WTF……..China Railway is under scrutiny for failing to deduct FNPF contributions for its workers dating back five years.

China Railway 5 fails to meet deadline on FNPF payments

08:43 Today

 

 

Taken from/By:
Report by: Mika Loga

The China Railway 5 company has failed to meet its deadline to pay all FNPF contributions due to its workers it hired for its Samabula contract with the Water Authority Of Fiji.

The one month deadline given to China Railway 5 by the Water Authority of Fiji expired yesterday.

China Railway is contracted to upgrade sewerage reticulation systems and have all homes in Samabula connected to the main sewer line to Kinoya.

The Watere Authority had said it will review the contract of the company if it failed to meet the deadline.

China Railway is under scrutiny for failing to deduct FNPF contributions for its workers dating back five years.

The company’s Commercial Manager Charles King says, they still need time.

” FNPFand our company need sometime for the process we’ll have to submit record of the payment first and they to review asnd do the right calculations.”

According to the company it has already paid over fifty thousand dollars in FNPF contributions until June this year.

This is for workers hired for the fencing of Government House and those currently working at Samabula.

“We hope the officers from the water authority and even the people from the public can give us some understanding.”

China Railway admits its mistake – saying it is affecting their administration side of things.

 

Govt positive of remaining in US GSP Scheme

Government is positive that Fiji will not be suspended from the US Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) Scheme after having made oral and public submissions.

According to Permanent Secretary for Industry and Trade Shaheen Ali, they also gave a post hearing brief to the US Trade Representative office.

Ali said in addition many submissions have been made by private sector companies and associations in support for the Fijian government’s Labour Reform policies.

Currently the US Trade Representative subcommittee is going through the submissions.

Earlier the Fiji Trades Union Congress(FTUC) and other unions wanted to stop Fiji from benefitting from the US Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) Scheme.

The scheme is a program designed to promote economic growth in the developing world by providing preferential duty free entry for up to 5,000 products imported by the US.

39 Fijian companies which export a range of products will lose their preferential access and benefits from the US GSP Scheme if Fiji is suspended.

This will mean agriculture, garments and the mineral water sector will lose their business, and these include small and medium enterprises that export niche products to the US.

Ali said ultimately, 15,000 Fijian jobs will be lost if Fiji is removed from the US GSP Scheme.

He said the impact will be felt at grass root level as more than 50% of the workers in these factories are women and are the sole bread winners in their family.

Story by: Ronal Deo

$200 million profit for NZ Roading Company may finally give us some usuable roads.

Higgins wins Fiji road contract worth $200m

Manawatu roading firm Higgins will net about $200 million over four years after winning a contract to maintain 6000 kilometres of roads in Fiji.

The contract, which starts next year, will see the company maintain roads, bridges, signs, road markings and respond to emergencies for an area which covers two-thirds of the Viti Levu island.

Higgins competed against 28 other companies for the contract, which will last for four years with a right of extension for either one or two more years.

Managing director Bernard Higgins said about 15 New Zealanders would be based in Fiji at any time, with about 150 Fijians contracted.

The contract was worth about $200 million, which Mr Higgins said would be money well-earned.

“We have got to work hard for it.

“People think working in Fiji is like paradise, and it is at the resort island, but where we are working it is not like that at all.

“It’s a big challenge for our staff to go over there and fit into the environment.”

Many of the roads were unsealed, while others ran high into mountains, he said.

“We went for a drive last Sunday over 220 kilometres to look at roads, and the average speed was under 30kmh.

“That’s how rough they are.”

The contract, which was in the works since May this year, was negotiated with Fiji’s prime minister and minister of roads Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama.

Mr Higgins said he had a positive outlook on the project.

“The Fijian Government said to us that they have to be able to get buses to the end of the roads so children could get to school.

“There’s a lot of emphasis on improving roading and infrastructure to help improve education ability.”

The project would also give some Fijians a chance to improve their skills, he said.

“We will use jobs like these to give opportunities to our staff, especially some younger ones, and we will be bringing Fijian people with potential here for training.”

The weather conditions in Fiji would help to cover slower patches in New Zealand, Mr Higgins said.

“A lot of our work with bitumen and road sealing, which we can’t really do in July, we will be able to do in Fiji.”

In a statement, Commodore Bainimarama said the contract was good for Fiji. “A critical role for [Higgins] will be to pass on their expertise to local workers and companies.”

Fiji gets a “Yellow Card” on illegal fishing.

EU Warns Developing Nations about Illegal Fishing

November 15, 2012

The European Commission warned eight developing countries Thursday of sanctions if they did not do more to stop “criminal”illegal fishing, saying it was taking the first step of its kind.

The Commission said it did not plan to impose penalties as yet on Belize, Cambodia, Fiji, Guinea, Panama, Sri Lanka, Togo and Vanuatu, but stressed they could face a ban on the sale of fishing equipment, for example, failing action.

“This is not a black list but a yellow card,” European maritime affairs commissioner Maria Damanaki said in a statement.

Source: AFP. Read full article. (link)

The interim government must look seriously at how to support those farmers.

