Monday, October 31, 2011

IMF Happy with Work of the Commerce Commission

(Monday 31st October 2011, No:1989/CC) IMF applauds Fiji Commerce Commission The International Monetary Fund (IMF) applauded the Fiji Commerce Commission’s efforts in stabilising the economy, remove bottlenecks to economic growth, and ensure that firms do not undertake unfair trading practices and engage in anti-competitive behaviour.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sorry

Readers will have noted that there have been fewer postings over the past two-three weeks.  This is not due, as Coup4.5 Editors would like to believe, to my diminished support for the Fiji Government's Roadmap (though I remain critical of several of their actions), or to Radio NZ International's time-consuming requests for my opinions to balance the opinions they frequently solicit from Coup 4.5. Long live freedom of the press!   The reason is far more mundane.  I have bursitis, an inflammation of the joints, caused in my case by spending too long at the computer, that makes it painful to lift my arms.  The cure involves avoiding repetitive actions.  With care and appropriate exercises I should be back to normal in a month or two.  Meanwhile, I must spend less time at the computer. Sorry.  You could help by sending me links and stories ready to publish. Vinaka.

Saturday, October 29, 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. 

Speed Kills

Speed kills, that’s a fact. We have so many accidents despite the many efforts of the authorities to cut down fatalities and accidents. Drivers are just not listening. I suggest that we make it a criminal offence when a speeding driver has an accident. It should no longer be a traffic offence. We have to put our foot down even if we are the first in the world. Remember a person with a criminal offence has difficulty in emigrating.

Furthermore, we have all sorts of vehicles travelling on our roads. For long haul public service vehicles may I suggest that all mini vans and buses clock their time with LTA when they leave Suva for Lautoka and vice versa? These vehicles are supposed to travel at 60 kilometers per hour. A vehicle travelling from Lautoka to Suva should take 5 to 7 hours depending on stops if travelling at 60 kilometers an hour.

Perhaps we can slow the vehicles down and save lives.

In an article regarding speeding reported in the Fiji Times 1966 buses travelling from Suva to Nausori were booked if they arrived early, that would indicate that they were speeding. No questions were asked – the then Transport Control Board officer stationed at the bus stand would just issue a speeding ticket and ask no further questions.  Back then buses took three hours to travel the Suva Nausori corridor, considering the roads.

Letters to Suga on the Legitimacy of Governments : Crosbie Walsh

Yale University
From: Sugasini Kandiah   To: croz.walsh@xtra.co.nz  Subject: Fiji

Hi Prof. Walsh,

I'm currently a fourth year student at Yale University and I'm writing a paper on current politics in Fiji for my class Democracy and World Politics. I've been following your blog over the last few months and was wondering if I could get your thoughts on the kind of legitimacy that Bainimarama has as PM (especially after abrogating the Constitution and sacking the judiciary) . While his plans for reform seem very strong on paper (given Fiji's history) and he seems to have support from people (from what I've read in the media), especially the Indian community, it does seem strange to me that he hasn't called for a referendum or vote of some sort. 
I'm writing mainly about how this coup is different from previous coups and whether Bainimarama's reforms will in fact make Fiji a more stable democracy (if he decides to hand over power in 2014).

Nation-Building and the Languages of Fiji

Babel
In September last year the Citizens’ Constitutional Forum  called on Government to respect multicultural and diversity by delaring all of the three languages in most common use "national languages."
This posting includes their appeal and a link that provides some background on Fijian, Fiji Hindi and Urdu, with a selection of commonly used words and phrases from each language.

The appeal is consistent with the principles of Pillar 2 (Nation Building) of the People's Charter.  Click here for a link to Pillar 2.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Weekend Reading

  • Allen Lockington column 
  • Letters to Suga on the Legitimacy of Governments by Crosbie Walsh 
  • Nation-Building and the Languages of Fiji

Monday, October 24, 2011

Postscript on the Air Pacific-Employment Decree Saga


(Monday 24th October 2011, No:1961/AG)ATTORNEY-GENERAL DECRIES ABSURDITY OF ACTU CALL FOR BOYCOTT

Attorney-General and Minister of Tourism Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum released the following statement today:

“The call by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) to boycott Fiji’s tourism and garment industry in response to the Essential National Industries Decree (July 2011) is absurd. The Decree does not apply to the garment industry, nor to the entire tourism industry—only to state-owned/state-backed enterprises and financial institutions.

“Yet, the ACTU is seeking to cripple the entire Fijian economy, a move that would severely affect the livelihoods of the very people it claims to be helping. Professional trade unionists, it seems, will stop at nothing to ensure their member dues keep coming in and that their high-salaried jobs are protected.

“What needs to be recognized is that the ACTU’s threat to hold the livelihoods of Fijians hostage is precisely the type of activity that the Decree seeks to curb in the first place.

“Fiji is a small country. Ours is a small economy. Our businesses are already incredibly dependent on outside forces. The Bainimarama Government only wants to ensure that the livelihoods of all Fijians are guaranteed, and not derailed by the greed of a few.

“When the system isn’t working, as stipulated by the Decree, employees of public enterprises and financial institutions—those deemed ‘essential’ to the continuation of life in Fiji—are fully empowered to represent themselves to redress grievances. In other cases, such as all other businesses in the private sector, the Decree does not apply.”

What Exactly is the Role of the Air Pacfic Board?

Who's riding on Air Pacific?
On October 1st I published a detailed argument  Why on Earth Did Government Need the Essential Industries Decree? about what is wrong about the Employment Decree and how it was approved.  More importantly, the article raised doubts about Government's style of government and how it may affect its future actions.

