STATEMENT No 21: SODELPA’S POSITION ON MATTERS MISREPRESENTED BY THE MEDIA

SODELPA

STATEMENT No 21:    

SODELPA’S POSITION ON MATTERS MISREPRESENTED BY THE MEDIA

 August 22 2014

Over the past few weeks certain sections of the media have set their sights on SODELPA through a number of issues. Those concerned have mounted a relentless effort to portray us as something other than a political party with sound values and principles. This is pro-regime propaganda.

It is quite extraordinary that the same media have nothing to say about the usurpers of our democracy, the draconian decrees they have in place, the plight of the 13 families [now 14 with the death of the robbery suspect while in Police custody], whose loved ones were killed, or the numerous citizens whose rights have been abused, with many of them subjected to beatings and other forms of torture, torment and persecution.

SODELPA will seek answers from these aiders and abettors of treason after the elections, but for now, I wish to state our position on the various issues that the media have, in our view, deliberately misconstrued.

1. Christian State

The SODELPA constitution and Manifesto do not call for a Christian State. What we say is that as a government, we will conduct ourselves based on Christian principles and values. These are values shared by all the world’s great religions. We are commanded to love our neighbors and do to others as we would have them do to us. We are required to forgive and to be merciful. We must care for the poor, the sick, the homeless, the forgotten and those in need. We must seek truth and social justice. These are the principles and values by which we shall govern.

We continuously stress that all religious groups in Fiji are free to practice their faith and beliefs without any fear or intimidation or threat from a SODELPA-led government.

The fact that SODELPA is committed to Christian values and principles makes our party more sensitive to the importance of respecting the values and principles of all other religions in the country.

This is in line with SODELPA’s vision of a Fiji that draws its strength from the rich variety of traditions, languages and cultures of its communities.

The alternative vision of a Fiji devoid of its cultural richness and diversity would give us a country that would be a pale imitation of the Fiji we know and love.

2. Common Name

SODELPA does not recognize or accept that two unelected people, who seized power through armed intervention, have the authority to decide arbitrarily that citizens of Fiji are called Fijians.International conventions and declarations of the rights of indigenous peoples stress the importance of prior consultation and consent on the use of their names as their identity. Article 19 of the UNDRIP (UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) says quote

‘States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them’.

Again we stress that the indigenous Fijians do not recognize the right of unelected individuals to take away their established identity and give them another like iTaukei.

The indigenous people have, for well over a century, been commonly known as Fijians; that name now is part of their tradition and culture. SODELPA will retain it for the indigenous community.

The issue of a common name for all will be addressed by SODELPA once a democratic, transparent and accountable government is established after September 17th 2014. We will initiate a national conversation among all communities in Fiji to establish a common name that does not divide us but creates a sense of unity and patriotism.

It will not be an imposed decision.

3. Indigenous Rights

SODELPA’s position on the indigenous people of Fiji is in keeping with established conventions of the ILO 169 & UN Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). We are guided by these international instruments.

A SODELPA Government will adopt UNDRIP Articles that ensure:-

  1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the full enjoyment, as a collective or as individuals, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms as recognized in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights law.
  2. Indigenous peoples and individuals are free and equal to all other peoples and individuals and have the right to be free from any kind of discrimination, in the exercise of their rights, in particular that based on their indigenous origin or identity.
  3. Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
  4. Indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to self-determination, have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as ways and means for financing their autonomous functions.
  5. Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions, while retaining their right to participate fully, if they so choose, in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the State.
  6. Every indigenous individual has the right to a nationality.
  7. Indigenous individuals have the rights to life, physical and mental integrity, liberty and security of person. Indigenous peoples have the collective right to live in freedom, peace and security as distinct peoples and shall not be subjected to any act of genocide or any other act of violence, including forcibly removing children of the group to another group.
  8. Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture:-
  9. States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for:
  10. Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their
  11. cultural values or ethnic identities;
  12. Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources;
  13. Any form of forced population transfer which has the aim or effect of violating or undermining any of their rights;
  14. Any form of forced assimilation or integration;

4. Fair Distribution of rental income by Itaukei

SODELPA will allow the land owners themselves to decide how the lease funds received for their land should be distributed. This cannot be dictated to them. It is their money and therefore they should decide how it is shared.

SODELPA notes with concern the attempt by some media reporters to push the Bainimarama–Khaiyum policy of dictating how landowners should share their wealth. The regime’s motives for doing this are very much related to its continuing campaign to undermine indigenous traditions and way of life.

Members of other communities decide for themselves how their earnings should be shared. No one else tells them how this should be done. The same principle should apply to the indigenous people surely.

5. The Abolition of the Great Council of Chiefs

The abolition of the Great Council of Chiefs, like the imposition of a common name, was the decision of two unelected, unrepresentative usurpers of our democracy. They acted and continue to act without a mandate from our people.

The GCC is the pinnacle of Fijian society, and just as other communities continue to enjoy their community and cultural structures without interference from the state, so too must the indigenous people of Fiji have the same right.

SODELPA will bring back the GCC and in so doing take the opportunity to review its functions and operations so that it can be better resourced to ensure more effective delivery in addressing specific issues affecting not only the indigenous people but all the citizens of Fiji.

The decision on the future of the GCC will remain the prerogative of the Fijian people and we expect all other communities to respect that right in the same way that their rights are respected by the Fijian itaukei community.

This is the position of SODELPA on these issues.

Authorized By
Ro Teimumu Vuikaba Kepa
Party Leader, SODELPA
August 22, 2014

KHAIYUM ORDERS BURNING OF THE DRAFT CONSTITUTION – Australian and New Zealand must withdraw their support for this dictatorship

First, some history. The Fiji Constitution Commission was set up as a body independent of the current Fiji regime and funded by overseas aid – largely Australia and New Zealand – and its membership was approved by the regime.Ask

Professor Yash Ghai, Chairman of the Constitution Commission, has revealed that the Fiji Police (acting on orders of the Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum) seized copies of the draft constitution and burned them in his presence.This astonishing act of barbarism was apparently carried out to prevent circulation of the document. As is now usual in such cases the law of unintended consequences has resulted in a much wider distribution of the document over the internet (see it here: http://www.fijileaks.com) as the people most affected by the new constitution – the people of Fiji – read it to find out why the regime hates it so much.

The chilling interview of Professor Ghai with Radio Australia and ABC news over his experiences at the hands of the regime is a reminder of just how far Fiji has evolved into a ‘rogue state’.

These events have demonstrated that the Yash Ghai Commission, as we have reported before, was simply a screen behind which the regime creates its own ‘Constitution’ – one which will no doubt be far less palatable to the people of Fiji than the Yash Ghai version – and one which can have no credibility either locally or internationally.

The regime is shortly expected to appoint their favourite legal advisor Nazhat Shameem as Constituent Assembly’s chair leading a group of handpicked members to create their version of the Fiji Constitution. It will be interesting to compare this document, when it appears, with the one which was so symbolically destroyed.

We suggest that the final result will be a document which has been specifically drafted to control the outcome of the elections in 2014 and provide immunity from prosecution for the perpetrators of the 2006 coup and their assistants. From this latest atrocity we can see that it will ignore the input from the more than 7,000 citizens who made submissions to Yash Ghai.

The paradox here, of course, is that, if the regime and its decrees were as popular with the people of Fiji as they continually claim then they would have no need to worry about immunity. As it is, however. they are not popular, are evidently becoming less so and a rigged election will only worsen the situation for them. We strongly suggest, therefore that the sensible thing for the regime is to stop digging their hole and throw themselves upon the mercy of the population and repent their multifarious sins of the past 7 years through the medium of free and fair elections.

It is clear that the various sanctions and measures by international and regional communities to pressure the regime towards democracy have been at least partially successful and we therefore ask the New Zealand and Australian governments and their various partners to step up this pressure in the light of this latest outrage. We suggest that the following measures would increase the pressure upon the regime and therefore hasten progress towards a democratic Fiji:

Without honor, loyalty or sensible leadership, the men and women of RFMF and Police are being used by Frank and Aiyaz as a private army for their own personal interests.

Without honor, loyalty or sensible leadership, the men and women of RFMF and Police are being used by Frank and Aiyaz as a private army for their own personal interests.

  1. Review the appointment of High Commissioners to Fiji from Australia and New Zealand.
  2. Review the level of and conditions for financial support for the roadmap to democracy.
  3. Reverse the recent lifting of travel bans on regime ministers and senior officials, civilians and businessmen who support the illegal regime and its actions.
  4. The US government proceeds with a Duty Free Access Ban for breach of labour rights.

We ask the international community to take serious note of the Yash Ghai commission’s explanatory document which highlights the severe economic distress the 2006 coup has caused.

The regime is not interested in relinquishing power and the International community must stand with the people of Fiji. This election gerrymandering to preserve the financial plundering and vested interests of a small group of military and civilian elites must stop.

In this respect the refusal to publish the Auditor General’s reports from 2007 and now the attempted suppression of the Draft Constitution is evidence of the real motives of the military regime leaders and their cohorts.

