The safety of our boys on the Golan Heights

The speed of the decision to send in over 500 RFMF personnel to fill the gap left by the pull-out of Austrian and Philippines troops has left many people stunned.

Bainimarama didn’t really have the troops needed to fill the job, but he’ll do anything to show that he has international acceptance. He jumped without any proper assessment of risks. He knew that the other troops pulled out because of risk, but that didn’t put him off.

The troops will need to be very well equipped in this dangerous environment but Bainimarama is still trying to scrape up equipment from the Russians after the first contingent departed.

RFMF people are putting out the story that our boys are well known in the area and much respected. And it’s not just the goons of the media cell saying this. It’s a wide spread feeling.

They say Michael Field is showing his ignorance when he says using Russian equipment will expose the troops to risk because the Russians are seen as aligned with the Assad regime. When the RFMF were deployed since 1978 they started with US equipment but that didn’t make any impression on the Amal or the Hizballah at all.

Let’s hope that the rebels who are fighting a life and death war with the Assad regime have the same view of the RFMF.

The fact is that we don’t know what risks the RFMF face. Bainimarama didn’t make the decision based on risk to his troops. Risk to his own backside had more to do with it.

Back in 1978 Cabin Boy Bainimarama would have been making cups of tea for Commander Brown or swabbing the decks of the boto idincavu that was our navy at the time. He knows nothing and cares even less for military operations and the risks they pose to real soldiers.

Let’s hope the RFMF optimists are right because a lot of lives are at stake.

A blogger called Piri on Coup 4.5 shared his views about something former New Zealand High Commissioner, the late Michael Green, said about Bainimarama. Piri thought he could reveal a hidden Bainimarama whose brilliance far exceeded the mind of his democratic critics.

Green said Bainimarama “is uncomfortable with the clash of ideas, negotiation and compromise, all critical elements of effectively functioning democracies.”

Piri says, Yes this is Bainimarama the man of decisions. He’s not a politician, he’s a commander.

If a policy is being proposed to him he listens carefully but if it isn’t “in harmony of his personal ambition you and your paper or report or presentation or explanation will be abruptly called off by him in front of everyone.” If it is in the line with vision “he’ll say do it and call me if anything comes up.”

Wow, it must be exhilerating to be in the presence of this giant intellect when decisions are made. For him every decision is “either red or green”, go or stop. This is a man of actions, not some useless democratic debater. He has no time to listen to long, involved arguments.

What Piri may not realise is that all these decisions have already been made by Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. Bainimarama simply goes through the motions of listening and deciding. He cannot engage with the substance of any complex issue.

What we have here is the answer to a mystery: how a government can get so many things so wrong. How sugar production can be cut in half in a matter of years. How the economy can be in such a depressed state for so long. How roads can be allowed to deteriorate so badly for so long.

Could this be Bainimarama’s plan?

With our ‘I’ for illegal PM in Beijing I suddenly had a flash of inspiration about the future of our doomed sugar industry.

FSC has been borrowing the money needed pay to cane farmers for their cane, even at the miserable price of $50 a tonne. At $80 a tonne this party is going to come to an end.

So what happens next? I had been wondering about the money paid out for land in Vanua Levu and plans for acquiring more in Viti Levu. Why would you do that if you knew the industry was doomed? Then suddenly the scales fell from my eyes.

On one of Bainimarama’s early trips to China he talked up the idea of Chinese investment in cassava for ethanol. This seemed to me to be just another piece of propaganda. Chinese would never invest in an ethanol plant based on cassava without huge tracts of land to go with it.

With this scenario the land acquired by FSC becomes a key asset for such an investment. Smallholder planters could supply some of the input to a big industrial ethanol plant, but no Chinese investor would want to rely on them. What they’d want is a ‘nucleus estate’ to provide the minimum input to keep an ethanol plant in business.

