures  by Rowan Callick • Bill Ralston on Rupert Murdoch • And possibly more

Friday 19.8.11 
Having not written anything for the blog for the past few days, I have to play catch-up.  Hence the number of items in today's News.

BILL RALSTON writes mainly "manly" and sometimes funny feature articles in the NZ Listener. This week, after a  jaunt in Vanuatu, he wrote this, comparing Vanuatu to Fiji, "It was nice to holiday in a place, where instead of thuggish men in uniform toying with the safety catch on their automatic weapons, you encounter only pleasant, shy, smiling people ..." And this from an intelligent and generally well informed man writing in the country's foremost weekly magazine!

WISE FORUM ADVICE NEEDED. The SecGeneral of the Pacific Islands Forum, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, says Fiji is not "taking sufficient steps to enable a return to parliamentary democracy." The steps, Mr Slade, are spelt out in the Roadmap: first institutional and infrastructural reforms; next year Constitutional reform, then Electoral reform and then Elections in September 2014. In making recommendations to the Forum that meets in Auckland next month, he should call for helping hands, not more brickbats.

ILO AND THE UNIONS. I doubt much was gained from the recent ILO visit but Government should heed their advice:"start talking again to unions and employer organisations." Unfortunately, this is especially difficult in a "small society"like Fiji, where everyone knows everyone.

MINISTRY ADMIN REFORMS SAVE MILLIONS. Government stands to save close to $41million when it implements the findings and recommendations of Phase 1 of the Functional Review of government ministries and departments.

.Having dodged a credit rating downgrade in May, New Zealand is still at risk if it doesn't sort out its ballooning deficits and mounting government debt, Moody's Investors Service says.

A KEAN MAN.  "Convicted killer takes top Fiji job" is a recent Stuff Headline. It refers to Cdr Francis Kean's appointment as acting permanent secretary for the Ministry of  Works, Transport and Public Utilities. Two years ago he was convicted of manslaughter following a drunken fight at the Suva Yacht Club. I have no way of knowing exactly what happened, and it is no excuse that alcohol was involved, but manslaughter, unlike murder, is unintentional and he should not be labelled for life as a "convicted killer." No doubt he has to live with his own demons.

WILL NAKARAWA MAKE THE WORLD CUP? Fiji is apparently pursuing diplomatic channels to allow them to include soldier and rugby lock Leone Nakarawa in their 30 member World Cup squad to compete in New Zealand next month. Fiji is worried about a high injury toll. It would be nice gesture for New Zealand to make this one exception to its travel ban. See also this AFP story.

FORMER FNPF MANAGER NOT IN COURT. The Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FIAC), the police and immigration are trying to locate former FNPF deputy GenManager Foana Nemani who failed to appear in Court today to face charges of fraud by authorizing payment of responsibility allowance totalling nearly $70,000. High Court Judge, Justice Priyantha Fernando, asked who is Nemani’s surety. The answer? Her husband who is also abroad.

FICAC: BOTH SIDES OF A STORY. Sri Lankan lawyer Madhawa Tenakoon who served on the FICAC says he has documentary proof of political interference in Fiji's judicial system. He claims government interfered in prosecutions by directing the Commission to launch certain investigations, while also directing some cases be ignored. A-G  Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, however, says Tenakoon was sacked for poor performance and suggests he is trying to raise his profile in a bid to boost his career.There could be truth in both stories. Trying to advance (or delay) the hearing of case is interference but it is the court's judgments that ultimately matter.  And the Courts have rejected as many or more FICAC (and Government) prosecutions as they have approved. 

AS FOR TENAKOON, it is considered unethical in legal circles for a lawyer acting for one party to use information given to him in trust, and pass this information on for use by another party.  He prosecuted Jalal and her husband and now says he will tell all the information he acquired as their prosecutor! I hope he also tells the world that he was the person trying to get them convicted, and that the Judge dismissed his argument and the case against Jalal and her husband.

MORE VOCATIONAL EDUCATION. The Ministry of Education is pushing for more vocational education is secondary schools where the curricula still largely reflects the colonial era when those graduating from  secondary filled lesser jobs in the civil service or, if they were lucky, went on to university.

VILLAGE BY-LAWS that will give greater autonomy to village leaders are still under review by the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs that will ensure the by-laws do not contravene national laws.-- No.1582/MOI.

THE MURDOCH LEGACY. "Over the past week or so people have asked me if the same tricks used by News of the World (and other British tabloids) are used by journalists here. The short answer is no. Some unscrupulous New Zealand reporters are quite capable of making up stories, inventing quotes, lying like flatfish to get access and stalking news makers, but to the best of my knowledge they either lack the expertise or the cojones to hack  mobile-phone messages." -- Bill Ralston in the NZ Listener. Bill reflects further on the the work of the previous owner of the Fiji Times in an article headed "Hoist with his own petard."


TexandAse Tamanikaiwaimaro 10:33am Aug 19
Is there really a freedom March happening tomorrow?? to coincide with the hibiscus march??
 Just like earlier claims —some also hiding behind festivities— of other marches that never took place? The lengths to which some anti-Bainimarama people are prepared to go in creating and disseminating rumour reminds me of the question, "How long is a piece of string?"