The Citizens' Constitutional Forum has now questioned the role of Air Pacific in the promotion of the Decree:

This from Radio NZ International: The CCF  has strongly criticised Air Pacific for its role in helping the interim regime with a decree widely seen as being anti union.

The airline’s management has drawn criticism after admitting to paying a New York law firm to draft Fiji’s Essential National Industries Decree.

The Forum’s CEO, the Reverend Akuila Yabaki, says it is alarming the level of influence an exclusive group of companies and individuals have in imposing law reform in Fiji.

    “The admission by the Air Pacific CEO of their role in drafting the Essential National Industries Employment Decree became kind of a cause for alarm. Here we have interference into governance allowed by the Bainimarama government to get through very important legislation or a decree which was not committed to genuine consultation, inclusiveness and accountability.”

The Reverend Yabaki has met the Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, saying the Decree is a bad advert for governance and undermines unions in Fiji.

The CCF is not alone in criticising Air Pacific for its role in promoting the Decree.  This is what a reader emailed me today:

The cynicism of Air Pacific takes one's breath away.

Step 1: it (its management) has lost money over the past few years.
Step 2: so as a 'means of saving money' it hires consultants to draft a decree for the government to stop its staff from striking (and many other things) (question: has AP staff gone on strike at all over the last ten years?) - in other words, the AP management is creating the straw man for the reason it has lost money being because of its dodgy staff, not its poor management.
Step 3: it 'sells' the decree to the Fiji gov't to put it into law - said gov't is swept away with AP's generosity and because it (the IG) believes there's a bogy man under the bed, it does with the draft exactly what AP wanted it to do.
Step 4: AP re-organises its fleet to cut down on costs (or some such) but doesn't bother telling anyone its plans, let alone asking anyone (exporters) whether they'd mind at all.
Step 5: the IG (that has been spending $$ for years encouraging farmers to grow export crops) and the farmers (the growers) have the rug pulled from under them - just like that: no consultation; no 'Gees, we forgot - let's talk'; no offer of some rearrangement or alternative means of exporting the fragile products. Step 6: the IG has egg on its face with the farmers - lots more consultations, and time and cost - that it will have to shell out, not AP. In other words, AP is in it for themselves and themselves only. It hoodwinked the IG on a false premise that the Essential National Industries Employment Decree  was needed, and then it throws sand in its face.

Saturday, October 22, 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.

 Kick Off Time a Worry

I wondered why the semi finals of the rugby world cup were starting at 8 pm, and then I read that the delay is to cater for the European TV audiences.  And ABs head coach says that he is worried because he is usually asleep by that time. The delayed start time is interesting because of the power of the fans.

I had to laugh at the report that said Graham Henry would have to be woken up when the game started. Players who live in the southern hemisphere may be affected by the late start because according to their biological clock their body would be tiring and about to go to sleep around that time. And this could affect their game.

The power of the audience is supreme and that is why the games will start late, and I think money is also involved.

If I had any say, the games would just start at the usual 7:30 pm and audiences on the other side of the world would just have to wake up earlier to watch, because the health of the player and the quality of the game would be my priority.

May I sneak in a statement here – many people have complained about day light savings, but it’s the business people who may have won this for themselves. The health of the populace could be secondary.

I suddenly feel like singing that song by ABBA – Money, Money, Money.”

Pacific Media Freedom 2011: A Status Report

Click below to quickly download the full report.  There is a lengthy section on Fiji.


Indonesian repression in West Papua. Cartoon: © Malcolm Evans / PJR

Alex Perrottet, David Robie, Pacific Journalism Review

Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Perrottet, A., and Robie, D. (2011). Pacific media freedom 2011: A status report. Pacific Journalism Review, 17(2): 147-186. ISSN 1023-9499

Abstract

Pacific media freedom has been under siege for more than a decade, particularly since an attempted coup in Fiji in May 2000, when a television station was attacked and ransacked, a foreign journalist was shot and wounded and a local journalist ended up being imprisoned for treason. Since then various Pacific countries, notably Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Vanuatu have faced various periods of media repression. Since the military coup in December 2006, Fiji has faced arguably its worst sustained pressure on the media since the original two Rabuka coups in 1987. The Bainimarama regime in June 2010 imposed a Media Industry Development Decree that enforced draconian curbs on journalists and restrictive controls on foreign ownership of the press. This consolidated systematic state censorship of news organisations that had been imposed in April 2009 with the Public Emergency Regulations that have been rolled over on a monthly basis ever since. Promised relaxation of state censorship after the imposition of the Decree never eventuated. This research report covers the period 1 July 2010-30 June 2011 and examines the trends in the Pacific region. In addition to Pacific Islands Forum member nations, it covers the French Pacific territories and the former Indonesian colony of East Timor and current twin provinces known collectively as West Papua.
Keywords: censorship, Fiji coups, freedom of expression, freedom of information, journalist safety, media ethics, media freedom, media law

About the authors

PMC profile photograph
PMW contributing editor
Alex Perrottet is a Masters/Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies student at AUT University.
PMC profile photograph
Associate Professor, PMC Director
Associate Professor David Robie is an author, journalist and media educator specialising in Asia-Pacific affairs.
PMC profile photograph
Pacific Journalism Review, published by AUT's Pacific Media Centre, is a peer-reviewed journal covering media issues and communication in the South Pacific, Asia-Pacific, Australia and New Zealand.
ISSN 1023-9499  www.pjreview.info

=================






West Papua Replaces Fiji as Biggest Threat to Pacific Media Freedom

West Papua ‘biggest threat’ to Pacific media freedom, says PJR report. The killing and abduction of journalists in Indonesian-occupied West Papua has been highlighted in a special new report on
Pacific media freedom over the past year by Pacific Journalism Review.

