To all my friends in SODELPA I have a question I think you need to ponder.

I would not be telling you anything if I said that Frank Bainimarama has broad approval in the Indo-Fijian community but the question you have to ask is: what has he done to earn that approval?

It is certainly not this ‘reform’ of the sugar industry. He made himself Minister for Sugar but he’s provided no leadership at all, apart from taking on the chore of jet-setting to ISO meetings. He has brought to the edge of destruction an industry built with the sweat and tears of generations of Indo-Fijians.

So what is the source of the Bainimarama appeal, which has allowed a bumptious, poorly educated thug to have this broad appeal among Indo-Fijians. If I had to single out one thing that’s given him a bit of appeal it would be his decision to call us all Fijian.

It was always confusing trying to explain to people who didn’t know Fiji that only some of our population were ‘Fijian’. We need to face the fact that our unique history as a small island state in the Pacific is not well known in the wide world, so this linguistic anomaly inevitably caused confusion, not to say awkwardness outside Fiji.

The 1987 coup was more than a dispossession of basic democratic rights. It was a time when people did not feel safe, when they didn’t know what would happen next after experiencing a coup that struck like lightning out of a clear blue sky, but the dispossession went beyond that. It was a dispossession of a right to a sense of identity. Bainimarama’s decision on a new national name healed wounds more effectively than any number of apologies from Rabuka.

Bainimarama hit gold with his decision to call us all Fijian, but let’s not give him more credit than is due. His feelings about this are more likely to spring from empathy for the Kai Loma identity rather than empathy for our Indo-Fijian brothers and sisters. Frank has long had a sense of disdain for things ‘native'; he sees himself as a progressive, a town dweller, not come kai colo from the village, he went to Marist, not QVS, he worked his way up through the ranks, he’s an achiever, not an idle Bauan.

SODELPA leaders would be doing their cause a favour by giving thought to the feelings of their fellow Fijians. This is a change for the better which would be better still if it had support from all communities.

One of the first things a reconvened BLV could do is give its blessing to our new national identity and the Party positioned to provide the leadership needed to do this is SODELPA. Ro Teimumu would be acting as a truly national leader if she pledged to take this to the BLV. It would not be right to speak for the BLV but she can speak for herself as someone who wants to lead the whole nation.

Sa dri yani!

Why does the Land Use Decree have Section 15 (1)?

Bainimarama and his A-G  keep telling iTaukei voters they have provided the strongest guarantees yet for their rights as traditional landowners. 
 Anyone who understands the issues knows that this is a lie. Mataqali cannot be deprived of ownership of their land but they can be deprived of all rights that are supposed to go with ownership.  Under the Land Use Decree Bainimarama can order “arrangements” that lease the land for up to 99 years to anyone Bainimarama chooses and on terms and conditions which are left entirely to him.  The rent, the length of the lease and all other provisions are left to Bainimarama if he is PM.
And if landowners think that any decision made by Bainimarama ignores any of their rights under the Constitution, they are blocked from taking their complaint to a court to have justice. Section 15(1) of the Land Use Decree  of 2010 lays down that no court or any other tribunal can question the decisions made by the PM under the Land Use Decree.
If anyone tries to go the court to appeal a decision the Chief Registrar is required to block it.  They don’t even need to rely on the case being allocated to the one of their tame judges. 
Landowners must demand an answer to this question: how can the constitution protect landowners if they cannot take their claims to a court? 
Up to now we haven’t seen the unrestricted power of the Land Use Act used and the reason is not hard to understand. If he uses these powers this side of an election he will certainly lose the iTaukei vote. If he waits until after the election and retains his grip on power he will hope to be able to bully landowners into accepting his power. With landowners at his mercy, he will have the country by the throat.
The Land Use Decree is not easy for the non-lawyer to follow.  It talks about arrangements, not leases, but it leaves everythng in the hands of a dictator.  The one question to ask Bainimarama when he campaigns in your area is: what is Section 15 (1) of the Land Use Decree for?  Ask him to say plainly what it means.  Why are iTaukei landowners denied the right to appeal to a court if they do not think a decision under the Land Use act is fair? 
If the Government wants to acquire freehold land owned by, say, AS-K, the Constitution says he has to be given just  compensation. If he thinks the compensation is not just he can ask a court to look at how the decision was made and change the level of compensation. If iTaukei land is acquired under the Land Use Decree the owners are barred from going to court.
How can we have common and equal citizenry when one groups of the citizens is denied access to courts to protect their rights? 

