Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sahba Supports Government Draft, and Party Update

The  Arya Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji has commended government for proposing a Constitution that should move the country forward.

Sabha trustee Pt Kamlesh Arya in a statement said the Council of Advisors of the Sabha met and gave a thorough attention to the provisions of the Draft and appreciated its contents which to them are inclusive, uniting and accepting.

Pt Arya said they support the idea of Fiji being Secular and of equal citizenry and appreciated the Bill of Rights provisions. They also acknowledge and appreciate the provisions of Freedom of Religion, Right to education and right to privacy and the removal of the race based politics and reducing the size of the Parliament to 45 representatives. The Independence of the Judiciary and provisions of the Right to equality and Freedom from Discrimination and the provision of the Constitutional authority to the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption have also been welcomed.

The Sabha also notes the non electable position of the President and strongly submits that this provision be reviewed with a view of making the Office of the President electable by the general populace rather than limiting it to the Parliament. “The President holds the highest office in the country and as such ought to carry the mandate of the people rather than the elected representatives. The level of ownership in the proposed draft for the position of the President of the new Republic of Fiji is seriously compromised,” said Pt Arya.

On the issue of the Commander in Chief of the Military is vested in the Prime Minister rather than the President, Pt Arya said the authority of the Commander in Chief of the Military continues to be vested in the office of the President as has been the case so far. He said the shift seems to be entrenching too much of political and executive authority into the office of the Prime Minister. He added that declaration of interests be mandated by the Constitution and elected representatives should declare their interests and personal assets. The Sabha also supports the Bainimarama government’s stance on same sex marriages. The consultations on the draft Constitution will come to an end tomorrow. Source: Fiji Live


Other political news
The Fiji Teachers Union is meeting today  to discuss "The Status of Teachers in an Evolving Democracy:.  Secretary Agni Deo Singh said the union has major concerns with the Political Parties  Decree which prevents unions from forming political parties.

USP Land Management assistant lecturer Paula Raqeukai told Radio Australia any Fiji constitution must recognize indigenous rights, especially in land matters. He said if the constitution does not recognise indigenous rights then it will fail.

Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has repeatedly said landowner’s rights are well protected and government is not going to take land away. Sayed-Khaiyum said the new State Lands (Amendment) Decree 2013 would safeguard iTaukei land ownership and  prevent previous practices that were not transparent and used by previous Governments to profit at the expense of iTaukei landowners. He also said landowner’s permission was a priority for government and their approval is always sort first before using the land.

Ed. note.  I cannot understand why Government does not include a constitutional provision protecting iTaukai land.  It may be unnecessary, as Sayed-Khaiyum says, but its inclusion would remove doubts that are being used by Government opponents to generate opposition to the draft, and to Government itself.

Similarly, I can understand the positions of both Government and the trade unions on the Political Parties Decree and, indeed, the Essential Industries Decree. Some union leaders have been consistently anti-government but government has made the relationship worse by effectively cutting their links to workers at work places. This legislation is arguably necessary until the political situation cools but it should be seen as a temporary measure to be reviewed when an elected government is formed. Government conveys the impression the legislation will be there for all time.

Meanwhile, the old parties are waiting to hear from the Registrar of Political Parties on whether their applications have been accepted. Bernadette Round Ganilau's small  Green party seems a non starter. She says they are "monitoring the big parties for now" but for what purpose is unclear.

Many people in Fiji are crossing their fingers and hoping that the old parties, if re-registered,  have learnt something from the past six years and are now genuine about multi-racialism and a fairer Fiji.  Others doubt there will be any genuine change, and  pin their hopes on the now likely PM's party,  in the belief that it will remain true to its vision for a better Fiji, but with some doubts about some decrees and the future role of the military. Others hope that new political parties will be formed so that they do not have to make a choice between the old parties and Bainimarama's party.  There is time for this yet but the formation of a new political party that has the resources to be effective and to win votes still seems a long way away.   Whatever the final outcome, no one party seems likely to win a majority of seats in the new parliament.



Read more at: http://www.fijilive.com/news/2013/04/ganilau-yet-to-make-party-application/53725.Fijilive
Copyright 2013 © Fijilive.com
FIJI NEWS Ganilau yet to make party application April 29, 2013 02:11:38 PM A+ A- | print | email | mobile Bookmark and Share 0 inShare Follow @ Twitter Former politician Bernadette Rounds Ganilau is yet to apply to register a party for the 2014 general elections. “We are monitoring the big parties for now and have not decided on making an application to form a party yet," Ganilau told FijiLive. “A lot of them have submitted their applications, however we will not be doing anything soon except to just stand on the sideline and observe,” she said. She also confirmed that she will not be joining any proposed political parties soon. Ganilau’s former party Green Party of Fiji was dissolved after the introduction of the new Political Parties’ Decree earlier this year. Ganilau has previously served as former Minister for Labour, Minister for Tourism, Industrial Relations, Productivity and Environment.

Read more at: http://www.fijilive.com/news/2013/04/ganilau-yet-to-make-party-application/53725.Fijilive
Copyright 2013 © Fijilive.com

Copyright 2013 © Fijilive.com
Any Constitution in Fiji has to recognise indigenous rights and this especially includes land, says University of the South Pacific’s Land Management Assistant Lecturer Paula Raqeukai. Raqeukai in his submission on the draft Constitution called for the protection of indigenous rights to land, culture and language, while balancing that with meeting the needs of other communities. In an interview with Radio Australia he said if the constitution does not recognise indigenous rights then it will fail. Meanwhile, Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum while responding to queries about I-taukei land issues said the landowner’s rights are well protected with regards to their land and government is not going to take land away. Sayed-Khaiyum said the new State Lands (Amendment) Decree 2013 would safeguard iTaukei land ownership and do away with previous practices which was not transparent and used by previous Governments to profit at the expense of iTaukei landowners. He also said landowner’s permission was a priority for government and their approval is always sort first before using the land.

Read more at: http://www.fijilive.com/news/2013/04/constitution-should-recognise-indigenous-rights-academic/53730.Fijilive
Copyright 2013 © Fijilive.com
Any Constitution in Fiji has to recognise indigenous rights and this especially includes land, says University of the South Pacific’s Land Management Assistant Lecturer Paula Raqeukai. Raqeukai in his submission on the draft Constitution called for the protection of indigenous rights to land, culture and language, while balancing that with meeting the needs of other communities. In an interview with Radio Australia he said if the constitution does not recognise indigenous rights then it will fail. Meanwhile, Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum while responding to queries about I-taukei land issues said the landowner’s rights are well protected with regards to their land and government is not going to take land away. Sayed-Khaiyum said the new State Lands (Amendment) Decree 2013 would safeguard iTaukei land ownership and do away with previous practices which was not transparent and used by previous Governments to profit at the expense of iTaukei landowners. He also said landowner’s permission was a priority for government and their approval is always sort first before using the land.

