The Land Bank bureaucracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UFDF PRESS RELEASE – the Collapse of the Fiji Fishing Industry

UFDF Logo

STATEMENT FROM

THE UFDF

[No 9/2014]

[Jan 24, 2014]

The UFDF said today that the suggestion by Minister for Fisheries, Forests & Agriculture Lt Col Inia Seruiratu that another committee be set up to ‘look into’ the plight of Fiji’s Fishing Industry’ is too little too late given that this problem has been allowed to escalate over the past 7 years to the point that more than 8,000 citizen’s incomes will now be adversely affected.

The UFDF said today that the suggestion by Minister for Fisheries, Forests & Agriculture Lt Col Inia Seruiratu that another committee be set up to ‘look into’ the plight of Fiji’s Fishing Industry’ is too little too late given that this problem has been allowed to escalate over the past 7 years to the point that more than 8,000 citizen’s incomes will now be adversely affected.

And who might the members of this committee be? The same officials that have been unable to resolve the issue over the past 7 years and they will advise the Minister how he can resolve an issue they have failed to address in 7 years? Have any of the stake holders been asked for their opinions and input? A quick check yesterday revealed they have not been asked to be part of this Ministerial solution.

The UFDF said while courting China into funding its various projects [all loans no aid] the regime has ignored the fundamental problem that has caused this matter to ‘come to a head’ and that is the ongoing presence of 1,800 or so foreign fishing vessels with licenses issued by our island neighbors. A significant number of these vessels mainly from China operate in international waters surrounding Fiji and other Pacific Islands.

The UFDF said one does not have to be a ‘rocket scientist’ to work out how long our fish will depleted when 1,800 foreign fishing vessels are catching our resources in our backyard 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Not to mention the damage done to our reefs, our sea life by the trawlers. The loss of other types of seafood that get caught in the process as well as the waste and debris from these vessels.

The UFDF said what makes it even more ridiculous is that these foreign vessels are subsidized by up to $US350, 000 ($F662, 000) per vessel to cover costs, fuel, maintenance and they are the only vessels that can sell to China, our Fiji owned and operated vessels cannot sell their catch to China and not one of them are subsidized.

The UFDF say some of the blue painted Chinese subsidized vessels anchored in Suva Harbour can’t afford to operate even with their $F662, 000 subsidies it’s not too difficult to work out why our local boat operators are unable to sustain their operations.

The UFDF says it understands that a major scam is being perpetrated by foreign vessel operators against the Chinese government where operators are falsifying documents and logs of their catch to qualify for the generous subsidy, while remaining anchored. At least 20 officials are reported to have been executed in China for the scam.

The UFDF said none of the foreign vessels are known to hire local crew but if they did it was a minute number, so other than a license fee, there are no real benefits to the Island nations and the areas valuable fishing recourses is being depleted on a scale that will cause catastrophic failure because of the issuance of an excess of fishing licenses by upwards of 400%.

This the UFDF says is despite well researched and sustainable numbers of fishing licenses recommended to all island nations. The recommendations on limiting the issuance of licenses are being ignored for short term financial gain without any regard for the catastrophic long term consequences that will follow the current excesses in fishing of our resources.

The UFDF said the other part of the problem is the local mismanagement of the resource. In Fiji too many licenses have been issued and the resources’ have been depleted.

The problem has nothing to do with migratory fish or seasons it’s all to do with the mismanagement of resources.

The UFDF said the MSG has failed to adequately and prudently address this issue for the long term sustainable benefit of all the island nations and the current discord among the members over the West Papua issue will unlikely allow them to urgently resolve this major economic catastrophe currently unfolding in the region.

Authorized By                       UFDF

UFDF PRESS RELEASE – Who are the “liars and troublemakers”?

UFDF Logo

STATEMENT FROM

THE UFDF

[No 36/2013]

[Dec 18, 2013]

UFDF CALLS ON THE PM & LT COL SULIANO TO NAME & SHAME THE ‘PAST POLITICIANS’ THEY CALL LIARS & TROUBLE MAKERS AND PROVIDE THE EVIDENCE THAT SUPPORTS THEIR CLAIMS!

At his recent Christmas celebrations with the RFMF the Commander again claimed to have created a new path forward for Fiji but warned the military to be on guard against ‘past politicians who caused problems?

But who are these faceless and nameless ‘past politicians’ he keeps referring to and what exactly is the problem they are being accused of causing?

The people need to know who these trouble makers are and more importantly what kind of trouble it is they are being blamed for causing?

Since Independence, the only thing that has caused the greatest problems for Fiji and her people, are the 4 coups carried out by certain officers of the military command and possibly some ‘old political & self-serving individual collaborators’. Perhaps these are the people that the Commander regularly refers to.

When it comes to calculating the cost to the country and her people, there is enough evidence available that places this figure at approximately $10 billion dollars or more in lost economic activity, growth, employment and development and the individual loss to our citizens by way of their lives, jobs, homes and the accompanying ‘trauma and stress’ inflicted on them is a cost too high to be accurately measured.

If the PM is referring to politicians who ‘colluded with the military to over throw past elected governments? Then its time he named them and shamed them? And a good place to start would be his own cabinet.

Then there’s the standard veil threat once again from the military command and this time around coming from Lt Col Suliano who refers to the ‘threat caused by liars spreading lies’?

But what is the ‘threat?’ What are the lies? Who are the liars? Unless he can back up what he says with facts, then generalizing as he does amounts to nothing more than lies and rumor? The people have a right to know the TRUTH behind what he is claiming.

Fiji is supposed to be just 10 months away from returning to democratic governance and at this stage of proceedings the regime, indeed the Prime Minister, the Military Command as well as the Fiji Sun and other pro regime media organizations should be at least attempting to ‘walk their talk’ and start ‘practicing’ some of the democratic principles they claim credit for and espouse from time to time, but seem to still have great difficulty keeping in line with.

There is a lot at stake for the people of Fiji in the coming 10 months and veil threats of unproven allegations has no place in a free and open society if indeed that is one of the democratic principles that is part of the Bainimarama promise to the people of Fiji and the world.

