Saturday, June 30, 2012

Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On

 
                                             Go Local

Allen going local!

Fiji has beautiful beaches and landmarks that are just sitting there in our back yards which tourists pay to visit. And yet we, the locals, don't even know the beauty of Fiji.

May I suggest that we go local and travel Fiji to the Yasawas and Mamanucas, to Vanua Levu and the Lau Group, to the Highlands of Fiji where we have little inns and stay at hotels along the Coral Coast and enjoy Fiji.

Go local next time you are thinking of going on a holiday. Your children will enjoy Fiji and get to appropriate the resources in our country. We have the museum, the National Archives, the various municipal offices in towns and cities who have old records of the towns and cities they look after. We have old churches, original native iTaukei sites, local farms, and ancient cemeteries all provide exciting glimpses into the past.

We could visit dairy and vegetable farms. Fish and prawn farms and the many manufacturers and see how things are done. 

When everyone is tired and hungry, we can enjoy some authentic local entertainment at a favorite landmark restaurant, and eat a locally cooked meal that is not high in salt and additives. Or even stay at an iTaukei village and enjoy the local hospitality. 

This way, we get to know our country better, and our money stays here and we boost local tourism and support the employment of our people.

On a slightly different note, a traveler from abroad, on our airline last week, said that he was a little surprised when he was served his meal/snack he saw a packet of potato chips that was made in the Philippines. He wondered what happened to the Buy Fiji that has recently been promoted vigorously.

Aren’t our local chips good enough?

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.

Introducing the Director of Public Prosecutions


  • “The guilty shall be convicted and the innocent shall be acquitted”, declared Fiji’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Christopher Pryde, in a recent address to the Fiji New Zealand Business Council. Stating the bleeding obvious – you’d imagine – except when doubts continue to be expressed about the independence and impartiality of the country’s judiciary. And especially when the most high...

    # 101 WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION

    “The guilty shall be convicted and the innocent shall be acquitted”, declared Fiji’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Christopher Pryde, in a recent address to the Fiji New Zealand Business Council. Stating the bleeding obvious – you’d imagine – except when doubts continue to be expressed about the independence and impartiality of the country’s judiciary. And especially when the most high...

Ideas on Constitutional and Electoral Reforms III: Money, Governance & Citizenship



Part III (final) of Satendra Prasad's ideas.  Readers should not assume that the  publication of his ideas means that I necessarily agree with them. All thoughtful ideas and comments are welcome on this blog (as they are with the Constitution Commission) but I would prefer readers to comment on the special blog Fiji Political and Constitutional Forum www.fijipcforum.blogspot.com

FISCAL AND MONETARY POLICY
27. Enact into legislation that all fiscal and monetary budgets must be balanced. In other words no expenditure to be allocated if there is no source of funds. This has been done in province of BC in Canada and just recently the Democrats have joined forces in USA to enact a similar Legislation. This will force the elected governments to be more responsible and accountable.

GOOD GOVERNANCE
28. Enact Anti-corruption Legislation that includes the creation of Anti Corruption Tribunal headed by a Qualified Judge with team of qualified investigators including forensic team of accounts, IT professionals, Auditors, etc.
29. Enact a Code of standard practice (including ethical, moral and professional standards for all Government CEOs and political and constitutional appointees. Breaches to be severely dealt with including heavy fines, prison terms and or suspension or sacking where appropriate. These two combined with other good policies and procedures should become checks and balances for accountability, transparency and responsibility and serve as the foundation of the good governance.

CITIZENSHIP REFORMS
30. Change Citizenship Act to Allow Dual Citizenship - Citizenship by birth in Fiji and children of Fiji born in another country to be guaranteed and retained, regardless if some one has acquired a citizenship of another country by immigration( Allow Dual Citizenship similar to NZ, Australia and Canada. This MUST be a persons birth right and humane thing to do. This will encourage many former Fiji Residents like me who have made a lot of wealth overseas to go back to Fiji and semi-retire while investing in business ventures, land developments or Eco-tourism related projects or simply take the role of Financiers for local businesses. This will speed up the foreign investment and economic recovery process in Fiji. 

Currently if you acquire Citizenship of another Country then you automatically lose the Fiji citizenship and unfairly substituted ONLY by residency rights for former Fiji Citizens that only gives free entry, residency and exit rights but restricts from working, doing business and or voting etc. Unless you pay $5000 FJD to apply for Fiji citizenship by registration that seems unwarranted when a person is already a citizen of Fiji by birth. Many countries including Canada, USA, Australia, NZ and UK allow dual citizenship, simply because it is good for their economy, familial and social reasons and it is guaranteed to be very good for Fiji as well.

Wages Councils and Mr Hazelman


A Reply published by The Fiji Sun
Fr Kevin J. Barr

I was somewhat amused to see the remarks of Mr Nesbitt Hazelman in The Fiji Sun (25th June). They are a replay of an old worn out record by the CEO of the Fiji Commerce and Employer’s Federation (FCEF). The headline for the article should not have been “Wages Councils not Working” but “Wages Councils not Working as Mr Hazelman would like them to” i.e to the advantage of employers.

What seems to be forgotten (even by some employers) is that the Wages Councils are set up to protect the interests of the workers of the country – all of whom are currently earning wages below the poverty line. Of course the Wages Councils constantly try to be fair to employers and take due consideration of their views but they are there basically to protect the 60% of workers in the country who are in full-time employment.

The interests of employers and investors have been promoted in various forums. They were particularly promoted by the last two budgets where there were massive reductions in corporate taxes and the taxes of the high income earners. Moreover there have been many provisions to provide incentives and to assist various industries e.g. $23m for the tourism sector. Even Peter Mazey said publicly on TV to FCEF members: “We got all we wanted in the last budget”. Moreover because of crony capitalism a small group of employers are able to go to their friends in government to get their own way. Workers do not have that ability – particularly after the way Unions have been treated recently.