Read more at: http://www.fijilive.com/news/2013/04/constitution-should-recognise-indigenous-rights-academic/53730.Fijilive
Copyright 2013 © Fijilive.com
Any Constitution in Fiji has to recognise indigenous rights and this especially includes land, says University of the South Pacific’s Land Management Assistant Lecturer Paula Raqeukai. Raqeukai in his submission on the draft Constitution called for the protection of indigenous rights to land, culture and language, while balancing that with meeting the needs of other communities. In an interview with Radio Australia he said if the constitution does not recognise indigenous rights then it will fail. Meanwhile, Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum while responding to queries about I-taukei land issues said the landowner’s rights are well protected with regards to their land and government is not going to take land away. Sayed-Khaiyum said the new State Lands (Amendment) Decree 2013 would safeguard iTaukei land ownership and do away with previous practices which was not transparent and used by previous Governments to profit at the expense of iTaukei landowners. He also said landowner’s permission was a priority for government and their approval is always sort first before using the land.

Read more at: http://www.fijilive.com/news/2013/04/constitution-should-recognise-indigenous-rights-academic/53730.Fijilive
Copyright 2013 © Fijilive.com
Any Constitution in Fiji has to recognise indigenous rights and this especially includes land, says University of the South Pacific’s Land Management Assistant Lecturer Paula Raqeukai. Raqeukai in his submission on the draft Constitution called for the protection of indigenous rights to land, culture and language, while balancing that with meeting the needs of other communities. In an interview with Radio Australia he said if the constitution does not recognise indigenous rights then it will fail. Meanwhile, Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum while responding to queries about I-taukei land issues said the landowner’s rights are well protected with regards to their land and government is not going to take land away. Sayed-Khaiyum said the new State Lands (Amendment) Decree 2013 would safeguard iTaukei land ownership and do away with previous practices which was not transparent and used by previous Governments to profit at the expense of iTaukei landowners. He also said landowner’s permission was a priority for government and their approval is always sort first before using the land.

Read more at: http://www.fijilive.com/news/2013/04/constitution-should-recognise-indigenous-rights-academic/53730.Fijilive
Copyright 2013 © Fijilive.com
Any Constitution in Fiji has to recognise indigenous rights and this especially includes land, says University of the South Pacific’s Land Management Assistant Lecturer Paula Raqeukai. Raqeukai in his submission on the draft Constitution called for the protection of indigenous rights to land, culture and language, while balancing that with meeting the needs of other communities. In an interview with Radio Australia he said if the constitution does not recognise indigenous rights then it will fail. Meanwhile, Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum while responding to queries about I-taukei land issues said the landowner’s rights are well protected with regards to their land and government is not going to take land away. Sayed-Khaiyum said the new State Lands (Amendment) Decree 2013 would safeguard iTaukei land ownership and do away with previous practices which was not transparent and used by previous Governments to profit at the expense of iTaukei landowners. He also said landowner’s permission was a priority for government and their approval is always sort first before using the land.

Read more at: http://www.fijilive.com/news/2013/04/constitution-should-recognise-indigenous-rights-academic/53730.Fijilive
Copyright 2013 © Fijilive.com

Sunday, April 28, 2013

It Takes Guts, But More than Guts is Needed

By Crosbie Walsh


I take my hat off to Jagath Karunaratne. named after the Buddhist concept of compassion. He is a courageous man who attacks Government and then accidentally exposes the ineptness of its political opponents — and his own political preferences. .

Accused and convicted last year along with another three others for spraying political graffiti at several locations around Suva calling for violent action against the Bainimarama government, he faced up to the Attorney-General at a public consultation at Rishikul last week and asked very blunt  and, at first glance, reasonable questions on immunity, the Ghai draft constitution and the elections. 
 
Asked to elaborate by Coup 4.5, he said he cannot accept the Bainimarama Government because it is illegal. His focus seems to be on what he sees as infringements that limit political participation. He seems unconcerned about the positive things Government has done with which, in other circumstances, he may agree. He wants to believe in free and fair elections but doubts this is likely given the "hindrances placed placed by way of law on political parties." He wants broader participation in the political process, and questions Government's claim that it has nationwide support for its reforms,  but then, curiously, he asks which "NGOs, religious groups and others" support Government. 
 
This, of course, is the major obstacle to public participation, and indeed to democracy, in Fiji. Most of the  people and organizations that speak out against Government represent the views of the old Fiji, with its racial divisions and personal agendas. Indeed, Jagath concedes as much in his statement to Coup 4.5:

"While they [the political parties] are struggling to bring out the truth [sic!] to the public due to the prevailing conditions in Fiji today and the obstacles placed upon political parties, they are finding it difficult to play their usual role [sic!] as political leaders" (my emphasis). 
 
It is here that we have the first inkling that Jagath's call for action is not all that it may seem to be. He is not calling for new political parties or new leaders with a different vision for Fiji or offering to personally be a part of new approaches, though he does question the tactics of the old politicians.

"What are our (sic!) leaders doing, he asks:
 "We currently have the political leaders who are issuing statements every other day screaming for democracy, claiming the current administration is not legitimate while abiding to every single decree thrown at them which is clearly confusing the general public."

He looks to these old leaders for a "vision and plan for the people of Fiji in the event they succeed in overthrowing (sic!) the current administration." 
 
Here he is again. Back to his old graffiti days in 2011, calling for violence. He goes on to say he wants a "principled approach to address all the issues which you yourselves as traditional leaders are raising.." But it is unclear what the principles are. 

All he calls for is a change of tactics: Stop playing the Government's game, he says. In calling for a referendum on the draft constitution (and possibly on the future prime minister) you are accepting the illegal government's process. And what happens if the public vote in support of government? 
 
He continues:
"Aren’t we [the leaders] going to become a laughing stock? Most of all a scenario as such goes ahead with a referendum and any possible win by the current administration will make their whole process legitimate and firm as a rock."
Aha! A possible win? So the Government must have some support.

But we should be grateful to him for exposing the total lack of direction by the old leadership other than returning things to how they were, as has been commented upon several times in this blog:

"As political leaders you need to change your game plan, come up with a road map for new Fiji, how are you going to remove the current administration and adapt your road map, how is it going to affect the people in Fiji as a whole, how are you planning to address their issues and most of all who are proposing as the next possible administration whether it is interim or otherwise. This is where you confuse the people and also show them that you do not have a plan A or B or C.
"If you are unable to come up with a road map for Fiji, then we as people of Fiji would accept the known devil than the unknown angel as the only leadership we can see with at least some plans. If you do not have a clear roadmap then how are you going to get the international community on your side as by the looks of things the only thing they care now is elections? They are eagerly waiting to the current administration to be legitimized to join hands openly and go on their usual business."

