Fijian Soldiers surrender …… Filipino Soldiers are prepared to fight back rather than surrender as they are well-trained… they are well-disciplined warrior peacekeepers

Syrian rebels surround UN peacekeepers, hold more hostage

UN peacekeepers kidnapped at Golan Heights

A picture taken from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights shows armed men, reportedly rebel fighters, standing near vehicles in the Syrian side of the Golan, near the Quneitra border crossing. Source: AFP

SYRIAN rebels surrounded dozens of defiant Filipino peacekeepers in the Golan Heights and demanded they give up their weapons, hours after taking 43 Fijian soldiers hostage, authorities said.

Seventy-five Filipino members of a United Nations’ peacekeeping force were defending two posts on the Syrian side of Golan Heights, and were prepared to fight back rather than surrender, their commander in Manila said.

“We can use deadly force in defence of the UN facilities,” Colonel Roberto Ancan told reporters.

“I (would) just like to emphasise our troops are well-armed, they are well-trained… they are well-disciplined warrior peacekeepers.”

Syrian rebels, including fighters from the al-Qa’ida affiliate Al-Nusra Front, stormed a Golan Heights crossing at Quneitra on Wednesday, sparking an exchange of gunfire with Israeli troops.

Quneitra is the only crossing between the Syrian and the Israeli-controlled side of the strategic plateau.

The rebels captured 43 Fijian members of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) yesterday, forcing them to surrender their weapons then taking them hostage.

Colonel Ancan said the rebels then used an English-speaking Fijian hostage to relay their demand to the Filipino peacekeepers to give up their weapons.

Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said talks were underway to release the hostages, and they were believed to be safe.

“I want to assure the families of the soldiers we are doing everything possible to secure their safe return,”Mr Bainimarama said in a statement “The latest information we have is that they are safe and I can say now that the negotiations for their release have already begun.”

Mr Bainimarama said Fiji was “united as a nation in praying for their safe return”

The UN Security Council “strongly condemned” the assaults against the peacekeepers, which it said were carried out by “terrorist groups and by members of non-state armed groups.”

The council demanded the “unconditional and immediate release of all the detained United Nations peacekeepers” and urged countries with influence to help win their release.

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The Philippine military said the soldiers were occupying two UNDOF posts about four kilometres apart.

The United Nations initially said 81 Filipinos were involved in the stand-off, however Filipino commander Ancan said there were 75.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said it was unclear which group had staged the attacks.

“Some groups are self-identified as affiliated to Al-Nusra but we are not able to confirm,” he said.

However the US State Department said Al-Nusra was definitely involved. “The United States strongly condemns the detention of UN peacekeepers and ongoing violence targeting the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights by non-state armed groups, including UN Security Council-designated terrorist group Al-Nusra Front,” US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

The United States demanded the “unconditional and immediate release” of the Fijian peacekeepers, the statement said.

The UNDOF has been stationed in the buffer zone of the Golan Heights since 1974 to monitor a ceasefire between Syria and Israel.

Israel initially seized 1200 square kilometres of the Golan Heights during the 1967 Six-Day War, then annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

There are currently 1,200 peacekeepers: from the Philippines, Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal and the Netherlands.

Since the Syrian war erupted in 2011, the plateau has been tense, with a growing number of rockets and mortar rounds hitting the Israeli side, mostly stray, prompting occasional armed responses.

The Philippines, which has 331 troops serving in UNDOF, announced on Saturday that it would pull out of the peace force because of security concerns.

Filipino defence officials said no fresh troops would be sent once the current batch of soldiers returned from duty in October.

Last year, the Philippines said it was considering pulling its Golan peacekeepers out after 25 of them were kidnapped but later freed by Syrian rebels in two separate incidents.

In assessing the latest crisis, UN officials noted the safe release of the Filipino peacekeepers last year.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino described the situation in the Golan Heights as “tense” but also sought to calm fears about the fate of the Filipino troops.

“So far, we should not worry. The news is that the situation looks stable,” Mr Aquino said.

 

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AFP

 

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PM assures the safety of detained troops

Fiji Broadcasting Corporation-1 hour ago
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has assured the nation that the Fijian Government is working closely with the United Nations for the release of the 43 Fijian …

Is Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum delaying the dangerous driving causing death case against his friend Praveen Bala?

