Statement from Qarase regarding the Minister for Elections and General Secretary of the proposed Fiji First Party

STATEMENT FROM

L. QARASE – 9 May 2014

 

The angry reaction from the Attorney – General, Mr Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum against criticisms on his dual roles as Minister for Elections and General Secretary of the proposed Fiji First Party raises an important issue.

The issue is that of a serious conflict of interest; the people of Fiji have a right to insist that this is not acceptable in a “free and fair” election.

In the Fiji TV news last night (8.5.14) Mr Khaiyum said that his position is no different from what has been the practice in the past. When I was Prime Minister, for example, I was also Leader of the SDL Party. While this information is correct the truth is that I was never Minister for Elections.

In fact, since Independence in 1970, there has never been a Minister for Elections. The reason for this is that both the Electoral Commission and the Office of the Supervisor of Elections must carry out their functions within the laws regulating their operations, with complete independence and without interference from the Government in power.

This golden rule has been broken for the first time by the Bainimarama-Sayed-Khaiyum regime with the appointment of the Attorney- General as Minister responsible for elections. Mr Sayed-Khaiyum exercises the power of this portfolio as a member of a government with no legal or popular mandate, no accountability and no parliamentary oversight. This is the crux of his problem and public concerns about his role.

In a parliamentary democracy, all government agencies must come under a ministerial portfolio. Both the Electoral Commission and the Office of the Supervisor of Elections have always come under the Prime Minister’s portfolio. As Prime Minister from 2000-2006 my role was two-fold in relation to the two agencies. Firstly, I was expected to deal with their submissions for budgetary allocations and, secondly, I had a duty to respond to parliamentary questions as they arose. In no way did I influence or interfere in the work of the Electoral Commission or the Supervisor of Elections. I am aware that the Prime Ministers who preceded me played a similar role.

In contrast to this legal and accountable role of an elected Prime Minister, both the regime’s Prime Minister and Attorney-General have been in complete control of the current election process. This has included the formulation of the onerous Political Parties Decree, the Electoral Decree, with its controversial provisions, the appointment of the members of the Electoral Commission and the appointment of the Supervisor of Elections. They also have control of the media resulting in self-censorship.

The Attorney – General and Minister for Elections, Mr Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum must do the right thing and step down from the position of Minister for Elections. Indeed there should be no Minister for Elections. The general elections must be carried out by a truly independent Electoral Commission and Supervisor of Elections.

 

Authorized By         L. QARASE

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 – Appointments of the Electoral Commissioner

UFDF Logo

STATEMENT FROM

THE UFDF

[No 4/2014]

[Jan 10, 2014]

In welcoming the appointments of the Electoral Commissioners, the UFDF said that although it was a positive first step towards credible elections, it was a pity that the regime did not take this opportunity to act in a bipartisan and inclusive manner in these appointments by asking for recommendations from the political parties.

In welcoming the appointments of the Electoral Commissioners, the UFDF said that although it was a positive first step towards credible elections, it was a pity that the regime did not take this opportunity to act in a bipartisan and inclusive manner in these appointments by asking for recommendations from the political parties.

The UFDF said this would have been in line with best constitutional and democratic practice.

Consequently, the UFDF says, these appointees, some of whom it holds concerns about their independence, are all handpicked by the interim Prime Minister and Mr Sayed-Khaiyum. This will place an additional burden of responsibility on each of them to ensure that they act with absolute impartiality and reject any attempts at interference in their work.

The UFDF said the Yash Ghai Commission is a good example of another non bipartisan appointment that was supposed to be independent but that did not stop the regime from attempting to influence its deliberations and directly interfering with its work.

