Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Week That Was: to September 26

ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL NOW BE DELETED. It's the easiest thing to use your real name or a pseudonym, and it greatly assists communication. 

This is a long posting but so much can happen in some weeks. You may prefer to read it in more than one sitting.  

Don't forget to read, read the comments, and comment (using your real name or a pseudonym) and on the earlier postings numbered 1-5. 


International reactions
Internationally, congratulations to the new government flooded in, New Zealand improved on its previous unwarranted travel advisory,  Fiji is giving consideration to its re-admittance  as a full member to the Commonwealth,  it attended a Pacer Plus meeting on its own terms, and the EU looks likely to resume its aid to the country. 

The PM is in New York where he will speak at the United Nations on Monday.  UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon congratulated the PM on the conduct of the elections and its result; he  hoped Fiji would continue to play a leadership role in regional development, particularly as the world moves toward the challenges of the Post-2015 Development Agenda, and he thanked Fiji for its peacekeeping role in the Middle East. 

The Election results
 The Multinational Observer Group has left having given a green light on the election results, despite claims of major irregularities and vote rigging by some opposition groups. 

The elections office has satisfactorily answered some concerns about electoral irregularities, notably the delay in in the arrival of ballot boxes from Lau,  changes between preliminary and final figures, the slow release of final figures, and questions of safe storage. All ballot papers will be retained for six months at a secure facility in Lami. 

PDP and NFP have withdrawn their objections but SODEDLPA says it will follow through with its call for a parliamentary enquiry into the election. 

My view is that SODELPA would be better advised to let the issue rest. It is beginning to sound like sour grapes. It will not be successful in trying to get the matter discussed in Parliament because it does not have the numbers, and it would be far better to focus on other issues and on analyzing what went wrong in their election campaign, which  Ro Teimumu also promises.  

With so many chiefs and two paramount chiefs in their parliamentary line up, she might also heed the advice of the Ratu George Cakabou, a likely contender for the Kubuna paramount title, that chiefs should more directly serve their people, and stay out of party politics. 

Whatever. If SODELPA is to survive as a possible government, it needs to create a new,  less chiefly, more multi-racial  image for itself as a party "for the people" before the next election.

The future of the small parties
The future of the small parties  is uncertain. It's my opinion that the United Freedom Party will fade away but the One Fiji party could still be around at the next election.

Division still wracks the FLP (how can it be otherwise with Mahendra Chaudhry still leading the party) and  former PDP leader Felix Anthony promises to keep Fiji first to its promise to restore human and trade union rights. He looks forward to the tabling of the Auditor-General's report as also promised, and the increase of FNPF employer's contributions to 10 per cent.

It will not have escaped notice that had the FLP not divided, the combined vote given to FLP and PDP would have been sufficient for them to have passed the 5% threshold and win 2-3 seats in Parliament. Division is typically a hallmark of the political left, usually on ideological grounds, but in Fiji it is more the procuct of divisive personalities.  If Chaudhry would step down, there's a good chance of reconciliation between the FLP and PDP and the emergence (or re-emergence) of a single, united party.  But I wouldn't take bets of MC agreeing. 

The new Cabinet (full list at end of article)
The new Cabinet  was sworn in,  and for the first time Fiji has a woman Speaker, Dr Jiko Luveni. Altogether, there will be eight women in the next parliament, fewer than hoped for from the proportional representative system, but more than previous parliaments.

I think this is one weakness of the open list system. The closed list system, where the parties —and not the public— rank candidates,  would have assured parties of a better gender and ethnic balance, and the mix of talents they need in Parliament.

Church-State relations
The ugly face of church-state relations was again seen last week. The PM struck out at the Methodist Church over a letter that had been sent out to its divisions calling on church members to vote for parties that mentioned God in their manifestos. Even a numbskull could see this was saying:  Don't vote for Fiji First; vote for SODELPA. The PM irreverently (sic!) called the church leaders a bunch of liars. The church President-Elect Rev. Tevita Banivanua later said he was unaware of the letter but would be looking into it. One might hope so or he's likely to see more members lost to the pentacostals and not be on the best of terms with the new Government. 

The blogs
The blogs were a little quieter this week, with a little less name-calling and a little more discussion on the reasons for FijiFirst's political victory. My blog, as indicated by the last postings numbered 1 to 5, will now try to encourage more reader thought, comments and discussion on particular issues facing the nation. Your ideas for topics are most welcome. 

Dennis Singh on Facebook's Fiji Economic Forum made several observations that deserve a wider audience. His  wrote:

1. Sodelpa got done by the 'limuri' effect [People saying one thing to please, and doing another thing] 2. Majority of itaukei would not want to vote out their right to fair and equal lease money distribution by voting out incumbent. 3. First time since 1987 Fijians of Indian ethnicity have voted overwhelmingly for an Itaukei leader. Dr Bavadra being last.4. #279 did amazingly well in many itaukei village voting centres, even more so in the West, in one village he got around 90% of the votes. 5. Itaukei's are not gullible, they respectively listen to chiefs and high chiefs at pocket meetings, but come election day, they make their own minds. 6. Social media has helped many to be better informed. Vodafone! Power to You! 7. Mick Beddoes and MPC are bad losers. 8. Unions may rest in peace.9. AG was badly underestimated. 10. Frank never swayed away from his focus, a  united and multiracial Fiji.