With a nucleus estate they could never face the threat of a strike from their input suppliers. (They don’t need to speak to the ghosts of the old CSR bosses to work this out.) They’d have their minimum input for plant viability and, with this, they could buy from their other suppliers at rock bottom prices because they’d have all the bargaining power.

Don’t expect ulukau Frank to work this out – all he’d worry about is the money upfront (for him). He’d never cotton on to the position it would put smallholder growers in. He’d think they have a market -what more could they want?

I might be imagining things, but one thing I’m sure of – at $80 a tonne FSC will go broke fast unless our mills suddenly start to produce a tonne of sugar with 8 tonnes of cane, and we know that’s not going to happen.

Khaiyum Konstitutional Rights

Political parties have protested the requirement of the Political Parties decree for office-holders to declare the assets and income of their adult children.

This requirement is not only unprecedented and unreasonable it surely conflicts with the kind of rights we should see set out in the Bill of Rights.

So let’s see what the Sayed-Khaiyum Bill of Rights says.

“24.–(1) Every person has the right to privacy, which includes the right–

(a) to confidentiality of their personal information;”

Of course, this right has to be read in the context of other provisions of the draft constitution. And we don’t need to go any further than the next paragraph.

“(2) A law may limit, or may authorise the limitation of, the rights set out in subsection (1).”

In other words, the right to privacy is worthless. Any law can take it away and no reason needs to be stated.

Bainimarama can’t understand why the entire iTaukei community is worried about the protection of their customs and land under the draft constitution. Bainimarama has a lot of work to do if he wants to convince us that the Constitution protects iTaukei land and customs.

Living on borrowed time and money

Our kindly dictator announced a final payment to cane farmers that will bring their final payment to $80 a tonne of cane. So if we produced 2 million tonnes of cane that gives a total pay-out of $160 million.

This is very impressive, except for one thing. It sounds like more than FSC has been getting for sales of sugar. FSC does not have $160 million to hand out unless they’ve borrowed it.

The 2011 Annual Report for FSC reveals that in 2011 FSC’s total revenue for sales of sugar and molasses was $141.4 million. It cost FSC $173.7 million to produce this sugar, and that was with a cane price of only $54 a tonne.

The 2011 Annual Report shows that FSC had total debts of $249.4 million, most of them short-term borrowings.

The $80 cane price will be funded from borrowings, so what’s the bet that Bainimarama has been borrowing from the FNPF to pay cane growers so that industry doesn’t collapse until he has managed to have himself ‘democratically’ elected.

In 2009 and 2010 FSC borrowed about $80 million a year and repaid about $30 million, adding $50 million a year in debt. With a cane price of $80 a tonne the debt mountain will be sky high. Only borrowings from FNPF are keeping FSC afloat. We can be sure that commercial banks are not lending to a corporation in such a disastrous financial situation.

This cannot go on. Bainimarama will keep it going only long enough to cement himself in power. He will then pull the plug and FSC will crash to a halt.

$80 a tonne will not make farmers wealthy but it will keep them going and give them false hope long enough for Bainimarama and his Minister for Election Rigging to steal an election.

Bainimarama’s land lie

Bainimarama’s latest statement on land again raises the question: is this man stupid or is he resorting to a desperate lie?

In a Fiji Sun report, which is in effect an official regime statement, he said “if a change in the iTaukei land legislation is proposed in Parliament it has to be passed by three-quarters of the members”.

This is a blatant lie. He has quoted the provisions of his draft constitution about the changing of the constitution. What he didn’t say was that there was no mention of iTaukei land in the draft constitution.

If a future Parliament wanted to re-introduce the protections of the Native Land Trust Act they would need a three-quarters majority to do it – almost impossible, not to mention the further requirement of a three-quarters majority in a referendum.

Bainimarama has already abolished the substance of the Native Land Trust Act. His Land Use Decree over-rides the NLTA to give him complete power over all Native land.

Why has Bainimarama claimed that his draft Constitution protects Fijian land, when it doesn’t mention it? Is he unaware that his illegal Attorney General, when his back was against the wall in a public meeting, has already admitted that there might need to be specific mention of iTaukei land?

