Chaudhry nominated as FLP leader for election

10:30 TodayTaken from/By: FBC NewsReport by: Shanal Sivan

Convicted Fiji Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry has nominated himself as the person who will lead the FLP into the elections. The FLP filed its nomination in the last hour with fourty-two candidates. Chaudhry confirmed to FBC News outside the Fijian Elections Office that he remains party leader and will stay on until his legal battle is complete. Under the Electoral Decree Chaudhry is not eligible to contest the elections and this throws into question whether party nomination signed under his name will be valid. Appeals and objections to party nominations will be finalized by Friday. The Social Democratic Liberal Party is currently at the Elections Office filing its nomination. One of the first parties to lodge it’s nominations on the final day today was the National Federation Party. The deadline for nominations is 12pm. – See more at: http://www.fbc.com.fj/fiji/22261/chaudhry-nominated-as-flp-leader-for-election#sthash.xf9h6pGq.dpuf

GCC rearing its head as a major electoral concern

Mixed reactions to GCC

Nasik Swami
Saturday, August 16, 2014

THE latest Tebbutt-Times Poll has canvassed the issue of the reinstatement of the Great Council of Chiefs and poll results are showing mixed reactions.

When asked should the GCC be restored, out of the 1047 surveyed in urban and peri urban areas of Suva, Nasinu, Lami, Nausori, Nadi, Lautoka and Ba between August 4 and 6, 2014, 33 per cent said they did not want the reinstatement of the GCC while 15 per cent said they did not care.

A total of 48 percent of the people surveyed in the poll said they wanted the reinstatement of the GCC while 4 per cent refused to provide their opinion on the question.

The results noted differences in opinion gender and ethnicity wise, with females more likely than males to support restoration (51 per cent and 44 per cent respectively).

A total of 65 per cent of the iTaukei population surveyed said they wanted the reinstatement of the GCC and 30 per cent of the Fijians of Indian decent supported its reinstatement.

The survey also highlighted that the younger generation (18 per cent) between the ages of 18 to 24 years said they did not care about the reinstatement of the GCC.

The poll results also revealed that more females (51 per cent) and fewer males (44 per cent) said they wanted the reinstatement of the GCC.

Eligibility of candidates for elections and the Mickey Mouse games

 

Dear Sir

Mr Aiyaz Khaiyum advises NGOs like Citizens Constitutional Forum to not play “Mickey Mouse games” before the elections (Fiji Sun, 5 August 2014).  The public should consider that:

(a) The Bainimarama Government has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayers money encouraging the voter registration of Fiji citizens living overseas so that they can have a say in electing some candidate for the parliament, even if they have Permanent Residency of and presumably some commitment to other countries.

(b) Civil servants, even if they have been out of the country for the last two years “on government business”, may still be eligible as candidates for the elections, and may even belong to political parties, according to the Permanent Secretary of the PSC.

(c) BUT an ordinary Fiji citizen, like Ms Makareta Waqavonovono, a former Legal Aid and committed senior Fiji government official, who has been overseas for more than 18 months out of the last two years, is declared legally ineligible to be a candidate by a sudden last minute change of the law on the 31st of July 2014, just a month before the elections, after Ms Waqavonovono has already been announced as a candidate by the National Federation Party.

The moribund Fiji Law Society or one of its members, might want to ask the general question if laws are being changed to suit a specific circumstance or individual.

But more specifically, the public can ask why Ms Makareta Waqavonovono, a former senior civil servant, has been overseas for the last two years.

First, she has been guilty of bringing great credit to Fiji by working for AusAID and the Australian Government, arguably the most important donor to Fiji.

Second, she has been using her valuable legal skills in the Solomon Islands, a valuable member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group which Fiji often takes pride in helping, by providing much needed skilled human resources, similar to those possessed by Ms Waqavonovono.

Third, Ms Waqavonovono apparently has had the unpatriotic desire to waste her time and money by studying overseas (in Australia) and acquiring further educational qualifications that will undoubtedly be of great benefit to Fiji.

