Monday, October 28, 2013

News and Comments Tuesday 28 October 2013

INCREDIBLE THOUGH IT MAY SEEM, given the continuing statements on the importance of chiefs, some 544 (or 42%)  of chiefly titles are vacant.  This appears to be mainly due to continuous disputes about who should fill the vacancies, according to the iTaukei Lands and Fisheries Commission (TLFC) chairman Ratu Vananalagi Vesikula.

Ratu Vananalagi thinks many were contesting chiefly titles simply because they had vested interests. The TLTC has received many complaints about the situation but "there is nothing we can do really except to advise them on what needs to be done and it is up to the people to decide on who their true leaders are based on the blood lines.”

Of the 544 vacant clan heads posts  83 posts are from Tailevu, four from Serua, 33 from Rewa, 64 from Ra, 10 from Namosi, 42 from Naitasiri, 19 from Nadroga, 17 from Macuata, 71 from Lomaiviti, 46 from Lau, 57 from Kadavu, 44 from Cakaudrove, 28 from Bua and 13 from Ba.

AND 2189 (OR 50%) OF TURAGA NI MATAQALI (heads of mataqali) positions are vacant: 330 from Tailevu, 19 from Serua, 167 from Rewa, 242 from Ra, 41 from Namosi, 184 from Naitasiri, 71 from Nadroga, 123 from Macuata, 238 from Lomaiviti, 135 from Lau, 206 from Kadavu, 192 from Cakaudrove, 143 from Bua and 100 from Ba.

Ratu Vananalagi said it was important to fill the vacancies because effectively managed vanua need good leaders (who display) "servant leadership.”  "Those who qualify for the position should consider the interest of others paramount to their own interest.We should move together with Government in addressing leadership issues at every level for the benefit of our beloved country,” he said.

EU SAYS CONSTITUTION 'SUFFICIENT'  to enter a democratic process and hold elections next year. “The main thing is that the constitution is in place now, according to European Union’ director External Action Services (EEAS), Dr Gerard Sabathil. He said, “We have assessed that the constitution as sufficient-base to enter this democratic process based on general democratic elections so we expect the next step which will be the election decree.”

He hailed the progress Fiji has made in putting together the constitution and paving the way for the turn to democracy. In doing this, he said Fiji has created great expectations abroad. “We welcome this and we look forward that this expectations are fulfilled.” Sabathil was in the country last week for the first political dialogue with the Fijian Government in seven years. The EU will be monitoring the process to ensure a democratic election does takes place  before it restores in full its development co-operation.

BAINIMARAMA, YABAKI AND NELSON MANDELA.  The PM assures everyone there will be international observers of the election process, though he does not say from where. CCF's Rev Akuila Yabaki says they are important to ensure the elections are "transparent, free and fair,” though, while this may have made the 2006 election fairer, it did not make it fair.  And Nelson Mandela, speaking of his own country, said, "If the United States of America or Britain is having elections, they don't ask for observers from Africa or from Asia. But when we have elections, they want observers."  The situations are not identical, of course, but ....

Something of the same mindset is seen in the comments of such groups as the International Federation of Journalists and the Pacific Freedom Forum and their local supporters who disagree with MIDA's (Media Industry Development Agency) insistence that foreign NGO workers intending to come to Fiji to run workshops on democracy should first obtain Government permission. One would have thought that they at least need work permits, and one also wonders, with Mandela, how these foreign countries would feel if Fijians wanted to run democracy workshops in their countries.

FREE EDUCATION FROM 2014. Education Minister Filipe Bole says the ministry will start to "facilitate the introduction of free education from 2014." His audience at the Seaqaqa Carnival last Friday cheered. Bole reminded parents of the importance of education and their part in the education of their children.“Education is a joint undertaking by the community at large and the Government,” he said. Government has already introduced several initiatives to make education accessible and affordable for all children in Fiji, the most recent being the "One laptop per child policy" commenced earlier in the year with ten schools already participating, and more expected by the end of this year.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Why Government is Losing the Support of 'Middle' Fiji

An Opinion piece by Croz Walsh

This article is prompted by an email from a friend in Fiji who thinks my blog is ignoring many important issues where Government 'got it wrong.' 

I do not know how representative he is of the people I have called 'middle Fiji' but I'm reasonable confident that many professional and more highly educated people who previously supported Government, or were prepared to give it the benefit of doubt, share these concerns. Numerically, their votes are not important enough to sway an election result but they are leaders in the realm of ideas, and ideas win or lose elections.

In recent weeks I've been more pro-Government because I think the choice is now much clearer. Fiji can either support the Baininamara Government, with all its faults. or support the the SODELPA/FLP and their chartered return voyage to the old Fiji, marked as it was with racial tensions, privileges and abuses.

Few can dispute the achievements of the Bainimarama government. Senior government people have visited parts of Fiji never previously visited by its political leaders.  Work is ongoing in the long-neglected areas of infrastructure, systematic corruption and abuse of office, tax reclamation, rural and outer island development, women and grassroots development, mico-financing, import substitution, housing, fair distribution of land lease money, bringing land into production, and assistance to the poor, the disabled and the elderly. As one turaga-ni-koro put it, Bainimarama "walks the talk." Many Government achievements were hard earned in the face of opposition from Fiji's traditional friends but Fiji has now won more respect internationally and greatly increasing the number of countries with which it shares diplomatic relations.

Probably Government's most important achievement within Fiji is to state categorically that all Fijians, irrespective of race, culture or religion, are truly equal. The inclusive use of the name 'Fijian', however,  could perhaps have been better dealt with later by Parliament. Statement and actions on equality are not conditional on a name change. And I see no reason either,  why people should not be called Fijian Fijians or Indo-Fijian Fijians. Fijian is a nationality as well as an ethnicity. I am a European New Zealander and my neighbour is a Maori or Maori New Zealander. 

Removing 'race' from official records such as censuses and arrival and departure cards is throwing the baby out with the bath water. Fiji needs to monitor how its different ethnic groups are performing economically and educationally, and it needs to know who is leaving and returning.

My email friend says, "You should realise that Fijians now would not accept the SDL and FLP of the old days and they are tired of the Bainimarama government." I wish I could believe the former and I see no evidence of the latter, except within the middle Fiji to which he belongs. It is, however, true that the public generally grow tired of governments that have been in power for a long time, but I'm unclear how anyone can be so sure about how other people think in Fiji at this time. All they can really go on is what their friends and workmates are saying, and for most people this small circle, however much they talk to each other, is hardly representative.