The UFDF calls on Lt Col Suliano and the Prime Minister to stop referring to faceless and nameless past politicians and making baseless generalized allegations and challenges both of them to name the past politicians and liars they refer to and clarify the ‘lies’ they are spreading and state exactly how these alleged lies constitute a ‘threat’.

Lt Col Suliano is also quoted as saying ‘the RFMF would stand firm to make sure that the ‘transition of power’ after the 2014 elections would be smooth.

Are we to take from that statement, that even if Bainimarama and his party fail to win a single seat in the next elections that the RFMF will ‘stand firm’ and ensure the Bainimarama Regime hands over power to the new government elected by the people?

Is this ‘true’ or just another lie?

Authorized By                       UFDF

For further elaboration or interviews on our statements please contact anyone of the following:

Mick Beddoes – 830524;  Laisania Qarase – 9993113;  Mahendra Chaudhry – 9921865

 Attar Singh – 9921184;  Tupeni Baba – 9373364

UFDF PRESS RELEASE – Why Is There No Immunity For Brig. Gen. Driti?

UFDF Logo

STATEMENT FROM

THE UFDF

[No 34/2013]

[Nov 28, 2013]

The UFDF calls on the Attorney General, the  PM & Military Commander to explain to the people how Brig Gen Driti who was part of the 2006 Bainimarama team that overthrew a constitutional government and is supposedly covered under  the ‘entrenched’  immunity provisions of  the 2013 constitution has somehow been ‘excluded’ and put on trial?

The UFDF calls on the Attorney General, the  PM & Military Commander to explain to the people how Brig Gen Driti who was part of the 2006 Bainimarama team that overthrew a constitutional government and is supposedly covered under  the ‘entrenched’  immunity provisions of  the 2013 constitution has somehow been ‘excluded’ and put on trial?

The UFDF says if a special decree was passed by cabinet under section 161 of the 2013 constitution that excluded Brig Gen Driti from the protection he is supposed to have enjoyed as a member of the 2006 Bainimarama team, why has that decree not been made public?.

The UFDF says it is ironic that Brig Gen Driti is being found guilty of inciting mutiny against an Army Commander who overthrew a constitutional government?

The UFDF asks how was it possible to have a trial where some of the key characters involved in the alleged crime did not even make a court appearance.

If Driti can be charged and brought to court while supposedly being protected under the immunity provisions, the UFDF asks if this means all those who have aided and abetted the regime who think they are protected from prosecution, can also be removed from immunity protection and prosecuted?

Authorized By                       UFDF

For further elaboration or interviews on our statements please contact anyone of the following:

Mick Beddoes – 830524;  Laisania Qarase – 9993113;  Mahendra Chaudhry – 9921865

 Attar Singh – 9921184;  Tupeni Baba – 9373364

LOCAL MEDIA REMINDER

FIJI INDUSTRY DEVELOPMENT DECREE 2010

(DECREE NO 29 OF 2010)

 

Schedule 1

Media Code of Ethics & Practice

 Sec 1: Accuracy, balance and fairness: (d) ‘Media organizations have a duty to be balanced and fair in their treatment of news and current affairs and their dealings with members of the public’ & (e) Editorial comment in any medium must be clearly identified as such and kept separate from news reports.

Sec 2: Opportunity to reply: Media organizations have an obligation to give a fair opportunity to reply to any individual or organization on which the medium itself comments editorially

 Sec 21: Impartially and balance: Media organizations shall endeavor to show fairness at all times, and impartiality and balance in any item or programme, series of items or programmes or in broadly related articles or programmes over a reasonable period of time when presenting news which deals with political matters, current affairs and controversial questions.

Pryde is spot-on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UFDF PRESS RELEASE – The Truth about the state of Fiji’s Health Services

UFDF Logo

STATEMENT FROM

THE UFDF

[No 33 /2013]

[Nov 20, 2013]

The UFDF calls on Dr Sharma to do the right thing and take responsibility for the decisions and policies he has imposed on the Ministry of Health on behalf of the regime and for once account to the people for this terrible mess and man up and resign.

The UFDF said in his 2014 Election focused Budget provisions; the PM said very little about the state of the nation’s Health except for an admission that quote ‘it is not as good as it should be, given years of neglect ‘unquote.

The UFDF says the regime always speaks of ‘past years neglect’ in general terms so as to infer the democratic government they overthrew in 2006 is the cause of the neglect. But the Regime have been in control for the past 7 years, this is 2 years longer than the previous elected government and still the state of our Health Services is a disgrace.

When the next democratically elected government is in place at the end of 2014, the regime would have had 3 years longer than the previous legal governments to fix things and based on their current performance there is nothing that indicates that they have the ability to fix anything.

The UFDF says there are many hidden flaws and losses that run into the tens of millions of dollars mainly through incompetence, corruption and mismanagement that remain unknown because of the lack of accountability and transparency practiced by the regime and this information needs to be exposed so that people can see what is really going on.

MINISTRY OF HEALTH

An official of the UFDF recently visited the Lautoka & CWM Hospital, spoke to staff, nurses, Doctors and other medical personal and the following is a brief summary of what emerged from discussions with hospital personnel.

  • LAUTOKA HOSPITAL [Visit – Sep 2013]
  1. Dr Neil Sharma announced an $8 million upgrade of the Lautoka Hospital & CWM hospitals on April 7th 2010, yet today both hospitals look a sorry sight and in desperate need of repair? So what was it spent on?
  2. In the Lautoka Hospital as late as September only 1 of the 3 lifts it has was operating and according to staff, the others have been out of service for almost a year?
  3. Should the 3rd lift breakdown, patients will need to be carried up the stairs from the Emergency Department to the ICU and CCU and Major Operating theatre?
  4. Patients are still being asked to buy their own drugs and medication because the hospital has none, yet in 2012 $10 million in medication purchased by government sat in stock, then expired and went to waste? [FT Nov 27 2012 Report]
  • CWM HOSPITAL [Visit –Nov 2013 ]

Like Lautoka, despite the supposed multimillion dollar upgrade, the CWM looks a sorry sight and in desperate need of repair.