Dr Narsey to the rescue
 Dr Waden Narsey blames everyone else for the FijiFirst victory. But in retrospect he  now sees  how the Bainimarama Government  set the stage for a FijiFirst win. And in some ways he is correct. 

It remained in government right up to the elections, rejecting the Yash Ghai recommendation it stand down well before the elections, and was thus in a position to use government resources and what he called last minute policy vote buying.  The new Constitution called for multi-ethnic parties, a single constitution, a small 50 seat Parliament, and a 5% threshold, all of which favoured FijiFirst.

But a contrary argument is also valid if it is recognized that the old-style political framework was an impediment to a 21st Century Fiji. There was every likelihood, had there been no changes, that Fiji would have reverted to the divisive ethnic politics of the past, re-fuelling hatred and distrust.  The last eight years would count for nothing. 

It is no secrect that Government's main task has been to establish the foundations for a new Fiji, and it could not do this without removing some of the foundations of the old Fiji, in particular the voting system.  Hence, Bainimarama's constant call for a "change in mindset" and the need for "nation-building." It is no accident that all citizens are now "Fijians" or that the name of the PM's party is FijiFirst. 

However, while the future is by no means assured, it is tempting to believe that Graham Davis is not too far off the mark when he writes about a "new democracy."

The doomsayers and the economy
Dr Wadan Narsey hasn't been the only doomsayer on the Fiji economy but, as an economist, he was presumably one of the more qualified.  

Between them, Wadan and other doomsayers had Fiji on its knees with little hope of recovery. GDP was down, business confidence low, inflation and food prices had gone through the roof, poverty was rampant, the casino development was a write-off, the sugar industry was gutted, FNPF members had been cheated, its money was being used for risky investment, and the Government had been borrowing at a rate that would be a burden for generations yet unborn.  And that was only some of it!

The economy as others see it
But Economics is not an exact science and many, if not most, economists would not agree with Wadan or the doomsayers.

ANZ's CEO for Fji and the Pacific, Vishnu Moha, for instance,  spoke far more optimistically of the Fiji economy.  In discussing trade, he noted:

Total trade between Fiji and the world increased to about $US3billion ($F5b) in 2013, an increase from $US1b ($F1.8b) five years ago and more than double a decade ago.
Fiji had increasingly tapped Asian supply chains for trade, adding 43.6 per cent of trade last year was with Asia and the Pacific Islands. This ratio, Mr Mohan said, had climbed from 25 per cent a decade ago.
"Total trade flows between the Pacific and Asia have risen from $US1.7b ($F3.2b) in 2000 to almost $US10b ($F18b) in 2013.
Australian trade with Fiji, nearly $US450million ($F854m) in 2013, however,  appears to have "been a steady state level as over the past 15 years total trade has averaged $US458m ($F870m) between the two countries."

The bank CEO spoke of signs of "robust"economic health and "strong" investor confidence.

The ADB assessement
The Asia Development Bank also paints a very different picture:  
Fiji continues to grow solidly, and the economy remains on track for a fifth consecutive year of expansion.

The gross domestic product (GDP) growth projection for 2014 has been revised up by half a percentage point to 3.3%, based on strong growth in the first half in visitor arrivals and export earnings - particularly from sugar and mineral water. Growth is expected to remain robust, but is seen to ease slightly as sharp increases in consumption and investment expenditures in 2013 are likely to moderate.

The 2015 growth projection is maintained at 3.0%, but this is subject to significant upside and downside risks. Reduced uncertainty following the September elections is seen to boost investment and tourism, and the overall economy is expected to strengthen with reintegration and renewed engagement with development partners.

However, factors seen to temper growth in 2015 include: ongoing dry weather conditions that are expected to persist into next year and lower output of agricultural goods besides sugar; and possible fiscal tightening after recent expansions in public expenditure.

In sum, economic confidence comes from the type of economic policies being pursued by Government, boosted by the stability that should result from the elections.

Analysis, and more coming
Finally, for a surprisingly accomplished report  for a young journalist as she covered the elections, listen to what AUT journalism student Alistar Kata has to say about what she saw and heard.  I think she assembled its many conflicting parts into a most convincing whole — and she did not even need to look at notes!

Soon, in the new year, we can expect to see more detailed analyses of the Bainimaram Government legacy and the  election results. Dr Steve Ratuva is editing one book and  ANU is likely to produce another. 


As some of you know, I'm writing a review for Steve's book on  the influence of the media, especially the social media, on the elections, and for this I need lots of people of different political beliefs, to complete  this short survey.  If you already completed it, my many thanks, and if you will now complete it, my many thanks in anticipation. 

Would all readers please bring the survey to the attention of family, friends and colleagues, in Fiji and overseas,  who support the different parties, especially SODELPA, NFP and the minor parties.

Vinaka vakalevu. 
Croz

The New Cabinet

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama will lead a 20-member cabinet in the newly-elected Fijian government.

Former Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum is now the Minister for Finance, Public Enterprise, Trade and Tourism while lawyer, 

Faiyaz Koya is the Attorney General and Minister for Justice.

