Saturday, August 30, 2014

Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On

Voting As it Was

I was with a friend and conversation got around to the general elections.

He remembers when our polling station was at the Namaka Public School some years back. We were picked up by car and taken to the School.

One shed had grog and food and cigarettes were being given out free. We went in and sat down. The next shed was pretty empty and the people manning it looked forlorn.

After the elections the candidate from the shed that was empty won.

Yesterday he reminisced and said,
"Allen,  nanuma na gauana ya, kanu, gunu yaqona i ke, tick sana kadua."
(Drink grog, eat and get free smoke here but tick the other shed.)

Election Awareness


At around 4pm on Tuesday 26/8 a young man came to our gate and knocked. We invited him in and he said that he was from the Elections Office doing awareness on what to do on voting day.

We gave him time to speak and when he was finished someone asked a question to which he answered, "Isa, so sorry, I'm not here to answer political questions.  I'm just here to make people aware about what to do on elections day."

The chap was polite, soft spoken and answered all relevant questions that we asked him about the elections. And he politely abstained from answering any political questions.

One thing we found out was that you only have two goes at voting. If you make a mistake, you can ask for a second copy. Make a third and you are out.

But we still would like to know how parliament will be formed.

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.

Note: Allen asks how parliament will be formed. Seats will be allocated to each party that has reached a 5% threshold on the basis of the total number of votes for all their candidates. There is a formula to work this out precisely but the general principle is that if a party wins 30% of the total  votes, it will get 30% of the seats, 15 in the 50-seat parliament. Independent candidates will also need to pass the 5% threshold, that is, 5% of the total votes. (The threshold is also 5% in NZ where there have been calls to reduce it to 4%). Once in Parliament, the party with the most seats will form the Government. If they have under 25 seats, they will need the support of another party to give them a parliamentary majority. - Croz

Friday, August 29, 2014

Playing the Race Card: Sodelpa's Lie on Land

Reclaiming Fiji, the SODELPA Way
                                                        Opinion by Crosbie Walsh


Among its  claims that the Bainimarama government has undermined indigenous rights, including land rights (hence the SODELPA slogan 'Reclaim Fiji') is the assumption that the existing official Taukei institutions, such as the provincial councils and the TLTB, are inadequate to the task unless they have the protective umbrella of the Great Council of Chiefs.   This was evident in a recent listing by Ro Teimumu of 17 decrees SODELPA would change if it becomes government. Almost all of them mentioned the GCC.  Their "modest" message was clear: without the GCC all will be lost. 

Yet, Taukei land is protected in the Constitution, in a number of laws, and the TLTB Board is not exactly toothless.

The Taukei Land Trust Board

The Board comprises ten members, all Taukei, headed by the PM as Minister of iTaukei Affairs.  Seven members are chiefs, two of whom were former members of Senate and the GCC. Another was Ambassador to Japan and South Korea. One member was the Permanent Secretary for Land and Regional Development, another a long-standing member of the Native Affairs Board, and four have been or still are  chairmen or members of Provincial Councils. Hardly pushovers, even with the PM in the chair.

The TLTB website  leaves no doubt about the protection of Taukei land; it is quite explicit on this score:
iTaukei land comprises 87 percent of all the land in Fiji and was permanently deeded by the British Crown in the 1880’s. To put it simply, this land cannot be sold. It will forever remain as property of the landowning unit unless sold back to the State and then  used solely for public purpose. iTaukei land is available for public use by lease agreement. Leases can vary from 30 years for agricultural purposes up to 99 years for most other uses including residential, commercial and industrial leases.
 Reclaiming Fiji for who?

In an earlier article I observed:

On land she (Ro Teimumu) was quite specific on what SODELPA would do if in government: the old multiple constitutional and legislative protections on land, Senate and the Great Council of Chiefs would be restored, the NLTB would be given its old powers, and the direct payment of all lease money to the land-owning mataqali would be “reviewed”. The Bainimarama government’s Land Use Decree and the Land Bank would be abolished.
While a return to the past would no doubt protect the interests of some chiefs and some Taukei elite in the bureaucracy  —and in this respect SODELPA would be living up to its slogan "Reclaim Fiji"— it is hard to see how this would offer greater safeguards against land alienation, give ordinary Taukei landowners more benefits from their land, or stimulate greater use of the land, for the benefit of its owners and the nation.

All that seems likely to happen is that the chiefs would get bigger slices of land rents and the TLTB would be back to claiming 25% of the rental money as administration costs. This, of course, will mean reducing the rental money now paid to landowners.

But as I said, the real issue, was not mentioned:
She did not, however, address the really burning issue on land which is its use, not its ownership. A thriving Fijian economy needs much greater use of land by iTaukei villagers, the restoration of non-renewed leases (that contributed to the massive exodus of dispossessed Indo-Fijians tenants, an increase in peri-urban shanty town dwellings and a drop in sugar and other agricultural production), and fair agricultural and non-agricultural leases for lessor and lessee.
TLTB Priorities

In this regard, it is pleasing to read the latest announcement  by the TLTB. 
The Board has come up with prioritised strategies in a bid to empower landowners and provide them with greater opportunities 
As part of such efforts, the board has implemented the leasing of vacant or idle land, creating awareness at provincial, district and village levels for the purpose of providing advisory service through the landowner's affairs officer.

TLTB general manager Alipate Qetaki said they supported and facilitated the government's Look North Policy through the leasing of idle land for productive use and extension of agricultural leases under the Committee for Better Utilisation of Land (CBUL).

"The board also meets the requirements of the major sectors and facilitates the government's capital and infrastructure projects," he said. Mr Qetaki said TLTB continued to facilitate the extension of agriculture leases under CBUL.
It is not the job of the TLTB to stimulate greater land use.  They are concerned with leases, but the work of other government departments over the past few years has seen improvements in roads and wharves, giving people in remote and rural areas better access to markets; equipping rural women with skills to use and market local produce; initiatives to use coconuts for fuel and virgin oil, and a number of efforts to make Fiji less dependent on food imports.

The future

There's along way to go,  but the Bainimarama government's actions are empowering because they put the ball at the feet of grassroots Taukei.   Bainimarama is saying: We'll help but the hard yakka is over to you. Use  the land.

SODELPA's approach, on the other hand, is disempowering. It says: Take a back seat. We, the chiefs and SODELPA will keep this land for you, and makes no statement whatsoever on its use. The initiative is taken away  from ordinary people and given back to the leaders. That, apparently, is how they intend  to "reclaim Fiji."      

Snippets Friday 29 August

RO TEIMUMU CLARIFIES. Ro Teimumu claims to have been mis-cited by some sections of the Fiji media.  She says SODELPA has not called for a Christian state, only for a state living by Christian values. She says the Bainimarama government has undermined indigenous protection.

SODELPA will restore the Great Council of Chiefs with possible changes, and mataqali landowners will be consulted about the distribution of land rents.  She had earlier said chiefs deserved a larger share because they had more responsibility. She said nothing about the accountability of chiefs for the moneys paid to them,

'I WAS NOT EVEN INFORMED'.
SODELPA's claim that it has the support of the people of the Lau islands is questioned by the chairman of the Bose Ni Vanua Ko Lau, Ilisoni Taobawho says he knew nothing about the meeting between Ro Teimumu Kepa and a Laun delegation at Ono-i-lau House, Nadera on Wednesday.

“I’m the chairman of the Bose Ni Vanua Ko Lau and I was appointed by the late Tui Nayau, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara. I must admit I know nothing or even being informed of the meeting at Ono-i-lau House.”

Ro Teimumu, SODELPA leader and paramount chief of Rewa, accepted a traditional request supposedly from representatives of the Bose ni Vanua ko Lau, to represent Lau in the September 17 general election.