Of course what amused me most was to see that the CEO brings up all the old arguments against me and the Wages Councils. He constantly claims the chairman (me) is not independent. A couple of years ago the FCEF carried on a high level campaign to get rid of me. When I asked someone why some employers hate me so much, I was told: “It is because you are a strong voice for justice they have to contend with. You have the answers they don’t want to hear. They have been used to getting their own way for so long”. Be that as it may, my job has been to protect the interests of the workers of the country while being fair to employers. But it seems that some employers mis-interpret the work of the Wages Councils as though they are there to protect the interests only of employers – not the workers.

Mr Hazelman is quite wrong in saying that many wage increases were reached without a consensus – that is with the agreement of the employers – and that my casting vote ensures the employers are outvoted. In seven or eight of the ten wages councils the wage increase was reached by consensus, in two the employers were outvoted by the workers and independent representatives, and only in one did I have a casting vote – the first and only time I have used it. And I had to use it because the employers representatives came stating that their proposal was non-negotiable. No one’s proposal is non-negotiable in the context of the way we operate in the Wages Councils.

It is interesting that, although the legislation allows any employer who honestly can’t pay to go to the Minister and explain his/her position, no employer has ever done so because it implies that they should open their books for inspection and verification. So we presume they can pay.

Mention is made of the proposal to set up a Wages Commission to replace the ten Wages Councils. This may have some merit but I understand that it was imposed unilaterally by the Permanent Secretary for Labour in a recent ERAB meeting and that no discussion was allowed on the matter. Moreover there seems to have been no consultation with the Unions or other interested parties. Presumably the FCEF has agreed to or pushed for the proposal. So, in the current anti-Union and anti-worker atmosphere where crony capitalism is rampant, it is very doubtful if a Wages Commission will really protect the interests of workers in the country.

We talk about addressing corruption and tackling racism in the country but there is little incentive to tackle the exploitation of workers and increasing inequality even though the 1997 Poverty Report stated that “Fiji is a society with deep inequalities”.

For years the FCEF has been talking about “growth” in terms of providing more employment rather than having to pay decent wage increases. Yet study after study has repeated that addressing poverty in Fiji demands not simply more jobs but just and proper wages for those who are employed.

Again we hear the excuse that employers in Fiji have to compete with lower costs (including wages) in countries such as South East Asia. If employers want to pay Bangladeshi wages they should set up their businesses in Bangladesh. Wages are relative to the cost of living in any society and the Basic Needs Poverty Line in a country is considered to be the guideline for wages in that country. Wages are part of the cost of doing business not a handout to workers from what is left over after desired profits have been made. Business may be the engine of growth but it is the workers who keep the engine moving and workers need to be able to meet their basic needs.

We appreciate all those many employers who have a sense of social justice and recognise the basic needs of their workers. However, unfortunately, we need to fight against all those who exploit their workers and seek to make more and more profit out of selfish greed. These are often the “cry-babies” who blame the Wages Councils (and their chair) for wanting them to be accountable and so they run off to their friends in power to get their own way.

I guess this explains why the British PM David Cameron suggested at the World Economic Forum in Davos (2009) that capitalism worldwide needs to be overhauled and given a conscience to repair the damage done by decades of reckless greed “even if that means standing in the way of global corporate juggernauts”.

Friday, June 29, 2012

News and Comments Friday 29 June 2012

Readers unfamiliar with the new format who are still having  problems reading the full post and comments are urged  to hover their mouse over PAGES (under the main heading) and read "How to use the blog".  The technical problems reported earlier seem to have been fixed except for iPads.  If you cannot access the blog in future, please send me an email at crozwalsh@gmail,com


WEEKEND READING. • Allen Lockington Column • Introducing the Director of Public Prosecutions • Wages Council and Mr Hazelman • Ideas on Constitutional and Electoral  Reforms Part III


AUSAID TO DOUBLE.  Whether or not it is a response to progress on the Fiji political front or not, the doubling of AusAid to F$66 starting next month is a very welcome move.  Most of the aid will go to health and education.


NEW CALEDONIA SNUBS MELANESIAN SPEARHEAD GROUP.  New Caledonia’s pro-independence FLNKS movement says this weekend’s planned visit to Noumea by Fiji’s interim PM who also the MSG chairman has been cancelled because of visa problems. ► Click on posting to read more.


The PM  was to head a ministerial delegation of the Melanesian Spearhead Group to monitor and assess the implementation of the Noumea Accord on greater autonomy for New Caledonia. 
   
 The visit is opposed by the anti-independence Caledonia Together movement that had asked France to stop the visit.  FLNKS spokesperson, Victor Tutugoro,  has flown  to the MSG secretariat in Vanuatu to discuss the matter.  -- Based on RNZI.

POSTSCRIPT. THE FRENCH EMBASSY in Suva, however, denies Bainimarama was not granted a visa. It says the trip has been postponed, not cancelled.

FIJITODAY AND COUP4.5. Both blogs are anti-the Bainimarama government but where the former is reasonable, even to the point of republishing a complimentary Grubsheet article on the Director of Public Prosecutions, the latter is now constantly attacking Constitution Commission Prof Yash Ghai and is allowing comments on how to make bombs! I will have further posting on this issue next week.

NO SDL MEETINGS IN CHURCH HALLS. Police have confirmed the SDL party (and presumably other political parties) will not be able to use Methodist Church halls for their meetings. The clear separation of church and state is  welcome but alternative accommodation needs to be available in all areas where they wish to hold meetings. 

