PDP leaps 8%


The People’s Democratic Party scored the biggest gain in the latest Fiji Sun poll.
The eighth weekly voter survey shows PDP jumping from less than one per cent in the Preferred Political Party stakes to eight per cent.
This is a major recovery. In the earlier polls PDP was in double digits. But then its ratings began to plummet. This was attributed to lack of activities. The proposed FijiFirst party lost ground from 66 per cent to 57 but its leader Prime Minister Rear Admiral (Retired) Voreqe Bainimarama held on to 82 per cent in the Preferred PM polling.
The novelty of the blue bus may have worn off after its launch. But the PM’s personal popularity among the people continues like an unstoppable political juggernaut.
PDP’s resurgence in the polls is surprising. What has it done to deserve it? To a large extent, it’s probably to do with the conviction of Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry for foreign exchange offences. If Mr Chaudhry is unable to contest the election, it will be a fatal blow to the party.
An exodus to PDP, its nearest rival in the battle for votes, has probably begun. The diehard Chaudhry loyalists would refuse to accept it’s déjà vu for the party. They would continue to push the line that their leader’s conviction would galvanise the rank and file and Labour would re-emerge stronger.
But without Mr Chaudhry, there is noone else who can command the same level of respect and support from the members. The poll shows that Labour continues to slip, from four per cent the previous week to three per cent. The uncertainty in Mr Chaudhry’s future has even ruffled the confidence of party faithfuls.
PDP offers the best alternatives in terms of the party’s policies. The trade union bloc which was one of the cornerstones of Labour is now a major force in PDP. Who knows? A merge or amalgamation is not a far-fetched idea. It would make sense and reap political benefits for the members.
The trade unions broke away from Labour because of their leaders’ fight with Mr Chaudhry. If Mr Chaudhry is out of the picture, it would probably smoothen the road for reunification, a coalition perhaps, if there are technical difficulties under the electoral laws.
Despite the drop in its standing the proposed FijiFirst is well ahead of its nearest rival, the PDP in the Preferred Party stakes.
The Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA), on five per cent below PDP, however, is still seen by 27 per cent of those polled, as the party that potentially will give the PM’s proposed party the stiffest challenge.
There appears to be an assumption here that when SODELPA finally puts its act together, it will become a force to reckon with.
On this count, PDP which should be polling higher and is even behind Labour by 10 per cent, is probably seen as not having the firepower to foot it with the PM’s proposed party in terms of personnel. One would think that the polling results for Preferred Party and party that would give the PM’s proposed party the biggest challenge would have some form of correlation.
But it did not happen in this latest poll. It’s probably the beginning of a new trend indicating that we may be entering a new phase that would be fluid. This means we can expect some fluctuations in polling results because people could change their opinions weekly as campaigns hot up.

“I live by that principle because I swore under the 1997 Constitution to be the Speaker of the House.”

Long walk for Nacuva

Nasik Swami
Saturday, April 19, 2014

THE fifth day of December 2006 will always be remembered by ousted speaker of the House of Representatives Pita Nacuva.

And while the political turmoil of that year still triggers the experiences of those who were victimised by it, Mr Nacuva says his routine that day was not an ordinary one.

Recalling his experience, the bold parliamentarian shared it with The Fiji Times.

Mr Nacuva said on that day he was being driven from his Namadi Heights home to the Parliament complex in Veiuto in his government vehicle.

He said when they reached the intersection of Laucala Bay and Ratu Sukuna roads, his car was stopped by two military officers.

“Two iTaukei soldiers in full combat armament, one from Lomaiviti Province and the other from Lau, stopped my devoted and loyal driver Willie Sasala and I in my official vehicle GM827 about 7:30am,” Mr Nacuva said.

He said after being stopped, his official vehicle was commandeered by the soldiers and they were left on the road to find their way to Parliament.

Mr Nacuva said he and his driver had to take a taxi to the parliamentary complex.