But with this latest decree by Mr Aiyaz Khaiyum (Attorney General and, apparently without any conflict of interest, also the General Secretary of the Fiji First Party), Ms Waqavonovono has been banned from offering to voters, the use of her extensive legal experience in the Fiji Parliament, the most important public service arena there is, superior even to the Government..

Anyone with common sense knows who exactly is playing “Mickey Mouse” games in Fiji with the elections and our people’s lives.

 

Professor Wadan Narsey

Amnesty International: Fiji must end “climate of fear”

Friday, August 8, 2014

Amnesty International: Fiji must end “climate of fear”

Amnesty International has issued a damning report which calls for the restoration of basic human rights in Fiji, including those of free expression and a free press. “A combination of draconian laws, a pattern of intimidation and harassment of those who are critical of the government, as well as reports of torture and other ill-treatment by the security forces,” it points out, “have created a climate of fear.”

The report comes six weeks before the country is to hold elections intended to restore democracy after almost eight years of military rule. The Amnesty report casts doubt on whether the elections will be free and fair, however, given regime-imposed restrictions on basic human rights, including freedoms of expression, association, assembly, and the press. “Those rights still remain restricted in law, policy and practice, therefore deterring people from speaking freely,” the report states. “Fiji’s current government must commit to protecting and respecting human rights in the lead up to elections, including by lifting restrictions on freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association and refraining from acts of intimidation or harassment against political candidates, civil society organizations, journalists and others.” Amnesty points to the multitudinous decrees imposed by the regime that restrict basic human rights.

Amnesty International is concerned that the government continues to use decrees to criminalize peaceful political activities and to arrest, detain, fine and imprison people for the peaceful exercise of their human rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. Further, human rights defenders, journalists and trade union leaders inFiji continue to face harassment and intimidation solely for carrying out their legitimate work peacefully.

The decrees include the Public Order Amendment Decree, the Crimes Decree, and the Media Decree, which include “hefty” fines and even imprisonment for people exercising their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. “A journalist may face two years in prison for publishing something which is not in the ‘public interest,’” the report notes. “A person may be imprisoned for five years for saying something which ‘undermines the economy of Fiji.’ In addition to this, a person attending a public meeting without a permit or who breaches permit conditions can be imprisoned for up to five years and fined $10,000.”

Heavy fines and jail terms can be imposed on the media for publications that “threaten the public interest or order, is against national interest, offends good taste or creates communal discord.” Collectively, these restrictions in law, policy and practice have compromised frank and fearless media reporting.

Contempt of court proceedings have also been used to stifle expression, the report points out, and concerns have been raised about the independence of media outlets, “including a failure to provide equal space to different political candidates and refusal to publish letters or articles which are critical of the government.” The restrictions, combined with heavy fines for breaching the regulations imposing them, have “stifled open debate on key matters of national interest.”

The media must be empowered to publish a diverse range of views, including criticism of government or of political candidates, without fear of retribution. To achieve this, the government should lift existing restrictions on the media and ensure that journalists will not be subject to prosecution, intimidation or harassment for the peaceful exercise of their right to express and publish diverse views.

The report also points to a number of people who have been “subjected to politically-motivated charges for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, resulting in lengthy and costly court battles, including criminal charges against two former Prime Ministers.” A student recently had his government scholarship revoked for “associating in political agendas,” notes the report, “after he had spent a day volunteering with an independent opposition candidate for elections.” It also highlights the arrest of protesters calling for changes in the Constitution and calling for the government’s budget to be made public in 2013 and the refusal of permission for a number of planned peaceful protests. “In addition, the police have disbanded a number of private meetings, including an internal staff meeting of the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (July 2012) and private gatherings of politicians,” the report notes. “These cases show a disturbing pattern of interference with the right to peaceful assembly and association.”