NAMOSI MINING. Landowners and the Tui Namosi/Namosi Provincial Council seem to be at loggerheads over possible future development. 

POLICE AT MEETINGS. Police say they will not be changing conditions on the holding of political meetings "for now." The FLP objected to their presence at a recent meeting and FLP leader Mahendra Chaudhry says he will be raising the matter with the Constitution Commission next month. 

QARESE TRIAL FROM NEXT TUESDAY. A further plea to delay the trial has been denied. This is Qarase’s first case in relation to Fijian Holdings Limited where it is alleged that he facilitated and allowed the purchase of Class A FHL shares for certain companies when he was director of FHL, financial advisor of the Fijian Affairs Board and advisor to the Great Council of Chiefs.The case relates to the allotment and issuance of the FHL shares to Cicia Plantation Co-op Society Limited, Mavana Investments Limited and a family owned company named Q-Ten Investments Limited.

FNU GOES RURAL. The Fiji National University  has extended its services to remote areas and this week 124 Ra villagers graduated in sustainable livelihood courses conducted over two weeks in Nativi Village.

BRIBERY ACCUSED JAILED. A Nadi businessman and a customs officer found guilty of bribery by the Lautoka High Court were today handed partial prison sentences with a $2,000 fine imposed on the two.

POLICE OFFICER GRANTED BAIL. Kaipati Bakoa is charged with one count of theft and one count of interfering with evidence in relation to the alleged theft of drugs from the Nabua police station.

PINE CHIPS WORTH A PACKET. The commencement of the pine chipping operations in Wairiki, Bua Province,  has a potential of earning close to $35 million a year, besides offering employment and other benefits to landowners
The first shipment of 40,000 tonnes worth $6 million was sent to Japan on Monday. About fifty locals are employed at the mill.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ideas on Constitutional and Electoral Reforms II: NLTB & Land Reforms

Add caption
Part II of Satendra Prasad's ideas.  Readers should not assume that the  publication of his ideas means that I necessarily agree with them. All thoughtful ideas and comments are welcome on this blog (as they are with the Constitution Commission) but I would prefer readers to comment on the special blog Fiji Political and Constitutional Forum www.fijipcforum.blogspot.com
Note: The Native Land Trust Board is now called the Itaukei Land Trust Board


LAND REFORMS17. All current NLTB board to be sacked and replaced with competent professionals. Also review all middle and upper managers and regional managers and sack all incompetent, inefficient and or political/national activists and replace with competent professionals.
18. NLTB needs to be completely restructured, reorganized and streamlined like the rest of Govt. appointed Boards.
19. NLTB must be corporatised and such all owners made shareholders and should operate a business.
20. NLTB to open its Employment doors to all qualified Fiji people and not restricted to indigenous ONLY as it is currently. I don’t mind if they include in per-requisite as "Must be fluent in Fijian language" or "Must be able to speak Fijian and Hindi", etc. As there are many non-Fijians including Rotumans and Indians that speak, read and write Fijian and are better qualified BUT cannot work in NLTB because of their birth race being non-Fijian. Not sure BUT this must also be in breach of Constitution that advocates no discrimination on the basis of race, colour or creed, etc.21. To avoid inefficiencies bred by monopolies, NLTB should be decentralized in 4 corporations (Eastern-Fiji, Western-Fiji, Central-Fiji and Northern-Fiji) or alternatively based on Fijian Provinces so they can compete for the business and remain efficient
22. NLTB CEOs, Managers and Board must be restricted from Politics or influence of Politicians, Chiefs or nationalists
23. Good Business governance Policies must be put in place to make NLTB transparent, accountable and responsible with 6 monthly audits.24. Govt's only responsibility should be to be a watch dog that the principles fair trade practices are not breached and that tenants are treated fairly.25. Long term leases (preferably greater then 99 years) with fair market rents and proportional profit sharing of profits in cases where leaseholds are sold/ transferred at huge profits. 10. Equitable and fair mechanism put in place so that the NLTB profits are fairly shared by grassroots indigenous and not just some elites and or chiefs.
26. An independent Body of competent professional (consisting of stakeholders, Land owners, and govt. appointed members) created as a watchdog to over see activities of NLTB and its board.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Ideas on Constitutional and Electoral Reforms I

 Satendra made these suggestions as a comment to a posting that has now moved down the page and will soon drift into obscurity.

That is why I would prefer readers to use the Fiji Political and Constitutional Forum Blog.

Nothing moves down the page and specific comments are entered in response to specific questions.  This will improve discussion by keeping everyone focussed on one question at a time.

But Satendra's opinions are too important to be left to the old posting.  That's why I've given his first 16 points (there are 30 overall) a full post of their own here.  ►Click or arrow< or > to read on.  Satendra, I'll probably publish your points 17-25 tomorrow and 26-30 on Friday but whatever I do, I'll really appreciate it if you would take time to slot each of your ideas where it can be fully discussed in the new blog.  And many thanks for these thoughtful ideas. Best wishes,  Croz

To other readers, I'd much prefer you to comment on FPCForum, writing your comments where each belongs, but of course I won't stop you commenting here.

Satendra Singh has left a new comment on your post "The New Forum":

CONSTITUTIONAL AND ELECTORAL REFORMS

Amend the Electoral System as follows:-

1. Lower house (House of Representatives) be downsized to 61 and new electoral system to be
designed which is not race based( ALL Open Seats) or simply 1 person, 1 vote, 1 and equal value ONLY and prefer still to use Preferential Voting system similar to 1997 Constitution.

2. Upper House (Senate to be downsized to 31 not race based( ALL Open Seats) or simply 1 person, 1 vote, 1 and equal value ONLY and prefer still to use Preferential Voting system similar to 1997 Constitution.

