Friday, October 31, 2014

News, Thoughts, Appeals and a Congratulations at the End of October


Quid pro quo
 The PM's gaffe has titillated the news waves. He said he saw no reason to give development priority to the Northern division where so many people had voted for SODELPA.

I can understand how he feels. Government has poured development money into the Northern Division at a level not matched by previous governments. But no one, and certainly no prime minister,  should say this sort of thing.

But that, unfortunately, is the PM's style. Fortunately, his bark is far worse than his bite and his advisers will ensure that all development initiatives are fairly distributed irrespective of how people in an area have voted.

The UN Human Rights Council 
The review of Fiji's standing by the UN Human Rights Council has produced two critical statements, the first by Media Development  Authority  Chairman  Ashwin Raj that accused international media of bias in reporting the Fiji elections; the second by Reporters Sans Frontières and the Pacific Media Centre that called for the repeal of the Media Decree and introduction of a Freedom of Information law.  My view has always been that no one should demand rights if they are not also willing to assume the reponsibilities that come with these rights.  The Raj statement makes no reference to rights and the journlists' statement no reference to responsibilities.  They  condemned what they called the "blackout" on reporting in the 48 hours before the election and the lifting of travel bans on journalists like Michael Field.

I have no problem with either of these issues. It is not unusual to prevent  politicking in periods close to an election day and I doubt their argument that an open media would have cut accusations or instances of fraud. I'm happy with the international observers view that the elections met  all reasonable standards and that their was no evidence whatsoever of fraud.

And I most certainly would not allow Michael Field to re-enter Fiji until the shows himself capable of writing reasonably objective news items, or at least being able to clearly state whether he is writing news or opinion, not his usual unstated mix of both.

Fiji and the Pacific Island Forum
A not dissimilar news item was Fiji's "up you" response to the Pacific islands Forum's invitation to resume its membership. Fiji said it was not interested as long as Australia and New Zealand remained  members. Fiji said that their role as aid donors gave them too much influence on the opinions and votes of other members.

I would expect Fiji's position to change over time and for it to resume membership, but the two big brothers need very seriously to consider Fiji's objections. With the emergence of the Pacific Island Development Forum and Fiji's Look North policy which has seen it establish diplomatic relations with a large number of countries, Fiji is unlikely to respond favourably to what it may see as bullying tactics. And if other Pacific nations follow Fiji's example, Australia and New Zealand will have even more to think about.

Who really leads SODELPA?
A Fiji Sun article raised the question of who really leads SODELPA, suggesting that Ratu Naiqama and not Ro Teimumu was the real leader. The party rigorously denied this but I have no doubt that Ratu Naiqama will play a major role in the choice of policies and tactics.

Parliamentary exchanges have unfortunately shown no signs of improvement but it is early days yet, once the shouting is over and they get down to work one hopes that all parties will place Fiji's needs, and not their party's needs, first. I looked to intelligent, reasoned people such as Aiyaz Sayed- Khaiyum and Dr Biman Prasad to lead by example and advise their more fiery colleagues to desist from knee-jerk reactions.  The speaker's rulings will also play an important part in maintaining the dignity of Parliament.

Quo Vadis?
I have been wondering for some time whether to continue to publish this blog.  To a large extent, it has achieved its purpose. A democratic, non racist government has been elected in Fiji, the media and other commentators, in Fiji and abroad, are providing more evenhanded news and critical analysis. This is reflected in the falling number  of people reading the blog. Once 10,000 or more people visited the blog weekly; now numbers have dropped to between one and 2000 —sometimes with more visitors from the Ukraine from Fiji!

The blog has now been running for over eight years, typically with between three and five postings a week. I think the need for news from blogs has passed but they can still still serve a useful purpose with articles based on single issues and scope for readers comments. Something like the comments made by Taxi Driver and others on  the postings asking what the government and opposition should do.  I would do the like two or three people to share the responsibility of continued publishing along these lines. Please send me an email croz.walsh@xtra.co.nz if you are interested. It need not to be a lifelong commitment. Short term or a rolling involvements would also be appreciated.  I would envisage one major posting a week together with Allen Lockington's  weekly column.

Update of my media survey
Some 117 people completed my survey questionnaire which I am now in the process of analysing. I hope to get the article to Steve towards the end of November at which time I will publish a brief summary of conclusions on the blog. Vinaka Vakalevu to all you participated.

A political geography of the election results
I'm hoping also to write a political geography of the elections which will show the locations from where the parties, and where local and the independent candidates, drew their most support. For this I need to be able to map the location of polling stations but so far the electoral office has not replied to my request for help.  If anyone has maps of the polling stations, perhaps they could photograph the maps and email them to me. Similarly, if anyone can explain the numbers allocated to polling stations, please let me know.

Congratulations, Steve
I know that readers who know him would wish to join me in congratulating Dr Steven Ratuva on his appointment as Professor of Sociology and Director of the prestigious Macmillan Brown Centre at the University of Canterbury.

My S.O.S. to you
So, I am asking to your help in the continuance and ideas on the future direction of the blog, and for your help in locating the election polling stations. Please do not be bashful in coming forward.

 -- Croz




Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On

My New Business

I am seriously going to set up a business.

It will be  a bank where no fees are charged for deposits, transfers or withdrawals. No fees for any other transactions.

My bank will be called the Daylight Savings Bank Incorporated.

During the daylight savings period, anyone who wants to save their one hour of daylight can do so. It can then be withdrawn when they want to. But it can't be used to take off early from work or school.

It can only be withdrawn for sports and social activities. Especially for men who have to go home early because they are on a curfew.

Wise, Reddy and Emil may want to deposit a lot. But I can only approve it if their better half gives the approval.

Hehe, Daylight Savings Bank Incorporated. Heck of an idea eh.

Daylight Saving 2014Don't forget to put your clock one hour forward on Sunday night, 2 November, and one hour back at the end of daylight saving on Sunday January 19, 2015.

Abuse of Public Funds

While reading about the wide abuse of public funds in the civil service, one incident comes to mind during my four year posting in Levuka.

I was stationed there as a Customs officer from 1985 to 1990 and  revenue collected was banked revenue every Thursday. It wasn't much, it was duty collected from foreign fishing vessels that sold fish to labourers or the crew, amongst other things.

Well, one day I went to the bank to make our weekly deposit. I presented the official government deposit slip which read $75.53. However when the teller counted the cash , 2 cents was surplus, so I told him to just add it to the deposit as a sundry entry.

Imagine my shock when one month later a memorandum came from the Ministry of Finance via the then Comptroller of Customs for me to explain why I had deposited the extra 2 cents. I was shocked! The memo directed me to read the provisions of the Financial Regulations where it said that government revenue collected must not be more or less and I was to explain where the extra 2 cents came from.

While in shock, I responded to the memo and said that I had no change and because the amount was just 2 cents I thought it was OK.

Seven days later a letter came from the Ministry of Finance came to me to be more careful when collecting revenue and even though the amount was small it breached the provisions of the Financial Regulations. And if it was to happen again I would be disciplined.