  1. In addition the ongoing shortages of drugs and supplies continues, but with the added burden of cheap and inferior medical supplies from China and as well as India. . An example of this is the cheaper intravenous cannulas being purchased from China which are apparently of such poor quality and have flaws that expose the medical personnel to blood when injecting the patient. Previous purchases of these were a better quality without flaws.
  2. Doctors and Nurses alike ‘buy their own’ plaster for use on patients because the officially supplied plaster – referred to by all in CWM as the cello tape’  falls off within minutes of being applied to a wound.
  3. The number of the ultrasound scan machines purchased by the government at a cost of $27,000 each and distributed to other sub divisional health facilities have been returned to the CWM because no one can operate them and when repairs are required the technicians in Fiji can’t repair them, there is also a  new lot of hematological  and biomedical equipment  and like the ultrasound equipment the local technicians cannot fix them so the supplier [alleged to be a relative or friend of the Minister] has to be flown up from New Zealand to carry out the repairs.In his 2014 Budget address the PM said quote

Our biomedical equipment will now be serviced by professionals, and $900,000 has been allocated for this purpose’

  • The approximate $243,000 cost for the equipment has already been paid, so add to this the $900,000 put aside for servicing and repairs by professionals? Then someone is making a cool $1.1 million for equipment that can’t be operated or serviced locally? WHY?
  • The regime recently announced a multimillion plan to build 6 new operating theatres in the CWM, however there is a well known shortage of qualified anesthetist and surgical nursing staff to man the 4 theatres already renovated and in place.  Different surgical specialists are already facing difficulties due to the current shortage of trained medical staff and equipment; another 6 new operating theatres will simply compound the situation.
  • There are specialist shortages which are rife in the Ministry and a specific example of this is in the anesthesia department where anesthetist are working 24 hour shifts looking after the country’s most critically ill and surgical patients.  The situation was further worsened when senior staffs were sent to Sudan and only a handful remained to maintain services. The majority of the anesthetists are made up of junior staffs that have recently joined the department, a factor that led to the recent death of a female patient in Lautoka and the suspension of the Anesthetist.The UFDF says all of the examples of neglect and gross mismanagement referred in this statement occurred in the past 12 to 24 months under Bainimarama’s ‘illegal’ regime and are the result of the prior ‘5 years of neglect’ he referred to in his 2014 budget address and have absolutely nothing to do with any previous elected and ‘legal’ government that he tries to deflect blame to.

Dr Neil Sharma has been the Minister responsible since January 2009 and therefore the person directing the regimes failed policies over the past 5 years that have led to the gross mismanagement and neglect which occurred over the past 24 months as highlighted in this statement.

The UFDF says any person of moral and principled standing would accept responsibility for the failures of their policies in the same way they accept the praise and accolades when things get done right, rare though that may be.

The UFDF calls on Dr Sharma to do the right thing and take responsibility for the decisions and policies he has imposed on the Ministry of Health on behalf of the regime and for once account to the people for this terrible mess and man up and resign.

The UFDF says the ongoing daily struggles of our Doctors and nursing staff in our hospitals and the difficulty they face with medical supply shortages, inferior products, lack of trained specialists and the below average remuneration for their profession is a matter that should concern all citizens as the state of our Health Services is something we will all face a need for at sometime in our lives.

More statements highlighting other areas of gross neglect and mismanagement will be highlighted in the coming weeks.

Authorized By                       UFDF

For further elaboration or interviews on our statements please contact anyone of the following:

Mick Beddoes – 830524;  Laisania Qarase – 9993113;  Mahendra Chaudhry – 9921865

 Attar Singh – 9921184;  Tupeni Baba – 9373364

LOCAL MEDIA REMINDER

FIJI INDUSTRY DEVELOPMENT DECREE 2010

(DECREE NO 29 OF 2010)

 

Schedule 1

Media Code of Ethics & Practice

 Sec 1: Accuracy, balance and fairness: (d) ‘Media organizations have a duty to be balanced and fair in their treatment of news and current affairs and their dealings with members of the public’ & (e) Editorial comment in any medium must be clearly identified as such and kept separate from news reports.

Sec 2: Opportunity to reply: Media organizations have an obligation to give a fair opportunity to reply to any individual or organization on which the medium itself comments editorially

 Sec 21: Impartially and balance: Media organizations shall endeavor to show fairness at all times, and impartiality and balance in any item or programme, series of items or programmes or in broadly related articles or programmes over a reasonable period of time when presenting news which deals with political matters, current affairs and controversial questions.

Bainimarama’s blind following of ASK’s plans

Nearly 3 years ago Bainimarama ordered the TLTB to distribute lease money equally to mataqali members. What this meant in particular was that chiefs, heads of yavusa or Vanua, would no longer receive a share. But it seems that nearly three years later this hasn’t happened.

Bainimarama hasn’t explained the delay but we can be sure it’s not a result of him listening to requests from landowners not to do it. It seems it’s a result of the decision to require all payments to go into bank accounts with trustees who have to make sure that the money goes to all mataqali members. This includes children as well as adults.

In the meantime we don’t know whether the lease money is being held by the TLTB or payments under the old system are being continued.

Bainimarama is always berating landowners for idle land, urging them to lease it, while ignoring the fact that rents are low and often not paid anyway, with the TLTB making too little effort to collect them. All he’s done is make this problem worse with his cock-eyed equal distribution policy, which landowners did not ask him to institute.

So why would he do it? Like so may decisions it’s down to one man, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, who thinks he has a mandate to impose what he thinks is equality. But Sayed-Khaiyum is also motivated by a desire to see the death of all Fijian institutions.

When lease money was distributed in cash in villages people could see it and it tended to stay in the village. When people know their chiefs are receiving lease proceeds they can ask them to contribute to village projects. And giving the money to mataqali members in the village, directs the money to those most in need.

Bainimarama should leave lease money in the village where it’s needed. Apart from helping to strengthen village life it might encourage more landowners to approve leases.

Why the change to iTaukei land?