Friday, October 21, 2011

News and Comments Friday 21 October 2011

WEEKEND READING.
• Allen Lockington column • Pacific Media Freedom 2011: A Status Report 
• West Papua Replaces Fiji as Biggest Threat to Pacific Media Freedom

DAYLIGHT SAVING. 
Members of the public are reminded to change their time to one hour in advance at 2am to 3am this Sunday October 23, and one hour back at 3am to 2am on February 26 next year. 

21.10.11
SENIOR CITIZENS' PARK.Fiji’s first senior citizen park at Thurston Gardens has officially been handed over to the Ministry of Social Welfare by the Rotary Club, Suva. The Park that cost around $40,000 to develop was a culmination of the collaborative effort between the Rotary Club of Suva, the Suva City Council and the Ministry of Social Welfare.The Senior Citizen Park is expected to have ongoing upgrades over time with the construction of walkways, benches and chairs.

BONUSES FOR PERFORMING STATE-OWNED ENTERPRISES
. Government has approved the payment of a $1.6 million bonus for six state-owned enterprises that have performed "exceptionally well during the last two years." They include Fiji Broadcasting Corporation, Airports Fiji Limited, the Public Rental Board, Fiji Electricity Authority, Fiji Meat Industry Board, Fiji Ports Corporation and subsidiary Fiji Ships and Heavy Industries Limited. FBCL's net profit grew 244% year over year - exceeding expectations by 103%. 

FACEBOOK'S FIJI ECONOMIC FORUM. Rishab Nair offers is a particularly useful service by providing links  to regular Fiji news items. No comments. Just headlines on all important news.

EDUCATION THE MOTIVATING FORCE.The annual Adi Salusalu Festival will commence on the 27th October (next Thursday) this year with a target of $200,000 to be raised by the 21 tikina (districts), each of which will present their mekes and provide items and food stalls in the three day event. The Ministry of Health will also conduct free health checks during the event. The money collected will be used to assist itaukei students from kindergartens to tertiary education.

HYDRO PROJECT ON TRACK. The Fiji Electricity Authority’s Nadarivatu Hydro project is on track to be commissioned in March next yea. the project that is 82% complete will provide substanatial savings in the money spent on diesel and in turn reduce the country’s fuel import bill. The savings will go towards repaying the close to USD $100 million for the project.The FEA borrowed USD$30 million from the ANZ bank, USD$70m from the Chinese Development Bank and FJD$20m from the Bank South Pacific.

TEAK FOREST SHARES. Fiji's first private commercial Teak Plantation Company, Future Forests Fiji  is  offering shares and notes to the public as it prepares to enter the South Pacific Stock Exchange (SPSE). 

AUSAID will be supporting Fiji in establishing Health Promoting Programmes in another 70 to 100 schools by the end of this year and next year.

DIWALI will be celebrated in Fiji next Wednesday 26 October.
==============

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

News and Comments Wednesday 19 October 2011

18.10.11

IS THE OVERSEAS MEDIA ONE-SIDED? Listen to, or read, Radio Australia's   Bruce Hill interviewing Fiji-resident Vivien Mitchell and NZ Coalition for Democracy in Fiji spokesman Nik Naidu.


 NO DEPARTURES WITHOUT MEETING BOND CONDITIONS. Two former recipients of the iTaukei Affairs Board scholarships were stopped from leaving the country at the Nadi International Airport last week.

BAINIMARAMA IN CHINA. In Shanghai the PM has been shown a wide range of applications ranging from e-Health, e-security, e-Public Service and e-Education products that could be useful to Fiji. The PM has also met with the Chairman of the Chinese firm that will mine bauxite in NW Bua.

AIR PACIFIC STARTS FLEET RENEWAL. The new B737-800 plane for Fiji's international carrier, Air Pacific has arrived in the country and airline CEO, Dave Pflieger said this is the first step in their fleet renewal process.

... BUT MAY THREATEN EXPORTS. Cargo will be less as Air Pacific moves away from wide body jets going to Australia. Permanent Secretary for Agriculture, Colonel Mason Smith said the main concern is the exporting of fresh fruit and vegetables to Australia as the aircraft cargo space is needed for the timely delivery of the produce. Air Pacific says the decision to move away from wide body jets is a commercial one for the airline company.

NEW APPROACH NEEDED TO MENTAL HEALTH. Dr Neil Sharma  discusses some of the initiatives needed. World Mental Health day was celebrated in Suva last Friday with a march along Victoria Parade to Sukuna Park.The theme for this year's celebration is "The Great Push; Invest in Mental Health".

ROAD UPGRADES TO NEW LEVEL. Before leaving for China, the PM confirmed that road upgrades will be stepped up early next year, with special attention being given to work along Kings Road and connecting roads, and in the West, roads in and along the Nadi International Airport road and Denarau Island. Government has invested $150 million in the maintenance, construction, planning and rehabilitating the roads around the country.

LAX PUBLIC SERVANTS. This note on Facebook.  Some things change so-o-o-o slowly. "Went to the immigration dept in Suva to extend my mum' s passport for further 2 years. It took them 3 hours just to put a stamp and sign the document. Is this progress. I don't think so , the civil servants should pull their socks up n serve the public that pay their salary."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Watershed in Australian-Fiji Relations

Fiji requires our help now: the time is right

A WATERSHED is looming for Australian-Fiji relations.
At the end of the month, Julia Gillard will host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth. This will be Canberra's significant opportunity to take a new tack on relations with Fiji before that country's government begins the political phase of its roadmap for a return to parliamentary democracy in 2014.