The Fiji Times . . . deluxe forever

The report calls on the regime to repeal provisions of the Constitution, Public Order Amendment Decree, Media Industry Development Decree, and the Crimes Decree which criminalize freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. It also notes that the rights to form or join a trade union and to collectively bargain, while supposedly protected in the Constitution, have been rendered “almost meaningless” by regime decrees. The Essential National Industries Decree severely curtails the right to strike, bans overtime payments and voids existing collective agreements for workers in key sectors of the economy, including sugar, aviation and tourism. The Political Parties Decree, the Electoral Decree, and the Constitution prevent trade union officials from engaging in political activity or even campaigning on issues such as workers’ rights. “Amnesty International is deeply concerned at the failure to respect workers’ rights in Fiji, including through restrictions on freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association for workers,” states the report, noting that a a high-level mission from the International Labour Organisation was expelled from Fiji in 2012. “The ILO has identified Fiji as one of five countries where workers’ rights violations are the most serious and urgent.”

It also condemns recent instances of torture, which were condoned by Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, and interference by the government with judges and lawyers contrary to international law and standards. It points to the arbitrary removal of judges, lack of security of tenure, and reports of executive interference in the judiciary. “Collectively, this undermines the independence of the judiciary. An independent judiciary is critical to ensuring that victims of human rights violations can seek redress through national courts.” The report does commit one embarrasing gaffe, attributing a statement made by NFP leader Professor Biman Prasad to Bainimarama. “On 12 June 2014, Prime Minister Bainimarama stated on Fiji One TV, ‘People who are opinion makers, academics, NGOs, trade union officials, they’ve all been banned from taking part in political activities and actually talking about the issues.’” Oops, that was Biman. It didn’t sound like something Frank would say. . . .

Amnesty also published on its website a blog entry by a student activist in Fiji who pointed to the suppression of the draft constitution drawn up by an independent commission almost two years ago and the withholding of several years worth of Auditor General’s reports as evidence of political repression. “Once again the lacking consent and genuinity [sic.] behind such actions, leaves us in a state of repressed dissatisfaction, frustration and worst of all, disempowerment,” lamented Jope Tarai.

The fact that the Ghai draft constitution was thrown out, after it inadvertently provided opposing views to the regime, indicates the continuing possibility of genuinely laid plans for participation and engagement of the people, to be subjected to the regime’s whims and self-serving interests, at a drop of a hat. . .  . The old Bainimarama one-liner and overused cliché of shaming all old politicians as being corrupt and deceitful, now leaves him no different from them, as he has become the same politician that he loves to malign.

Coup apologists are predictably furious, especially Crosbie Walsh, who claims that Amnesty has been “hoodwinked” by Fiji informants. “I  have donated to Amnesty International for many years but have now stopped,” spat Croz on his blog. “This article provides an example of why I have changed my opinion about the quality of their work.”

Their assessment of theFiji situation is based on reports from those opposed to the Bainimarama Government. Their allegations are dated, exaggerated, and they appear to make no efforts to verify what they are told. AA was not formed to take sides during an election campaign.

No, Amnesty International was formed to shine a light on human rights violations worldwide, and it has rightly highlighted ongoing and relentless outrages in Fiji. Croz, who quit the blogging game late last year but has recently made a comeback for the election campaign, seems to be saying that those opposed to Bainimarama should not be listened to, making him a veritable cheerleader for the suppression of freedom of expression. He also suggests that any political repression by the regime is either trifling or in the past. Not so, as has been chronicled on this blog and elsewhere. Bainimarama is doing his very best to shut up any political opposition, which will ensure his election, and he is doing it with virtual impunity domestically because the media in Fiji are by and large too intimidated to make much noise about it. The regime is also moving the goalposts on a regular basis across what is already an uphill political playing field for any who dare to oppose Bainimarama. His latest move to amend the Electoral Decree to include a two-year residency requirement for candidates, which renders ineligible three NFP candidates, has opposition parties livid.
Bainimarama is currently in New Zealand campaigning, but ironically the Fijian citizens whose votes he will be asking for have effectively been rendered second-class citizens because under this amendment none of them are now able to run for office. It will be interesting to see how a free press covers his visit. What fun and games! You simply couldn’t make this stuff up, and I’m sure it’s only going to get better as election day approaches. If only Grubby were around to join in the fun. Actually, he’s still here. He’s just lurking, for the sake of his employability in Australia, under his new identity: “Anonymous.” Just try leaving a critical comment on the Crozblog and he’ll jump all over you. That’s right, the international award-winning journalist has been reduced to subsisting as an Internet troll. He and Esther make quite the pair.
UPDATE: Victor Lal over at Fijileaks has dug up a dilly. This letter shows what can happen to your village should someone there speak ill of the regime.