But I'm as confident as can be that if Government would address the concerns of middle Fiji, it would once again win the support of many of them.

This is a group of people who don't have political ambitions themselves and they are unlikely to experience pecuniary benefits or losses whichever way the elections go. Their equivalent in New Zealand would be called 'white liberals'. In Fiji as in New Zealand  they think their opinions important and jealously protect their right to express them. They address and attend public meetings, form organizations and write letters to the editor that they expect to be published and answered. They are far less concerned about the human bread and butter (or dalo and rice) rights that are protected in the 2103 Constitution and are of vital concern to ordinary Fijians. They are more concerned with political human rights while ordinary Fijians are more concerned about what a government will do to help them. Middle Fiji feels it has been sidelined, and wishes to be consulted and heeded far more by Government.   It rejects the military notion that a differently expressed viewpoint is a sign of disaffection.

From what I can gather 'middle Fiji' concerns revolve around the following issues:

Military violence. There have been several well publicised incidents where military personnel have taken the law into their own hands and intimidated or beaten people (see yesterday Notes and Comments). Often the police have been slow to respond to these cases, and when occasionally they have got as far as the courts and the culprits found guilty, Government has sometimes reduced their prison sentences. Middle Fiji sees this as a gross abuse of power and makes it doubly cautious about the constitutional provisions that protect the military, and the military's possible roles after the election.

Military people and middle Fiji have been trained to think differently. They have different priorities and values. A trusting relationship between them was never going to be easy. Both parties need to try harder to see the world through the others' eyes. 

Action against trade unions. Although Middle Fiji settles its own disputes by mediation, it supports unions in their right to strike. It may not wholly approve of the methods of the likes of Felix Anthony and Daniel Urai but it does not share Government's view that these unionists have acted in ways that undermine the Fiji economy. It wishes to see the repeal of some decrees, particularly the Essential Industry Decree. The Constitution allows their repeal after the elections; they want them repealed now.

Political parties.  Middle Fiji wants the full restoration of their previous rights, even though they may hold them at least partly responsible for creating the conditions that produced the 2006 Coup. They believe a confrontational parliament, with an active opposition, is the best way to keep a check on governments and maintain democracy. They support a Westminster style of democracy.

Government sees the policies of the old political parties, and their recent reincarnations, as self serving and not in the interests of most people in Fiji. Whether or not they also see them as capable of removing the Bainimarama government before the elections, I do not know, but extremists within the old political parties have certainly called for protest marches and for the military to rebel. Middle Fiji thinks there will only be a fair election if these political parties are allowed full campaigning rights now.

The media. A similar logic applies to the media. Middle Fiji wants freedom of speech and a minimal check on what the media can report and publish. It wants all sides to be able to express an opinion on major issues even when this means that Government's position is overwhelmed by separate reports from each of the groups opposed to it. Government wants what it calls a 'responsible' media that will not threaten what it is trying to do. Given Fiji's past history and the actions of the media since 2006, it is difficult to see how a balance can be achieved. 

Salaries and personal gain. Middle Fiji is, I think, rightly concerned about the very high salaries paid to the PM, the Attorney-General and Cabinet, and the recent large salary increases for permanent secretaries. It sees these salaries as unseemly given the high level of poverty in the country. Government did not helped itself  by not revealing the PM's and A-G's salaries when the issue was first raised nearly two years ago. 

Government could argue that higher cabinet salaries are justified because of the much smaller cabinet than in Qarase times, and the consequent increase of portfolio responsibilities carried by most members. It could also argue, as I did in an earlier article on the new salaries for permanent secretaries, that this excessive income gap is a product of neo-liberal thinking not confined to Fiji. There is some truth in all these defences but middle Fiji would see them as morally indefensible.

The word 'moral' is very important. To win back those in Middle Fiji who once supported the Bainimarama government, it has to win back the moral high ground it enjoyed in 2007 during the days when Middle Fiji was heavily engaged in preparing the People's Charter. Middle Fiji is concerned with ideals, good intentions and good deeds. It is impressed by the vision, idealism and self-sacrifice of men like Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela and women like Mother Teresa.

To win back Middle Fiji, Bainimarama needs to show that he, his colleagues and his army, are less concerned with self and personal gain than his opponents. Both he and the Attorney-General need to show they are people with ideas who also welcome the ideas of others.

The Bainimarama Government needs to re-engage with Middle Fiji. Three words sum up what is most needed: talanoa, talanoa, talanoa.

Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On

Flogged to Death

A political party is once again dwelling on the issue of every citizen being called Fijian. 

Could they possibly take up the challenge of encouraging manufacturers to build factories in the rural areas so that we curb urban drift?  Could they dwell on how they will deal with the high cost of education,  especially tertiary education, and why the universities have encouraged so many people to earn a diploma or degree when the market for some of the topics  is flooded. Or could they dwell on other issues affecting of our everyday life such as the rising car theft in Lautoka and the street lights that have been out for up to one year?

There are so many issues that affect and could improve the lives of the people far more than the one they have come up with. 

The issue of identity has been flogged to death, I don't even care now. You can call me a Fijian, a Kai Loma, a fruit-salad. Just don't call me an Others. 

Penang Pride 
Penang Sangam High School celebrated the achievement of one of its students - Lorima Turaga who won silver and bronze in the 800m and 400m track events at the Coca Cola games. Just like Fiji recognised Iliesa Delana's achievement so did Penange Sangam. Almost all rural schools do not have the best facilities that enhance athletes abilities, but Lorima overcame that and put his school on the map, so to speak.

The honour that the school has bestowed on this champion is a scholarship for the completion of his education in forms Six and Seven. Many schools will grab good athletes but forget to nurture the students academically.

From a very humble home and with the loss of his father Lorima has shone. He didn't let all of that get him down. To Liroma, you are a champion and you have a long way to go and I know you can do it and win medals for Fiji in international games in the future.

I know your school is backing you 100% and I know that soon people out there will notice your plight, that you live in the Noqoro HART home and come forward and render some kind of assistance.

To Penang Sangam, may your school produce more athletes like Lorima and to Lorima, may God bless you son.