Former Permanent Secretary for Justice Mereseini Vuniwaqa has been  appointed Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources.

The former CEO for Fiji Pine Trust, Osea Naiqamu is the new Minister for Fisheries and Forests.

Former Special Administrator of Ba and Lautoka, Praveen Kumar is the new Minister for Local Government, Housing and Environment.

The former PS in the Prime Minister’s Office, Col. Pio Tikoduadua is the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport.

Former Labour Minister, Jone Usamate has been appointed Minister for Health and Medical Services.

Ratu Inoke Kubuabola has retained the portfolio of Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Inia Seruiratu has also retained the position of Minister for Agriculture, Rural Development and National Disaster Management.

Former Transport Minister, Timoci Natuva is the new Minister for Immigration, National Security and Defence.

Former Commerce Commission chairman, Dr Mahendra Reddy is the new Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts.

And retired senior army officer, Jioji Konrote has been appointed Minister for Employment, productivity and Industrial Relations.

The new Minister for Youth and Sports is Laisenia Tuitubou.

Rosy Akbar is the new Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation.

Assistant Ministers

Paralympics gold medalist, Iliesa Delana is one of five Assistant Minister appointed.

Iliesa Delana is the new Assistant Minister for Youth and Sports.

Veena Bhatnagar is the Assistant Minister for Health and

Joeli Cawaki has been appointed Assistant Minister for Agriculture, Rural development and disaster management.

Hotelier Lorna Eden is the Assistant Minister for Minister for Finance, Public Enterprise, Trade and Tourism and 

Vijay Nath is the Assistant Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts. 


Friday, September 26, 2014

5. New Role for this Blog and its Comments


With the elections behind us, the purpose of this blog changes. 

It will still publish important news items, comments and articles on single topics but ledss frequently than in the past. The main focus will be on obtaining readers' opinions on the identification of issues —confronting Government, the Opposition,  civil society and business — and their resolution.  

Exactly how this will work out, I do not know. We will play it by ear but something of what is intended can be seen in the four most recently published postings. 

Your ideas on issues that need airing are most welcome, as indeed are all your ideas on how the blog can be more useful in this new political environment.  

I shall probably summarise the comments and make them available to the relevant authorities and the public, and invite their repsonses.  It may also be useful to publish opinion polls from time to time to encourage quick responses from readers.

Readers will note that the purpose of comments has also changed. Previously, there were good reasons why people used blogs and Facebook pages to vent their personal frustrations. I hope  this type of comment will now be kept to a minimum, and that criticisms will be worded in more helpful and positive ways.  Please note that anonymous comments will not be accepted.  Using your real name or a pseudonym will help discussion.

The comments that will be especially welcome are  your views on what should be done —and not done— by opinion- and decision-makers.  
In effect, the blog will  be transformed, with YOUR co-operation and assistance, into an interactive forum designed to heal the wounds of the past and help Fiji along the road to "Fiji  As it Can Be."

POSTSCRIPT: AN APPEAL FOR YOUR HELP, PLEASE!
While on this posting, I invite you to complete the "Confidential Survey on You and Fiji Politics" (click on the link here or scroll to earlier posting) if you have not already done so.  

Not much is known about the role of the media and the social media in influencing political opinions.  The survey, which will be a central part of an article I'm writing for a book by Dr Steve Ratuva,  should help to fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge.

Thank you in anticipation and thank you for those who have completed the survey. 

Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On

Wananavu and Some Points for the  Opposition

Before I start I wish to thank the Fiji First Party and the supporters. Wananavu.

Here are a few points for the Opposition.

1. Go in with an open mind.

2. I know that some questionable things that happened in the recent past,  but don't take things personally in Parliament.

3. Be positive and a good opposition.

4. Talk about issues and not people.

5. You will have some items on your manifesto that mirrors the Fiji First's manifesto, check them out and work with them to see they get delivered.

6. I had mentioned that some "white goods" (which were considered luxury goods and carry high duty rates) are no longer luxuries but necessities, try and work with the FF party and bring down the duty.

7. Please remember your manifesto, so please try and deliver that to the people you promised.

8. Try to refuse flashy dark tinted expensive government vehicles. If you have your own, drive it to work and don't claim for fuel or mileage.

9. When you drive pass the people, look around and wave.

10. Never, I repeat, never take things personally because you were once hurt by some people.

11. Be role models and not like the parliaments on old where people would heckle each other like idiots. Parliament is an august house ,not a circus.

Anyway, if you are curious, yes I am a Fiji First supporter, and I'm not a YES man.

A Good Line Up


Looking at the line up of successful candidates we a real mixture of professions as follows...
Traditional iTaukei Chiefs.
Lawyers.
Business people.
Community workers.
Former military officers.
Economists.
Pharmacist.
Doctors.
Former high ranking personalities in government and the private sector.
Former government ministers.
A former top notch mayor.
A paralympian.
Hoteliers.
A radio personality.
A farmer.

Looking at the list I can gather that they are successful in their field.
Now we wait for them to deliver and I pray that they are guided with good sense and responsibility.
Missing are former parliamentarians who really need to go and find a hobby.

[Allen, you also have eight women, including, for the first time, a woman Speaker.]


The Value of Degrees and Diplomas

I have been approached a few times by young people to see if I could find them jobs. All have diplomas and one guy has a degree.

