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

SODELPA

STATEMENT No 21:    

SODELPA’S POSITION ON MATTERS MISREPRESENTED BY THE MEDIA

 August 22 2014

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

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

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

1. Christian State

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

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

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

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

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

2. Common Name

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

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

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

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

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

It will not be an imposed decision.

3. Indigenous Rights

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

A SODELPA Government will adopt UNDRIP Articles that ensure:-

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

4. Fair Distribution of rental income by Itaukei

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

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

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

5. The Abolition of the Great Council of Chiefs

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

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

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

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

This is the position of SODELPA on these issues.

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

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

Where is the hate?

Ashwin Raj has labelled the speech by Ratu Timoci Vesikula as “hate speech”.

But where is the hate?

The statement that oil and water have not mixed is a simple statement of fact.

The two major communities have not mixed. Is Bainimarama not aware that the RFMF is mono-ethnic? Even if he’s not troubled by this fact, he should have noticed it? (But then again he didn’t notice his second in command in the RFMF, and his logical successor as Commander – he was somehow invisible to Bainimarama).

Then there is the statement that Bainimarama’s most reliable supporters are iTaukei. Is that hate speech?

Ratu Timoci said that Bainimarama could not rely on the vote of ‘others’, meaning those who are not iTaukei. Is it hate speech to suggest that a group of people will not vote for Bainimarama? Most people I talk to think that saying people don’t support Bainimarama is a compliment, a tribute to their intelligence and common sense.

One thing we need to clear up is who is supposed to be the object of this alleged hate. The accusation by Ashwin Raj is that it’s directed at Indo-Fijians and yet there was no mention of Indo-Fijians by Ratu Timoci. The word used for the group we’re talking about – let’s call them the ‘False Friends of Frank’ – was Vasu. Evidentially, this is a new word to Ashwin Raj.

Vasu is not a term of abuse, nor does it mean Indo Fijian. Our vasu are the people outside our group to whom we are most closely related. Vasu iTaukei is a positive way to refer to our Part European relatives. The Melanesian-Vasu-i-Taukei (MVT) development fund, which has been around since 1998, has been funded by Bainimarama to help people from all minority communities (apart from the Rotumans, Banabans and Kioa Islanders, who have access to their own special help).

Prosecuting Ratu Timoci is going to make for some very interesting legal argument. Where is the authoritative source for the meaning of vasu? Not Ashwin Raj, I’m guessing.

What was the “incitement”? He was urging people to vote for Bainimarama! Is the idea that people might vote for somebody other than Bainimarama incitement to hate those people?

This keeps getting better and better. Every speech in vernacular is now going to be handed in advance for Ashwin Raj to peruse in translation. Is this the way Talanoa works? Ashwin Raj may not be aware that Ratu Timoci was speaking in a Talanoa session at the Tailevu Provincial Council.

As I said, this keeps getting better and better.

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 – One law for the nation, another for the Military

UFDF Logo

STATEMENT FROM

THE UFDF

[No 7/2014]

[Jan 21, 2014]

The UFDF said today that statements attributed to Lt Col Netani Rika as reported by the Fiji Sun and Frank Bainimarama as reported by Vijay Narayan and Mohammed Feroz show clear breaches of the Civil Service Standing Orders [2011 revision] and abuse of office.

The UFDF says the Civil Service Standing Orders on Campaigning Sec 1222 states quote ‘  Campaigning or political activity by a Civil Servant while on duty is forbidden. Civil Servants must not be canvassing or by any other means attempt publicly to further the activities or aspirations of a political party, or the election or return of an individual (whether a member of a political party or not) in any election to the House of Representatives or to a local Government body including Provincial Councils unquote

The UFDF says Lt Col Rika’s comments are political in nature and breach The Civil Service Standing orders 1222 that disallow quote ‘canvassing or by any other means attempt publicly to further the activities or aspirations of a political party’ unquote. There can be no doubt that Lt Col Rika was canvassing for Bainimarama’s party and as Commissioner Eastern he is abusing the privileges of his office as well as Sec 14 (1) (c) (d) of Decree 4 of 2013.

