Ex RNZI

Fiji former AG resumes role

Updated at 2:08 pm today

The role of Attorney-General in Fiji’s new government has gone back to Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum in the first cabinet reshuffle since the election.

Nadi lawyer Faiyaz Koya who had earlier been sworn in as Attorney-General now takes on the industry and trade portfolios which had earlier been given to Mr Sayed-Khaiyum.

The portfolio switch comes as Fiji’s new parliament meets for the first time.

The Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, says the change had been made because of the heavy workload of Mr Sayed-Khaiyum’s other portfolio, Finance, and the need for the minister responsible for Industry and Trade and Tourism to have a more hands-on role.

He also says Mr sayed-Khaiyum has an intimate knowledge of the AG’s role and will provide the AG’s Chambers with continuity.

Fiji’s new government sworn in at first sitting of parliament since 2006

Updated about 2 hours agoMon 6 Oct 2014, 2:18pm

Fiji’s new democratically elected government has been sworn in during the first parliamentary sitting since the military coup of 2006.

The 50 members of parliament pledged allegiance to the Republic of Fiji and took oaths promising to uphold Fiji’s constitution and defend the rights of its people,

Attorney-general and finance minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the live streaming of the ceremony and parliamentary proceedings set a new level of transparency and would keep MPs accountable.

The president of the ruling Fiji First party, Dr Jiko Luveni, was elected speaker.

She told the new parliament it was a great honour.

“This appointment marks an important event, being the first female speaker in the history of Fiji,” she said to applause.

“I hope this will go a long way to inspire all our young women to reach their full potential even perhaps by pursuing a political career.”

Fiji First, the party of prime minister Frank Bainimarama, holds 32 seats in the 50-seat chamber.

Social Democratic Liberal Party (SOLDELPA) leader Ro Teimumu Kepa was formally elected as opposition leader.

There were no other nominations.

Police Commisioner offers Josefa Bilitaki “Police Protection” from the Military?

“He (Mr Groenewald) assured me that the police will do everything in their powers to protect my life and asked me to get better and not to worry about anything. Another senior officer was with him, witnessed by my two daughters – Dominika and Vasemaca Bilitaki.”……….Josefa Bilitaki, 60

http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=282067

New Police Commisioner failing our people

Josefa Bilitak i(60) has now confirmed that he sent an angry text message to the Prime Minister’s phone last Friday about the unauthorised use of his songs during the recent election campaign.

Later that night a police officer and four soldiers turned up at his house and  took him to another location where one of the soldiers punched and slapped him in the face and mouth, bashed his head against a windscreen, and threatened to kill him.

The local media has produced a sanitised version of this emphasizing he committed the “alleged offence of annoyance”. and trying to ignore the assault by soldiers who have no authority under the constitution to enforce the law in individual cases. This was not a threat to the nation of Fiji.

Our new police commissioner Ben Groenewald  visited Josefa while he was in hospital being treated for high blood pressure as a result of the assault and is reported as saying “The allegation of assault against Mr Bilitaki is void of all truth,”

He is skating around the truth and is using Josefas refusal to lay a complaint as evidence he was not assaulted. His bruises and split lip are conveniently ignored.  He is asking the public to report any evidence of the assault but as Josefa was first removed to another location before the assault he knows there will be no new evidence.

Our new police commissioner Ben Groenewald  is showing all the signs of being a lackey to the military and not having the fortitude and gumption to publicly state that the signs and statements by Josefa Bilitaki and his daughter need investigating.

The following questions need answering:

1. How were the police and military informed of Josefa Bilitakis texts to the Prime Minister. Was a formal complaint laid or was a phone call made and by whom?

2. Why did the texts require instant action within an hour of being sent when getting a police officer to visit after a burglary or domestic assault normally takes days?

3. Why did it take a police officer and four soldiers to arrest a 60 year old man with serious medical issues?

4. Why was the army involved in breach of the constitution? Did the Prime Minister or his office directly request action from the army?

5. When did the split lip and bruises occur if not during his time in police custody? His daughter stated he had no injuries before he was taken away.

6. Why was Josefa Bilitakis refusal to lay a complaint taken at face value when their were obvious signs of an assault?

7.Why is our new Police Commissioner failing to achieve the standards we require of our police force?

……………………………………………………..

UPDATE.

I have just received a legal opinion that muddies the waters.

If  Josefa Bilitaki was texting Frank over royalties for songs used by FijiFirst then this was communicating with Frank as the President of FijiFirst and was in relation to a civil case. If Frank responded with the authority he has as Prime Minister then he may have committed a criminal offence. The most likely charge would be “abuse of power”.

Unfortunately Frank has immunity until next Monday when Parliament sits.

 

 

 

 

Fiji songwriter Josefa Bilitaki ‘punched, slapped’ after sending angry text message to PM Frank Bainimarama

Posted about 11 hours agoFri 3 Oct 2014, 6:58pm

A Fiji songwriter says he was punched and slapped by an army officer after sending a drunken, abusive text message to prime minister Frank Bainimarama.

Josefa Bilitaki sent an angry text message to the Prime Minister’s phone last Friday, in a row over what he said was the unauthorised use of his songs during the recent election campaign.

Later that night a police officer and four soldiers turned up at his house and bundled him into a car, he alleged.

In a statement Mr Bilitaki, 60, said they took him to another location where one of the soldiers punched and slapped him in the face and mouth, bashed his head against a windscreen, and threatened to kill him.