The answer to this puzzle is probably that Bainimarama repeats whatever line Sayed-Khaiyum gives him.

Is the Casino a victim of the Khaiyum clause?

A blogger called Casino Royale has been posting on blog sites the text of the Casino (Operator) Decree 2012.

Casino Royale says nothing about why he posted the decree but it seems it’s timed to coincide with the expected announcement by One Sands about their casino, which has failed to materialise on Denarau island.

It’s no secret the hold-up in the commencement is due to failure by Larry Claunch to nail down finance. And why would that be? Probably for the same reason that investment across the board in Bainimarama’s Fiji is held back – the Khaiyum clause is in almost every law and the fact that the court system is run by this megalomaniac as some kind of personal fiefdom.

In the Casino decree it comes in this form

“14. No court, tribunal, commission or any other adjudicating body shall have the jurisdiction to accept, hear,
determine, or in any other way entertain any challenge at law, in equity or otherwise (including any applications for
judicial review) by any person or body, or to award any compensation or grant any other remedy to any person or body in relation to –
(a) the validity or legality or propriety of this Decree;
(b) the validity or legality of the Licence or operation of the Company; or
(c) any decision of the Minister made under this Decree.
Consequential”

When financiers see this clause it’s a complete turn-off.

Anyone in the business world could tell Bainimarama the Khaiyum clause, taken with the way the court system operates, deters investment. But Bainimarama never gets to hear what businessmen really think because Khaiyum punishes anyone who speaks out.

Lies versus facts on land

The iA-G has accused critics of his Land Use Decree of stirring up emotions on land, but let’s look at some very clear facts about his Decree.

He is lying when he says the Land Use Decree makes landowner approval necessary for leases issued under its powers.

The current Land Use Regulations (not the Decree) require the Minister to get approval from landowners for their land to be put into the Land Bank. But after land is put in the Land Bank, landowners have NO say after ceding their land to the Frank Bank.

The Otago University study of the land laws in Fiji makes this clear:

“Once designated (ie put in the Land Bank) the LOU (Land owning Unit) has no say in how the land is used. The LOU has effectively granted the Director of Lands carte blanche to lease their land. There is no requirement that the LOU consent to a specific lease. There is no duty of consultation, although it might be possible to fashion one out of the mandatory consideration that all leases “take into consideration… the best interest of the land owners”. For reasons that will be discussed later, such a duty would be largely worthless because it is unenforceable. The LOU is also unable to exercise any legal rights to use or occupy the land while designated because it must be “free of all encumbrances”. page 31

Landowners effectively give the land to the Government.

The Otago study says “The LOU regime all but extinguishes the ability of the LOU to legally enforce its rights against the State or sub-lessor. A private law action that purports to “challenge or question” almost any matter under the Land Use Decree (including the decisions of officials, the terms and conditions of a lease, or the cancellation of a lease) must fail because of the extensive privative clause in s 15(1) of the Decree.”

The Otago study concludes this ban on appeals to courts appears to be “ironclad”.

But it is not only landowners whose rights are taken away. Tenants are also at the mercy of the Bainimarama state.

“The consequence is that neither the LOU (landowners) nor the sub-lessees (tenants) have access to the courts to enforce their legal rights in regards to the leases they have entered into under the LOU regime. The State holds all the power in the lease relationships: it has a vast array of powers and can exercise these with impunity because there is no judicial oversight.”

The Otago study concludes that if the courts deny access “the LOU will have, in practical terms, alienated its land as it cannot enforce its rights of reversion. The sub-lessee is effectively in the position of a tenant-at-will because the State could simply elect to terminate because, despite having a registered lease, enforcing it would require questioning the “validity of the cancellation”.254 The rights of the LOU and the sub-lessor are not functionally enforceable property rights in the ordinary sense of the term.