3. A minimum qualification, moral and ethical standards enshrined for all contestants of Senate, House of Representatives, Head of state and all other Govt CEOS and political and Constitutional Appointees.

4. Eliminate the race based ministries and Boards like Fijian Affairs (FAB), transfer FAB and provincial Fijian boards and management to NLTB and let them get their own funding from NLTB since NLTB owns 90 % of all land in Fiji. The taxpayers should not be burdened with any of the expenses related to FAB or GCC.

5. President to nominated by the Prime Minister and can be any person who is a qualified Fiji Citizen and not only reserved to indigenous High Chiefs and to be confirmed by majority in Senate.

6. The Prime Minister must command majority in House of Reps and shall be appointed by President.

7. All cabinet Ministers either from House of Reps or Senate, nominated by Prime minister and confirmed by majority in senate.

8. Other checks and balance-related clauses to be included so that all future based governments are based on Consensus rather then race or partisan politics.

9. Clause to prohibit and punish anyone who uses any race based slogans, intimidation, etc or Scare tactics or stirring of indigenous nationalism in Political Campaigns,etc.

10. Change the current legal Voting Age from 21 years to 18 years.

11. Cabinet size to be enshrined into the constitution and not to exceed 18 in any
circumstances unless approved by the legislature.

12. Remove all political powers of GCC from politics and downgrade and recognize GCC to that of traditional and cultural significance ONLY. This will enable all political powers including the appointment of President and Vice President to the elected people (PM, house and senate as discussed above) This will also Remove all VETO powers of GCC nominated Senators with major majority (2/3 or 66%) required in both houses to pass any legislation dealing with Indigenous Lands, Resources and Rights and protection or heritage. Since Indigenous population are more than 52% and thus will always be at least 52 % in the House so no such legislation can be passed without overwhelming indigenous support and as such they will remain protected BUT by the elected People and not some unelected body called GCC.

13. Remove the Multi Party Concept clauses as it creates more political and legal problems then it was actually designed to solve.

14. Redesign the electoral boundaries that is fair and representative of constituents including the current census for accurate voter counts and designing of a systematic and methodical voter
registration system that is fair and free of political bias with some audit trail to ensure that no voter is missed out or left behind due to corruption and political bias

15. Ensure that Elections office and staff are free from political bias to avoid any errors or mishandling including vote rigging.

16. Minimum qualification and character to stand for Public Office to include following:-
(1) At least High School Completion (Form 6)
(2) Must be of good conduct with no criminal records as required of any Govt Jobs
(3) Must have at least 5 years experience in Community service, Social service or at a supervisory level

Not Dead Yet

I can't remember who it was who said "The news of my death is greatly exaggerated" but I thank Fiji Today for their concerned heading, "Croz, where are you?"  with the further note "Blog has been removed Sorry, the blog at crosbiew.blogspot.com has been removed. This address is not available for new blogs."

My  blog seems to have been hit with a double-banger technical hitch. If I were so inclined I'd suspect something sinister.  But the apparent close down seems to be due to Google Blogger, caused  possibly by my switch to the dynamic view. I can now access the blog on my laptop and on my smartphone. 
► Click to read more...
If you can read this posting, your blog access is fine. It would help me to track the problem geographically, if you would send me a short  email, saying "Okay" — or more if you wish. 

Another unrelated issue was raised by a reader  who, noting that the last seven of my postings had not attracted a single comment, asked whether there was a technical hitch or, less generously, whether I was exercising extreme censorship. Another reader said he'd unsuccessfully tried to post three comments. 

This problem seems to be due to Xtra/Yahoo! who send their users an  email this morning apologising  for the slow movement of in and out emails. When readers write  comments they come to me for verification before posting. This enables me to cut out spam, rude and highly personal comments.  I am unsure whether the problem has been fixed but I'm changing blog comments to be received by my gmail account: www.crozwalsh@gmail.com in the hope this will solve the problem. 

My apologies to those who have made comments.  Please re-send. For those making comments today and tomorrow, please get back  to me if your comment is not posted.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

News and Comments Tuesday 26 June 2012

Col, Mosese Tikoitoga
If any reader is having difficulties posting comments, please let me know, croz.walsh@xtra.co.nz ►Click to read.


THE MILITARY AND THE CONSTITUTION COMMISSION. The military,  of course, will also be making submissions.

THE OVERSEAS VOTE. This is an extract of what Apo Gucake had to say on Facebook: "While the constitutions of many countries guarantee the right to vote for all citizens, in reality voters who are outside their home country when elections take place are often disenfranchised because of a lack of procedures enabling them to exercise that right. Overseas voters are a potentially important political force whose votes can in many cases significantly affect election results. Political parties, sitting governments and oppositions are therefore likely to have different views on participation in the elections. External voting is currently allowed by 115 countries... and territories in the world. Of those countries, some two-thirds allow all their citizens a vote from abroad, and one third partially restrict the right to an external vote. One hundred and fifteen countries, or more than 50 per cent of the world’s democracies, guarantee universal suffrage [by] allow[ing] overseas voting."

A SUGGESTION ON JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS from Facebook. "Protect judicial independence, but strengthen judicial accountability through an independent process controlled by the judges. Make gender competence a requirement of judicial appointments. Prohibit appointments on ethnicity and religion. Make judicial decisions immediately available on the net. Give judges powers to quash laws which are unconstitutional." I would urge all those who wish to comment on consititutional and electoral issues to use the blog www.fijipcforum.blogspot.com Fiji Political and Constitutional Forum.

VOTER REGISTRATION. Thirty leaders will be trained for three weeks by Canadian Code Corporation experts on how to operate the electronic voting kit that included filling appropriate forms, picture taking through a web camera, identification of thumb prints and the printing of identification cards. The first workshop was held at the Elections Office in Suva last week, and when all leaders have been trained, they will train their assistants. Voter registration is expected  to take eight weeks, commencing on July 3rd. Fijians living off-shore will also be set-up soon with the voter registration process. 