He said he was then thrown into a cell at a police station but was taken to a hospital the next day and treated for high blood pressure.

On Wednesday, Mr Bilitaki’s daughter said her father had some bruises and a cut lip.

Earlier this week, Fiji’s police commissioner Ben Groenewald released a statement saying the incident was being investigated.

He said a “task team” visited Mr Bilitaki and took him to a police station for the “alleged offence of annoyance”.

“The allegation of assault against Mr Bilitaki is void of all truth,” he said in the statement.

“I am urging people not to jump to conclusions [based] on what they read on social media.

“The case is under investigation and will be submitted to the Office of Director Public Prosecution once completed.”

Amnesty International has condemned the incident, saying Fiji needs to show it is taking human rights issues seriously.

Fiji elections: Another victory for treason, lies, money and the culture of silence

Fiji elections: Another victory for treason, lies, money and the culture of silence

<!—->BainimaramaVotes2014

Pacific Scoop:
Opinion – By Professor Wadan Narsey

There can be little doubt that Voreqe Bainimarama, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and a cabal of secret advisers on decrees, electoral systems, budgets, elections manifesto and spin doctors have waged a brilliant and highly successful campaign – for at least three years – prior to winning this 2014 General Election.

pacificfijielections logo 200wideThe chairman of the subservient Electoral Commission (Chen Bunn Young), as expected, pronounced the September 2014 Elections as “free and fair”.

But the knowledgeable Multinational Observer Group (MOG), in Fiji to largely observe the “casting and counting of votes”, stated only that the election results “broadly represented the will of the people” (barring any proof of substantial irregularities alleged by some political parties).

The good governance organisations know too well that elections are far more than just the “casting and counting” of votes, especially in a Fiji where draconian military decrees and total media control have restricted and shaped public opinion over the last eight years.

Books will now be written about this second Fiji case study (the first being Rabuka) on how a military commander, treasonously deposed a lawfully elected government, and managed to become legitimised as an elected Prime Minister, solemnly swearing oaths of allegiance he had not kept before in 2006 and 2009.

There are two extreme interpretations of this metamorphosis, with the truth perhaps somewhere in between.

At one extreme is Graham Davis’ euphoric and populist interpretation of the Bainimarama journey as a glorious revolution and an unparalleled triumph of leadership creating a modern Fiji of equal citizenry published on his blog Grubsheet. (Graham Davis previously declared his interest that he is employed by US lobbying company Qorvis which has been hired by the Bainimarama government to improve its public image).

At the other extreme is the dark underbelly of the Bainimarama “revolution” that civil society organisations and opposition parties have struggled against for the last eight years.

With society failing to draw any kind of a line at a long series of seemingly small restrictions on their basic freedoms, Bainimarama’s step by step systemic imposition of military decrees and media policies, unfettered and unopposed, eventually accumulated into the all-powerful propaganda machine that handed him a landslide electoral victory, easily hailed as “the people have spoken”.

These astute steps include Bainimarama’s rejection a full two years ago, of the Draft Constitution formulated by Bainimarama’s own Yash Ghai Commission, the unilateral imposition of their own constitution giving themselves immunity, their total control and censorship of the media, their control of the Electoral Commission, the Supervisor of Elections, MIDA, their restrictions on NGOs for voter education and elections monitoring, their last minute vote-buying manifesto release, the shady role of the business houses, all accompanied by the thunderous silence of the good people of Fiji.

Without all these systemic biases, the Fiji First Party margin of victory might be significantly reduced, or even become negative.

Why reject the Ghai Draft?
Bainimarama’s election strategy finally clarified some important reasons for his rejection of the Ghai Draft Constitution despite it granting full immunity to all the coup collaborators.

First, the Ghai Draft electoral system had four constituencies (the divisions), apparently a trivial difference, but it would have limited Bainimarama to appear on the ballot paper for only one constituency and hence strictly limited his personal vote appeal. All other FFP candidates on the other three constituencies would have had to struggle for votes against other competitors, instead of riding on Bainimarama’s coat-tails.

Second, the Bainimarama government would have had to resign six months before the election. This would have prevented Bainimarama and his ministers from using taxpayers funds and donor funded projects, right up to polling day, in blatant and very successful vote buying.

Third, Bainimarama would not have had the complete control over the media through their restrictive media decrees (including the Media Industry Development Authority – MIDA) to obtain maximum political mileage for themselves, while criticising and ruthlessly suppressing opposition parties.

Fourth, to obtain immunity, Bainimarama and his coup collaborators would have had to express remorse for specific actions for which they wanted immunity, with clearly negative consequence for their image with voters.

Last, under the Ghai Draft, and perhaps less important, the Bainimarama government would not have had the total control over the Electoral Commission, the Elections Office, and MIDA, as they did.

The electoral system
Bainimarama’s electoral system and constitution were not discussed or approved by the other political parties, and the electoral system in hindsight seems designed specifically to suit Bainimarama’s planned elections strategy.

Despite political parties’ recommendations for local constituencies (so that local communities could elect their “own” Member of Parliament to represent their local interests), Bainimarama insisted on one national constituency, with each voter voting for just one candidate (as was the FFP strategy).

While the electoral system has the advantage of proportionality (which also benefited NFP in Parliament for the first time), it imposed the 5 percent threshold rule which eliminated small parties and Independents, unduly harsh, given that each parliamentarian roughly represents 2 percent of the votes. Their lost equivalent of 4 seats went to the largest parties in proportion (if you took away 3 seats from FFP they would be left with 29).