The question of Sam

The criticism directed at Sam Saumatua raises some interesting questions.

His critics say he is unworthy of SODELPA endorsement because he was willing to serve the regime he now stands in opposition to. Some just say he’s tainted because he’s ex-RFMF.

Most of his critics don’t know him. Like many in the SODELPA line-up he has a record of leadership in his field. Unlike Bainimarama he served with distinction in the field as a real military leader in Lebanon.

People who think he should have simply overthrown Bainimarama have no sense of how the RFMF was scarred by the mutiny in 2000. Like everybody else, RFMF officers could see that Bainimarama had betrayed the clean-up coup with corruption and cronyism of his own. But what could they do without ripping the RFMF apart and plunging the country further into chaos?

How many other RFMF brothers are there who might have done something but held back thinking the time was not right to effect a clean change? If there ever was a right time Roko Ului and Driti certainly didn’t pick it and who knows when of even if RFMF officers could have done anything to remove Bainimarama.

As for serving the regime, how many others have thought they could exercise influence from within, only to find that the regime is a two man-band? The trail of sacked board members and CEOs who tried to have a voice and ending up only on the scrap heap is long and sad.

Now is not the time for SODELPA to start a witch hunt or allow divisions to grow within, just as it is also the time to draw closer and stand shoulder to shoulder with opponents of Fiji First. Democracy has no future if Fiji First is not decisively defeated.

Can the regime learn anything?

On 25 May the Fiji sun published an article titled “HERE COMES THE YOUNG”. It announced the arrival of Roshika Deo, a young politician with a new vision – a champion of human rights and an avowed feminist.

She’s made the effort to learn iTaukei language and was joined by a young iTaukei student from USP who shared her vision for a genuinely race-free Fiji, not the empty rhetoric spouted by Bainimarama since 2006 (but not in 2000 when it counted).

Somewhere between 25th May and 27th may someone in the regime control room decided that Roshika was a threat and her volunteer’s scholarship was cancelled.  Did someone actually read what she’s been saying and whisper in the ear of the PM?

She’s championing the things the regime says it stands for but it’s clear that she rejects the regime’s credentials.  She’s on the side of real democracy, unrestricted freedom of speech, respecting human rights and encouraging free debate. 

She has supported the United Front for Democratic Fiji group and called for mass peaceful protests to condemn the deficiencies in the 2013 constitution.  Bainimarama did not let anyone participate in the drafting of the constitution and now he’s behaving like a dictator when anyone voices dissent. 

The question is: can the regime learn from its mistakes?  Can it at last realise that it will lose votes through persecuting people like Roshika Deo?

The limit to lies

The Bainimarama government has a lot of faith in propaganda. They’re convinced if they repeat a lie often enough and stop any political rivals from having access to the media to refute their lies, the lies will win.
Sometimes I think they could almost succeed. They pump out publicity and the Fiji Sun laps it up. Every day Sun readers are treated to stories of success and optimism under the ‘popular’ dictator. Inevitably, some people will think good things are happening somewhere even if they can’t see it in their own neighbourhood.
But there is a problem the propaganda machine can’t deal with – the truth. When they tell us how much they’ve improved water supply and health the suspicion grows that we are being fed on a diet of lies. The truth about water supply and hospitals can’t be hidden from people whose taps are dry or sick people turning up to clinics that don’t have the bandages or medicines they need.
Add to that the really big lies. We are told by Bainimarama Native land has never been more protected than it is under the current constitution. But the truth is, under previous constitutions leases for agriculture were limited to 30 years. Landowners would lose their land for a generation, no more. And there were provisions to allow rent increases to keep pace with inflation.
These protections are gone. The constitution says the government can take any land for as long as it needs it for ‘national purposes’ and the government has no limits on the length of time it can take land for ‘national purposes’.
Can rents be revised to match inflation? Yes, but it doesn’t have to be. The Government can set whatever rents it likes. And worst of all, under the Frank Land Bank, any landowners who thinks the government hasn’t followed its own rules is blocked from taking their case to court to get a review.
Propaganda will not paper over these cracks. Let’s hope when Bainimarama goes out campaigning he is asked these questions.