AIR PACIFIC FROM LOSS TO PROFIT.  Fiji's national airline, Air Pacific, has returned its first operating profit since plunging to a F$91.8 million loss two years ago, declaring a group surplus before tax of F$13.4 million for the year to March 31, compared with an operating loss of F$3.7 million a year earlier.The 2010 loss was attributed partly to "a burst of competition from the arrival of Australian budget carriers Jetstar and Virgin." CEO Dave Pflieger said, ""To report a profit in a year that witnessed significant fuel cost increases, strong and continued competition in a key market from two low cost carriers, and two major flooding crises, is a rousing testament" but he warned that the turnaround was "far from complete" and "we remain mindful that a spike in fuel prices or changes to market conditions and therefore travel plans could impact our success while we finish restructuring. Air Pacific, that is soon to return to its old name, Fiji Airways, carried an additional 85,000 customers last year, compared with the year before, and 122,000 more than in the 2010 financial year.

FIJI MEDIA WARS, first published on Sunday, is the latest Fiji blog arrival. Published by the Head of Journalism at USP, Pacific newcomer Canadian Dr Marc Edge, it has wasted no time in attacking Alex Perrottet, Graham Davis and me.    Citing without comment the FijiToday assertion that Fiji is "unlikely to have a free or fair election" tells us where he stands. It is to be hoped he does not continue to  use his position at USP to side with those who, while appearing to promote media freedom, most obviously want a return to the "good old days" of racism, nepotism and corruption. We all know there are honourable men and women who oppose the Bainimarama government but they rub shoulders with many who are not.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Qarase Emergent: From Pupa to Butterfly

Pupa to butterfly
Watching the slow metamorphosis of former PM Laisenia Qarase from pupa to butterfly may well soon be a spectator sport► Click to read. 


After lying dormant for a year or two, he's slowly emerged to express some concerns about the legality and composition of the Constitution Commission, but for the most part he has left former colleagues Chaudhry and then Beddoes to speak on his behalf. All of them, unsurprisingly, say there is no need for a new constitution. 

But now, following an SDL meeting in Lautoka on Friday, Qarase has acknowledged that "some amendments to the Constitution is (sic!) necessary for example the electoral system needs to be reviewed, as public opinion moves towards the principle of one man, one vote and one value". He then went on to say: “Other aspects of the Constitution need to be reviewed as well [but] there is no need to formulate an entirely new Constitution for Fiji."

Leaving aside the semantics —at what point does an amended constitution become a new constitution?— and Qarase's smart  use of review versus formulate an entirely new constitution, surely, after all this time, we could rightly expect something more specific.

For example, on the electoral issue, what does he think about proportional representation, the size of electorates and the number of electoral candidates?  Does he think the new amended electoral provisions should be embedded in the constitution, as they were in the 1997 constitution, or should they be open to amendment by parliament?   

What has he or his party to say about the powers of the  President, Senate and the Great Council of Chiefs (GCC) that were, with parliament, integral parts of the legislature under the 1997 Constitution? 


We need to be told what  he would retain or amend in these important constitutional provisions. 

Should the President (and Vice-President), for example, be appointed by the GCC on the recommendation of the PM, as in the 1997 Constitution, or should he or she be elected by the nation, or by parliament, or by some sort of electoral commission? What should be the role and  extent of presidential powers?  Should Senate be resurrected, reformed, replaced or abolished? What should be the role of the the GCC? 

In short, precisely what "other aspects of the Constitution need to be reviewed"?  Just the headings would do.

I know it's too early for Qarase and the SDL to inform the public in any detailed way on what they want to see in an amended or new constitution, but they have surely had long enough to flag the main issues they think need attention. The issues they don't flag will then tell us what they wish to leave unchanged. 


Or perhaps they have flagged them already by not mentioning them, and the only thing they are prepared to see changed is the one man one vote issue?

One way or the other, Qarase and the SDL (and, indeed, the FLP and UPP) need to come clean with the public. Sniping at  the Bainimarama Government is not enough.  Government has already signalled most of its wishes in the People's Charter and Roadmap —processes, it should be noted,  that they chose to ignore. Qarase needs to spell out  the main issues, and what he wishes to retain and amend in the Constitution that takes Fiji to the polls in 2014.  He should spell these out before Prof Yash Ghai, the Chairman of the Commission, arrives in about two week's time. In that way, he'll get better feedback from the public.

It would be presumptuous of me to direct their thoughts but  some ideas on the issues that may need attention can be found in the new blog  Fiji Political and Constitutional Forum that lists 30 separate topics on which all are invited to comment. 


If enough people comment, it is sure to assist the  dialogue process but even without comments, reading the list of topics will help an understanding of the many issues that have to be decided by Fijian citizens within the next twenty-four or so months. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Fiji at the UN: Small Country, Big Voice

The sight of Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Peter Thomson, chairing the General Assembly is yet another reminder that although Fiji is a relatively small country, it punches way above its weight. This week, Peter has been Acting President of the General Assembly, conducting the everyday business of the UN from the famous podium that has produced some of  history’s most memorable images – from Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat waving his pistol to Soviet leader Nikita Kruschev banging his shoe. Along with hundreds of speeches from everyone from Che Guevara to Nelson Mandela, from the Queen to Frank Bainimarama.
Click here for the remainder of the  Grubsheet article #99 SMALL COUNTRY, BIG VOICE

Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On

              Go Local

Fiji has beautiful beaches and land marks that are just sitting there in our back yards which tourists pay to visit. And yet we, the locals, don't even know the beauty of Fiji. May I suggest that we go local and travel Fiji to the Yasawas and Mamanucas, to Vanua Levu and the Lau Group, to the Highlands of Fiji where we have little inns and stay at hotels along the Coral Coast and enjoy Fiji.