I need not go on. Jagath presents himself a reasonable man though something of a martyr for the cause. And, as you read though his article in Coup 4.5, it is increasingly clear what this cause is. Free elections, yes, but with the old politicians and chiefs back in power again.. Not free elections and any whiff of a Government victory. 

 No wonder Coup 4.5 asked him to elaborate on the opinions he expressed to the Attorney-General — and no wonder the A-G  dismissed them, prior warned by Jagath's behaviour of his deeper purposes. Forward to the past, by any means.









Saturday, April 27, 2013

Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On

Best Value Under the Sun?
(Not to Rotuma) 

I read somewhere on the web the wonderful slogan for our domestic airline Pacific Sun as 'Best Value Under The Sun'.

Pacific Sun management and bosses are urged to treat their patrons and the islanders of Rotuma with more dignity and be more responsible and be more sympathetic and in the caring manner you run their air services from Fiji to Rotuma.

Yesterday 19th April 2013 at least 12 passengers left their homes as early as 12.30am from Suva and made confirmed holiday plans from as far as Hawaii to visit their exotic, incomparable island paradise.
A traditional island welcome was organised on the island to excitedly welcome the arrival of a new member  of a family. A lot of preparations went into welcoming a kainaga who now makes his return to the island after 30 forlon years. Not far behind was a father excitedly looked forward to meeting up with his daughter and niece with friends from Fiji on the island who are there for three months for the first time. And he is going back after 28 years since his school days. A group of  five were greatly anticipated by their friends and brothers in Rotuma.

One should have been at Nadi Airport to see the smiling beaming faces braving the cool morning, happily queued up amongst the group with baggage prepared with much love and care for their island kinsfolk.
And then we got the "Best Value Under the Sun". Of the 12 but maybe more passengers (too dejected to count) that turned up and had called Pacific Sun a day earlier and were confirmed as booked to fly were shot by the sacrificial lamb behind the counter when he said they would only take four passengers.
Months of preparation and anticipation, fares paid at least two months in advance of $632 one way.  At least Pacific Sun got  the Best value on bank interest under the sun.
We urge Pacific Sun please,to do justice to your air service to Rotuma. With the many economic investments going into Rotuma you need to allow a wider neck for your bottle. Investors and peoples time is important and patrons plan their holidays and events months and months well in advance.
Help the island grow its economy and have in place a regular, reliable and trustworthy service.
Should a flight get cancelled for bad weather or over booked cargo, can you consider running a supplementary flight for people as soon as possible, if not on the same day?

The people of Rotuma support Pacific Sun well by putting up with airfares that can take them two return trips to overseas destinations.

One of our nieces travelled to Rotuma three weeks ago and the same incident was experienced at Nadi Airport. She was called three  times to go to the airport with three cancellations. We understand this is an ever going problem with Pacific Sun and their  flight to Rotuma.

We too want the 'Best Value Under The Sun' for the Rotuma air service.



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. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Fiji Military in Our New Constitution

By Subhash Appana

The hottest topic in the country right now, despite the resounding political-economic and diplomatic successes of Commodore Bainimarama in PNG, is the new constitution. On the other hand, the most troubling thought in people’s minds is the role of the Fiji military and the spectre of coups that has dogged the country ever since it was decided in 1987 that a coup was not only needed, but acceptable for the country in order to ensure that “democracy was alive and well” in this our blessed country.

The reason why people think of coups in connection with the Fiji Military Forces is because each of Fiji’s coups has either been directly executed by the FMF or been backed by the same. In May 1987, even though Rabuka was the number three within the then RFMF, he had the backing of both the numbers within the force as well as the Fijian establishment – that helped legitimize and enforce that coup. The same happened in September 1987 after the Deuba Accord – between Ratu Mara, Ratu Penaia and Doctor Bavadra - displeased certain sections of the Fijian establishment.

In 2000, the Speight Coup was executed by a band of opportunists who had among them highly trained military personnel. This however, was only the first layer of the narrative. Ensuing layers showed chiefs, disaffected politicians, irate pastors, ambitious bureaucrats and threatened businessmen. The support structure for that coup however, did not end there - there was a direct military link. The CRW soldiers who ramrodded Speight’s siege of parliament for 56 days were an elite part of the FMF. Later they were joined by other soldiers led by Major Jo Savua.

The 2006 coup was both planned and executed by the FMF after a prolonged face-off with the SDL government extending to the installation of Qarase as interim-PM in July 2000. At that point in time, the FMF ruled within a framework of national emergency and Qarase was given the headship of the government executive by Commodore Bainimarama who had elicited an undertaking from the former banker that no coup-tainted persons would become part of government. This was later defied by an increasingly slick and pro-2000 coup Qarase. That was what led to the 2006 coup.

It can be seen from the brief history of coups outlined above that all of Fiji’s coups had military involvement. Thus it should be abundantly clear that only the FMF can successfully execute coups in Fiji. And by the same token, only the FMF can prevent coups in the country. This clearly spells that the FMF must have a role in the upcoming framework of government being proposed by the Bainimarama government. Just what that role would be, is not clear as we’ll see shortly.
It is with this in mind that a concerned Taveuni villager, Sevanaia Watekini, recently asked the AG if there were any provisions in the draft constitution that would guarantee there wouldn’t be any more coups in Fiji (FT 18/4/13). Mr. Sayed-Khaiyum’s response is interesting as he mentioned that indeed the draft constitution did have mechanisms to address this. Firstly, he referred to Section 130 (3) which states: The Prime Minister must appoint a Commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, who shall be responsible for exercising military executive command of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces.
In the above proviso, the PM acts as Commander-in-Chief of the FMF. It needs to be noted that in earlier constitutions, the President was the Commander-in-Chief, but this did not prevent coups even though those Presidents were highly respected and loved (one might add). So how can the public be assured that by making the PM Commander-in-Chief, Fiji would re-bottle the coup genie? Sure, with Commodore Bainimarama as PM, we have an assurance. But what happens when he is no more?
The second explanation that the AG gave in Taveuni was that development is being carried to undeveloped rural areas of Fiji. He used the example of Naitasiri, implying that if that province had been assisted and developed adequately, the Naitasiri support for Speight’s coup would not have materialized. Sure, but didn’t the Qaranivalu play a role in galvanizing Naitasiri support? Is the chief no longer a force of influence within the traditional Fijian system? And how much assistance is enough to pre-empt coups?
It is obvious from the above that more thought needs to be given to the issue of the role of the Fiji Military Forces and coups. In fact, this appeared to also have crossed the AG’s mind when like a true lawyer he added, "I don't think any government around the world can guarantee to stop a coup but there have been mechanisms put in place to prevent a coup." It is these “mechanisms” that I wish to talk about next.