Mr Taoba said the Bose Ni Vanua ko Lau had totally distanced itself from all that happened at Ono-i-lau House on Wednesday at which about one hundred people were present, including  Ratu Epeli Ganilau, Adi Ateca Ganilau, Adi Kakua Mara, Tui Namosi Ratu Suliano Matanitobua and Anare Jale.

WOMAN POWER
. In the 2006 election only 27 (6%) women were candidates for the 71 seats and of these eight were elected. This year's electon will see 46 women (18.5% of the 248 candidates) contesting 50 seats.  The main parties have about the same number of women candidates but there the similarity ceases. A little of under one half of the female candidates for FFP, the NFP and PDP are Indo-Fijian all the  SODELPA candidates are Taukei.

CANDIDATE STORIES. These stories were published in the Fiji Sun:
Dr Rohit Kishore , FLP. http://www.fijisun.com.fj/2014/08/29/the-story-of-dr-rohit-kishore/
Jone Dakuvula, PDP.  http://www.fijisun.com.fj/2014/08/27/why-i-choose-pdp-dakuvula/

DEATH IN CUSTODY
. The Police Commissioner says the death of a suspected robber allegedly due to police beatings will be fully investigated. Police have presented their reguregu to the grieving family.  Political parties have condemned the beating.

DON'T ARGUE WITH A MAN OF GOD
. “I don’t want to add that with politics, this is a church thing, don’t mix the two together. Don’t come here with ulterior motives because I am a man of God.  Pastor Poate Mata, and PDP candidate.

27 YEARS LATER, STILL UNDER A TREE INSIDE A SCHOOL
.
"The first coup I experienced was in 1987 when I was only 7 years old. We had to sit under a tree inside the school until late before our parents could pick us up. 27 years later and we're still there! Somehow this coup culture has to stop for the sake of our children and grandchildren." Elizabeth Lomani in Facebook. Good humour is good for us!
$300,000,000 FOR NADI FLOOD CONTROL. The Japanese Government has allocated $300 million to mitigate the flooding of the Nadi River that affects 50,000 people living in the flood-prone area. Town administration Robin Ali said “It’s taken more than a decade to get the project started but thanks to the Government for getting this far in getting a flooding solution for Nadi and the next three years will see further studies carried out before the actual diversion begins in 2016.”

THE OVERSEAS VOTE. Fijians in Tonga have asked why no one visited them to register votes. They are much closer than the UK, NZ and Australia.  However, some of them managed to register on line.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Chief Calls Two Anti-Government Blogs Liars

Macuata high chief, Turaga na TuMacuata Ratu Wiliame Katonivere, yesterday (Monday) strongly denied the claim that he was no longer with the FijiFirst party.The claim was posted on the anti-government anonymous Fijileaks and Coup 4.5 blogsites.

When interviewed by the Fiji Sun yesterday the Tui Macuata said: “It is a lie.”

He said the two blogsites were very unrealiable. “People should not believe such blogsites because they don’t have the guts to show their sources of information or evidence.”

“People don’t have hard evidence to back their blogs,” he said. The Tui Macuata said it was a shameful act and those involved must stop it.


He said if he was not supporting the FijiFirst, he would inform the party and the secretary would make a release.

“If I stopped supporting FijiFirst our general secretary will release a press release.”

He said the FijiFirst campaign would start again in the North tomorrow with his full support.
“We will have a group from Suva coming for the campaign,” he said.

Ratu Wiliame had followed his late brother, Ratu Aisea’s footstep in supporting the Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama-led Government.

He also conmfirmed he never met with the Tui Cakau and SODELPA candidate, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu as claimed by the two blogsites.

In an earlier interview, Ratu Wiliame said he was not standing for election but his support for the Government remained intact.
He said in the past chiefs had been used by politicians and political parties for their own benefit.
“Many chiefs had benefitted from corrupt deals initiated by past governments.”
This, he said, was one of the reasons the Bainimarama-led government removed the Great Council of Chiefs.
This decision, he said, was opposed by past politicians who had politicised the chiefly institution. He supported the dissolution of the GCC.

PENI DRAUNA,  Fiji Sun

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Dispute between the Electoral Commission and the Supervisor of Elections

 Upstairs, Downstairs. What Can and 
Cannot Happen in 72 Hours
 
  Opinion by Crosbie Walsh

For readers who have no idea what happened to cause the Electoral Commission and Supervisor of Elections to disagree last Friday and why the disagreement went to  Court, the EC was required to submit its findings on the 21 appeals and objections on who should and who should not be able to stand as candidates in the election by Friday, but what time on Friday was arguable.

Mohammed Saneem, Supervisor of Elections
 The Supervisor, backed by the Solicitor-General, and ultimately by the Court, said 4:15pm, 72 after the time the appeals and objections closed.

The Commission, however, took the definition of the Interpretation Act, in which a day is defined as running from midnight to midnight. They had made their decisions by 2pm but needed to write them up properly, and not just provide the Supervisor with one liners.

At this point one might have thought the Supervisor, anxious to obtain the Electoral Commission's report on time, might have trotted up one floor and urged them to hurry up. Or a Commissioner could have trotted down to the ground floor to explain the Commission's delay. After all, they had been in almost constant contact with each other for days, and there were no outward signs of personality clashes or stubbornness.They were both on one side, working for an efficiently run, fair and free election. There was even time for them both to consult the Solicitor-General.

Chen Bunn Young, Chair, Electoral Commission
But no. The Supervisor, with the earlier backing of the Solicitor-General, a Government officer, and the Commission, with earlier advice of legal counsel in Australia and New Zealand, both sat on their respective high horses and did nothing about talking to each other.

I can accept that the Commission wished to maintain its independence —and, equally important, the public's perception that they are a truly independent body— but I do not think they would have compromising their position had they spoken with the Solicitor-General sometime on Friday. What constituted a day needed confirmation. There need have been no delay in the allocation of candidate numbers on Saturday, no redraw was needed, a simple switching of two names was all that was required. This was a confrontation that need not have happened.  Both parties, the Supervisor and the Commission, seem at fault, if only for their short-sightedness, though to what degree is not known.


The A-G's Three Other Hats
But the Attorney-General must also accept some responsibility . He blames the Commission for the delays and final outcome, and said they need not have sought overseas advice. All they had to do was ask the Solicitor-General.

But it is the function of an independent commission to seek whatever advice it thinks necessary. It is not the  function of the Attorney-General, or anyone else, to tell  them who they should or should not consult.

I think the A-G's interventions, however well intended,  could well have exacerbates the situation and if this were the case it does not look well coming from a person who wears three other hats.

In one hat,  as  Election Minister, he was required to be objective and independent. In the second, as the FijiFirst Secretary, he could not be expected to be independent. And wearing the third hat, as a subject of an objection to the Commission, he could not be expected to be either objective or independent. It could be asked which hat he was wearing when he intervened, and whether, indeed, it is humanly possible to do justice to three hats at any one time.

We know the Commission and Supervisor have been working under pressure. The same is true, and more so, of the A-G, a  man I highly respect. But on this occasion, I think he would have been wiser to have said nothing, at least publicly.

What are the outcomes?
So, what damage has been done to the integrity of the elections? Fortunately, not too much.

The position of the Election Commission was  temporarily undermined but the "business as usual" statement today from chairperson Chen Bunn Young has restored the situation, with their collective reputations untarnished.

In only one particular were the Commission's rulings aborted. They refused all objections and appeals except two. They ruled that FijiFirst candidate Parveen Kumar Baal was ineligible, but he remains a candidate, and that FLP's candidate Steven Singh should stand,  but his name has been deleted. 

Unnecessary as the this case has been, there is one important positive: all parties have complied with the law, and the law stands.