From that day onwards I was always careful about government revenue. I went to the District Officers office and got a copy of the Financial Regulations and read it from cover to cover. I made it a point to read all laws and regulations pertaining to the civil service especially the General Orders.

If I was going to be disciplined for banking an extra 2 cents, I wonder what will happen to those who misused thousands of dollars of government revenue as per the Auditor Generals report.

Lucky we no longer have the death penalty.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Diwali. Claims on Poverty, the Audit Reviews, Examination Scaling and Indigenous Rights

THE SPIRIT OF DIWALI. Disadvantaged children and senior citizens in residential homes have received Diwali Treat Packs donated by Fiji's industrial giant Punja and Sons. The packs were distributed by the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation. Minister Rosy Akbar said the donations will boost the Ministry’s efforts in its outreach programmes. In thanking Punja, the Minister acknowledged the "well-established relationship with a truly private-public partnership sector.”

AKBAR TAKES PRASAD TO TASK OVER POVERTY CLAIMS. Minister Akbar has  appealed to politicians not to use the poor to score political points and asked that all parties support the Government's comprehensive measures to alleviate poverty rather than using disadvantaged Fijians as a political football.

She said she was especially disappointed at  NFP leader Dr Biman Prasad who seemed determined to lay the blame for poverty in Fiji at the Government's feet. "During the election campaign, an NFP television advertisement falsely claimed that the level of poverty in Fiji was 45%. Then in his maiden speech to Parliament last week, the NFP leader said it was one third or 33%."

Contrary to this claim a World Bank survey had found that poverty in Fiji had actually declined from 35 %in 2003 to almost 30% in 2009. Since then, Government had launched a range of poverty alleviation measures and the Fiji economy had entered a period of sustained growth and job creation that is bound to have led to a further decline in poverty.

The NFP leader knew full well that poverty alleviation required a holistic approach and there were no easy answers, yet his main policy contribution during the election campaign was to slash VAT to 10%, which would have deprived Government of almost $300-million in revenue and damaged our ability to assist the poor".

The Minister said the Bainimarama Government had done more than previous Governments to tackle the root causes of poverty and was doing so with long term solutions rather than quick fixes that were more than a gimmick than anything else.

"Such measures as our education revolution and free schooling are giving Fiji's poor the leg-up they need to climb out of poverty. Coupled with a wider social security net, housing assistance and cheaper electricity,  water and medicine for low incomes earners plus a low inflation rate, this holistic approach is making a real difference to the lives of ordinary people and deserves to be supported by all sides of politics,” she said.

YOUTH NEED MORE "SPACE". National Youth Council of Fiji President Williame Gucake
says youth don't have a space to voice their concerns. Gucake says any space they're given is limited and more often than not these spaces are formal and with only a few youth able to participate as youth representatives..He hopes however with the review of the National Youth Policy, an inclusive platform for all youth to voice their concern will be the end result. He thanked UNDP for sponsoring us to go around and get the youth voices so that we can call the National Youth Policy as a policy that has contained youth voices from all over Fiji.

AUDIT REVIEWS.  The need for civil service reform and proper procedures is highlighted in these media reports from the Auditor-General, following the submission of the reports to Parliament.  The Fiji Sun summarises inadequacies from 2007-2010, the  Fiji Times dealt with incomplete Election Office records in 2012, FijiLive dealt with medical shortcomings in 2013, and FijiVillage reported the Auditor-General's suggestions to the Education Ministry on its 2013 report.  and Fiji Broadcasting reported on revolving fund inaccuracies in the Ministry of Finance reports for 2008. There would seem to be a need for a detailed overall assessment.

ALLEN LOCKINGTON SAYS IT'S "SHOCKING".  "We are on the road to a new Fiji. Can I ask all the government department heads to be a little more responsible in their work. The Auditor-General's report is shocking. Let's pull up our proverbial socks and make the civil service work and prosper like Punjas, Motibhais, Tapoos , Vodafone Fiji, etc. These companies are run efficiently. We could even ask them to lend the civil service a few managers to go and overhaul departments that are lacking in motivation. Perhaps someone from the private sector will see the rot and remove it. Oh, and if you don't like the government you work for, how about resigning."

EXAMINATION SCALING REVIEW AND ATTACKS ON THE MINISTER. The Ministry for Education has appointed a review committee to look into the scaling of marks in external examinations. Minister for Education Dr Mahendra Reddy says the three member committee is well equipped and has the experience to carry out the task. “The primary objective of this review is to ascertain whether the intended objective of scaling is met by the existing scaling process and formula that we have. We want to ensure that the scaling does not result in us sending students to the market who are not ready.” The team from the University of the South Pacific is led by Head of School of Economics Professor Satya Paul, Professor Subash Chandra and Dr Jito Vanualailai who is the associate Professor of Mathematics.“Since the scaling and the raw marks I think its a matter of concern that we need to look into again; the process of scaling, the process of scaling across subjects so that no students are disadvantaged and we are happy to help the Ministry.” [ See my explanation of scaling in this week's Allen Lockington column.]

The Minister also said there is a small group of civil servants within the Education Ministry, trying to derail his work. Speaking on FBC TV’s 4 The Record earlier in the week, Dr. Reddy revealed there is opposition to the reforms he’s trying to introduce. Some senior civil servants are even targeting his family.

“They’ll create email accounts…my wife is a teacher. This is the kind of things they’ll do – your wife was absent today, your wife made this mistake in the exam paper. What are you doing, talking big about the education system etc. So when you investigate, you find no one of that name sent the email.”

Dr. Reddy says he knows who these people are, and what ambitions are driving them. Some of these civil servants are trying to maintain the status quo after having worked their way into comfortable positions, he said.

INDIGENOUS RIGHTS. SODELPA shadow minister Niko Nawaikula claimed in the House that 17 decrees (on the Great Council of Chiefs, Provincial Councils and Taukei land) breached the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Fiji's obligation under the International Labor Organization Convention 169 in which it undertook to "protect and maintain customary institution, protect and maintain then independence of indigenous institutions, guarantee the rights of indigenous people to their language and to their custom and to conduct prior consultation and obtain prior consent each time it wants to change any policy or law that affect native Fijians under those rights."

Comment. It is most unlikely Nawaikula or SODELPA will let this issue rest. Its appeal to the less educated voter is only too obvious, and circumstances when the decrees were passed did not permit the level of consultation needed.

Now, therefore, would seem to be a good time to establish a parliamentary committee to examine and consult widely on whether these decrees are truly discriminatory. In doing so, I would expect full consideration be given to just how customary these rights really are and whether they are needed, in greatly changed circumstances, today. None were traditional. All were established by the colonial government, using indirect rule (ruling though the chiefs) to minimise expenses, and to prevent the sale of indigenous land.   The role of the Great Council of Chiefs was advisory.  They were not expected to be engaged in national politics.

When these provisions were made  by the colonial government the best interests of the indigenous population were  under threat, first from unscrupulous planters and settlers, and  then from introduced diseases that decimated the population, and immigration, making them a minority.