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Well, Some Discussion Must be Taking Place: a USP Notice

Faculty of Business & Economics
Inter-School Debate Series

“Media Freedom, Human Rights and Democracy
are basic to Development.”

Date: Thursday, 18th August 2011
Time: 6-8pm
Venue: FBE 014-024

Debate between the School of Economics (Negative) and the
                             School of Government, Development and International Affairs (Affirmative)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Permit Requirements for Hindu Prayers Unwarranted

Ed. Comment.  To the uninitiated, this looks like a religious body using the State, through PER,  to control religious practice. The police decision, presumably approved by Government, to allow itself to be used in this way (and used is the correct word) makes a total mockery of the Regulations. This is not what they were intended for.  
I repeat my appeal. Lift PER, but if this is not possible at present for reasons of State security, state what these reasons are, and apply the Regulations in ways that make sense to normal citizens  -- Croz

Permit Requirements for Hindu Prayers Unwarranted 
               Media Release 16th August, 2011 

The Citizens’ Constitutional Forum is shocked to learn of and strongly opposes the decision of the Shree Sanatan Dharam Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji and the Fiji Police Force that Hindu’s wishing to celebrate the birth of Lord Krishna this week need to acquire a permit to do so.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Killing Me Softly

By Crosbie Walsh

The  quickest, easiest and most deadly way to kill an idea is to subject it to ridicule, and the best way to ridicule something is to take it to its extreme.

Thus, if you really wanted to ridicule the Bainimarama government and so undermine its support, the best way to do so would be to take its most dubious and unpopular regulation, the Public Emergency Regulations, and apply them with total rigidity. It seems this is exactly what is happening.

PER was introduced after the Abrogation of the 1997 Constitution as a targeted means to deter specific Government opponents. It is now being used as a shotgun that affects everyone.

Under PER, if ten of more people wish to gather, for whatever purpose, they require a permit. Police Spokesperson Theresa Ralogaivau is most precise about this. She says it applies to "any gathering." And it can take two or more weeks to obtain a permit.  I discussed the procedure in an earlier posting.

So, as one reader put it,  "if there's a wedding, or a birthday party at home, a funeral, a university seminar (oh yes, they have to get permits) ... or a gathering of 20 people waiting outside of the Westpac Bank at 9.25 am waiting for it to open ... all need a permit. How bloody ridiculous!  Laugh!  It's the only way to survive this government."

Surely this cannot be so. Common sense alone would make some types of meeting exempt. But if there are exemptions, no one knows what they are.

One would never have thought that a family wishing to hold a Ram Naumi gathering at home (Ram Naumi celebrates the the birth of Lord Krishna Ashtmi) would require a permit. But yes they do.

One reader's neighbours, who wished to celebrate Ram Naumi,  were told by the Commissioner Central's office that everyone must comply with PER, and they also needed to bring a consent form signed by 15 residents in the area and authority from the nearest Church (sic!) to apply for a permit."  Had I not known the reader well, I would have thought he was fantasising.

But getting a permit, difficult as it may be, still doesn't mean a meeting will go ahead. Permits can be revoked.

This is exactly what happened on Saturday when the National Council of the Fiji Trades Union Congress started to meet. The meeting followed close on the heels of a discussion with the International Labour Organisation delegation so one assumes they wanted to discuss that meeting. They did not have a chance. Their meeting was abandoned after police intervened and dispersed delegates, saying the permit to hold it had been revoked. There is no appeal against PER. There is no opportunity to confere with a higher police authority or subsequently to the Courts. You just do what you are told by the men on the spot.

I recognize the many good things the Bainimarama government is doing, and salute their stated intentions on multi-culturalism and a fairer, more democratic Fiji, but I have repeatedly called for more dialogue, more civilian participation in government, and  for the lifting of PER.

We were told PER would be lifted once Media Decree was in place. That was a year ago. Since then I have have been reliably informed on at least two occasions that PER was about to be lifted soon. But nothing happened other than that its application became increasingly arbitrary and bizarre.

I dread to think what will happen if this Government is replaced before 2014 by the so called "pro-democracy" people but if it does happen, they will have only themselves to blame.

I also hold my government in part responsible for the oppressive isolation and non-constructive dialogue  that month by month  has made a more inclusive Fiji Government increasingly difficult to achieve. The jackal media has also played its part in misrepresenting the Fiji situation. The media and the government must share some responsibility for this avoidable imbroglio.

But I cannot go along with this idiocy.  Bainimarama's enemies could not do a better job of sabotaging his endeavours. The useful purpose PER may once have served has passed. It must now be seen as a mindless and needless instrument, applied with total disregard for the normal freedoms of ordinary Fijians. Who on earth is Bainimarama listening to?

There will be no further postings for a few days until we see how things pan out.  I need time to think. 

Readers may care to comment, and encourage others to follow suit.  The comments could then be sent to the PM for his consideration.