As Commission Chair, Chen Bunn Young says "the disagreement has been resolved through court and it's time to carry on with the work of conducting polls on September 17th.

“There was never a time when we were at opposite poles. We disagreed as organisations and institutions do. The court settled one of our disagreements. Even at the time we had filed the proceedings, we were still working on this poll Notice together. I want the people to know that we were co-operating even in the midst of the court action.”

Is Fiji's New Voting System Fair?


Emeritus Prof Crosbie Walsh
Opinion by Crosbie Walsh

"Over and over, one hears claims from Bainimarama supporters that Fiji now has the most democratic electoral system ever, in which Indo-Fijians are now finally “equal” to indigenous Fijians, with “1 person = 1 vote = 1 value”-- Dr Wadan Narsey

The Bainimarama government has promoted the slogan "One person=one person=one value" claiming it is a fairer system than the old First Past the Post and Alternative Vote sytems that preceded it.  Dr Wadan Narsey disagrees.

Dr Wadan Narsey
Myth 1, he says,  is that Indo-Fijians were under-represented in the old system, and cites the election victories of  the Bavadra and Chaudhry governments as evidence. My view is that these victories came about because of divisions among Taukei and competition between Taukei parties, not because of the the equal value of the Indo-Fijian vote.

His Myth 2 is that the new system, with its 5% threshold,  is unfair to  independents and smaller parties.

Further, he doubts the new system will promote inter-racial understanding, which he says was better assured with the previous 46 race-based communal  and 25 open electorates (in which all races voted) and  the power-sharing provision, that was supposed to result in any party with ten or more percent of the vote being invited to join government.  

He concedes that  power-sharing was initially unsuccessful with Qarase refusing to allow Chaudhry a place in government but  said that it worked well in the end, even though the parliamentary opposition was effectively reduced to one person, Mick Beddoes.

The supposed myth 1: Indo-Fijian underrepresentation

Wadan is correct is saying Indo-Fijians were not particularly under-represented.  But they were under-represented and they were not alone.

Comparing the value of Ro Teimumu's vote in Rewa in 2006 with Mahrendra Chaudhry's vote in Suva City and Biman Prasad's vote in his old stamping ground Labasa, for example, would show that Ro Teimumu's vote was worth 1.7 times that of Chaudhry's vote and 1.4 times that of Dr Prasad's.

Unequal numbers between types of racially-based electorates

These inequalities are not surprising given the unequal average size of communal electorates.  There were on average 9,437 registered voters in the Fijian communal electorates; 10,775 voters in the Indo-Fijian; 16,065 in the Fijian Urban electorates, 4,606 in the General voters and 5,375 in the single Rotuman electorate.

The most disadvantaged voters were not Indo-Fijian, however; they were Taukei voting in the in Fijian Urban electorates whose votes were worth only one-half the value of the average rural Taukei vote . The most over-represented were Rotuman and General (mixed races) voters.  Mick Beddoes' (General  voter) vote was worth three and a half times that of his ethnic Fijian urban neighbour and over double that of his Indo-Fijian neighbour!

Unequal numbers WITHIN types of electorate

But the inequalities did not stop there. The communal electorates had a very unequal number of voters, ranging from 3,340 (Namosi) to 15,348 (Ba West) and 19,044 for Nadroga/Navosa for Fijian Communal voters;    13 to 19 thousand for Urban Fijians, and 7 to 13 thousand for Indo-Fijians.  This make a Taukei vote in Namosi worth nearly six times more than a Taukei vote in Nadroga/Navosa or or an urban Taukei vote in the North West.

In the 25 Open electorates where everyone voted irrespective of race, the most glaring difference was between Suva City with 15,000 voters and their next door neighbours, Cunningham, with 24,000 voters. In this case, the Suva vote was worth more than one and a half times more than the Cunningham vote.

In summary, the system penalised Indo-Fijians a little and urban Fijians —and many rural Fijians a lot,

A closer look at each electorate would show that, in general,  the more  disadvantaged Fijian voters lived in the urban and more developed provinces where, as a result of better education and exposure to urban influences,  the power of the church and chief pressed less heavily on how they voted.  Whether intentional or not (and I think it was not) more votes were given to those least likely to use them independently.

The Supposed Myth 2: Inequalities due to the 5% threshold

Wadan is again correct in saying that the new system of voting with its 5% threshold will penalise independents and small parties. So also will the reduction of parliamentary seats from  71 to 50 and a single electorate comprising all of Fiji.  But I am not sure this is an undesirable consequence because it should result in a stronger government and less trading of votes in the new parliament.

■ The Old preferential vote system

The new system is  far less undesirable than the preferential and Alternative Vote system that  previously confused many voters. Confronted with so many candidates to rank,  many voters voted "above the line" leaving the party they voted for to decide where their preferences should go.

With candidates requiring 50% of the vote to be elected, the votes of the least preferred candidates were progressively allocated to the candidates remaining, until one passed the 50% threshold.

In the Open electorates this led to fourth preferences being used in two electorates, fifth preferences in five electorates, and seventh and ninth preferences being used in two other electorates.

It is hard to see how the final vote came even close to what those who named candidates by voting "below the line" had intended,. And for those voting "above the line" their chosen party decided where preferences would go, sometimes engaging in temporary alliances to thwart their major opponent.

■ The new Open List system

The new Open List system allows voters to choose any candidate of their choice. In effect, except for votes for independent candidates, voters are voting for a candidate and a party.

Unlike the Closed List system used for example in NZ where parties rank the order of their candidates (and which, incidentally also has a 5% threshold),  voters determine the order by which parties select their candidates.

Waden is correct in saying that the  number of votes for some of those elected could could be less than the threshold votes required of minor parties and independents  but he forgets that votes are passed down the line of list candidates on the basis of the total number of votes cast for all candidates standing for each party. He wrongly compares and confuses individual with party votes.

The 5% threshold may be a little high.  A lower threshold has been suggested in New Zealand. And the number of seats may be too few.  But a decision to modify the electoral system will have to wait until after this election. I doubt the threshold is a Machiavellian device conjured up by the Attorney-General as Wadan and others have inferred.

In the 2006 elections 13% of those registered did not vote and a further 8.8% had their votes declared invalid, mainly for minor technical irregularities.  Polls indicate that a similar proportion may not vote in the coming election but irregularities should be far fewer. Voters can tick, cross or circle their chosen candidate's number.

No electoral system is perfect and some intended outcomes are not as expected.  Fiji's previous voting system was far from perfect, with significant inequalities between races and electorates. And, as Professor Jonathon Fraenkel admits, the alternative vote  (AV), far from helping race relations, multi-racialism and moderation as intended, the system resulted in the emergence of extremism and ethnic polarisation.  Moderates were squeezed out. No truly multi-ethnic party emerged and no government was courageous enough to gradually phase out the Communal  seats and  increase the proportion of Open seats as the Reeves Commission that drafted the 1997 Constitution intended.

A major weakness of the power sharing arrangement of the old system, even when it was working, was that it virtually removed an effective opposition.  It is to be hoped that a virile, responsible opposition will emerge after the September election. There need to be checks on government in any democracy but it is hoped also that the privilege to oppose will not be abused. Assuming that FijiFirst will win the election, I think the NFP and PDP have the makings of an effective and  responsible opposition. Regrettably, I cannot say the same for SODELPA.

The truly multi-ethnic composition of all political parties contesting the election in four weeks time, other than SODELPA which is overwhelmingly Taukei, holds some promise for the future.  The new electoral system has come as close as is humanly possible to make one person=one vote=one value.