Most of them graduated two to three years ago and have been unsuccessful in finding jobs. Some have been doing part time jobs on and off. One chap has since found a job and is earning $8,000 per annum, extra hours worked is not paid.

We sat down and did an analysis of how much his dad spent on his tertiary education and we gathered that is was around $8,000 taking into consideration the fees, bus fares, and other expenses. And this came out of his dads FNPF savings.

He was proud to show me his degree folder that he has displayed at his home. He has a picture of him in his graduation gown with the degree and his parents and siblings.

Anyway, he is now an employee in a small company and getting $3.20 and hour. This equates to $25.60 a day, $128 per week, $6,656 per annum.  Lucky he doesn't have to pay tax.

How much should a person with a degree be getting as pay?

What is the value of a diploma or a degree? Or should we just tell him that is lucky to have a job?


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, September 25, 2014

1. What is the New Role for FijiFirst in Government?

Add caption
A democratic government requires very different skills from a military-backed government. Bainimarama's remark today about working with "some of the liars I met on the campaign trail" was an unfortunate lapse into his old style. This statement and the extract from his address at the Stadium are more encouraging.

This is first of four postings on new roles. Your comments are most welcome.
  • What do you think Government's priorities should be? 
  • How can they best meet the Opposition's concerns and include them in decision-making?  
  • Use the  words "PRIORITIES" and "OPPOSITION"  and list your opinions.
  • Please ensure you use your real name or a pseudonym in commenting.



Part of the PM's address at the Westpac Stadium

While I’m sure that the supporters of other political parties are disappointed, I want to say to them that this is how parliamentary democracy works. I also want to say to them that I intend to govern for all Fijians. I will be your Prime Minister too. Because I passionately believe in One Nation, One Fiji and that everyone has a place in it, whoever you are, wherever you come from and whoever you voted for.

In this election, an overwhelming majority of Fijians have embraced the principal of unity that binds us all together. We are strong as a nation. In fact, we have never been stronger.

An overwhelming majority of us have turned our backs on the politics of division and embraced a united future. We have chosen the path of fairness and justice. The path of equal opportunity. To the minority who are still caught in the past, I say to you, please come and lets all move forward together – we must have an inclusive Fiji in which no-one is left behind.

I am the Prime Minister of all Fijians, for all Fijians. The days of pandering to special interests groups, elites and certain areas of the country are over. Now, the days of meeting the needs of ordinary people and their families will continue and with renewed fervour. We intend to ride the current wave of economic growth that is certain to now increase even more. We will use this growth to meet the needs of all Fijians – to improve services, create more jobs in particular for our youth and continue with building more and better infrastructure.

The next phase of our reforms will build upon what has already been started but we will take it quickly to another level. These include overhauling the Civil Service to streamline it, make it very professional and far more efficient.

We went to the nation with that message of service, of delivering what people need to improve their own lives. And I intend – in the new Parliament – to redouble our efforts to provide service to every Fijian in every part of the country. We have a vision of a prosperous, modern and inclusive Fiji and we intend to achieve it.

I call on every Fijian – no matter who they voted for in this election – to join me on that mission, to work hand in hand to make Fiji truly the way the world should be.

This is a victory for all Fijians. This is when history will record that as a nation, we embraced a new future. I passionately believe that the future must be based on unity, equality, compassion and love. And I am deeply touched and grateful that so many of you have shared my vision and put your trust in me to take our beloved nation forward.

As well as forming a Government, I will be travelling to New York in the coming days to attend the United Nations General Assembly. There, I will tell the world what we have just accomplished in Fiji. It will be a landmark occasion. Because I promised the nation of Fiji and the international community that I would take Fiji to the first genuine democracy in our history and I have kept that promise, thanks to the support of the Fijian people.

But this is not the end of the journey. It is only the beginning. Today we rededicate ourselves to making Fiji Great, the pre-eminent Pacific Island nation and one respected the world over. It is a future that we owe our young people. It is a future that we owe ourselves.

As I have said all through this campaign, there has never been a better time to be Fijian. And with God’s blessing, even better days lie ahead. Because we have never been more united or more committed as Fijians to finally fulfilling our destiny.

May God be with us as we strive to build a better nation for all Fijians. May God bless Fiji.

Vinaka Vakalevu. Thank you.



2. What is the New Role for the Oppositon: SODELPA





In an earlier article I wrote of the need for a Fiji Opposition that suited Fiji's needs, one that kept Government on its toes while supporting but supports it on some issues, and trying hard not to be unnecessarily divisive. This comment from Ro Teimumu suggests much division.




  • What should be SODELPA's priorities in Parliament and how might they achieve them? 
  • How might they best assist government in nation-building? 
  • Think of what they should do and not do, and use the words "DO" and "NOT DO" to list your opinions. 
  • Please use your real name or a pseudonym in writing your comment.

3. What is the New Role for the Opposition: NFP

The NFP seems to have adopted a position where it will work with SODELPA and with Government. 

See their press release posted earlier and this interview with Dr Biman Prasad.



  • What should be the NFP's priorities in Parliament and how might they best achieve them? 
  • How might they best assist government in nation-building? 
  • Think of what they should do and not do, and use the words "DO" and "NOT DO" to list your opinions. 
  • Please use your real name or a pseudonym in writing your comment.