The constitution

SODELPA have said they want to get rid of the constitution. The NFP have promised to review it. We all know the process by which it was imposed. Bainimarama created an independent Commission and then burned their draft report and refused to honour his commitment to have a panel of ordinary citizens representative of our diverse nation offer their opinions on it.

But there are two things the constitution does which are now more precious than anything else. Number one is the constitution restores the rule of law. Bainimarama has bound himself to abiding by rules. It’s true the his rules were made by him to suit himself, but at least he has to abide by them.

The other thing the constitution does is it gives us an election. The election may not be 100% fair, but it is much better than the alternative: no election.

It’s our chance to get rid of him. He may tells himself that the polls in the newspaper tell the truth about what people say, but the truth can only be suppressed. It cannot be changed. And the truth is in the privacy of a polling booth very few people will want to endorse a dictator who has lorded it over them for 8 years.

Distribution of rent

Somebody asked me the other day what was wrong with Bainimarama’s decision to stop distributing a share of rents to chiefs? Isn’t it fair?

The first thing that’s wrong is that it wasn’t Bainimarama’s decision to make. The colonial government never made such decisions without consultation. The NLTB was set up by the colonial government under the leadership of Ratu Sukuna after extensive consultation with the Great Council of Chiefs.

All previous constitutions restricted the ability of elected governments to make such changes without broad-based support – a two thirds majority of an elected Parliament – and support from the Great Council of Chiefs.

Only Bainimarama’s arrogance fuelled by years of dictatorship allowed him to make changes without consulting a single landowner.

He will not listen to the Great Council of Chiefs but he follows every word his illegal Attorney General tells him.

Many iTaukei support a share of land rents going to chiefs and they have said this to Bainimarama when he met them after the decision. If a share goes to their chief, the chief can contribute to projects to help their village and their Vanua. If it goes only to individuals it is lost to the community.

Under the present regime money can be sent out of the country to mataqali members overseas if that’s what the mataqali decides and they have a majority of members overseas.

Who wants this apart from a few selfish individuals who think it suits them?

The Land Bank bureaucracy

Of all the outrageous claims made about the Bainimarama Land Bank, Tevita Boseiwaqa’s claim that the bank has cut out bureaucracy, is the most outrageous.

He is obviously hoping that the public will remain completely ignorant of what the Land Use Decree empowers the government to do. The Use Decree sets up a head lease and sub-leases so that tenants are no longer tenants of the landowner; they are tenants of the state. What is this but bureaucracy?

But the landowners are also cut out. They have no power to approve a lease. They approve only handover of their land to the PM to exercise his power to ‘designate’. Once designated the mataqali has no say in how the land is used or what rent is paid. The land and the tenants are then in the hands of the Land Use Unit. What is that but bureaucracy?

Landowners and tenants are denied access to the courts for any decisions by bureaucrats that they dispute. This is a typical Bainimarama regime modus operandi. All power to the state. If you want anything you come to the dictator on your hands and knees.

Landowners cannot complain that the rent is too low and tenants cannot complain that a rent reassessment is too high when the state appoints a valuer to set a fair market value to raise the rent every five years. In that sense only is the LUD balanced. Land owner and tenant are at the mercy of the state.

In the past many landowners and farmers have thought it would be better if they could deal directly with one another and this has happened, but it’s always been outside the law.

If the Land Use Regime of Bainimarama is confirmed it will further entrench the powers of the state, which already controls media, church meetings and the prices of goods and services.

Does the constitution protect police officers?

Acting Commissioner of Police, Ravi Narayan, has announced that he’s terminated the services of Mr Ligairi for insubordination. We are told that he used his powers under the Constitution to terminate the services of his deputy.