Candidates were rejected with large numbers of votes, while many with fewer votes, but belonging to larger parties, have been elected making a mockery of the years of relentless propaganda “1 person = 1 vote = 1 value”. But that applied to most candidates, not just to FFP

The manipulated ballot paper and candidates list
The pliant Elections Office and Electoral Commission then enforced the outrageous Electoral Decree requirement that the ballot paper only have numbers (all 248 of them), with no names, no photos and no party symbols which could have helped illiterate voters identify the candidate of their choice.

The Electoral Commission and Elections Office refused to accede to requests that the ballot paper could still group the candidate numbers together under their party symbol (with their names and photos) so that even if voters ticked an adjacent number by mistake, the vote would still go to their chosen party.

The Electoral Decree unreasonably banned the voters from taking any material (such as voting cards) into the polling booth, which could have assisted illiterate voters to tick the number they wanted.

The pliant Electoral Commission went along with the Candidates List in which candidates were all deliberately mixed up randomly, with no party grouping or party symbols.

This clearly worked against the interests of opposition parties who took seriously the task of supporting all their candidates and numbers, not just the party leader.

The FFP strategy of asking voters to vote for just the one number representing Bainimarama, resulted in him receiving a massive number of votes, which dragged into Parliament a large number of his colleagues, some with minimal votes. [This was the “democratic” electoral system that electoral missionary and foreigner David Arms, also a member of the Electoral Commission, fought tooth and nail to impose on Fiji’s political parties and voters].

The proud boasts of the Elections Office about the record low percentage of invalid votes are hollow, given that with the existing ballot paper, no one can find out if there were “invalid votes” caused by voters wrongly ticking a number which was not of their intended candidate.

A “perverse proof” is that a relatively unknown candidate, Ilaijia Tavia, received the highest votes of all the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidates, because many voters probably confused his number (297) with that of Bainimarama (279).

Bainimarama’s Electoral Decree also banned “exit polls”, which are a regular part of democratic elections, useful the world over as a check against the rigging of the counting process.

It is abundantly clear now that the entire electoral system and electoral decree was cunningly designed to suit the Bainimarama campaign for voters to remember only one number (279) while ignoring all other candidates.

The Elections Office and the media have dutifully played along with the game by comparing Bainimarama’s personal vote with that of Ro Temumu Kepa and Professor Biman Prasad, totally ignoring that opposition parties’ elections strategies gave broad exposure to all the candidates, and not just the party leader as did the FFP.

The pliant election authorities
By decree, the Bainimarama government ensured that the ultimate authority over the elections, the Minister of Elections was their own Attorney-General (Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum) also unashamedly the secretary-general of Fiji First Party.

They appointed their own Supervisor of Elections, as well as their own choice of Electoral Commission members, and the Media Industry Development Authority chairman, most being open or closet Bainimarama sympathisers.

Academics will no doubt try to clarify exactly how much effort the Supervisor of Elections, the Electoral Commission and the MIDA chairman put in, to try and make the elections genuinely “free and fair”, despite the restrictive Electoral Decree and other media laws.

What the public did see was that while the Elections Office spent millions encouraging the voter registration of Fiji citizens living overseas to have a say in electing some candidate for the Fiji Parliament, a last-minute Bainimarama Decree unfairly disqualified some opposition party candidates because they had been overseas for more than 18 months out of the last two years, some for legitimate reasons such as higher education. Did the Electoral Commission protest?

Then when the Electoral Commission issued a ruling that a FLP candidate was eligible to stand for elections (because he did not have a conviction as previously claimed) and a FFP candidate was ineligible to stand because he was facing a criminal charge of causing death by dangerous driving, the Supervisor of Elections refused to abide by the ruling.

The technical justification was that the ruling had been received by the Elections Office a few hours after the due time, duly backed up by the courts who adjudicated the case by defining what was mean strictly by “three days”, not what “natural justice” and common sense required. Did the Electoral Commission protest?

Early in the campaign, scholarship authorities under the control of the Bainimarama regime terminated the scholarship of one of the party workers of young Independent candidate Roshika Deo, on totally ridiculous grounds.

While the scholarship was eventually reinstated after a public outcry and much buck-passing between the USP management and scholarship authorities, the message was given to young votersn- don’t support the opponents of the Bainimarama regime, if you want your scholarships to continue. Did the Electoral Commission protest?

The restricted education of voters
Months before polling day, the Bainimarama Regime warned NGOs that under Section 115 (1) of the Electoral Decree “it shall be unlawful for any person, entity or organisation .. that receives any funding or assistance from a foreign government, inter-governmental or non-governmental organisation or multilateral agency to engage in, participate in or conduct any campaign (including organising debates, public forum, meetings, interviews, panel discussions, or publishing any material) that is related to the election or any election issue or matter.”

Totally against the spirit of free and fair elections, organisations like Citizen’s Constitution Forum (CCF), Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM), Women’s Crisis Centre (WCC), and other NGOs were banned from all such educational activities, which is the norm in democratic societies, and indeed has been the practice in all previous elections. Did the Electoral Commission protest?

While universities were apparently allowed to have such education campaigns and organise debates, panel discussions, none did so, a reflection of the often demonstrated pro-Bainimarama biases of their managements and their previously demonstrated willingness to suppress academic freedom.

The restricted monitoring
Outrageously, the Attorney-General and secretary-general of the Fiji First Party also decided that while international observers and party scrutineers would be allowed to monitor the activities at the polling stations, he would not allow 300 independent local observers from the Civil Society-Domestic Elections Observation Group (CSO-DEOG)?