It is now clear that once the process begins, Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama will hold fast to his own schedule just as firmly as he has done with the earlier phases of the roadmap laid down in July 2009.
Australia has failed to make any impression on the course of Fiji's return to democracy since the December 2006 military coup. In fact, Australia largely created the diplomatic vacuum that has given us negligible influence and seriously eroded our standing in the region.
Worse for Australia's Pacific leadership aspirations, major allies have increasingly drifted away to pursue their rapprochement with Suva. New players, especially China, fill the vacuum created by this acrimonious fracturing of the region's unity.

Jon Fraenkel's recent response (World Commentary, October 14) to the most serious challenge our regional leadership has faced in more than a quarter-century is for Canberra to do nothing to fix our fractured relations with Fiji, and to refrain from any positive steps towards assisting with the restoration of parliamentary democracy.

A recent Lowy Institute poll of political opinions in Fiji found nearly two-thirds support the present government. If the poll is to be believed, Fraenkel asks, why doesn't Bainimarama not hold immediate elections?

The answer is clear: the Fiji government is working to its own schedule. The government has not replaced the racially divisive constitution that contributed so much to the tensions within Fiji over the years. Nor has it begun to put in place a new electoral system to eliminate the race-based voting that perpetuated these tensions.
 
These and other political changes were never scheduled to begin before next year.

One might have doubts about the time allowed for these changes, but the Bainimarama government will not embrace the restoration of the Great Council of Chiefs or its racial control of important national offices under the 1997 constitution.

If Australia wants to influence Fiji's path to elections and the return to democracy in 2014, the Prime Minister should take positive steps at the Perth CHOGM for the Commonwealth to re-engage with Fiji.
Most of our Pacific island neighbours want this. And Washington has accepted that the best course for the US is to help Fiji get to 2014 successfully.

A year ago, the Fiji government indicated its receptiveness to getting Australian technical assistance with implementing its roadmap without conditions. It is in the interests of Fiji, the region and Australia that we be there to help the Pacific's key hub state at this decisive turning point.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Some tables from the Lowy/Tebbutt poll

STOP PRESS.  And an article on the poll by Graham Davis in Grubsheet. 

I published a substantial article on this poll three weeks ago "The People have Spoken: Methodology Sound" in which I made the point that government opponents would seek to trivialise the poll results, mainly on the grounds of its methodology and the conditions under which it was carried out. Dr Jon Fraenkel's article in The Australian is the latest. I print some of the poll table results here to show the wide range of responses and disagreement with government on some topics.  Media censorship and a so-called "climate of fear" may, as opponents claim, have influenced the results to some extent but the results (as the tables show) display a wide range of opinions not consistent with misinformation or intimidation. Opponents also fail to heed Jenny Hayward-Jones of the Lowy Institute that commissioned the poll.  She'd hoped, and expected, the poll would have shown pubic opposition to the Bainimarama government.  She did not like the results but she stands by its conclusions. Readers interested in the original poll report should copy and paste http://www.lowyinstitute.org/ on the url line; then  scroll down to "Fiji at home and in the world".  The photo of Bainimarama should help you to find it quickly.   -- Croz








Bainimarama's performance as Prime Minister (%)

Very Fairly . Fairly Very Don't know/

good Good Average poor poor Refused

39 27 25 5 3 2








Government performance – Services (%)

Very Fairly . Fairly Very Don't know/

good Good Average poor poor Refused
Education 56 26 15 1 2
Transport 43 28 21 4 4
Health 38 31 19 6 5








Government performance – General (%)

Very Fairly . Fairly Very Don't know/

good Good Average poor poor Refused
Racial inequalities 34 33 26 4 3
Land ownership 32 31 23 6 5 2
Employment opportunities 32 27 24 10 6
Economy 23 36 28 6 6
Poverty 23 32 28 9 7 1
Draft new Constitution 18 35 32 6 4 5
Progress to elections 21 31 28 8 8 4
Reform electoral system 18 33 31 8 5 5








Effects of new Constitution (%)

Strongly Partly
Partly Strongly DK/R

Agree Agree
Disagree Disagree
Better democracy 44 39
7 4 5
End racial inequalities 40 37
11 7 6
End Coup Culture 36 34
13 10 6








Present role of the military forces (%)

Strongly Partly
Partly Strongly DK/R

Approve Approve
Disapprove Disapprove

31 37
12 19 1








Military should play permanent role in politics (%)

Strongly Partly
Partly Strongly DK/R

Agree Agree
Disagree Disagree

24 29
14 32 1








Media now more reliable and trustworthy (%)

Strongly Partly Same Partly Strongly DK/R

Agree Agree
Disagree Disagree

15 28 31 16 6 1








Should religious organisations be involved in politics (%)

Not
A.
A DK/R

at all
little
lot

66
20
14








Form of government (%)

Democracy Non-democracy in

Doesn't DK/R

preferable some circumstances

matter*

53 25

21 1





* to someone like me.

Arrests Not Helpful to Fiji's Image But ...


Croz, 'Ata Island, Tonga, c.1965



By Crosbie Walsh 
  
Two arrests and one banning have made headlines recently. In Fiji, Shalend Scott, a Fiji-born and Australian citizen, Air Pacific pilot and secretary of the Fiji Airline Pilots' Association, was arrested and charged with unlawful access to documents that disclosed Air Pacific's purported involvement in the drafting of the Essential Industries Decree. Second, Sri Lanka-born and NZ citizen IT specialist Jagath Karunaratne is in police custody for questioning. No charges have yet been made but it is thought they could relate to his alleged part in the recent graffiti campaign against the Government.  And, last and somewhat less reported, here in NZ veteran left-wing radio commentator and TV host Martyn “Bomber” Bradbury has been banned from Radio New Zealand for what RNZ said was his “over the top” criticism of Prime Minister John Key.