Today, they are no longer a minority. They comprise 60% of the population and the proportion is still growing. The powers given to the Great Council of Chiefs arguably discriminated unfairly against other ethnic groups, and some features of the institutions preventing the full participation of Taukei in the economy and their fuller use of their land. Government claims the2013 Constitution and existing laws sufficiently protect  Taukei  interests and no further protection is needed. And, last but not least,  the Government —and Opposition—are overwhelmingly Taukei.

It should also be asked whether, in these circumstances, the ILO Convention and UN Declaration, and their definitions of indigenous, are any longer relevant to Fiji.





Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On


Diwali Invitation
I was invited to a company Diwali celebration held in Lautoka. It was so nice to see all the staff having lunch together. It likened the scene to a family gathering, a large family.

We had entertainment, nice food, soft drinks, sweets and because there are so many subsidiary companies and the staffing so big they got to meet each other.

Then there were prizes for the best dressed men and women and it was nice to see non Hindus dressed elegantly in Indian traditional costumes and winning prizes.
Some organisations, when having large number of employees simply have section parties. Why not have one huge gathering so that staff get to meet each other and executives don't have to make excuses because they can't attend all the section parties. The different sections can take responsibilities and cook one pot each.
Having company socials or lunches is a good team building exercise. try in in your work place and see the difference.And just have the CEO make one speech.

Diwali and Firecrackers
I guess many citizens, there will a few, can no longer enjoy the sound of exploding firecrackers.

Anyway, a few days away from the "Festival of Lights", many of my neighbours are showing their delight and lighting firecrackers that can rock you to the very foundations of your being. The other night I had to put my two eyeballs back into their sockets when what I thought was the sound of a howitzer exploded near my bedroom window.

Whew, lucky for me the running stomach I  had, finished two days ago. With eyes popped out and a bad stomach, the scene would be too disgusting to describe.

In what I will refer to as my younger years, I WAS a firecracker. The neighbours loved me. Today the slightest sound of a pop and I can hit the ceiling like a frightened cat.

To all citizens who still love the sound of firecrackers, please understand us. Please don't tell us to take a hike. We are part of the citizenry. We now prefer the slight pop of a champagne bottle or a cold Fiji bitter, and a lit candle with no kids or grand kids around.

I prefer just me and my wife sitting in silence, staring at the stars and and the murmur of our hearts speaking to each other.

Sigh.

Happy Diwali, everyone.

Examination Mark Scaling

Marks scaling in exam has been a topic that has baffled lots of uninformed people.

We now have a very good person at the helm of the Ministry of Education in Dr. Reddy.

Please Sir, could you enlighten those who believe that marks of students who score high marks are scaled and added to those who score low marks.

Please tell them that it doesn't work like that.


Bula Allen,

No need to ask the Minister. Ask the media.  This is the sort of background information they should be providing on all important issues so that the public can understand the published "news". Think how poorly the Fiji public have been informed on critical political issues such as the supposed threat to Taukei land ownership, indigenous rights and a secular state. Freedom of speech and democracy can be so easily abused if an uninformed public has to choose between opinions when it has not first been provided with the facts.

On scaling, be assured the high marks of some students are not added to the low marks of other students. The main purpose of scaling is to obtain consistency across subjects, and between markers. In this way the average score in Maths, for example, is scaled to be the same as the average score in English, or if not the same, it is scaled to a pre-determined pass rate, i.e., the proportion of students who will pass each exam. This is where scaling can be contentious because it assumes all subjects are not equal, and that some are easier or harder than others.

Scaling is also sometimes used on trial exam papers to ensure reasonable consistency between markers in each subject. Thus, examiners whose marks are consistently much high or lower than those of other markers are scaled down or up to bring them in line with other markers.  If there were no scaling, results could be very unfair because they would depend on which subject a student took and which marker marked his or her paper.

For the record, in what now appears to be a previous life, I marked Geography papers in NZ School Certificate, and was the assistant or chief examiner in the University Bursary and Scholarship exams, and the only examiner of the Tongan School Leaving certificate.

Croz

Allen Lockington is a self-employed customs agent and business consultant who has regular articles published in Fiji. I thank Allen for permission to reprint some of them in this political blog. They remind us that life goes on, whatever the political situation. And it's good to know that.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Taukei to the Core: a Personal Story

Pio Tikoduadua says he is a proud iTaukei, a living example of why the Opposition, is fundamentally wrong in its claims. The Leader of Government business and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport said in his right of reply and maiden speech in Parliament yesterday that he came from a humble beginning.

“I certainly started out as disadvantaged like tens of thousands of Fijians of all backgrounds. But with hard work and determination – and not some accident of birth - I have fought my way up and earned the privilege of serving my country at the highest levels of Government,” he said.

“My own experience has taught me that we iTaukei don’t need more advantages than other Fijians. We already have them by having the most important assets in Fiji – our people and our land.

“Some people opposite argue that iTaukei land is sacred. I agree with that premise because I share their view that land is a creation of God.

“But God’s intentions tells us that it is only sacred if it is used for the purpose of benefiting humankind and his progress. Not to sit idle but be utilized, as in the Parable of the Talents. It’s what we do with the land that really matters.

“As the Honourable Prime Minister has said, we don’t need hand-outs. We need leg-ups. And my own life is the perfect example of where leg ups can transform an ordinary person’s life.

“I come from the most humble of origins, born in considerable hardship to a single mother who is still alive in the village of Navunisole in Korovou, Northland, Tailevu. Her name is Senoveva Ranadi and I want to pay tribute to her before the nation today for her love and support.

“I also want to pay tribute to my Grandfather and mentor, Mosese Radokana, who toiled on Tailevu Dairy Farm in Korovou until he was 75 years old to enable me to go to school at the Natovi Primary and Secondary Schools. It was a sacrifice for which I will be ever grateful. My Grandfather taught me the value of prayer and hard work.”

“Opposition members are parroting the same old negative chant – of the iTaukei people threatened when they’re not, Christianity threatened when it’s not. An opposition bereft of positive ideas and no concept of how to take us forward as one people, one nation, one Fiji.”

--Josua Tuwere in the Fiji Sun.

Monday, October 20, 2014

One Week On

The first parliamentary session saw Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, as promised,  present the Attorney-General's reports from 2007 to 2013 and the nomination by the  Opposition of NFP's Dr Biman Prasad as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee that will vet the reports. I would expect Biman to do a very thorough job and avoid point scoring in this role.

The Opposition also announced its shadow ministers, with Biman shadowing the A-G.

On the sidelines, an announcement that Mick Beddoes is to head Ro Teimimu's office  was something of a surprise because of deserving others who were overlooked and because of the disastrous advice Mick offered SODELPA during the election campaign.  But he is coherent and fluent in English which should help the the party leader in and outside the House.

Opposition maiden speeches
For the most part the reported maiden speeches of the Opposition covered old ground: the perceived threats to Taukei land and rights and the need to amend the Constitution.  Khaiyum accused Ro Teimumu of reliving the election campaign and SODELPA's Niko Nawaikula, cautioned three times by the Speaker, obliquely threatened that if the 2013 Constitution was not amended (to include specific iTaukei protections that Government claims are unnecessary because the protections are already there) there would be another Coup.  He later said he has said nothing of the sort and now feared for his life following the remarks of the PM. 