The CSO-DEOG plaintively and futilely argued that “local community observers are often able to understand the nuances that international observers cannot, and their absence will leave a hole in the process.”

Common sense would also suggest that while international observers would be gone after the elections, and while party scrutinisers can always be accused of bias should they observe any irregularities, the local NGOs/CSOs could be relied upon firstly, to be truly independent and secondly, to maintain institutional memory and ongoing sustainability in good governance practices in elections. Did the Electoral Commission protest?

The flood of vote-buying
The Bainimarama government used its ministerial positions to keep distributing taxpayer and donor-funded benefits right up to polling day, justifiably construed as “vote-buying”, given the timing of these benefits.

This was contrary to the recommendation of the Ghai Draft Constitution which had required that ministers must resign six months before polling so that the other parties were given a fair deal.

Then Fiji First Party deliberately issued its Manifesto of vote-buying goodies a mere 10 days before the actual polling day. It promised families earning below $20,000 per year, free electricity, water, medicines, milk for all Class 1 students throughout the length and breadth of Fiji (more profits for C J Patel who owns Rewa Dairy), first home grants, a $10 million grant for indigenous Fijian landowners, a wide range of subsidies in agriculture, and the reinstatement of Dr Mahendra Reddy’s initial minimum wage of $2.32 per hour (which Bainimarama and Usamate had last year unilaterally reduced to $2 per hour after pressure from employers).

Opposition parties and candidates were given no time to challenge the FFP on the practical viability of these promises (eg how to identify “poor” families throughout Fiji), least of all on how all these vote-buying promises would be financed. In contrast, for months, FFP and their sympathetic journalists had freely attacked the Opposition parties on their policies.

No one in the media asked why the FFP Manifesto was virtually 100 percent “freebies” and “handouts” when Bainimarama in 2008 had promised that his government would not pander to Fijians’ “hand-out” mentality.

No one in the media or the MIDA chairman questioned Bainimarama’s blatant use of the racial fear tactic when he advised Indo-Fijian voters, that if they voted for him there would be no more coups.

Did the Electoral Commission or the MIDA chairman protest at any of these unfair electioneering tactics?

The media biases
It will not be difficult for even journalism students to establish that the content of the Fiji Sun and the broadcasts by Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (both radio and television) have been sheer propaganda on behalf of the Bainimarama government.

Nor to prove that the media journalists who were the hosts of so-called “debates” between parties, were blatantly biased in favor of FFP candidates and antagonistic towards Opposition candidates and parties.

Nor that most debate hosts played along with the FFP strategy of focusing on non-issue of calling all citizens “Fijians” while giving opposition candidates little room to raise their own arguably weightier concerns.

None of the journalists persevered in asking Bainimarama or Khaiyum why they refused to release Auditor-General reports since 2006 or the minister’s salaries before 2014; why they refused to release reports on the FNPF losses at Natadola and Momi; why their Manifesto promised all the “goodies” just 10 days before polling; why they had not kept their promise in 2007 that no military personnel would ever benefit from his coup, or that none of his ministers including himself, would ever stand for elections; nor the alleged equality of citizens when his government prosecuted and jailed political opponents, while giving himself and his collaborators total immunity from 2000 to 2014 for crimes still unstipulated.

An extraordinary development in the days prior to polling day was the refusal of FBC to take paid advertisements from one of the Opposition parties, while freely giving exposure to FFP and its candidates.

MIDA and the media
The public also waited in vain for the Media Industry Development Authority chairman (Ashwin Raj) to exercise an independent regulatory impact on the media in the run-up to the election.

The Fiji Times was perpetually on notice having already been fined a massive $400,000 and its editor (Fred Wesley) given a suspended six month sentence for what some might call a trivial offence, while the owner remained overseas with a bench warrant out on another charge.

Three months before the elections, the MIDA chairman refused to respond to very specific questions addressing the very core of a free and fair media industry relating to:

  • millions of tax-payers advertisement funds being channelled by the Bainimarama government only to Fiji Sun with The Fiji Times being denied;
  • outright massive subsidies given to FBC (whose CEO was the brother of the Attorney-General) via government budget and government guarantees of loans from FDB;
  • the intimidating renewal of the licence for Fiji TV on a six-monthly basis;
  • the sacking of a senior Fiji TV journalist (Anish Chand) who wanted more critical programmes covering the elections, because of complaints from the Bainimarama government.

A month before the election, the MIDA chairman refused to respond when complaints were made about the biased role of the media and some media journalists in the coverage of the elections and the debates between parties and candidates.

The MIDA chairman refused to respond when it was pointed out that Veena Bhatnagar, who had been a clearly pro-Bainimarama media host of the FBC’s Aina programmed during a debate between Professor Biman Prasad (leader of NFP) and Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum (secretary of FFP), a mere week later appeared as a candidate for FFP. So also did the MIDA CEO (Matai Akauola).

None of these were apparently of concern to the MIDA chairman, who now applauds the media for their conduct during the elections, a supine media being clearly to his liking.

The business community
When the facts eventually come out on the factors that influenced the outcome of the 2014 Elections, the most important but shadiest one will be the massive campaign funds donated to the FFP by Fiji’s business houses, most unlikely to be ever revealed to the public as required by the laws.

This massive corporate support of FFP was to be expected given that the Bainimarama government in the 2012 Budget had reduced corporate tax from 28 percent to 20 percent and the highest marginal income tax from 30 percent to 20 percent, and immediately put more than $150 million annually into the pockets of the wealthy in Fiji.