Killing Me Softly With His Song
                              (For Voreqe Bainimarama. Some verses are more apt than others)
Listen to Roberta Flack

Strumming my pain with his fingers
Singing my life with his words
Killing me softly with his song
Killing me softly with his song
Telling my whole life with his words
Killing me softly with his song

I heard he sang a good song
I heard he had a style
And so I came to see him
To listen for a while
And there he was this young boy
A stranger to my eyes

Strumming my pain with his fingers
Singing my life with his words
Killing me softly with his song
Killing me softly with his song
Telling my whole life with his words
Killing me softly with his song

I felt all flushed with fever
Embarrassed by the crowd
I felt he found my letters
And read each one out loud
I prayed that he would finish
But he just kept right on

Strumming my pain with his fingers
Singing my life with his words
Killing me softly with his song
Killing me softly with his song
Telling my whole life with his words
Killing me softly with his song

He sang as if he knew me
In all my dark despair
And then he looked right through me
As if I wasn't there
And he just kept on singing
Singing clear and strong

Strumming my pain with his fingers
Singing my life with his words
Killing me softly with his song
Killing me softly with his song
Telling my whole life with his words
Killing me softly with his song

Strumming my pain with his fingers
Singing my life with his words
Killing me softly with his song
Killing me softly with his song
Telling my whole life with his words
Killing me

He was strumming my pain
Yeah, he was singing my life
Killing me softly with his song
Killing me softly with his song
Telling my whole life with his words
Killing me softly
With his song

Sir Paul Reeves to be honoured with state funeral | NATIONAL News

Sir Paul Reeves to be honoured with state funeral | NATIONAL News

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Leweni Again Warns Church to Keep to Agenda

Salaseini Vosamana in the Fiji Times

Friday, August 12, 2011
THE Republic of the Fiji Military Forces has warned the Methodist Church to stick to the initial agenda agreed to by Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama at its annual three-day ministerial meeting.
And the church has called on its members not to risk having the meeting ù to be held in a fortnight ù stopped by deviating from their list of issues to be discussed.
Military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Neumi Leweni, in a statement released by the Ministry of Information, said the RFMF had been monitoring the movements of key figures in the church, their meetings and the dissemination of information to delegates.
He said the approval for the meeting was based on Government's effort to continue its dialogue with the church and ultimately addressing the "anomalies within its hierarchy".
"Security is a concern to the RFMF and police and Government's intention is to cancel the meeting should the church deviate from the original agenda," Lt Col. Leweni said.
"We are concerned about the apparent opposition of the church against the Peoples Charter and the Roadmap to Democracy and Sustainable Socio-Economic Development, which are Government's guide to a truly united, modern and peaceful nation.
"The church is reminded that all citizens of this country are now known as Fijians which is an indication of our determination to unite every race and ethnic groups in Fiji.
"This is a battle which Commodore Bainimarama has embarked on since 2006 and should be supported and treated as a priority by the Methodist Church.
"The RFMF will continue to scrutinise the activities of the church to ensure that it focuses on its rightful role of developing the spiritual foundation of its members and not to engage in politics."
Church acting secretary Reverend Tevita Nawadra said the meeting would strictly follow the agenda tabled out by the Government.
"We will discuss issues according to the agenda and we ask pastors from other circuits to follow the agenda and not include other matters," he said.
"We are anticipating a good meet and we hope to discuss everything within the three days."
A total of 1000 circuit pastors are expected to convene to the meeting on August 23 to 25.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Fiji issue at the Forum? Democracy is a ‘done deal’ in the Pacific, says Key

Click on the link � Fiji issue at the forum? Democracy is a ‘done deal’ in the Pacific, says Key

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.

Let's Enlighten Our People

Our people live all over the world and every time a foreign ship calls into Fiji you can be sure there will be lots of personal effects sent by people to their relatives and friends in Fiji. Churches, charitable organisations, sports teams and schools, get sent similar goods. For friends and relatives who receive the boxes of goodies, it is always a wonderful time. Many live in villages and live well below the poverty line.  Goods that are often sent consist of clothes, shoes, cutlery, pots and pans, electrical items, toiletries, perfume, bath and washing soap, toilet paper, brush cutters, garden implements  and the best of all is food items. I have seen large jars of peanut butter, jam, milk, tinned fish, meat, vegetable, sweets and fruit drinks, amongst many things.

Lessons from Britain?

The moral decay of our society is as bad at the top as the bottom

Tottenham ablaze: the riots began early on Sunday (Photo: AP)
Tottenham ablaze: the riots began early on Sunday (Photo: AP)
David Cameron, Ed Miliband and the entire British political class came together yesterday to denounce the rioters. They were of course right to say that the actions of these looters, arsonists and muggers were abhorrent and criminal, and that the police should be given more support.

Friday, August 12, 2011

News and Editor's Comments Friday 12.8.11

A-G.Welcome smile; unwelcome decree
Friday 12.8.11
Anti-Bainimarama government supporters constantly claim a lack of balance on this website. The accusation is not true. When the 'good' news from Fiji is not reported, I publish it. Credit is given when credit is due. When there's nothing but 'bad' news, it is reported also, as today's postings show. 
   My assessment of the current situation is that Government could be risking all that has been gained from nearly five years of lofty ideals, hard work and sacrifice. They are passing the ball to their opponents, many of whom have far less lofty ideals.  Government would quickly regain lost ground if it were to lift (or at least significantly modify) PER, re-think the Essential Industries Decree, and urge the FNPF to implement its reforms as gently as possible.