Opposition Whip Nawaikula, a lawyer, was a member of the extremist CAMV party before it merged with the SDL, the forerunner to SODELPA. Check out the hyperlinks in the previous paragraph to follow the full story. My reading is that it was not a very subtle cover for the coup threat that had been reiterated many times during the election campaign, and his supposed fear for his life was for public consumption.

Tikoduadua replies 
For me, the most decisive maiden speech was made by  the Minister of Infrastructure and Transport  Pio Tikoduadua.

Delivering Government's right of reply in his maiden speech before the House, Tikoduadua said the Opposition "need some fresh ideas if they are to remain at all relevant to our national debate over the next four years" and not the "politics of division that cost them the election" and was "overwhelmingly rejected by the Fijian people."

He said they needed to accept their election defeat and "soon see the error of their ways" saying that if they don’t, it was going to be a "long and frustrating four years ... The only comfort is that when we gather here again after the 2018 election, there will be fewer of them. Because they have misjudged the iTaukei.
"What they say about the iTaukei does not resonate with me or any of the iTaukei I know," Tikoduadua said.
 He particularly mentioned  Ro Teimumu's speech, saying that instead of using the opportunity to propose new ideas, "she chose to fight the General Election all over again, resurrecting some of the main themes of her campaign [including] her claim that the iTaukei are somehow disadvantaged in the new Fiji when the opposite is true and they have never been stronger."

"The Opposition must come to terms with the fact that it was their politics of division that cost them the election. "They need ... fresh ideas that are relevant to the lives of every Fijian. And they need to tell the truth in this Parliament, the truth that they didn’t tell during the election campaign."

Tikoduadua: "It is not true"
Tikoduadua said the Opposition parroted "the same old negative chant – of the iTaukei people threatened when they’re not, Christianity threatened when it’s not".

"It is not true to say that the iTaukei have been weakened when we have guaranteed ownership of our land more than ever before – more than 90 per cent – and more opportunities than ever before.

"It is not true to say that our identity has been stolen when an English name that only came with the English is used to describe every other citizen. We are all citizens of our beloved Fiji, and as such we are all Fijians and the Opposition need to learn to accept that.

"It is not true that the right of we Christians to worship Our Lord Jesus Christ or Catholics to honour Mary and the Saints publicly or privately is threatened by the provision of a secular state in our Constitution. It is guaranteed, along with other freedoms, yet the Christian fundamentalists sitting opposite still try to stir up division.

"It is not true to say that our strength as a people has weakened just because some of our institutions have been reformed. On the contrary, the strength of our identity and capability as the iTaukei derives from us as a people.

"It is not true to say that there will be another coup unless the Constitution is changed. And it is an outrageous abuse of the privilege afforded by this Chamber for the opposition member opposite to have made such a threat.

"The Constitution will not be changed, except by the Constitutional provisions, and any insurrection will be addressed decisively. By the same token, it is hypocritical of the Honourable Whip of the Opposition to comment on the provisions of immunity in the 2013 Constitution when he himself was a beneficiary of similar provisions in the 1990 and 1997 Constitutions for the events of 1987.

"It is not true that expatriates are taking the jobs of qualified Fijians in our economy, in which we need the best people to take Fiji forward. We will not force the pace of localization if it means degrading our capability as a nation.

"And it is not true that Fijians have never been more divided, as yet another Opposition member claimed in his maiden speech."

An Opposition speech applauded
For me, the most appealing maiden speech was by Mosese Bulitavu, imprisoned  for speaking his mind during the Bainimarama Government tenure.

He said, "If Fiji is to progress and for us to be long remembered as the 50 members of parliament that truly united Fiji, we must break down all barriers and embrace each other's differences  ...  I plead to each one of us to reach across the racial, cultural and religious barriers and make this work. I am inspired to say that Yes We Can and Yes We Will. " -- Fiji Sun.

It is to be regretted that SODELPA expressed concerns about its member's maiden speeches, saying that they should have been vetted first. One hopes they did not include the speech by Bulitavu.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On

The Sekoula or Flame tree
Keep it Sacred
Listening to the first maiden speeches I can gather that it will soon gear towards a circus. Please keep the august house sacred.

Offices Closed
Before the general elections political parties had offices almost everywhere in the country. They have all closed down.

Don't you need us anymore?

Need for a Language Upgrade?
A news item said that all MPs would be getting a "tablet" each.

How would we translate this in to the iTaukei language?
I know what my bubu, (God rest her soul) would have said, "Se bera mada ga ni tekivu na palimedi, sa soli tale vei ira na tablet, e cava, sa mosi na uludra tou?"
(Parliament hasn't started, and they will be given a tablet each.  Do they already have headaches?"

Memory Tree
The sekoula tree is gone. Gone with it are so many memories. If the tree could talk many of us would be in jail or divorced.
Anyway, I thank the authorities for the explanation and yes lets plant 1,000 trees around Lautoka.


The Sekoula tree as a Symbol

"Instead of arguing in Fiji about whether Fiji should be a secular or a Christian state, Alan Lockington from Lautoka who sits with his mates under a beautiful tree at Lautoka market to yarn and drink kava, the sekoula tree (flame, flamboyant), reckons 'let's just have a sekoula state and live in peace and harmony without politics.' I always think of those beautiful trees at Namosau Ba, and Lautoka and that's a dominant icon of the beautiful things of Fiji, not the snarky, double-talk of some politicians that dominates news." --- from w on the Babasiga blog site:

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.

Balancing Fair Parliamentary Salaries and the Need for Quality Leadership

Opinion by Crosbie Walsh

I'm still scratching my head over the announced parliamentary salaries, wondering why they were decreed before Parliament sat, how they were determined, and how they can be explained or justified. Price Waterhouse may have made the recommendations but an elected Government is under no obligation to accept them unamended. 

The Parliamentary Remuneration Decree fixes salaries until they are changed by a parliamentary resolution that must take into account prevailing economic conditions based on evidence from an authoritative source and may set a lower remuneration level. But couldn't the old rates have been paid until, as NFP party leader Dr Biman Prasad, asked, a parliamentary select committee decided on appropriate new rates?

Prior to the election, Government said it intended to attract high quality candidates by paying attractive MP salaries. More generally, it talked of the need to reduce income inequalities and leading by example. The parliamentary salary situation does not seem to reflect these sentiments.

Relative to the higher salaries in parliament and comparable to "equivalent" salaries outside parliament, the salary of ordinary MPs is insufficient to attract high quality candidates, unless they are motivated by idealism alone. And relative to the wages on which most Fijians live, the higher salaries are an obscenity.
The Parliamentary salaries compared
The PM's salary package ($328,750) is 20 times the country's average wage of $17,394 in 2011 when the median wage, a more accurate measure, was $12,200. For a wider comparison, his NZ counterpart's basic salary ($NZ428,500) is "only" ten times the NZ average wage of $NZ45,000.
The PM's package is six times the basic salary of an ordinary MP ($50,000). The NZ equivalent where MPs earn $NZ147,800 is half that.
There are three levels of ministerial salaries in Fiji: The Minister of Finance earns $235,000, Ministers of Health, Education and Infrastructure and Transport, $200,000, and other ministers $185,000. The Speaker earns $150,000 and the Leader of the Opposition $120,000. In NZ, all Ministers, the Speaker and the Leader of the Opposition are paid the same salary, $268,500.