The signs are that the new parliament will have more women, more young people, and a wider range of professional talent. But the final outcome, as always with any system,  will depend on the calibre of the individual members of parliament on both sides of the House, and the wisdom and discipline of their leaders.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Bullshit Prevention Protocol: Testing the Truth of Reports

Chaudhry's,  father and son
By Crosbie Walsh

Yesterday (Friday) I published several social media comments, most, but not all,  anti-Government. In my opinion all of them  should have been removed by the social media publishers because they were highly personal, racist, excessively intolerant —and most likely untrue.

Unfortunately, this is not going to happen unless there are laws in place to make social media publishers responsible for what is published, and unless progressively heavy fines, and even site closures, support the laws.  Until this happens,  I fear for the future of responsible reporting.

Meanwhile, internet users are left as the only ones able to assess the likely truth of what is published in the social media.

Here are some tips on how to check validity:

First, examine your own views. Do not dismiss an item  because you disagree with it. It could be true, or at least contain some truth. You should ferret it out.

Secondly, ask what you know about the media. How is its credibility record? What are its likely shortcomings and biases.

Thirdly, ask what you know of the writer. What does he know on the subject? What are his or her views and biases?  What does he hope to gain by writing the item?  How accurate is his credibility record? Try a Google search if the writer could be reasonably well know.

Fourthly, ask how the writer knows about the story he has published. Check this very carefully looking in particular for "a friend", a "friend of a friend" and otherwise anonymous undisclosed sources.

Fifthly, see if the story was also reported in other media over the next few days,which could give it more credibility, and ask, if not, why not? Note, however, that purportedly independent multiple reportings from the same source, or string of similar sources,  adds nothing to credibility. A falsehood or error repeated ten times is still an error or  falsehood.

Sixthly, look carefully at the construction of the story, especially if it is built on a number of claims.  Examine the plausibility of each claim. And ask if there are  any ways to check or test each of them.

Bullshit Prevention Protocol

Michelle Nijhuis calls checks on validity Bullshit Prevention Protocol. She says:

I am often wrong. I misunderstand; I misremember; I believe things I shouldn’t. I’m overly optimistic about the future quality of Downton Abbey and inexact in my recall of rock-star shenanigans. But I am not often—knock wood—wrong in print, and that’s because, as a journalist, I’ve had advanced training in Bullshit Prevention Protocol.

Preventing bullshit is time-consuming, and thoroughly fact-checking an entire article can feel like a particularly demented form of needlepoint. There’s a good reason why my Facebook posts and tweets are almost exclusively about my family and friends, certain TV shows, and articles written by me and people I know and trust. I don’t have a lot of time to practice BPP for free, and I don’t want to share bullshit.

Thanks for reading, and congratulations. You are now qualified to practice.

■ Testing your skills

Try testing your BPP skills on Rajendra Chaudhry's claim that I reported in Friday.

This is what he wrote on Facebook:

"From a friend: As we speaking message received Police ordered by PM to arrest Ro Teimumu for supporting Qarase's perceived comments. Police contacted RFMF n was told not to and also told in clear terms that there is a change of Command at QEB. Period!!!"

Check.
1 Your own views.  Are you already inclined to believe or disbelieve him?
2. Is Facebook a credible source, and if not, why not?
3. Is Rajendra a likely reliable source? What may he hope to gain by publishing this story?
4. What do we know about Rajendra's friend?
5. Has the story been repeated elsewhere?
6. What of the construction of the story?

He quotes a friend (claim 1) who says the police received a message (claim 2) ordered by the PM (claim 3), and goes on to say the police contacted the RFMF (claim 4), who said no, do not arrest Ro Teimumu (claim 5).

Ask why on earth Bainimarama should want to arrest Ro Teimumu who he leads decisively in the polls, when her arrest could backfire and generate a sympathy vote,  And ask why arrest Ro Teimumu and not Qarase  when it was Qarase who made the offending statements.

Finally, check to see if the story has been reported elsewhere.  Then on the basis of your answers, made your own call. This is all you can do.  Ro Teimumu was not arrested. It was a non-event that cannot be tested.

My own opinion is that this is the cleverest form of bullshit. It is a story that would have everyone denying any part of it, with no paper trail, and an outcome that cannot be tested because nothing happened.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Bleeding Wounds of Racism in Fiji


By Rajendra Prasad

Since their arrival on May 14, 1879, racism has been the scourge of our people in Fiji. The British used it both mentally and physically to overwhelm the Girmitiyas during the Girmit era (1879-1919) to create a mindset that they were serfs born to serve the interests of their white masters. To give vent to their evil intent, they even enacted legislation, “Masters and Servants Ordinance” to legitimize their privileged position as ‘masters’ and define the place of Indians as ‘servants’. If there was any doubt, the whips that they ritually bore on their backs in the toiling fields made them realize and accept their servitude. It was a deeply brutalizing and dehumanizing experience and when Girmit ended on December 31, 1919, the whips ceased but the toil for their livelihood, in the new era, 1920-1970 remained onerous. As if this were not enough, they became victims of systemic racism that hounded successive generations until 2006. It was a long and heartbreaking walk to reach this destiny.

A historical perspective
Struggle for survival was the narrative that echoed from the rural hamlets of Indo-Fijian farmers. The sole beneficiaries of their struggles were the CSR Company, Government and Europeans, as poverty and indebtedness challenged them endlessly. The CSR Company, in collusion with the Government, systematically robbed the farmers of their income from sugarcane that they supplied to the mills and Europeans had endless supply of cheap Indian labor as cooks, gardeners and menial workers. Comfort and luxury to the sahibs and memsahibs were available at the click of the fingers. Fiji was indeed a paradise to them and cheap Indian labor was part of the package. To one was luxury and wealth and to the other poverty and struggle for survival. I have lived this life (1950-mid1960) and its distressing memory will endure to the end, as my eyes still well with tears when I recall that painful era.

The whole village was a manifestation of poverty. Families worked hard and long to ensure food on the table. It was never easy. Sometimes neighbors borrowed sharp, rice, tea, sugar, salt, or lentils to cook a meal. Every family was in debt either to the shopkeepers or moneylenders. How they survived was lost in the mist of time but their struggles gave economic stability to Fiji. It gave us endurance, resilience and fortitude. We became soldiers of peace and warriors of toil. We were, of necessity, hardworking, frugal, prudent and economical. From sparse resources, Indo-Fijians built primary schools to educate their children. They were obsessed with education of their children, as they felt that it would give their children a better future. Education of Indian children was not a priority for the Government, as it wanted them to remain a laboring class, serving European interests. It could not prevail and Indian primary schools sprouted all across the rural villages wherever they lived. Numerous secondary schools also emerged in the 1960s and 1970s. Indo-Fijians progressed by the sweat of their brow and not through the generosity of anyone.

Nomads in the land of their birth
Then, success became their greatest offence, as Europeans despised and demeaned them, fearing challenge to their dominance. It did not end there, as they propagandized to the iTaukei that Indo-Fijians posed a grave threat to their land ownership, customary and traditional rights. With this propaganda a new alignment was made with the iTaukei chiefs who were used to resist Indo-Fijians to arrest their advance in various ways to protect and promote European dominance. The cruelest of all was the eviction of Indian tenants from leased land to make them vulnerable and destitute. Destitution made them weak and compliant to the colonial oligarchy. In 1963, for example, large tracts of land under sugarcane plantation in Korobubu, Ba were reserved and Indian farmers were relocated in the hilly regions of Namada to begin life anew on leased land. Deeply forested land was soon made cultivable, as Indian farmers worked hard to restore their broken lives. The landowners who took over the land in Koronubu, barring just a few, failed and land reverted to bush. Those that had built their homes in Namada were again evicted as their thirty-year leases expired in the 1990s. Many now live in shacks and shanties in the squatter settlements around the country. The land that they occupied has reverted to bush. Their great misfortune was that they belonged to an ethnically despised race. In a nation that was rife with racism, Indo-Fijians had become nomads in the land of their birth.