Under Section 129 (7) of the Constitution the Commissioner is empowered “To remove persons from the Fiji Police Force”.

That all sounds very clear, but what about all the protections the constitution is supposed to provide for every individual.

Section 16 of the constitution says “every person has the right to executive or administrative action that is lawful, rational, proportionate, procedurally fair, and reasonably prompt”. It sounds like Deputy Commissioner Ligairi should be protected but the constitution also says the right to fairness is “Subject to the provisions of this Constitution and such other limitations as may be prescribed by law”.

In other words it is worthless. The Executive can do whatever is wants. A policeman does not have the right to decisions by a Commissioner which are rational, proportionate or procedurally fair because the constitution gives the Commissioner the over-riding power “to remove persons from the Fiji Police Force”. The normal protections any police officer should expect as a citizen are subject to this sweeping power.

It’s like the protection of freedom of speech. Our right to freedom of expression is subject any laws the regime may make “for the enforcement of media standards and providing for the regulation, registration and conduct of media organisations”.

This constitution, which no-one other than the unelected Attorney General and PM has had a say in, has been carefully designed by the two of them to keep their iron grip.

You can have “policy”

Is anyone surprised that Frank’s big tour has produced questions from villages about the long-promised by never delivered village By-Laws? The By-laws were about to be delivered in 2010 when they were shelved without a proper explanation.

Since then, for four years, we’ve been told the by-Laws are on the way, but they never arrive. Now as Bainimarama tours villages people are asking: where are the By-laws you promised?

Deputy Permanent Secretary for iTaukei Affairs, Colonel Apakuki Kurusiga, has been pushed out to answer for Bainimarama. The hapless Colonel was forced to admit there have been a lot of questions about Village By-laws. People went through a long process of discussing By-laws and sending them to the Ministry for approval and implementation. They will not be happy to find out this was just going through the motions.

Kurusiga’s response was to advise villages to call a meeting under the turaga ni koro and discuss what they want to be observed by everyone within the village, like the dress code, the consumption of alcohol, respect for village elders, etc. They could then take a vote and agree on a POLICY!

But then what? Anyone can see that Kurusiga is just stalling. Why doesn’t Bainimarama just come out and say it straight: “We are all Fijians, there can be no law that applies only to iTaukei villages.”

At least the IAG who wrote the constitution should tell us if the Constitution would permit Village By-Laws, which apply only in villages, to have the force of law.

Where is the hate?

Ashwin Raj has labelled the speech by Ratu Timoci Vesikula as “hate speech”.

But where is the hate?

The statement that oil and water have not mixed is a simple statement of fact.

The two major communities have not mixed. Is Bainimarama not aware that the RFMF is mono-ethnic? Even if he’s not troubled by this fact, he should have noticed it? (But then again he didn’t notice his second in command in the RFMF, and his logical successor as Commander – he was somehow invisible to Bainimarama).

Then there is the statement that Bainimarama’s most reliable supporters are iTaukei. Is that hate speech?

Ratu Timoci said that Bainimarama could not rely on the vote of ‘others’, meaning those who are not iTaukei. Is it hate speech to suggest that a group of people will not vote for Bainimarama? Most people I talk to think that saying people don’t support Bainimarama is a compliment, a tribute to their intelligence and common sense.

One thing we need to clear up is who is supposed to be the object of this alleged hate. The accusation by Ashwin Raj is that it’s directed at Indo-Fijians and yet there was no mention of Indo-Fijians by Ratu Timoci. The word used for the group we’re talking about – let’s call them the ‘False Friends of Frank’ – was Vasu. Evidentially, this is a new word to Ashwin Raj.

Vasu is not a term of abuse, nor does it mean Indo Fijian. Our vasu are the people outside our group to whom we are most closely related. Vasu iTaukei is a positive way to refer to our Part European relatives. The Melanesian-Vasu-i-Taukei (MVT) development fund, which has been around since 1998, has been funded by Bainimarama to help people from all minority communities (apart from the Rotumans, Banabans and Kioa Islanders, who have access to their own special help).