PWD Scrap

A prominent bus company is clearing its depot of derelict buses. They have decided to get a few dollars by selling to the scrap metal buyers making their depot clean and they will also have more space.

The Public Works department in Lautoka could do the same with all the derelict vehicles that lie rotting in its yard in Veitari. Each day I go pass I see these vehicles piled on top of or beside each other and I wonder whats happening. Government could make some money buy selling them as scrap and clearing this eyesore. And also create more space.

If Western Wreckers could remove all its junk from its yard, surely PWD could do the same. For the record, the scrap metal buyers will come in with their cutting torches, labour and trucks and remove the junk.

I just hope that proper checks were done to write of the vehicles from the inventory book so that they can be accounted for.

Please do it while the scrap still has some value. Removing your scrap will also make the approaches to Lautoka City beautiful.

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, October 25, 2013

News and Comments Friday 25 October 2013

A warning for all of us
  • WEEKEND READING Allen Lockington Column.  "Why Government is Losing the Support of 'Middle' Fiji", an opinion piece by Croz Walsh
DAYLIGHT SAVING THIS SUNDAY.  Don't forget to put your clocks forward.

MILITARY BRUTALITY MUST STOP.  Some military personnel are doing the Bainimarama government no favours by taking the law into their own hands. The police are doing it no favours by not zestfully pressing charges that result in convictions. And Government is doing itself no favours by its less than wholehearted  condemnation of these criminal acts.  There have been several instances since 2006, all exposed with glee in the anti-Government blogs.

The latest incident allegedly involves a sales executive who complained about a soldier having an extra marital affair with own of his relatives. It is alleged that the man was picked up from his office by eight men who he claims were soldiers. He was then taken to Colo-i-Suva, a forested area north of Suva City, where he was beaten up by the  men.

Police are expected to question the main suspect after he returns from training this weekend. ACP Tudravu said that police continue to liaise with the military in relation to the investigations as they will deal first with the main suspect. When asked about the seven  others involved in the alleged beating, Tudravu said he has not received any clear report about them (whatever that means).

If the sales executive was beaten by soldiers, there is only one way to send the message: they should be convicted, imprisoned,  and dishonourably discharge from the army. The people of Fiji deserve a military they can respect in everything they do.

WHAT A SAD DAY FOR FIJI. This comment on my posting 'The Cards are Now on the Table."
What a sad day for Fiji when traditional leaders speak of democracy and "harpoon" its very foundation by stating, "those individuals that disagree with native Fijian group rights should simply declare their choice, cut off their connection with their native groups and delete their names from their VKB" with the same breathe. 

I am from Burebasaga and whilst I have my obligation to respect the Roko Tui Dreketi under traditional mechanism; that's where it ends. She certainly does not have my support when it comes to political choice nor have I given her the mandate to speak on my behalf politically. 

One of the reasons why political instability has dogged our beloved country is the fact that chiefs utilise their traditional status for political gain. Politicking should be kept separate from traditional systems and its practices. If chiefs opt to partake in the political arena then they should be treated just like any other politician and should not use their traditional status as a launching pad to sway their subjects (especially those that are politically naive). " 

BABA PUTS HIS HAND UP. It's hardly surprising.Dr Tupeni Baba says, "I’m ready if they want me to lead the (SODELPA) party to the 2014 general elections." Dr Baba was previously a member of the FLP. He founded the New Labour Unity Party after falling out with Mahendra Chaudhry, and he later joined the SDL. Whether or not he is chosen as leader will depend on the party's constituency councils each of which will nominate two candidates before the final selection takes place.

A WOMAN'S PARTY?  The Yash Ghai draft constitution made special provisions to ensure women's representation in parliament The 2013 constitution declares everyone equal but makes no special provisions. Former Deputy  PM Taufa Vakatale  thinks this is regrettable but adds, "one way to ensure a good number of women representation in parliament is by getting influential women to form a political party and contest the 2014 elections. “We have staunch women organisations like the Soqosoqo Vakamarama who have as members influential women leaders. If they unite and stand, we are sure to have some women leaders. That is a thought.” Another "possible scenario would be for the popular political parties to include women candidates to stand in the 2014 elections. “It’d depend on political parties how they organise it.” She maintains the country needs more women leaders.  Either way. Taufa firmly believes the country has not reached the stage where women rights’ are acknowledged and protected in all walks of life. “We need special measures that would help increase the number of women entering politics."  She welcomed the recently announced National Council of Women project ‘Civic Education & Empowerment for more women Parliamentarians in Fiji’ that has only one objective:to encourage more women leaders at all levels whether it be in parliament, at council level or within the broader Fijian community.

NFP PRESIDENT  Raman Pratap Singh says the question of whether all Fiji citizens should be called Fijian is a matter than should be discussed by Parliament.

NO MAJOR CHANGES. The SODELPA, FLP and NFP are calling for major changes to the constitution. The PM says the changes to be made "between now and December are just issues like typos ... the gist of the constitution will not be changed."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Cards are Now on the Table

If the people of Fiji did not know it before, they certainly know it now.  The people who rule Fiji should only do so with the approval of the paramount chiefs, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu and Ro Teimumu Kepa — and if some of their  people do not like this, they should "delete their names from their Vola Ni Kawa Bula."

And if there was ever any doubt about the new multi-racialism of SODELPA, note that they agree with the paramount chiefs.

The chiefs speak of the denial of "group rights" and in the same breath they speak of democracy. There was nothing democratic in the  powers exercised by the Great Council of Chiefs, and nothing democratic in the very uneven allocation of land lease money. The chiefs took the larger slices leaving very little for ordinary iTaukei. The so-called "group rights" benefited only those at the top of the "group."   I see nothing in the 2013 Constitution that denies any group rights affecting ordinary citizens, iTaukei, Indo-Fijian, or whoever,  but I do see many references to equal rights and common citizenship.

The two Fiji Live articles and the two chiefs full statement copied from Coup 4.5 tell it all

Tui Cakau refuses to speak after statement

The Tui Cakau Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu has refused to say anything to Fijivillage after we contacted him on a statement released by Ratu Naiqama and Marama Na Roko Tui Dreketi Ro Teimumu Kepa.

Fijivillage was alerted about the signed statement released by Ratu Naiqama and Ro Teimumu only to the antigovernment blog sites.

We asked Ratu Naiqama if we can question him on the issues raised in the statement.