Against this huge benefit (and other special ones unknown), collectively giving $10 to $20 million to the FFP campaign would have been an easy to justify “cost of doing business” in Fiji, unlikely to ever enter into any WB or ADB Index on “ease of doing business” in Fiji.

Deserving special mention is the recipient of several valuable financial benefits from the Bainimarama government, C J Patel, whose ownership and control of the Fiji Sun has enabled them to wage a propaganda campaign whose success can only be guessed at, given the final outcome.

But this is nothing new. Since 1970, the business community (of all ethnic groups) have funded all powerful politicians and those controlling government, promptly switching the support ever so easily from Mara to Chaudhry to Rabuka to Qarase and now to Bainimarama.

But the 2014 Elections is unusual in that Bainimarama, through his vote buying, has simultaneously been able to win a large proportion of the votes of the poor, while enjoying the financial support of the rich.

It should be interesting for economics students to follow how long this honeymoon threesome between Bainimarama’s Minister of Finance, the rich and the poor, will last, especially when revenues must be eventually increased to meet both the promised “goodies” and the vastly increased Public Debt.

Another victory for treason, lies, deceit, money and the “culture of silence”.

The ordinary public, understandably weary of eight years of social conflict and uncertainty, just want “to move on”, lulled by the cliché “the people have spoken”.

The international community, donor partners, regional and international organisations, relations with Fiji now normalised, will also be relieved to move on, understandably, as it is not for them to solve Fiji fundamental and systemic political problems.

But it must be terribly depressing for the many candidates and parties who fought the election on decent principles of good governance, truth and justice, as it must be for hard-working civil society organisations, only to find that treason, lies, deceit and astute propaganda have prevailed.

But they must not hold themselves responsible.

Despite this age of limitless and virtually free national and global communications through the Internet and social media such as Facebook, Twitter and the blogs, ultimately, morally right decisions must still be made by human beings at the ends of the communication networks, and such decisions depend profoundly on our educated social leaders.

Unfortunately, for eight years now, Fiji’s social leaders have been afflicted by the “culture of silence” which some attribute not just to material self-interest, but also a lack of moral courage and integrity.

And the truth?
Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi gives a nuanced cultural rationalisation that the silence of indigenous Fijians should not be interpreted to mean consent, and this may be comforting to some. But that remains at odds with the cacophony of frequently violent, sometimes well-reasoned dissent engaged in by bloggers on the internet, where the virtually 100 percent anonymity reduces the social responsibility and impact of the contributors virtually to zero. Are they going to get the Fiji they deserve?

The truth may be somewhere in between these two extreme views, but Fiji is ultimately left to ponder Edmund Burke’s observation, that all that is needed for evil to prosper is for good men and women to remain silent.

And silent indeed have been our legions of senior accountants, lawyers, university academics, principals, teachers, professionals, bankers, and businessmen, for eight long years, giving no guidance whatsoever to the hundreds of thousands of first time voters in the 2014 elections.

Some in SODELPA will rue that what the ethno-nationalists sowed in 1987 and 2000, they have reaped in 2014. The military genie they let out of the bottle then, has refused to go back into the bottle and they will remain a debilitating drain on taxpayers’ funds for the foreseeable future, to ensure their continued loyalty.

Professor Wadan Narsey is a Fiji economist and analyst and adjunct professor at James Cook University. He publishes his own columns and blogs.

Fiji’s Sodelpa to go back to the drawing board

Originally aired on Dateline Pacific, Friday 26 September 2014

The Leader of Fiji’s Sodelpa party, Ro Teimumu Kepa, says the party will follow through with its call for a parliamentary enquiry into the election but it also wants to find out where it went wrong.

The leader of Fiji’s Sodelpa party, Ro Teimumu Kepa, says the party will follow through with its call for a parliamentary inquiry into the election but it also wants to find out where it went wrong.

Frank Bainimarama’s FijiFirst won 32 seats in the 50 member parliament, the Sodelpa Party 15 and the National Federation Party three.

Ro Teimumu told Sally Round the party wants to know why about 40 percent of indigenous Fijians, seen as Sodelpa’s support base, went for FijiFirst.

RO TEIMUMU KEPA:  For me it is quite surprising that people knew how FijiFirst came into existence through a coup and I had thought that many of the majority people in Fiji would not support any coup perpetrators because we have heard it often been said around the country, how can we end the coups, we have had enough of coups, we want to end the coups once and for all.  Plenty of Fijians have voted for them, so I am talking about the total population, including the indigenous Fijians, the figures we are getting is that 40 percent have voted for the FijiFirst, and to me that is quite surprising. So we have to go back, do our homework and find out what caused this shift in their mind set to go along with FijiFirst.

SALLY ROUND:  Any indication at this point where you think you went wrong.

RTK:  We hear this shift was in the last two weeks or maybe in the last week, one of which was when the Prime Minister announced that there will be no burning in the country, Fiji will not burn, something like that, was in the headlines, was in one of the papers, and I believe that caused fear in people, especially in those who own properties, that never came up previously in any discussion, in any conversation, for him to suddenly come up with a burning, you know, that put the fear factor into people and another one was when we had the debate, that was the last Sunday before elections when he did say that another hat that was he looking to wearing was the commanders hat , so for people that confirmed to them that were some elements of fear that was in the air, and also the freebies that people felt that they were going to get from FijiFirst. That’s what changed their mind at the last minute.