I know the comparisons with NZ are only crude. No allowance is made for different values of the respective dollars or the allowances paid and non-monetary assistance to members of parliament, but my main concern is in Fiji relativities, between the top and bottom salaries in the Fiji Parliament, and the higher parliamentary salaries compared with the incomes of ordinary Fijians, the people who elected them to office.

Balancing Fairness and Quality
It is not easy to balance principles of equality and fairness with the need to attract the best people to govern the country, but I think the range of parliamentary salaries need to be greatly compressed, with  lower salaries at the top (before the appropriate allowances are added) and higher salaries at the bottom.
There are, I think, three requirements if the balance between perceived fairness and quality leadership is to be achieved:
1. The top (and bottom) end of the salaries need to be in line with approximately comparable positions outside Parliament.
2. Salary differences within the House should reflect the roles and responsibilities of members on BOTH sides of the House.
3. The basic MP salary should be sufficient to attract quality election candidates.

Why only comparisons with the private sector?
A justification for the top salaries is that they compare with those paid to CEO's in the private sector. Why this should be the only comparison I do not know. Few MPs came from or will return to the private sector, and there are other and possibly more appropriate models such as those paid by the University of the South Pacific.
The basic USP salary (without allowances) paid to assistant lecturers ranges between $54- $65,000; lecturers from $66- to $88,000, senior lecturers $91- to $105,000, associate professors from $111- to $125,000, and professors from $129- to $140,000.

Using this model, an ordinary MP would earn a basic salary comparable to a Lecturer (say, $65,000); Ministers, the Speaker and the Leader of the Opposition basic salaries equivalent to those of an Associate Professor or Professor (say $120,000) and the PM a basic salary of $140,000. Allowances for travel, living costs for those normally living outside Suva and superannuation would be added to these basic salaries, and extra payments could be paid for ministers with more than one portfolio.

Two extreme overseas examples
There are, of course, many other models that could be adopted. Using Fiji's choice of a comparison with private sector CEO's, for example, ANZ's CEO David Hisco earned a A$3.26m remuneration package last year, equal to NZ$4.1m at the time, making him the country's highest-paid executive. That's 120 times more than the lowest paid bank worker. Or $80,000 a week, more than most bank workers earn in a year. It is little wonder than ANZ bank tellers in New Zealand are presently on strike!

Evo Morales
At the other extreme is the example of of Evo Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president. When he took office in 2006 he did not move into the Presidential Palace. He stayed in his old house, wore his same old clothes, and cut his salary by 57%

He then set out to improve the conditions of the poor, curb the power of the elite, and nationalise some US and foreign businesses. He is, for a reason his opponents fail to fathom, immensely popular and has been returned with over 60% of votes three times as president. 

Of course, he's a left wing president, part of the "pink revolution" that has improved the living standards of the poor and thwarted American big business interests in several Latin American countries.

We can hardly expect such idealism in Fiji where there's nothing even vaguely "pink" about Government — or the Opposition parties, for that matter. Such as "pink" was, it went out of the window with the election collapse of the FLP and PDP.
Conclusions
But, surely, after all the hyperbole about basic human rights, poverty alleviation and equal citizenship, we could expect a parliamentary salary structure that showed it was designed in the same country —or at least on the same planet. 

A structure, as the remuneration decree requires, that recognizes the "prevailing economic conditions","fair relativity", that "reflect(s) the ethos of political service which entails making sacrifices", that recognizes "the need to be fair to the taxpayer" and that, in the setting of allowances and benefits, recognizes "the need for public understanding" of the "extra" work done by parliamentarians.


If PM Bainimarama wishes to be re-elected, or elected three times like Evo Morales, I'd bet a fistful of his surplus  dollars that he needs to be much closer to Morales's “moral” example than to that of the ANZ CEO. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Lockington's Everyday Fiji ... Life Goes On

Government Vehicles

So some government vehicle drives still think they are exempt from road rules.

I have some advice - each driver must have at least 10 years driving experience before he or she can  be given authorisation to drive a government vehicle. They must undergo a defensive driving course that they will pay for. They must have no previous record of accidents.

Each morning the driver together with the officer in-charge will inspect the vehicle for dents, when the driver returns in the afternoon the office in charge will inspect the  vehicle, and damages will be noted and if it is established that it was from neglect, the driver will pay for the repairs. No excuses.

Just compare our government vehicles with private company vehicles and you will see the difference. And just have a look at the Public Works Department yards all over Fiji  and you will see all the old vehicles that could have been looked after a little better but are now junks rotting away.

We need to put our foot down and take drastic measures, our tax is being wasted.

Ban Plastic Bags


This is from the ABC News on the Internet: California lawmakers have approved a measure that would make the state the first to impose a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags.

Senators who had previously opposed the bill, including incoming Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles Democrat, this time supported the measure after protections were added for plastic bag manufacturers.

It includes $2 million in loans to help manufacturers shift to producing reusable bags and lets grocers charge 10 cents each for paper and reusable bags.

The bill had sparked one of the most contentious debates in the last weeks of the legislative session, with aggressive lobbying by environmentalists and bag manufacturers.

For years, a statewide plastic bag ban has been an elusive goal for lawmakers trying to reduce the buildup of plastic waste in oceans and waterways that costs millions of dollars to cleanup. About 100 local jurisdictions in California already have adopted similar bans, including Los Angeles and San Francisco.

We can do the same in Fiji by banning single use bags, and get the companies to  make bags that can be used again and again. And let's charge shoppers 10 cents for each plastic bag with the money collected to go into a fund to pay for environmental clean ups.

One thing I admire about the Gujarati shopkeepers is that they always have their cloth bags.They are way ahead of the rest of us.

By the way, if you go to the Vunato rubbish dump the most visible items there are plastic bags and bottles.

Allen Lockington is a self-employed customs agent and business consultant who has regular articles published in Fiji. I thank Allen for permission to reprint some of them in this political blog. They remind us that life goes on, whatever the political situation. And it's good to know that.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fiji Day: President's Address to the Nation


HIS EXCELLENCY RATU EPELI NAILATIKAU
CF, KStJ, LVO, OBE (Mil), CSM, MSD
President of the Republic of Fiji
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
FIJI DAY ADDRESS TO THE NATION
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
State House                                                                                                                                                     Thursday, 9th October, 2014
SUVA                                                                                                                                                                  
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


MY FELLOW FIJIANS,

ONCE AGAIN, WE ARE ALL CELEBRATING FIJI DAY – 44 YEARS AFTER OUR FLAG WAS FIRST RAISED ON INDEPENDENCE DAY 1970.

OF ALL OUR FIJI DAYS SINCE THEN, THIS IS THE MOST JOYOUS. BECAUSE WE HAVE OPENED A NEW CHAPTER IN OUR NATIONAL LIFE THAT OFFERS GREAT PROMISE FOR EVERY FIJIAN NOW AND INTO THE FUTURE.