The draft constitution says: 130 (2) It shall be the overall responsibility of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces to ensure at all times the security, defence and well-being of Fiji and all its residents. This however, becomes meaningless when a coup is executed by the FMF. The conundrum that arises is: can the military be given a constitutional role vis-à-vis government and coups? Two additional questions arise as corollaries: Can coups be prevented in Fiji? And what do we do in the event of a coup?
One possible proposal arises from the concept of “Guarded Democracy”. If the FMF were to be constitutionally established as the “guards” of democracy in Fiji, they would have the legal means to execute a coup to ensure that democracy delivers and is not hijacked as was the case that led to the 2006 coup. In other words, a coup of the type executed by Commodore Bainimarama would no longer be a coup as it would involve the military simply executing its role as the guards of democracy within constitutional provisos.

Fiji would then accept the coups (as has always happened) and we would find a constitutional path back to democratic governance while the military would return to barracks within the confines of the constitution. No international outcry from indignant, inadequately informed neighbours, no legal wrangles, no sanctions, less uncertainty, and most importantly an extremely cautious new government fully committed to the ideals of true democracy. Just think about it!



Subhash Appana is an academic and political commentator. The opinions contained in this article are entirely his and not necessarily shared by any organizations he may be associated with both in Fiji and abroad. Email appanas@hotmail.com
Sent 24/4/13





Monday, April 22, 2013

Fiji Loses a Wise Leader in the Passing of the Tui Macuata

The Tui Macuata, Ratu Aisea Katonivere, paramount chief of the most populous province in the Nortern Division, drowned last week in the waters he had fought so hard to protect. A firm believer in racial equality and a strong supporter of the Bainimarama Governent, he will be sorely  missed by many. 

This is the PM's official message of condolence:

The Government and the people of Fiji join the Vanua of Caumatalevu in the Macuata Province, in mourning the passing of its high chief, Na Turaga Nai Taukei Bolatagane Ratu Aisea Cavunailoa  Katonivere.

Ratu Aisea played a fundamental role in the development of our nation in particular through government’s Northern Development Plan. His genuine concern for climate change saw him strongly advocate environmental concerns at both the community and national level.

Ratu Aisea was a gentlemen in all sense of the word. His chiefly status did not deter him from hearing the views of all Fijians regardless of race, religion or creed. As a chief, these are values that inspire each of us.

His determination to see the development of a unified Fiji is a legacy that each of us will strive to fulfill.

Once again my government offers its sincere sympathies to the people of the Province of Macuata and to the family of Ratu Aisea Cavunailoa Katonivere.

JV Bainimarama


MEDIA RELEASE: FIJIAN PRIME MINISTER TO LEAD DELEGATION TO CHIEFLY FUNERAL 
The Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama will lead a government delegation this week to pay respects for the Late Tui Macuata, Ratu Aisea Cavunailoa Katonivere before his funeral this Saturday. 
The Prime Minister, who is also the Minister for I-Taukei Affairs, will present the Fijian Government’s iTaukei traditional condolences known as the i reguregu.
He will be accompanied by senior government officials including the Minister for Rural and Maritime Development Mr Inia Seruiratu. Officials from the Office of the Commissioner Northern will accompany the delegation.
Earlier today the head of government paid tribute to the Late Tui Macuata and highlighted his efforts in promoting rural and national development.
“Ratu Aisea played a fundamental role in the development of our nation in particular through government’s Northern Development Plan. His genuine concern for climate change saw him strongly advocate environmental concerns at both the community and national level,” Prime Minister Bainimarama said.
“Ratu Aisea was a gentlemen in all sense of the word. His chiefly status did not deter him from hearing the views of all Fijians regardless of race, religion or creed. As a chief, these are values that inspire each of us. His determination to see the development of a unified Fiji is a legacy that each of us will strive to fulfil”.
The government delegation will present the i-reguregu on Friday this week before the burial of the late chief on Saturday morning in his village of Caumatalevu in Macuata.

It Would be Laughable If It Were Not So Pathetic

By Crosbie Walsh

Having protested, for the past six years, that the Bainimarama government is illegal — and having refused invitations by the "illegal" government to join discussions on the People's Charter, and having then opposed every move by the government (the Roadmap, the setting up of the Constitution Commission,  names for the Constituent Assembly) and having, more recently, declined to attend  public meetings on the Government's draft constitution — the United Front for a Democratic Fiji has now challenged Government to a televised public  debate on "the merits and demerits on the Peoples Draft and the 2013 Regime Draft." (If here in Godzone the Wellington Hurricanes had thought up the idea, it  would have challenged John Key in similar fashion years ago, and the "Cake Tin* would have become the Beehive**)

The so called "Peoples Draft" is that proposed by the Ghai Commission whose appointment and work they opposed from day one. Only when, contrary to their expectations, the Commission's draft was known to include recommendatons contrary to Government wishes did the elements of the newly formed UFDF (mainly the old political parties) do an about-face and embrace the Ghai draft in toto.

This was also a surprise because many of the draft's provisions were counter to what they said they wanted for Fiji when they made their submissions to the Commission. The most obvious was the mainly iTauekei SDL submission that wanted to increase the political influence of the Great Council of Chiefs and retain the special provisions for the iTaukei establishment, and the insistence by both the SDL and the mainly Indo-Fijian FLP that Fiji retain race-based electorates. 

Yet some who are now involved in  the UFDF, notably the NFP, some trade unionists and former UPP's Mike Beddoes, wanted the Government's one man, one vote, one value system  and the abolition of race-based parties, electorates and voting. This raises the question of why they have now joined with the SDL in the UFDF. One might have expected them to spell out where they agree and disagree with those with whom they now share the same bed.

Graham Davis (see link)  has discussed why Government rejected the Ghai draft and I will not repeat his reasons here, but one issue was that in recommending a National Peoples Assembly to oversee parliament, the Commission was giving more power to an unelected "public" than it gave to the elected parliament. Why the UFDF would support such a recommendation and why Government would reject it may seem to be based on principle, and perhaps in part it is. But there's a more mundane explanation. The "public" would include a significant number of NGO leaders and others from among the urban elite who have been most outspoken against the Bainimarama government. Both Government and the UFDF are fully aware of this.

The Ghai draft also provided Government opponents with another "window of opportunity" in proposing that the Bainimarama Government step aside prior to the 2014 election. In a televised debate, it could be reasonably argued that this would prevent Government from interfering with the election process. But, again, the issue is who exactly would take over the reins, and the answer is the same: the vocal urban elite who are sympathetic to many of the demands of the UFDF because they are concerned about the loss of freedoms under the Bainimarama government.