The UFDF says in the case of Frank Bainimarama he remains Commander of the Military and according to his Regimes own decree No 4 of 2013 he is in breach of the following provisions-

POLITICAL PARTIES (REGISTRATION, CONDUCT, FUNDING AND DISCLOSURES) DECREE 2013 DECREE NO 4 OF 2013

Restrictions on public officers in a political party

Sec 14    (1)          A public officer shall not-

(c)           Engage in political activity that may compromise or be seen to compromise the political neutrality of that person’s office; or

(d)           Publicly indicate support for or opposition to any proposed political party or a political party registered under this decree or candidate in an election

(2)           For the purposes of this section, ‘public officer’ means any person-

(c)           Holding any office in the public service, the Fiji Police, Fiji Corrections Services or the Republic of Fiji Military Forces.

(4)           Any public officer who intends to be an applicant or a member of, or hold office in, a proposed political party or a political party registered under this decree, must resign from the respective public office prior to applying to become an applicant or a member of, or hold office in, a proposed political party or a political party registered under this decree.

(5)           A public officer is deemed to have vacated his or her office mentioned in subsection 2 immediately before the time at which he or she applies to become and applicant or a member of. Or hold office in, a proposed political party or a [political party registered under this decree.

The UFDF says the Commander’s repeated statements about forming his own party and contesting elections is in clear breach of Sec 14 (1) (c), (d), (2) (c) and (4) and (5) of Decree 4 of 2013. Just as Lt Col Rika’s statements are in breach of the Civil Service Standing Orders.

The UFDF says Lt Col Rika and Commodore Bainimarama have broken the law and the Acting Commissioner of Police and the Civil Service Commission are obliged to uphold the laws that govern these public office holders and appropriate and immediate action should be taken against them just as they would apply it to any other citizen.

The UFDF says if the newly elected Electoral Commission is serious about ensuring free and fair elections  and remaining impartial and independent then it cannot ‘look the other way’ when clear abuse of office and breaches of the law as reported are committed by their employer.

Authorized By                       UFDF

UFDF PRESS RELEASE – Appointments of the Electoral Commissioner

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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

Where is the good governance coup?

In December 2006 the Army Commander seized power in the name of transparency and good governance. It was all about cleaning up government. The issue wasn’t how genuine our democracy was, it was all about cleaning up government. All of the claims about genuine democracy came later as an excuse for not allowing us to elect a clean government. However flawed past elections may have been, they’ve all had more democratic credibility than a Government imposed by force.
In 2007, when Bainimarama was talking all the time about ‘transparency and good governance’, it was obvious that he was repeating words from a coup script written by others. Good governance means more than sacking the government boards and advisory bodies appointed by Qarase. It means making sure all decisions made by government, whether directly through cabinet or indirectly through government-appointed board members, can be seen, understood and questioned by the public.
Over the seven years of Bainimarama rule there has been a steady decline in all the principles of good governance, in paticular transparency. We don’t know what the government is doing and we are not allowed to ask.
Annual Reports from the FNPF have shrunk and no longer provide the information we need to be confident our contributions are safe. The Fiji Sugar Corporation no longer has to produce an Annual Report because it has been de-listed from the South Pacific Stock Exchange, but we know it is insolvent. FSC should be placed the hands of a receiver to protect all the people that trade with it – banks lending it money (if there still are banks foolish enough to do this) suppliers providing it with goods and services and hoping to be paid, not to forget small farmers investing in their farms in the hope that they will sell cane to FSC and be paid.
Then there’s Fiji Airways. Who knows what they owe or what interest they’re paying on their debts. We know the planes are owned by some artifical Irish corporation.
The pine and mahogany industries are covered in fog. We know Aiyaz buddy, Faiz Khan, is head of Fiji Pine, giving him control of Tropik Wood and Fiji Forest Industries. But that’s all we know. Try checking with Bloomberg Businessweek to see who’s running FHCL and you’ll find this: “Fiji Hardwood Corp. Ltd. does not have any Key Executives recorded.” There are no reports to show what is earned from mahogany sales, no doubt because Bainimarama doesn’t want the landowners to be able to work out what share he’s leaving for them.
Fijian Holdings is the one small ray of sunshine even though is shine through a dark and threatening cloud. FHL still publishes the Annual Reports required by the Stock Exchange and from that we find that total liabilities for the FHL group grew by a staggering 244% during the year ending 30 June 2013. Assets grew by only 46%. And yet it is claimed FHL made a small profit. Is this profit real or just a result of accounting tricks?
The FHL Annual Report claims “All Directors are independent Directors with no substantial interest in the shares or Group business.” In other words they lose nothing if the company is bled dry by the regime. Dividends are being paid out to the iTAB and then grabbed back by Bainimarama to repay the ‘loan’ he invented to cover his grab-back of the Qarase Government grant to the iTAB and Provincial Councils of B class shares.
FHL is being looted but at least we can get a glimpse of it in the Annual Report, which is more than we can say for Fiji Pine and the Fiji Hardwood Corporation.
If we had an independent media they could demand answers to these questions, but sadly, we do not