“There two iTaukei soldiers in full combat armament, one from Cakaudrove Province and the other from Macuata Province, came to my Speaker’s Chamber at about 10am on Wednesday, 6 December, 2006, met me and conveyed a directive that I vacate my chamber and go home for good.”

He said caretaker prime minister Dr Jona Baravilala Senilagakali wrote to him on December 6 advising him to vacate his position as the Speaker.

“That you are to vacate your position as the House of Representative Speaker with effect from December 5, 2006, and your government/PSC quarters within one month from the date of this directive.

“The letter was hand-delivered and received at my residence at 5 Griffith Place, Namadi Heights, Tamavua, on Tuesday, 2 January 2007.

” I replied on Wednesday, 3 January 2007 and personally hand-delivered the letter at Dr Senilagakali’s office the same day.”

The former national rugby captain and volleyball rep said while the events of post 2006 may affect developments, it was important for Fijians to move on.

He said while the September 17 general election would be an opportune time for Fiji’s return to democracy, he had no plans of contesting the general election.

Mr Nacuva believes he is still the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

“To me, the 1997 Constitution is still in place although it’s purported to have been abrogated in 2009.

“I remain as Speaker until the new members of parliament are sworn in. That’s my belief. I maintain my integrity.

“Therefore, I’m not contesting the elections because I’m still the Speaker of the House.”

Mr Nacuva said he believed in ethics, honesty and abiding by the law, saying he based his morals on these.

“When someone is in Parliament, he is called honourable because he’s a person who has ethics and has integrity.

“I live by that principle because I swore under the 1997 Constitution to be the Speaker of the House.”

Mr Nacuva has urged people to have faith and believe in God.

“God is the only one who will help you. Pray and believe.”

Unreported FNPF sale?

Yatule for sale: While Samoa’s superannuation fund is buying property, its counterpart in Fiji seems to be going in the opposite direction, at least this seems to be true for one of its properties.
The whisper is that Yatule Beach Resort, smack-dab in one of Fiji’s most beautiful beachfront has been sold for an undisclosed sum.
It sits on Natadola Beach, next door to the 5-star exclusive Inter-Continental Fiji Resort & Spa, both of which are owned by Fiji’s National Provident Fund.
The Fund would not comment publicly on the reported sale.
Yatule was built to house engineers and supervisors at the time of the construction of Inter-Continental, and has been running successfully catering for the family and youth market.


Ex Fijileaks

FIJI FIRST: Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum had bought the internet domain name FIJIFIRST in November 2009 in preparation for general election in 2010; Now it is clear that Bainimarama/Khaiyum all along had plans to fight poll


By VICTOR LAL (More details to follow)

(1) In 2007 Bainimarama had announced that the election system would be changed to abolish the race-based constituencies and that elections would be held in 2010;
(2) Bainimarama had lied he won’t stand for elections;
(3) In November 2009 Khaiyum had registered the FijiFirst domain name for Bainimarama in preparation for 2010 election but they cancelled it;
(4) On 17 January 2014 Bainimarama said he will soon announce the formation of his political party to contest the election
(5) On 21 January 2014 Khaiyum extended the domain name in preparation for September 2014 general election;
(6) Khaiyum gave Nanuku Resort & Spa’s post box code at Pacific Harbour – P O Box 555- as proposed party’s;
(6) Phone number +679 3320016 is Khaiyum’s unlisted number and;
(7) fijifirst2014@gmail.com has Fiji flag and coat of arms!


China views Fiji land “not as accommodation, but to secure residency permits”

Many Chinese investors are beginning to turn their attention to overseas real estate markets during the domestic real estate investment downturn.

According to analysis conducted by the organizing committee of the Beijing International Property Expo, 15 percent of potential buyers said they would consider buying overseas properties.
However, due to the decline of the domestic livable index, island nations including Cyprus, FIJI,  Mauritius, Thailand and other emerging market countries were becoming increasingly popular with investors, mainly for their attractive scenery and low living and property costs.
In addition, more and more Chinese people are opting for overseas properties not as accommodation, but to secure residency permits.