The New Forum

I was hoping the new forum would assist people to think about the new constitution and prepare submissions for the Constitution Commission. I also thought  the collection of opinions on separate issues could assist the Commission.   It still can but so far not one person has made a comment.  Would you please start the ball rolling this weekend?

Mining Dilemma

The Amex lease at Lautoka
 Mining, and especially opencast and submarine mining, always raises issues that only specialists can answer. A new mine will create jobs, royalties for landowners, income for shareholders, tax revenue for government, and put more money in the local economy.  But the main benefactors are usually the mining companies that send much of their profits offshore, and the mine may also create costly environmental hazards that far exceed its benefits.

This is the dilemma that Fiji now faces as it seeks economic growth in a depressed global economy. To flourish, it cannot continue to rely on tourism, a recuperating sugar industry, and smaller contributions from remittances, garment manufacturing, timber and Vatukoula gold. The new focus on mining, if successful, will greatly assist Fiji's economic recovery.


Namosi Copper and Gold
The Tui Namosi has called the proposed copper and gold mine in Namosi "a blessing" but environmental groups and some landowners are far from convinced. The Country Manager of Namosi Joint Venture, Greg Morris, assured the  Namosi Provincial Council yesterday that no cyanide or mercury will be used to produce copper concentrate from the ore. The project still requires landowner and government permission to go ahead, and the company is currently completing  project studies and an Environmental Impact Assessment report for landowner and government approval.

Meanwhile, villagers have already benefited by a $520,000 grant for students from Namosi and tikina Waidina students wishing to pursue tertiary education, from community and infrastructure development programmes paid for by the Joint Venture, and $200,000 have been paid to landowners this year during the exploration programme.  Two thousand jobs will be generated if the construction of the mine goes ahead.

Bua Bauxite Mine
The newly opened bauxite mine in Bua province, Vanua Levu, worked by Xinfa Aurum currently employs 150 permanent and and 250 seasonal workers. Landowners have so far received close to $20,000 a year for leases and $250,000 for compensation. Mine Manager Vanuaca Basilio says about $2,000,000 in revenue is generated into the economy every month.

Ba River Ironsands
Yet another project is the dredging of ironsands from the Ba River that are to be shipped to Lautoka for export. Australian miner Amex Resources employs 300 people and is estimated to remain profitable for up to 21 years. Dredging will help minimise flood damage but the flip side is that it could also adversely affect fishing and the mangrove ecosystem.

Anti-government blogger Navosavakadua in FijiToday says the company's 91% internal rate of return is "unconscionable" when 30% is the usual rates hoped for by companies investing in developing countries. He says "the illegal regime was practically giving away the nation’s resources." I have no way of accessing his claim.


Gold at Wainivesi and Mt Kasi
Two further developments are the small gold mine at Wainivesi near Suva and the reopening of the Mt Kasi gold mine in Vanua Levu.

Whether any or all of these ventures turn out to be "blessings" is too early to call.

RFMF: Our Role

Yesterday I queried the PM's statement that the RFMF would continue to monitor events after the 2014 election. While this does not necessarily presume the military will "stand over" or attempt to reshape each and every event, the assumption preempts the recommendations of the Constitution Commission and Assembly on the future role of the military.  And for this reason alone,  the PM should desist from such statements and Col. Tikitoga must learn not to rise to every provocation by Gvoernment opponents.



This article from the Fiji Sun
The Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) poses no threat to anyone, one of the top officers said.However, he said it had instilled confidence in all Fijians and investors since taking over leadership in December 2006.
RFMF spokesman and Land Force Commander, Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga, said this in response to continued statements by the United Peoples Party leader, Mick Beddoes, who had been talking about threats from the military.
Reacting to a front page report by the  Fiji Sun on June 13 titled, “Warning” with the sub head RFMF: We fear corrupt leaders coming back” and on the June 15 titled, “PM warns critics”,  Mr Beddoes said the comments made by the Prime Minister represented a real and grave threat.
The Prime Minister had warned politicians about the old political games they were trying to play
the people as they prepared for the constitutional process and  the 2014 general elections.
Mr Beddoes also commented on the fear of the RFMF at the idea of an independent judicial investigation into the events of 2006.
Colonel Tikoitoga said Mr Beddoes had been speaking courageously and without fear against the military and government leadership.
“That is his right under the freedom of speech but he should also be prepared for the reactions from the other parties,” Colonel Tikoitoga said.
On the claim by Mr Beddoes that the RFMF was spreading fear on the statements in the Fiji Sun Colonel Tikoitoga said the UPP president was again using his old political ploys to gain political mileage using the peoples’ emotions.
“He is creating his own threat and is putting the blame on others.
“The spreading of fear and threats by representatives of the military is not consistent with the pledge made by the Prime Minister for wide-ranging, free and inclusive discussions. It is also not in the national interest.
“This is a non-issue and it is political.”
According to Colonel Tikoitoga, Mr Beddoes had started his election campaign by criticising the RFMF and the Prime Minister. However he said the people had confidence in the Prime Minister and the RFMF.
On criticisms about the involvement of the military in the constitutional process, Colonel Tikoitoga said the military would play a very important role in the process.
“RFMF will be there to see that things are done in transparent and accountable manner.”
The fear of the RFMF he said is corrupt politicians   taking advantage of the constitutional process.
Colonel Tikoitoga assured members of the public that the military is there for their protection and at no time should fear their involvement in the constitutional process.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Announcement: Find Your Way Around The New Format

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New and Comments Friday 22 June 2012

A straw man is a type of argument and is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position. To "attack a straw man" is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by replacing it with a superficially similar yet unequivalent proposition (the "straw man"), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position. -- Wikipedia.