Authorized By                       UFDF

UFDF PRESS RELEASE – Madiba – Ending Apartheid with Compassion & Forgiveness

UFDF Logo

STATEMENT FROM

THE UFDF

[No 35/2013]

[Dec 7, 2013]

As we in Fiji share the grief of the Mandela family and people of South Africa at the passing of Madiba, we also celebrate the extraordinary life of this great freedom fighter, unifier, reconciliator, statesman and founding father of the rainbow nation of South Africa.

madibaNelson Mandela succeeded in liberating his people through his defiant, persistent and disciplined approach towards the repressive apartheid regime that subjected millions of black South Africans to many indignities and much suffering by stripping them of their rights, freedoms and basic humanity.

The suppression of basic rights and freedoms continues here in Fiji, under the repressive Bainimarama regime, who represent all that Nelson Mandela spent his entire life opposing.

We can draw strength and inspiration for our own struggle from Madiba’s willingness to forfeit his own freedom and liberty for the greater need and good of his people.

After sacrificing 27 years of his life in prison he became, at 76 years of age, South Africa’s first democratically-elected President. His choice of weapons for unifying a divided people was forgiveness, compassion and reconciliation. He embraced his enemies despite decades of harsh and inhumane treatment. Although he could have remained in his job for life, as many leaders try to do, he relinquished power after just 5 years.

Nelson Mandela shows us that outright rejection of any form of imposed rule and fighting for people’s rights, freedoms, humanity and dignity is not only just and moral. It is also a responsibility and obligation we all have towards each other. By endeavoring to adopt the same persistence and discipline of Mandela, and armed with the courage of our own convictions, we can and must restore our peoples’ freedoms, rights and dignity.

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.

PULLING THE PLUG ON FIJI – Fiji’s ‘Return to Democracy’ looking increasingly improbable

The Foreign Ministers of Australia and New Zealand are intelligent men. It is therefore very surprising that, in their recent ‘handling’ of Fiji’s alleged return to democracy and their relations with the Fiji regime they have been duped by someone who is very well known for being unintelligent – the current illegal Prime Minister of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama.

All you can expect from this self-titled leader is more lies and broken promises.

All you can expect from this self-titled leader is more lies and broken promises.

The Council for a Democratic Fiji has repeatedly in the past pointed out the stunning gullibility of the powers that be in Australia and New Zealand towards the lies, oppression and recalcitrance of the Fiji regime, but apparently without avail. The Movement now respectfully suggests to the learned Foreign Ministers and their Governments that they should finally abandon this misconceived ‘hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil’ approach to the Fiji regime.

Specifically we call on Australia and New Zealand to abandon rapprochement towards the Fiji regime. The regime is duping them in saying that it has any sincere desire to return to true democracy. (It asserts that that step is being fulfilled by preparation of a new Constitution and preparations for elections in 2014.)

The present rapprochement process began just after the middle of last year, at whose inspiration it is not known, although the New Zealand Foreign Minister appears to be at least proximately the chief suspect, but of course he may have been galvanised by other powers. It followed the alleged expose by the New Zealand authorities of an asserted assassination plot, which expose led to the Army controlled Fiji media praising New Zealand for guarding the back of the alleged Fiji Prime Minister. (The New Zealand authorities have, however never provided any evidence for their allegation of there being ‘convincing proof’ of such a conspiracy).

Within a week or so of the expose the New Zealand Foreign Minister was in Fiji and the process of cosying up to an alleged transition to democracy was well under way, ignoring all the lies, deceit and persistent oppression of the past.

What has been happening since the beginning of this rapprochement process?

  • The Army remains in full control;
  • Australian and New Zealand taxpayers have contributed substantially to the alleged process for return to democracy;
  • The draft Constitution prepared by a world recognised expert has been burnt on the orders of the alleged Attorney General (Australian and New Zealand taxpayers contributed to the costs of the preparation of this draft);
  • The regime has (via the alleged Attorney General) purported to enact a Decree (illegal as are all Decrees of the regime) inhibiting and putting excessive restrictions upon the registration of political parties, including placing such registration in the hands of a person who like all other public personages in Fiji is totally under Army control, and illegally expropriating the assets of any party not complying with its draconian provisions;
  • The vast majority of existing political parties have been wiped off the face of the map by non compliance with the said Decree;
  • Draconian Decrees restricting unions which have been subject of complaint and proceedings by the International Labour Organisation have not been amended;
  • The leader of the party which achieved the highest number of votes in the last democratic election continues to languish in jail.