Between announcing the final draft of his Constitution and pushing it under the nose of the President to wield his rubber stamp, changes were made to Section 28 covering iTaukei land.

Nothing was said about this until Fiji Leaks pointed it out. Then the architect of the Constitution said that changes were made to improve protection of iTaukei land. He didn’t say how the changes would give extra protection.

So what is the truth?

The change was very small, so small almost no-one would notice it. The heading of Section 28 was changed from “Protection of iTaukei, Rotuman and Banaban lands” to “Rights of ownership and protection of iTaukei, Rotuman and Banaban lands”.

Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum’s strategy is clear. He wants to make absolutely clear that the Constitution protects OWNERSHIP of iTaukei land and that is all.

There is no right to have all dealings in iTaukei land under their absolute control. The Land Use decree gives the State the power give leases on their land to whomever they want, on whatever terms then deem appropriate. And the Decree gives the Minister for Lands wide powers through the ability to create regulations that do not have to be approved by Parliament.

By adding the words “Rights of Ownership” to the heading of Section 28 Sayed-Khaiyum has made clear that the Section is dealing with Rights of Ownership only, not Protection of land more generally, which could extend to their rights over processes of leasing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is the Casino a victim of the Khaiyum clause?

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

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

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

In the Casino decree it comes in this form

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

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

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

Lazy landowners and low rents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s give credit where credit is due

One of Bainimarama’s stunt visits with his propaganda team trying to look like he listens to the people actually paid off. He uncovered a Crown land scam.

Our self-appointed Man of the People was shocked to find that tenants on Crown land had been illegally sub-dividing and selling parts of their leases, as if they owned it. Lands Permanent Secretary Tevita Boseiwaqa has warned that all tenants who’ve done this will be evicted but the victims who’ve paid for the titles they don’t have will be looked after.

At last it seems the Government has actually done something about land, after talking about it, putting it in the Charter, and then doing nothing for six years.

But think again. What they’ve shown is that they could have been sub-dividing Crown land near towns if they were a government in touch with people’s needs. They might have had to share some of the profits with the existing Crown tenants. They might even have needed to pass legislation to facilitate it (but when has legislation been a problem for the Khaiyum decree factory) but over six years, if they were in touch with the people they would have known more about the real problems of land use.

Putting a completely unqualified military man like Leweni in as Permanent Head of Lands after he stuffed every other job given to him, didn’t help. Lumping the Lands Department with responsibility for the native land in the Land Bank didn’t help. It’s clear they weren’t properly managing Crown Land competently, so how could they manage a lot of new land? But there’s another reason why Bainimarama has done nothing about land.

Ever since the Charter farce Bainimarama has been toying with the idea of handing out 99 year leases. The only thing that’s held him back is fear that it will incite landowners. If he knew anything about the land he’d know that there are many alternatives to 99 year leases. What’s needed is more flexibility and realistic rents. Good farmers are using native land all over the place without 99 year leases. Some are using land without any formal lease. Of course it’s illegal, but it works and what it proves is that we need a lot more flexibility. Share-farming isn’t allowed under ALTA, but it happens and why not? It provides a better return to landowners than ALTA rents, and a better return to farmers than idle land.

The flight of Pflieger – the captain has bailed out

FSC and the sugar industry are a smoking wreck. FNPF is so weakened that it’s had to raid the pensions of people who’ve invested their lives in it. But Air Pacific seemed to be the exception. Plunged into huge losses after the 2006 coup stopped our tourism industry in its tracks, we’re told Pflieger returned Air Pacific to profit-making.

The problem is, in Bananaland, we can’t be sure that anything is what it seems. Profits can be achieved by all sorts of accounting trickery. The US energy giant Enron was making huge profits until it went belly-up.

There could be much more to Pflieger’s early departure than the rumoured ‘hissy fit’. He had expansion plans that are nothing short of world conquering, based on buying 3 new Airbus A330 aircraft. Leaving just as the aircraft are arriving doesn’t make sense. No company should make such a huge commitment without having commitments from the CEO who master-minded it.

With the credit rating of the military regime they’ll be paying a premium to borrow the US$600 million needed. This is a risk not only to Air Pacific. It’s a risk to the whole rotten regime’s finances. They’ve bankrupted FSC and are dribbling the working capital to keep it operating, but the state has provided the security for all FSC debts, including the outrageous debt to the Indian export finance bank.

Pflieger’s departure after 3 short years, with all his grandiose plans yet to materialise, can mean one of two things. Either he knows that the true finances of AP are going to leak out or he fears that the huge gamble on the aircraft purchase will come unstuck quickly. The financing costs will be crippling. If they try new routes and don’t quickly meet their targets, they will be bleeding money fast in financing costs.

The three new A330 aircraft use less fuel, but if they are grounded for any reason, they won’t be able to turn off the finance costs. The banks will be looking for their money and any delay will mean the interest payments will continue to pile up. If there is another interruption in tourist flows from Australia or New Zealand Air Pacific is finished. Call Air Pacific or Fiji Airways, they might as well call it Air Frank. It will be finished. It will be not able to afford to have any one of the three expensive aircraft idle or half empty.

Does Bainimarama understand this? The way he’s playing around with Ambassadors from Aust and NZ, you wouldn’t think he doesn’t have a clue. Who does he think is going to fill the A330s and pay the bills other than Aussie and Kiwi tourists? Does he realise another coup or crackdown could mean another disruption to tourism.

The one person who does understand is David Pflieger. He can also read the bad signals coming out about the forthcoming elections. If they’re free and fair, his ally ASK is finished. If they’re not free and fair,or the voters choice is kicked out in another coup, it means Air Pacific/Fiji Airways is finished.

Pflieger has read the writing on the wall and flown the coup.

FIJI’S ECONOMY – The message to aspiring leaders is, as always – ‘It’s the economy, stupid’ – CFDFiji.org

In the lead up to the budget that the Fiji regime will be producing later in the year we felt it would be appropriate to look at the statistics for Fiji’s economy over the next few weeks and we start here with one of the most basic of statistics – the profit and loss account – or in government terms, how revenue matches expenditure.