CHAUDHRY KNOCKING DOWN A STRAW MAN (or whipping up a storm in a teacup. Take your choice). According to the FLP website, a meeting last  Saturday of 40 members from Ba, Tavua and Ra (not a large turnout in FLP heartland) were "adamant that we do not need to write up a new constitution." They thought the 1997 Constitution should be "retained and amended or added to where considered necessary by the genuine representatives of the people through a forum which should be created for the purpose. This forum should complement the work of the Constitution Commission."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Lack of Racial Parity in Voter Registration Clerk Appointments

FijiToday is to be congratulated for questioning why only 160 of the 1,059 newly appointed clerks are Indo-Fijian or Other races. With so few ITaukei speaking Hindi, registration will inevitably face the same problems as in the 2001 and 2006 elections when ITaukei officials also dominated registration.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

News and Comments Wednesday 20 June 2012

THE WORDING MATTERS. Opponents of the Bainimarama government and the constitutional dialogue process on which Fiji is soon to be engaged, have picked on the PM's statement after launching the electronic voter registration awareness programme: "I don’t have time for critics right now except to say that we started this process and we will see it to the end. You can tell Chaudhry, Beddoes, Qarase, the women’s forum that we started this and we will end it." He was referring to demands that the military step down and the country return to the 1997 Constitution.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

CCF Media Release 19.6.12


New Procurement Decree Lacks Good Governance



The Procurement (Amendment) Regulations 2012 (“Regulations”) promulgated on 25th May 2012 raises serious questions about the extent of accountability and transparency in the government’s procurement practices and how tax payers funds are being spent by the State.

Mick Beddoes and the Other Races


Opinion
Crosbie Walsh

I really can't believe it. As the country struggles to achieve some degree of common purpose before 2014 and a non-racially based election (a non-negotiable element according the military-backed government), Mick Beddoes is calling for the retention of race-based seats in Parliament because it's "too early" to abandon racial voting.* 

His reasons?

Individual and Institutional Racism
He says, "It will take two or three elections before prejudices and mistrust between different ethnic groups completely die out in the country." Which dream world does he live in? Racial prejudice completely gone, of its own volition, within 15 years? I'd predict two of three GENERATIONS for most OVERT prejudices to die out, and even then some people will still be prejudiced. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The New Forum Blog www.fijipcforum.blogspot.com



Fiji Political and Constitutional Forum

This is a new and totally independent blog that invites readers to comment on some 30-odd issues relating to the Constitution and Election dialogues. While there is is provision for general comments covering several issues, the main part of the blog is devoted to one-issue questions. For example, what readers think about the Constitution Assembly, its membership, role and powers; what relationship Fiji should have with the Queen; who should appoint or elect the President, and what his roles and powers should be should be. And so on.

Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On

Allen wth taxi drivers
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.

       National Identity

What is Fiji's national identity? Is it the coconut tree, the kacau, the saqa moli, the iri buli? Many scholars have said that Fiji is a diverse country.  That’s okay but if we look back in history we see the British, who were also part of our history, who brought in the indentured labourers who did so much hard work that they contributed to where we are today. Many modern young “Fijians” still don’t know why the Indians were brought in. Perhaps it is time they were were enlightened!

New Zealand has the Kiwi and the Silver Fern, Australia has the kangaroo and perhaps the wallaby and Waltzing Matilda, to top it of, they also have Ayers Rock and much more. The US has the eagle and whatever else they have. Canada has the maple leaf.

And Fiji? Isn’t it time we looked for a national identity? Perhaps a competition can be conducted to gather information on our people's thoughts. And make sure our national identity is not a church!


Kula, collared lories

Editorial note: My Google check showed Fiji does in fact have a national bird and a national flower but no national animal. The bird is the kula and the flower the tagimoucia.  And then, for a national song other than the national anthem, how about Isa Lei (although the Tongans will contest this!) Listen to this rendition on YouTube.
This is what was said about the tagimoucia: " Growing nowhere else in the world this rare flower is to be found in the crater lake of an extinct volcano on the island of Taveuni in Fiji. It has been proclaimed as Fiji's national flower. There is a legend associated with the flower:
      "Once upon a time, a princess was about to be forced by her father to marry a man she did not love - an arranged marriage. This greatly distressed the young girl, as she was in love with another man - a young boy in the village. In an act of desperation, she ran from the village into the mountains above the village where, finally exhausted, she fell asleep on the edge of the lake. While she was sleeping she cried and when her father and his followers found her the next morning, they saw that the tears had trickled down over her cheeks and turned into the beautiful red flowers. The father - out of love for his daughter - allowed her to marry the man of her choice. Tagimaucia means "to cry in your sleep".  http://www.growsonyou.com/photo/slideshow/114247-fiji-s-national-flower/all  "


Fiji's First Multi-Racial Cricket Club

#93 VALE A MULTIRACIAL PIONEER

 
Philip Snow's Cricket in the Fiji Islands




Remittances Second Largest Source of Foreign Exchange

High costs lead to informal exchange, uncaptured by official sources

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, June 6, 2012) – Remittance remains the second largest foreign exchange earner after tourism says Filimoni Waqabaca, permanent secretary for Fiji’s Ministry of Finance. At the Fiji Institute of Accountants Congress in Nadi today, Waqabaca explained the international remittance and the use of innovative technology through the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs). However, he said across the region, an area of concern is the high cost involved in remitting funds from overseas. “As a result, a large portion of funds are channeled through informal means and therefore not captured in the financial system. Remittance level therefore could be understated,” he said. In 2011, MNOs began offering inward remittance through their mobile money services. Vodafone MPAiSA Fiji launched its first cross-border international remittance to allow Vodafone mobile phone users in Fiji to receive money from relatives and friends in Australia and New Zealand where users can then withdraw cash from their agents around the country. Similarly, Digicel Pacific launched its low cost international remittance service that enables people to send money to Fiji, Samoa and Tonga”.