Any person who ignores these Signs of the Times can only call himself or herself  a monkey who can see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.

As we and many others have pointed out before, the current alleged Prime Minister and Attorney General have no more credibility (and probably far less) than used car salesmen. Their word means nothing.

Any ‘election’ held under Army rule will be a farce and the Army is not letting go – it would not be an election.

We ask Australia and New Zealand to abandon the current misconceived rapprochement with the regime, and to stop the irresponsible waste  of Australian and New Zealand taxpayers money into attempting to carry out that mistaken step.

Simply Pull the Plug on them.

Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara
Council for a Democratic Fiji
1st March 2013
Cfdfiji.org

THE SCALES FALL FROM THE EYES OF YASH GHAI – The fraud of Fiji Constitutional Reform Exposed – CFDFiji.org

Students of the Bible will be familiar with the expression which refers to discovery of the real truth being likened to a falling off of scales from the eyes. Such an experience befell Saul on the road to Damascus on his way to persecute the Christians, and is also called a ‘Damascus experience’. Yash Ghai, Chairman of the Fiji Constitutional Commission, is surely familiar with this expression in view of his extensive erudition and learning.

A man of renowned integrity, led astray by false promises.

Yash Ghai has (very belatedly) undergone a Damascus experience in now acknowledging for the first time the real truth of the farce in which the Fiji regime has been engaging him – the process of preparing a new Constitution.

He now sees that Fiji cannot have fair and free elections unless the latest Decrees slashing public consultation are ‘cleaned up’ (as many will recall, the phrase ‘clean up’ was used by the regime to justify its 2006 coup, although of course no actual clean up has occurred – rather the reverse).

Yash Ghai also rightly claims that the regime’s leader and so-called Prime Minister has been harassing him in his work.

Yash Ghai has stated that the entire alleged Constitutional consultation process was entered into on basis of deceit by the regime and that recent changes to the plan for a new Constitution are a very serious variation from the agreement for the process made with the regime.

Yash Ghai’s Damascus experience is, of course most welcome, although much delayed. The Council respectfully points out that long ago, in light of interference and intimidation by the regime and in light of the regime’s craven wish to obtain absolution from its crimes through amnesty, his position was untenable and he should reconsider his position.

In light of the continuance of harassment and intimidation, and of course bad faith, and now the united rejection by all major political parties of the entire process, coupled with the contrived political prosecution of Laisenia Qarase, Yash Ghai should reconsider his decision not to resign.

In response to Yash Ghai’s comments and protests the alleged Prime Minister, an intellectual pygmy and a person of no reputation, has done what he always does when confronted with the view of a truly respected figure who disagrees with him in any way. Bainimarama has become a mouthpiece for a set of noble sounding words designed to put Yash Ghai in his place. Those words are without doubt drafted by his henchman and coup planner Aiyaz Khaiyum, whose mastery of grammar and rhetoric, though far from perfect, easily excels that of Bainimarama.

After six years of violence and false promises, does anyone believe what this man says?

Bainimarama has reasserted his intention to hold free and fair elections. He has accused Yash Ghai of self gratification – though for what ‘gratification’, he does not attempt to describe. He further denies harassing Yash Ghai and states with great hypocrisy, that the Constitution is not for the Government but for the people.

What is to be made of Khaiyum’s words as uttered by Bainimarama?

Quite unlike Yash Ghai, both Bainimarama and Khaiyum have no credibility. The barest examinations of their history record this fact plainly. Their actions are a tissue of hypocritical self serving lies.

Would you buy what he is selling?

Bainimarama and Khaiyum have both been compared with Richard Nixon (a comparison which is admittedly flawed in terms of intellect). However both have an important trait in common with ‘Tricky Dick’. They are both persons of no credibility or integrity, as shown by a host of instances including recently, to name but a few, their dealings with the English Law Society and the International Labour Organisation, and as recently exposed by William Marshall QC.