Racism, an unending pain
The pain of racism on Indo-Fijians is like a suppurating wound that is not allowed to heal, as racist bigots lurk in the shadows to pounce on them at every turn. I share the heartfelt cry of Shyana Ali of Suva who wrote, in the letters to editor column (Fiji Sun 10.08.2014), decrying the racist comments made by former Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, which I hope penetrates the hearts and minds of our iTaukei brothers and sisters, particularly those who derived pleasure in the persecution Indo-Fijians. Referring to the Girmitiyas, Shyana Ali wrote, “So they came in the thousands, some made it some didn’t, only to be tortured and enslaved. Then when they were finally reassured everything was going to be ok they stayed thinking they were accepted, they were loved and that this was their country now, their home – little did they know. I don’t know where I belong. I can’t go to India, I’ve never been, I can’t afford the trip plus I don’t even know which part of that vast country my ancestors came from? Where do I begin to look for my family in the world’s second largest population? I didn’t ask to be born here but I was always proud to have been! I cheered for the home team, I wore the colours with pride, I paid my debts, I helped and watched the economy grow.” Such feeling of pain and frustration ravaged our hearts and minds. We wiped our tears. We lived in hope but were wrapped in despair, as forces of evil challenged us endlessly. In recent times, Indo-Fijians had no champions, as their own leaders were opportunistic and self-serving.

Racial onslaught yet again.
In this election, land, religion, and race are coming into play again to manipulate the minds of the iTaukei voters. Former Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase is at the forefront of the onslaught as he seeks to oust his arch enemy Prime Minister Bainimarama who, as the Army Commander, had deposed him and his Government from office on December 5, 2006. He cannot stand in the elections, as he was convicted and jailed for abuse of office but he wants his party, SODELPA, to defeat Bainimarama’s FijiFirst Party and form the next Government. SODELPA is SDL (Qarase’s party) reincarnated. The new cover cannot hide its content as it has reverted to politics of race yet again. Qarase has touched on every raw nerve to ignite a frenzied response from his chosen audience and the recent claim of superiority of the iTaukei over every other community has stunned many. The 1970 and 1997 constitutions, endorsed by the international community, enshrined equality except the 1990 Constitution, which advocated positive discrimination against Indo-Fijians.

Qarase duplicitous
Interestingly, Qarase won two terms under the 1997 Constitution and was comfortable with the provision of equality and Fiji being a secular state. On accepting office, following the 2006 elections, he endorsed equal basic rights for all. He said, “This election outcome is consistent with what I’ve always said, that in promoting national reconciliation and unity in Fiji, it is not enough and, in fact, it is totally unrealistic to regard society in Fiji as nothing more than a collection of individuals with equal basic rights and freedoms. We have to recognize that we are a society of communities with differences in the way they look at their security and confidence in living in Fiji. The task before me and my government in the next five years is to dedicate ourselves to the service of everyone in our nation, irrespective of their political loyalties, their ethnicities and cultures.” This was a saintly discourse from a person whose duplicity is incontestable. During the campaign period he becomes obsessed with race and religion and uses them to entice his flock, aware that this is what segregates them instinctively to vote for his ethnic party. Once the victory is attained, Qarase changes his ethnic cloak and emerges as a saint, advocating multiracialism, unity and equality for all. This is chameleonic politics at its worst. Leaders without morals, ethics or principles should really be assigned to the dustbin of history to save Fiji from their predation.

Constitution okay if the oligarchy wins
Again, true to his mission, Qarase recently claimed that Christianity should be the predominant religion and Fiji is not a secular state. He ruled Fiji as Prime Minister for one full term of five years (2001-2006) and his second term was prematurely terminated through a military coup but in six years when he was the elected Prime Minister he never claimed that Fiji was not a secular state and that Christianity was the predominant religion. In addition to this, following the defeat of the iTaukei oligarchy at the polls in 1999, the interim Qarase Government had rubbished the 1997 Constitution as against the interests of the iTaukei and had strongly advocated that it be reviewed despite it being unanimously approved by the Parliament, Senate and Great Council of Chiefs. However, the great irony was that when Qarase got elected with a majority under the same 1997 Constitution in 2001 and later in 2006, he never raised the issue that the 1997 Constitution was against the interests of the iTaukei and that it needed to be reviewed. What was clearly evident was that the as long as the iTaukei oligarchy was elected and comprised the government the provisions of the operative constitution did not matter but only when they lost such election! And the mother of all ironies is that Qarase and his acolytes are now advocating the restoration of the 1997 Constitution!


(Rajendra Prasad is the author of Tears in Paradise – Suffering and Struggles of Indians in Fiji 1879-2004.

Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On

Shark Fin


"According to conservationists sharks are endangered because of threats that are the result of human activities including shark finning and getting caught in fishing gear. These are apex predators (at the top of the food chain) and play an important role in the health of the oceans." (Source - See the World)

In the provisions of Part 3 of the Customs Tariff Concession code No. 249 (i) it states shark fin may be imported duty free by operators engaged in 100% export.

The normal import duty, for shark fin under is 15% Customs Duty and $15 VAT.

Do we really want to encourage the shark fin trade by offering concession on exports?

Let's join the fight and curb the shark fin trade.

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.

What 19 animals killed the most people
Sharks are not even listed. http://www.viralnova.com/animals-that-kill-humans/

http://www.viralnova.com/animals-that-kill-humans/

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Misinformation on the Social Media: a Fiji and International Problem

It may seem harmless but...


Opinion By Crosbie Walsh

The social media — Facebook, Tweet and the blogs— provide an increasingly  important source of information and misinformation. Some 300,000 people, or 34% of the population, already have internet connections in Fiji and the number is growing.

Anyone can say anything, or draw anything,  about anyone and anything in the social media. There is no obligation to source or verify information, and many comments are one- line gut reactions that seem to express the prejudices, hatred,  fears and little-considered views of the writers. The most blatant racist, sexual, personal, political and religious view are published.

There is no means of checking the credentials of those making comments. A person who believes the Americans did not put on a man on the moon  is provided with a stage as large as that of the scientist who can prove it.

Those running these internet sites are, or should be, obliged to remove personal, libellous and factually wrong postings but they seldom do so.   The boundaries between their legal and moral obligations are blurred, and the more outrageous the comments, the more people seem to be attracted to reading them.

The issue is much, much  larger than the current situation in Fiji. Think of the ever increasing number of people with access to the internet. But it is especially important to Fiji at the present time with elections only 27 days away.

World-wide, the social media may soon swamp and block out and negate more responsible reporting.   It can be used to protect human rights  but it can also be used to abuse them. This is where I would have looked for international guidance, from governments, international agencies and the media.

The opportunity to comment on the on line versions of newspapers provides another outlet for the views of John Citizen. Although this is a lesser issue. because it is more moderated, a principled stance by the media and its watchdog is also needed.

But, the more potentially dangerous sources of misinformation that can cause less understanding and tolerance between people, is the social media,

I am surprised that those who purport to be concerned about freedom of the press have been silent on this burgeoning issue of how to control the misuse of the social media.

If you do not believe me, here are some current examples of internet postings on Fiji.  mostly from Facebook.

"The prize khaiyum wants is Fiji. And he will stop at nothing to get it." -- John Manson. This folowed an earlier comment that the Syrian army (sic!) was coming to Fiji to enforce Muslim law.

":The indians are the reason this is happening.....its because they wanted to take over fiji that all this started.....get rid of the indians." -- Makylar Williams.

"I have Fijian in my blood so I know whats best for my county." -- Makylar Williams.