Comment from GMc. Remittances are in my view the Achilles heel of the Pacific. The Pacific is not the only area where economies are greatly facilitated by financial contributions from overseas. But remittences represent such a large proportion of income in Tonga and Samoa and I am sure a number of other islands. I am not sure what is to be done but I think it would be interesting to know what proportion goes on Capital expenditure and what on consumer items like SUVs and the church.

Friday, June 15, 2012

News and Comments Friday 15 June 2012

WEEKEND READING • Allen Lockington on symbols of national identity • Fiji's first multi-racial cricket club • Remittances • Launch of Fiji Political and Constitutional Forum 


ADI SAMANUNU passes away. May she rest in peace.

FEARING THE RETURN OF CORRUPT LEADERS
. Col. Tikoitonga should not have risen to Mick Beddoes' unhelpful remarks and Mick should stop carping. The most important thing is to help Fiji's future. Taunting Tokoitoga will not help Fiji, and could undermine the constitution process.

THE OVERSEAS VOTE.
This is an extract of what Apo Gucake had to say on Facebook: "While the constitutions of many countries guarantee the right to vote for all citizens, in reality voters who are outside their home country when elections take place are often disenfranchised because of a lack of procedures enabling them to exercise that right. Overseas voters are a potentially important political force whose votes can in many cases significantly affect election results. Political parties, sitting governments and oppositions are therefore likely to have different views on participation in the elections. External voting is currently allowed by 115 countries and territories in the world. Of those countries, some two-thirds allow all their citizens a vote from abroad, and one third partially restrict the right to an external vote. One hundred and fifteen countries, or more than 50 per cent of the world’s democracies, guarantee universal suffrage [by] allow[ing] overseas voting."

I hope Apo makes these points in the new FPCForum blog that will be launched tomorrow Saturday.


 THE WANING FIJITV SAGA. FijiTV chairman Isoa Kaloumaira  confirmed last month's meeting with the A-G, as reported by the anti-Bainimarama blogs, but he said "initial reports that have come out regarding Fiji TV in the international media and the politicization of the issue by the political parties, does not have any merit. He said none of these allegations have been verified by him or the Board of Fiji TV." See also, licence  will be renewed for another 12 years.

QOLIQOLI PROBLEM. Government steps into feud between villagers, their chief and commercial fishermen.

EU MAKES FIJI AID CONDITIONAL on progress.The European Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, says "the EU is very much on the same page as Australia and New Zealand regarding support for Fiji and will follow the advice and analysis of Australia and New Zealand regarding the type of support it will give Fiji." Which is not surprising given that the EU followed their advice in stopping aid in the first place!

ACP URGE SUPPORT FOR FIJI. The African Caribbean and Pacific ministerial group meeting in Vanuatu has urged the European Union to release money due to the Fiji sugar industry.

SUGAR FARMERS URGED TO DIVERSIFY TO HORTICULTURE following the channelling of $63 million from the European Union through the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. Land Resources official Inoke Ratukalou said the sugar industry faced numerous challenges, including the end of the sugar protocol and price support, the price paid for sugar I(down from €24.4 to €18.4) and the consequent drop in production from a peak of 341 000 metric tonnes in 2000 to less than half of that figure today. In addition, the steep slopes and shallow soils that account for 20% of the sugar cane areas, and low lying areas subject to endemic flooding are unsuitable for sugar farming and should put to other uses.“20% of the land presently used for cane production in particularly on the steep slopes with poor and shallow soils is expected to be released for other uses. Ratukalou estimated that some 5,000 farmers have left the industry since 2000.

MINING LICENCE. A Chinese firm has been granted a licence to mine iron sands from the mouth of the Ba River. Once in operation, some 300 new full-time and 50 part-time jobs will be created.

FIJI MADE, BUY FIJIAN.
In a letter to the Fiji Sun (June 13)  Wages Council Chairman has offered conditional support for this Fiji Commerce and Employers' Federation campaign and its $500,00 grant from Government. But he recalls that three years ago the Wages Councils proposed a similar campaign “Promote Fiji Made and Keep Fiji Working”that was short lived due to lack of Government funding.  The accent was on the workers of Fiji and ensuring their employment and decent wages.  He hopes the employers' campaign will have a positive effect on wages because while business may be the “engine” of economic growth, it is the workers who keep the engine moving. Fr Barr also hoped the campaign would be scrutinised by the Ministry of Labour and the Consumer Council to ensure standards in working conditions and products.

FPCF Forum Launching Saturday


 This new site invites readers to comment on 30 constitution and election question.  I trust readers will use it and urge their friends to comment also. Make a start this Saturday and continue to write in as new ideas occur to you over the next few months.  Please note you will need to use your real name or a pseudonym. Without this, useful discussion between readers would be much restricted.  


By  presenting 30 questions, each on a separate issue, your answers will be grouped together, and collectively provide an important resource for information and ideas on each of the questions raised.      


You may also, of course, wish to comment about several things at one time and you should do so, on my blog and on FijiToday that I understand is starting a special section on the constitutional and electoral processes.  Or on the Fiji Constitution Submissions group in Facebook.  But if you do this, please take a little extra time to feed your ideas separately into the places they belong on the FPCF blog.  Vinaka.


The site address is www.fijipcforum.blogspot.com
www.fpcf.blogspot.com