TRADE UNIONS NOT BANNED BUT ... The A-G is absolutely right in saying that trade unions are not banned by the new Essential National Industries Employment Decree which some have claimed is a violation of trade union rights. “Nowhere," he says, "does it say that trade unions in Fiji are banned. There is no law that actually sets that out."
   But he is absolutely wrong in implying that the new decree does not infringe on the previous rights of the unions affected. The decree (and subsequent government action)  make it difficult for a union to collect member subscriptions and for union leaders to enter their members' workplaces. You are free to join a weakened union with no teeth. It is disingenuous for the A-G to say otherwise. The new "bargaining units" are no substitute for a union.
   He is also correct in saying the two unionists who were recently arrested were not arrested because they were trade unionists, but because they had breached the Public Order Act that holds people responsible for actions likely to damage the state. Their appeal to overseas unionists to support their opposition the the Essential Industries decree certainly falls into this category.
   But, realistically, what else could they do? The A-G said, “We all need to think as loyal citizens and take the country forward.” He is right again but loyalty should be reciprocal and does not assume submission to an unfair decree.
   In all of this, the A-G is playing with words. The Decree is anti-union and the union leaders, unlistened to in Fiji, had little choice other than to act as they did. And this, irrespective of what we might think of them personally. It's the principle that's at stake. Here's another report on the issue from FijiVilllage.
The ILO team is now in Fiji. There are no restrictions on who they can meet.
PERMIT PERMITTING. Recently, commenting on the temporary detention of two trade unionists for breaching the Public Emergency Regulations, the Ministry of Information said all they had to do was apply for a permit. It sounded so easy you'd wonder why people would risk detention by not applying. 
   But it's not easy. Applications involve a far lengthier and more difficult process than the Ministry infers, making it no wonder people don't apply, especially for spur of the moment meetings.
Here's the process.
Step 1. Complete a form from the District Officer's office, write a covering letter, include a copy of your intended programme and proof of payment for the use of the venue. You may also be asked for a list of participants.
Step 2. The police will now investigate the application and maybe come back to you for more details before making their yes or no recommendation.  First time applications can take more than a month and subsequent applications at least two weeks.
Step 3. Wait at least two weeks and then contact the police. Sometimes the permit can sit on someone's desk at the police station for a few days, and no one will phone you to say when it's ready.
Step 4. Hopefully, collect the approved permit application.
You can see why PER is so unpopular!
ILTB TENANTS EVICTED. The i-Taukei Land Trust Board Northern Division branch has started  evicting tenants who failed to pay their land rental.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

News and Editor's Comments

Thursday 11.8.11

I DON'T GET THIS. Two readers informed me FijiLive had pulled its story about the ILO visit five hours after it was published.  The implication was the item had been censored. One reader speculated Government would not allow the ILO team in the country. This is how rumour and speculation gather momentum.
    But then the same FijiLive published another item with the A-G confirming the ILO visit. So whatever this was all about, it couldn't be censorship. The A-G's  says the ILO team is "coming to Fiji tomorrow to meet with Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama and various stakeholders to clarify issues relating to trade unions."
   I think the ILO team will want more than clarification of what the A-G claimed to be "misinformation that has been spreading by individuals who have got self interest.” Several clauses in the  recently passed employment decree are said to be in breach of ILO resolutions to which Fiji is a signatory.  
HINDUS REQUIRE PERMIT UNDER PER. The police say a permit is required for any gatherings that include more than ten people. The clarification follows queries from Hindus around the country who will be celebrating the birth of Lord Krishna next week. The police could have their work cut out issuing thousands of permits, making it an opportune time to commit a few burglaries. But it's good to know, thanks to PER and the police, that a Hindu Coup may well have been nipped in the bud.
PENSION FUNDS. Several Pacific countries are having problems with  pension funds that like Fiji were initiated in the 1950s.
NGO COALITION ON HUMAN RIGHTS. I don't know who they are and who they represent, and Shamima Ali did not tell us in this interview with ABC's Bruce Hill, but they are concerned about umpteen decrees they hold the A-G personally responsible for, ignoring the fact that the legal drafting of all government regulations and decrees is the responsibility of the A-G's office, as they are elsewhere in the Commonwealth. They are calling on the A-G to quit.
BOND-BREAKERS ORDERED OFF PLANES. Government has once again warned scholarship recipients to honour their bonding agreements. This after two former recipients of the iTaukei Affairs Scholarship were ordered off from flights bound for overseas after they failed to serve their bonds by working in Fiji.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Begging to Differ: Hallmark of Democracy

My publication of the Fraenkel-Davis discussion on ABC has attracted a large number of comments which, of course, is excellent.  It is excellent because they come from different perspectives and most are well informed and honestly expressed.