He said he will not take any questions and will not make any comments.  
We also asked him why they are only releasing statements on the antigovernment blog sites but he said he will not say anything.

We contacted Ro Teimumu Kepa and when we introduced ourselves, she said that she could not hear us.

We have called her several times but there is no answer.

In the statement, the two chiefs said the international community should not recognize the 2013 Constitution.

They said the original and properly consulted version is the Yash Ghai Draft.

They also said that they have maintained all along that the perpetrators of the 2006 coup will do well to go before the chiefs and the people of Fiji for remorse rather than to rely on the provisions of the new constitution.

In the signed statement, the two chiefs said that they will continue to do all they can, within the bounds of what they can do within the laws of the country to campaign for the recognition of the group rights.

They also want the restoration of the Great Council of Chiefs, raised concern on the removal of the name Fijian for indigenous Fijians by Decree and the nationalization of companies established under matanitu iTaukei including all provincial companies and Fijian Holdings Limited.

They said their rights are breached when the reference to indigenous Fijians as Fijians was replaced by the label iTaukei and application of the label Fijian to all citizens of Fiji.

Ro Teimumu Kepa and Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu said those individuals that disagree with native group rights should simply declare their choice, cut off their connection with their native groups and delete their names from their Vola Ni Kawa Bula.

Meanwhile, in an earlier statement, Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama had made it clear during the disestablishment of the Great Council of Chiefs that we should all look at ourselves as citizens of one nation.

SODELPA says the name Fijian is only for indigenous Fijians

The Social Democratic and Liberal Party has backed the statement by Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu and Ro Teimumu Kepa, saying the party still believes that the name Fijian is only for indigenous Fijians.

Senior SODELPA official, Doctor Tupeni Baba maintained that the party does not recognize the 2013 constitution and does not recognize Fijian as the common name for all the citizens of the country.

Doctor Baba said SODELPA and others who stand by this should not be termed as racists because they are just asking for the protection of their group rights and name.

He said there was no referendum on the common name to be Fijian.

Meanwhile, Doctor Baba maintains that the Great Council of Chiefs should be reinstated.

Prime Minister, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama has maintained all along that the common name for all the citizens will be Fijian and this was also a non negotiable for the 2013 constitution.

The official name for the indigenous Fijians is itaukei.

  1. Chiefs renew calls for 'group rights' to be recognised



    1. Introduction

    We issue this statement in response to the Constitution that is now passed by the Interim Military Government (IMG). We do so with the mandate we have, as the customary heads of Fiji’s Tribal Confederacies or the Vanua, whose population constitute over 57% of this country and whose members continue to live and organize themselves under their customary institutions within their tribes, their Vanua, Yavusa, Villages, Mataqalis, Tokatokas and Family Units.

    We select this day 10th October 2013 to release this statement in response to the Constitution of the IMG because this day is significant. Today is Fiji Day. It is the 10th of October.

    It was on this very same day in 1874 that our ancestors and our Chiefs signed the Deed of Cession, to cede this country to the British Crown in exchange for the Crowns promise, contained under clause 4 and clause 7 of that Deed, to protect their land rights and their way of life under their customary Institutions and Chiefly system.

    The essence of clause 4 and clause 7, in addition to being transmitted to the domestic laws of this country, initially under the Native Affairs Ordinance of 1876 which is currently maintained under the Fijian Affairs Act, the Native Lands Ordinance of 1882 which is currently maintained under the Native Lands Act of 1905 and the Native Lands Trust Act of 1940, have been entrenched in every previous Constitution of this country until removed by the IMG in its Constitution of 6th September 2013.

    It was always so as the Crown and successive government after that were obliged, because of Clause 4 and Clause 7, to respect our land rights, our custom, our tradition and our chiefly institutions in exchange for our chiefs giving up the sovereign authority of this land.

    And now it is apparent the IMG has seen it fit to deny us that respect by removing those entrenched provisions from its Constitution. It is a wanton act and the highest form of disrespect and it did so with a very clear motive and intent.

    2. The IMG Constitution

    We have examined this IMG Constitution for what it is and what it intends to achieve. It confirms all that we have anticipated and feared and therefore it must be objectively described for what it is.

    We say to the public and to the international community that this constitution does not carry the mandate of the will of the people of Fiji, as a constitution should. The original and properly consulted version, known as the Yash Gai Draft, was burnt and its content edited in isolation before being taken about to the public.

    Like the “Peoples Charter” that has gone before it, this edited version was taken around the public under a well orchestrated and controlled media to create the impression to the international community that the Public has been widely consulted and has consented to it , when in truth it has not done so.

    This constitution, in all objectivity, is designed to keep the perpetrators of the 2006 coup and their advisers from accounting for their unlawful actions in removing a democratically elected government. We caution that, however hard they may try and whatever way they may wish to do so, even using the provision of a constitution such as this, the will of the people and the Court of Appeal decision in Qarase v Bainimarama of 2009 will still have their final say on them. It is because they carry the essence of mandate and judicial authority. For those are caveats which we cannot avoid or bypass.

    It is the reason also why we have maintained all along that the perpetrators of the 2006 coup will do well to go before the chiefs and the people of Fiji for remorse rather than to rely on the provisions of this constitution to exonerate them. They choose a different path and history will judge them.

    The essence of a Democracy is representative government, clear separation of power, independent constitutional positions, accountability, transparency and the protection of the rights of citizens. These are the necessary elements that a constitution must have, and those factors must be properly set about, to ensure the outcome of a true Democracy. We say that this constitution is plainly lacking in these factors. There are experts who have already given their views, and continue to do so, on those short comings but we limit our comments here on its ailure to protect the group rights of indigenous Fijians.

    3. Group Rights

    The essence of Group Rights is identity, manifested in the uniqueness of the way of life of a group; in our case the indigenous people or native inhabitants of this country, Fiji. It refers to our language, our custom, and our tradition, our customary institutions, our traditional knowledge or the totality of our culture and our cultural way of living entrenched in the customary ownership of land that give it meaning. It refers to the need to safe guard and protect them to maintain our identity as a group. These measures are now recognized and protected under the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 169 that Fiji ratified in 1998 and the 2007 UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights.