I JOIN YOU IN YOUR HOMES TONIGHT TOWARDS THE END OF A MOMENTOUS WEEK IN WHICH HISTORY WAS MADE AND WHICH MANY OF US WILL NEVER FORGET.

ON MONDAY, FIFTY OF OUR MEN AND WOMEN WERE SWORN IN TO REPRESENT YOU IN OUR REFURBISHED PARLIAMENT. AND ON TUESDAY, I HAD THE GREAT HONOUR TO OFFICIALLY LAUNCH OUR NEW DEMOCRACY.

FOR ME, IT WAS AN INSPIRING AND EMOTIONAL DAY, BOTH AS YOUR PRESIDENT AND HEAD OF STATE AND AS AN INDIVIDUAL.  BECAUSE I HAVE LIVED THROUGH MUCH OF THE HISTORY THAT CAME FULL CIRCLE ON TUESDAY.

PARLIAMENT HAS NOW BEEN RETURNED TO THE CHAMBER IN GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS THAT USED TO HOUSE THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL IN COLONIAL TIMES.

IN MY YOUTH, I WOULD SOMETIMES GO THERE TO HEAR THE DEBATES BY THE PARLIAMENTARIANS – THEY WERE GREAT MEN AND WOMEN WHO HAVE NOW PASSED INTO HISTORY, BUT WHO LAID THE FOUNDATION OF OUR NATION AND TO WHOM WE WILL ALWAYS BE GRATEFUL.

THEN, PRECISELY 44 YEARS AGO TODAY, I WAS IN ALBERT PARK AS EQUERRY TO HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS THE PRINCE OF WALES, AS HE HANDED THE CONSTITUTIONAL INSTRUMENTS OF INDEPENDENCE TO OUR FIRST PRIME MINISTER, RATU SIR KAMISESE MARA.

NO-ONE WHO WAS THERE ON THAT SUNNY MORNING ON OCTOBER THE 10TH 1970, WILL EVER FORGET THE EXCITEMENT AND SENSE OF ANTICIPATION AS WE SET OUT TO CHART OUR OWN COURSE.

WE HAD SO MUCH PROMISE AS A NATION AND ALL OF THE ELEMENTS NEEDED FOR SUCCESS. AND YET OUR PROGRESS WAS DRAMATICALLY HALTED 17 YEARS LATER, IN 1987, WHEN WE ENTERED A TURBULENT PHASE OF OUR HISTORY THAT WE ARE ONLY NOW PUTTING FIRMLY BEHIND US.


IT WAS THE BEGINNING OF A CYCLE OF INSTABILITY, DIVISION AND HATRED – FOUR DISRUPTIONS TO PARLIAMENTARY RULE, A REBELLION IN THE MILITARY AND IN 2000, THE DETENTION OF OUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES FOR 56 DAYS.

IT IS A SHAMEFUL PERIOD IN OUR HISTORY THAT MUST NEVER BE REPEATED. BUT TO OUR GREAT CREDIT AS A NATION, WE PERSEVERED WITH OUR VISION AND HAVE FINALLY PUT THIS ERA BEHIND US.

THIS WEEK, I HAD THE PRIVILEGE TO WITNESS HISTORY COMING FULL CIRCLE WHEN OUR NEW MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT GATHERED IN PRECISELY THE SAME PLACE WHERE THE FIRST COUP HAPPENED 27 YEARS AGO. IT WAS A WONDERFUL MOMENT FOR THOSE PRESENT AND FOR THOSE OF YOU WATCHING AND LISTENING AT HOME.

WE HAVE DRAWN A LINE UNDER OUR LOST YEARS AS A NATION. WE HAVE GIVEN OURSELVES A SECOND CHANCE TO BUILD A UNITED FIJI.

AS WE GATHER TOGETHER WITH OUR FAMILIES AND FRIENDS THIS FIJI DAY, LET US COMMIT OURSELVES TO EMBRACING THAT FUTURE. AND TO THANK ALMIGHTY GOD FOR HIS MANY BLESSINGS. BECAUSE WHATEVER OUR INDIVIDUAL RELIGIOUS BELIEFS, IT HAS BEEN A YEAR IN WHICH WE HAVE ALL BEEN TRULY BLESSED.

AS COMMANDER IN CHIEF OF THE RFMF, I SHARED THE PAIN OF THE FAMILIES OF OUR 45 BRAVE UN PEACEKEEPERS, WHO WERE DETAINED FOR TWO WEEKS IN SYRIA. IT WAS AN ANXIOUS TIME FOR OUR NATION AND ESPECIALLY FOR THE FAMILIES AND FRIENDS OF THOSE WHO WERE CAPTURED. BUT GOD ANSWERED OUR PRAYERS, GAVE US HIS COMFORT AND KEPT OUR MEN SAFE. AND NOW THEY ARE BACK DOING THE JOB THEY WERE SENT TO DO, THE NOBLE TASK OF KEEPING THE PEACE.

ON THIS FIJI DAY, LET US CELEBRATE THEIR SACRIFICE AND COMMITMENT, ALONG WITH THAT OF ALL OUR OTHER MEN AND WOMEN SERVING THE PEOPLE OF OTHER NATIONS. OUR PEACEKEEPERS AND POLICE OFFICERS NOT ONLY ON THE GOLAN HEIGHTS BUT IN IRAQ,  LIBERIA AND SOUTH SUDAN; THOSE FIJIANS  SERVING IN OTHER ARMED FORCES AROUND THE WORLD; OUR CIVILIAN VOLUNTEERS WORKING IN SCHOOLS, HOSPITALS AND CLINICS IN OUR PACIFIC NEIGHBORS; AND ALL THOSE FIJIANS WORKING IN COUNTRIES FURTHER AFIELD.

THEY MAY BE FAR ACROSS THE SEAS, BUT THEY REMAIN CLOSE TO US IN OUR HEARTS AND WE PRAY FOR THEM, AS WELL AS FOR THEIR FAMILIES HERE IN FIJI.

ON THIS DAY OF ALL DAYS, YOU CAN BE PROUD THAT YOUR LOVED ONE IS PUTTING SERVICE TO OTHERS FIRST. BECAUSE THAT IS THE ESSENCE OF FIJI DAY. A TIME TO PUT ASIDE OUR INDIVIDUAL CONCERNS AND THINK ABOUT OUR NATION AND WHAT IT MEANS TO US ALL.

WORKING TOGETHER, WE HAVE JUST ACHIEVED A GREAT MILESTONE, A CREDIBLE, FREE AND FAIR ELECTION CONDUCTED TO THE HIGHEST INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS. AND NOW THE TASK OF NATION BUILDING PROCEEDS IN EARNEST.

I APPEAL TO YOU ALL TO BE PATRIOTIC, TO HAVE A TRUE SENSE OF PRIDE ABOUT OUR NATION NO MATTER WHAT WE DO OR WHERE WE ARE. WE SHOULD SING OUR NATIONAL ANTHEM WITH PRIDE. WE MUST LOVE OUR COUNTRY, JUST AS WE MUST LOVE EACH OTHER.