It is precisely this sort of public discussion that is so very much needed in Fiji, but which for the moment is unfortunately not possible because of the PER regulations and Government’s apparent unwillingness to really listen to others who also want a better Fiji.  One can only hope that they will come to recognize the dangers inherent this position before it is too late.
I have singled out three comments because they illustrate a different approach to logic (by “Sitting n the fence” and Graham Davis) and the importance,  shown by the comment from “Bushmoko”  of not limiting one’s view of the present to a  a single or even multiple current “snap shots.” A longer, broader perspective is always necessary.
“Sitting on the fence” echoes the opinions of several others. He wants to  see what he considers to be consistency of argument.  Anything less is unclear.  And consistency is shown by total agreement  or total disagreement.  Anyone who agrees with one thing but disagrees with another is inconsistent and unclear, Thus, if I may speak for Graham Davis, we both don’t like coups but we both like some of the things the coup-makers  say they are trying to achieve.  We both like democratic elections but we both are unsure how democratic the 2001 and 2006 elections were, and we both condemn the racist actions of the Qarase elected government, actual and intended.  

Sitting on the fence said...

Croz, Thank you for your update. Mr Fraenkal's stance seems clear and consistent. He is against the coup and he is against the military regime and its actions. Mr Davis' stance on the other hand is less clear. He is against the coup (I think) but he is not against the actions taken by the coup regime? He appears to be sitting on the fence and I'm not sure what it is exactly he stands for? Could he clarify his confusion?

Anonymous Graham Davis said...
"Sitting on the fence", I don't think there's any doubt where I stand but in the interests of clarity, let me make myself perfectly clear.

I believe every coup in Fiji has been an unmitigated disaster in dividing the country, damaging the economy and robbing Fiji of its potential to be a beacon for other Pacific nations.

But the 2006 coup was very different from the previous three. It wasn't to support the notion of indigenous paramountcy. It was to support the notion of a multiracial Fiji - the only way, in my opinion, that the country has any viable future at all.   

Whatever people like Jon Fraenkel say, the Qarase government had embarked on a legislative program to provide indigenous Fijians with important additional advantages over other races in Fiji.    

The fact that this program hadn't been implemented before Bainimarama struck - as Dr Fraenkel keeps arguing - is neither here nor there. Does anybody seriously believe that the SDL wasn't planning to implement the Qoliqoli Bill, free the 2000 conspirators and try to extend native title over land? The argument is nonsense.

 Enter Bainimarama. Now, I don't like what he did, which was to plunge Fiji into yet another crisis. I also don't like the PER, the muzzling of the media or the apparent attempt to destroy the trade unions. I also think the government could be doing a lot better in several other areas, such as being more transparent about some of its decisions.

    But one thing is certain. I detested the SDL's program even more. It was a racist government that was intent on governing for one race and, in the process, disadvantaging every other citizen. It had - at its core - indigenous supremacists who'd been at the heart of the George Speight conspiracy of 2000, notably Konisi Yabaki, Savenaca Draunidalo and Simione Kaitani.

So I accept the primary reason Frank Bainimarama has always put forward for mounting his coup, which is the preservation of the multiracial ideal in Fiji and the introduction of a level playing field for all citizens.

That doesn't make me a supporter of the man or all aspects of his program. It makes me a supporter of the core principle on which he took a stand. In my own mind, the distinction is quite clear, even if it isn't to the likes of Jon Fraenkel. I am not a "Bainimarama supporter" or a "coup supporter" but a supporter of a multiracial Fiji. 

It is Dr Fraenkel - I would argue - who hasn't made clear what he stands for beyond being opposed to the Bainimarama regime and opposing any notion of Australian and New Zealand engagement with Fiji.
Does he support the SDL? Well, he supports its right to contest the next election in Fiji, despite its belief in indigenous paramountcy. And he has allowed himself to be photographed with Simione Kaitani -one of the principal coup makers of 2000. 

Dr Fraenkel still hasn't given us an account of this extraordinary event. So I would argue that it's him, not me, who has the explaining to do.

Bushmoko made this comment:
I suppose experts like Fraenkel would have you believe that cloaked in any mantle of democracy, that suddenly Fiji becomes some paradise.

The fact remains that the 1970, 1988 and 1997 constitutions imparted frameworks that were essentially racist and allowed the ethonationalists to prey on i'taukeiQarase simply ignored the requirement for opposition members to sit in cabinet and that only emboldened the ethonationalists to continue to pursue their agenda. Frankel conveniently forgets that George Speight was a child of the 1997 constitution. 

 The system was broke and the patches didn't work. That's the simple fact. Going back to that system is to revisit the past. It wont work plain and simple.

 There is no other solution than in so far as possible to try and remove the racial element in the voting system. That doesn't mean that there needs to be a diminution of the rights of the i'taukei, but it would mean that any ethnonationalist inclined to pursue his personal agenda (power and influence) can only do so by political compromise with politicians of another colour,class or creed and therefore be subject to greater transparency. One of the primary problems with the Qarase regime was that the coterie in cabinet were unanswerable for their actions because nobody knew what they were up to.(especially how they were getting their cash)

 By removing the racial element you remove the ability of the ethnonationalists to undermine the system for their own venal agendas and the fact is, it is this group that have caused most of the problems in Fiji in the last 30 years. I hope that one day we can look at a group of politicians who are acting in an inappropriate manner and both observe that they consist of all racial groups and also be able to say what do you expect of them, they're politicians ! then at least we will have made a start.