"Because only hundreds (sic!) of innocent lives were killed 8 years ago and that doesn't matter to us because none of them were our family, is that what you mean crosbie? O.o."
-- Sakura Lee, who lives in Tokyo, replying  to my comment  that human rights abuses (not deaths) are being reported as if they were still happening.

"Stop buying bread from Hot Bread Kitchen, owner a known racist and coup supporter, SOPELPA Candidate Mere Samisoni has been rumored to have been using beef and pork lard to spite Indo-Fijians." -- Pilsner Templeton.

"Army and Police refuse Bainimarama directive to arrest Ro Teimumu Kepa
Bainimarama's days are numbered. RFMF not supportive of Bainimarama.
From a friend:
"As we speaking message received Police ordered by PM to arrest Ro Teimumu for supporting Qarase's perceived comments. Police contacted RFMF n was told not to and also told in clear terms that there is a change of Command at QEB. Period!!!" -- Rajendra Chaudhry, two days ago.


A nicer one to end with.
"I hve spent most of my time with my itauki bros...n they always hve treats me like their little bro...ate topois with them...n beka too..silarivi...once pressd with spoon it flew out of plate...so I call it slippery since thn...vinaka taciqus." --   Jon Shukla.


What do Party Policies Say on the Judiciary,the Internet and Health

Parties For Independent Judiciary


Registered political parties believe in an independent judicial system.
The Social Democratic Liberal Party, Fiji Labour Party, National Federation Party, One Fiji Party and the Fiji United Freedom Party have all expressed and highlighted this in their party manifestos.
Here are what the parties have to say about an independent judiciary.

One Fiji
Party Leader Filimoni Vosarogo while launching their manifesto last Friday in Suva said the party understood that the importance of the independence of the judiciary from any form of interference.

SODELPA
SODELPA said they would ensure the independence of the judiciary and widen the sources of overseas recruitments to the judiciary.

FLP
A Labour government would set up an independent judicial Commission of Inquiry appointed by the President to investigate allegations of interference and manipulation of the judiciary.
A Labour government, they highlighted, would enhance the independence of the Courts, Justices of appellate courts, other than the Chief Justice and the President of the Fiji Court of Appeal would be recruited from other compatible jurisdictions.
The party has also highlighted in their manifesto that they believed the Legal Services Commission was to be independent and autonomous institution, free from any external influence. And to preserve the independence of the courts, they said the Commission chair must not be a judge of the High Court.
They would also create special courts for traffic offences and petty crime to free up the court system.

NFP
The National Federation Party in their manifesto said they would ensure adequate support to the judiciary which they said was so fundamental to upholding the Rule of Law and instilling confidence to the general public in the judiciary.

FUFP
The Fiji United Freedom Party leader Nayagodamu Korovou said the party believed in an independent judiciary.
This, he said was the only way that could enable foreigners to invest in Fiji.
“When there is an independent judiciary, it will create confidence for investors to come in because if the judiciary is not independent then the investors will be reluctant,” Mr Korovou said.
The party in their manifesto highlighted that it would be implementing a judiciary in each of the 14 provinces in Fiji to make it easier and accessible for the locals to access their services.

FijiFirst
FijiFirst leader and Prime Minister Rear Admiral (Retired) Voreqe Bainimarama while addressing the 2014 budget said the legal services was critical in making sure that we are truly equal under the law.
Mr Bainimarama said justice could only be done when everyone was equal before the law with equal access to the law.
“Unequal justice leads to disillusionment, and people who feel they are shut out of the justice system will lose faith in government,” Mr Bainimarama said.
feedback: aqela.susu@fijisun.com.fj
AQELA SUSU
suva


The Fiji Sun publishes regularly on the policies of the political parties contesting the elections. It is the only newspaper to do so.   Here are links to  comparative policies on two other issues: the internet and health.

PARTY POLICIES ON THE USE OF INTERNET.
www.fijijsun.com.fj/?p=224183
PARTY'S HEALTH POLICIES
www.fijisun.com.fj/2014/08/21/parties-look-to-better-health-future/

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Will this Election Be Won on Lies?

Will This Election Be Won On Lies?


Go to the towns, markets or sports arenas, the people of Fiji are one happy lot, the writer says. Photo: Paulini Ratulailai
by Rajendra
Prasad
(Rajendra Prasad is the author of Tears in Paradise – Suffering and Struggles of Indians in Fiji 1879-2004)
I spent a week in Fiji (9th to 16th July) and saw a nation on the move to claim its place among the democratic nations of the world. On September 17, 2014 Fiji will go to the polls to elect its first Parliament after the military coup of December 5, 2006. It will be held under the new 2013 Constitution, which is strikingly different to all the previous constitutions. The 1970, 1990 and 1997 Constitution advocated ethnic voting whereas the 2013 Constitution has removed this provision and every citizen of Fiji is now on one roll.
The basic precept of such provision is “one person, one vote, one value” for all. Equality and dignity of every citizen is the rallying cry of this Constitution. Remarkably, a departure from the norm has gone down well with the majority of people except those who exploited ethnicity to rob their way to power. Ethnic voting kept the nation divided, giving way to racism to flourish. Multiracialism and multiculturalism existed in name.
There are those who laud the Bainimarama Government for the changes and work it has accomplished in eight years of its rule. Many believe that Fiji’s rotten democracy needed drastic measures for drastic change. The Fijian democracy was a cover for autocracy to prevail by the chosen few who benefitted from the state of anarchy that became the core character of the nation.
The Bainimarama Government, though unelected, has given the nation a new taste of what democracy, equality and dignity entails. At least the common citizen feels that he/she is part of a modern, secular, inclusive and equal society and not ruled by racist bigots. Interestingly, security of indigenous land is never an issue except in the period preceding an election.
It is used by the racist bigots to camouflage truth, because it fires the emotions of indigenous people on a non-existent threat and they vote en-masse to their so-called ‘champions’. Yet, it has been revealed that, when in power, they had insidiously converted land at Momi and Denarau to freehold.
Land issue
But let us dispassionately review the land issue. Let there be no illusion, it is implied that such threat comes from Indo-Fijians. They have been in Fiji for 135 years and in this period they have not appropriated an inch of indigenous owned land. However, many had leased such land but when the leases expired or upon extra-legal action taken by landowners, largely at the instigation of their leaders, they vacated such land without resistance or demand for compensation.
Today, most of such land is lying fallow, compounding the poverty of landowners whose rental income has ceased forever. Further, since independence for 36 years (1970-2006) the iTaukei elite have been in power for 35 years and yet they did nothing to liberate their people from poverty but always blamed Indo-Fijians for it.
Bizarrely, they pursued policies to marginalise and dispossess Indo-Fijians so that the two communities gained parity in destitution when they should have promoted the prosperity of both to economically benefit the nation.
The current Government is advocating prosperity for all and equitable sharing and distribution of resources. Rental income will no longer be shared by others, as in the past, which left peanuts for the landowners. They are now being encouraged to lease their land through the TLTB or Land Bank to enable them to receive regular rental income. Indeed, productive use of land resources by landowners themselves or tenants is in the best interest of everyone. God gave this vital gift to humanity to use it for its livelihood and prosperity. Those who own such resources should not squander the opportunities that abound.
Christian state
Land and religion in Fiji comprise the most volatile fuel to kindle the racial conflagration. Religion is now also being dragged by the advocates of racism in a desperate bid to win the election. Most, if not all, project themselves as devout Christians. Yet, Christianity is a religion that is anchored to love. Christianity without love equates to heathenism. Indeed, there is no point in declaring Fiji a Christian State when those who advocate it hold the sword of violence to achieve their goals and objectives.
Indeed, Christianity could have been effectively used to rout racism in Fiji; instead it has been used as a weapon against the lost who shun it as a religion bereft of love, tolerance and goodwill. They also rightly claim that today, in Fiji, more Christians are in prison than those whom they label as pagans. Could this also be attributed them, as iTaukei poverty is?
Leaders’ wealth
Corruption was the fastest growing industry during the era of democratic rule in Fiji. It is not to claim that it has vanished but it is being addressed. Much maligned Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum have declared their assets, which gives startling comparison to the wealth of leaders who were Prime Ministers of Fiji except Rabuka who had the harvest but was not astute enough to hold it in his granary.
Fiji Way
Go to the towns, markets or sports arenas, the people of Fiji are one happy lot who relate well with one another. There is happy and respectful exchange of greetings and hearty banter, followed by laughter that is an evolving as Fiji Way, replacing the meaningless Pacific Way. Letters to editor columns carry the same spirit and not the nasty ‘snarling’ of the past. Indo-Fijians follow the Fiji 7s team with same fervour as the iTaukei, including Indo-Fijian women. Bollywood has also infiltrated the iTaukei hearts and minds, drawing them to the TV screens and rigid following of their favourite programmes.
Go through the iTaukei settlements and it is not unusual to hear the Bollywood beats echoing, as they do from Indo-Fijian homes. This medium is also enhancing race relations, which is also transforming hearts and minds of Fiji’s peoples, as they realize and accept they are one people and Fiji is their home.
However, Fiji can only become the utopia of our dreams if there is political harmony. Indeed, democracy in Fiji was a label without the basic ingredients of equality, justice and dignity.
Democracy that is reconfigured to pursue racial discrimination is not democracy but tyranny. Both form and content comprise its inseparable limbs.
Worldwide such autocratic democracies abound and it usually entails the tyranny of the aristocracy, propped by the Armed forces, against the majority. Fiji has had a parting of ways between the two on December 5, 2006 and a new era in Fiji politics began, much to the disgust of the ruling elite who had a long reign, using it to restore it to power whenever it was lost, as in 1987 and 2000. With this detachment, a new era in Fiji politics began, which will culminate in first democratic elections on September 17, 2014. The field is open and those deposed in 2006 and their associates are back with their ideologies and banners to retake what they considered to be their birth right. Truth, morals, ethics and principles will become the immediate casualties, as victory at any cost becomes the name of the game.
What amused and also saddened me was the sheer lack of remorse and moral conscience of some of the leaders, convicted for abuse of office or violation of laws, as they campaigned for their political parties.
Sometimes, it is beyond the bizarre, as one person, a recent arrival to the mainland from Vanua Levu told me that the Government was wrong in fining Chaudhry F$2 million, as he was paying the farmers evicted from their leased land $28,000 each from the funds he held in Australia!
He genuinely grieved that now the poor farmers cannot be helped because the Government had taken all the money in fines. I was gobsmacked by the naivety of the person whose seriousness in his belief was inscrutable.
Will this election be won on deceit and lies or will it be won on truth and understanding? Only time will tell. God Bless Fiji!
Feedback: newsroom@fijisun.com.fj