Prosecuting Ratu Timoci is going to make for some very interesting legal argument. Where is the authoritative source for the meaning of vasu? Not Ashwin Raj, I’m guessing.

What was the “incitement”? He was urging people to vote for Bainimarama! Is the idea that people might vote for somebody other than Bainimarama incitement to hate those people?

This keeps getting better and better. Every speech in vernacular is now going to be handed in advance for Ashwin Raj to peruse in translation. Is this the way Talanoa works? Ashwin Raj may not be aware that Ratu Timoci was speaking in a Talanoa session at the Tailevu Provincial Council.

As I said, this keeps getting better and better.

A problem of his own making

I have not stopped smiling since I listened to the bucket tipped on Bainimarama by his supporter Ratu Timoci Vesikula.

He reminded Bainimarama that the Vanua is his power base and the Vanua was already there when the church and government, the others pillars of iTaukei society, arrived.

And the Vanua demands answers: “you talk of royalties, what about our qoliqoli and our land which is entrusted to you” and “why have scholarships for iTaukei been taken away?”

If Bainimarama thought all his campaigning would be like a visit to villages where overwhelmed villagers sit by and give their big-shot visitor the royal treatment, he has been rudely awakened from that dream.

He is dreaming if he thinks assurances that land is protected and in a the constitution will fool someone like Ratu Timoci, who was a Valuer by profession. He understands very well that a 99 year lease without proper provision for rents to be re-assessed in line with inflation is no different theft and is exactly what the Land Use Decree allows for.

Most important of all: Ratu Timoci is a supporter of Bainimarama. When the Charter was the issue in the early days of the regime Ratu Timoci put his hand up in support. He is not one of the supporters who turns up out of nowhere to mouth words of support on the day. He is a long-standing supporter who is now potentially facing a prison sentence of up to 10 years for simply telling Bainimarama what the ordinary iTaukei voter is thinking.

But what Bainimarama has still not appreciated is that it is his control of the media which gave rise to this problem. The intimidated media toned down Ratu Timoci’s words, attempting to gloss them in a way they thought would be acceptable to the regime.

Then the truth became clear and MIDA made its on translation of Ratu Timoci’s blunt declaration: “we’ve lived together for a long time but the water and kerosene have never mixed”

Bainimarama will hit the media hard, without understanding that self-censorship is the root cause of this blow-up. If he also hits Ratu Timoci hard, he will make matters even worse. His attempt to silence Ratu Timoci will be the focus of discussions around yaqona bowls all over the country, not to mention the barracks.

If long time rivals SODELPA and the FLP can discuss their competing policies freely Bainimarama and his supporters should be able to do likewise.

Our newest politician

On 5 March a grub emerged from seven years in a cacoon and began to flap around the land as a political butterfly.

No longer a Commander issuing orders, he’s now a politican trying to persuade voters that they should vote for him.  He has to listen to their requests, their questions and their concerns. 

As the campaign wears on he can look forward to people asking him about things other parties are saying when they visit.  He can look forward to people asking him how their land is protected by his new constitution.

This is where he is going to have to come clean. He is going to have to spell out how it all works.  He will find himself sitting in front of people with the facts in their hands – the words of his constitution.  He will no longer be able to tell them that their land is better protected than it was under the 1997 constitution. 

Bainimarama’s problem is that he accepts everything Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum tells him.  If ASK says the land is protected it must be protected. The ASK answer is that all assets are protected and land is no different.  The problem with is that it’s not true.  The Land Use Decree gives the Prime Minister the power to issue leases of up to 99 years with rents set at whatever levels he chooses.

In setting rents the Land Use decree says the PM has to make sure “all land available are leased with the purpose of providing a livelihood for all parties concerned”.  The economic rights of the tenant are equal to property rights of the land owners. 

But it’s not only the tenants whose rights must be considered by the PM under the Land Use Decree – it says he “shall take into consideration at all times the best interests of the land owners and the overall well being of the economy”. 

Is ASK’s property subject to these restrictions?  Does he have to take into account his tenants ability to pay or the best of interests of the economy when dealing with his property? 