News and Editor's Comments Wednesday 10.8.11

Wednesday 10.8.11

ILO HIGH LEVEL DELEGATION TO FIJI.The International Labour Organisation is sending a high level delegation to Fiji after last week’s new decree which unionists say threatens their freedoms.
     ILO Director General, Juan Somavia as expressed serious concern about the law aimed at essential national industries and the arrest of two trade unionists.The ILO says these developments come on top of long-standing ILO concerns about the exercise of trade union rights in Fiji.
     In a statement Mr Somavia says the delegation’s being sent because of the grave situation in Fiji and the threat it could deteriorate further.He wants to find out how the ILO can help all parties involved.-- Radio NZI.
SOLOMON ISLAND PM SNUBS MARA. PM Danny Philip has snubbed the request by Fijian fugitive Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara saying his Government will not entertain any official dialogue with Ratu Mara if he visits the country.
     Regarding the chairmanship of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), Prime Minister Philip said the decision for Bainimarama to assume the chairmanship was done in accordance with the MSG charter and it was not a decision made unilaterally. “We only intervene to sort out a problem between Fiji and Vanuatu because it was not in the best interest of the MSG.”
     There were only two options: not to talk with the Fiji Interim Government like most of the Forum leaders, or have an open dialogue with Fiji hoping that Solomon Islands could provide a way forward for the Forum to keep open discussions with the Fiji Interim government. He said the best way forward to achieve democracy in Fiji was to keep an open dialogue with the Fiji Interim government. “We have made our position very clear to the Australian  and New Zealand governments."

PAPUA NEW GUINEA'S NEW PM SUPPORTS ROADMAP. Foreign Affairs Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola met with PNG's'new Prime Minister, Honourable Peter O'Neil, in Port Moresby yesterday, and conveyed PM Bainimarama's and Fiji's congratulations and well wishes on his appointment.
   In turn, PM O'Neil thanked Ratu Inoke and through him PM Bainimarama for his warm words of congratulations. He stated the support of his government for Fiji's roadmap towards 2014 elections, and its readiness to engage in all bilateral and regional matters of importance for both Fiji and Papua New Guinea.-- Based No:1585/MOFA.  
AMBASSADORS FOR INDIA AND BRAZIL. "The two latest diplomatic appointments for Fiji, Ambassador Cama Tuiloma (Brazil) and Ambassador Yogesh Karan (India) have contracts up to September 2014. I'm assuming September because of the 2014 elections. Yes I agree the PER should come off now. It serves no purpose and does more harm than good to the regime's reputation"  -- From a reader.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

News and Editor's Comments Tuesday 9.8.11

Tuesday 9.8.11

FRAENKEL AND DAVIS. More from  Graham Davis's Grubsheet.
ESSENTIAL INDUSTRIES YES; ESSENTIAL DECREE NO. "The Decree which affects the unions (essential industries 035) is extremely serious and undermines the Employment Relations Bill, the Employment Relations Advisor Board (as well as its legal subcommittee work on some changes to the ERP) and the Wages Councils.  I was told by a lawyer that it also violates a number of ILO conventions Fiji has signed on to.  It is definitely anti-union but pro-business, pro-investor, pro-rich.  I understand that some of the AG's advisors have been the usual suspects who form the business lobby who fought against wages etc. The AG has gone far too far. He is very adept in glossing over the nasty parts of the decree to make it sound feasible and to the benefit of Fiji."
A LITTLE STORY. Just Imagine. When you need your home and children protected against thieves, robbers and intruders you normally get a good strong dog to roam freely around your compound and bark loudly to alert you of approaching danger.Imagine if a new decree came into effect which protected your right to have a dog but stipulated that (a) it must be a small dog  no more than ten inches high; (b) it must not be allowed to bark loudly; (c) it must be chained up all day and all night and not be allowed to roam your compound.Just imagine the consequences for yourself, your home and your children. [And while on this particular decree, I'm told some parts contravene ILO and I have to wonder what those who supported the Bainimarama government because they were less concerned about the 'law' than 'social justice must now be thinking.]
THE BIGGEST RURAL ELECTRIFICATION PROJECT.The PM had opened the biggest rural electrification project ever-undertaken in Fiji.The Waidina district rural electrification project, started in 2007, cost $1.8million, and will benefit 14 villages, seven schools and small surrounding settlements,and allows various micro enterprises and rural businesses to expand their businesses. It should also help boost the district’s vast dalo and banana plantation businesses. The project is in line with government’s plan for economic development in intensifying farm commercialisation, identifying industry priorities based on demand assessments and strengthening agro-business, broadly outlined in Pillar 7 of the Charter, establishing an integrated development structure at provincial level.  -- Based on No.1578/MOI.
PAFCO NOW CLOSED. Production at PAFCO fishery factory at Levuka  is now at a complete stand-still according to Union officials,and the company has remained tight-lipped on the issue. The factory is closed to upgrade to US standards.
A NEW GRAND PACIFIC.  The once world-renowned Grand Pacific Hotel that used to cater for visitors when most travelled by sea and a few by flying boat has been derelict for years.  It is soon to see a new lease of life thanks to investment money from the Papua New Guinea’s National Superannuation Fund and the Fiji National Provident Fund.