The following chart is from the Fiji Bureau of Statistics in July 2012 and, as you can see, the regime has been overspending by hundreds of millions of dollars over the last few years.

Note how revenue flattened after the 2006 coup and how expenditure took a huge jump after the abrogation of the Constitution in 2009.  Where has all that money gone?

Well, the regime did away with the Auditor General when it overthrew the legal government in 2006 and we have had no audited governments accounts since then.  Many billions of dollars of expenditure of the taxpayers’ money is therefore unaccounted for.  Not only is this a fraud on the people of Fiji it also, in this time of Constitution making, presents a huge problem for an incoming democratic government if and when elections are held.

The leaders’ Petition to the President called for elections to be held as soon as possible in accordance with the 1997 Appeals Court ruling.  As the economy implodes this message is of critical importance.

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

Petition to the President

HE Ratu Epeli Nailatikau LVO, OBE,CSM,MSD,OStJ, jssc,psc
President
Republic of Fiji
Government House
Suva

Your Excellency

re: Proposed constitutional process and Fiji‟s return to democratic rule

We, the legitimate representatives of an overwhelming majority of the people of Fiji, write to you to express our anxiety at the manner in which the proposed constitutional process and the return to democratic rule via general elections is being driven by the current administration.
First and foremost,Sir, it is imperative to ensure the credibility and legitimacy of any roadmap that is adopted to return our nation to constitutional rule.The roadmap proposed by the interim Prime Minister does not meet this important requirement. Further, we are concerned that it has been unilaterally imposed on the people of Fiji without any consultation with the legitimate representatives of the people.
In our view, the legitimate way forward for the country is to abide by the decision of the Fiji Court of Appeal judgment of 9 April 2009. As advised in the judgment, a caretaker cabinet should be appointed with the specific mandate to oversee the process of holding general elections and restoring constitutional rule within a realistic time frame.
The Constitution Making Process
Firstly, members of the Constitutional Commission were appointed by the regime without any consultation with key stakeholders. There are serious reservations about the independence of certain members of the Commission who are perceived by the people to be too close to the current administration.
Secondly, the restrictive environment in which the constitutional process is taking place, will not encourage free and open discussions on the subject. Draconian decrees that suspend and violate human rights especially the right to freedom of expression, assembly and association, remain in force as instruments of fear and intimidation. The local media is still operating under constraints that undermine its freedom to disseminate news fairly and in a balanced manner without fear of repercussions from the regime.
There are credible reports of a certain media organization being threatened by the interim Attorney General following its interviews of two prominent leaders of political parties.
A State sponsored civic education programme on constitution making has begun but key stakeholders, such as, political parties, trade unions and other important civil society organisations have been excluded from participating and/or playing an active role in this exercise.
It is also a matter of grave concern that military officers and civil servants are assigned to head the civic education programme.
Moreover, threats by the RFMF warning people not to “mess with the Army” make a mockery of the initial assurances by the interim Prime Minister that people will be free to openly state their views on the proposed constitution.
The requirement that political parties and trade unions seek separate permits for each consultation/discussion meeting has now been relaxed but political leaders and party activists are still being closely monitored and harassed by the security forces.
We re-iterate, no meaningful dialogue or consultations can take place in such a restrictive climate. In shortthe process is not inclusive or participatory and it lacks credibility and legitimacy.
Thirdly, the composition of the Constituent Assembly which according to the interim Prime Minister‟s statement of March 9 will finally decide the constitution, has not been fully disclosed. There is widespread concern that it may be stacked to ensure a particular outcome. The Prime Minister has full control over appointments to the Assembly. This, in itself, undermines its independence and integrity.

We note with some concern a recent government announcement that chair persons of provincial councils will, from this year, be appointed by the Minister and not elected by members of the respective councils as had been the case in the past. There is little doubt, judging from past practice in such matters, that provincial councils will be invited to be members of the constituent assembly.

Furthermore, why are appointments to the Constituent Assembly put back to December 2012, just days before it is to begin its deliberations? Why has there not been any consultation on the subject?

The role of the Military

There is one significant omission from the interim Prime Minister‟s list of essentials that must be written into any new constitution. We refer to the role of the military in any future governance of Fiji. We note the reluctance of the regime to permit free and full discussions on the role of the military.
Whether the constitution is re-written or not, the role of the military has to be thoroughly considered and finalized once and for all. The Army has been responsible for trashing our constitution thrice. Fiji has to ensure this does not happen again otherwise the nation could be treading the same path again and again in the future.
The Electoral SystemThe interim Prime Minister says the subject of an electoral system is non-negotiable. The regime‟s position here is for proportional representation based on one man, one vote, one value. We disagree. This is a crucial issue in ensuring racial harmony and political stability in the future and must be put to open discussions so that a fully representative system which respects the rights of the minority communities can be found.

The significance of reserved seats for different ethnic communities that make up the nation cannot be brushed aside in a multiethnic and multicultural country like ours, more so, in light of our political history.

The Electoral Process

There is much that is questionable about the manner in which the electoral process is being implemented. The Attorney General‟s office has taken charge of the voter registration process when it should be the responsibility of the Office of the Supervisor of Elections. In the interest of credibility, it is vital that the entire electoral process, including that of voter registration, be completely detached from the current administration.

The provisions of the Electoral Act and Regulations were arbitrarily amended by a Decree to assign this responsibility to the Attorney General‟s office. The chair of the Constitutional Commission has also been critical of the interim regime assuming charge of the electoral process, saying that it undermines the integrity of the process as it is likely that some members of the current administration may be competing in the forthcoming elections.

The following appointments are essential to oversee the entire electoral process, independent of the regime and political parties:

  • Electoral Commission
  • Boundaries Commission
  • Supervisor of Elections

    In the absence of a Constitutional Offices Commission (1997 Constitution), these appointments should be made by the President on the advice of a caretaker administration(see Para 24) after due consultations with key stakeholders.

The promulgation of Decrees 57 and 58 undermine the independence, integrity and credibility of the process. The provisions therein relating to the grant of immunity from prosecution to the perpetrators of the 2006, 2000 and 1987 coups and the absolute powers of appointment of the Constituent Assembly conferred on the interim Prime Minister, make a mockery of the entire constitutional process.