Only subsidies will stop haemorrhage of Fiji sugar farmers: economist

Posted at 03:28 on 14 November, 2012 UTC

A Fiji economics professor says the only way to stop more farmers leaving the sugar industry is for the interim government to increase subsidies.

The comment follows a prediction from the National Farmers Union that the amount of sugar cane crushed this season will be the lowest on record.

The body says the number of cane growers has halved over the past 20 years, from about 23,000 to 12,000.

Biman Prasad, who is based at the University of the South Pacific’s Suva campus, says the interim government must look seriously at how to support those farmers.

“And how their income level could be maintained by lowering the cost of production. And, in fact, to save the industry, government will have to seriously consider giving subsidies to the farmers who are still there.”

Biman Prasad says the interim government must also consider amalgamating farms because the current system of smallholdings is not profitable.

News Content © Radio New Zealand International           PO Box 123, Wellington, New Zealand

Another good move for Fiji Sugar………. buy up old mechanical harvesters that Australia considers uneconomic and only good for scrap.

Fiji’s sugar industry seeks Australian help

By Marty McCarthy

Monday, 12/11/2012

A group of Fijian industry leaders are in North Queensland to buy up old mechanical harvesters to revolutionise the country’s struggling sugar industry.

The Pacific Island nation produces two million tonnes of cane a year, most of it still cut by hand.

But the chairman of South Pacific Fertilizers Ltd, John May, says it’s not just equipment he’s looking for.

“We are also hoping to take back with us an expert in these machines to be able to maintian them and to train our people to use them,” he said.

“It’s a matter of survival. If we don’t change, we’re going to go under.”

More Chinese problems as cash injection fails to materialize………

Vatukoula Gold mulls legal action as Xintai fails to complete subscription

9:23 am by Philip WhiterowVatukoula added it will be pursuing its legal rights against Xintai for its failure to meet the terms of its signed subscription agreement.Vatukoula added it will be pursuing its legal rights against Xintai for its failure to meet the terms of its signed subscription agreement.

 

Fiji-based gold miner Vatukoula Gold (LON:VGM) is take legal action against Chinese firm Shengen Xintai International after it failed to complete a £10.3 mln cash injection.

Existing shareholder Zhongrun International Mining has stepped in to replace Xintai and will now subscribe for 20 mln new shares at 33p to raise £6.6 mln for Vatukoula.

Xintai announced in August it would buy 13 mln shares at 51.65p, a 60% premium to the market price at the time, and issue a £3.2 mln convertible loan note to the gold miner.

But after one extension last month, Vatakoula today said it had become clear Xintai cannot complete the agreed subscription in the time frames previously announced.

Vatukoula added it will be pursuing its legal rights against Xintai for its failure to meet the terms of its signed subscription agreement.

The new shares issued to Zhongrun represent 17.01% of the enlarged issued share capital and on completion its stake in Vatukoula will rise to 24%. Zhongrun originally invested £5.4 mln for a 9% stake in April.

Dave Paxton, Vatukoula’s chief executive, said: “The board is disappointed that Xintai failed to complete its subscription agreement but is very pleased to welcome the investment of Zhongrun in VGM and looks forward to continuing its valuable strategic relationship with Zhongrun to assist in the development of the Vatukoula gold mine

Productivity-based wage system covering roading?

New minimum wage rates announced in Fiji

Posted at 17:21 on 31 October, 2012 UTC

The Fiji interim Government has announced an increase in minimum wage rates by between 7 point 9 and 10 point 4 percent, effective from today.

The interim Minister for Labour, Jone Usamate, says it’s the first time a productivity-based wage system has been introduced in the country.

Sawmilling and logging workers get the biggest rise while road workers receive the second largest increase of 10 percent.

In a statement released by Fiji’s information ministry, the minister thanks the ten Wages Councils for their patience in working towards the Wages Regulation Order, despite the resignation of the Wages Councils Chairperson.

Father Kevin Barr resigned from the Council in August over delays in the implementation of pay increases his body had recommended.

News Content © Radio New Zealand International           PO Box 123, Wellington, New Zealand

Illegial operations by China Railway in Fiji get a “we will speak to them” where others get prosecuted.

WAF disappointed with China Railway

07:03 Today

 

Taken from/By: Report by: MIka Loga

Water Authority of Fiji Chief Opetaia Ravai is disappointed with Chinese contractors China Railway Five Company for allegedly failing to pay FNPF contributions of its local workers.

The FNPF has confirmed receiving complaints from employees.

“We are definitely concerned we’ll speak to them in no uncertain terms if they want to operate in Fiji they need to abide by the laws of the land. So we’ll speak to them about this.”

The company is contracted to carry out water and sewerage works.

Police service crippled by no vehicle……..

Police operations in Levuka crippled

07:03 Today

Levuka TownTaken from/By: FBC News Report by: Apisalome Coka

Police operations in Levuka isn’t at it’s best as they are not fully equipped.

Lomaiviti Provincial Administrator Kelepi Kubunameca told FBC News, Police on the island have been without a vehicle since last year.

“Our service is crippled as there is no vehicle allocated for the public department, but I thank various head of departments in Levuka who are assisting the Police Department, with whatever vehicle that they have.”