    We know as a fact that from as early as 2006, when the IMG took power by force, it had moved about purposely to remove all semblance of our group rights and dismantle institutions that manifest them. The IMG argued that it was a necessary measure to bring about equality or “equal citizenry” as the IMG calls it. Its purpose was all too clear in its policy announcements, laws passed and even in its submission to the 81st session of UN committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in August 2012 where it argued that customary institutions like the GCC, are a source of discrimination, that must be dismantled.

    Needless to say the CERD warned the IMG that it was wrong to do so and that it may be committing an act of discrimination by doing so. The CERD also cautioned the IMG that, contrary to what it is doing, it must recognize indigenous rights for native Fijians in the same way that it recognize individual rights and the group rights of others and the challenge is for IMG to make sure that none topples the other.

    The CERD even went further to conclude that the IMG, by its action, maybe in breach breach of ILO C169 and the permanent and inalienable rights of native Fijians.

    The contents of this constitution confirms beyond doubt that the IMGs program to remove indigenous rights and dismantle customary institution that began in earnest in 2006 is now consolidated and perpetuated further by this document.

    In case it is not clear to anyone, we outline again the details of policies and laws passed by the IMG since 2006 to either remove, dismantle, or compromise our group rights and to nationalize and take control of customary institutions that belong to us. We do this because at various times either at village level, or Tikina level or provincial level or when confronted by the Vanua on these questions the reply by the IMG has been either a denial or silence or reference to the Bill of Rights which address individual rights and not Group Rights.

    4. Policies Implemented By The IMG In Breach Of Our Group Rights.

    The following are some policies that have been implemented by the IMG since 2006 that are in breach of our group rights that are recognized under ILO C169 and the 2007 UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights directly or because they are made either to dismantle our customary institutions, to compromise the independence of native institutions or made without obtaining our prior and informed consent:

    1. The announcement in 2007 that the Great Council of Chiefs is to be suspended indefinitely.

    2. The continuing effort by the IMG to remove and replace individuals and chiefs, who oppose its policies, from the customary institutions established by law including, Provincial Councils, Fijian(iTaukei) Affairs Board, Native(iTaukei) Land Trust Board and Fijian (iTaukei) Trust Fund.

    3. The Nationalisation and assumption of control over native Fijians semi autonomous native government ( Matanitu Taukei) administered under the Fijian (iTaukei) Affairs Act.

    4. The Nationalisation, and assumption of control over all companies established under Fiji's Semi autonomous Native Government (matanitu iTaukei) including all provincial companies and Fijian Holdings Limited.

    5. The appointment of government sympathisers to man the semi autonomous native government (matanitu iTaukei) and Native Land Trust Board, the Government agency that administers native land to maintain control.

    5. Laws passed by the IMG In Breach Of Our Group Rights
    The following are some of the laws that have been passed by the IMG since 2006 that are in breach of our group rights recognized under ILO C169 and the 2007 UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights directly or because they are made either to dismantle our customary institutions, to compromise the independence of native institutions or made without obtaining our prior and informed consent:

    1. Fijian Trust Fund (Amendment) (No. 2) Decree 2009 to remove the authority of the chiefs from appointing members to the Fijian Trust Board and substituting it with the government.

    2. Native Land Trust Act (Amendment)(No. 31) Decree 2009 to amend Section three(3) of that Act to remove the appointing authority of the chiefs to the Native Land Trust Board and its replacement by the government.

    3. Fijian Affairs (Amendment) (No. 31) Decree 2010 to terminate reference to indigenous Fijian’s as Fijian’s, to be replaced by the label iTaukei and application of the label Fijian to all citizens of Fiji.

    4. Native land Trust (Amendment) (No. 32) Decree 2010 to amend Section 3 of that Act to vest control of that institution on the minister replacing the President as representative of the chiefs and customary landowners and removing chiefly representation to the board replacing if with the IMG as sole appointing authority.

    5. iTaukei Affairs (Amendment)(No. 22) Decree 2012 to amend part 2 of that Act to remove and terminate the existence of the Great Council of Chiefs.

    6. iTaukei Land Trust (Amendment) (No. 20) Decree 2012 to amend S19 A of that Act to remove the Great Council of Chiefs as authority to determine customary ownership and its replacement with IMG.

    7. iTaukei Lands(Amendment)(No. 21) Decree 2012 to amend S19 of that act to remove the Great Council of Chiefs as authority to determine customary ownership and its replacement IMG.

    8. iTaukei Trust Fund (Amendment)(No. 23) Decree 2012 to amend the long title of the Act to remove any reference to the Great Council of Chiefs and need to provide for its financial autonomy.

    9. September 6th Constitution. The previous constitutions of Fiji including in 1997 constitution and the 1970 constitution all contained within it entrenched provision to protect Native Fijian Land Right And Right of Limited Autonomy with the Great Council of Chiefs as its head. Those entrenched provisions are now removed in the IMG’s 6th September constitution.

    6. Need To Protect Our Group Rights

    The entrenched provisions of previous constitutions, on our land rights and customary institutions including recognition of the Great council of Chiefs were put there to manifest the government’s treaty obligation to our ancestors and to our chiefs in exchange for our ancestors and chiefs surrendering the sovereign authority of these lands. We humbly request and call upon the IMG to respect and restore this as the UN Special Rappatuer on indigenous people, Professor Anaya, has called upon countries to respect their treaty obligations to their indigenous peoples.

    We request, as we call upon the IMG to respect our group rights by restoration of the Great Council of Chiefs (GCC) as well as policies and laws that have been passed since 2006 that are in breach of the rights recognized for us under the ILO C169 that Fiji Ratified in 1998 and under the 2007 UN Declaration on the Right of
    Indigenous Peoples

    The Group Rights of Indigenous Fijians is not the concern only of the indigenous population of Fiji. It is the concern of all right thinking Fiji citizens who proudly share in the ownership of its unique identity.

    We say here with unreserved authority that we will continue to do all we can, within the bounds of what we can do within the laws of this county to campaign for the recognition of our group rights notwithstanding the removal of the entrenched provision from this Constitution, nor the termination of the GCC by Decree, nor the removal of our name by Decree, nor the many laws and policies that have been passed to terminate and compromise those rights and nationalize our native companies and institutions.

    It is because we are sincere in our belief that our group rights are real, objective, legal and inalienable.