I BELIEVE THAT THE SPIRIT OF THE FIJIAN PEOPLE HAS NEVER BEEN STRONGER AND THAT OUR NATION’S GREATEST DAYS LIE AHEAD. ON THIS FIJI DAY, LET US ALL DEDICATE OURSELVES TO OUR NEW DEMOCRACY AND JOIN HANDS TO MAKE IT WORK. WE OWE IT TO OURSELVES, TO HISTORY AND TO GENERATIONS TO COME, TO FINALLY ACHIEVE OUR POTENTIAL AS A NATION. TO MAKE FIJI GREAT.

ON FIJI DAY 2014, MAY GOD BLESS US ALL IN OUR EFFORTS TO BECOME A BETTER NATION. MAY GOD BLESS FIJI.

THANK YOU, VINAKA VAKALEVU, SHUKRIA, BAHOOT DHANYAVAAD.
--------

This is a link to what the Leader of the Opposition wrote, as published by FijiToday. http://fijitoday.wordpress.com/2014/10/10/fiji-day-message-from-the-leader-of-the-opposition/



Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Fiji Day: Many Ethnicities, One People, One Nation

Everything about the opening of Parliament, from the President's Guard of Honour to the new parliamentary chamber and the President's address, was impressive. Who could not be stirred?   Eight years in the making and all the promise of the future;   a united nation, at peace with itself;  a nation of changed mindsets, with people thinking beyond their own narrow, parochial  interests;  a nation  joining hands,  across all political allegiances, working together to move our beloved nation forward.  These were the words of the President.

But he also warned that if politicians and the people generally did not work together, it would be to Fiji's "ultimate peril as a nation-state."

He could have been referring to  petty and major differences within parliament, laxity in the workforce or a failure to reduce economic or regional inequalities, and he probably had these things in mind, but I think he was mainly referring to the far deeper unspoken ethnic division that can still derail the nation's progress.

The first three Fiji coups exploited this division and the 2006 coup  was in part a reaction to a ethnically-biased government.

Creating truly equal citizenship in law and calling everyone Fijian are steps in the right direction but as a person commented on my blog, "There is no groundswell of support for a multiracial Fiji."

Cynically, the writer thought FijiFirst had "bought" the support of Taukei and Indo-Fijians voted "how we all expected ...  From all the people I talk to, attitudes to race haven't changed a bit on either side, and yes they are still called Indians and I'm a Fijian."

An exaggeration, perhaps, but he has a point.  Changing —or removing— labels does not change content, and change of the order needed to make Fiji a truly multi-racial and multi-cultural nation cannot be dictated or expect to occur overnight.

It has to be actively promoted by the removal of institutional racism (which Government has done) and nudged forward by Government, the Opposition and other opinion makers until there is a spontaneous groundswell of public opinion and behaviour demonstrating that the mindsets of most people have truly changed.

No opportunity should be lost to promote multi-ethnicity, and Friday's Fiji Day is obviously one ideal opportunity.

I'd  like to see  Singapore-style banners crossing the streets, reading:
"Many Ethnicities, One People, One Equal Nation"   
"Many Languages; One Nation" 
"Ni sa bula vinaka, Salaam alaykum, Namaste" 
"Many Religious Streams; One Godly River" 

And religious services, from Friday to Sunday, adopting these themes.

"Taxi Driver",  a font of ideas on many topics, writing on on my blog, thinks:
  • Schools should give their students an assignment that makes them write a small essay (and provide pictures) of how they celebrated Fiji Day with their family. The assignment should have a component whereby some marks are given if their homes flew a Fiji flag, or their family prayed for the nation, or some sort of activity that reflects the importance of this day.
  • Maybe Village 6 and 4 should offer a special offer to all families who becomes their patrons on this Fiji Day. Special offers may include reduced door prices or free ice-cream (courtesy of Tuckers whom have benefited so much from doing business with Village 6/4), etc.
  • Town Councils and Rural Local Authorities should encourage its ratepayers to buy a Fiji flag and fly these on Fiji Day.
  • Business groups can participate by offering prizes to specific homes for the various locations on the best decorated house and awesome party held on Fiji Day
  • Bars and nightclubs should also get in the 'wagon' and offer a discounted prices ... for all patrons who wear anything that has a Fiji flag in it.
These are only some ideas. A start has been made but many more are needed to transform the dream into reality.   -- Croz


News and comments for Wednesday 8 October 2014

LAW SOCIETY CONCERNS. The Fiji Law Society is up and running again and among its plans for the future are taking concerns about certain decrees to the government. The Society was weakened in 2009 when the previous government took away its role issuing law practising certificates and dealing with disciplinary matters meaning a vital loss of funds.

The society’s new President Peter Knight says it will try to boost membership, improve relations with the government and get it to look at some important decrees.

There were a number of pieces of legislation that were passed during the interim period which were of some concern to the legal profession which denied the right to challenge in the court the decisions that were made by the executive.

Mr Knight says it is unlikely the Law Society will be given back its role as the issuer of practising certificates at this point in time but he is hopeful  it will get a voice on the Judicial Services Commission which is responsible for the efficient functioning of the judiciary and administration of justice as required under Section 104(1) of the Constitution that states a legal practitioner must be a member of the JSC.

The FLS has already had talks with the Chief Justice and with the chief registrar of the High Court.  "They were good meetings and I think a better relationship has been established as a result of that," Mr Knight said, adding "I think we need to try and improve the profile of the legal profession by instilling in its members the proper principles and proper ethics."

TRADE UNION CONCERNS. An ILO team is in Suva to review the status of  the country's trade unions.  The team will investigate TU complaints about the lack of free of association, and other claims that some trade unionists are using the ILO and their position for personal advantage.

THE PACIFIC'S FIRST WOMAN SPEAKER.  In his welcome speech at Parliament yesterday, President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau congratulated Dr Luveni on her election as the Speaker. "To become the first woman Speaker of a Parliament in Fiji, or in any other Pacific island country, is a singular achievement and an inspiration to women everywhere."

RO TEIMUMU SAYS she is ready for the challenging role as Leader of the Opposition. “Well", she said,  "with the leader of the opposition it is a very important role because it is serving a purpose there in parliament and we have to look at the workings of the government in particular in terms of good governance, transparency, accountability and those are some of the areas we need to look at in terms of the performance of the government.” -- Fiji Today.

SODELPA USED CHURCH TO DISTRIBUTE ELECTION MATERIAL. The Social Democratic Liberal Party and the Christian Mission Fellowship are not commenting on why the party was allowed to distribute the SODELPA election campaign DVDs through some church ministers to the members of the congregation.are not commenting on why the party was allowed to distribute the SODELPA election campaign DVDs through some church ministers to the members of the congregation.

ECONOMY SET TO GROW AT 3.8% this year, the fifth year of consecutive growth. This and a little more from FRB Governor Barry Whiteside speaking at the Budget Forum meeting last week. As previously reported, Ro Teimumu and Dr Biman Prasad missed the meeting. Ro Teimumu did not even acknowledge the invitation and now says she had a "previous engagement."