The Fiji arrests are not good news because they will be used to back up other accusations against the Fiji government.

Government and the Media by Sharon Smith-John



Permanent Secretary of Information
Sharon Smith-John's address to the Fiji Literary Festival, Nadi, October 2 – 9, 2011
 
Good morning.

I’d like to thank the organizers for having me here to today to speak at Fiji’s first Writers Literary Festival! When I was invited to speak today, I immediately went back years to when I started off in the media industry.

“Media Partners in a new vision for Fiji”!  That’s the topic that I’ve been asked to speak on and its an issue that all of us here today are passionate about.  As someone who used to work in the media industry it brings home the incredible reality of how powerful the media is…and it’s true! Rupert Murdoch was described as someone whose empire influenced the making and breaking of leaders. However that was tested recently with News of the World having to close down. That aside, the subject that I’ve been asked to speak on recognises that the media plays if not a crucial then a powerful role in our society.

Media Censorship in Singapore and Fiji

Censorship v. Self-censorship: Press Control 
in Fiji and Singapore 
Dr Marc Edge's  address to the Fiji Literary Festival, Nadi, October 2 – 9, 2011
Dr Edge is head of the journalism programme at the University of the South Pacific, Suva. See Bio at end of the article.

Abstract.
Constraints imposed on the press in Fiji under the 2010 Media Decree have been compared with the system of press control in Singapore. The two systems are, however, quite different. Fiji imposed censorship and criminalized journalism ethics, while the more sophisticated system of press control that has evolved over the past 50 years in Singapore sees journalists exercise self-censorship. The press in Singapore was brought to heel over a period of decades by founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew through regulation, licensing, and legal intimidation. Fiji’s press system is still evolving, but its use of prior restraint on publication and criminalization of journalism ethics are measures to which Singapore never resorted. Implications for the development of Fiji’s press are discussed.

Friday, October 14, 2011

News and Comments Friday 14 October 2011

WEEKEND READING. • Allen Lockington Column.  • Croz Walsh on two recent arrests
• Sharon Smith-John writes on Censorship and the Media and • Marc Edge compares Media Censorship in Singapore and Fiji
.

14.10.11                       

Police clamp down on bad cops

The Fiji Police Force will continue to clamp down on corrupt police officers says Police Commissioner Brigadier General, Iowane Naivalurua. Naivalurua says these officers will be removed if they can’t change. 

He says there are endless stories of police officers who are portraying a bad image of the force. 

“We have stories and stories of bad cops, crocked [crooked?] cops, negative cops and we still want them within the force. You have my assurance this morning that we are trying our best to straighten these things out but we will never have a genuine honest relationship with these people around.* Simply the bottom line here is this - we have no place for bad officers within the force, corrupt officers within the force and insensitive officers within the force.”
  
Naivalurua says for an effective community partnership, the Police must treat people with respect and sensitivity. 

He says the use of arrogance and rudeness will prevent the community from allying itself with police.   Source: Fiji Broadcasting. 

[* Ed. Note. The two sentences are contradictory. We want them; we want them not.  I suspect this is due to imprecison or inaccurate reporting. The Commissioner clearly wants these people out of the Force. Thanks to "Nitemi" who picked this up.  See Comments.] 


AIR PACIFIC PLEDGES TO UPHOLD WORKERS' RIGHTS. This statement follows the introduction of the Essential Industries Decree that some say infringes workers' rights. The Airline does not deny it helped Government with the decree and says the arrest of pilot was due to his removal of confidential material on a range of issues. See tomorrow's Weekend Reading post on Arrests Not Helpful for Fiji's Image But ...

AIR PACIFIC
and its subsidiary Pacific Sun together fly over 400 flights per week. The company operates B747, B767, and B737 aircraft from Fiji to 15 cities in 10 countries. Destinations include Hong Kong, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Vanuatu, and Solomon Islands. Air Pacific aircraft bring in 68% of all visitors who fly to Fiji. The Company employs almost 800 employees, earns revenues of F$600 million, and directly contributes 3% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).Pacific Sun operates a combination of ATR 42-500s and De Havilland Twin Otter aircraft on Fiji’s 10 domestic island routes and regional flights to Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

VATUKOULA'S 1st HIGH GRADE FIND IN 20 YEARS. This must be good news for the economy.

QARASE TRIAL DATE SET for the 31st. He is charged with nine counts, including abuse of office for allegedly tampering with shares for Fijian Holdings Limited when he was also Governor of the Development Bank.

RUDD IN FACEBOOK. Kevin Rudd has notched up 384,000 km in overseas air travel since becoming Foreign Minister, that's equivalent to flying to the moon.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

News and Comments Thursday 13 October 2011

13.10.11
ON FIJI'S SUPPOSED ISOLATION. A reader writes:
"Canberra continues to hold out that it has succeeded in politically isolating the Fiji Government - but it has only succeeded in doing so in the two organisations in which it exerts over-weaning influence - the Commonwealth and PIF - and large numbers of the Member States of both organisations have told Fiji privately and publicly that they don't agree with the policy of suspending engagement with the Fiji Government.  All of them attribute Fiji's unhelpful suspension from these two bodies to the influence of Australia.