 

Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara
Council for a Democratic Fiji
Cfdfiji.org

The Fiji regime and its opponents – Who are the cowards? – CFDFiji.org

The Council refers to the practice of the current regime of seeking to brand as ‘cowards’ its overseas opponents who are the subject of trumped up charges by the regime but who decline to accept the invitation of the regime to return to Fiji to, in the regime’s words, ‘face justice.’  A prominent person falling into that category is Ratu Tevita Mara, who considerably embarrassed the regime by his flight from Fiji last year after being the subject of alleged sedition charges.

The Council has pointed out many times that there is no more justice in Fiji to which any opponent of the regime can return, that the regime trumps up charges against any party disagreeing with it, and that Bainimarama’s view of sedition as any disagreement is wrong and perverted.

William Marshall QC, who recently left Fiji when his contract was not renewed, has cast further light on the matter of Ratu Tevita Mara’s departure in his 143 page petition to the regime, in which he refers to Ratu Tevita’s distrust of the Fiji prosecution process and legal system which led to his flight from Fiji and to his declining to return to Fiji to ‘face justice.’  He is entirely in agreement with the attitude taken by Ratu Tevita.

Thus, Ratu Tevita in fleeing Fiji and declining to return was not being cowardly in any way.  His departure and refusal to return were inspired by his clear knowledge that there was now no rule of law in Fiji and that the sedition charges against him were drummed up to harass him.

Ratu Tevita is not of course alone.  There are many others the subject of trumped up charges by the regime, some of whom have rightly fled and rightly stayed away.

Who then are the real cowards?

The real cowards are those who enjoy luxury and domination at the point of a gun – the regime and all its adherents.

Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara
Council for a Democratic Fiji
Cfdfiji.org

JUSTICE MARSHALL’S PLEA – Marshall QC confirms the abrogation of the rule of law in Fiji – CFDFiji.org

The 143 page petition to Bainimarama of William Marshall QC, recently a Judge of Appeal in Fiji, whose contract expired in June this year, confirms clearly what the international

Mr William Marshall QC, former Justice of the High Court in Fiji.

community already knows – namely, that the current regime has abrogated the rule of law and terminated the independence of the Judiciary in Fiji. While these facts are already very well known and proved, Mr Marshall’s additional wisdom is greatly appreciated and he has done the people of Fiji and the international community a great service in showing documentary evidence of the corrupt machinations of the Fiji regime.

In particular Mr Marshall shows how all Judges in Fiji live in fear of the alleged Attorney General and understand clearly that their fates depend upon tailoring their decisions to suit his will; how Sri Lankan judges are relied on having regard to their customary subservience to the Executive; how the alleged Attorney General has grossly interfered in many vital cases including even arranging for the bringing of false murder charges; how he has arranged the selection of compliant Judges and exclusion of those likely to be non compliant; and how he has used the legal system to harass and persecute his perceived foes. Further, his use of the courts to enforce executive wishes is transparently obvious.

Mr Marshall expressly calls for the removal of all Sri Lankan Judges including the Judge who recently convicted Laisenia Qarase.

The former Justice confirms what all international reviews have found: Aiyaz Khaiyum’s actions have destroyed the judiciary and there is no longer any rule of law in Fiji.

Mr Marshall speaks of the doctoring of evidence and distortion of litigation and prosecutions and gives full details of such doctoring and distortion.

Rightly of course Mr Marshall calls for the removal of the alleged Attorney General.

The Council whilst agreeing with that proposal notes however Mr Marshall’s apparent naivety in taking the view that the alleged Prime Minister has been kept in the dark by the alleged Attorney General, and that the alleged Prime Minister does not share the alleged Attorney General’s guilt.

With respect to Mr Marshall, the alleged Prime Minister has been fully aware from the beginning of the antics of the alleged Attorney General. It is ridiculous to suggest that Khaiyum has been acting, in legal terms.’on a frolic of his own’ – Khaiyum simply could not have done what he has done and exercised the power which he has exercised without Bainimarama’s knowledge.

The Council therefore concurs in the removal of Khaiyum but also presses for the removal of the entire regime, and of course its prosecution.

Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara
Council for a Democratic Fiji
Cfdfiji.org

Dictator Bainimarama announces review of oppressive Decrees – A ploy to hood-wink the US Government – CFDFiji.org

Fiji’s military dictator remains under siege 24 hours before the hearing commences in the United States against Fiji for breach of  labour rights and standards arising out of the rogue decrees of Aiyaz Sayed  Khaiyum – the  insalubrious Attorney General.

Frank has been left holding the can and is now trying to lie his way out of trouble.

This afternoon the besieged leader managed to raise enough courage to announce the immediate review of the labour laws that contravene (34) international standards. He appeared in a TV ONE news bulletin looking rather perturbed from the looming crisis and attempted to explain the steps being taken to remedy the breach for which Fiji faces US sanctions.

The Fiji village website reported that;

The prime minister has revealed that as part of Fiji’s progress toward establishing parliamentary democracy, the government is reviewing current labour laws to ensure their compliance with the 34 International Labour Organisation conventions that Fiji has ratified”.

The regime leader has finally succumbed to the truth that several decrees his tainted Attorney General has promulgated threaten Fiji with the most serious employment crisis ever, involving 39 companies and 15,000 – 36,000 jobs. It appears that the rattled leader has been forced to make this conciliatory announcement and it may well be more of his typical trickery and lies.

The CFDF wishes to remind the people of Fiji, the trade union leaders and the US government of some of the previous broken promises and pledges of the regime leader and which render this review process meaningless and untrustworthy – it must be treated with grave suspicion.

Following the 2006 coup, Bainimarama vowed to preserve the 1997 constitution under the President’s mandate and subsequently included this in the People’s Charter – he later trashed the Constitution. He also made a personal commitment to the Pacific Forum leaders to hold Elections in March 2009 and later broke that promise.

He promised to be accountable and yet refuses to release the Auditor General’s report on government accounts from 2007 – 2011. He publicly stated that he will only collect the Commander’s salary while holding the position of interim Prime Minister but secretly receives multiple salaries, paid privately through Nur Bano’s Accounting firm in Suva – the details of which he refuses to disclose to the taxpayers of Fiji.

With such an impeccable record in keeping his word; should the US government and the trade union leaders dare consider the review process as free, fair and transparent?  The regime leader’s public record is as poor as his ability to separate issues of national importance from the corrosive influence of his attorney general’s ego and tantrums.

Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum – the author of so many lies and Decrees, remains silent.

The CFDF urges the Trade Union Leaders not to fall victim again to the lies and dishonesty of Bainimarama – he has no credibility or integrity. The latest knee-jerk reaction comes from international and domestic pressure and is merely a ploy to escape the scrutiny of on-going abuse of labor rights, human rights and the other fundamental rights of Fiji Citizens.

The Unions in Fiji must insist that all decrees identified by the ILO and the ICFTU must be immediately rescinded.

Further, the tainted Attorney General must be ejected from Office. He is the source of most of Fiji’s political and constitutional problems. The review process does not go far enough. It lacks goodwill, competence and commitment to deal with the issues in a holistic manner.

Bainimarama must do the right thing if the jobs are to be saved.  The decrees and its author must be removed from public life permanently to allow for genuine dialogue at all levels.

The workers of Fiji deserve nothing less.

Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara
Council for a Democratic Fiji
Cfdfiji.org

UNEMPLOYMENT CRISIS LOOMING – How the Essential Services Decree will eliminate 15,000 jobs – CFDFiji.org

Those watching events in Fiji will have come to the conclusion a long time ago that the issuing of decrees by the regime is an informal affair. These ‘laws’ are promulgated with minimal forethought and usually with the best interests of the regime leaders and their sycophants in mind.

So it was with the Essential Services Decree which, quite justifiably has stirred up the International Labour Movement. We heard on Fiji TV last night from David Voss that, due to US sanctions we will be losing 15,000 jobs in the very near future. What David failed to mention was that this is due to the above mentioned Essential Services Decree.

39 Companies presently exporting into US through duty free markets will lose this benefit after the 2nd October hearing in the US which is likely to go against Fiji unless the Decree is withdrawn instantly. Keeping silent over the matter will not resolve the crisis and if the Attorney General is standing in the way of saving the jobs, he must be ejected from the Office.

The CFDFiji calls on the regime to immediately repeal this malformed and self serving piece of ‘legislation’ to avoid this further disastrous calamity for our already struggling economy. Having asked this we feel sure that due to the personalities of the individuals involved they will not heed this request – it would seen to be an admission of failure and a loss of face. No other adverse impacts would be felt by the poor and needy in Fiji.

Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara
Council for a Democratic Fiji
Cfdfiji.org

Fjiileaks website joins blog ranks to take on illegal regime in Fiji

Fijileaks: You could sent to it confidential documents: fijileakseditor@gmail.com

Fijileaks: It also means since the 2006 coup Fiji has been sinking deeper and deeper into mess

Cartoon: It speaks for itself – dictator trying to keep afloat from the mess he has created since 2006

The Crumpled Document: It reveals his fraudulent back-pay of $185,000.