To the landowners who say they have done well under the Land Bank and support it, I say yes, you have received your 30 pieces of silver, but what about everybody else. Do you understand what power over land has been taken by Bainimarama? And in future, if he chooses, he can change the Land Use Regulations and landowner approval will no longer be needed for land to be placed in the Land Bank. A change to Land Use Regulations does not need the approval of Parliament. The Land Use Decree gives the Minister the power to make new laws without the approval of Parliament.

Bainimarama has been careful not to use all the powers he has taken because he doesn’t want landowners (or tenants) to find out how much power he has over their land.

Part of the new system is payment of “Premiums” when leases are signed. So far Bainimarama has paid these to the landowners, but he is not required to do this.

The Otago study says: “The State is not obliged to pass on the “premium” which the sub-lessee is required to pay up-front before the lease is granted but appears to have done so in practice.”

So for the time being Bainimarama is passing on premiums for 99 years leases, but he is not required to do this by law. This is the law and there is a clear plan behind it – to build power for Bainimarama to entrench himself in government.

The facts about this are easy to check. The 2012 study by Matthew Dodd for the Faculty of Law at University of Otago can be accessed via the link below.

http://www.otago.ac.nz/law/research/journals/otago041735.pdf

The study looks at the whole issue of reforming land laws in Fiji. It is critical of the old NLTB system under previous governments, but it is equally very clear that the Land Use Decree gives Bainimarama the power to take native land on whatever terms he likes. The fact that he’s used this power very carefully up to now shows only that he is stealthy. His only aim is to entrench his dictatorship.

Lazy landowners and low rents

Not one blogger has challenged the fact of the complete control of Native land given to Bainimarama by the Land Use Decree. All they can say is that it’s needed to get idle land into use.

Bloggers trot out the tired racist line that land is idle because landowners are lazy parasites who have to be forced to allow their land to be used by others. This is not simply racist, it is incredibly ignorant and stupid. If landowners were lazy parasites they would be willing to lease their land.

The reason that so much land is idle is the very low rents provided under the effects of ALTA (the Agricultural Landlords and Tenants Act). Professor John Davies, a Canadian economist provided figures showing how low the rents received were by any measure. As a share of the proceeds of cane growing they were a tiny 2.4%. He compared this with more than 10% in Australia, close to 20% in the USA and almost 50% in India.

Davies was attacked for this. He was even accused of racism. But he is not alone in stating categorically that agricultural rents in Fiji have been too low. In 2012 a New Zealand lawyer said

“The general consensus is that ALTA rents are inadequately low, as evidenced by the fact very few LOUs renewed ALTA leases as they began to expire in the early 2000s. The result has been the dislocation and emigration of entire communities of Indian cane farmers. Instead of undertaking desperately needed reforms, the present government has introduced the stopgap measure of topping up rents from the average of 5% of UCV paid by lessees to 10% until 2015 in order to encourage LOUs to renew ALTA sugar cane leases.”

Anyone interested in facts can check it out on the University of Otago website.
http://www.otago.ac.nz/law/research/journals/otago041735.pdf

Bainimarama’s use of a Government subsidy to lift lease payments for five years between 2010 to 2015 proves that he knows rents have been too low. It also shows he thinks landowners can be tricked by being given a bit of money upfront to sign away their lands for 30 years. What this means is 25 years of landowners giving their land away cheap.

One thing needs to be clear. There is no reason to believe that Bainimarama is interested in helping small cane farmers. He’s saving his favours for friends who know how to treat him – Chinese agro-industry cassava growers. Anyone else, iTaukei or Indo-Fijian, will get the crumbs off the table and they’ll be expected to be grateful. That’s all the equality they’ll get.

Native Lands Trust Act versus Land Use Decree

The Native Land Trust Act was created by Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna to assist Fijian landowners to lease their land. His aim was to ensure that landowners benefited from leasing and retained land for their future needs. The NLTB was to have the professional expertise in accounting, surveying, valuation and land management to ensure that landowners were not cheated.