I can’t wait to hear our newest politician’s answers.  


The current account deficit – how long is the fuse?

It’s eight months to the all important election and Bainimarama plans to use every minute between now and then to buy support.  A lot of people think this is likely to be successful even though it’s completely hypocritical for Bainimarama who claimed Qarase ‘bought’ the  support of iTaukei villagers with Government money.
But there’s another side to this story which was revealed in the January Reserve Bank of Fiji bulletin. The gap between export income and the import bill is widening.  We all know Bainimarama’s spending spree is all being made with borrowed money but when will the foreign exchange  crunch come?  How long is the fuse he lit?
We don’t have any new exports to fill the gap left by the halving of sugar production, the drop in prices we receive for sugar and the loss of EU aid after Bainimarama decided he didn’t want it if it came with a lot of talk about democracy and the rule of law. 
The current account deficit will widen further this year with all the spending being pumped out by the Elect Bainimarama Campaign called the 2014 Budget. People are spending and this will mean a steep increase in imports.
Sooner or later, the current account deficit has to be made up by the capital account, which means investment, borrowing from overseas or sale of the FNPF’s last few overseas assets.  We should be able to ask the RBF where they expect the funds to come from – how much from investment and how much from borrowing?
The fact is the RBF cannot speak freely because it is not allowed, and that is enough to make any genuine overseas investor hold back their funds.  And it looks like genuine investors are holding back.
Even if the heavy-handed exchange controls which make it hard for companies from to remit profits are tightened,  there’s a danger that foreign exchange will run low this year and trigger  a crisis like the one that led to the devaluation in 2009.  The more successful the election spending spree is in stimulating spending by consumers, the shorter the fuse.
If anyone from the RBF tries to warn Bainimarama or AS-K of what could happen, they risk being slapped down for being negative, which is why a regime like this can be guaranteed to make a mess of government. 

Where is the good governance coup?

In December 2006 the Army Commander seized power in the name of transparency and good governance. It was all about cleaning up government. The issue wasn’t how genuine our democracy was, it was all about cleaning up government. All of the claims about genuine democracy came later as an excuse for not allowing us to elect a clean government. However flawed past elections may have been, they’ve all had more democratic credibility than a Government imposed by force.
In 2007, when Bainimarama was talking all the time about ‘transparency and good governance’, it was obvious that he was repeating words from a coup script written by others. Good governance means more than sacking the government boards and advisory bodies appointed by Qarase. It means making sure all decisions made by government, whether directly through cabinet or indirectly through government-appointed board members, can be seen, understood and questioned by the public.
Over the seven years of Bainimarama rule there has been a steady decline in all the principles of good governance, in paticular transparency. We don’t know what the government is doing and we are not allowed to ask.
Annual Reports from the FNPF have shrunk and no longer provide the information we need to be confident our contributions are safe. The Fiji Sugar Corporation no longer has to produce an Annual Report because it has been de-listed from the South Pacific Stock Exchange, but we know it is insolvent. FSC should be placed the hands of a receiver to protect all the people that trade with it – banks lending it money (if there still are banks foolish enough to do this) suppliers providing it with goods and services and hoping to be paid, not to forget small farmers investing in their farms in the hope that they will sell cane to FSC and be paid.
Then there’s Fiji Airways. Who knows what they owe or what interest they’re paying on their debts. We know the planes are owned by some artifical Irish corporation.
The pine and mahogany industries are covered in fog. We know Aiyaz buddy, Faiz Khan, is head of Fiji Pine, giving him control of Tropik Wood and Fiji Forest Industries. But that’s all we know. Try checking with Bloomberg Businessweek to see who’s running FHCL and you’ll find this: “Fiji Hardwood Corp. Ltd. does not have any Key Executives recorded.” There are no reports to show what is earned from mahogany sales, no doubt because Bainimarama doesn’t want the landowners to be able to work out what share he’s leaving for them.
Fijian Holdings is the one small ray of sunshine even though is shine through a dark and threatening cloud. FHL still publishes the Annual Reports required by the Stock Exchange and from that we find that total liabilities for the FHL group grew by a staggering 244% during the year ending 30 June 2013. Assets grew by only 46%. And yet it is claimed FHL made a small profit. Is this profit real or just a result of accounting tricks?
The FHL Annual Report claims “All Directors are independent Directors with no substantial interest in the shares or Group business.” In other words they lose nothing if the company is bled dry by the regime. Dividends are being paid out to the iTAB and then grabbed back by Bainimarama to repay the ‘loan’ he invented to cover his grab-back of the Qarase Government grant to the iTAB and Provincial Councils of B class shares.
FHL is being looted but at least we can get a glimpse of it in the Annual Report, which is more than we can say for Fiji Pine and the Fiji Hardwood Corporation.
If we had an independent media they could demand answers to these questions, but sadly, we do not