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

The question of immunity

Some people have been surprised that Driti was not able to claim immunity for the acts which was alleged to have committed, but which he, of course, denied.

No-one should be surprised that the regime has acted hypocritically or illegally, but the issue of immunity is an interesting one.

We know the Constitution tailored for our illegal PM by Aiyaz Custom Legal Tailors has an intentional immunity gap. According to Section 154 “immunity for the period between 18 July 2012 to the date of the first sitting of Parliament elected after the commencement of this Constitution shall not apply to any act or omission that constitutes an offence under sections 77 to 390 of the Crimes Decree 2009″.

Ordinary crimes committed by our extraordinary government before they hand over to the elected Parliament are not covered by immunity. Sounds highly principled but there is really no inconsistency. This is the same crooked regime we know so well. Until there is a new Parliament Bainimarama and AS-K control the police and the court system, so they do not expect their criminal acts to be investigated.

If Bainimarama ceases to hold power, however, the situation will be different. The Fiji Police Force has any number of individuals who can give evidence of ordinary crimes which have been covered up, all of them involving deliberate attempts to pervert the course of justice. And in their professional capacity they know how to ensure strong evidence is available. Dates and places, all the key facts will be nailed down.

There are many people biding their time who will be able to claim credibly in the future that they could not report the crimes they witnessed because the criminals controlled the justice system.

Bainimarama will have no-one to blame but himself when he finds that immunity is a house of cards. He has placed his faith in AS-K, excluding advice from any other source. The price he will pay for this will be very high.

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.

Better imperfect constitution than none

There are only two people who could say that the new constitution is everything everyone wanted, and that’s the two who drew it up. They put page after page spelling out that they cannot be held responsible for crimes and a few measly lines saying that Fijians own their land, without protecting their right to control leasing of land.

We can work out how weak the support for their constitution was from the fact that they couldn’t even find a handful of people to form a Constituent Assembly to rubber stamp it.

They announced that there would be a Constituent Assembly, with the job of legitimising the burning of the Yash Ghai draft, but they delayed and delayed as they tried to find members who were credible puppets, eventually giving up because no-one credible could put their name to such an exercise.

What the new constitution brings is constraints on the power of the regime. Since they trashed the old constitution they’ve had nothing restricting their ability to use powers of government as they like, especially current Rule by Decree, which is not rule of law at all. They set up the Yash Ghai Commission and then changed the rules once they found they didn’t suit.

They are now bound to hold elections. Bainimarama will have to stand down as Commander before he can set-up his political party. He might remain as PM, but he will no longer be Commander. This will be a significant check on his power, hence his reluctance to step down. Also, the constitution creates electoral framework, sets rules of the game, and paves way for return to parliamentary democracy.

But everyday he delays the day of announcing his party restricts his ability to set up an effective party. With the well organised parties now opposing him he’s going to find these elections very hard to win.

At least now he’s going to have to play by some rules.

Khaiyum Konstitutional Rights

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

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

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

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

(a) to confidentiality of their personal information;”

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

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

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

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

Living on borrowed time and money

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bainimarama’s land lie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lies versus facts on land

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

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

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

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

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

Landowners effectively give the land to the Government.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lazy landowners and low rents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Native Lands Trust Act versus Land Use Decree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions for your relatives in the RFMF

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

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

– What do they know about the Land Use Decree?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This ship is heading for a reef

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

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

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

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

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

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