It has been asked of Richard Nixon: “Would you buy a used car from this man?” The question was asked because of Nixon’s untrustworthy character.

The Council would not buy anything from Bainimarama or Khaiyum. It would not believe anything they say, based on their dubious records. It would prefer the word of an internationally respected figure such as Yash Ghai.

The Council believes that the condemnation by Yash Ghai of the behaviour of the regime in regard to the Constitutional process shows beyond doubt that it is fatally flawed and cannot lead to a democratic conclusion.

The Council repeats its respectful suggestion that Yash Ghai now resign to save himself further embarrassment at the hands of the regime.

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

IS LAISENIA QARASE BECOMING A MARTYR FOR FIJI DEMOCRACY? – Fiji regime continues its persecution of the former Prime Minister – CFDFiji.org

The Corrections Service of Fiji, like every other public institution in Fiji, is controlled by the Army – it is headed by a Lieutenant Colonel. Like every other public institution in Fiji it does nothing which would not be approved of by the current alleged Prime Minister of Fiji, who is head of the Army.

A victim of the hypocrisy of lesser men?

From this we can understand the Correction Services’ latest affront to humanity by declining to transfer a sick old man to a medical facility as distinct from the rigours of the Fiji prisons. The person involved is the former Prime Minister of Fiji, Laisenia Qarase, who gathered the largest number of votes at the last democratic election held in Fiji.

A long time ago the current illegal Attorney General was boasting that he would prosecute Qarase and drag the case on to keep him out of public life.

Qarase has been outspoken against the regime, including stating that he would stand in any elections to be held by the regime and that he would win them, and, after the latest coup the current alleged Prime Minister agreed and conceded that if fresh elections had then been held Qarase would win them.

The following is the full list of indignities inflicted by the regime upon Laisenia Qarase:

  • He was selectively charged upon outdated offences dating back to the early 1990s whereas those who arranged for his prosecution have never been charged for the much more recent crimes which they have committed, in the current alleged Prime Minister’s case extending at the very least to murder and treason, and in the case of the current alleged Attorney General to not only treason but many other offences.
  • He was tried by an imported Sri Lankan Judge who, together with other Judges is completely discredited in the recent petition of William Marshall QC, former Judge of Appeal.
  • His appeal is being ‘entertained’ if that is the word by another like Sri Lankan import.
  • He is being refused a healthful environment  for recovery from his grave illness.

Clearly Qarase was charged to remove him from public life, by those who should not even be in public life.

The Council deplores the Regime’s treatment of Qarase.

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

TRANSPARENCY – The massive hypocrisy of Frank Bainimarama – CFDFiji.org

Commodore Frank Bainimarama, the head of the Fiji Government, is guilty of massive hypocrisy in his attack on Fiji’s Constitutional Commission over the appointment of Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi as a short-term consultant.

Bainimarama claims the Commission is not transparent in its operations. He has issued emergency amendments to a decree governing the commission.

This decree now requires the commission to publish the names and salaries of all its staff and consultants.

Commodore Bainimarama claims that Ratu Joni has a conflict of interest because he was a member of a delegation that made representations to the Constitutional Commission calling for Fiji to be a Christian state. The Bainimarama regime has dictated that Fiji must be a secular state and there will be no negotiation on this.

It is scandalous that Bainimarama should be denouncing the Commission and Ratu Joni in view of his government’s notorious lack of transparency.  He is also in no position to condemn anyone for alleged conflict of interest when he is totally compromised over the procedures for drafting and adopting a new constitution.

The emerging rift between Bainimarama and his Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, and the Constitutional Commission was to be expected.

Bainimarama now realises that the Commission is a threat to him and that through its consultations with the people, he has lost a degree of control. The views expressed to the Commission indicate popular discontent with his government and its failure to cater to public needs.