4. What Role Now for the NGOs?

Some would see it as keeping the Bainimarama regime honest; others as negative obstructionism, but the truth, as it so often is, was somewhere in between.  Now, with the elections over and a new parliament ready to sit, NGOs should be encouraged to re-examine their respective roles in making Fiji a better place in which to live.

I thought Shamima Ali and the NGO Coalition for Human Rights got off to a good start in this statement; the Rev. Akuila Yabaki and the Citizens Constitutional Forum also made a brief but promising statement; and long-time regime opponent Virisila Baudromo welcomed the increased representation of women.  

The only negative came from the Methodist Church just  before the election. Their leaders really do have to re-examine where they now stand. It would seem that about 45% of Taukei did not take their advice in how to vote,

With these examples in mind, but not restricted by them, readers are invited to comment on the question: What Role Now for the NGOs?  Please don't forget to use your real name or pseudonym in commenting.



Tuesday, September 23, 2014

NFP Will Be an Effective Opposition


September 22, 2014

MEDIA RELEASE

NFP WILL BE AN EFFECTIVE OPPOSITION

After almost 8 years of military rule, democracy has returned to Fiji.

The people of Fiji have spoken through the ballot box, not withstanding irregularities in polling that we as a party have complained about via our letter of last Friday, providing evidence to this effect, which is just a small sample of irregularities, reports of which will be compiled and sent to the Electoral Commission seeking clarification.

Nevertheless, people of Fiji have elected a government for the next four years. We respect the verdict of the people and wish Mr Voreqe Bainimarama and his government well for the next four years. We expect nothing short of a transparent and accountable government and we will hold the new government to this principle.

We also wish SODELPA and its leader Marama Bale Roko Tui Dreketi Ro Teimumu Kepa well in parliament for the next 4 years.

As a party the NFP fought the general elections on issues. Team NFP had men and women of integrity, honesty, and qualified to serve the people of Fiji. We did not campaign along racial and religious lines. Above all, our campaign was not based on lies and deceit.

We thank our members, supporters and well wishers for placing their trust in us. We did not win any seats in the 1999 and 2006 general elections. We won a seat in the 2001 elections and our Member of Parliament, the then Opposition Leader lost his seat controversially after a court challenge by our opponents.

Therefore it is a matter of some pride that the NFP is back in Parliament with 3 seats. Every party contests the elections to form government and the NFP was no exception. But we are pleased that a party written off by many, has performed creditably and won three seats, largely through the efforts of Team NFP. Despite massive electoral setbacks in the last 3 general elections, the NFP survived as a party because of its principles, objectives and a never-say-die spirit of our supporters. We applaud them and promise not to shirk the principles of our founding leaders, which has been part of our DNA for the last 51 years.

The NFP will be an effective opposition party in parliament. We will work with all Members of Parliament including those from Government benches to ensure that the Parliament becomes an effective debating chamber on important issues affecting the people of Fiji.

Parliament is the highest court of the land and the parliamentary floor is a firm foundation to address issues confronting our people. We will do so in an open and transparent manner. We will criticize government’s policies not just for the sake of doing so, but provide credible alternatives. And at the end of four years, we will once again appear before the people of Fiji and be judged on whether or not we have performed effectively as a party, both in and outside of parliament.

While the result is not what we expected, we are still happy that Team NFP’s 49 candidates have secured 3 seats. Our Madam President is the 2nd highest vote getter amongst women candidates behind SODELPA Leader Marama Bale Roko Tui Dreketi Ro Teimumu Kepa. The NFP Leader received the 4th highest number of votes. And a party that has been out of Parliament for 15 years has 3 seats. This is no mean feat.

We thank all the people of Fiji for participating in the general election and turning out in large numbers to exercise their right. We acknowledge the hard work of the Electoral Commission, the Supervisor of Elections and all staff of the Elections Office, including members of the public recruited to work as polling day workers and presiding officers.

We also acknowledge the support of the international community in ensuring through diplomacy that elections would be held as promised and their financial contribution towards the elections.

We thank the media organisations and individual journalists for working very hard under difficult circumstances, in allowing voters to make informed choices in the election.

As a party born out of the struggle for equality, dignity and justice of al our people, the NFP has reclaimed its place rightful place in Parliament. 3 seats may be a small step but a giant stride for us. There can be no doubt whatsoever about this.




Biman Prasad
Leader







Coalition on Human Rights Congratulates all Parliamentarians



It is pleasing to see long-standing opponents of the Bainimarama Government accepting the election result and adopting the only position that will take Fiji forward: to be watchdogs and helpers. -- Croz

Two reminders: 

  • Your comments please, but to assist discussion you must now use your real name or a pseudonym.
  • Please take a moment to complete the Confiidential Survey on You and Fiji Politics.


________________________________________________________________________

“It is time for civil society to play our part by not only acting as watchdogs and holding the government accountable for their actions but by also providing them with whatever help and support they need to ensure that at the end of the day, it’s the people of this country who benefit.”
________________________________________________________________________
Shamima Ali

“The fact that almost 84% of registered voters cast a vote shows that the people of Fiji were eager to exercise their right to choose their representatives, and to participate once again in the governance of our nation” said NGOCHR Chair, Ms. Shamima Ali. “For eight long years, we have been calling for democracy and while some people may not be happy with the outcome of the Elections, it is important to note that the people have spoken and they have chosen who is to govern Fiji for the next four years. It is very important that we recognize that and respect that.”