The NLTA said clearly: “all such land shall be administered by the Board for the benefit of the Fijian owners.” There is no qualification to this. Landowners interests are all that matter under the NLTA.

In Bainimarama’s Land Use Decree the PM has to consider the landowners interests AND the economy. If the PM thinks it would be better for the economy to offer land at low rent to a Chinese company who want to build a factory to process cassava, he can do it. The landowners cannot stop him and they cannot go to a court and ask the court to over-rule the lease on the grounds that it’s against their interests.

It goes without saying that chiefs have been cut right out of the process by Bainimarama and ASK. Five landowners have to be appointed as Trustees for landowning group. They are elected by 60% of the landowners but the PM can refuse any elected landowner he doesn’t like (say because he’s a Methodist or a member of the FLP or SODELPA). If at any time the PM doesn’t like one of the trustees, he can also remove him.

None of the key rules governing rent paid, terms of leases, are in the Decree. They are hidden in Regulations which means the Minister can change them without approval by Parliament. Land has been taken out of the hands of the Parliament and courts and handed straight to Bainimarama.

At the moment Bainimarama is letting landowners choose between his Land Bank and the TLTB, but he doesn’t have to do this and once elected he will no longer let landowners have this choice. The Land Use Decree gives him unlimited power.

The Native Lands Trust Act, which was created by Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna, was one of the main targets of Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum in the mission of cultural genocide he mapped out in 2002 in Hong Kong. By delivering personal power into the office of PM he was able to persuade Bainimarama to support his war on Fijian cultural institutions.

The Land Use Decree creates a dangerous concentration of power, regardless of who the PM is. Its aim is to rob iTaukei of any say over their land and make everyone who wants land dependent on the whims of an all powerful PM. That’s bad for everyone.

The regime has no anwers to the uneasy feeling within the iTaukei community about the future of their land

I asked some simple questions about the Land Use decree – no tricks – but they have not been answered. The regime has no answer.

The Illegal Attorney General speaks of the Bill of Rights as guaranteeing everyone’s rights, but the Bill of Rights make no mention of the rights of indigenous people. It does, however, speak about ‘socio-economic rights’, which opens the door to tenants claiming that they should not be evicted because they have no alternative source of livelihood.

And who will decide such claims? Of course it will be the courts hand-picked and regularly culled by Sayed-Khaiyum which have the task of deciding between landowner and tenant. This is potentially a social poison in our community.

Landowners have often been understanding of tenants in need, and tenants who can afford it, often help their landlords in times of leqa. This is what we should be encouraging and building upon.

Bainimarama and Sayed-Khaiyum have thrived on conflict and the claim that the rest of us cannot live in peace with the iron fist of their rule. Their aim is to reduce our entire society to a helpless herd of cattle unable to do anything without their help or approval.

Bainimarama has been very careful to use the powers he gave himself over land with the Land Use Decree in 2010 very selectively. He’s waiting until he’s cemented in power before he really starts to flex his muscles and both landlord and tenant will be on their knees before him because he holds all the power over land.

Questions for your relatives in the RFMF

Bainimarama has told us that Native land is safe under his constitution. He won’t answer our questions, so every member of the RFMF, as his representative, should be able to help their relatives understand if this is true.

Here are a few simple questions we should all be asking our RFMF relatives.

– What do they know about the Land Use Decree?

– Why does the Land Use Decree not say one word about the need for landowner approval before land is leased for 99 years?

– Why does the Land Use Decree not say one word about the Land Bank, even though the Land Use Decree gives to the PM the power to issue leases from the Land Bank?

– Why does the Land Use Decree not say one word about how rents are set and how they should be reviewed at regular intervals to ensure that rents keep pace with inflation and the changing value of land?

– Why does the Land Use decree over-ride the Native Lands Trust Act?

– Why does the Land Use Decree say that no decisions made by PM or any official can be appealed in a a court or tribunal of any kind?

The Land Use Regulations made by the Minister contain all the rules for leasing but these can be changed by the Minister without approval of Parliament and the Regulations cannot be challenged in any court or tribunal.