Posted by Marc Edge at 12:42 PM

Jail term for bad memory?

Draw to determine Fiji ballot paper

Updated at 1:05 pm today

The Fiji supervisor of elections says a televised draw will determine the candidates’ number on the ballot paper of next month’s election.

Mohammed Saneem says the draw will be done at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva.

Under the electoral decree, there will be a single ballot paper, on which voters have to cross or mark the number of their preferred candidate.

All candidates will have a three-digit number.

It is forbidden to carry a piece of paper into the polling station with a candidate’s number written on it, with offenders being threatened with lengthy jail terms.

Urai resigns for polls

Litia Vulaidausiga
Thursday, August 14, 2014

CAREER unionist Daniel Urai has resigned from the National Union of Hospitality, Catering and Tourism Industries to contest a seat under the People’s Democratic Party.

His resignation complies with provisions of the Electoral Decree, which prohibit trade unionists from joining or being office bearers of political parties.

In Lautoka yesterday, he said these provisions had not deterred him from standing for a party he helped found.

“Trade unionism is something we live with and I will continue performing tasks without being paid” he said.

“This government encourages people to serve and in terms of that, I will serve in my own capacity wherever and whenever they need me.”

He maintained that his aspirations, five weeks away from the general election, would not hinder public campaigning, noting his successful stance during two previous elections, albeit under the Fiji Labour Party banner.

“I have voters in Lautoka and have faith in them for putting a tick on me.”

He noted that the political climate had since changed but said he didn’t find it much of a challenge.

“Voters from outside Lautoka have the opportunity to vote for me and I am happy with the way it is made, it suits me.”

Samuela Yalayala will be acting in the position of general-secretary for the hotel union until its next annual general meeting.

Praise for PM

Nasik Swami
Thursday, August 14, 2014

Prime Minister and leader of FijiFirst Rear Admiral (Ret) Voreqe Bainimarama has surprisingly won positive comments for his assurance that he will accept the outcome of the elections next month.

SODELPA leader and the Roko Tui Dreketi Ro Teimumu Kepa believes the response is great news for the country.

“It is a breath of fresh air because we have been, and many people have been wondering how he would react should the situation not be to his dreams and aspirations,” Ro Teimumu said yesterday.

“That shows that the man himself has progressed in his thinking, that he has now evolved into the person we believe we can work with.

“So when the day of election comes, the results are made known and that he has accepted the fact that however it goes, he will accept the results, it shows that he has really grown into a leader that we would hope to have sometime in the future.

“It puts to rest some of the concerns that not only I had, but I am sure other people too have had certain concerns about how he would react and for him to have said on record, not only here in Fiji, but the fact that he said that in New Zealand, and it’s being broadcast all over the world. So we hold him to it,” she said.

Rear Admiral (Ret) Bainimarama was quoted on New Zealand’s Radio Tarana, saying: “That’s the story of democracy now. You accept the results of the elections, so I really don’t deal with hypothetical questions.”

He said his government had been working on ensuring democratic rule.

“… this is what we’ve been working towards for the last six to seven years, a wonderful Constitution and now we have one and, of course, the election on September 17,” he said.