"How can Fiji be described as "politically isolated"
  • when it is Chair of MSG (95% of the land and resources of PSIDS); 
  • when Government Leaders from China to Georgia, from Papua New Guinea to Kiribati, come to Fiji to pay their respects; 
  • when Fiji has been welcomed into the 120-nation Non-Aligned Movement; 
  • when in the margins of UN General Assembly Fiji attended Ministerial meetings with the Russian MFA, the US Secretary of State, the Singapore MFA, the Cuban MFA, the President of Finland, the President of Tahiti, etc, etc, etc; 
  • when Fiji's PM was invited to Co-Chair (with the President of Austria) a UN panel on desertification and land degradation; 
  • when Fiji has been internationally-elected to be one of the current Vice-Presidents of UN General Assembly and the current Assembly President of the 167-nation International Seabed Authority;
  • when Fiji has signed up formalisation of diplomatic relations with 37 new countries over the last 18 months;
  • and when Fiji's PM was able to tour any US State he cared to last month (note, he's prohibited from travelling to Australia) to talk to potential American investors?  Is this telling a story of a "politically isolated" country? 

"As for cutting off Fiji's peacekeeping role - its peacekeepers are currently serving in UN Missions in South Sudan, Abiyei, Dafur, Liberia, Timor Leste and Iraq.  The latter force, 1st Battalion RFMF, was increased by 55 in 2011 after an international assessment of great thoroughness — and this in the face of sustained Australian opposition. Meanwhile 2nd Battalion RFMF remains in place in the Sinai with the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), as it has done since the days that Jimmy Carter was President. This is a Fiji heritage that no one will be able to "cut off" or denigrate. Fiji's proud role as UN peacekeepers is here to stay."

INTENDED FNPF REFORMS REFORMED. Pressure from members has resulted in two major changes to the proposed pension funds reforms. There will be no compulsory pension deductions for all members. Deductions will be optional. And the option of lump-sum withdrawals will remain. A Fund spokesman, however, urged members who had reached retirement age to make wise decisions about their money so that they would not end up living on social welfare after all their pension money was spent, and all members to consider pension deductions for a more secure future. It is understood, however, that the proposal to reduce the annual pension rate from 25% or 15% to about 9% remains. The proposal, contested by pensioner David Burness (and a counter-proposal to strike out Burness's appeal), will be heard in the High Court next year.

METHODIST MEETING OKAY UNDER MONITORING. A  27 member group of US Methodists has  been given permission to meet with Fiji Methodist officials but the meeting will be monitored by a police officer who will ensure that political issues are not discussed. The Fiji Government has long insisted that the Church distance itself from its previous heavy political involvement. The group will arrive on Saturday and be in Fiji for about ten days.

My view is that PER should be lifted or at least be modified along these lines. It is far better to let meetings go ahead under stipulated conditions than to prevent or cancel them. This is how all PER regulations relating to meetings should be considered.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

TUVALU DELEGATION SEEKS EMERGENCY HELP FROM FIJI - Oct. 7, 2011

TUVALU DELEGATION SEEKS EMERGENCY HELP FROM FIJI - Oct. 7, 2011

News and Comments Tuesday 11 October 2011


11.10.11
PRESIDENT OBAMA CONGRATULATES FIJI. US President Barack Obama has sent a message to the people of Fiji congratulating them on the occasion of the 41st anniversary of Fiji’s independence.

The President said the people of Fiji and the US share a commitment to peace, freedom, the rule of law and democratic ideals, and it is through this commitment that the two countries have built a relationship based on trust and mutual respect. He pledged that the US will  "stand with the people of Fiji as they strive to these ideals" and said the bond will strengthen "as the people of Fiji continue to pursue a brighter future."

FIJI IN THE PACIFIC
. Outgoing  Solomons Islands High Commissioner Moses Kouni Mose says the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) was set up to complement the work of the Pacific Islands Forum, not to compete with it, and with Fiji at the helm, its future looks promising. Mose believes Fiji has much to contribute to the Pacific. With its "vast experience in terms of economic development, member countries and non-member countries alike stood to gain a lot in trade, investment, and assistance amongst other things."

Mose said that MSG member countries had opted to take a more proactive approach towards Fiji's political situation [than the Forum] by allowing Fiji to remain in the MSG while continuing to push for a return to democratic rule. -- Based on Fiji Times.

GOVERNMENT'S CONCERNS FOR THE ELDERLY.
Last year there were over 5,000 people in Fiji over the age of 80; by 2050 there's likely to be over 28,000. There are already concerns that traditional family support systems are not coping. Social Welfare Minister Dr Jiko Luveni  expects that the State will have to step in by providing housing for the elderly. Governnment's National Ageing Policy 2011 to 2015 will be launched next month that will establish a National Council for Elder Persons.

Comment: Dr Jiko says "Population ageing is about babies. We used to have lots, now we don't. Hence the population is aging rapidly. Fiji, like the rest of the world, is becoming an ageing society." But ethnic Fijians still have a high birth rate by world standards.  The increased number of the elderly is mainly due to longer life expectancies.  I wonder whether Fiji will follow Singapore's example by making people more responsible for their elderly.

TOURIST ARRIVALS UP AGAIN
.Visitor arrivals increased 5.6% to 61,919 for June this year compared to 58,614 for the same period last year. Australian visitors totalled 31,073, NZ visitors 11,545 US visitors 6,111 and 2,247 came from Continental Europe. Most visitors were on holiday but 9% came to visit their friends and relatives. Cruise ship visitors, however, declined 78.6% from 8538 in 2010 to 1831. Fiji citizens migrating declined by 61 compared to 326 but Fiji passport holders residing overseas increased to 3432 compared to 1208.

Saturday, October 8, 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. 
Abuse in Government

The Foreign Media's Coverage of Fiji: Past and Present

Graham Davis's address to the Fiji Literary Festival, Nadi, October 2 – 9, 2011

Mr Chairman, ladies and gentlemen. Ni sa bula vinaka, namaste, good morning.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you at this media component of a landmark event in the cultural life of the nation- the inaugural Fiji Literary Festival.

Let me stress from the outset that unlike some of the offerings here, this is not an academic paper but a series of personal reflections – some highly subjective – that aren’t designed for peer review.