SR: What about the thought that FijiFirst was portraying herself as a truly multi ethnic party , Fiji is in a new generation and SODELPA was living more in the past.

RTK: I think what we were looking at was a longer term vision for Fijians, particularly the indigenous population including the other groups that live here Fiji.  So what we are going to do is to go back. That is why we are having a meeting next week to go back to the drawing board and see things that we need to change in order to move forward with the people here in Fiji.

We in the PDP look forward to the restoration of human and trade union rights in Fiji. This was a promise that the FijiFirst party made in its manifesto when it pledged to respect human rights

Party waits for A-G’s report

Dawn Gibson
Saturday, September 27, 2014

FOLLOWING the election, the People’s Democratic Party has gone “back to the drawing board” and is looking forward to the release of the Auditor-General’s report, among other things.

During a press conference in Suva office yesterday, former PDP leader Felix Anthony said despite being disappointed with the outcome of the election, they were looking forward to parties in power keeping to their promises.

“We in the PDP look forward to the restoration of human and trade union rights in Fiji. This was a promise that the FijiFirst party made in its manifesto when it pledged to respect human rights,” Mr Anthony said.

“Trade union rights are part of human rights. We also look forward to the tabling of the Auditor General’s report in the first sitting of Parliament as promised.

“We also look forward to the FNPF employer’s contributions to increase to 10 per cent from 1st January 2015 and much more.”

Fiji back in the Commonwealth

Fiji back in the Commonwealth

Sep 26 2014 – 8:21pm

The Commonwealth said Friday it had reinstated Fiji as a full member following credible elections earlier this month, eight years after the South Pacific nation was first suspended following a military coup.

Ministers from the 53-nation organisation made the decision after Voreqe Bainimarama, who had led a bloodless coup in 2006, was sworn in as prime minister on September 22 following a general election.

“Fiji was today reinstated as a full member of the Commonwealth following a decision by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) at their 44th meeting in New York,” the London-based Commonwealth Secretariat said.

Ex RNZI

New Zealand lifts Fiji risk warning

Updated at 3:32 pm on 25 September 2014

New Zealand has updated its travel advisory on Fiji for a second time since last week’s election and removed its previous risk warning.

The latest update from September the 23rd also changed the wording which said the Fiji government had a degree of influence over the judiciary.

It now says there can be limitations on judicial redress for decisions made by authorities.

In June, Fiji’s director of Public Prosecutions, Christopher Pryde, criticised the New Zealand travel advisory, saying it had no basis and should be ignored.

Anthony steps down as PDP Leader

17:24 Thu Sep 25, 2014

Taken from/By: FBC NEWS

Report by: Shanal Sivan

The People’s Democratic Party leader Felix Anthony has resigned. In a press conference today, Anthony said he takes full responsibility of the party’s poor performance in the general election. Anthony says the party met this morning and discussed the election results and the party’s performance. I should step down, a culture we are making in the party, we in the PDP are determined to have leaders being accountable, I have today tendered my resignation as leader of the Party, I remain committed to the party, and will always support it, in any way I can. Anthony says he will go on leave and will decide on his next step after that. He had resigned from the trade union movement to contest the election. Adi Sivia Qoro now takes up the position of the leader

. – See more at: http://www.fbc.com.fj/fiji/23227/anthony-steps-down-as-pdp-leader#sthash.xn9N8nki.dpuf

“You know hopefully, he will get on with the business of governing the country and remove himself from the … what we call in Fiji … verandah kind of language

Fiji opposition leader responds to ‘liar’ claims

Suva-September 25: 9pm (RNZI): The leader of Fiji’s Sodelpa party Ro Teimumu Kepa says there is no substantive evidence to back up the Prime Minister’s claim the opposition is a group of liars.

Frank Bainimarama says being in parliament will be no big deal and it would mean meeting up with the same group of liars he met on the campaign trail.

Ro Teimumu, who is to lead the opposition in parliament, says there have been similar labels in the past which have not been established in the courts and it is time to stop branding people.

“You know hopefully, he will get on with the business of governing the country and remove himself from the … what we call in Fiji … verandah kind of language and see that his role as Prime Minister is one that they look up to and they see him as an example to the people in the country.”

Ro Teimumu says all the Prime Minister has to do is take the matter to the police and it will be taken on from there.

http://www.tongadailynews.to/?p=8543

We need Russian language skills?

Guam and Fiji to learn Russian

25 September 2014

Russia’s Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU) is set to open Russian language learning centers on the islands of Guam and Fiji, the University’s President Sergei Ivanets said Thursday at the Third APEC Conference on Cooperation in Higher Education.

“The expansion of scientific, research and educational cooperation remains a priority for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and internationalization plays a key role in this cooperation,” said Ivanets. “In the framework of such cooperation, our university is set to open Russian language learning centers for the local populations of Guam and Fiji. Both sides have expressed an interest and we are currently in negotiations with the local authorities. We expect to sign the necessary agreements this year.”

http://www.turkishweekly.net/news/172730/guam-and-fiji-to-learn-russian.html

SODELPA need to ask: where did we go wrong?

All of the opponents of FijiFirst are now scratching their heads hard to work out what went wrong. Most have accepted that Bainimarama received a strong endorsement from the voters. We can complain about restrictions on media, incumbency advantage etc etc, and even imperfections in the voting process, but the general picture is clear.