FLP doubts reported support by Fiji Sun.

The Labour Party’s northern manager, Surendra Lal, says he would be very surprised if cane farmers in the North were to support the Bainimarama regime considering the hardship and difficulties they have faced in the past seven years.

The Labour Party, which traditionally has had strong support among cane farmers, says according to its sources in Seaqaqa there may have been about 30 people when the regime leader visited, and most were shoppers.


Who on earth is Ashwin Raj? Part I…… by Marc Edge.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Who on earth is Ashwin Raj? Part I

The new Chairman of Fiji’s Media Industry Development Authority, Ashwin Raj, has been cracking the whip on the nation’s press – and even on overseas journalists – ever since his appointment last year. His stridency is in sharp contrast to the style of his predecessor, FNU literature scholar Professor Subramani, who kept a low profile and seemed reluctant to carry out the regime’s media diktats.

Ashwin Raj lays down the law to Fiji’s media

Raj apparently suffers no similar compunction about playing the role of media commissar, and his assault on the press, both foreign and domestic, over the past six months has been dizzying. Basking in his new-found limelight, the previously obscure Raj has unleashed a vocabulary that would drive even the most erudite faculty member to a dictionary. By attempting to impress with polysyllabic prowess, however, the diminutive failed academic displays an intellectual inferiority complex that is as enormous as it is obvious.

Raj first moved against Fiji’s media last October, when he announced that MIDA would set up a media monitoring unit to ensure that coverage of the coming election campaign will be balanced and unbiased. He also announced that freelancers, public relations operatives, and foreign journalists in Fijiwould henceforth have to register with MIDA and follow the regime’s restrictive Media Decree. The Cook Islands-based Pacific Freedom Forum spoke out against the added restrictions as “another layer of scrutiny in what is already a tightly regulated media environment.” Some Fijimedia actually dared to report on that story, which apparently led to a sharp private rebuke from Raj.
At the annual Attorney-General’s conference in December, Raj lashed out against those who saw the Media Decree as an attempt to gag the press.

Alarmingly, little effort has been made to actually enter the protocols of the Decree and read through its provisions, which provides a nuanced framework for the enforcement of media standards. If media holds the State accountable, the question then is ‘who guards the guard?’ What legal recourse does the public have in the event that the media has wronged them?

But these were merely appetizers for Raj’s showdown with journalists in the New Year. At the Pacific Islands News Association conference in Noumeain February, he took umbrage with ABC journalist Sean Dorney telling an interviewer that some there felt the press in Fiji “wasn’t as free and open . . . as it should be.” At a social function that evening, Raj reportedly went off on Dorney, who had also privately urged that PINA should stand up more for press freedom, calling him a two-faced “Janus” and promising that he would never be allowed back into Fiji. He followed that up with a letter of protest to the ABC’s Managing Director that threw around howlers like “asseverated,” and “epistemic,”as if to show the Australians how intelligent he was. “Mr Dorney’s lucubration’s [sic.] are mired in generalisations without any substantiation,”railed Raj, who simultaneously deemed MIDA a rousing success with regional governments. “Five months into my appointment, MIDA is beginning to enjoy the trust and confidence of the international community.”

The silliness continued in what can only be described as MIDA’s own version of March Madness. Unable to extract retribution against Dorney, Raj dragged into his feud the Pacific Media Assistance Scheme, which is funded by the ABC administered by ABC International, forcing it to cancel a planned workshop for journalists in Fiji. Raj then demanded that PACMAS distance itself from the ABC and Dorney. In outlining his independent media monitoring unit of “people who have a wealth of experience in the media industry,” Raj then announced that he would also require all media outlets to disclose their editorial policies. “I need to know why certain letters get published at the exclusion of others.” The craziness recently culminated, of course, when Raj could simply stand no more of the Fiji media’s insolence and insubordination. After Fiji TV reported a speech by a chief in the prime minister’s home province that pointed to ethnic divisions in Fiji society, Raj deemed it hateful and summoned the press for a stern tongue lashing, even admonishing assembled journalists for discussing such issues on social media like Facebook.