28th August 2014,

The Honourable Minister of Justice

Fiji Islands

Att: Minister of Justice – Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum

Re: Puna Chand

In 2013 Praveen Bala killed my brother because of dangerous driving. There’s no magistrate

available to hear the case. This is the third time since December that no magistrate has been

found who can hear the case.

While you as the Minister of Justice busy shaking hands and smiling with Praveen Bala, can

you please take out time and provide justice to my innocent brother who has passed away

leaving behind three children.

Yours faithfully,

Ashnita Chandra

Ex RNZI

Anger at new pre-polling dates in Fiji

Updated about 1 hour ago

A candidate in Fiji’s elections is outraged at the decision by the Electoral Commission and Supervisor of Elections to begin pre-polling on September the 3rd, two weeks before the official election date.

Fiji SODELPA party candidate, Mick Beddoes, has labelled the Electoral Commission and Supervisor of Elections as incompetent following the announcement.

In a statement, Mr Beddoes says when the 17th of September one-day election date was announced, political parties said it would be impossible to do, but he says the regime continually insisted that it could be done and would be done.

Now he says it has announced pre-polling dates from the 3rd until the 12th of September, which effectively turns a one-day election into a 10-day election.

He says the announcement places an increased burden on parties to bring forward their plans for polling by two weeks, sacrificing valuable final day campaigning.

Mr Beddoes adds that campaigning is supposed to stop 48 hours before voting, so all parties have scheduled meetings and other activities right up till 15th September, based on a promised September 17th one day election.

He wonders whether this means campaigning will now have to stop this Monday.

Mr Beddoes says he hopes the International Observers are taking note of these developments.

Voters face many obstacles in post-coup Fiji election, say campaigners

Voters face many obstacles in post-coup Fiji election, say campaigners

<!—->Speakers Shamima Ali (left) and Asenaca Uluiviti at the "Fiji: Return to democracy" seminar. Image: Del Abcede / PMC

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Anna Majavu

A baffling ballot paper with 249 numbers and no names or party logos, the government using public funds to campaign for the Fiji First party, and a seven-day ban on media – these are just some of the obstacles to a “free and fair” election in Fiji next month.

Asenaca Uluiviti of the Coalition for Democracy in Fiji (CDF), Shamima Ali, chairperson of the Fiji NGO Coalition for Human Rights, and Nik Naidu, spokesperson for the CDF, spoke of these issues at a seminar held at the Auckland University of Technology last night.

Titled “Fiji’s return to democracy”, the seminar was hosted by the Pacific Media Centre, Asia-Pacific Human Rights Coalition (APHRC) and CDF.

The speakers praised the voter enrolment – with about 580,000 people having registered to vote in the September 17 election, almost 90 percent of all eligible voters have registered to vote.

Ali and Uluiviti are joined by Nik Naidu at the 'Return to Democracy' seminar. Image; Del Abcede / PMC

However, Fiji has had “four and a half” coups since 1987 and Naidu was not optimistic that this pattern would be broken.

“Every time things go wrong for a certain group of people, they entice the military into supporting them and overthrowing elected governments,” Naidu said, predicting that Fiji would continue to have “coup after coup after coup”.

Public funds ‘abused’
Uluiviti said that the government, led by interim Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, who seized power in a coup eight years ago, had embarked on a massive road and bridge building effort in the lead up to the election and accused his administration of “blatant corruption”.

Bainimarama has now stepped down as a rear admiral in the military and is leading the Fiji First party.

It was possible that he was using bridge and road opening ceremonies as campaign platforms for Fiji First, Uluiviti said.

“While they are distracting us with the road building…here is this eight-year-old regime that has willy nilly taken the funds, IMF (International Monetary Fund) loans and has reserved most of its development for this period, so it is campaigning on public funds. To me, that is blatant corruption,” Uluiviti said.

Baffling ballot paper
The ballot paper is a densely packed grid of 249 different numbers and has no party names or logos on it. Voters will have to visit a board outside the polling station and look through the list of candidates, then memorise the number of the candidate they wish to vote for, since it is not permitted to take any notes into the polling station.

fiji electionslogo 250wide_1Those voters who cannot read and who used to rely on the party logo to mark their cross next to, will be “guided” to the number of their choice on the grid by polling station workers, speakers said.

“It is really stripping the identity of the candidate, the party”, said Uluiviti.

There was “a worry that [polling station workers] would guide people to their own preferred candidate” instead of the voter’s choice, she added. The polling station workers had immunity so could not be “accused of anything”.