It is significant that the Chair and members of the Constitutional Commission have said that as much and we quote below from the media release issued by the Commission on 19 July 2012:

Nonetheless there are a number of aspects of the Decrees about which we are concerned.

First, although the Constituent Assembly Decree lists some of the groups that will be represented in the CA (such as political parties, trade unions, women, the military, and civil society etc.), it gives the Prime Minister full control over the size and composition of the Constituent Assembly. There is no indication of how many members will be drawn from each sector or what other sectors might be included. There is also no provision giving the groups that are represented a say in who should represent them in the Assembly. The Prime Minister will also appoint the Speaker of the Assembly.

These arrangements effectively mean that the essential principles of democracy are ignored and the independence of the Assembly is negated. In the light of the fact that members of the present government may wish to compete in the forthcoming elections, it is particularly important that they should not control the process that will, among other things, set out the rules for the elections. This will undermine the credibility of those elections.

Secondly, the Decrees require a broad immunity provision forthe 2006 and earlier coups to be entrenched in the new constitution. Among other things, the new constitution is to grant the same, broad immunity for actions up to the first meeting of a new Parliament to members of the government, administration and security forces as was granted by decree in 2010. This type of prospective immunity is most unusual, perhaps unique, and, we believe, undesirable. The only exception is that the new constitution is not required to give immunity for common crimes (such as murder and assault) committed after the date of issue of these Decrees.

The Commission recognizes that immunity has been given in the past and that the immunity required in the new constitution is similar to those immunities and it also understands that the issue of immunity must be considered in the process of transitioning to democracy. However, we are concerned that the people of Fiji have not been consulted in any way on this important matter.

We believe that a better approach would be for the question of immunity to be part of the constitution-making process. If immunity was part of the process, it could be discussed through submissions to the Commission and debate in the Constituent Assembly. Then a solution could be reached that citizens believe would promote the transition to democracy and contribute to a sustained democracy as envisaged in the Preamble to the Decrees.

Thirdly, although the temporary suspension of the requirement of permits for meetings is an important step forward, we are concerned that the current atmosphere in Fiji is not conducive to an open process in which Fijians can debate their future properly. Controls over the media and the wide reaching powers of the security forces in this regard are particularly worrying, as is the fact that generally people have no redress for actions taken against them by the state because the right of access to the courts has been removed.

An important part of the process for the constitution making should be the bringing together of all the people of Fiji to discuss freely, and agree on, the future of their country. It should be an occasion for national reconciliation, acknowledging the violation of human rights and other abuses of power, and to commit the nation to a vision of Fiji based on democracy and respect for human rights, and a determination to overcome the divisions of the past. This task requires the full participation of the people in the process, and the freedom of their representatives in the Constituent Assembly to negotiate a settlement that enjoys wide support in the nation.

These comments must not be taken lightly. Indeed, they make a highly cogent case for not proceeding with the constitution making exercise as fashioned by Decrees 57 and 58 to which Your Excellency, most regrettably, gave his assent. The Commission clearly recognizes that the process is being controlled by the interim administration to protect their own interest. In the event we urge Your Excellency to consider the alternative which we outline hereunder:

The legitimate Way Forward

In our view, the only legitimate course of action that should be followed to return to the rule of law and constitutional rule, is to revert to the Fiji Court of Appeal judgment of 9 April 2009 (Qarase v Bainimarama – Civil Appeal No ABU 0077 of 2008).

The Appeals Court had found that the dismissal of the SDL government and the dissolution of Parliament were unlawful and in breach of the Fiji Constitution; and that the 1997 Constitution was still in force and had not been abrogated. It further held that the appointments of the Army Commander, as Prime Minister, and that of his ministers were not validly made.In acknowledgement of the realities of the situation, however, namely, that a defacto government had been in office for the past two years, (in paragraph 156 of the judgment)their Lordships held that:

The only appropriate course at the present time is for elections to be held that enable Fiji to get a fresh start.

Taking cognizance of the principle of necessity… for the purposes of these proceedings, it is advisable for the President to appoint a distinguished person independent of the parties in litigation as caretaker prime minister to advice dissolution of Parliament and direct the issuance of writs for an election under s60 of the Fiji Constitution. This is to enable Fiji to be restored to constitutional rule in accordance with the Constitution.

Your Excellency, we hold that the course of action advised in the judgment should be followed. A caretaker administration should be appointed with the specific mandate to oversee the process of holding general elections and restoring constitutional rule, within a realistic timeframe. This should be no longer than 12 months as we deem it is possible to hold credible elections within that period.

We, respectfully, propose that Your Excellency give serious consideration to act on the advice rendered in the Fiji Court of Appeal decision to appoint a caretaker Prime Minister – a distinguished person, independent of the political parties and the regime and one in whom our people can repose confidence – to advice dissolution of Parliament and direct the issuance of writs for an election under Section 60 of the Fiji Constitution

The caretaker administration should then assume full responsibility for the constitutional and electoral process.

A President‟s Political Dialogue Forum (PPDF) can be established following the appointment of the caretaker administration. The mission of the PPDF would be to assist the caretaker government in obtaining consensus on the roadmap for the restoration of constitutional government via free, fair and credible general elections.

Our feedback from the peopleis that there is overwhelming support for the 1997 Constitution to be retained. Any changes to it can be discussed and agreed to in the PPDF. The constitutional Commission can be tasked to write a draft national charter using the 1997 Constitution as the base (reference) document. There is no need to rewrite the entire constitution as the 1997 Constitution was promulgated after wide consultations with the people.

Your Excellency, Fiji no longer has the luxury of time on its side. Conditions have deteriorated considerably in the past five years and our people are being held to ransom while those in authority abuse the power that they have usurped.

The President‟s mandate to the interim administration given in January 2007, remains unfulfilled. There has been constant rhetoric from the regime that it will spend the first three years ( 2009 to 2012) on “reforms” such as rebuilding the economy and fixing up the infrastructure. To date, there is little to show for it. The economy continues to be in recession and much of our infrastructure has deteriorated considerably, both in the urban and rural areas.