Monday, August 8, 2011

News and Editor's Comments Monday 8.8.11

Scroll down to Weekend Reading.
Monday 8.8.11
DIFFERENT VIEWS ON FIJI AND AUSTRALIA AND OTHER ISSUES. For  a discussion on this and other Fiji issues, listen to Graham Davis and Jon Fraenkel  on Radio Australia.
FIJI'S ECONOMIC RATING IMPROVES. Standard and Poor has upgraded its rating for Fiji.  For foreign currency long term sovereign credit up to B from B-;  for foreign currency short-term rating to B from C; and foreign currency to B/stable from B /positive. The report noted the continued improvements to Fiji's external position and the reduction in the current account deficit. This will further assist Fiji's external position to improve as the level of foreign reserves increases. Government is hoping the new ratings will encourage investor confidence. -- Based on:1568/MOI) 
FIJI OUR NEIGHBOUR - OUR CONCERN. Darien Fenton  writes in the NZ Labour Party website, Red Alert, in support of the the Fiji unionists led by Felix Anthony and Daniel Urai. Read what he has to say.
     This is the comment I made on the site. Note that it is addressed to a NZ audience. I have  not elaborated on where I disagree with Government's actions against the trade unions. These are covered by writer of of the next item.
     There are certainly elements of the legislation that are very disturbing but the TU leaders are by no means the innocents you portray. And their recent 'alliance' in Sydney and Auckland with the so-called Fiji Democracy and Freedom Movement is also disturbing.  The FDFM is a front for the racist SDL party that narrowly won the 2006 election and sought to introduce legislation further enshrining the rights and privileges of ethnic Fijians or, more accurately, the jobs and perks of their elite and chiefs, for ordinary Fijians benefited little).
     This 'democracy movement' seeks to restore the powers of the unelected Great Council of Chiefs (that does not represent any non-ethnic Fijian) to appoint the President and half of the Senate. 
     I agree with the previous writer. NZ has helped isolate the Bainimarama government, cutting off aid and EU and other assistance. We have unwittingly contributed to the downturn of the economy and the increase of poverty. Our travel ban has made civilians reluctant to take up govt appointments and led to the further militarisation of the civil service. Our media has not even attempted to be informed or fair minded in its coverage. And our politicians, instead of helping to steer Fiji towards a better democracy, have unintentionally aided all the forces acting against democracy, which, in turn, has contributed to the latest action against the TUs.
     We are poorly informed on our Pacific neighbours, and need to look again at our Fiji policy because it has been counter-productive, producing results opposite to those intended. Our diplomatic efforts need to be better informed, more flexible and less non-doctrinaire. One (democratic) size does not fit all.     
    Please read my blog Croz Walsh's Blog:Fiji as it Was, Is and Can Be ( for a more informed and different view than you'll usually find in the mainstream media. I have lived, worked and researched in Fiji and other Pacific Islands intermittently since the 1960s.
    A final word for Darien: the workers you write about are the lucky ones. They are employed, have relatively good wages and will still have some protection under the law.  The ones neither you nor the Fiji union leaders have mentioned are the unemployed and those working for under F$2 an hour (recently increased thanks to the Government.) Anything that jeopardises the economy, and particularly the tourism industry,  as you mention and the union leaders threaten, will  not hurt the Fiji Government but it will make life that much harder for the estimated 40% of population living below the poverty line.
     Anthony and Urai, in all their years as professional union leaders on salaries reportedly close to F$100,000, have never expressed any concern for them! It is apparently only some workers of the world that they wish to unite.
UNION DECREE 'DRACONIAN'. A view from a Fijian reader in Suva. The Essential National Industries Employment Decree is a draconian anti-worker decree that denies the fundamental right of workers to withdrew their labour and to engage in collective bargaining beyond a particular corporation. It also seeks to undermine umbrella unions as well as eliminate the employment of elected but professional trade unionists who are not employed by business houses in the concerned industry. This means that only fulltime or part-time employees can be union leaders not only weakening the leadership available to a union but also preventing wider trade union solidarity.
     Very worryingly the decree also severely restricts the work of the ‘Wages Councils’ whose objective is to improve the wages of workers who are not unionized.There are unprecedented penalties of up to $50,000 or 5 years in prison and even up to $100,000.
     This anti-worker legislation seeks to ensure the sustainability of ‘essential national industries’, yet none is threatened by industrial action. In a country  where more than 60 percent of the working people earn below poverty wages, this draconian legislation is designed to prevent workers from demanding economic justice and seeking to leverage their negotiating position through wider trade union and labour movement solidarity.
     The decree apparently has been adapted from American legislation designed to protect firms that are bankrupt and has been put together with no consultation whatsoever with the labour unions in the country. It is a slap in the faces of ordinary workers in Fiji.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On

Weekend Reading  • Allen Lockington Column • What to Do with the Military by Peter Firkins  • New Lawyers' Admisssion Ceremony Address • The Julian Moti Saga •  The Last Few Weeks by Crosbie Walsh (possibly Sunday; probably next week).
A Suggestion. Don't forget to read Comments. You may have missed some "good ones" some time last week —or even earlier.

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.