What we need to think about is why? If I may be permitted to say to my iTaukei brothers and sisters in SODELPA, “I told you so”. The strong vote received by FFP from the Indo-Fijian community reflected their feelings in relation to the common citizenship trumpeted by Bainimarama. It’s true this was declared by Bainimarama without consultation but his election has now given the decision the stamp of approval that cannot be denied.

SODELPA leaders need to ask themselves whether this was the most important issue of the election. Is this what mattered most to them? It seems to have mattered to the overwhelming majority of Indo-Fijians but clearly it did not matter so much to substantial numbers of iTaukei voters.

Now is the time to sort out what matters and what doesn’t matter. The issues that matter most are good governance, transparency in Government decision-making and the rule of law, not the name Fijian.

Ro Teimumu is confident they will work well together since they would now have access to government documentation and information.

Party plans to seek amendments

By Mere Naleba
Tuesday, September 23, 2014

NATIONAL Federation Party president Tupou Draunidalo is thankful that winning three seats in Parliament will allow the party to seek amendments to certain decrees and also raise the issue of reducing tax from 15 per cent to 10 per cent.

She said those certain decrees included the Media Decree, the decree involving unions and human rights.

“Well as you know there are some decrees that we felt were very harsh, the Media Decree the decree involving the unions, the other decrees dealing with human rights issues and lives of people, those we would like to propose amendments in parliament and hopefully work with the majority of parliament to make sure that those amendments are more better for investment in the country,” Ms Draunidalo said.

Party leader Professor Biman Prasad said they would like to be the voice of every person in Fiji in terms of critical issues affecting Fijians, especially ordinary Fijians.

“As you know, reducing VAT is one of the very credible proposal based on the fact that we had one of the highest cost of living ever in the country. VAT is, you know, a regressive tax and we do hope that the government will consider our proposal and reduce VAT from 15 to 10 per cent when they do the next budget for this year,” he said.

SODELPA leader Ro Teimumu Kepa yesterday confirmed her 15-member party officials who would form the Opposition team in Parliament wwould be meeting with the three NFP members in the coming days.

Ro Teimumu is confident they will work well together since they would now have access to government documentation and information.

The run up to the election was characterised by media complaints about the military decrees which restrict their reporting.

Fresh Hopes That Bainimarama Will Ease Restrictions on Media

FIJI: Fresh Hopes That Bainimarama Will Ease up Restrictions on Media


Voreqe Bainimarama took power in Fiji through a coup d’etat in 2006
but is now the elected prime minister. Image: Republika

Monday, September 22, 2014

AUCKLAND (RNZI / Pacific Media Watch / Café Pacific / Fiji Times): Many eyes are on Fiji’s former military dictator and now elected prime minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, with hopes that his election victory would often his stance towards the media and civil society.

The final election results for Fiji were declared at the weekend with Bainimarama’s party, Fiji First, winning just over 59 percent of the vote.

The run up to the election was characterised by media complaints about the military decrees which restrict their reporting.

Just eight days before the election, two women journalists – Vosita Kotowasawasa of the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (FBC) and Jyoti Pratibha of the Fiji Sun newspaper – received death threats over their previous day’s coverage of the cancellation of a live TV debate between the leading contenders for the post of prime minister. The origin of the threatening calls is still being traced.

Politician and economist Professor Biman Prasad, whose National Federation Party got three seats in the election said in a campaign speech that “the media decree with its heavy fines and penalties make it impossible for the country’s journalists to cover issues openly and without fear. It makes it impossible for us to project our messages to our people”.

New Zealand-based Fijian Pacific studies academic Dr Steven Ratuva has told RNZI that Voreqe Bainimarama’s landslide victory in the election is mainly due to the prime minister’s appeal to all ethnicities.

Bainimarama won about 58 percent of the indigenous Fijian vote and about 70 percent of the Indo-Fijian vote.

Dr Ratuva says that by promising political security after a spate of coups, Bainimarama also appealed to urban Indo-Fijian voters.

However, with a small opposition made up of SODELPA with 15 seats, and the National Federation Party, with three seats; it may be difficult to hold Bainimarama accountable, Ratuva told RNZI:

“It’s going to be a very unbalanced Parliament in terms of accountability and secondly in terms of complacency for the government itself. You’re bound to have parliamentary dynamics which will be almost totalitarian in nature, although of course it’s legitimate, it’s through election.”

Professor Jon Fraenkel of Wellington’s Victoria University said that Bainimarama had “gone to great lengths to allay indigenous voters’ concerns” by setting up road building projects, free bus fares for school children and subsidised primary education.

“Many ethnic Fijians see Rear Admiral (Ret) Bainimarama as an indigenous leader, who has succeeded in dominating the national stage where others failed,” Fraenkel wrote in the Fiji Times newspaper.

ENDS

 

SODELPA will take up its position in the opposition and make sure that the government of the day no longer avoids being accountable to the people as they have done for the last eight years

Fight not in vain

By Mere Naleba
Tuesday, September 23, 2014

SOCIAL Democratic Liberal Party leader Ro Teimumu Kepa believes her party’s fight to reclaim Fiji is not in vain as she will lead 18 members of parliament to make up the opposition in parliament.

Ro Teimumu said after eight years, Fiji and the Prime Minister Rear Admiral (Ret) Voreqe Bainimarama would have opposition.

She said the return of Fiji to democracy was the “first test of transparency and accountability” for Mr Bainimarama.

“That said, SODELPA will take up its position in the opposition and make sure that the government of the day no longer avoids being accountable to the people as they have done for the last eight years,” she said.

Ro Teimumu thanked the 139,857 people who voted for them.