There are many others in his back-pocket – to be revealed soon on Fijileaks

Keep blogging on Fiji Today.

Vinaka vakalevu, to all.

Read on:

http://www.fijileaks.weebly.com

http://www.fijileaks.weebly.com/blog

YASH GHAI STUMBLES: Fiji Constitutional Review at Crisis Point – CFDFiji.org

The Council for a Democratic Fiji has the highest respect for the intellectual brilliance and integrity of the Chairman of the Fiji Constitutional Review Commission, Yash Ghai.

Notwithstanding this, however, the Council is constrained now to make known its belief that the work carried out by him in Fiji has run into a blind alley, and that he ought to have anticipated that this would happen.

Yash Ghai: Having second thoughts.

For the current regime, the making available by himself of Yash Ghai was indeed a major coup – to use that word colloquially. Here was an internationally respected figure who could give the regime’s Constitutional ambitions and processes a clear appearance of being pursued in good faith, notwithstanding the reality of the situation in Fiji.

For Yash Ghai, however, his acceptance of the role of Chairman has in the Council’s submission now resulted in him being placed in an impossible situation potentially prejudicial to his good
name and reputation.

The Council wrote to Yash Ghai at the time of his acceptance of the Chairmanship warning him regarding the true intentions of the Fiji regime, but to no avail. The fruits of his acceptance of the
Chairmanship are however now emerging.

There are two matters upon which the Council would focus, namely the minimal numbers of those coming forward to make submissions, already noted by Yash Ghai himself, and the issue of  the stipulation by the alleged Attorney General that a priority in drafting the new Constitution should be for amnesty for those participating in coups- such as the alleged Attorney General
himself.

As to numbers coming forward, Yash Ghai has very correctly stated his view that many will not come forward because of fear, and he is now going back to the head of the Army and alleged Prime Minister to seek assurances in this regard.

With respect, Yash Ghai should have anticipated this major problem well before he accepted the post of Chairman. He is very familiar with Fiji and has been engaged by the regime previously.

Amnesty International has been very critical of the regime.

 

The truth is, and has been since 2006, that Fiji is under a reign of terror. It is not so dramatic and visible as, for example in the case of Syria, but it is a reign of terror nonetheless. That reign of terror is not expressed simply in terms of the innumerable repressive and draconian decrees imposed by the alleged Attorney General since 2006, immunising the Army and alleged Government from scrutiny or challenge, and destroying basic human rights. It is also a de facto state of affairs which needs no written law to support it .

The Law Society of the UK has condemned the regime.

The factual absence of the Rule of Law and lack of independence of the judiciary is but one aspect of this issue. The unpunished beatings, rapes and killings perpetrated by the regime, the tapping of all communications, the omnipresence of spies and quislings to monitor the public are other aspects. Basically the Army can and does do whatever it wants without let or hindrance. The regime is, as the Australian Foreign Minister recently pointed out militarised and there is no prospect of return to barracks. The entire population is muzzled.

The above factors show why the Fiji ‘popularity’ survey done last year and purporting to show popular support for the regime was a farce. The public whom Yash Ghai wishes to hear from is very aware of this and that the regime cannot and will not tolerate dissent or expression of dissenting views. How then does he expectit to co-operate with him?

Human rights abuses and politically motivated intimidation continues.

It is the Head of the Army and alleged Prime Minister who has been orchestrating the abuses mentioned. What point is there then in seeking any assurance from him? His credibility as per past broken promises is zero. He himself has even personally assaulted women prisoners and stated that those who disagree with him ought to be taken up to the Army barracks. What person is this for Yash Ghai to be dealing with?

No doubt, the alleged Prime Minister may utter whatever words he wishes to silence Yash Ghai’s concerns, but such will not be worth the breath with which they are spoken or the paper on which they are written. Like considerations apply to assurances by the alleged Attorney General, Foreign Minister or other agents of the regime.

Submitters to the Review will know full well that the Regime will find out the fact and nature of their submissions and react accordingly – if not now, in the future, after the glow of the Review has died and Yash Ghai is no longer around to complain. In this regard, the practice of the regime in harassing the relations of those whom it dislikes would no doubt be continued.

Even if there is now a temporary lull in harassment, such is a chimera. The regime will tighten the cords of strangulation of free speech whenever it pleases. There are of course some whose submissions the regime would embrace, such as those of Akuila Yabaki. The reasons for such attitude are clear. They are admirers of the regime.

Turning to the issue of amnesty, the alleged Attorney General seeks priority for insertion of same into the Constitution. This is small wonder because he himself has committed the capital offence of treason and has endorsed the malpractices of the alleged Prime Minister.

The request is of course outrageous and any amnesty even if inserted into an alleged new Constitution would have no validity. Any truly democratic Government taking power in the future would no doubt incarcerate the alleged Attorney General for a long time.

The Council is of the view that the above occurrences have now placed Yash Ghai in an impossible situation, and respectfully calls upon him to relinquish his current role. Yash Ghai must now cease to lend credence to the charade of Review being played out by the Fiji regime, and of which he has inadvertently become a participant. This can only be achieved by his resignation as Chairman.

Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara
Council for a Democratic Fiji
14th August 2012
Cfdfiji.org

SEE NO EVIL, HEAR NO EVIL, SPEAK NO EVIL: The New Zealand Government’s new stance towards the Fiji regime – CFDFiji.org

The motto of the three famous monkeys has now come very much to be exemplified by the Government of New Zealand in its dealings towards the current military dictatorship in Fiji. The latest rapprochement and cosiness of the Government towards the regime is in stark contrast to its former principled stance:

  • Government was concerned that the regime is a military dictatorship.
  • Government was concerned about the many human rights abuses committed by the regime, notably against the hundreds of people taken to the Army barracks and systematically raped, beaten and abused and even killed.
  • Government was concerned about the repressive decrees produced at whim by the evil genius of the regime, the purported Attorney General, the practice of which was in 2009 condemned by the Fiji Court of Appeal.
  • Government was concerned about the absence of basic human rights, suppression of essential freedoms, tapping of communications and other evils committed by the regime.

In the twinkling of an eye all that is changed.

The engaging by the regime in the current charade of Constitutional Consultation, and its giving of blandishments to the apparently gullible New Zealand Government, has changed everything.  Suddenly, lifting of sanctions and diplomatic engagement is full on. New Zealand taxpayers’ money is being channelled to the regime, on top of the many millions of dollars wasted in previous Fiji elections. And all this on account of the ‘word’ of the regime itself.

The untrustworthiness of the regime has been proved on many occasions in the past. What makes the regime trustworthy now? What justification is there for the expenditure of taxpayer funds in return for promises from the like of the alleged Attorney General?

Actually, nothing has changed. Fiji is still fully militarised, under the very militarisation not long ago condemned by the Australian Foreign Minister. The Army has not withdrawn to barracks. There is no independent body running the country in the run up to promised elections.

Pernicious decrees remain in force. De facto, apart from the technical position, the Army retains complete control.

Any alleged temporary relaxation to accommodate the current Constitutional process is a chimera.

As has been stressed many times before, there is no real prospect of a genuine democratic election because the alleged Prime Minister and Attorney General simply cannot afford ever to truly relinquish power. Genuine relinquishment would entail their prosecution for the host of grave offences of which they are guilty. Hence the feverish desperation of the alleged Attorney General to force into a new Constitution clauses absolving him and his cronies from guilt.

Even if the saving clauses are forced through any future truly democratic Government would be unlikely to respect them.

It is necessary, in considering the current charade, to look at the unduly respectful language currently being used by the international community and others in regard to the regime. Thus, the Foreign Minister of New Zealand refers to the alleged Fiji Foreign Minister as his counterpart. But he is not. He is the illegal creation of a military dictatorship. Nor can he properly be called Foreign Minister.

The Fiji police refer to controlling the process surrounding the conviction of the former Prime Minister as necessary to protect the independence of the judiciary. But such independence does not exist in Fiji.

The Australian media refer to the body convicting the former Prime Minister as a court. The word ‘court’ implies legality and Constitutionality. But those attributes do not pertain to that body. The media also assert that it cannot comment on the verdict because it is ‘sub judice’. However that assertion is also false. Nothing produces nothing. The right of appeal only attaches to a genuine verdict.

The Foreign Minister of New Zealand produces as a pretext for lifting sanctions that this will enable Fiji to recruit competent persons in high positions to enhance an alleged movement towards free and fair elections. The point however that he misses is that it is not a good career move for a person from outside Fiji to take up high position in a military dictatorship. Nor does such a move enhance that person’s reputation.The Foreign Minister in this connection should, with respect, for an example, seek the views of past Judges and Directors of Public Prosecutions axed by the regime, and of the Law Societies of Australia and New Zealand.

The fact that the current charade in Fiji is indeed a charade is already apparent but this will become even clearer in time. There may indeed be elections but in their nature they cannot be free and fair .

At this time, the Council calls upon all fair and right minded people everywhere to reject that charade.

Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara
Council for a Democratic Fiji
8th August 2012
CFDFiji.org

Business hazards in Fiji for New Zealand companies – CFDFiji.org

An overview by the Council for a Democratic Fiji

As the Fiji New Zealand Business Council prepares for its June 16th meeting, the Council for a Democratic Fiji (CFDFiji) issues a strong warning about the considerable risks of investing in Fiji.

On the surface, the environment for business in the coup-stricken country might appear to have some appeal. The people of Fiji are as friendly as ever and the military regime of Commodore Frank Bainimarama makes a lot of noise about its pro-investment policies. Bainimarama and his No 1 collaborator, Aiyaz Sayed- Khaiyum, the Attorney General and Minister for Commerce, regularly pump out propaganda dishonestly painting a picture of a buoyant economy on a strong growth path. This is what will happen at the business council meeting.

Delegates will be told that Fiji is “moving forward”, “modernizing” and “reforming” and that commercial opportunities abound. They may hear that a “truly democratic” future beckons and that elections are scheduled for late 2014. There is wide scepticism, however, about whether Bainimarama is willing to relinquish power in a free poll.

Any business person conducting a proper due diligence on Fiji designed to protect shareholders and their capital, will uncover a very hazardous landscape, full of potential pitfalls and some unpalatable truths.

The reality is that Bainimarama and Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum run a dictatorship that was declared unlawful by Fiji’s Court of Appeal. This was before Bainimarama sacked all the country’s judges and installed a new hand-picked judiciary that has been denounced as lacking independence by many credible international authorities. A recent investigation by an affiliate organization of the Law Society of the United Kingdom found that the rule of law no longer operates.

This is a crucial issue for all New Zealand investors and firms involved with Fiji. It is just one of the many reasons that an increasing number of prudent business owners and managers from New Zealand treat the country with extreme caution.

Since 2006 when Bainimarama executed a military coup, he and Aiyaz Sayed- Khaiyum have led Fiji into an unprecedented spiral of decline. They have propped themselves up by severe and brutal abuse of human rights and suppressive “decrees” to control and intimidate the population.

More than 200 of these dubious legal devices have been imposed since April 2009 covering a host of topics and issues. These are no more lawful than the regime itself.

Social conditions have worsened dramatically. It is estimated that the percentage of Fiji’s population living in poverty has increased to 35 per cent. Suicides are on the rise and child malnutrition is a problem.

The economy is in a negative cycle, meaning that for much of Bainimarama’s time as “prime minister” it has actually gone backwards. It has not even returned to where it was in 2006.

Recently a respected economist at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Professor Biman Prasad, caused a stir when he spoke of the kind of woeful statistics of failure the regime does not like to hear. He declared that the medium-term outlook was not encouraging. Professor Prasad cited Asian Development Bank figures on the ratio of private investment to GDP. This was put at only two per cent for 2011 which underscores abysmally low levels of confidence.

The response from the regime was to roll out a propaganda blitz claiming that Fiji could expect investments in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The people of Fiji have been told similar stories before. The Reserve Bank suddenly announced an upward revision in its immediate growth projections, higher than the impartial forecast of the ADB.

As usual Bainimarama and Aiyaz Sayed-Khayum are staying quiet about some of the current international disclosures which further damage Fiji’s reputation and give the lie to their claims about business friendly policies and transparency.

The International Open Budget Survey, which measures budget transparency and accountability around the world, placed Fiji at the bottom of a list of 94 countries. It was bracketed with Iraq, Chad and Equatorial Guinea. This means there is scant budget information available in terms of expenditure, income, capital projects, infrastructure and controls. The long-suffering taxpayers really have no idea how their money is used. There is fertile ground here for corruption and mismanagement.

During the tenure of the last elected government the Word Bank Group ranked Fiji 35 out of 155 countries for ease of doing business. Under Bainimarama, Fiji has dropped down the scorecard, underlining Fiji’s lack of appeal for investors. In 2012 it has been listed at 77 out of 183 economies, down five places from its ranking in 2011. In the category of starting a business, Fiji went from 105 to 119.

The perception of Fiji as an extremely risky investment location was illustrated very clearly last year when the government had to pay nine percent interest to purchasers of an international bond floated by the regime. This put it into the junk bond category.

In the area of enforcing contracts Fiji has also slipped. The notion of sanctity of contracts as an essential prerequisite for all investors appears to have been abandoned by Bainimarama and Sayed-Khaiyum.

A business which has entered into any contract with the dictatorship should be aware that its position can be compromised at any time leaving it without redress and its shareholders exposed. This raises clear accountability issues for directors and managements of New Zealand companies engaged with Fiji. Recently, for instance, a decree has been used to cancel contracts for commercial concessions at Nadi International Airport.

The trend is spreading; there are allegations that employment contracts at a university are not being honoured.

Another notorious decree has trashed pension contracts. Pensioners have been left with no legal recourse.

Earlier, legislation interfered with private commercial rights at two tourism projects.

Qantas has found itself at the receiving end of an Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum decree that has affected its role as a shareholder in Fiji’s national airline Air Pacific.

The national debt is high – with contingent liabilities it may be well over 80 per cent of Fiji’s GDP. It is difficult to get a precise picture. But any prudent analysis must take into account the prospects of the regime defaulting on its payments to creditors. A recurring theme in private conversations among Fiji citizens is that the regime is essentially broke. This “coconut wireless” communication is often accurate.

The erratic and arbitrary nature of the Fiji legislative environment is one of the greatest challenges for commerce.

Price control, for instance, has been imposed at whim on thousands of consumer products. Bainimarama has ignored advice from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank, to get rid of this form of regulation because it is a disincentive for investment.

Decrees are not made in line with any cohesive strategy or by any proper process of open consultation. These are normally considered in secret and then simply announced.

Rule by decree means statutes that affect business can be drastically altered without any right of appeal or review. A recent example relates to the huge restrictions on company claims for losses for tax purposes enacted because of the regime’s financial plight. Another is the manner in which Bainimarama designates at will what he chooses to call essential industries.

When a functioning democracy and constitutional rule are restored, all financial and commercial transactions with the regime will be subjected to scrutiny by parliament. Whether they will be honored is a moot point.

This should concentrate the minds of members of the Fiji New Zealand Business Council.


Council for a Democratic Fiji

17th June 2012
CFDFiji.org

Please refer to the following link for more information and a copy of this media release.

DOING BUSINESS WITH FIJI – Be very careful with an untrustworthy regime, warns CFDFiji – CFDFiji.org

The Council For A Democratic Fiji (CFDFiji) urges the Pacific Islands Forum to be extremely vigilant in tracking the performance of the Fiji regime in its constitutional review process leading up to elections supposedly to be held in 2014.

The recent visit by the Forum Ministerial Contact Group (MCG) was useful. It forced the regime to make clear public commitments and answer questions it does not normally have to face.

We understand the desire of the MCG to be positive about its re-engagement with the regime. But the CFDFiji warns that this should not blind it to the devious and untrustworthy nature of the dictatorship. It is known for breaking promises.

It was significant that Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama made no attempt to return from one of his expensive overseas trips to meet with the visiting ministers. This lays bare the hypocrisy of his oft-repeated calls for greater engagement with Australia and New Zealand. There was an opportunity for him to engage with both countries and explain his regime’s roadmap to elections. But he chose to stay away and leave the talking to his Attorney General, Mr Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum was visibly agitated and peeved when the ministers met with a diverse group of stakeholders, including opponents of the regime. Mr Sayed-Khaiyum had tried unsuccessfully to exercise some control over the people and organisations with whom the ministers would consult. His idea of dialogue is for him to indulge in a monologue.

The CFDFiji strongly endorses the statement by the Australian Foreign Minister, Mr Bob Carr, that sanctions against the regime, will only be lifted when a free, fair and credible election takes place. Any attempt by Commodore Bainimarama and the Attorney General to gerrymander the outcome will be noted and condemned by the international community. Further sanctions will follow.

The truth of the situation in Fiji is that the environment is still not right for an open and free discussion on constitutional issues. Despite the regime’s claims that the way is now clear for consultations, significant obstacles remain.

The CFDFiji joins with many other major groups in demanding that oppressive, punitive and anti- democratic decrees should be immediately removed. These curtail freedom of assembly, speech and the media and deny justice.

The offending laws include the Media Decree, Essential Industries Decree, Public Order Amendment Decree, State Services Decree and all other Decrees that limit full access to legal rights. If these are not lifted the public participatory dialogue required for a legitimate constitutional process will not be possible.

Professor Yash Ghai, chair of the newly-formed Constitutional Commission knows this. So he now has some decisions to make.

The CFDFiji, like other key stakeholder groups, believes the 1997 Constitution is still in existence. Any constitutional review, therefore, should be based on the 1997 supreme law.

A civilian government must be appointed to guide the review process and manage the elections. This takes on added importance in light of revelations that the Military is considering forming a political party. Commodore Bainimarama has not denied this.

We support the call by the leaders of Fiji’s principal political parties, the SDL, the Fiji Labour Party and the United Peoples Party, for a referendum to be held on the result of the constitutional dialogue.

The regime’s proposed Constituent Assembly to decide on the constitution, will be undemocratic and susceptible to manipulation and control.