– Why does the Land Use Act say the PM must give equal weight to the interests of landowners and the economy?

Any of the RFMF stooge pack who like to blog can feel free to answer any of the questions, but it’s answers we want, not abuse, not claims about what the Qarase Government did. The Qarase Government is not about to impose a new constitution which removes ALL protection for Native land. It’s Bainimarama who needs to answer questions.

This ship is heading for a reef

Six years ago a mutiny changed the course of our ship of state. For those six years we’ve had no say in the course we’ve been on. We’re told by the captain that he knows best.

On the quarter deck the he struts in his white uniform, barking orders, but the ship’s wheel is in other hands. Out of sight below decks we have a navigator using a chart he picked up in Hong Kong. And his compass seems to be suffering some kind of malfunction, because he keeps looking at the Eastern sky for a sunset.

A lot of people are very sea-sick, but so far no-one has wanted to rock the boat too hard. The passengers and crew fear that a capsize is in no-one’s interest. But no-one can escape the feeling that the vessel is on course for disaster.

Rations are low. The vessel has not been maintained – it’s taking water and efforts that should go into repairs are diverted to the Qorvis bilge pump.

But this voyage will soon end. The vessel is heading for a very large reef which the navigator doesn’t have on the chart which he drew up himself. One morning he will wake up to find he will be high and dry on the reef. And the name of this reef: Na qele ni iTaukei.

For six years Bainimarama has helped himself to all the resources of Government but he’s making a big mistake if he thinks he can give himself power over Native land as if it was his own.

Bainimarama’s Party – the roll call of nobodies

The unelected PM who wants to get himself elected took forever to admit that he planned to stand for election. He promised elections years ago, then he kept saying his ’reforms’ were vital to the future of the nation, but it took him forever to say he would stand. And he could never say who would be standing for election in the name of these reforms if it wasn’t him.

Even now, Sayed-Khaiyum still hasn’t said he’ll stand for election. If the reforms are so important, why can’t the two of them just say it: “we will be standing for election and our ‘reforms’ to the sugar industry, the media, the Great Council of Chiefs etc are what we stand for”.

Where is the support base for their reforms? They spent 6 years muzzling criticism and avoiding debate. They’ve persecuted the Methodist Church and the Trade Union movement, not to forget the sugar industry, and cane farmers in particular, who have been treated with contempt.

The problem with the transition to democracy for this two man band is that democracy can’t run like the way their regime runs. They have to change their style.

Democracy requires processes that involve others. It means consulting, not issuing edicts. They instituted an independent constitutional process and then completely disrespected their own appointees and the process. They couldn’t even come up with a handful of half respectable Yes Men for the Constituent Assembly.

This is the way the two-headed monster works. Everything the government does has to be funnelled through Sayed-Khaiyum or Bainimarama.

So don’t expect anything that looks like a Bainimarama party anytime soon. Apart from ASK, he only trusts Yes Men, lackeys who don’t or can’t ask questions.

A political party is not made up of troops who obey orders or lackeys who fetch and carry. It has to have volunteers who share the vision and whose input has to be recognised. They have to be inspired. They have to be credible leaders in their own right at their own levels. The list of public figures who’ve come out in support of Bainimarama is a roll call of nobodies.

Lord make me good, but not yet

The Bainimarama constitution reminds me of the old story about the sinner who gets on his knees and prays fervently for God to make him a good man, but not yet, he has some important sins to attend to.

The plan is for the constitution to be enacted in April after the most manifestly false consultation process in history. Yet nothing of any substance comes into effect until after the Parliament sits. There are many fine words of democratic principles, but none is of no effect until Parliament sits.

It’s not just that the self-appointed PM and all his cronies remain in office and continue to use the resources of government to campaign for election. They will be free to continue spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on propaganda. That’s a problem, but the real problem is more serious than that. The normal protections which a constitution should give do not come into effect. The Khaiyum courts continue in existence and, despite all the rights in the constitution, courts are still excluded from deliberating on the executive’s application of those laws.