State finances are more precarious now than they were in 2006; the national debt crisis has deepened with State borrowings having risensharply in the past three years. We are now borrowing new money to repay old debts.

Poverty levels have escalated with at least 40% of the population living in absolute poverty according to credible sources – indicative of the hardship facing our people. Business confidence is so low that private investment levels sank to a worrying 2% of the GDP last year.

FNPF‟s decision to cut pension rates down to 8.7% from the current rates ranging from 25% to 15%, will cause severe hardship to many of the nation‟s elderly. It is a worry even for future pensioners considering that some 60% of Fiji‟s workers receive wages that are below the poverty line. In a country where there is no social security net, the majority of Fiji‟s senior citizens will no longer be able to retire in dignity and on a livable pension.

Key sectors of the economy are deeply troubled. The sugar industry is in a highly critical state with sugar production virtually halved, down from 330,000 tonnes in 2006 to 165,000 tonnes in 2011. The Fiji Sugar Corporation is insolvent, surviving on borrowed funds and government grants.

The Corporation registered a loss of $37m for the 2011 financial year, its total borrowings stand at $218m and it faced debt repayment commitments of $113m for the year ending 31 May 2012 which it was unable to meet, according to the 2011 report of the independent auditors of FSC.

Air Pacific is similarly placed with heavy financial losses -$92million sustained in the 2010 financial year, reduced to a $3.6m „book‟loss last year.But the actual loss is believed to be much higher. Recent announcement of a$11m profit last financial year is viewed with a great deal of scepticism by financial experts in the absence of published audited accounts of the airline.

Other troubled public entities are: FNPF, PAFCO, Hardwood Corporation, Telecom Fiji, Post Fiji and Tropik Woods.
Official corruption is rife and there is no accountability or transparency in government’s dealings. Government accounts and the Auditor General‟s reports have not been published for public scrutiny since 2008.

It is significant that Transparency International gave Fiji zero out of 100 points in a survey about budget transparency in 2010, saying it is “virtually impossible for Fiji citizens to hold its government accountable for its management of the public’s money”.

The Asian Development Bank in its latest economic survey, Outlook 2012 released in April has warned that unless the debt to GDP ratio is reduced significantly, there would be little scope for further fiscal expansion and the provision of public services would be adversely affected. It also warned that Fiji‟s medium term macro-economic outlook was “weak and foreshadows greater poverty challenges”.

Your Excellency, urgent action is needed to stabilize State finances, revitalize the economy, restore investor confidence, and deal with the worsening social issues of poverty, unemployment, housing, health care and rising crime levels.

The current administration has been unable to demonstrate that it has either the competence or the acumen to deal with these issues. The past five years have illustrated this quite graphically. It has failed on various counts with dire consequences for our people and the future of Fiji as a viable State.

The following developments also cause a great deal of anxiety about Fiji‟s future:

  • massive outmigration of skilled people who do not see a future here
  • influx of foreign nationals with questionable intent. There are reports linking them with drugs, prostitution and gambling rackets etc
  • high rate of unemployment among youths
  • the dismantling of democratic entities and traditional indigenous Fijian institutions
  • serious violations of human rights – as cited in independent reports (Amnesty International, UN Human Rights Council, US State Department Report on Human

    Rights and the ILO Report on Trade Union rights – ILO Case No. 2723)

  • promulgation of draconian decrees which curtail or completely deprive the workers of their rights to organize and bargain collectively – a gross violation of ILO Conventions 87 and 98 which have been ratified by Fiji
  • interference with the independence and integrity of the judiciary
  • disrespect for the rule of law as clearly demonstrated by the promulgation of various draconian decrees that debase human rights and compromise the rule of law, including interference with due judicial processes

The entire nation is held to ransom by a small group of individuals who have usurped lawful authority for their own benefit. These same individuals continue to use the Military and the Police to remain in power.

Failure to come up with a credible roadmap to restore democratic rule in the past six years has resulted in our isolation from the international community. We have been suspended from the Commonwealth and the Pacific Islands Forum, while hundreds of millions of dollars of much needed development aid has been withheld by the European Union.

This is the stark reality about our Fiji today. Ordinary people are getting restive as they find it difficult to meet even the basic needs of their families- to put food on the table and to provide for other essentials. The rising rate of malnutrition among our children, increasing incidence of diseases such as TB, substance abuse and suicides are all indicative of the worsening poverty situation in our country.

Your Excellency, we call on you as the Head of State with executive authority to take action now to halt this rapid decline of our nation. This can be done through steps we have proposed in this petition. We entreat you, respectfully, to act with due urgency in the interests of Fiji and her people.

United States AFL-CIO Puts Fiji on a 21 day Notice to change its Stance on Labor Rights – CFDFiji.org

American Federation of Labour-Congress of Industrial Organisations

The American Federation of Labour-Congress of Industrial Organisations (AFL-CIO) Hearing in the United States against Fiji for breach of labor rights and standards has ended its preliminary hearings with issuing a 21 day Notice served on Fiji to resolve the labor rights breaches or face the consequences of losing the duty free access.

This effectively means all the decrees that infringe rights and interest of workers will have to be revoked.

These decrees include:

  1. State Services Decree of 2009 (No. 6);
  2. Administration of Justice Decree of 2009 (Decree No. 9);
  3. Administration of Justice (Amendment) Decree of 2009 (Decree No. 10);
  4. Administration of Justice (Amendment) Decree of 2010 (Decree No. 14);
  5. Trade Disputes Decree of 2009 (Decree No. 10);
  6. Employment Relations Amendment Decree of 2011 (Decree No. 21);
  7. Public Service Act (Amendment) 2011; and
  8. The Essential Industries Decree of 2011.

Following the Hearing, the AFL-CIO categorically stated that only the Fijian authorities can avert the US sanctions now before the substantive ruling on the matter is completed.