WORTH READING. The magazine Republika.

JOSEFA BILITAKI.  Reports on the alleged beating of this 60-year old songwriter are still confusing but the Police Commissioner submitted  a full report to  to the Minister for Defence Captain Timoci Natuva  on  Monday.

All that seems clear to me is that Josefa was arrested, probably beaten, and that someone in the military exceeded his authority in what was essentially  a police matter. Section 17(c) of the Public Order Act allows a member of the RFMF to perform all or any of the duties and functions of a prisons officer or police officer at the request of or with the concurrence of the Commissioner of Police.  No request had been made.

Family members are said to have said  there was no political intent in Josefa's text exchange with the PM.

In a signed statement sent to the Fiji Times  Bilitaki confirmed the night visit of a group of officers and wrote of the events  leading up to his hospitalisation at the CWM Hospital in Suva. He was taken to Totogo Police Station over text messages to the PM. He could not recall what he did or said and regrets his actions.He claimed he was later assaulted and  never interviewed by police or asked to give a statement. His hospital admittance was due to concerns about his high blood pressure.  He confirmed the visit of the Commissioner of Police Ben Groenewald and his assurance of police protection, if necessary.

TAUKEI CULTURE.  The SODELPA leadership made much of the claim that the past Bainimarama Government was undermining Taukei culture (which they equated with the dismissal of  the Great Council of Chiefs, making its own appointments to the iLTB , giving all land rent money directly to its owners, the mataqali, and bypassing chiefs who had previously taken large slices of the rental money,  and the Land Bank legislation that allegedly forced owners to rent their land.)  I don't know what, therefore, they will make of the iTaukei Trust Fund Board's latest research project,  a study of Somate,  the traditional funeral ceremony.

The research, to be undertaken by the Board and the accounting firm  Price Waterhouse Coopers, will survey  funeral ceremony customs and ceremonies, their cultural significance, and their impact on family, mataqali and yavusa finances,  before making recommendations  to the the community that they hope will benefit future generations. The iTaukei Trust Fund is mandated to foster advancement of the indigenous Fijians.

UPDATE OF THIS BLOG'S COMMENTS. I have been most impressed by the quality and detail of comments  1-3 on the possible "New Roles" for Government, SODELPA, NFP. "Taxi driver" for one is in top gear.  Responses to 4,  the NGOs produced worthwhile comments on the Methodist Church but nothing else on NGOs, and responses to 5, New Roles for this blog are still welcome.  I shall try to summarise the comments soon.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Monday, October 6, 2014

The New Parliament and the Relevance of the NZ Election

The Budget Forum has been and gone  Over 200 "stakeholders:" took part in the discussion which was judged a success but the only political party present was the FLP.

Biman Prasad send an apology and some ideas for discussion. Ro Teimumu did not even have the courtesy to reply to the invitation.  Not a good start for an reasoned, inclusive parliament which held its first session today. Government and the opposition parties would do well to take a leaf out of the book of NZ's John Key, but more of this below.


The New Parliament

The first session Monday 6 October 2014. Dr Jiko in the chair.


FIJI HAS ITS FIRST WOMAN SPEAKER. Parliament unanimously elected Dr Jiko Luveni as Speaker. Two nominations were received for the position of Deputy Speaker. Ruveni Nadobe Nadalo, the Government nominee, was elected with 32 votes, beating the Opposition nominee Ratu Viliame Tagivetau with 18 votes.

Dr JIKO "PROTESTS" HER APPOINTMENT. 
Speakers traditionally have to be dragged to accept their election.

For the origin of the tradition, click here. Other photos may be seen on the MOI Facebook site.  Click here.

PORTFOLIO CHANGES. A  last minute change in Cabinet before the swearing in of the new Parliament sees Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum resuming his role as the Attorney-General. Sayed Khaiyum sheds the role of Minister for Industry and Trade and Minister for Tourism, which will be taken up by Faiyaz Koya who was appointed as the Attorney-General after election. The switches in the portfolio will see Mr Sayed-Khaiyum taking up the AG and Minister for Finance portfolio.  The business for the first sitting of the new parliament included the swearing in of Members of Parliament, elections of the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Opposition Leader, the adoption of Standing Orders, and the setting of a date for the next sitting.

RO TEIMUMU was elected unopposed as the Leader of the Opposition.

THE GOVERNMENT BENCHES. Line ups in the front benches indicate importance.  Numbers 1-6 went to the PM, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum (Attorney-General and Finance),  Pio Tikoduadua (Infrastructure and Transport),  Ratu Inoke Kubuabola (Foreign Affairs), Dr Mahendra Reddy (Education), Mereseini Viniwaqa (Lands).

CEREMONIAL OPENING OF PARLIAMENT. The President will open Parliament at  10am Tuesday.


John Key wins the 2014 elections.
Why is the NZ Election Result Relevant to Fiji? 


Both countries have mixed member proportional representation, both PM's have said they wished to make government inclusive with some sharing of power with opposition parties,  and both PM's were reasonably modest in victory.  In Fiji, FijiFirst won 60% of the votes and in NZ, National won slightly over 50%, until special votes reduced its majority to just under 50%.

John Key is hoping to sign a memorandum of understanding with NZ First, and is expected to make single-policy deals with the Green Party. The NZ Listener commented,

"If entered into with goodwill, these ventures will mark a welcome maturation of our MMP system, based as it ideally is on consensus politics."
Voqere Bainimarama has already tried to be inclusive by inviting the Opposition parties to the Budget Forum, and there has been talk of an appointment to the Taukei Land Trust Board.

It is important for democracy in Fiji that FijiFirst does not choose to rule alone, or is forced to do so by Opposition intransigence.

There are many potential areas of common ground, and scope, particularly in the standing committees, for co-operation.

From the Government side, I hope they seek areas of agreement with NFP on the economy and education, and with SODELPA on the use of Taukei land and Taukei concerns. There could also be agreement, later on,  for a revived, apolitical Great Council of Chiefs, with clearly prescribed boundaries of responsibility.  

From the NFP, I hope they do not slide into a too easy, engulfing accommodation with SODELPA. They need to keep their own identity and  show a willingness for principled co-operation with Govenment on selected issues.

For SODELPA, I hope it will focus on the issues where accommodation and compromise is possible. The management and use of Taukei land would be good starting points. I hope it does not focus on issues it cannot win, where further argument would be even more vindictive and divisive.

I hope it will abandon its appeal to the Courts challenging the 2014 Constitution and challenges to the validity of the Election results.  It cannot win these issues or force any change within Parliament. Indeed, as a minority party, it cannot force any changes.

SODELPA needs to quickly evolve into a party respected by all ethnic groups and all educated people as a party of reason and moderation  or it will lose even more support at the next election.

Finally, it is people who may or may not be reasonable and speak with moderation. This means that all  MP's, especially their leaders, must play their part or Fiji, led by poor parliamentary example, will lapse once more into division and acrimony.

It is Fiji Week this week and Fiji Day on Friday.  Something to cautiously celebrate?