Serious issues remain about the continuing involvement of members of the Military in numerous strategic areas of government. This means large sections of the administrative machinery are controlled by Military officers. Their ultimate loyalty is not to the civil service but to their military commander, Commodore Bainimarama.

This militarisation of government was commented on by the MCG. The Group would like it to come to an end.

In recent interview, however, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum indicated that he could see nothing wrong with army officers continuing to serve in government.

This is a very clear indication of his warped view of politics and governance issues. It is also self-serving. He knows the army officer corps is united in its dislike of him and want him out of the regime. He may feel that a statement supporting the military role in the public service will work in his favour.

 

Secretary
Council for a Democratic Fiji
5th May 2012
CFDFiji.org

Please refer to the following link for a copy of this media release.

Media Release – Letter to His Hon. Bob Carr with submissions in relation to his upcoming visit to Fiji – CFDFiji.org

Hon Bob Carr
Foreign Minister
Government of Australia
Canberra ACT
AUSTRALIA

By email

27th April 2012

Dear Minister

RE: YOUR PENDING VISIT TO FIJI

I am writing to you on behalf of the Council for a Democratic Fiji, to seek to emphasise certain vital issues which the Council would respectfully request you to consider during your meetings with representatives of the Fiji regime.

You will no doubt recall the submission recently made by the Council to the Ministerial Action Group of the Commonwealth, and you may also recall the previous submission by the Council to the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting at the end of last year. I take the liberty of attaching, for ease of reference, the submission to the Group. That submission sets out the credentials of the Council and evidences its legitimate concerns regarding current events in Fiji, and also shows its representative nature as representing a broad range of interests in Fiji including those of the majority political parties engaged in the last democratically held General Election in Fiji, the Fiji Democracy Movements worldwide including those in Australia and New Zealand, and the Fiji unions and Churches. The submission also annexes the Council’s previous submission to the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.

For present purposes, I seek to focus upon the issue of the process of consultation regarding Constitutional change offered by the current regime, which process I understand to be scheduled to commence next month. No doubt, the regime would seek your support for that process and acceptance of its legitimacy.

However, as the Council made clear in its submissions, especially that to the Ministerial Action Group, the climate in Fiji, created and deliberately persisted in by the current regime, is wholly unconducive to and indeed inimicable towards the holding of free and democratic consultations.

It is clearly understood from study of the published decision of the Ministerial Action Group that the Group is of like view.

Assurances, promises and blandishments by the regime as to how the consultation will be conducted are in the Council’s view wholly inadequate to allay legitimate concerns regarding the issue of consultations being free and democratic, especially having regard to the past conduct of the regime and the maintenance by the Army of a firm grip upon the people of Fiji.

It is understood that it is the above consideration which has led Australia and New Zealand both to decline to mitigate current sanctions imposed upon Fiji solely by reference to assurances, promises and blandishments by the regime.

For the above reason, the Council respectfully repeats and re emphasises its viewpoint expressed to the Ministerial Action Group that consultation should only occur upon satisfaction by the regime of the following conditions precedent, whose fulfillment would be absolutely necessary to ensure that the climate of discussion would be free, fair and frank:

  1. (I)  Rescission of the Public Order (Amendment) Decree 2012 and its non replacement;
  2. (II)  Rescission of Decrees immunising public officials from public discussion;
  3. (III)  Removal of the Army and security forces from public places;
  4. (IV)  Rescission of all Decrees hamstringing or prejudicing the basic freedoms of expression, communication and assembly;
  5. (V)  Rescission of all restrictions upon leaders of parties which participated in the last democratic election which violate their freedom of expression, communication and assembly and also their rights of movement.

Above are the views already expressed to the Ministerial Action Group.

Further, in regard to item (v), the Council would wish that the leaders of parties which participated in the last democratic election be at liberty without let or hindrance to participate fully in the consultation process.

The Council would further wish that no restrictions be placed by the regime upon the publicising of submissions made during the process of consultation, and that no outcomes be visited upon the makers of same.

The Council respectfully requests that above considerations be paid regard to during your meetings with representatives of the regime.

Sincerely

 

Roko Uluilakeba Mara
For Council for a Democratic Fiji

For this document and further documents, please see the following link for hard copies of same.

 

A loose cannon threatening Fiji – Ratu Mara responds to Col. Tokoitoga’s comments – CFDFiji.org

A loose cannon threatening Fiji

Nukua’lofa, Tonga: Saturday 24th March 2012

Landforce Commander, Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga, is the Fiji military’s latest weapon of intimidation aimed directly at the people of Fiji. His recent torrent of statements, obviously authorized by Fiji’s dictator, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, is poisoning the political atmosphere.

It is impossible for Fiji to embark on free and open consultations on constitutional change when the army is adopting a threatening public stance. Colonel Tikoitoga is reinforcing the warnings already given by the dictator through speeches, interviews and military parades and marches. The signal Tikoitoga is sending from headquarters is that the army is in charge, it is watching, and ready to act if the Commodore gives the order.

Colonel Tikoitoga has demonstrated once more that, like his leader, he has great difficulties with the truth and has a crude and clueless appreciation of politics.

This is very evident in his recent lectures to Fiji’s politicians about multi-racialism and claims they are clinging to the 1997 constitution because it permits them to appeal to their ethnic voters. He is also demonizing politics and threatening to wipe it from the face of Fiji society.

He is obviously staking out Bainimarama’s claim for the army to have a permanent and aggressive role in the political life of Fiji, against all the principles of liberal democracy.

He is telling a massive lie when he claims that the 1997 constitution was abrogated as soon as the Bainimarama coup was executed in 2006. This, he says, was part of the army’s “clean-up” of Fiji.

His statement underlines the dysfunctional and chaotic nature of the Bainimarama regime.

Colonel Tikoitoga plainly does not know that the number one priority of Bainimarama after 2006 was to uphold the 1997 constitution. He supposedly did that until 2009 when the Court of Appeal ruled his government was illegal. It was only then that Bainimarama purported to abrogate the constitution. By that time it had become part of his so-called Peoples Charter and it is still a bulwark of that misconceived and illegitimate document. So even though the constitution has been allegedly thrown out, it remains central to his policies. That is what is meant by dysfunctional government.

Tikoitoga appears to believe that if racial voting systems are removed from the 1997 constitution the people of Fiji will immediately stop voting on racial lines. This is stupid thinking. It will take a long time for the populace to fully embrace multi-racialism, especially after the damage to inter-racial relationships caused by the Bainimarama coup. Dictatorship, laws and decrees will not change attitudes that are deeply entrenched among Fijians and Indians.

Tikoitoga himself is a key figure in one of the most racist institutions in Fiji. Membership of the Fiji military forces is nearly 100 per cent Fijian. Tikoitoga, the new apostle of togetherness, should tell the nation what his plans are for recruiting Fiji Indian soldiers. In all my years in the Fiji Armed Forces I never heard concerns raised internally about its overwhelming dominance by indigenous Fijians. Bainimarama wanted it to remain that way. Indians were to be largely excluded, just as they have been shut out from Cabinet and other parts of government.

In his obsessive dislike of politics, Tikoitoga is ignoring the very concept of political rights. He does not understand that politics extends through all levels of society. It is part of life.

Tikoitoga continues to justify the 2006 coup, repeating all the false and phony justifications for it. In doing this recently, he made the outlandish claim that Bainimarama was motivated by his understanding of the principles of democracy!

In another outrageous statement recently, Tikoitoga maintained that the Fiji army’s role was no different from that of the New Zealand Army! He knows absolutely that this is a bold-faced lie. The New Zealand Army has never committed treason, established a dictatorship, and suppressed and brutalized New Zealanders.

The Landforce Commander is also telling lies when he says the Fiji military will not play a special part in the constitutional consultations. He is making it very clear in his public posturing that the army will act as an enforcer, to fulfill the will of its Commander. It is ready to support whatever action he takes, even if that is another coup.

The best option for Colonel Tikoitoga at this point is exile to Mali where he could offer to advise the coup leader there, Captain Sanogo, how to completely stuff up his country.

 

Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara
For the Council for a Democratic Fiji
cfdfiji.org
A full copy of the letter may be found here.

Bainimarama republic – The New Zealand Herald

By Andrew Laxon

An unlikely secret mission reveals how military power has overturned the country’s rule of law. Andrew Laxon reports

English lawyer Nigel Dodds was able to tell the truth as he passed through Customs on his way into Fiji last November. The 62-year-old semi-retired solicitor from Morpeth, Northumbria, was in the middle of a long-planned world trip, so he ticked tourism as the primary reason for his visit. However, the chairman of the English-based Law Society Charity was really on an undercover mission to determine first-hand whether the rule of law had collapsed in Fiji, as reports had claimed.

The evidence looked damning enough. Since Commodore Frank Bainimarama seized power in 2006, lawyers who question the military Government’s actions have been rounded up and tortured. The entire judiciary was sacked in 2009 and the Government has ruled by decree since then. However international observers who tried to report on the problems have been turned away.