In the interests of the transparency that he now pretends to champion, Commodore Bainimarama should immediately disclose his own pay and that of all his Cabinet members. He has previously refused to do this.

Commodore Bainimarama should also reveal the arrangements for payment of Cabinet salaries and the role of a private accountancy firm in this. He needs to reveal whether the principal in that firm is related to his Attorney General.

He should immediately explain why he will not release the auditor general’s reports on the finances of his government for the last five years. It is the mark of a dictator that he does not feel compelled to tell the people, whose tax payments he is using, how their money is managed.

As the announcement for the 2013 budget approaches, the long-suffering public expect Commodore Bainimarama to tell them what measures he will introduce to make the Fiji budget process more open and accountable. His Government has been judged internationally to have one of the least transparent budget systems in the world.

Following his call for the Constitutional Commission to give details of payments to its consultants, the public will now anticipate Commodore Bainimarama revealing the level of payments to all government consultants.

He should immediately confirm the monthly fee paid to the international public relations firm Qorvis, which specializes in cleaning-up the images of dictators. Can Commodore Bainimarama confirm that Qorvis is still paid at the rate of $US40,000 a month? Or is it now being paid extra?

It is disgraceful that his government should be allocating large sums for an expensive PR consultancy when it cannot find the funds to maintain roads and bridges. But that is the way dictatorships work.

The taxpayers should be told why there is no transparency in the issuing of some contracts for civil works.

Why are major contracts regularly awarded to a few select companies from China and Malaysia?

Commodore Bainimarama has knowingly placed himself in a position of severe conflict of interest by seizing the power to appoint the members of the proposed Constituent Assembly.

The Assembly will decide on matters that directly concern and threaten him. From Commodore Bainimarama’s perspective, therefore, it is imperative that he should personally control appointments to the Assembly and try to influence its decisions. It is this group that will decide on such issues as immunity for crimes committed during and after his 2006 military coup. He is very much aware that the people are opposed to immunity.

The Council for a Democratic Fiji again warns the international community that Commodore Bainimarama is not to be trusted. He is a dictator in a very difficult position who must, for his very survival, attempt to manipulate Fiji’s return to constitutional government to serve his own ends. In doing so, the entire process of constitutional reform and elections is likely to fall far short of acceptable international standards and further penalise the citizens of Fiji.

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

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.

THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY – Bainimarama’s total control shows due Constitutional progress in Fiji is doomed – CFDFiji.org

Yash Ghai, Chairman of the Constitutional Review Commission, has now concluded receiving submissions. A Constitution will be drafted and presented at a later stage to a creation

Can anyone believe what this man says?

of the current regime called the Constituent Assembly, that body being purported to be created by another of the illegal Khaiyum Decrees which the regime continues to issue on the pattern of the practice followed in the seventeenth century by the Stuart kings.

The body imitates the name of the Constituent Assembly set up in France between 1789 and 1791 and it is very much hoped that those perceived by the regime to be opposed to it will not be subject to the guillotine as were those targeted in the French Revolution. No doubt an even worse fate is in store for them under Khaiyum.

The Constitution as drafted by Yash Ghai and his team will be subject entirely to the wishes of the Constituent Assembly. That Assembly will be at liberty to make whatever changes it wishes in his draft and even to reject it altogether. Yash Ghai has already publicly admitted this. He has stated that all members of the Assembly will be ‘totally picked by Frank.’ (perhaps unfortunately for a scholar of his distinction he seems to be on first name terms with the dictator).

Section 9 of the relevant Decree purports to give the alleged Prime Minister full control over the size and composition of the Constituent Assembly, a matter recently taken issue with (quite rightly) by the Fiji Labour Party.

Yash Ghai, unfortunately, seems to have a touching and indeed childlike faith in ‘Frank’.

Can anyone trust this man’s false promises?