In their statement, the UFDF said "the local and regional media should be permitted to broadcast the debates and people should be allowed to vote at the end of each debate and the winner declared.... The UFDF is keen to engage in these debates so as to allow the people to hear both sides of the argument at the same time, and be able to make an informed decision."

All this is superficially laudable except for the popularity vote and the notion that by hearing both sides people would make an informed decision. The fact is that television is not an appropriate medium for informed debate. It can touch on issues, some claims and information can be exchanged and contradicted, and it can project the personality of the speakers, but for most people it will merely confirm their prior views if, indeed, they understand all that has been said in a debate conducted in English. 

It would have been better, if the UFDF is serious about the debate and not simply making a seemingly reasonable proposal that will be rejected, had they proposed debates in the main languages with team of three lead, for example, by the PM (with Ratu Inoke Kubuabola) v. Ratu Jone Kubuabola (with Tupeni Baba) in the iTaukei language; the Attorney General v. Mahendra Chaudhry (with Attar Singh) in Fiji Bhaat; and the A-G v. Mike Beddoes in English. A debate in English is targeted at the educated, urban elite and would probably do more to confuse than enlighten the average citizen.

But this and the UFDF debates will not happen.  

The sole political issue facing Fiji at the present time is whether to accept the draft proposals of the Bainimarama Bovernment and its plans for a fairer, more equal and less racially-orientated, or to accept the proposals of the likes of the UFDF.

Equality v. Freedoms
Neither will result in a perfect democracy.  The Bainimarama option will result in a "limited democracy" where equality is more important than freedoms. The UFDF option will result in returning Fiji to another form of a limited democracy where the freedoms enjoyed by the UFDF, the educated, urban elite and middle class (and not enjoyed by grassroots Fiji) are more important than racial and socio-economic equality.

Individual members of the UFDF can still play a useful role in shaping Fiji's future, but their latest gimmick is pathetic.  They must know it will not be accepted. And they must know their proposal will further destabilise the political situation, keeping people apart who should be talking with each other. Many, however,  will see their proposal as evidence that Bainimama is indeed correct: too many in the opposition are pushing their own agendas with little concern for Fiji's future. Having once tasted power, they are loath to give up, and they quite understandably have doubts about whether they will be elected in 2014.  

This is especially so for  two UFDF members, Tupeni Baba and Mick Beddoes, who have shifted sides and renounce their earlier multi-racial principles in order to gain a larger support base by joining the reformed SDL. Without this support, they will be nobodies in 2014. 

They may be nobodies anyway but if they and other members of the UFDF wish to be somebodies in 2014, they need to rethink their tactics. Use the momentum of the opposing player and avoid head on  tackles.

 _________________________________________________________________

* Popular name given to the sports arena built on railway land close to Wellington's CBD, and the Hurricanes home ground.
** Beehive, popular name given to the beehive-shaped Parliamentary Building.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Where are the Women?

Sharon Bhagwan-Rolls, Femlink

Ed. note. I see no good reason why Government does not include specific  references in the draft constitution to women and iTaukei land.  Land may be protected in other ways, as Government says, but inclusion in the constitution would remove many fears, however unrealistic they may be. And the same may be said about specific references to promoting gender equality. -- Croz  

Rural women leaders continue to voice disappointment that the Fiji Government Draft Constitution is not inclusive of the collective call from women for Temporary Special Measures to support gender equality inparliament.

As 27 women leaders met in Nausori today during FemLINKPacific's monthly women's community media network consultation, they reflected on their participation in the 2012 constitution and their recommendations including 50:50 representation for women were reflected in FemLINKPacific's October 2012 submission:

"Today's Nausori 1325 Rural Consultation saw women from around the
Nausori/Tailevu area travel at least an hour from their homes and the common
concern was amendments by the government to the inital constitution making
processes was causing confusion and (political) anxiety."

The women whose priorities are documented every month through
FemLINKPacific's Women, Peace and Human Security reports and radio
programmes which contribute to the "Here are the Women" documentation have
reiterated that the government draft must also be made available in the
itaukei and Hindi language.

The pace of the current consultation process is not empowering and
participatory and their is also uncertainty about how the Constitution will
be finally adopted without a Constituent Assembly in place.

These concerns have also been conveyed through FemLINKPacific's position
paper on the government draft and the recent Fiji Women's Forum which
included representatives from FemLINKPacific's rural community media
network.

Sharon Bhagwan-Rolls, Executive Director: FemLINKPacific
(www.femlinkpacific.org.fj), M +6799244871

April 17, 2013
Nausori, Fiji 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Different Views on Role of Journalists

This report from the Wellington meeting of regional journalists and politicians.

http://www.facebook.com/katrina.lawton.7?fref=pb&hc_location=profile_browser

The Pacific Axis Shifts

This link to Graham Davis's Grubsheet article

# THE PACIFIC AXIS SHIFTS


Thursday, April 18, 2013

News and Comments Thursday 18 April 2013


Poker: upping the ante
UFDF UPS THE ANTE** A high powered group of former politicians from the United Front for a Democratic Fiji met in Sigatoka village yesterday to speak against the Government's draft constitution. They said they were invited. The village head said they were given permission but not invited.

While there, they launched a petition calling for a return to the Ghai draft constitution. Nation-wide, they hope to collect 300,000 signatures. And separately, Mahendra Chaudhry,  a leading member of the UFDF,  is calling for a referendum.

The objective of these rear-guard actions is clear.: to undermine confidence in the Government's constitutional and electoral processes among Fijians and the international community in the forlorn hope that they will somehow be returned to power.

The strategy is not new.  One or another, or all at different times,  of the groups represented in the UFDF has opposed the Bainimarama Government every step of the way.

All opposed the coup. The SDL most vocally; Chaudhry's FLP rather more quietly. The high chiefs and the SDL opposed the People's Charter, Chaudhry, having then left (or having been dismissed from) the Bainimarama Government opposed the Roadmap. When Qarase's appeal that the coup was illegal under the 1997 Constitution was upheld by the Court of Appeal, Government had a choice: abandon what it was trying to do and hand over power to those it had deposed, or abrogate the Constitution. It chose the latter.

With the constitution abrogated, the anti-bandwagon grew bigger, and with each of their actions a government reaction followed. Public Emergency Regulations (PER) were passed, media freedom was severely restricted, and a number of politicians, their supporters and prominent unionists were briefly detained by the police.

When the Constitution Commission was appointed Government opponents had a brief opportunity to seek a closer matching of their expectations with political realities. Instead, they denounced the Commission, and those appointed as Commissioners, even including Prof Ghai. They then played a game of hard to get. At first they said they would not be making submissions, later it was "Well, perhaps we will" and finally they all made submissions. They played the same game on whether or not they would participate in the Constituent Assembly until eventually the calling of the Assembly was abandoned.