Where are the new politicans for 2014?

It’s now 2014, the election is less than 9 months away.
Anonymous pro regime bloggers tell us the economy is in wonderful shape, there is optimism everywhere and we are living in a new Fiji where voters will no longer choose ‘old’ politicians. So where are the new politicians rallying under the banner of Bainimarama’s new Fiji?
They don’t seem to be visible in the very thin ranks of the Interim Government. Bole could be called many things, but not new. A veteran of the original 1987 ethno-nationalists, approaching 80 years of age with a dicey heart, he’s as far from new as anyone still drawing breath can be. And then there’s Inoke Kubuabola. If he’s not an old politician, nobody is. He’s a veteran of every coup.
What about the ex military in Government, the men that Bainimarama swore would not benefit from the coup, are they new politicians? Sadly, all of them are just Yes Men for Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. Only Sam Saumatua had the spine to try to carry out his duties without taking orders from Khaiyum and look where that got him.
Dr Sharma? He’s got a forest of question marks hanging over his head. The less said the better.
Nobody expects Aiyaz to stand for election. it’s no secret that he’s loathed. No-one dares say a word against hm openly, but everyone knows he’s poison to the public.
Pro-regime bloggers: I call on you to show me the new leaders for voters to embrace in place of the ‘old politicians’. Who are they? What have they done? What do they stand for?

The wasted years of Bainimarama

 The idea that the economy is now healthy is a lie.  This year and next year a  lot of money, mostly borrowed, is being pumped into the economy to try to breathe life into it after six years of uninterupted disaster.  This what the Asian Development Bank has to say on the subject. “The Fijian economy is not achieving its potential. Average annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth during 2006–2012 was negligible (0.7%), well below the government target of 5%, and below the modest growth achieved during 2001–2005 (2.4%).” 

There it is.  Qarase achieved a modest 2.4% growth rate between 2001 and 2005.  Bainimrama is claiming 2.25% for this year and hoping for 3% next year.  Even if this achieved his record will be a long way short of the Qarase’s. 

Year after year school leavers and university graduates have poured onto a stagnant job market. Many have been forced overseas to find jobs.  A lucky few with military connections have found jobs in the expanding army. It’s not yet a lost generation, but give Bainimarama time and he’ll complete the job. 

 The basic problem with Bainimarama’s impact on the economy is lack of investment. Businesses are reluctant to put their money into investments in Fiji while there is a government which changes the rules to suit itself. Worst of all, the court system is open to blatant interference. Any business contemplating investing in Fiji will be told the same thing by any lawyer outside the AS-K fold.  The interim Attorney General will tolerate no dissent. Judges and magistrates who defy him are fired.

And then there’s the decree disease. We’ve had not only seven years of rule by decree, many of the important decrees contain the clause that state that no decision taken by the executive can be appealed in any court or tribunal of any kind. One such decree is the Land Use Decree. 

Don’t take my word for it. This is what the Asian Development Bank says: “Structural weaknesses combined with political uncertainty have not been conducive to economic growth. They have deterred private investment, and contributed to a decline in social and economic infrastructure and worsening hardship and poverty. ” “Political uncertainty” is the diplomatic way of saying no-one knows what the Government will do.  It operates on the whims of one or two men fed by who knows what information.  