The Council respectfully points out that ‘Frank’ cannot be trusted to properly and impartially regulate the size and composition of the Assembly. His track record totally contradicts any element of trust in his judgments and decisions. His recent advance vetoing of Shamima Ali from the Assembly is simply a sign of worse to come. His arranging for prosecution of the political leaders who garnered the vast bulk of votes in the last democratic election is calculated to ensure that they are not represented in the Assembly.

If Yash Ghai has bought into faith in ‘Frank’s’ judgment, he has joined the ranks of the monkeys who see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.

‘Frank’ in many ways resembles the late US President Richard Nixon, also known as ‘tricky Dicky’.

A common question asked in regard to Nixon was: ‘Would you buy a used car from this man?’

Should the international community and more importantly the people of Fiji buy into a Constituent Assembly from ‘Frank’?

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

AIYAZ SAIYED KHAIYUM LACKS CREDIBILITY – The Law Society of England and Wales has credibility – CFDFiji.org

The alleged Attorney General of Fiji, Saiyed Khaiyum, has in his time made many grotesque and bizarre allegations. Yet none in any way parallels his assertion that the recently expressed view of the Law Society of England and Wales as to the lack of independence of the Fiji judiciary shows that that Society has no credibility.

It is not the Society, but Khaiyum, who has no credibility. His adamant insistence that the Fiji judiciary is independent, in the teeth of all evidence to the contrary, is tiresome and repetitive – repeating a lie ad infinitum does not make it true.

Khaiyum attacks the English Law Society for its comments made ‘from thousands of miles away.’ It is indeed true that England is thousands of miles away from Fiji; however the views of the Society are based upon an on the spot inspection carried out in Fiji itself. That on the spot investigation had perforce to be carried out incognito because to openly approach Khaiyum would simply elicit the same discredited blandishments he has been uttering over the years as to the alleged independence of the Fiji judiciary, and would enable him to bar all doors of enquiry to stop any information being elicited from his terrified staff.

Further, the views of the English Law Society match those of the Australian and New Zealand Law Societies – does Khaiyum also say that those institutions are discredited? If that is so he would be well advised promptly to surrender whatever certificates or qualifications he procured from any of such jurisdictions.

The fact that the Fiji judiciary is not independent has in any event been confirmed from a multitude of sources including outgoing staff and most recently in the Marshall petition. Judges content to remain in Fiji cannot of course open their mouths and in any event they have taken oaths acceptable to the current regime and are on its payroll.

Khaiyum should now apologise to the Law Society of England and Wales for uttering offensive nonsense in his attack on it.

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

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

CMAG’s conclusion on Human Rights Abuse And the Rule of Law in Fiji

CMAG held its 38th Meeting in New York this week and deliberated once again on Fiji.

We welcome CMAG’s conclusion about the need for the military regime in Fiji to desist from further Human Rights Abuse and Breaches which has been well articulated internationally.

Further, CMAG has accepted the apparent erosion of the rule of law in Fiji. The Marshall Petition on the Corruption within the Judiciary is therefore vindicated.

The CMAG’s official position remains:

“…the group welcomed the broad-based national dialogue on Fiji’s future taking place, and commended the Constitutional Commission on its work to date. But Ministers also expressed concern about remaining restrictions on human rights and the rule of law in Fiji. They urged the government to address these in order to create the environment needed for credible constitutional consultations and elections”.

The CFDF reiterates that the present process lack credibility and transparency given the arbitrary control Bainimarama asserts over the constituent assembly. And, in particular, the immunity provision for coup perpetrators, beneficiaries and regime’s associates which all political parties, including the CCF, has rejected outright. Further, the tainted Attorney General’s control over the office of the elections supervisor is indeed unacceptable negating any credibility, the Yash Ghai Commission currently enjoys.

In joining CCF and SDL/FLP/NFP/UGP submission to the Pacific Forum, we support the appointment of a caretaker civilian government replacing the Military led regime. In order to create an environment conducive for free, fair and credible elections, military must withdraw from the executive and civil service to allow a civilian administration to manage the transition to constitutional government within the next 22 months if not earlier.