All of which begs the question, who on earth is Ashwin Raj? He has absolutely no media experience in his background, from what I can tell, and as such he would be highly unlikely to enjoy even a scintilla of confidence among members of the industry he regulates. His most extensive media experience, it seems, comes from reading newspapers and authoring the occasional response. “I would engage with the media as a bystander,” he has explained. “I’d write letters to the editor.”His lack of expertise on media issues is painfully obvious, and his independence is highly suspect. “I’ve got a six member board that keeps me accountable,” he has said, yet the membership of MIDA – which is supposed to include representatives of women, children, and consumers, in addition to the Solicitor-General and someone with media experience – is apparently a closely-guarded state secret.

He is also not a lawyer, as he freely admits, which you would think might come in handy for someone tasked with administering a regulatory act. “I’ve always read law from the perspective of society,” he reasoned for journalists.

It’s one thing to have pure, legal interpretation of the law and another to say, well what does it mean for society and how does society think through legal instruments? Law means nothing unless and until it materializes in the lives of people.

So what do we know about Ashwin Raj and his actual accomplishments? Does he have any to his credit? It is highly unlikely that any journalist in Fiji would dare investigate, much less report on his background, or lack thereof, under the current reign of media terror over which Raj presides. That leaves it to this blog to find out what is known about him and publicize it in order to put the current media climate in Fiji into context. In his day job, Raj is a mid-level administrator at a regional university. He comes from an extremely modest background, being born to a Muslim seamstress and a Hindu gardener (at Marist Brothers school) and raised in a Vatuwaqa shack. His parents’ elopement apparently caused his mother to become estranged from her family, which objected to the mixed union, and caused no small amount of distress for young Ashwin. He came out as gay a few years ago and was active in the Drodrolagi movement which advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer rights in Fiji until quitting the group a couple of years ago. He then began to ingratiate himself with the regime and has been advancing within it rapidly. He delivered the opening address to the 2012 Attorney General’s conference (at about the same time that I was being hounded out of Fiji), at which he declared his admiration for the regime’s “surgical strike” in 2006. Within a few months, he had been elevated as the Master of MIDA.

Ashwin Raj in Hawai’i

Ashwin Avinesh Raj holds a Master’s degree in Political Science from the University of Hawai’i, which he attended from 2002-05 on a United States-South Pacific Islands scholarship to the East-West Center. He then enrolled in doctoral studies at Australian National University’s program in Pacific and Asian History, where he began work on his dissertation topic: “Allegories of the Human: Rights of Indentured and ‘Free’Indians and the Production of Humanity, 1879-1937.” That is where his academic career went off the rails, however. Despite spending a year doing research in the Fiji Archives, Raj proved to be all talk and no action, failing to submit even one chapter of his doctoral thesis. He was eventually required to leave Australiaon the expiration of his student visa in 2009.

Raj did prove to be a prolific letter writer during his time in Canberra, however, and some of his submissions to the Fiji Times belie his current complicity in the regime. “Instead of channelling hundreds of thousands of dollars to investigate the media and institute meaningless commissions of inquiry that tell you the obvious,” he wrote in 2008 to criticise the Fiji Human Rights Commission, including its report on Fiji media by University of Hawai’i political scientist James Anthony, “that money would have been better spent feeding and clothing the poor and the homeless.” A letter published the previous year, however, provides an even more delicious irony given Raj’s current position in charge of the regime’s machinery of media repression. He began it in a manner eerily similar to his recent diatribe against the Fijimedia, which began: “I’m quite perturbed by the level of public discourse in Fijias we head towards the national elections.” His 2007 letter began: “I am perturbed by the mood of public discourse in relation to the political developments since the 2006 military takeover.

Rampant anti-intellectualism, purist and locationist jibes and the very curious rise of self selected moral entrepreneurs who give philanthropy without democracy now seem to be the dominant discourses of this particular strand of democracy propagated by the proverbial monkey of good governance called the “interim administration.”