“To all the good citizens of Fiji, especially all of you who exercised your right to vote and stayed true to your courage and moral integrity by voting in support of the opposition parties and especially SODELPA, I thank you most sincerely on behalf of all the candidates and officials of SODELPA.”

Press freedom in electoral period and during the elections has been under attack.

RSF, PMC call for repeal of Fiji’s Media Decree through UN human rights body

<!—->Delegates listen to speeches during the 13th session of the Human Rights Council  in Geneva

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Anna Majavu

Reporters Sans Frontières and the Pacific Media Centre have called for a repeal of the Media Decree and introduction of a Freedom of Information law in Fiji ahead of a United Nations periodic review in Geneva next month.

Fiji has returned to democracy in the past week with the 2006 military coup leader Voreqe Bainimarama being elected prime minister with a dominating victory. He was sworn in as Prime Minister yesterday.

The joint RSF-PMC submission will be considered by the UN Human Rights Council when it monitors Fiji at its universal periodic review next month.

The review sees every UN member state being reviewed every four and a half years, and then being given recommendations that they must implement before the next review.

At Fiji’s last review in 2010, Fiji accepted dozens of UN Human Rights Council recommendations including that they abolish the death penalty, ensure the independence of the Human Rights Commission, pass new laws against domestic violence, investigate all alleged human rights violations and bring all those responsible to justice and that they set up a visit for the UN special rapporteur on torture.

Fiji was also tasked with setting up an environment in which all of Fiji’s citizens can meet freely and express political opinions without fear or retribution, and with ending arbitrary detention of human rights defenders.

The UN Human Rights Council’s recommendations in 2010 were that the then military regime stop repressing journalists, end censorship of the media and guarantee the integrity of human rights defenders and of persons who criticise the government’s actions, stop attacks, harassment, intimidation and detention with regard to journalists, critics and human rights activists and allow people to criticise the regime without fear of arrest, intimidation or punishment.

End to threats
However, according to the joint RSF-PMC submission, Fiji has yet to accomplish most of these recommendations.

Among the recommendations, the joint submission says there must be an end to indirect threats against the media or editorial interference. The government should take steps to ensure more transparency and access to information by urgently enacting a Freedom of Information law.

The Media Industry Development Decree must be revoked and bans on individual foreign journalists who have annoyed the military regime with their reporting must be lifted.

RSF’s Asia-Pacific director Benjamin Ismail says the submission aims to highlight to UN member states what the Fiji government needs to do to achieve press freedom and a transparent society where there is access to information.

It was “regrettable” that the media decree had resulted in a 48 hour “blackout” on media coverage of last week’s elections, said Ismail.

“Press freedom in electoral period and during the elections has been under attack. More media coverage and press freedom could have decreased the risk of fraud. I truly hope the fraud accusations will not throw the country into a political crisis,” Ismail told PMW.

PMC director professor David Robie welcomed the successful election last week, but added: “This is just a start. There is a long journey ahead and full press freedom is a critical part of that journey.”

The full RSF-PMC submission

Source: Pacific Media Watch 8986

Bainimarama takes oath as as Fiji’s PM

Last Updated : 22 Sep 2014 02:44:31 PM IST
Bainimarama takes oath as as Fiji\
Bainimarama sworn in as Fiji’s PM. (File Photo)

 

Coup leader Voreqe Bainimarama was sworn in as Fiji’s new Prime Minister on Monday.

First general elections since 2006 in the South Pacific nation were held five days ago.
With official results confirming Bainimarama had swept the election with almost 60 per cent of the vote, he was sworn in by President Epeli Nailatikau at a brief ceremony in Suva’s Government House.

“I solemnly and sincerely promise to hold my office with honour, dignity and integrity,” the 60-year-old pledged, eight years after he toppled Fiji’s last  democratically elected leader Laisenia Qarase in a bloodless coup.

The final count in the election gave Bainimarama’s Fiji First Party 59.2 per cent of the vote, equating to 32 seats in the new 50-seat parliament set up under a constitution introduced last year.

The Social Democratic Liberal Party was a distant second at 28.2 per cent (15 seats), with the National Federation Party next on 5.5 (three seats).

The election extended full voting rights for the first time to ethnic Indians, who make up about 40 per cent of the 900,000 population and enthusiastically backed Bainimarama’s move to put them on an equal footing with indigenous Fijians.

Tensions between the two races have been the underlying cause of four coups in the island nation since 1987. But Bainimarama promised yesterday, when the scale of his victory had become apparent, that he would govern “for the well-being of all Fijians”.

“This is a victory for all Fijians, this is when history will record that as a nation we have embraced a new future,” he told thousands of cheering supporters in Suva.

The election was conducted peacefully and, despite allegations from some opposition figures of irregularities, a multinational observer group has declared the poll  “credible” and said it reflects the will of the Fijian people.

NFP ready to work with the govt

Monday, 22/09/2014

NFP Leader Dr Biman Prasad

The National Federation Party who will be back in parliament after 15 years said they are ready to work with the government and the Social Democratic Liberal Party for the next four years.

Party Leader Dr Biman Prasad said the result of the election is the will of the people and they respect the verdict of the people and wished Voreqe Bainimarama and his government well.

He further added that despite massive electoral setback in the last three general elections, NFP survived as a party because of its principles, objectives and a never say die spirit of their supporters.

Prasad also acknowledged the people of Fiji for participating in the general elections who turned out in numbers to exercise their right.

Story by Praneeta Prakash