Radio Australia has also reported;

“…in an interview with Radio Australia, the United States trade union movement has said that suspending Fiji’s access to the US market is the last resort, at least not right away, and that they would prefer the interim government work with the authorities to improve workers rights. Speaking to Radio Australia, American Federation of Labour- Congress of Industrial Organisations Trade Policy Specialist, Celeste Drake said the trade union movement in the United States do not necessarily want Fiji to be punished with loss of preferential access to the US market because of its record on workers’ rights. She said onus is on the Fiji Govt saying that the massive job losses to Fijians will only occur “if the government has absolutely no intention of working with the US government to try and improve things for workers. So it’s really all in the Fijian government’s hands.”

The regime’s leader and its rogue Attorney General must swallow their oversize egos and pride to immediately revoke all the decrees identified by ILO and open fresh dialogue with the Trade Unions and Employers without delay.

This is not a time procrastinate or massage each other’s ego. The regime must accept responsibility now for a cardinal error of judgement in promulgating such anti-labor rights laws without considering international conventions. It’s defeat for tyranny and victory for workers in Fiji.

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

US Sanctions on the Generalized System of Preferences Scheme – Bainimarama’s Appeal to Trade Union leaders – CFDFiji.org

While speaking in Lautoka on Saturday as reported in the Fiji Sun of (30/9), Dictator Bainimarama made his eleventh hour appeal on the union leaders against the looming US sanction that will end the duty free market access into the US. His unconvincing and pedantic decries can be best described as; ‘barking up the wrong tree’. He repeated the ridiculous claim blaming the union leaders for the impending sanction when the problem lies within his defunct regime.

The Regime’s blame game continues.

Simply put, the imminent US sanction cannot be attributed to any of the union leaders in any possible manner. The regime leader is emulating the proverbial ostrich the only difference being, instead of the sand, his head is deeply buried in the lies of his disgraced Attorney General.

The truth of the matter is that the Essential Services Decree blatantly violates international labor principles and standards, which is the only reason for the US sanctions. So, if the US government requires these standards be met by Fiji, how is it the fault of the union leaders? Like Fiji, Iraq is also facing the same sanction, so are there people like Felix Anthony and Daniel Urai in Iraq too? The perplexed Bainimarama ought to research issues of such nature to avoid making himself appear a complete fool.

For the purpose of clarity and emphasis, we repeat the following from a joint letter signed by Sharon Burrow, General Secretary International Trade Union Confederation on December 2 2011 to Bainimarama. In her comprehensive letter, Ms Burrow explained in great detail how the Essential Services Decree was in breach of the international labour standards, which if not withdrawn, would result in consequences in the future. Given Bainimarama’s limitations he must have ignored the letter and accepted the assurance from his Attorney General. Today he finds himself caught between the rock and a hard place. Bainimarama had the benefit of good counsel which he paid no heed to and we quote as follows:-

“The Fiji government has issued several decrees that sharply curtail fundamental labor rights in both the public and private sectors. Some of the decrees also eliminate all access to judicial review and redress for past, present, and future violations of those rights or to question the legality of the decrees themselves. These sweeping changes were made without any prior consultation with the relevant trade unions. These decrees include: State Services Decree of 2009 (No. 6); Administration of Justice Decree of 2009 (Decree No. 9); Administration of Justice (Amendment) Decree of 2009 (Decree No. 10); Administration of Justice (Amendment) Decree of 2010 (Decree No. 14); Trade Disputes Decree of 2009 (Decree No. 10); Employment Relations Amendment Decree of 2011 (Decree No. 21); Public Service Act (Amendment) 2011; and the Essential Industries Decree of 2011.

On May 16, 2011, your government promulgated the Employment Relations Amendment Decree which amended the Employment Relations Promulgation of 2007 to exclude all public service workers from the scope of its’ coverage. Thus, roughly 15,000 workers in Fiji’s public service were divested of their important labor rights available under that law, such as collective bargaining and the right to strike, overnight.

On July 29, the government promulgated the Essential Industries Decree, which divested most private sector workers in key industries of their rights. As explained by the ILO Director General Juan Somavia, the decree has “very far reaching implications” including the “ending of existing collective agreements, the designation of new bargaining agents which may not be trade unions, and the possible imposition of compulsory arbitration of disputes and other limits on the right to strike.

Implementing regulations issued on September 9, 2011 subsequently designated the finance, telecoms, civil aviation, and public utilities sectors as essential and purports to allow the military government to include any other industries as and when it wishes.[11]

Together, these decrees are widely viewed as a direct attack on the independent trade union movement, among the strongest voices in Fijian civil society.

In the five years since you assumed power through extra-constitutional means, few steps have been taken to restore the right of Fiji Islanders to participate fully and freely in the governance of their own country. Rather than embracing the important role that civil society, human rights defenders, and trade unions play in good governance, your government has systematically repressed such groups. As international human rights, labor, and press organizations, we urge you to commit publicly to your international human rights obligations and take all necessary measures to protect human rights in Fiji.”

The letter stated – we urge your government to:
  1. Immediately repeal the Public Emergency Regulations – as your government has undertaken to do on several occasions;
  2. Repeal the Media Industry Development Decree, remove government censors from news rooms, and encourage international press organizations to work with the Fiji media to establish a mechanism for self-regulation;
  3. Revise all labor decrees, including the Employment Relations Amendment Decree of 2011 and the Essential Industries Decree of 2011, through a tri-partite process, to ensure compliance with your international obligations to the ILO;
  4. Publicly order security personnel to uphold human rights, in particular fair trial and due process rights, the prohibition on torture, and the right to free assembly and association;
  5. Investigate and prosecute all security force personnel who engage in arbitrary arrest and detention, attacks on journalists and human rights defenders, and physical abuse of detainees; and
  6. Publicly commit to an expedited timetable for elections, implementing the right of all Fiji Islanders to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives and to vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections.

On Tuesday, 2nd October 2012, Fiji will be facing hearing in the United States that most likely will end the duty free access for 39 companies. 15,000 to 36,000 jobs may disappear completely and all the regime leaders can do is to continue the blame game and play victim when it is the reckless Essential Services Decree that will decimate jobs and industries – an undeniable fact which the regime leader is too afraid to admit.

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