    It is the reason also why we want to demand those who do not agree with them to leave us and our rights alone. Our mentor the late Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna had reminded us many times over that we acquire them by descent and practice. But we have the choice always to opt to leave them simply by cutting off connections with your native group, by moving elsewhere and deleting your names from your respective VKB (register) of Mataqalis, Yavusas and tribes.

    We advise therefore that rather than removing the entrenched provision from the constitution, terminating the GCC and passing other laws and policies to terminate or compromise our group rights and to thereby nationalize our companies and institutions, those individuals that disagree with native Fijian group rights should simply declare their choice, cut off their connection with their native groups and delete their names from their VKB.


    Dated this 10th Day of October 2013


Monday, October 21, 2013

A Correction from Fr Kevin Barr

From: Kevin Barr

To: """
Sent: Friday, October 18, 2013 9:47 AM
Subject: Blog on Minimum Wage

Dear Croz,
Greetings!  Someone drew my attention to your report on my statement on the Minimum Wage.

I presume you got it from one of the NZ media who called me for an interview.  I never gave any figure such as $4.85 but pointed out (as I did to Dr Reddy) that when I was at University we were taught that a nation's minimum wage should ideally be pegged against that country's current poverty line.

I estimated that Fiji's current poverty line must be around $194 a week but suggested the interviewer get the exact figure from Epeli at FIBOS.  I also mentioned that this ideal could probably not be met now in Fiji because for 36 years (as Wadan Narsey showed in his research Just Wages for Fiji - Lifting Workers out of Poverty) the Wages Councils had never kept up with the cost of living and so this has meant a great increase in poverty over the years.

Most of the other things you report came from the interview except I mentioned that food prices went up 38% (not 30%) after devaluation.

The proposed $2.32 will certainly make a difference for many low paid workers - domestic workers, gardeners, even those in the garment industry and security industry already covered by the Wages Councils.

It is a good start but needs constant revision in view of up-dated statistics.

Dr Reddy did a lot of good research and the information collected from surveys is very useful. One thing the Minister picked up from one of the surveys was that quite a large percentage of employers are not paying the current Wage Regulation Orders.

Consequently the need for policing compliance is a big issue.

Thanks Croz and keep up the good work.

Kevin Barr

Note: My source was Fiji Live, not  the NZ Media. Click here to read.
I asked Fr Barr's permission to publish his email.  This is his reply:

Thanks Croz.
Good to hear from you.
You are welcome to  publish my email on NMW (new minimum wage). 
I saw your article on the Unions this morning and have copied it to read at home.  The office is too busy to really concentrate. We are too popular and all sorts of people call in from government officials, overseas donors, researchers down to the poorest squatter dwellers.
Every blessing!
Fr. Kevin J. Barr
Peoples Community Network Fiji (PCN)
PO Box 5336, Raiwaqa
Lot 36 Koroi Place


Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Dilemma of Fiji's Trade Unions

By Crosbie Walsh

Many years ago theologians debated how many angels could stand on the head of a pin. A similar but far less theoretical argument now arises in Fiji: can anyone stand on the line that separates pro- and anti-Government positions, when a line, by definition, has no width? Or, in relation to the topic of this article, can anyone clearly separate what is a legitimate trade union political activity and what is just straight politics?

I raise this question because we have recently seen claims that the new constitution prohibits the right to strike; because of Felix Anthony's recent threats to take the Sugar and General Workers out on strike (and earlier threats that could have affected the tourist industry); because of Attar Singh's long-standing opposition to the Bainimarama government and his Fiji Islands Council of Trade Unions (FICTU) joining the United Front for a Democratic Fiji (UFDF), a combination of the old political parties, plus the FICTU; and because of the threatened strike action by the Confederation of Public Sector Unions (the PSA, Fiji Teachers Union and Fiji Teachers Association) prompted by the recent massive increases in permanent secretary salaries.

First, the right to strike.
Section 20 (2) of the Constitution reads: "Every worker has the right to form and join a trade union, and participate in its activities and programmes,and to strike." 

But the constitution also includes what some have called "claw back clauses," or limitations imposed on rights. Thus, section 20 (5) reads:"A law may limit, or may authorise the limitation of, the rights mentioned in this section—
(a) in the interests of national security, public safety, public order, public morality, public health or the orderly conduct of elections;(b) for the purposes of protecting the rights and freedoms of others;(c) for the purposes of imposing restrictions on the holders of public offices;(d) for the purposes of regulating trade unions, or any federation, congress, council or affiliation of tradeunions, or any federation, congress, council or affiliation of employers;(e) for the purposes of regulating collective bargaining processes, providing mechanisms for the resolutionof employment disputes and grievances, and regulating strikes and lockouts; or(f) for the purposes of regulating essential services and industries, in the overall interests of the Fijian economy and the citizens of Fiji."
Two questions arise about section 20 (5): Is it reasonable? Can it be abused? I think it reasonable. No right can be unconditional. But it could be abused if a government set out to do do. Not necessarily this government; any government in the future. There is, however, an important check on governments.

Section 44 (2) permits people and institutions that consider their rights unjustly infringed can take their case to the High Court. Some opponents have questioned the impartiality of the High Court which is appointed by the President or the recommendation of  the Constitutional Offices Commission, and the same people have questioned the impartiality of the COC. In the period leading up to the 2014 election this is a legitimate objection because the present Prime Minister has excessive power but after the elections power is more evenly distributed between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.

In sum, there are problems for trade unions arising out of existing decrees and the constitution before the 2014 elections, but the decrees applying to trade unions can be repealed or changed by the incoming Parliament. After the elections, I think an elected Parliament and the Constitution sufficiently robust to protect trade union rights, and the host of other human rights protected in the 2013 Constitution.

Felix Anthony
In earlier postings I have covered the efforts of Felix Anthony to recruit support from Australian and NZ unions, how this was said to threaten the tourism industry, and how this all this tied in to the Essential Industries Decree

I do not approve of the Decree. I thought, and still think, it excessive and unnecessary, but it is hard to dismiss Government's preference for direct management-worker bargaining than the more confrontational approach of the unions. Fiji has enough economic problems without adding industrial unrest to the list. In a related article I suggested that I did not think the unions were being "targeted" by Government. I wrote:
"I don't think it is the Workers' Party, the trade union movement or FLP per se that are being targeted,  although the Bainimarama government is far more right wing than left. Rather it is the people who lead them that Government seeks  to marginalise. From what has been said many times, I can't see Government making any accommodation with the likes of Felix Anthony, Daniel Urai, Attar Singh and Mahendra Chaudhry. 
"Fiji is a small society and an important consequence of "smallness" is that personal relationships are that much more important in the political arena than in bigger societies.  What may have started as differences in opinion or policy so often end up as a conflict of personalities.
"Bainimarama sees these trade unionists  and Chaudhry as putting their self-interests ahead of the nation, and their efforts to win support from the international trade union movement as acts of betrayal tantamount to  treason. Government claims unionists were responsible for pushing Air Pacific close to the edge of bankruptcy. I think this unlikely but it matters not whether these claims are fair and accurate. It is what they believe."