Dodds thought he might have more luck with a low-key approach. He figured no one would take too much notice of “an elderly gentleman tottering round the world” so, with the help of a few advance phone calls, he worked his way round the main island, Viti Levu, chatting to current and former judges and lawyers in a series of clandestine meetings in bars, restaurants and coffee shops. (Fiji’s public emergency regulations banned any meeting of more than three people without a permit.)

He tapped the brains of the British High Commission and international agencies working in Fiji and tried less successfully to get the views of ordinary Fijians, who were reluctant to speak out.

His report, published last week, was unequivocal. Fiji is effectively a dictatorship, with no rule of law, no democracy, no freedom of expression and no legal way for citizens to challenge Government decisions. Dodds sees little hope in the short-term, as the military has the power to suppress virtually all dissent and rewards those who support it. But he believes other nations can and must speak up against Bainimarama’s abuse of power, as ordinary Fijians can no longer do so.

Under the decree system, courts cannot rule on Government decisions in any way. Notices on courtroom walls remind lawyers and judges not to go down this track and if any cases do slip through the net, the Government-appointed chief registrar can simply terminate them.

“Given you’ve got no right of assembly, you’ve got a controlled press, there’s no way legally to challenge the Government,” he told the Weekend Herald this week from his home in England.

“Even people sticking up minor graffiti are charged with sedition. That’s actually happening… It’s absolutely monstrous.”

Fiji’s legal and political problems date back to 1987, when Lieutenant-Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka led an abortive coup in May, followed by a successful attempt in September. Rabuka, who later became Prime Minister, changed the constitution to guarantee indigenous Fijians dominance in Government. Despite this, an Indo-Fijian-dominated Labour Party headed by Mahendra Chaudhry managed to win power in 1997. It was overthrown in 2000 by George Speight, who occupied Parliament and held the government MPs hostage for 56 days.

Witnesses say Bainimarama wanted the military to take over then, but was persuaded to allow the formation of a new Government, headed by Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase. After two coup attempts, which failed when senior officers refused to support him, Bainimarama seized power in December 2006 and suspended Parliament, which has not sat since.

According to a comprehensive 2009 report by the International Bar Association Human Rights Association – compiled from phone interviews because the group was not allowed to visit – judges soon became the victims of a series of attacks and intimidation. Justice Gordon Ward’s home was burned down while he was on holiday. The suspected arson was never investigated. Justice Gerard Winter’s car was sabotaged by the removal of key mechanical components, which could have resulted in a serious accident. Justice Roger Coventry was reportedly followed by military officers after he made a ruling awarding costs against the interim Attorney-General. The report said lawyers who spoke against the Government were taken from their homes late at night, detained in military barracks and subjected to violence.

The entire judiciary was gradually replaced with judges willing to do the regime’s bidding. Within days of the coup, Justice Daniel Fatiaki, who had provided legal advice to Bainimarama’s opponents in the 2000 Speight coup, was forcibly removed from office on questionable charges.

He was replaced by Justice Anthony Gates, who had previously supported upholding the constitution in defiance of the 2000 coup. By this time however, Gates’ reputation was severely tarnished – overseas-based judges on Fiji’s Court of Appeal found he told guests at a cocktail party that he would “put away” a prominent chief, Ratu Takiveikata, on criminal charges relating to the coup. The three New Zealand and Australian judges who ordered a retrial found Gates lied under oath when he denied in court that he had made the statement.

At the end of 2007, six New Zealand and Australian judges resigned from Fiji’s Court of Appeal, apparently because they felt they could no longer work with the military regime. Other judges resigned or let their appointments lapse in 2008, some explicitly blaming the regime for their decision.

When three Australian judges on the Court of Appeal overturned the High Court decision in April 2009 and declared the coup unlawful, the Government simply sacked all the judges and began ruling by decree.

Dodds’ report says Chief Justice Gates has since used his personal connections to recruit large numbers of judges from Sri Lanka on short-term but renewable contracts. It says the quality is seen as variable and independence from the regime must be difficult.

The report says newly qualified lawyers and recent Sri Lankan imports make up the bulk of staff at the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption and the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Four directors have been sacked or replaced since April 2009. The current director is former Solicitor-General Christopher Pryde, a barrister in Christchurch until 2007, who this week described Dodds’ report as spreading “false, outrageous and inflammatory allegations against the country’s judicial system”.

Dodds says he deliberately spoke to a range of people, from supporters to opponents of the regime.

He rejects the argument, sometimes put up by the regime’s supporters in New Zealand, that Bainimarama has done the country a favour, even if his methods are a little harsh.

“That’s been the excuse of most dictators, that they are actually making things better for the people and running things more efficiently.”

In a comparison guaranteed to end any prospect of a return visit, he adds: “Mussolini made the trains run on time.”

Blow by blow

December 2006:
Military commander Frank Bainimarama seizes control in a coup. He suspends Parliament, which has not sat since.
2007-08:
Senior judges and lawyers are subjected to attacks and intimidation, including torture and suspected arson and sabotage. The Chief Justice is removed from office but after two years all charges are dropped and he receives a $275,000 settlement.
2007:
New Zealand and Australian judges on Fiji’s Court of Appeal find the new Chief Justice has lied on oath.
March 2009:
The International Bar Association Human Rights Institute produces a scathing report on the collapse of the rule of law in Fiji.
April 2009:
Australian judges on the Court of Appeal overturn a finding by local High Court judges that the coup was legal. The military government sacks all judges and begins to rule by decree. It bans any meeting of more than three people under public order regulations.
November 2011:
English lawyer Nigel Dodds visits Fiji on a secret fact-finding mission.
January-March 2012:
Public order regulations are suspended but fresh decrees and arrests occur. Elections – originally set down for 2009 – remain promised for 2014.

Please see the following link to the original article on the NZ Herald Website.

NZ and Australia must maintain sanctions against Fiji Military Regime – CFDFiji.org

Canberra: Saturday 10th March 2012

The Council for a Democratic Fiji (CFDFiji) urges the Australian and New Zealand governments to maintain their sanctions against the regime of the Fijian dictator Commodore Fank Bainimarama. These should only be lifted when free and fair elections are conducted under Fiji’s current constitution. The credibility of the poll must be confirmed by the international community including the Commonwealth, UN, the European Union and the Pacific Islands Forum.

It would be a grave mistake for sanctions to be withdrawn when Fiji is still under the heel of a dictatorship that is suppressing the rights of the populace. Such a policy switch would serve to strengthen Commodore Bainimarama’s hold on Fiji. It would be used as propaganda to serve his mission of holding on to power at any cost.

The constitutional consultation programme announced by Commodore Bainimarama yesterday is clearly to be an exercise in pro-regime propaganda, manipulation and control. The process is biased in his favour. All this was to be expected. One piece of prime evidence is that two of the appointees to an important constitutional commission are Bainimarama supporters. The other is the academic supervisor for a controversial thesis on Fijian culture and tradition by Commodore Bainimarama’s Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

No details have been given of the method of appointment of a constituent assembly in January next year. Given the way he normally operates, Commodore Bainimarama will keep a tight grip on membership.

He is so confident of the outcome of the constitutional consultations that he has already predicted in a Sky news propaganda interview that he would win the next election – if it takes place. That sort of prediction from a dictator sends a message that he will ensure the electoral system he finally approves will work for him and his supporters.

There was no attempt by Commodore Bainimarama to engage in good-faith dialogue with political parties and other stakeholders to reach consensus on the framework for the consultations. A bi- partisan approach would have created public confidence. Instead, Commodore Bainimarama simply imposed his wishes on the country.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully was right in saying that the announcement itself did not provide justification for removing sanctions. Bainimarama supporters have claimed that the new Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr was about to offer the dictator an “olive branch” . Mr Carr has wisely stated that he is not about to announce any policy change. He will clearly wish to take wide soundings of political and community opinion to guide his thinking.

The most prudent diplomatic stance to take with Commodore Bainimarama is one of caution in light of his record as a breaker of promises. For instance, he misled the Pacific Islands Forum when he made a commitment to holding elections in 2009.

The Fiji Labour Party and the Fiji Islands Trades Union Congress have already raised many questions publicly about Bainimarama’s constitutional plans. Other organisations and individuals share their doubts but are reluctant yet to speak out.

Non Government Organisations, including the Citizens Constitutional Forum, have called for the rescinding of new laws that prevent open and free debate and give licence to Commodore Bainimarama and his Ministers to make defamatory statements. The same protection is not offered to those who might speak against them.

Commodore Bainimarama has chosen for his own reasons to ignore the 1997 constitution, which many legal experts consider is still in existence, but dormant. This is the position of the CFDFiji. The 1997 constitution was the supreme law of Fiji which Commodore Bainimarama claims he abrogated in 2009. This was after the Fiji Court of Appeal had declared his administration illegal. It is still illegal and that obviously has consequences for the constitutional scheme he has announced.

The 1997 constitution was widely hailed internationally. It was the product of exhaustive consultations and had the endorsement of all the Parliamentary parties representing the people of Fiji. It should, therefore, form the foundation for the discussions that are to take place. Many parts of it can be retained, while others can be changed only by an elected parliament.