“It is well recognized that with power comes responsibility, and the new Government must now demonstrate that they will rule Fiji responsibly and will be accountable to the people for the fulfilment of their campaign promises, and for the manner in which they govern Fiji.”

“Many comments were made by all parties, including Fiji First, about gender equality and human rights and we certainly hope that gender equality and human rights for all will be included in the new Governments list of priorities,” She added.

Ms. Ali said that she remained confident that once sworn in, Parliamentarians will hold the best interests of the people at heart and that decisions will be made for the people.

“From what we are seeing there are also a good number of women who will be part of the new Government and the incoming Parliament and this is a proud moment for Fiji. We have always said that women must be represented at all levels of governance and although there Is not yet anything close to parity, it is a good start and I commend the women who have been elected for taking up this challenge” said Ms Ali.

“It is time for civil society to play our part by not only acting as watchdogs and holding the government accountable for their actions but by also providing them with whatever help and support they need to ensure that at the end of the day, it’s the people of this country who benefit.”



“Once again, congratulations to all Parliamentarians, future Government Ministers and to the people of Fiji who turned up in large numbers to cast their votes. Moving forward there is a lot of work to be done to ensure democracy and respect for the rule of law and I challenge every Government minister that is to be sworn in to act to the highest standards of integrity, uphold the values of democracy, the Rule of Law and accountability, and to ensure that the people of Fiji are first and foremost in their decisions.”

Sunday, September 21, 2014

And Now It's Over, Some Housekeeping


So now, after months of anticipation, the waiting is over. We no longer have to rely on blogs, polls and angry voices to guess at what the people of Fiji think.  They have told us, in no uncertain terms, that they want a Bainimarama government to lead the way for the next four years.  Three out of five voters voted FijiFirst, 60% of the vote, much more than SDL's 44% in 2006 or New Zealand's National Party's 48% on Saturday. A decisive victory with 32 of the 50 seats in Parliament, and the Speaker to be appointed, in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition.

Setting the tone
But this leaves two out of five voters who did not vote for FijiFirst which resulted in SODELPA winning 15 and the NFP 3 seats.   How all the leaders of these parties act over the next few days  and coming weeks will set the tone for the rest of the country, and those in Fiji and overseas who have, over the Internet, been vocal on the Fiji political situation.

The country needs to heal the wounds of division and move forward with a government responding to the needs of the people and a principled opposition  helping it on its way, and keeping it honest. It does not need any more tantrums from the likes of Mick Beddoes or Mahendra Chaudhry who tried, unsuccessfully, to besmirch the election process.  The Opposition needs more spokesmen with the dignity of Ro Teimumu and the silence of Biman Prasad.

Blogs and Facebook roles
The blogs and Facebook pages also need to reconsider their roles. If they are to play a useful role in reconciliation and help all those in power —and in Parliament—  focus on the major issues facing the nation, the publishers and editors will need to  reconsider their  priorities.

They must encourage constructive debate and discussion and delete all personal, sexually crude and pointlessly  negative comments by their readers.  My impression, from reading some of the comments on my blog, is that some readers see the blog as a form of entertainment where they can anonymously express views and insults that they could never express if their name was attached to their statement. The time for this sort of comment has passed. From now on, it can only hurt Fiji.

The future of this blog
I am not sure how I will proceed with this blog. There are many sources of news on Fiji. What is lacking is considered discussion on specific issues; discussion that would be helpful to government, the opposition, business, the unions and other NGO policy and opinion makers. What also may be lacking,  as time goes on,  is feedback from the people on what is being discussed in Parliament.  If you have any ideas how the blog could serve these purposes, please let me know.

Meanwhile, I would ask you to do three things:
1. Slide your mouse to the right side of the page, and click on the RSS icon and enter your email address so that you automatically receive blog postings and comments.

2.  Answer the survey "Confidential Survey on You ....." posted on 17 September.  It is completely confidential and your answers really will help me to write a paper for the book that Dr Steve Ratuva is editing.  The world is changing so fast with the ever increasing influence of the internet, and so little is known more about the effects of the social media on political opinions.

3.  I invite your comments on what I think is the most important issue facing Fiji as this moment in time: A divided Fiji and how to heal the wounds.  What is your advice to Bainimarama, Ro Teimumu, Dr Biman Prasad, the NGOs,  and those who write on blogs?

I'm sorry but I'll no longer accept "Anonymous." Those days are over, and the use of "anonymous" does not help discussion. Please write using your real name or pseudonym before posting by clicking the down arrow next to "Comment as" and then clicking on "Name/URL".  Just write your name.  You do not need an URL.

Note also  as indicated above, I will "delete all personal, sexually crude and pointlessly  negative comments" by readers, hoping that all blogs will do likewise.

Thank you for reading this.

Croz

Friday, September 19, 2014

Reactions to the Results: Opinion by Croz Walsh

Unfortunately, it had to happen but all is not lost. 