ABC's Pacific Beat reports that Anthony has now called off the threatened strike by his Sugar and General Workers' Union, saying his members have been intimidated, threatened with losing their jobs, and being "taken up to the military camp to be dealt with."  I am in no position to say whether this is true or false. 

But it it is at least equally plausible that he had insufficient worker support. He has been the union leader since time immemorial and it's difficult to see what he's actually achieved for his members.

Attar Singh
The "personality factor" also applies to Attar Singh who has constantly needled the Bainimarama government since 2006. Government sees him —and by extension, his Fiji Council of Trade Unions—as anti-Government, whatever it does. Further, Singh, more than other unionists, has stepped over the union-political divide by joining the UFDF, an otherwise purely political grouping. And in so doing he has guaranteed he will not be listened to.

I think it highly likely that this sort of involvement resulted in the Constitutional clause that unionists and other officials must step down from office if they intend to contest the 2014 Elections.

The Confederation of Public Sector Unions
The CPSU comprises the PSA, the Fiji Teachers Union and the Fiji Teachers Association, collectively with about 15,000 members, by far the largest union grouping in Fiji. Their recent response to news that permanent secretaries and other senior government people were to receive salary increases ranging from 45 to to 193% was to write to the Attorney-General and ask for a 110% increase for all their members. If granted, this would have bankrupted Fiji. They have now toned down this demand and FTU GenSec Agni Deo says they'll be asking their members "what they think will be a fair increase."

This is a much more responsible demand but even then if overlooks the fact that the increased salaries for permanent secretaries were recommended by a firm of independent accountants on the basis of comparisons with the private sector, with the intention of making these top jobs more attractive to the best possible applicants. This is unabashed neo-liberalism in action. It also fails to recognize that Government, in accepting the proposed increases, removed all their previously enjoyed non-salary benefits such as free or subsidised housing, free transport and entertainment allowances.

More importantly, the action saw the unions adopting their usual stance of looking upwards with envy at those paid more, and not downwards to those paid much less or not at all.

It is Government, and not the unions, that has moved towards a minimum wage and assistance for those at and below the poverty line. "Workers of the World Unite!" is not a call made by the relatively well paid unionised workers in Fiji, at least not when it concerns less paid workers.

The inequality gap
The last half century has seen neo-liberalism erode and largely replace the welfare-ism that marked the post-World War II years. This philosophy calls on government to withdraw from "interfering" with the economy. It sees "growth" as the best way to increase living standards, and the unimpeded "laws of supply and demand " as the best way to achieve growth. 

The result has been an increase of inequality within and between countries. Opinions are divided on its benefits. Some say it promotes investment and efficiency; others say it adversely affects health, living standards and social cohesion.  The increase in permanent secretary salaries indicates the Fiji Government is persuaded by the former view. 

The most recent data from OECD countries show the top 10% of the population earn nine times more than the bottom 10%. In Israel, Turkey and the USA it is 14 times, and in some Latin American countries 27 times. World-wide, one percent of individuals own 40% of global assets, and the richest three people have assets greater than the combined assets of the world's 48 poorest countries. I do not have the figures for Fiji but I suspect the income and inequality gap is increasing. It goes without saying that the wealthy in these countries are far more able to influence government policies than the poor.

The important point is that the Fiji Government, in going along with the permanent secretary
salary increases, is probably doing nothing different from what the Qarase government would have done in similar circumstances. Both Governments are centre-right in political terms. 

There are signs, however, that the Bainimarama government is less neo-liberal in some respects than its predecessor. It will not threaten the rich and very rich, but it is trying to ease the lot of the poor. This is seen in its not infrequent "interference" in the economy: in improved education opportunities, assistance with health care and housing, support for micro enterprises, the minimum wage, and price controls.

The dilemma for organized labour is that it is unlikely to be listened to under their present leadership, and there seems little chance present union leaders will be replaced any time soon. There is also no way of knowing whether unionists will be economically better off under this or that government after the 2014 Elections.

Their best course of action would therefore seem to be to rethink their role in a neo-liberal and politically limited Fiji, and in particular, to :
  • Chip away at neo-liberalism by targeted policies on wages and working conditions
  • Speak out in favour of  improvements for the very poor 
  • Always make reasonable requests (the 110% request was not one of them)
  • Seek constitutional clarity on the "claw back " clauses
  • Avoid head-on clashes with the Bainimarama government, and
  • Be very aware of the political consequences of their action
Ultimately, like the rest of Fiji, they have to decide between accepting the politics of the past as practised and expressed by the UFDF, or helping to shape the unknown politics of the future. 

The issues at stake are far bigger than wages and salaries. 

Girmitiya Video

An informative look at the Girmitya era seen though the eyes of modern commentators including Brij Lal, Vijay Naidu, Ganesh Chand, Surendra Nandan and others.

Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On

              Going Up

Fuel prices go up and down, but mostly up. Food prices continue to rise. Rent continues to rise, electricity and water rates will rise. The value of assets will go up. The cost of bus and taxi fares will go up. The price of yaqona is going up, while the quality of some is going down.  School fees and charges are going up. Some senior civil servants' salaries are going up. The pile of rubbish in rivers, on roadsides and on beaches is going up. The number of people with NCDs is going up.

The cost of many things will go up.  Yet the low wage earners pay remains the same or going down. An organisation is trying to get low wage earners pay to go up. Yet the businessmen whose bank account went up wants the wage to stay down or go even less.  Home fires and bush fires are rising. The number of people writing to the Editor is rising. Ba rises with another win. Even the sea level is rising!

Our new banknotes have been recognised  as the best in the Asian Middle East and African region. (FT15/10), oh if only their buying power would go up!