Another disturbing development was the apparent rejection by Attorney General Saiyed-Khaiyum of an offer by the Australian and New Zealand governments to provide funding for electronic voter registration. This was on the basis that they have scrutiny access to voter registration. The proposal was made in good faith to ensure the process is transparent and equitable. The attitude of Sayed-Khaiyum clearly signals the possibility of planned manipulation of the process hidden from international observers and donors.

 

Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara
Council for a Democratic Fiji
10th March 2012
cfdfiji.org

Ratu Tevita Mara’s Response to Announcement by the Regime on Constitutional Process – CFDFiji.org

Canberra: 9th March 2012

As expected, the constitution process announced today by Banimarama has all the hallmarks of control and bias associated with his regime. It will not pass any international test of credibility and independence.

“He is clearly embarking on a so-called consultation that will be stacked in his favour and propelled by a massive regime propaganda exercise which must be rejected ” says Ratu Mara

Two of the three people appointed initially to his Constitutional Commission to engage in a “civic education process”, should resign immediately. Professor Nandan is a prominent Bainimarama disciple who has publicly and lavishly praised his 2006 coup. Taufa Vakatale is widely-regarded as a Bainimarama supporter who has willingly accepted appointments by the regime. Their sympathies will obviously come into play during the consultations.

The Chairperson, Professor Yash Ghai, is certainly experienced in constitution-making and is familiar with Fiji. However, his role as academic supervisor to Aiyaz Sayed- Khaiyum, Bainimarama’s chief collaborator, when Sayed-Khaiyum prepared a controversial thesis on indigenous Fijian culture, raises questions about his appointment. The same applies to his earlier role as a constitutional consultant to certain Fiji political parties.

The evidence for the planned national brain-washing is contained in Bainimarama’s reference to government collating and printing material for “civic education”.

He is intent on forcing the People’s Charter for Change down people’s throats. This has been adopted by the government as its own manifesto. But it does not have a valid mandate from the people. If the Bainimarama manifesto is to be the ideological reference point for the constitution then the manifestos of political parties with proven support should also be put to the people.

The details about the planned constituent assembly are very vague and obviously have not yet been fully thought out. But one thing can be certain, it will be Bainimarama’s creature – expected, ultimately, to do his bidding.

He should tell the people whether the army will be sitting in the constituent assembly.

Which political parties will qualify? Who will decide on the assembly’s membership?

There are real grounds for scepticism about the level of freedom Fiji citizens can exercise to make their views known. It appears that only those who Bainimarama thinks are “forward-looking” will make the grade. This is coded language indicating intolerance of dissenting views. Similarly his comments urging people not to be distracted by “petty politics and politicians” is another warning sign.

Bainimarama and Sayed-Khaiyum are fixated on a new constitution when there are very strong legal grounds for believing that the 1997 constitution, which they purported to abrogate, is still in existence.
The Council for a Democratic Fiji which I speak for, takes the position that the constitutional deliberations should use the 1997 constitution as their framework. This would be more acceptable to the people of Fiji and the international community. Bainimarama should have no problem with the 1997 constitution because he championed it after the 2006 takeover of the elected government.

It is not surprising that Bainimarama has apparently turned his back on a referendum as a vehicle for establishing support for proposed constitutional changes. A free and fair referendum would be far too democratic for Bainimara’s liking.

Bainimarama has already poisoned the atmosphere by his recent threatening and belligerent comments about the constitutional review and his public displays of military might. He gave a radio interview about the proposed review which exposed his true feelings. In that interview he urged the former prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry and “everybody else” to “shut up and listen to us”. This was the authentic voice of a tyrant who hates and fears dissent.

 

Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara
Council for a Democratic Fiji
10th March 2012
cfdfiji.org

A look at censorship in Fiji

A look at censorship in Fiji

http://www.abc.net.au/correspondents/content/2011/s3314905.htm
Sean Dorney reported this story on Saturday, September 10, 2011 08:15:00

ELIZABETH JACKSON: The Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting took place in New Zealand recently, but there was one regional leader who was not there.

Fiji’s military commander and prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, is banned from travelling to New Zealand and Fiji was suspended from the forum. According to the heavily censored Fiji media, Commodore Bainimarama’s continued undemocratic rule has the support of nine of the 15 countries who attended the Forum in Auckland.

However, as Pacific correspondent Sean Dorney reports, those who oppose Bainimarama are not allowed any media coverage in Fiji.

SEAN DORNEY: If you lived in Fiji and your only source of information was a single local national newspaper, the Fiji Sun, you would soon believe that Commodore Frank Bainimarama was about the most popular person in the world, an anti-corruption crusader universally revered for his wisdom and for his firm but enlightened rule.

The rest of the Fiji media is not quite as sycophantic as the Fiji Sun but no criticism of Fiji’s dictator is allowed by the government censors, while criticism of Australia and New Zealand is heavily promoted by Fiji’s propaganda ministry, the ministry of information.

‘Thumbs Up For Fiji’s Roadmap’ was one of the headlines on the Ministry’s web page on Friday. It was a report stating that Commodore Bainimarama’s plan to stay in power for at least another three years without elections has won the enthusiastic support of most Pacific Island countries. The Fiji Sun ran the line that ‘Australia and New Zealand’ were ‘the front runners in further punishing Fiji’.

Commodore Bainimarama’s government has crushed all opposition. First it was the political parties then the great council of chiefs. The media was an early target as was the Methodist church. Now the Methodist church is not only banned from holding its annual conference, it is not allowed to hold any meetings at all except Sunday church services.

A letter from Fiji’s military council directs that all nine meetings under the church’s constitution, including the monthly, quarterly, standing committee, financial and divisional meetings, are all forbidden.

Revelations by Bruce Hill from Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat program that Bainimarama’s so called Independent Commission Against Corruption has targeted opponents of the regime with trumped-up legal prosecutions, got scant coverage in Fiji itself. And a recent decree aimed at crippling the trade union movement has been reported inside Fiji as though the unions are happy with the development.

Felix Anthony, the general secretary of the Fiji Trade Union Congress vented his spleen on Pacific Beat.

FELIX ANTHONY: Reporting by the media and in particular the Fiji Sun and Radio Fiji and, of course, the TV News has totally ignored statements by the trade unions and has gone onto a propaganda mode; just simply promoting statements by the regime.

People in Fiji are simply getting one side of the story, the reporting is not balanced. It’s absolutely biased.

BRUCE HILL: What is it specifically you want the media to do?

FELIX ANTHONY: To report fairly and if they are not allowed to report the trade union perspective on issues, then they should either mention that or try their level best not to give misleading news and programs to the public.

SEAN DORNEY: One of Fiji’s best journalists, Stanley Simpson, is now the editor of the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation.

He told Bruce Hill there were censors in every newsroom and under the public emergency regulations, the notorious PER, there were severe limits on what the media in Fiji was allowed to report.

STANLEY SIMPSON: All media organisations in the country as you know Bruce, and as Felix knows, we are working under the public emergency regulations. The PER is the one that really stops us from reporting some of these issues. It’s a well known fact that people like Felix, some of their stories or some of the interviews that been done with him, we’re not allowed by the ministry of information to run them.

SEAN DORNEY: The censorship is often random. Just recently Fiji’s Ministry of Information, which is headed by an Australian, Sharon Smith-Johns, who has never been a journalist, sent out an email to all the Fiji media that they had to send in all their news headlines to the censors at her ministry at least half an hour before those headlines were aired.

The directive said: ‘This will enable us to effectively monitor the coverage for each day’. However, somebody must have informed the ministry of the nature of radio and television news and how impractical that would be. So that afternoon there was a second email from Sharon Smith-John’s ministry saying ‘Please ignore previous email … Any inconvenience caused is regretted.’

Sometimes even the Fiji Sun must blush at what it puts in the paper. It quoted Commodore Bainimarama the other day as saying his Government had ‘over the past year embarked on major reforms to empower citizens’.

This has been Sean Dorney for Correspondents Report.

Lieutenant Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga says he can’t comment until he’s read the reports of sexual intimidation, harassment, assault and rape of men and women by military personnel……

Wikileaks allege rape by military in post-coup Fiji

Posted at 01:39 on 29 August, 2011 UTC

Women who say they were subjected to sexual assault by members of Fiji’s military remain traumatised by their experiences after the 2006 coup.

Leaked cables from the United States Embassy have documented cases of rape and sexual assault by military personnel.

Sally Round reports.

“The Wikileak reports are unearthing events so traumatic for those involved, women’s rights activists are reluctant to speak publicly. The cables from Suva to Washington allege at least one group of detainees was forced to engage in group sexual acts and the military used rape threats by phone as a method of intimidation. One woman activist spoken to by Radio New Zealand International has listed allegations involving sexual intimidation, harassment, assault and rape of men and women by military personnel, in the months after the 2006 coup. She says the alleged acts have not been reported to police for fear of retaliation and the trauma involved. Social stigma also contributes to a low rate of reporting sexual crime in Fiji. Fiji’s military spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga says he can’t comment until he’s read the reports.”