It’s also less about the Fiji media than of media coverage of Fiji, the way the country is portrayed in a myopic fashion that’s often highly damaging to the country’s interests.

Economic Freedom in Fiji and Human Values

The 2011 Index of Economic Freedom report  from the Heritage Foundation, an American  right wing think-tank,* tells us as much or more about some people's human values as it does about the inherent strengths and weaknesses of a national economy. 


The Index uses ten indicators, which include Business, Trade, Fiscal, Monetary, Investment and Labour freedom, to place Fiji 86th out of 179 nations and 14th out of 41 in the Asia-Pacific, an overall position that has changed little over the past decade.  Its score of 60.4 out of a possible 100 is second  "best" of six Pacific nations on the list. Samoa is "best" with 60.6 and Solomon Islands "worst" with 45.9. 


What is most interesting in Fiji's index scores is the rationale behind some of them, and how they might affect the underprivileged.  On Trade Freedom, for example, Heritage says ten points were deducted because of "non-tariff barriers" (that are in place to protect the national economy); on Monetary Freedom ten points were deducted because of domestic price "distortions" such as Government's "control of public utilities" (that protect households from excessive electricity and water price increases) and Labour Freedom deteriorated by 8.3 points because "labour regulations remain rigid" preventing the efficient use of the labour market.  In other words there were to many regulations in place to protect workers. 


Compare these indices chosen to measure a particular kind of economic health with those of the UN Human Development Reports that use indices including: democratic governance, economic reforms and public finance, education, knowledge and culture, environment, public safety, poverty and inequality, public health, and the degree of social inclusion for the disabled, minority groups and youth — and then take your pick on which set of indices, those of the Heritage Foundation or the United Nations, are more likely to measure the true "health" of a society. 












* Founded in 1973, The Heritage Foundation is a research and educational institute - a think tank - whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.


















Friday, October 7, 2011

News and Commments Friday 7 October 2011

WEEKEND READING. • Allen Lockington Column • Economic Freedom and Human Values  
Click to enlarge
• Graham Davis The Foreign Media's Coverage of Fiji, Past and Present • And possibly more. Watch this space.

7.10.11 
ACUTE WATER CRISIS IN TUVALU. Health Minister, Dr Neil Sharma, said “A clinical medical specialist team from CWM Hospital can be available within six hours notice for deployment.

There are adequate stocks of certain antibiotics but the low stock of other items has prompted our Chief Pharmacist to make supplementary orders to UNICEF for oral rehydration solutions (ORS), intravenous fluids and elixir and tablet paracetamol.”  Clinical support services from CWM Hospital are available in terms of beds, clinical management (including surgery) and personnel. The minister said the public health/clinical team could also be organised when the need arose to travel to Tuvalu. Fiji will help as much as it can. -- Based on No:1884/MOH. The NZ media make mention only of aid from NZ, Australia and the US.

FLY THE FLAG FOR FIJI DAY. MOI Permanent Secretary Sharon Smith-Johns said Government is urging people to fly the Fiji flag outside their homes and offices as part of Fiji Day celebrations. She said Fiji Day is the only time of the year when citizens remember how Fiji was given the responsibility to govern the country without external influence. She added that the best way to celebrate Fiji Day is to reach out to those who are less fortunate.

REMOTE AREA ALLOWANCES TO HELP RURAL DEVELOPMENT.  Single civil servants posted away from their home bases  to work in rural and maritime areas will receive a Locational Allowances of $1,200 p.a. and married officers $1,800 p.a.backdated to August 1st. And all officers in these areas living in Government houses (other than doctors and nurses who will receive free housing) will have their rent dropped from 8 to 4% of basic salary from October 1st.

In announcing these changes, the PM said the measures are a response to appeals from the officers affected and are intended to improve service delivery in rural and maritime areas. The allowances will be sourced from the respective ministerial budgets and will replace all previous allowances.-- Based on No:1874/PSC.

POLICING RURAL AREAS. The iTaukei Affairs Board and the Police signed a memorandum of understanding yesterday that will establishing a rural policing partnership. The MOU is an outcome of National Consultation on proactive approaches to curb drug cultivation and the need to find alternative community-based approaches for effective rural policing. Police will closely liaise with all Roko Tui in the organization of drug awareness programmes and in finding ways to strengthen community policing within iTaukei communities. -- Based No:1885/MiT.

LAND BANK v. TLTB LEASES. The 2010 Land Use Decree aimed to bring more idle unused land into productive use by setting up Land Banks. Landowners offered their unused land to Government for 99 years and Government looked for leasees. Once leased, landowners receive a higher, government-backed, rental (10% of Unimproved Capital Value compared to the iTaukei Land Trust Board's 6%); payment are regular, and leasors receive all the rent (The TLTB deducts about 15%). So  far, some 2000 hectares are in Land Banks.The demand for land by overseas investors continues to grow and requests for four to five acre lands for residential purposes have also been received from locals. The Land Banks are one of several reforms Government intends to have in place before the 2014 general elections. -- Based on Fiji Sun.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

News and Comments Thursday 6 October 2011

Watch Fiji Day Celebrations Live on Fiji TV at 9.50am, 7th October, 2011

6.10.11  RUGBY WORLD CUP PUNCHES HOLES in the NZ readership.  Whether it's the RWC or the near absence of almost any other news in the NZ media I do not know but NZ blog readers have dropped by half since the Cup competitions started. For the past two weeks Fiji readers have slightly exceeded Australian and US readers, with NZ readers less than half of any of the others.