We don't want a beautiful bank note, we want a bank note that has a powerful buying power, even if it looks ugly.

Oh, by the way, when I die, I want to go "up."

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.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

News and Comments Thursday 17 October 2013

FUEL PRICE INCREASES WERE UNAVOIDABLE according to Commerce Commission Chairman, Dr Mahendra Reddy and have to be seen in the context of big price falls for all products in the last quarter.“ This quarter there is winter in the euro zone and winter drives up demand substantially...[there is also increased ] economic activity in Indonesia in the Asian region as well as the conflict in the Middle East which is affecting supply, so demand and supply have both contributed to the prices of petroleum products”.

Dr Reddy  attributed the Fiji rise to increased world market prices, the strengthening of the US dollar, and an increase in the retail margin for diesel and motor spirit from 2½ to 3%. -- FBC.

Motor Spirit increased by 5% to $2.62 a litre from the old price of $2.49, diesel  from $2.21 to $2.37, and kerosene from $1,76 to $1.90. --  FijiLive.

LAUTOKA TO GET $30 MILLION. New developments taking place in the sugar city under a $30m expansion plan will be announced by Special Administrator Praveen Bala who says the developments take place before the year ends.

Meanwhile, Australian-based international Sportswear manufacturer Kooga recently opened its new plant in Tavakubu, Lautoka employing about 120 local people.

MORE FOREIGN INVESTMENT. Some 159 foreign investment projects worth about $822 million have been registered since January. Investment CEO Ravuni Uluilakeba said  another seven proposals with a proposed value of about $75 million are currently being processed. The projects are expected to employ 3,246 people in the tourism, services, wholesale, retail, manufacturing and agriculture sectors.

ELECTION OBSERVERS. An EU technical team is expected next week and the EU probably agree  to the PM's invitation to send observers but this is still being discussed.  The two EU technicians will be joined by four  others from Australia and NZ.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Can You See and Make Comments?

Sometimes I can see comments on my notebook and at other times I can't.  I experienced this erratic behaviour some months ago and thought it had been fixed.  Now I don't know if it's Blogspot that's causing the problem, or whether it's my notebook, or something in my blog's settings.  If you are having problems seeing comments on a notebook or pc, please let me know at   If the problem persists, I may need to go to Wordpress but I'm reluctant to do this because it could confuse readers and I'm otherwise satisfied with Blogspot. -- Croz

What Support Does Bainimarama Have?

Just guessing.
By Crosbie Walsh

It is difficult and probably impossible to gauge the level of support for the Bainimarama government and its prospects of winning the 2014 election.

Its opponents claim they have the support but there's no way of gauging this either. Votes cast in the 2006 election may be cast very differently in 2014.

"Navosavakadua" writing in the relatively well balanced anti-blog Fiji Today, thinks the PM is assured of 27% of the vote due to the "Stockholm syndrome," the condition that causes victims to identify with their captors. "If so", he writes, "what this means is that the highest vote he can hope for is 27% because the rest of us do not feel grateful to our captor." My view would be that with this supposed "bedrock" support —and the support that Navosavakadua does  not acknowledge— the PM should be well over the 50% mark. But we are both guessing.

Surprised that 90% supported FB
What we do have is the occasional informal 'survey' such as the one made as a comment on my recent Ratu Joni posting. The writer said that when he was  in his home town in the West, he was surprised that 90% of those he asked said they supported FB and his party. They mentioned stability, assistance to the poor, school fees and the elderly, infrastructure, the decline in crime and equality for all Fijians as their reasons.

There is also the regular news that one village, settlement or tikina after another says it will support Bainimarama.  But, again, this may be, as his opponents claim, only because they hope to benefit from the Government's development activities. Once the road, bridge, telecentre or other benefits are in place, they may revert to their earlier loyalties.   For the moment, all we can do is report what is being reported.

In the last week Government had support from the Yasawas that I reported on Monday
Now we have reports from Tailevu North, formerly a Speight and SDL stronghold,  and Ba province.

Tailevu North
Three elders from Delasui and Navunisole villages and Namalata tikina in Tailevu North said they want the changes being brought about by the Bainimarama Government to continue because past governments had used favouritism as a weapon to gain the support of the people and to put in place changes for only some.

They wanted a new type of leadership; one that was truly people-oriented. “We the people of Namalata would like this leadership to continue and for that we will vote for the Prime Minister and his party to lead the country after the 2014 general elections,” Ratu Isaia said.

Mr Kalou said his people supported the new leadership displayed by the Prime Minister. “I must admit that we now have a leader that cares for all Fijians,” The "special treatments given only to some chiefs by past governments had ended. The Prime Minister had treated all Fijians equally and this, he said, “is the way forward the people of Navunisole. This  is why we will vote for Prime Minister Commodore Bainimarama and his party for the new government during the 2014 elections."

Ratu Mikaele said he supported the words of Mr Kalou and Ratu Isaia and for his people they were receiving Government help; something that they were denied in past years. He said past governments had their own people to look after and the majority were left in the dark.Now we have a new political direction that had the support of the people. People in the rural areas now having access to clean drinking water, electricity and good roads. He said they were now also provided with good health care and quality education.

Ba Province
 In Ba, people living in Tauvegavega and Koronubu settlements in Ba are reported to support the new constitution and Government initiatives to assist farmers. according to Minister for Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation Dr Jiko Luveni, who visited them last week.  The Minister said  that for the first time ever Fiji’s Constitution has incorporated social issues, the rights and interests of the persons with disabilities .. children and senior citizens."

Koronubu is a multicultural sugar-growing area with 765 sugarcane gangs, vegetable growers and dairy farmers. District advisory councillor  Deo Sharan said the people in the settlement, where "everyone lives in peace and unity",  support the new Constitution. They are grateful for the bus fare scheme, social pension scheme and government’s commitment towards addressing the plight of sugarcane farmers. "We support the Bainimarama government and we hope to see this government continue for the many years to come,” he said.

Tauvegavega Women’s Group president Mrs Kelera Drodro welcomed the inclusion of the rights of all Fijians, including women, in the new constitution. "Women contribute towards national development and it’s important that they read and understand the new Constitution. The new Constitution treats everyone equally and there is no discrimination based on race or gender. Everyone is seen equally and for the first time. This is really encouraging”.

Yes.  They could just be trying to please the Minister, but ....