It started with Mahendra Chaudhry complaining about a minivan  showing a FijiFirst sticker during the blackout period and another alleged election breach when a disabled voter at St Joseph's in Suva was assisted by an election officer with no witness present. 

Then there were complaints that the counting had stopped when all that had stopped were the announcements,  and RadioNZI  quoted an unnamed SODELPA official saying its agents had noted anomalies in the transmission and counting of votes, and FijiLeaks claimed the Multinational Observer Group (MOG) were having "a good holiday in Fiji." 

And then someone calling himself Thakur Loha Singh on a blog said he'd heard of a polling station where the votes of relatives of a candidate mysteriously disappeared and the candidate ending up with a zero vote." He said he'd "forewarned political parties of this some time ago." Not a shred of evidence — but he made sure his prophecy came true.

Then there was a lull. SODELPA talked about "democracy at work", "respecting the will of the people"  and the "need to go forward" and NFP  said "We respect the choice of the people of Fiji."

Many countries, including Australia and NZ, sent their best wishes ,and MOG said that it was satisfied with the process and outcome. 

And then the storm

Later the same day, when the provisional results showed overwhelming support for FijiFirst (32 seats), SODELPA (14 seats), NFP with 3 seats and no other party even close to the 5% threshold,   there were hints that the opposition parties would meet. 

And later still came the announcement, read by Mick Beddoes (whose votes were too few for him to become an MP), in the presence of  a dignified Ro Teimumu (in a reversal of her earlier position), a calm Lydia Tabuya (who will be missed in the new Parliament), and an agitated Mahendra Chaudhry (whose FLP, at that stage, had won only 2.4% of the total votes): The elections had been rigged!

Beddoes said evidence, supplied by their agents at polling stations, was that the election was rigged, citing the removal of ballot papers before they were counted and tampering of ballot boxes. The complaint was later  lodged with the Electoral Commission  but evidence to support the claim has so far not been received.

Minister for Elections, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum discounted the claim, saying that the proper procedure was to complain to the supervisors of polling stations when irregularities were suspected (and this had not been done) and to the Supervisor of Elections with evidence, which at that time had also not been done. 

Two observations and a recommendation

I will wait for the final assessment of the  MOG and the Electoral Commission but at this stage I have two observations and a recommendation:

First,  I suspect the rally of opposition parties was organized by Mick Beddoes in his role as spokesman for the United Front for a Democratic Fiji, and motivated in part by his poor showing in the polls. I'm surprised he did not see that few ethnic Fijians voting for SODELPA would vote for him. 

Mick talked earlier of SODELPA  working from its natural ethnic base and  evolving or  "becoming" a multi-ethnic party. Preliminary results show that none of the three Indo-Fijian and two "Other" candidates came anywhere close to winning a SODELPA seat. I'm surprised Mike miscalculated so badly. 

Mahendra Chaudhry was the other organizer who spoke out at the rally. I think he is now a spent force in Fiji politics and the once proud FLP has no future unless, as candidate Dr Rohit Kishore said, it has a new leader. Mahendra's son,  Rajendra, writing from self-imposed exile in Sydney certainly has not helped his father's cause.    

Secondly, it would take massive rigging, not one or two suspected procedures at a small number of polling stations,  to change the result. 

The provisional vote for FijiFirst exceeds the vote of all the other parties combined.  Well over 100,000 votes would need to have been tampered with under the eyes of the elections supervisors, international observers and party agents. The possibility of such an occurrence defies belief.

Recommendation

The respective parties should now be reconsidering their roles in the new parliament.  FijiFirst has announced its policies and earlier spoke of a code of ethics and quality MPs. Fiji now needs to see the promises kept.

 SODELPA and NFP need to push aside the "traditional" role of Westminster oppositions that criticize and obstruct every action by Government. This may work in older democracies but it has never worked in Fiji.  They need to help Fiji really "move forward" by selectively supporting and criticizing the work of Government, and making helpful proposals of their own. 

The media, and the blogs, need to do likewise. Peter Firkins in the blog FijiToday writes that it will now "turn heat on the elected government". I would hope it joins me in scrutinising both government and opposition.  Fiji Coup4.5, the day before, asked "Is this D-Day for the Thug?" A blog that started as a reasonable critic of Government degenerated into an unprincipled rumour-maker, and much the same can be said of most other anti-Bainimarama blogs. Without "born again" experiences, they have no further useful part to play in the future of Fiji.

The time for recrimination and point scoring is over. 

Each party in Parliament needs to extend a reconciliatory hand in friendship and listen to what each other says.  Democracy in Fiji is still a very tender plant that will need gentle, principled nourishment from everyone who says they love democracy and Fiji.

Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On



Lavenia Waqavou (89) is  assisted to vote
I've Voted

A very big thank you to the Fijian Elections office for the huge effort put in. It's not an easy task running a general elections.

To the extra staff, vinaka va levu. Excuse the people if we may have been impatient or rude.

Now we await the counting.

I hope all will accept the result.

Our Overseas Brothers and Sisters


As the general elections drew near, friends, relatives and even strangers sent me messages on Facebook asking how things were progressing.

Then on election day the messages doubled. Fijians of all ethnicities living overseas are still interested in what is going on in Fiji. Many people have unkindly said that if they had Fiji at heart, then they should return to Fiji.