Empowering Our Nurses
It was reported (FT 21/4) ‘unfit’ nurses were required to undergo diet and training programs.  Public health workers were required to undergo compulsory medical screening when renewing their contracts. And those who were obese, suffer from risks of cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and cancer would be required to adopt the diet and training programmes offered by the Ministry of Health. It was also reported by the Fiji Nursing Association that 50% of deaths amongst nurses were from work- related stress.

Now we read (FT 26/7) nurses will be audited to ensure they meet the competency lever required by the Ministry of Health. It will be an annual event. This is good. Most nurses already work under stress, how many of them live with abusive husbands.  I the recent past many of our nurses left for overseas because they were offered better deals. Now that we are asking our nurses (whose job is always taken for granted) could we pay them a little bit better, became they can almost do what a doctor can do. Or am I wrong?

With the new Health administration, I know our nurses will be getting a better deal. Here is a suggestion: We have a shortage of doctors. Could our nurses who have served more than nine to ten years sit an exam to qualify them to administer  some of the work now left only for doctors to do? The nurses work right beside a doctor and must have learnt much from their observation and participation. Often nurses have to wait for a doctor when a patient or victim is under severe stress because her code of ethics prevents her from doing what she already knows the doctor would do. Let's open up our nursing system a little more to assist where they do not have to wait for a doctor.

I know Florence Nightingale would agree with me and so would the hundreds of people who wait for hours at the GOPD and special clinics because the doctor has not arrived, or had to pull a 24 hour shift. Doctors are human beings also and I’m sure they can do with a little assistance.

By the way, could the whole of the Civil Service be tested for competency every 12 months, for obvious reasons and also undergo the health regime the nurses undergo? Why only nurses eh!

'Peter Firkins's Ideas on What to Do with the Military

Dreaming about a stable Fiji without the military albatross around our neck.

 By 2020 the Fiji Military should be a ceremonial force only.

An opinion piece by Peter Firkin
In the future no immunities.
Let’s look into the future when Fiji has a new constitution and new democratically elected government and concentrate on how we stop a recurrence of the repeated cycle of military coups.
There will be no elections without handing out immunities to all those who have committed crimes in the process of removing an elected government.  Why would you give up control if you were then arrested and jailed?
These immunities have become accepted as part of the “normal method” of ending a coup and would have been factored into the thinking of all the various coup perpetrators.  Apologising and seeking forgiveness is built into our heritage and is accepted in Fiji as a normal part of daily living.
 This must end in relation to coups.  A stable democracy requires a subservient obedient military under the direction of an elected government.
The new constitution must specifically ban the issuing of any immunity for any activity that undermines the democratic government.
 How does a civilian government protect itself from its military?
The current coup will not be the last unless there is a radical change in attitudes towards the democratic “rights” of Fiji’s citizens by the military.
Unless action is taken the new constitution will be no more secure than the old one from military whim and abrogation.
As the military has been involved in all the previous coups then how do we protect ourselves from those with military authority and weapons?
 How do we bring the military back to its correct position as subservient to the government of the day?
Do we need the military?
Do we need a military and what size army does a country of 800,000 people need?
Fiji has a larger army than Papua New Guinea that has a population of 7,000,000.
 Fiji is unlikely to be attacked from an external country and our wide geographic area and 330 islands make it indefensible to our traditional infantry type ill equipped army.  We have neither the air force nor the type of navy required to take on any of our major neighbours.  There is no current or potential threat to the nation of Fiji
 Why does it exist?
Peacekeeping is often cited as a reason with remittances from overseas soldiers a significant foreign exchange earner for the country.   The remittances however do not compare well with the overall cost of maintaining a standing army of 3,500 active soldiers and 6,000 reservists.   The drain on the countries budget cannot be justified by remittances.
So why does it exist?   Border protection could be handled by a ready reaction force of less than 100 military trained officers operating under the jurisdiction of the Police Commissioner.
Any new constitution must not enshrine the Fiji Military Forces as the defender of the people.  With no external threat the only potential use of this force is against the civilian population.
 The recent activities by the armies of Syria. Egypt and Libya against their civilian population and the reaction of the international community show this is not an acceptable use of military force.
So what do we do with a force of 3500 trained soldiers?
I suggest we wind them down. 
Stop recruiting and retrain those with other skills.
 Offer a paid redundancy to all soldiers. Our standing army cost us in excess of $35,000 per soldier per annum to maintain.  Offering all soldiers a year’s salary as a redundancy payment should be a start.
 The military engineers should be made into a State Owned Enterprise or a Shareholding Cooperative to contract road and civil engineering projects.  If necessary these projects should be subsidized by the government until the commercial skills are developed.  By 2020 all subsidies should be removed with a fully commercial unit remaining.
The navy should be converted into a Coast Guard with emphasis on protecting our fisheries and our Exclusive Economic Zone as this becomes more important with the development of undersea mining.
Private companies in Fiji should be given a subsidy to recruit active soldiers into the workforce.
 The Australian, New Zealand and British armed forces should be encouraged to select from the current standing army in our country.
There should be a plan in place to reduce our military to a ceremonial status by a suggested date of 2020.
Al of the above should release the majority of the estimated $129 million dollars currently drained each year from the economy by the military.
This is sufficient to service all of our current overseas debt.