NEW CONSTITUTION BEFORE ELECTIONS? The latest FijiLive poll asks: "Do you think there is a need to draft a new Fiji Constitution before the 2014 elections?" So far 77% have said Yes and 23% No. What the No vote represents is difficult to say: No, vote using the old race-based electorates. Or No, Government can pass a decree on this.

Whatever the reason for any of the votes,  it is important that the Constitution is revised before the elections, and even more important that there are full participatory discussions on the changes needed.

Government FOR the people needs to be accompanied by government BY the people as Fiji proceeds with its plans for a sustainable democracy after 2014.

THE NAME FIJIAN AND GOOD GOVERNANCE CONTRARY TO CULTURE AND RELIGION.   Government's proclamation that all Fiji citizens are Fijian was a healthy step towards creating a common national identity but a proclamation does create a new reality, and there is some resistance from ituakei citizens, especially among older people. This was the finding of a Citizen's Constitutional Forum-organised workshop on citizenship, good governance and human rights. CCF educator Sereima Lotubula said there was a need to change attitudes and CCF CEO Rev.Akuila Yabaki said this would take time.

"We started the advocacy programs after the 2000 coup and found that because of misinformation, there were wrong perceptions in all communities about government's intention and other ethnicities.  The colonial structure of rule is probably the cause of the misinterpretation and of pre-conceived ideas," he said.

A baseline report by the CCF showed it was clear that the iTaukei views and misconceptions about exclusive rights to the term Fijian were entrenched, particularly among the older members of the population.The report said there were misconceptions about the Vola ni Kawa Bula issues and privileges of the iTaukei people.

On good governance, the report said there was a need for more education regarding what good governance is. The report said there is knowledge of principles of good governance but some  iTaukei labour under the misconception that such principles contradict their religious beliefs or cultural values.

FIJI'S DESTITUTES, THE POOR AND THE WORLD BANK. A reader comments on the World Bank assessment that 28% of Fiji's welfare recipients should not be on welfare.

"The World Bank has not been known to alleviate poverty anywhere in the world. Indeed, it together with its sister or brother Bretton Woods institution, the IMF, has caused misery, hunger and deaths in numerous debtor nations of the global South in the 1980s through their conditionalities and structural adjustment programmes.

As you know, Fiji's family assistance allowance is rather paltry, amounting to monthly support ($60 to $120) to the poorest of the poor. As pointed by Fr Kevin Barr, the 24,000 who receive FAA constitute a fraction of Fiji’s poor who officially comprise 35% of Fiji’s people.

If some not so poor have slipped into the category of destitute currently receiving FAA, then this has to do with the lack of professionalism among the public servants who work for the department of social welfare. Many of these employees are under qualified and were especially politicized during the periods of governments led by Rabuka and Qarase.

It will be most revealing to see whether the Bainimarama government is transparent on the 28% who are deemed by the ‘Bank’ to be unworthy recipients of FAA. Let's see the criteria that is being used to remove them from the list of FAA recipients.

UPDATE FROM ANOTHER READER
: "In fact the Dept of Social Welfare has reduced payments from the previous $60-$120 to $50-$100.Also once the $30 food stamps were introduced some people on $60 found their allowance reduced to $40. Protests were made to the Minister and I hope this has been rectified. Also, the idea of giving up to $5,000 for people on FAS to start a small business and then declaring them "out of poverty" is another crazy move."

NEXT PINA MEETING IN FIJI.The Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) feels its decision to hold its 2012 media summit in Fiji will assist local media to work together for the betterment of the country. PINA president, Moses Stevens said he was aware of the situation in Fiji but it wanted to engage with the local media to assist in a return to having normal media relations.

The breakaway Pacific Freedom Forum, however, raises an important point in the Solomon Times: "Under the media decree application process for a regional media meeting, every session of PINA 2012, every speaker presenting and the name of every delegate planning to attend has to be vetted by the regime, who can also be there 'monitoring' what is said." I think the PFF is confusing the Media Decree with PER. I can find no references to the alleged restrictions in the Media Decree.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Australia's Elite Sources of Information on Fiji

Richard Marles, the Australian Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Affairs, has called the recent Tebbutt poll "ridiculous." The poll showed that 66% of the sampled population thought the Bainimarama Government was doing a good job. Jenny Hayward-Jones of the Lowy Institute that paid for the poll  disagrees. This is what she said of Australia's sources of information on Fiji:

"Just because the people polled expressed views that conflicted with what the Australian government believes the Fiji people think does not make the poll ridiculous. Thanks in large part to the Fiji regime's restrictions on free speech, the Australian government has relied on the views largely of elites – academics, NGO leaders, Fijians with chiefly status, former politicians, some businesspeople, blogs written largely by Fiji citizens residing in Australia and New Zealand – to inform its views of what the Fiji people think.

"With the exception of the occasional taxi driver, the people diplomats rely on for information and opinions tend not to be gardeners, textile workers, nurses, teachers, shop staff or unemployed people. Such people probably don't come to the attention of the regime in Fiji, and they may not feel as fearful as outspoken critics of the regime about the consequences of expressing an opinion.

"Unless there is clear evidence (not just an assumption) that the 1036 people surveyed felt intimidated and lied about their true feelings, there is no reason to dismiss the poll."
Click here to read her comments in full. 

Meanwhile, Amnesty International, relying on these same sources of information,  thought a popular uprising similar to the Middle East and North Africa "is not impossible in Fiji." Amnesty's Secretary General  Salil Shetty was speaking of  what he called "reports of torture and other human rights violations in Fiji" which he said were "worsening.. ... If this level of violation of human rights continues and if people don’t have a voice and if they have no basic freedoms, in my view it’s a matter of time.” Mr Shetty took up his AI appointment in December 2009 and to my knowledge has no firsthand experience of Fiji or the Pacific.