When they heard on the coconut wireless that the Ghai draft expressly excluded some of the things wanted by Government, they did a cartwheel and then came out in full support of the Commission's draft, even though its recommendations were very, very different from what they wanted in their own submissions.

What brought about this change of heart?  I think what appealed to them most in the Ghai draft were the transition arrangements that could have allowed them to influence outcome before the 2104 election. Unfortunately for them, their very public support of Ghai and condemnation of the Government action overriding his draft and the announcement that it would prepare its own draft put an end to this possibility. There would be no transitional arrangements. The Bainimarama government would remain in power until the first parliament met after the elections.

This pushed Government opponents even more together, and even more into open conflict with Government. What is more, the lifting of PER and the relaxation of restrictions on the the media, and on meetings, movement and association,  provided them with new opportunities and, consistent with their earlier strategy, they have continued to oppose every Government action.

The formation of the UFDF and its latest move to launch a petition  has upped the ante, and increased the risk of a return to government clamp downs.  The UFDF does not say what it wants for Fiji.  It cannot, because each faction wants very different things. All it can say is what it does not want, and this is never a strong base from which to move forward. There must be better ways of promoting s more inclusive democracy that banging one's head against a brick wall.

Meanwhile, PNG has offered $40m to help run the elections, the EU and NZ have also offered assistance and several chiefs, most notably the Tui Macuata,  have called on the people to support the Bainimarama Government.  See also the next item.

** A gambling term. If you up the ante, you increase the stakes (the money on the table) and you also increase the risk of losing it all.


DRAFT WILL END THE RACE-BASED SYSTEM. The mata ni tikina of Nailaga in Ba, Jeremaia Tuwai, says it is time to move away from the race-based system and the playing the race card in the country. While speaking in Lautoka at a draft constitution consultation session last week, Tuwai said that for too long they have been misled by people.

He said the people of Nailaga commend the draft constitution and firmly believe that this is by far the best draft constitution written. Tuwai said the i-taukei people for long have been followers and have been misled but things will change now.

The reaction of Dr Tupeni baba of the UFDF to Tuwai's statement is interesting.  He dismissed it, saying there are no substantive comments and if someone has to talk from Ba, it has to be Tuwai’s chief, Adi Laite Koroirau.

So a tikina (district) within a province is not entitled to an opinion unless it has the support of a higher chief?  If this sort of attitude also applies (as I think it does) to the collection of iTaukei signatures for the UFDF petition, is Tupeni saying that ordinary iTaukei should sign or not sign according to the command of their chiefs?  And if so, what does this say about the sort of democracy he wants for Fiji?

LESSENING THE LIKELIHOOD OF FUTURE COUPS. Asked whether the draft constitution will prevent future coups, the A-G said the draft constitution proposes making the PM also the Commander in Chief of the RFMF, and this should lessen the possibility of future coups.

McCULLY'S YES AND NO on Fiji's "progress."

FIJI HAS REPRESENTATIVES IN THE INAUGURAL PACIFIC FORUM that starts  in Wellington today.

FIJI-PNG RELATIONS. Trade increasing, and PNG is inviting Fiji investment.  The PM is currently on  a state visit to PNG.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Region journalism

REGION: Media critics see new report as hopeful for ‘dysfunctional’ national bodies



Communications Fiji’s news director Vijay Narayan speaking at the Media and Democracy symposium at the University of the South Pacific last year. Image: David Robie/PMC
Sunday, April 7, 2013
Item: 8246
National media associations in the Pacific have been reported as “dysfunctional and fractured” and are seen by some as irrelevant. However, a proposed new scheme may help provide a solution to some of these issues. Holly Ryan reports.
AUCKLAND (Asia-Pacific Journalism / Pacific Scoop / Pacific Media Watch): When asked to think about the Pacific, sandy beaches and remarkable underwater caves with a myriad of tropical fish are often the first thing to come to mind for New Zealand audiences
A history steeped in financial and political pressures, civil wars and fighting, however, is sometimes more accurate.
This “darker side” to the Pacific is often overlooked or only briefly brushed over in the news. So how can an area that has been so fraught be so largely overlooked in the media? According to a recent aid agency report, it comes down to a lack of media unity in the Pacific.
Almost every country in the Pacific over the last century has undergone some form of internal struggle. The current ongoing struggle in Fiji paints a clear picture of this.
In situations such as this, the media plays a vital role in informing not only the world of the issues facing a country, but also in informing local people of issues occurring in their backyard.
With the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day coming up next month on May 3, the issues around freedom and unity of the media in the Pacific are increasingly important to address.
Investigations into these issues have painted a bleak picture of media in the Pacific.
Breakdown of associations
A recent report, “Strengthening National Media Associations in the Pacific”, was written by Pesi Fonua (Matangi Tonga publisher and president of the Tongan Media Council) and Jean-Gabriel Manguy (former head of Radio Australia), looking into the effectiveness of national media associations in the Pacific.
They found that in every country, national media organisations are either disassociated and weakened, absent altogether or exist only in name.
Some commentaries, such as from Pacific Media Watch, have highlighted the “dysfunctional and fractured” findings or, from Cafe Pacific, lack of discussion about accountability in the report.
Kalafi Moala, owner and publisher of the Taimi ‘o Tonga, believes the problem with these organisations and with media councils is that they do not have a clear objective.
“There is no clear reason why media councils exist, they are seen as irrelevant by the public. At the moment, if no media council existed for example in Tonga, it wouldn’t really affect anyone because at the moment they are not able to do very much.”
According to the report commissioned by the Pacific Media Assistance Scheme (PACMAS), national media associations in the Pacific face numerous issues which have pulled these organisations apart or have forced them to take sides to survive.
Media freedom and independence are either openly restricted, such as in Fiji, or exist in a climate of intense media pressure such as Vanuatu.
Despite the magnitude of these issues, Pesi Fonua is confident that the report will make a difference in the Pacific.
“There is a good chance now to sort things out. At the moment there is nothing in place. We are starting small but once you start something it can snowball,” he told Pacific Scoop.
“This plan has a good foundation, good reason, good ideas and realistic timeline. I think this could work.”
Proposed plan
The report outlines three key objectives to try to strengthen national media associations in the Pacific, and highlights the importance of having a “professional, diverse and independent media”.
The report firstly discusses the need to have active media associations. This would involve the media and its supporters becoming more involved in their communities and working together to focus on key issues.
Secondly, these media groups must be committed to being professional and ethical, as well as being advocates for free media.
Finally, these organisations must be simple, flexible, and able to adapt to the needs of its members. Improved training and education for the media is also covered in this report.
Professor Mark Pearson of Griffith University in Australia believes that while the report is well-written and planned, the execution of this plan might prove a little more difficult.
“The problem with national media associations are that they attempt to bring together quite different interests. You have journalists who are working in often quite competitive environments being asked to put aside their differences and come together on these issues.”
Despite the issues so clearly outlined and the subsequent importance of this, the report has been largely ignored by the wider media.
Not surprising
This is not surprising, however, when the number of previous attempts at media unity are considered. It has been a long and uphill battle for media associations in the Pacific, and not all who have read the report are so enthusiastic about it.
According to Bob Howarth, former general manager of the Papua New Guinea Post-Courier, the scheme, while a good idea, will take a lot of money and time.
He is sceptical that without strong leaders and key figures in every country to support the scheme, that this could end up as so many other plans have been in previous years, a media “flavour of the month” which fades as quickly as it began.
Veteran New Zealand broadcaster Pat Craddock, who has more than six years experience in Fiji and has worked all over the Pacific, agrees saying that, “there is nothing negative in this report, but there is nothing new either.”
Financial issues
Craddock also highlighted the financial issues in the Pacific as playing a major role in the breakdown of the media, and said that you often find journalists are very poorly paid in the Pacific.
According to Craddock, in most Pacific Island countries, more than four out of five journalists are paid under $15,000, which is less than a secondary teacher earns straight out of college.
Pearson also discussed this point.
“What ends up happening is that journalism becomes a calling or a career of conscience, and these journalists end up paying a huge price to do this compared to their peers and others in their age group.”
The scant resources available and low wages mean that many journalists end up working for the government or in public relations where there is more money and better working conditions.
This often leads to diminished reporting capabilities and in many countries such as Tonga and Samoa, the media are seen as a joke and are disregarded.
Lack of training 
Howarth believes the main issues for media in the Pacific are financial and political pressures, but more importantly, the lack of resources and training for journalists in the region.
“Journalists in the Pacific need better training and assistance. In Papua New Guinea, hardly any of the media are using the internet, there needs to be a better level of training.”
The problem with this, as outlined in the report, is the lack of resources and funding available to these national media organisations. There are limited media bodies or advocacy agencies, and those that do exist have few resources and limited lobbying power.
This is particularly true in smaller countries such as Nauru and Tuvalu where the media is entirely government controlled.
Internet usage also varies hugely between countries; Vanuatu has a population of around 225,000 and has 7.6 percent internet usage, compared with French Polynesia which has a population of around 260,000 and 40.7 percent internet usage.
The extreme variation between these countries mean it is difficult to apply a model which will work for the Pacific region as a whole.
Will this work?
To achieve the three key goals, the report outlines plans for yearly seminars in each country to discuss key issues, having better journalism training in each country and supporting national media associations that are present already, or helping those that are being set up.
According to Pearson, the question is really the extent to which these organisations can achieve this goal in such a diverse and changing environment.
“I guess the short message is that this report is to be congratulated on its professional and thoughtful approach, and while it is optimistic, we need to be optimistic that these national media associations can work.”
It remains to be seen, however, whether the two-year plan will make a difference for media in the Pacific.
Holly Ryan is a Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies student journalist on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course at AUT University.
PACMAS media report dodges aid elephant in the room
 

Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On


Education


Many people take schooling for granted. Parents get up in the morning make breakfast for the children and they get ready and all leave home. Many parents leave the educating of their children to the school teacher. When parent/ teacher day comes around and they find out that their children were not doing well, they reprimand the child/ren and tell the teacher off. There are parents who are so absorbed in the social work and religious activities they have committed themselves to, that they forget about their own home. Believe me I know of many homes that are like this.

What we should all be doing is following up on the children’s studies, sit with them in the evenings and ask what they were doing in school and if the child was fine or finding things hard. Parents should also get school rules and talk to the children about it. Behaviour in public and in the bus should be talked about. Help avoid homework hassles by creating a comfortable and well-organized study space for your children, with all the supplies they’ll need close at hand. Enlist your child's help when arranging and decorating the space, so they’ll have a sense of ownership.

I know of an iTaukei family that lives in a little hut in a settlement in Lautoka. From the outside we see a home that could do with a lot of help. There is no electricity and water is from the tank. The home is made of old tin and wood. But upon entering the home I spotted a corner that was decorated, had a little table and a well cleaned  kerosene lamp, not a lantern but a lamp.

The father is a labourer with a trucking company and the mother works as a washer woman.

They are doing the best they can for their son's education. 




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. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

News and Comments Friday 12 April 2013

Murray McCully
Several important meetings were held this week. Some 300 attended a meeting in Suva of the United Front for a Democratic Fiji (former political parties) that rejected the Government's draft constitution and called for a return to the 1997 constitution. The Citizen's Constitutional Forum launched a report on minority rights. The visiting Forum Ministerial Contact Group met with the PM and A-G, and Government continued with its consultations on the draft constitution meetings in the Northern and Western Division. A Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group team (CMAG) is also visiting Fiji of which more next week.

HE AGREES, THEN RECANTS. On the side, in a major surprise announcement, Timoci Bulitavu, an official of the former SDL government said he agreed with the Bainimarama Government’s draft constitution but later denied the videoed message heard by a Labasa audience of 300.. He said the draft constitution protects indigenous land owners more than the previous 1997 constitution. “We have been enlightened that the i-taukei land is much more secure from 1997 and the i-taukei land and its laws are now much more secure than before.”

IN HOW MANY COUNTRIES DOES THIS HAPPEN? A Fiji Sun article asks: "Who says there’s no robust debate on issues in Fiji? Yesterday the discussion on the draft constitution was again transparent and robust, as it should be. Full credit to the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General. The PM has regularly gone on FBC talkback radio and TV to discuss the draft, listen to the views of the people and answer their questions. It is the same as he has been doing all along in his regular visits to rural areas. Commodore Bainimarama has also – heeding requests from some callers to his FBC sessions – extended the consultation period. Meanwhile, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum has launched a series of face-to-face public consultations. He is inviting questions, even from known critics. Then he is sitting in front of them answering them fully and fairly. In how many countries are Government leaders so easily accessible to the people?"

 IS THE FORUM PLEASED WITH PROGRESS? Four different headings, four different stories on the present visit of the Pacific Islands Forum Ministerial Contact Group charged with reporting on Fiji's "progress to democracy", a condition for the lifting of its suspension from the Forum.

The Fiji Times reports "Forum team queries constitution process"; the FijiLive notes "MGC notes Fiji's commitment"; FijiVillage writes  "Ministerial Contact Group pleased with progress", and the Fiji Sun was too late to report today.

Here is the FijiLive account:

The Pacific Island Forum Ministerial Contact Group is pleased with the progress Fiji has made so far in preparation for the their elections in 2014.  In a press conference this afternoon, Chairman of the Group and New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said the Ministers noted progress Fiji made in 2012 towards election including extensive consultation and work of the independent Constitution Commission, which had generated a level of popular engagement and interest which was unprecedented since 2006.