And then there’s the issue of immunity. The regime cannot be taken to court for any of its actions between now and the first sitting of Parliament. Future unlawful actions are forgiven in advance.

Under Section 154 all ministers and any officials taking orders from them have “absolute and unconditional immunity” “from any criminal prosecution and from any civil or any other liability in any court or tribunal, in any proceeding including any legal, military, disciplinary or professional proceedings and from any order or judgment of any court or tribunal, as a result of any direct or indirect participation, appointment or involvement in the Government from December 2006 to date of the first sitting of Parliament elected after the commencement of this Constitution; provided however any such 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.”

Their licence to commit most regular crimes runs out on 18 July 2012, but all crimes before that date are protected. Whether it’s fraud, embezzlement or whatever, not just beatings and intimidation, if it took place before 18 July 2012, it seems the regime and its agents cannot be prosecuted.

More interesting, however, is the fact that even after 18 July 2012 treason and sedition are not in Sections 77 to 390 of the Crimes Decree and are therefore granted immunity if they occur before the first sitting of Parliament. So if Bainimarama loses the election he can commit sedition or treason before parliament sits and not be prosecuted.

The whole apparatus of dictatorship continues until after the election and parliament gets a chance to meet. And, if the election goes badly, it looks like Banimarama can stop Parliament from sitting and dictatorship continues until he can get the election result he wants.

Has Bainimarama got cold feet again?

It’s now a year since the Constituent Assembly decree was announced. We were told then the Assembly would start its work in the second week of January 2013, and finish by the third week of March. It’s now the third week of March and we still don’t even know who the members will be or what draft they’ll consider.

At the end of January Bainimarama said he would be sending invitations to individuals and organisations to be members of the Constituent Assembly over the course of the next few weeks, with the last of the invitations to go out after February 14, the deadline for existing political parties to register under the new Political Parties Decree.

All this has come and gone. The Registrar of Elections has also gone and still no word of what’s happening about Party Registrations or the Constituent Assembly.

So have invitations gone out as planned to any members of the Constituent Assembly?

Two weeks ago Coup 4.5 speculated that Bainimarama planned to unveil a Singapore style constitution which would have the President chosen by a Constituent Assembly, presumably the one chosen by Bainimarama himself.

This would get around the problem of easing the Playboy incumbent out of the office of President. It wouldn’t be a decision by Bainimarama but by the so-called representative Constituent Assembly.

Only by proceeding directly to the office of President can Bainimarama get over the problem of having no party to help him win election as Prime Minister.

It’s long been his ambition to become President and there have been past rumours of a plan to evict the incumbent he appointed in 2009. but these rumours have come to nothing. In fact he was re-appointed at the end of last year for a term to last until 2015, after the elections.

Rather than meaning the rumours were wrong, this probably indicates Bainimarama got cold feet. Could he now be having cold feet over the plan to unveil a constitution which will pave the way for him to become President before the elections? Overthrowing his High Chief and a former Commander RFMF he appointed President could be the last straw for too many of his officers.

Crosbie Walsh owes iTaukei culture an apology

Crosbie Walsh has found his culprit in the torture video case and, as I expected, it’s Fijian (sorry iTaukei) culture that’s to blame. Someone so skilled in the arts of condescension would never call them ‘savages’, but then he doesn’t need to, we can all get the picture.

Walsh tells us: “Butaraki (an arbitrary beating) is part of traditional iTaukei culture. It will not be eliminated overnight”. Is he hinting that Bainimarama wants to eliminate it? Perhaps he’s banking on ASK, Bainimarama’s trusted adviser, to ensure that iTaukei culture is consigned to the dustbin of history?

Does he really think that the systematic beating of a helpless man in handcuffs has any place in iTaukei culture? The humiliation of removing the victims pants, the poking with batons? it could be RFMF culture, but it’s not iTaukei culture. The perpetrators in this video were experts in the field of torture, the clinical infliction of pain. This is not iTaukei culture.