Overseas Fijians
There are hundreds of Fiji citizens living in New Zealand who are eligible to vote in the first democratic elections in eight years. However, despite many registration drives only a fraction of Fijians living overseas have registered to vote, reports an Asia-Pacific Journalism reporter, Struan Purdie.

Part of the reason for this, Uluiviti said, was that overseas voters only found out recently that they had to apply to the electoral commission for the right to vote. The application was cumbersome, and Uluiviti – who is based in Auckland – only received her application form on the eve of the last day to apply.

She is still waiting to hear if the electoral commission has approved her as a voter.

“Not many people have exercised that application process. It is almost a deliberate effort to stop us exercising our vote,” Uluiviti said.

Seven-day ban
The media will also face problems over the election period, the speakers said.

There is a seven day ban on media commentary and reportage on the poll for the week prior to the election and on the election day. Overseas journalists who are flying in to Fiji to report on the first democratic election in eight years are concerned about the ban, which carries a $10,000 fine if it is contravened.

It is unclear how the ban will be enforced as bloggers and social media users are unlikely to comply.

“The media is under siege … Journalists are intimidated. The long term effect of official censorship has been profound,” said Ali, who added that the ruling regime had a “revulsion” for the media.

The media was governed by a military decree which left journalists wide open “to the whims of those in power”, she added.

Ali said there was “still some of that robust journalism going on” with some of the media being quite resilient and finding their way around military decrees while others were very weak, and their reporting was “lacklustre”.

One journalist who had posed a tough question to Bainimarama was then grilled on who he was voting for, and was intimidated, Ali recounted.

Voting spread out
Election day is officially September 17 but voting for overseas citizens and people in remote areas in Fiji, doctors, nurses and bus drivers starts on September 3. The speakers voiced concern that this lengthy voting period might lead to vote rigging.

“We don’t know how safe those documents [ballot papers] are going to be and the security and how they will store the voting papers,” Ali said.

“The worry is this is where the rigging will happen,” Uluiviti added.

The governments of Australia and New Zealand were heavily focused on whether the election day seemed “free and fair” instead of looking at the bigger picture, Ali said.

“Everyone wants elections but what happens after is really important,” she said.

A truth and reconciliation commission for victims of torture and state killings and their families was needed.

The NZ and Australian governments would also need to support and train civil servants since the civil service had been hollowed out by Bainimarama’s forced retirement of all public servants over the age of 55.

Civil society organisations, student groups and religious organisations had wanted to set up their own 300-strong joint elections observer group, but were told two months after applying that they would not be allowed to do so since they would be “very biased”.

Other problems included the “draconian section 115″ of the electoral decree, Ali said, which prohibited human rights NGOs from influencing voters in any way.

“It’s a huge obstacle …we should have been able to tell women how to vote, to vote for people who promote human rights,” she said.

Indigenous institutions
The speakers emphasised that if Fiji First did not win a clear majority, this would lead to problems as Bainimarama was not keen on forming a coalition government, especially with any party “that is talking indigenous development, indigenous institutions”, Uluiviti said.

Only seven parties have qualified to take part in the election: Fiji First, Fiji Labour Party, National Federation Party, Peoples’ Democratic Party, One Fiji Party, Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) and United Freedom Party.

A positive was that most of the parties were led by women and had a strong presence of female candidates, Ali said.

Anna Majavu is the Pacific Media Watch contributing editor for 2014.

Fijian troops seized in Golan

UN personnel seized in Israel-occupied Golan

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Golan Heights

The detained peacekeepers are from the Philippines and Fiji, an unidentified UN official told Reuters [Reuters photo]

A group of 43 United Nations peacekeepers in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights have been detained by gunmen fighting the Syrian army, the organisation has said, adding that it is working to secure their release.

The detained peacekeepers are from the Philippines and Fiji, an unidentified UN official told Reuters news agency on Thursday.

“During a period of increased fighting beginning yesterday between armed elements and Syrian Arab Armed Forces within the area of separation in the Golan Heights, 43 peacekeepers from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) were detained early this morning by an armed group in the vicinity of al-Qunaytirah,” the UN press office said in a statement.

It added that another 81 UNDOF peacekeepers were being restricted to their positions in the vicinity of Ar Ruwayhinah and Burayqah.

“The United Nations is making every effort to secure the release of the detained peacekeepers, and to restore the full freedom of movement of the force throughout its area of operation.”