Croz walks the barbed wire tight-rope

No-one who knows him doubts that Crosbie Walsh is an intelligent man but his faculties of perception so filter the world on the way to his brain that he winds up with a view of the world which is difficult to reconcile with intelligence.

His discovery in late 2013 that the military which has ruled Fiji for seven years is mono-ethnic illustrates the peculiar nature of his faculties of perception. The military has not changed. Its ethnic composition is nothing new. And, besides, aren’t we all Fijian now, there are no more ethnic differences, so what does it matter?

Yet it does matter to Croz. The ethnic profile of the military, he says, should reflect the ethnic composition of the society. He is cagey about why this should be the case but eventually comes out with it – “An almost totally ethnic Fijian military cannot inspire confidence among Indo-Fijians and other ethnicities, and in situations where the military (or police) has to intervene, Indo-Fijians in particular will feel doubly threatened.”

Is he saying that Indo-Fijians don’t have confidence in the military government which has run the country for the past seven years? That would be quite a change for Croz.

Does Croz reject the proposition that Indians just don’t want to join the military? There is no formal bar, so what more is needed? Affirmative action? Not usually short of an opinion on anything, Croz seems to be holding back.

It’s as if the obvious truth of the regime has almost made its way into the brain of Croz, only to be thwarted by a brick wall. A government which replaced the Qarase Government, by whatever means, must be legitimate, even if it is illegal, incompetent, high-handed and defies all standards of transparency.

Or, to revert to my original metaphor: how long can Croz continue to walk this barbed wire tightrope?

The question of immunity

Some people have been surprised that Driti was not able to claim immunity for the acts which was alleged to have committed, but which he, of course, denied.

No-one should be surprised that the regime has acted hypocritically or illegally, but the issue of immunity is an interesting one.

We know the Constitution tailored for our illegal PM by Aiyaz Custom Legal Tailors has an intentional immunity gap. According to Section 154 “immunity for the period between 18 July 2012 to the date of the first sitting of Parliament elected after the commencement of this Constitution shall not apply to any act or omission that constitutes an offence under sections 77 to 390 of the Crimes Decree 2009″.

Ordinary crimes committed by our extraordinary government before they hand over to the elected Parliament are not covered by immunity. Sounds highly principled but there is really no inconsistency. This is the same crooked regime we know so well. Until there is a new Parliament Bainimarama and AS-K control the police and the court system, so they do not expect their criminal acts to be investigated.

If Bainimarama ceases to hold power, however, the situation will be different. The Fiji Police Force has any number of individuals who can give evidence of ordinary crimes which have been covered up, all of them involving deliberate attempts to pervert the course of justice. And in their professional capacity they know how to ensure strong evidence is available. Dates and places, all the key facts will be nailed down.

There are many people biding their time who will be able to claim credibly in the future that they could not report the crimes they witnessed because the criminals controlled the justice system.

Bainimarama will have no-one to blame but himself when he finds that immunity is a house of cards. He has placed his faith in AS-K, excluding advice from any other source. The price he will pay for this will be very high.

Pryde is spot-on

Speaking at the fourth National Anti-Money Laundering Conference in Suva the Solicitor General, Christopher Pryde, has at last said something worth listening to.

He told the assembled crime fighters: “Money laundering fuels corruption and organised crime and detection”. He might also have added that corruption and organised crime fuels money laundering.

He claims the regime he serves has done much to fight money laundering but we know it has also done much to fuel money laundering. The heavy-handed controls on foreign exchange have encouraged honest people who need to move money for legitimate purposes to resort to criminal channels.

If you have a credit card account overseas you have to seek permission to pay it with any hard-earned earnings you might have in Fiji. And then there’s a limit on how much you can pay per month. If you’re running a stall in the handicraft market the limit might not make much difference but if you’re running a business exporting handicrafts around the world it’s a joke.

The IMF has told the regime repeatedly to get rid of exchange controls because they deter investment. Why would people invest if it means any profits earned can’t be transferred out of the country without begging the regime for permission.

Some people are not deterred by this and this is a problem. Criminals don’t worry about such rules because they’re confident they can get around them by paying off officials.

The exchange control laws are a breeding ground for money laundering and corruption.