News Content © Radio New Zealand International
PO Box 123, Wellington, New Zealand

Larry Dinger observed that ”a psychiatrist would have a field day with Bainimarama”. Its official we are governed by a “Nutter”

US cables reveal brutality of Fijian regime

http://www.smh.com.au/world/us-cables-reveal-brutality-of-fijian-regime-20110826-1jefr.html

Philip Dorling
August 27, 2011 .

The military is unsparing in its use of violence and intimidation – but there are signs of dissenting voices, writes Philip Dorling.

Some quiet acts of defiance against Fiji’s military regime occurred this week. A large number of spray-painted anti-government slogans appeared overnight on walls around the capital, Suva.

The outbreak of political graffiti, sufficiently unusual to be reported in the international media, followed the decision of the interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama’s military government to ban the annual conference of the influential Methodist Church.

The church had refused to accept an ultimatum that pro-democracy church leaders step down from their positions and not attend the gathering.

Senior members of the church were summoned by the military to Suva’s Queen Victoria Barracks to hear the order banning the conference. Soldiers attempted to force the 80-year-old former head of the church, Reverend Josateki Koroi, to attend, but he refused.

It isn’t the first time that the military has sought to intimidate Fiji’s largest church. The Methodist annual conference has now been banned three years in a row after senior figures began to criticise Bainimarama, who took power in a coup in December 2006, ousting the democratically elected prime minister, Laisenia Qarase.

Under Bainimarama the constitution has been suspended, opponents arrested and beaten, and media freedom restricted. Elections, promised by Bainimarama within two years of the coup, are now nominally scheduled for September 2014.

Secret US embassy cables leaked to WikiLeaks and provided exclusively to the Herald confirm that violence and intimidation have been at the heart of Bainimarama’s military rule. Beatings and intimidation of the regime’s suspected opponents are reported to have taken place with the knowledge of military commanders and included the direct participation of Bainimarama himself.

One US embassy report records witness testimony that Bainimarama joined in an assault on a senior public servant detained at the military’s headquarters immediately after the coup. According to the embassy cables, he ”kicked [the man’s] legs out from under him and beat him around the head, telling him: ‘Don’t f— with the military.”’

Bainimarama publicly deplored violence by soldiers following his coup and said he would ensure that any excesses ceased. In March 2007, he announced that the military would be responsive to public views on abuse of human rights and the army would ”do its utmost to ensure people can live normal lives”.

He declared Fiji’s military does not ”condone violence or the use of force” and that henceforth would only engage in ”manning checkpoints, community work and public relations”.

However, at the same time the US embassy reported to Washington that Bainimarama privately told European Union diplomats that if anyone insulted the army ”of course we must have them taken to the barracks and have them beaten up”.

The picture that emerges of Bainimarama from the US diplomatic reports is that of an erratic, sometimes violent leader, thin-skinned, often defensive and insecure, and prone to be ”wildly excessive” in his reactions to criticism.

In one cable sent to Washington shortly before the coup, the US ambassador Larry Dinger observed that ”a psychiatrist would have a field day with Bainimarama”.

He was described as being ”surrounded by a compliant officer corps that is feeding the commander’s sense of righteous grievance against the Qarase government … he does not care about international reaction, including the possible loss of aid money from Australia, the United States and New Zealand.”

In other US diplomatic reports Bainimarama’s propensity for ”sabre-rattling” and threats of violence, including against diplomats, caused the US embassy in Suva to ”wonder more than ever about the rationality of [the commodore’s] judgment”.

The leaked cables contain numerous reports of human rights abuses following the military takeover, including the arbitrary detention of human rights activists, senior police and civil servants, trade unionists, lawyers, and journalists.

While some cases of detention and intimidation are well known, including the repeated detention of the editor of the Fiji Post, the US cables report many previously unreported cases of violence by the military, including beatings, torture and death threats ”with a pistol to the head”.

A prominent trade union official was ”abused and threatened with death” while one senior police officer detained by the military at Queen Victoria Barracks described how he saw ”several ambulances depart the camp transporting people beaten by military interrogators”.

Other cases reported by the US embassy included deaths in military custody with one victim’s body – ”marked by visible bruises” – dumped by soldiers at a police station. In another case a police investigation into the death of a young man who had died of a brain haemorrhage following a beating was stymied when army officers denied access to five implicated soldiers.

In other reported cases a group of villagers, including a senior police officer, were ”subjected … to beatings over a three-hour period”; Hindu taxi drivers were assaulted and suffered humiliation directed at their religious beliefs; and Muslim youths were compelled by soldiers to wallow in a pigsty next to a military barracks.

The US embassy reports also document cases of rape and sexual assault by military personnel, including at least one instance of a group of detainees forced to engage in group sexual acts. In another case a prominent human rights activist was ”felt up” by a senior military officer and was ”warned she would receive worse treatment unless she stopped her activities”.

Telephoned threats of rape have been regularly used by the military to intimidate political activists.

In discussing the interim Prime Minister’s motivations, US diplomats highlighted underlying insecurity in Bainimarama’s personality. The embassy reports quote a former senior Fijian military officer and close colleague of Bainimarama together with the then chief of the Fiji police, former Australian Federal Police officer Andrew Hughes, who was removed from office as part of the coup, as suggesting Bainimarama suffers from post-traumatic stress arising from the army mutiny of November 2000, when he was shot at and nearly killed by his own soldiers.

”Bainimarama had never been in a combat situation,” the senior military source told US diplomats. ”Unlike senior army officers who had seen action in Lebanon and other hot spots, Bainimarama’s only [peacekeeping] experience was with [the Multinational Force and Observers in the] Sinai during a peaceful period.

”Thus, when he was fired at in 2000, the experience had a significant psychological effect that Bainimarama still carries.”

However, the US embassy cables also document Bainimarama’s considerable political abilities, especially his ability to exploit the weakness of Fiji’s democratic institutions.

Although Fiji’s elderly and ailing president Josefa Iloilo initially rejected Bainimarama’s coup and called for respect for the rule of law, later he swore in Bainimarama as interim Prime Minister, thereby giving the regime what the US embassy described as a ”a patina of legality”.

However, the US embassy subsequently reported to Washington: ”We spoke with President Iloilo’s personal physician … [who] said Iloilo is at this point so ‘senile’ that he will read out whatever is put in front of him … now Iloilo hears advice only from Bainimarama.”

Iloilo remained in office while his health and mental faculties continued to deteriorate until his resignation in July 2009. He died in February this year, aged 90.

Although the US embassy in Suva has reported that Bainimarama has been ”feeling the strain of governing a country that doesn’t salute like an army”, the leaked cables leave little doubt about the military’s determination to only relinquish power on their terms and to never allow their democratic opponents to regain power.

Bainimarama is reported as describing himself as ”the Ataturk of Fiji, the military man who has the vision to right the nation’s wrongs and build a bright future”.

According to him Fiji’s ”coup culture” is ”far from over” and ”hurried elections” will not solve Fiji’s unique political problems.

”The international community has been rather naive in pressurising Fiji to return to parliamentary democracy … without allowing the people of Fiji to comprehensively address the root causes of conflict and dissension,” the US embassy quotes him as saying.

However, despite all of the military’s efforts, there are still strong voices of dissent.

This week Reverend Koroi successfully stared down the soldiers sent to escort him to the Queen Victoria Barracks.

”I told them, the only way to take me to camp now is bundle up my legs, tied up, and my hands, I will not go with you,” he told Radio New Zealand.

”That is the only way, you carry me to the camp or you bring your gun and shoot me and you carry my dead body to the camp to show to the commander.”

Clearly some people are not easily intimidated

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/us-cables-reveal-brutality-of-fijian-regime-20110826-1jefr.html#ixzz1W9XtTWtk

Media under tight controls after graffiti attacks.

Fiji tightens censorship rules following anti-regime graffiti

Posted at 05:48 on 26 August, 2011 UTC

Censorship rules in Fiji have been tightened today in a week during which soldiers have been photographed removing anti-regime graffiti from public places.

Today a local broadcaster aired a story about the graffiti and earlier in the week the photographs reached a wide internet audience.

Fiji’s media has operated under censorship since April 2009, when the military regime abrogated the constitution and imposed emergency regulations restricting the nature of reportage to what the interim government terms the journalism of hope.

Commodore Frank Bainimarama’s interim government promised to lift the regulations with the introduction of a media decree in June last year but both systems of censorship remain in place.

In a mass email today to media outlets and journalists the Ministry of Information asked for all news headlines to be sent to the censors half an hour before stories are published.

The ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Sharon Smith-Johns, declined to comment on the matter.

News Content © Radio New Zealand International
PO Box 123, Wellington, New Zealand

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Dear Publishers

You are hereby requested to send in all news headlines to mediamonitor@info.gov.fj at least half an hour before it is aired.

This will enable us to effectively monitor the coverage for each day.

Your cooperation will be appreciated.

Vinaka

Kalpana Prasad and Qilioani Ravunibola
Media Monitor/Censor
Ministry of Information
Ph: 990 4956 and 990 8885