McCully said in that context the group expressed concerns about departures from Fiji’s previously announced Roadmap process and emphasized the need for a constitution building process that enjoyed the support of the people Fiji and the respect of the international community. According to McCully, they were pleased to have the commitment reiterated in today’s meeting and noted that the decision to extend the consultation period for the draft constitution and the announcement that permits were not required for political meetings to discuss the draft constitution were welcomed. He said the group will continue to watch Fiji’s actions closely and reaffirmed the Forum Leaders willingness to support Fiji’s return to democracy."

 FLP, SODELPA AND NFP REGISTRATION ANOMALIES. Registrar of Political Parties Mohammed Saneem has given the three parties have until midday next Friday to explain explain anomalies in their applications to register for the 2014 elections. The anomalies include apparent impersonation, incorrect member details and names that do not exist in the Electronic Voter Registration Database.

SHOULD THEY OR SHOULD THEY NOT? The military obviously have a political viewpoint. There would not have been a coup in 2006, and they would not have made a submission to the Ghai Constitution Commission, if they did not. But there is a difference between holding a cluster of views in broad agreement with the draft constitution and supporting a particular political party in the 2014 elections. Or, at least, there normally would be. But given a choice between the political voices now being heard, that of the UFDF (read: the old political parties) and the Bainimarama government, they probably thought they had no choice at all. Support the UFDF and undo what has been achieved in the past six years and forsake the ideals of a racially equal, fairer Fiji; or offer ongoing support for the government now that the PM and his new 'government' political party will contest the 2014 election.

These thoughts came to mind when RFMF’s chief of staff, Brigadier-General Mohammed Aziz said the military want to see Voreqe Bainimarama lead the country after the 2014 General Election, and will “give him our support to keep his leadership.”

The PM, he said, has started a new political path for the nation, which was totally different from what the nation had experienced from past governments. Something of that path has been seen already. Previously promises were made by politicians as a way to win votes, but it was rather sad that these votes were never translated into meaningful change. This has not been the case with the present government.

The controversial issue of land, for example, was used as political tool to gain votes from the iTaukei landowners but very little was done to tackle major land issues by past governments, and most landowners received rents far less than the rents paid by tenants. By contrast, the present government's land reforms have made more land available for commercial use, particularly in the mining and natural resources sector, on new favourable terms and conditions to landowners and tenants. Grassroots landowners now receive almost all rent money, with the chiefs bypassed and the ILTB administrative costs kept to a minimum. And reforms are now in place is to eradicate abuse and corruption in land dealings.

Should the RFMF's chief of staff said these things? Probably not, but they needed saying.

CCF AND MINORITY RIGHTS. The Citizens’ Constitutional Forum, in partnership with London-based Minority Rights group (MRG) launched “Fiji: The challenges and opportunities for diversity” on Wednesday. The report is part of an MRG/CCF program to improve inter-ethnic relations and reduce discrimination in Fiji. Published by the Minority Rights Group (UK) and the CCF the report was authored by Professor Vijay Naidu and sets out to provide insight into two of the most divisive issues that the current constitution making process initially set out to address: tackling discrimination and exclusion based on ethnicity, and improving inter-community relations.

VANUATU APOLOGIES. Vanuatu Deputy PM Edward Natapei presented a traditional apology to Foreign Affairs Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola for actions taken by Vanuatu during his time as PM in 2010 when he opposed Fiji getting the chairmanship of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) and later as opposition leader, he again opposed Vanuatu Prime Minister Sato Kilman who supported the plan to make Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama the MSG head. "I speak on behalf of my government and the people of Vanuatu to say sorry for all the things we've done," he said. "As a chief and government leader, I feel that it is always right to seek forgiveness in the traditional and Melanesian way."

THE METHODIST CHURCH said it is not going to be involved in the 2014 elections in any way. General Secretary Reverend Tevita Nawadra says neither the head office nor any of their branches will have anything to do with politics, and the church will not affiliate itself with any political party. He said political involvement in the past has hurt the church. “The Church has learnt their lesson from the past and we are coming out of that and we are even discouraging the use of the Methodist Church building or premises for politics because we have suffered from that in the past.” The Church is yet to make submissions on the draft Constitution.

HYPERLINKS. You can download the MOI's Focus Newspaper on this link Its programme on investing in the Northern Division on this link. For daily MOI updates log on to www.fiji.gov.fj or visit the Ministry Facebook page.

Visit the Fiji Pensioners' website and read what Dr Shaista Shameem had to say about a mullah's Easter message.

NORTHERN DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM. The NDP has approved 1500 projects worth $9.8 million in the last five years. The NDP oversees and assists in the setting up of small and medium enterprises. Its objective is to stop internal migration as hundreds of people were leaving Vanua Levu due to a lack of economic activity in the North. Program Manager Waisale Tuidama says the initiative is bearing fruit. The projects have assisted about 22,000 people, or about 19% of the populaton of Vanua Levu, and provided direct 0r indirec employment for about 4,300 people (9% of employment), mostly in the informal sector. The most common projects under the NDP are Dalo and Yaqona farming, but Tuidama says there are new plans for 2013.

 DID HE, DID HE NOT BREAK THE LAW? The Qarase-led cabinet in June 2006 converted 68.7 hectares of i-taukei land to a Crown grant to freehold land for the Momi Bay Resort project. Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says although the native land related laws were entrenched at the time and clearly prevented anyone from converting i-taukei land to freehold land, this was done in this case. The land was swapped with freehold land that the developers gave to the state. Lawyer Adi Litia Qionibaravi, however, says that the landowners had given their consent in this case. Qarase denied any wrong doing.

MORE FOR WOMEN. The government draft constitution does not make any special mention of women, nor is there any mention of political parties being obliged to reserve seats for women MPs. Several women’s NGOs and former politicians have questioned the omission and will no doubt make their wished known to Government during the present consultations. In response, A-G Sayed-Khaiyum says the Government has passed more laws specific to women than any previous government , and asks why the same politicians that are protesting now never nominated or pushed for a high percentage of women to be their candidates in the past elections.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Uncouth Speak

Blog publishers have problems knowing what to do about comments. Vet each one? Give free access and then delete the more obnoxious? Or leave them all, disgusting, untrue, libellous or otherwise?  I used to vet each comment but now let all though and delete only the worst.

"Peter Firkins", the  FijiToday publisher, seems to have opted for leaving them all in.   Check out this link to read what his readers had to say on my "Open Letter to the Prime Minister" and tell me what you would do if you were Peter.

[Two readers have said they are having problems reading the comments on this post, and have been unable to comment themselves.  Please email me croz.walsh@xtra.co.nz if you are having this problem. I'll post on your behalf, as I have with Shaista's,  until the problem is fixed.]