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in a 1967 war, and the countries technically remain at war. Syrian troops are not allowed in an area of separation under a 1973 ceasefire formalised in 1974.

UNDOF monitors the area of separation, a narrow strip of land running 70km from Mount Hermon on the Lebanese border to the Yarmouk River frontier with Jordan. There are 1,223 UNDOF peacekeepers from six countries.

The force’s personnel come from Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, Netherlands and the Philippines. The United Nations said this week that the Philippines had decided to pull out of UNDOF and another UN force in Liberia, which is struggling with the deadly Ebola virus.

Blue-helmeted UN troops have been seized by fighters several times during the Syrian civil war, now in its fourth year. In all those cases they were released safely.

- See more at: http://mwcnews.net/news/middle-east/45469-israel-occupied-golan.html#sthash.zMEJl36s.dpuf

Three candidates are emerging as front-runners in the battle for the Fiji Labour Party leadership.

FLP’s TOP POST

JYOTI PRATIBHA

Three candidates are emerging as front-runners in the battle for the Fiji Labour Party leadership.
Leading the race is Doctor Rohit Kishore followed closely by suspended lawyer Kini Marawai and current President Lavenia Padarath.
While current leader Mahendra Chaudhry is adamant that the party will wait till the results of elections are declared before the elected members elect a parliamentary leader, there is growing frustration within the party with this stance.
There are efforts within the party to hold a delegates meeting next weekend for members to elect a leader.
It is understood members are unhappy with the decision to wait till after the election.
Mr Chaudhry said yesterday: “We will wait until election results are announced and then the elected members of parliament will choose a parliamentary leader.”
n Doctor Rohit Kishore is not new to Fiji’s political landscape. He may be the change that the party desperately needs- a young, energetic, qualified former Lands Permanent Secretary, he would usher in a new direction for the party. Dr Kishore has weathered a campaign to malign him by Rajendra Chaudhry, Mr Chaudhry’s son, who left for Australia after his practice was suspended.
n Kini Maraiwai a former journalist and a Suva-based lawyer, had stood in the Lau/Taveuni/Rotuma open constituency on the Conservative Alliance (Matanitu Vanua) ticket. He lost to the late Savenaca Draunidalo by over 4000 votes. In 2012, he was suspended from practice as a legal practitioner in Fiji until March 1, 2016.
n Lavinia Padarath who won the Nausori Naitasiri Open Constituency for the Fiji Labour Party (FLP) in the 1999 parliamentary election. She was subsequently appointed as Minister for Women, Culture, and Social Welfare. She lost her seat in the House of Representatives in the general election of 2001, and failed to regain it in the 2006 election, but was appointed to the Senate as one of nine nominees of the Leader of the Opposition.

Shortlink:

Ex FDN

Frank’s plans for sugar -a new CSR?

August 28, 2014

Islands Business News has forecast the collapse of the sugar industry when the current EU agreement under the Lome Convention lapses.  We’ll face tariff barriers that will kill our high-priced production. The EU offered 350 million Euros in aid to lift our productivity but Bainimarama knocked this back in 2009.  He wasn’t interested in an election until he had had at least 4 years dictatorship so he could censure the media, stack the judiciary and jail political rivals.

A blogger on another site claimed that the sugar industry’s problems started in 1987 but the facts are clear. In 1986 we had 22,000 growers producing 4.1 million tonnes of cane from 70,0000 hectares.  In 1996 we were still producing 4.3 million tonnes of cane.  By 2006 after leases were not renewed and growers dropped out, production fell to 3.2 million tonnes.

It took Frank to cut acreage and yields to the point where we produce on 1.5 million tonnes of cane in 2012.  Sugar produced fell from 310,000 tonnes in 2006 to 150,000 tonnes in 2012.

So what is Frank’s plan? In January we were told of a Chinese mission visiting to discuss a possible refinery joint venture and the scope for purchasing 100,000 tonnes of sugar in the medium term.  Does this mean Frank plans to sell FSC to a Chinese company?  If he does we can be sure he’ll bankrupt cane farmers first and hand them and their land to a new CSR, the Chinese Sugar Refinery.

Frank’s plan for the sugar industry is well hidden from sight but his plan for power is easy to see in legislation like the Land Use Decree which gives him the power to hand huge tracts of land to a Chinese sugar refinery.  Cane farmers should not think the Land Use Decree was crated for their benefit. If it was, he would have used it for that purpose already, but he’s left cane farmers to the TLTB.

Corruption Fighter