Fists sometimes enter into Fijian disputes and the meting out of rough justice happens when tempers are hot, but the expert sadism, not to forget the cowardice we’ve witnessed are not part of iTaukei culture. Blaming iTaukei culture for this is the lowest form of ethnic stereotyping. It’s racism. If anyone has ever suspected that racist motives underpin Crosbie Walsh’s thoroughly inconsistent commentary on events in Fiji, it seems there is no doubt. He owes iTaukei culture an apology for this slur.

Violence by police and prison staff against criminals occurs all of the world, but seldom do we find courts and doctors so helpless to act against such blatant violations of the law. And even more rare, is a Prime Minister who stands up and defends these actions. This is the Bainimarama military government, nothing else, and it must be held to account.

A new light

Allegations of human rights abuses have dogged Bainimarama from day one of his coup. His opponents argued that the coup was provoked by fear that he was going to be charged in relation to the deaths of the CRW soldiers (who, by the way were not mutineers, merely suspects).

Then there were allegations of mistreatment of critics at the QEB, followed by deaths in custody which were swept under the carpet or token sentences handed out.

Bainimarama’s supporters regarded these allegations as politically motivated. They were either fabrications or exaggerations. In the case of the CRW deaths, Bainimarama successfully put out the story that they were an understandable human response by his troops to the trauma of the mutiny and the deaths of innocent loyalists.

The video, however, has changed all this. It’s not an allegation. It’s nine minutes of brutality practised by methodical torturers. There was no heat of the moment, only callous infliction of pain designed to minimise injuries so they can be explained away as resulting from ‘resisting arrest’ while being ‘armed with cane knives’.

Finally, there is Bainimarama’s seal of approval of their actions. Suddenly all the allegations have to be seen in a different light. For supporters like Crosbie Walsh there is a sinking feeling that more of the allegations may be true. Could it be that he is collecting more than one salary? And if the allegations are true, what does this say about Bainimarama’s agenda? Is he trying to build a non-racial Fiji, or just using that as an excuse to keep power in his hands

Has Bainimarama got the memory of a goldfish or the heart of a coward?

They say that Goldfish have very short memories. A few minutes after they’ve seen something, they forget it. It looks like our country is being run by a goldfish.

Last week JVB made a dramatic announcement about a “landmark decision to seal loopholes that lead to native land being converted to freehold property”. No sale of native land under his watch.

This week the propaganda machine has announced that 1700 acres of native land have been leased for 99 years to FSC to grow cane. Effectively, no landowner alive today will see his land back in ownership. If they want to use it they’ll have to buy it from FSC. Isn’t this conversion to freehold without the courage to admit it

Is there a link between the two announcements? Could it be that fearless Frank, the Cassava Patch warrior, had a heart tremour when he was asked to sign off on the 99 year lease? Was the ‘no land sales under his watch’ announcement made in a desperate hope of showing he’s determined to protect native land?

This is just ridiculous enough to be true.

Time for mass party rallies all over Fiji

The biggest challenge of our nation is to find people worthy of our self-appointed leaders. Bainimarama and Sayed-Khaiyum have been working tirelessly for six years to get us ready to elect a genuinely democratic government. And all we give them is apathy and excuses.

The latest decree is a case in point. The Sayed-Khaiyum Decree factory turns out a world class regulatory framework for political parties and all we do is complain and drag our feet, claiming we need more than 28 days to comply.

It’s time to rise to the challenge. Obviously Sayed-Khaiyum wants our political parties to hold mass rallies all over Fiji where we can sign up members and collect the funds required to meet registration requirements.

And don’t forget – we must have thousands turn out – in Suva, Nausori, Lautoka, Nadi, Labasa, Savusavu not to forget smaller centres in the Eastern Division. Nothing less will do.

Let the rallies begin. All parties must get moving. Fill the streets of our cities with your enthusiastic supporters.