Like the CMAG, the Pacific Forum has reiterated that Elections must not only be held but it has to be free and fair and be internationally acceptable. The present process is not even remotely close to the specific international expectation. No amount of propaganda can change the fact that the CMAG, Pacific Forum and the EU would be measuring any Elections against these standards and not on the basis of the self- imposed propulsions of one Aiyaz Khaiyum.

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

The Military Council must Act to Oust Khaiyum and Restore the Rule of Law – CFDFiji.org

The recent spate of controversies including the shocking revelations from Justice William Marshall QC and the imminent crisis of massive redundancies that would occur once the US sanctions kicks-in; the Military Council has a solemn duty to act and oust Aiyaz Saiyed Khaiyum from Office of the Attorney General. 

In April 2009, Khaiyum deceptively advised the Military Council to abrogate the 1997 Constitution by taking advantage of the ailing late President Ratu Josefa Iloilo contrary to the pathway set out by the Fiji Court of Appeal for the return of democratic rule. The devious plan of Khaiyum was a self-serving charade of creating a so-called new legal order away from Commodore Bainimarama’s set commitment to the international community within the 97 Constitution. The Khaiyum plan was completely divorced from the original President’s mandate which necessitated the preservation of the 1997 Constitution. His plan was to ensure his long haul in power as Attorney General.  Seemingly, calculative and cunning plot to entrap the Commodore hopelessly beyond the point of return so that he can prolong his stay.

In it lies the ultimate betrayal of the military council’s commitment to return to early elections and a conspiracy to disenfranchise the people of Fiji of their political rights for a very long time. It is little wonder that his father Sayed Khaiyum is seeking to have the 2014 General Elections delayed to 2020.

By 2010, Khaiyum settled in his position neatly surrounded by a small group of leeches who were in it for rewarding contracts and consultancies. He went on a rampage of churning out decrees that starting to occupy public space with media under his tight control through censorship. He then started to weaken the Military Council by plotting against senior military officers who were continuously advising the Commodore to remain committed to the pledge made to the Pacific Forum and the European Union in 2007.

By August 2010, his venom had infiltrated the Council with me and Brigadier General Pita Driti accused on plotting a coup which was really a smokescreen to weaken the military council and make him the exclusive advisor to the Commodore. Sadly he succeeded.

Three and half years after the abrogation of the Constitution; Khaiyum has silenced most of the critics on trumped up charges, created a self-censoring media, stripped the workers of Fiji of their fundamental internationally accepted rights through  the essential services decrees and is gaping like an owl to see the aftermath.  It should be clear to all now that Khaiyum and his group of advisers have hijacked the President’s Mandate and the Appeals Court Ruling for their own selfish agenda.  Fiji has been under the destructive and divisive policies while the military council has been administratively incapacitated.

The nation’s debt has climbed from $2.3 billion 2006 to $4 billion in 2012. Investments are all time low at 2% of GDP and inflation running in double digits. Some 9,000 graduates are jobless and 11,000 pensioners stripped off the benefits by 50%.  Poverty has climbed to unprecedented level while the regime refuses to accept Wages Council’s Chair Father Kevin Barr’s forth recommendation to lift wages. Hospitals around Fiji don’t have morphine and other basic medicine but the health minister lectures people on their responsibility.

Law and order has shaken the fabric of the nation whilst hangers-on are having cocktail on beer budgets. 15,000 jobs will be lost soon and the regime is now befriending the rogue nation of Iran which  wants Israel eliminated.  Police officers enjoy the proceeds of crimes and prefer to sort their differences out in the night club intoxicated from the stolen cash. The nation has really been brought to its knees and it’s time for action.

It is time now for the Military Council to assert its rightful place and wrestle the control away from Khaiyum and his small group of self-serving individuals to avert the looming crisis of unparalleled magnitude which will lead Fiji into abyss of poverty never seen in her history.  We have seen enough and the curtain must fall on the satanic verses chanted by Khaiyum against the people of Fiji.

The Military Council must act now.

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