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

SODELPA Policies Prepare the Ground for Racial, Religious and Political Intolerance

The fire at Cunningham 3
UPDATED.
APPEALS TO RACISM, RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE AND VIOLENCE. The Fiji Police say they are aware of the racial and religious vilification, the calls for violence and the call for the FijiSun to be "burnt to ashes", published on some Facebook pages by people who support SODELPA. Ro Teimumu said these are not official SODELPA statements and called for more tolerance.

But, intentionally or not, SODELPA's  policies on  race and religion prepare the ground for these expressions of intolerance and the probable arson noted in the next item. Similar sentiments led to the 1987 and 2000 coups.  Ro Teimumu needs to do more than call for tolerance.  To improve SODELPA's tarnished image. she needs to strongly condemn the intolerance, set an example with her own statements,  and lead the call to bring the perpetrators to justice.

POLITICAL ARSON? Residents  of Cunningham Stage 3 in Suva were rudely awoken yesterday to find a church hall earmarked as a polling station in flames. The fire destroyed the wooden Vunidakua Methodist Church hall, which was to cater for 500 people during the September election.

RAZOR POLL: "Are some parties using race and religion to win votes?" 
     Yes 53%   No 45%  Unsure 2%
I must admit to be surprised at the low 'yes' vote. Could Fijian voters be so used to race and religion being used in this way that they do not all the instances when it occurs? 

DIRTY POLITICS IN INDONESIA:  SIMILARITIES TO FIJI? Joko Widodo, better known as Jokowi, was recently elected as Indonesia's president, despite the dirty politics of his main opponent.

This is what Peter Drysdale, the editor of the East West Forum had to say:

"Jokowi's opponent, the tough talking Prabowo Subianto, former son-in-law of ousted president Suharto, was advised by American consultants, previously mentors to Republican candidates on how to drown out opponents in smear campaigns.

Prabowo's electoral machine spread false rumours that Jokowi was a Singaporean Chinese and a Christian. Jokowi was pushed onto the defensive by the bite of these attacks among Indonesia's devout Muslim community. But, though the contest tightened in the run to the wire, Jokowi emerged the clear winner."

PARTY POLICIES ON THE USE OF INTERNET. See www.fijijsun.com.fj/?p=224183

Differing Reasonably and Politely

Veena

Biman and Aiyaz
Veena Bhatnagar's moderation (or chairmanship) of the recent Aaina  debate (Ep.138) on Radio Fiji between NFP leader Dr Biman Prasad and  FFP spokesman and current Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has been furiously debated on the Fiji Economic Forum blog.



Most people  said she put forward her own opinions, was biased against Biman,  curried favour with Aiyaz, and should not have moderated the debate knowing that she would soon become a FijiFirst candidate. 

I argued that her impeding candidature was irrelevant and that everyone has biases.The only thing that mattered in this case was whether she was fair and professional.  I thought she was.  She certainly interrupted Biman when he spoke too lengthily but no more than a good chairperson would. Click on this link to the programme to make your own judgment.

What impressed me most about the debate was not so much the different views on the issues raised, but the tolerance, respect and good humour shown by both participants, which I thought were assisted by Veena's good chairmanship. There was none of the vicious sniping and personal attacks seen when some other aspiring politicians —and too many bloggers—argue their differences. 

But this is what I would expect from two people I know a little —and respect a lot.  -- Croz

Monday, August 18, 2014

Monday 18 August: 30 Days to Go

THE 14-MEMBER ELECTION OBSERVER TEAM  will be co-lead by Australia, India, Indonesia and PNG.  The Australian team  will be led by  the Hon. Peter Reith, an experienced former Cabinet minister with a strong interest in supporting democracy internationally. His team will comprise  a bipartisan group of current and former parliamentarians, as well as experts and officials, some of whom will soon start work in Suva.

"The Multinational Observation Group will have freedom of movement throughout Fiji and will communicate with the Fijian Government, political parties and other social and political organisations in Fiji. As invited by Fiji, it will assess whether the outcome of the general election broadly represents the will of the Fijian voters." -- Based on Island Business.

But Joseph Swanson writing in the blog Fiji Economic Forum thinks the the Observer Group will fail in its mission:  "This is how we will be cheated during the elections.....if the election ballad papers are counted electronically.....this is the way to cheat on the figures.....it does not matter who will be observing (UN NZ or Aust)......it will be done right under their eyes and they will not see it....this is not speculation....this is a fact.....like it or not. This system was banned in America,sold to India....and rumor has it that it is now in Fiji. (dont know who bought it here...???) The guy I suspect is a computer expert...??? and he tends to favor Frank (due to favors etc.) people wake up....start thinking. - at Novotel Suva Lami Bay."

Joseph, there will be no more than 500 people a polling station and the ballot papers will not be counted electronically.  They will be counted by hand in the presence of party invigilators!