Fiji cant offer all of us decent jobs and thus people leave our shores for greener pastures, a better life and education for their children.  Many people have relinquished their Fiji passports to enjoy what their new country has on offer.

Most of them still have family and friends in Fiji and thus make it their purpose to check up, that's why they write letters to the Editor and make comments on social media.

They are concerned about stability in Fiji because I'm sure many will one day return to retire or come back for  a holiday or even set up a business.

For us who remain, lets love one another and live together in peace and harmony.  



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.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The President's Thanksgiving Day Address


HIS EXCELLENCY RATU EPELI NAILATIKAU
CF, KStJ, LVO, OBE (Mil),CSM, MSD
President of the Republic of Fiji
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ADDRESS AT THE THANKSGIVING SERVICE FOR THE RELEASE OF OUR 45 PEACEKEEPERS
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ANZ Stadium 16th September, 2014
SUVA 4.35p.m.
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The Honourable Prime Minister,
Honourable Ministers,
The Representatives of the Religious Groups and Faith-Based Organizations present
Your Excellencies, the Ambassadors and High Commissioners,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls.

Good afternoon, nisa bula vinaka, salaam alaykum, namaste.

We gather together as a nation today to give thanks to Almighty God for the release of our 45 brave peacekeepers, who were detained for two weeks by a militant group in Syria.

Our prayers for their safe return have been answered. They are free and back safely with their comrades on duty with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force on the Golan Heights.

We rejoice as a nation that God enveloped them in his love to protect them and give them strength during their ordeal.

We also rejoice that God also enveloped their captors in his love, and guided them away from harming our men.

We are hearing remarkable stories from our soldiers of the bond they formed with their captors, hardened men, in one of the most unforgiving places on earth.That bond had nothing to do with politics or the cause that this group was trying to advance when the group took our men.

It was the basic bond of human beings interacting on an hourly and daily basis and coming to realize that they share a common humanity.

Let us ask ourselves this question:

Why were some of the people who seized our loved ones crying when they released them? How could the hostage takers have formed such an emotional attachment?

I believe there are three answers:
Our men had come to the Middle East to keep the peace, not as combatants. They are good men – honest, open and courageous; and they carry with them the bula spirit that Fijians take from our beloved nation across the world - of friendliness, Humility, Consideration for others and Love.

I also believe that God was with our soldiers, giving them the inner strength to confront their ordeal, to display their own character, discipline and strength, to empathize with their captors and engage with them in a way that perhaps they never expected.

And I believe that God was also with the militants. God shined his light into their hearts and turned their anger into compassion.

We also pray for them today and ask that they be granted peace, along with every person in that troubled part of the world.

God was also with us here in Fiji and especially with the families and friends of our men, whose anxiety and distress can only be imagined but who inspired us all with their own courage and fortitude.

Many of you are here with us today, naturally relieved and grateful that your loved ones are safe. We pay tribute to the dignity with which you faced your ordeal.

You, more than anyone, know in your hearts that God was with you, enveloping you in his comfort and love.

Your prayers have been answered, along with the prayers of our entire nation. Which is why we gather today in grateful thanks for God’s mercy.

We also rededicate ourselves as Fijians to our service to the global community through the United Nations to act as peacekeepers wherever and whenever it is necessary to keep the peace.

For some 36 years now, the Republic of Fiji Military Forces has answered the call to send the men and women of Fiji to those parts of the world riven by conflict and strife to act as a buffer between the warring factions.

It is the most noble of missions – to protect vulnerable, ordinary people caught up in these conflicts on behalf of every nation – the global family to which Fiji belongs.


It is Fiji’s contribution to the world, not to wage war but to keep the peace. And nothing that has happened in the past two weeks will alter our commitment to that mission.

We serve with pride and we will continue to serve.

As the Prime Minister said when our men were released, Fiji already stands tall and proud in the world.

But because of their example, we stand that much taller and that much prouder as we gather together today.

And during this poignant moment of thanksgiving and reflection we should also remember those men and women of Fiji who have served in and are still serving in Lebanon, Sinai, Iraq, Syria, Timor Leste, Sudan, Dafur, Liberia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Cambodia, and in the Solomon Islands. Some of them have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Tomorrow, we also embark proudly on a landmark event in the life of our nation – the first genuinely democratic election in our history, based on equal votes of equal value.

Let us also dedicate ourselves today to conducting an election that is free and fair in an atmosphere of tolerance and goodwill.

As your president i urge you all to exercise your democratic right. It is your vote and no-one else’s. Do not be intimidated by threats of violence or actual violence.

I urge all political parties and their supporters not to intimidate anyone or engage in any untoward activity.

Democracy is about allowing all individuals to vote freely without fear or favour. We must all accept the will of the people but still unify as a nation.

YourExcellencies, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, we have much to be grateful for as a nation.

Our beautiful surroundings, our abundant natural resources, and the rich diversity of our people.

Let us re-dedicate ourselves before God today to remain unified as a nation and to follow his example of love.

May God bless our peacekeepers and their families, may God bless us all as we strive to become a better nation.

May God bless Fiji.

Thank you, vinakavakalevu, sukria, bahootdhanyavaad.
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