BEDDOES SAYS QARASE DID NOT MEAN TO ATTACK ISLAM in his previously reported comment about candidate numbers starting at 135 and the Qu'an verse of the same number, "He was simply trying ask and understand why start at 135,” he says.  Nor does he have any problem with Qarase's statement that God has given this land to the i-Taukei.

CORRUPTION EXPOSED: TWO JAILED  FOR ABUSE OF OFFICE. The High Court has sentenced two former senior Native Land Trust Board officials, Keni Dakauidreketi and Kalivati Bakani, to six and four years imprisonment for abuse of office, to which they pleaded guilty.

The charges resulted from the two men facilitating loans for Ballu Khan's IT company Pacific Connex through NLTB's commercial arm Vanua Development Corporation Limited using extinct mataqali funds, trust funds and grants. The two also provided security for a loan and an overdraft facility for Pacific Connex. $5million of public funds, mostly those belonging to iTaukei landowners, had been given to Pacific Connex of which only $200,000 was returned.

According to the order of events, when VDCL was formed to invest landowners' money, a proposal was given to the NLTB by Pacific Connex for a $4.6m software upgrade.

Pacific Connex had also proposed to VDCL that it buy shares in the company. The resolution was passed and VDCL became 51 per cent shareholder. Bakani and Dakuidreketi became directors on the Pacific Connex Board.

LACK OF INTEREST IN GREAT COUNCIL OF CHIEFS. In reporting the results of the latest Tebbutt poll, the Fiji Times noted a general lack of interest, despite which some political parties have its restoration high on their agenda. :The Tebbutt-Times survey results may strongly indicate the people's views on governing bodies and leadership values, and the fact that having a GCC around is really not a matter of priority or necessity, anymore .... It would also be interesting to see the role the GCC will play in a modern Fiji, if any political party that wins the general election decides to bring it back."

The Tebbutt poll of 1047 people randomly selected in the conurbations of Lami to Nausori, and Nadi to Ba found 48% supporting the GCC restoration, with 33% against, 15% who could not care, and 4% who declined to answer. Of those supporting its restoration, more were women (51 to 44%) and Taukei (65% to Indo-Fijians 30%).  Younger generation (18 per cent) between the ages of 18 to 24 years said they did not care about the reinstatement of the GCC.

MAKARETA WAQAVONOVONO, a prominent lawyer and former senior civil servant,  has been prevented from standing as an election candidate because she has not been continuously in Fiji for the past two years. She has been working for AusAid in the Solomons and studying in Australia for over 18 months in the previous two years.  Other people who do not meet the two year requirement, however, can stand as candidates if they were overseas on government business.  And all overseas Fiji citizens can register to vote irrespective of the time they've lived overseas.

Makareta's exclusion was the result of a last minute law change on 31 July, soon after it was announced she would be a candidate  for the National Federation Party, but the events could be coincidental.

I have argued against her exclusion before but would now add my voice to Wadan Narsey's.  Makareta has skills that could contribute much to a future parliament. If FijiFirst forms the new government, as seems likely, the opposition party most likely to join it in opposing SODELPA is the NFP.  The exclusion ruling seems targeted, petty — and tactically unwise.

The exclusion seems especially ironic given PSC Permanent Secretary Parmesh Chand's appeal to civil servants who have returned home from overseas trainings to share their knowledge once they return.

Future collaboration between FFP and NFP may also be heralded by the late Siddiq Koya's lawyer sons standing against each other Faiyaz Koya standing for FFP and Faizal Koya for the NFP.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Party Policies on Crime

Police Commissioner Bernadus Groenewald
Farisha Ahmed
Suva

There are mixed views on crime rates in the country.
Nevertheless, all parties have strategies in place on ways to go about curbing crime in the country. Below is an overview of who’s going to do what.
Fiji Labour Party
Fully equip the Police force with the requisite equipment and professional and technical skills to effectively combat all kinds of crime.
n In regards to the military, Labour believes that the armed forces must remain under the control of the government exercised through cabinet and the minister responsible and their deployment either in Fiji or abroad to receive the approval of Parliament
n For judiciary, a code of conduct would be considered for holders of all high public offices based on the Bangalore principles and judges and magistrates would be required to deliver their rulings within six months of the conclusion of hearing.
Peoples Democratic Party
The party’s manifesto claimed it was no secret that in the past eight years, the levels of crime and corruption had risen to an all time high. The party would be reviewing the Police force, its effectiveness and provide vigorous training.
n It would increase the capacity to combat high crime, serious and organised crimes and sophisticated white collar crimes; and
n Implement regular upskilling of members of the Police force;
n Provide better training for our Criminal Investigation Department and forensics personnel to improve their levels of crime detection.
The party would also be working with corrections for greater rehabilitation and work with all stakeholders to reduce the number of repeat offending.
National Federation Party
The National Federation Party under law and order would adequately resource and empower the Police Force to respond effectively to reported cases, including the provision of efficient transport and equipment.
NFP would modernise the Police Force by equipping it with latest technology, including computerised reporting systems. NFP would initiate the networking of Police stations across the country for intelligence sharing and crime investigation.
It would make the investigation process swift, transparent, fair and decisive.
Fiji United Freedom Party
“We propose for the city/town councils to allocate a certain amount for each community (eg. community or area of 100 families) to set up neighbourhood watch programmes or community policing programmes that are in conjunction with Police,” party president Jagath Karunaratne said.
Secondly, the party proposes that the military forces be amalgamated to a certain extent with the Police force to share policing and administration duties where possible.
“This can also be achieved by having a special women platoon that can be utilised in the administration arm of the army and Police and also focus mainly on welfare and security of people.
“While the military is properly trained for peacekeeping duties locally or overseas they can also be utilised in community policing activities, welfare projects and any other community projects such as education on commercial farming, small medium businesses where special training and education is provided to the military.”
SODELPA
Party leader Ro Teimumu Kepa said they would like to believe that the Police were correct and the crime rates had dropped however they disagreed.
“One of which is the continued fear and distrust that people have in the law. There have been many cases that have been reported to the Police and yet some of these cases have not been resolved,” she said.
A SODELPA government would address the issue of crime from many perspectives. First is to ensure a clean and neat Police outfit that is well-trained, well-equiped and well-looked after.
“This will inspire confidence and an attitude of willingness to go the extra mile from our officers,” Ro Teimumu said.
“At the same time, we will address the underlying social issues that lead to crime like unemployment and high cost of living amongst many others, which we believe usually go hand-in-hand with crime if not addressed.
The party expects in the first 100 days of their being in government, they would be able to address the major issues which range from operations, manpower, management, remuneration and people welfare and so we expect the effect of these to reflect immediately and gradually in the reduction in crime.
FijiFirst
The best guarantee of safety is a Police force that is professional, well-equipped and trained, adequately compensated, and supported by science whereby the Police received an increased budget. The force received $111.7million with $1.4m provided for the purchase of forensic biology and DNA laboratory equipment, pathologist equipment and a drug analysis machine.
Prime Minister and FijiFirst leader Voreqe Bainimarama said this would help ensure that Police work was more effective; that fewer people were falsely accused; that wrongdoers were more quickly identified, and that cases were brought to trial with evidence that was more solid.
“We are also taking steps in this budget to increase the security of our prisons and to address the pressing issue of overcrowding. The people need to be assured that dangerous convicts will remain in prison once they are sentenced, and all prisons need to be equal to the task of not only of keeping the public safe, but of maintaining humane conditions and encouraging rehabilitation.”
These were some of the things done to uplift the law and order in the country this year.
Feedback: farisha.ahmed@fijisun.com.fj
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Posted by  on August 17, 2014. Filed under Fiji News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.