Police spokesperson Inspector Atunaisa Sokomuri says a brand new vehicle was given to the Levuka Police last year but they damaged it.

According to Sokomuri, Police Commissioner Brigadier General Ioane Naivalurua has directed that all cases must be attended to and not having a vehicle should not be used as an excuse.

FLP Submission

GCC should be retained-FLP

Publish date/time: 12/10/2012 [17:14]

Fiji Labour Party Leader Mahendra Chaudhry has said that the Constitution should provide the circumstances under which the military forces may be deployed either in Fiji or abroad must receive the approval of parliament.
Chaudhry has said that the Constitution should also explicitly provide for both the ministerial control of the military forces as well as its command.
He said the Constitution should state that a military force may only be raised or maintained in Fiji under the authority of an Act of Parliament.
He said the Great Council of Chiefs should be retained.
Chaudhry said they propose that the GCC be retained in its role as an advisory body to the government on issues relating to the well being of the indigenous Fijians.
The Council may act on matters referred to it by the Minister responsible or it may take up such issues on its own initiative.
He has proposed to the Constitution Commission that there is no need to write a new constitution.
He said problem is not constitution but lack of respect for the constitution and the rule of law in Fiji.
He adds the 1997 constitution should be retained as the base document.
Chaudhry has proposed that the full term of the House of Representatives should be reduced from five years to four years from the date of its first meeting after a general election.
He said polling must commence no later than 21 days after the last day of the receipt of nominations.
He said the timeline for by election on should be amended to read three years and six months.
Chaudhry said they are proposing that the 71 members remain in the House of Representatives including 26 seats reserved for various communities that make up Fiji to be shared as twelve seats for Indigenous Fijians, ten for Indo Fijians, one for Rotumans and three seats for General Electors.
He said there should be 45 open seats to be filled by voting in 15 three member heterogeneous constituencies is by members of the various ethnic communities residing in Fiji.
They are proposing that the Upper House of the Senate should be constituted of 35 members of which 30 would be nominated by the leaders of political parties based on the proportion of primary votes obtained by their parties.
The remaining five of whom atleast one should be a Rotuman, to be appointed by the President to represent minority communities or groups which would otherwise be under represented or not represented in parliament.
He proposes that Senate should not have any veto powers or powers that override the authority of the House of Representatives.
The Constitution should require that the House of Representatives and the Senate should sit together as an Electrol College for the purposes of electing as President and Vice President one of the pairs of candidates nominated for those offices.
The election should be by secret ballot under the preferential system. A candidate to be successful must obtain at least 50% plus one of the valid votes cast.
He further proposes that the President’s term of office should be limited to one term of five years and he or she should not be eligible for reappointment.
The Vice President’s term should be similarly limited except that he or she could be nominated for the office of the President on expiry of his or her term as VP.
He said the Constitution should clarify that the President does not have any reserve powers or authority other than that prescribed in the Constitution and that the President must act only on the advice of the Cabinet except where he or she is empowered by law to act on the advice of any other authority or Minister.
The constitution should require that the Prime Minister must establish a multi ethnic Cabinet from among members of the House of Representatives or the Senate.
FLP has suggested that the number of cabinet ministers should not exceed 18 and that Deputy Minister should be limited to six mainly for larger ministries.
Chaudhry said the preferential system of voting known as alternative vote is to be retained. A candidate must secure 50% plus 1 of the total valid votes cast to be elected as a member of the House of Representatives.
Chaudhry said a person’s right to vote and to be registered as a voter should clearly prescribe in the Constitution.
He has proposed that voting age should be lowered to 18.
He stress that residential qualification of two year must be maintained.
In order to enable and encourage the participation of women in politics they propose that should the number of successful women candidates be less than 15, then additional woman be nominated to parliament so that the total number of women members is not than 15.
FLP proposes that ALTA to remain an entrenched legislation, leases under ALTA to be given out for a minimum of 50 years to provide security of tenure and encourage investment in the agricultural sector, rent should be put at 10% of the Unimproved Capital Value but the State should continue to meet the additional 4% as subsidy to growers.
He proposes for a special Constitutional Court be established to expeditiously determine matter arising under the Constitution or involving its interpretation.
He said the current practice of such matters being dealt with through the High Court has its disadvantages, is time consuming and expensive.
Chaudhry said additional women to be nominated to parliament and women should not have less than fifteen seats in the House Of Representatives.
He has recommended that the person to be appointed Attorney General must be a qualified to be appointed a judge of the High Court.
The establishment and functions of the Human Rights Commission should be maintained as provided for in the 1997 Constitution.
However its membership should be enlarged to five members drawn from a good cross section of the society of whom atleast two should be women.
The Constitution should require the establishment of a national minimum wage mechanism to determine minimum wage levels in the various sectors of the economy.
He said to counter the adverse effects the escalating levels of poverty and social hardships the FLP has recommended that the Constitution should protect the poor by requiring the State to follow the principles of natural justice in such circumstances.
Chaudhry said the party has recommended the introduction of a State Pension Scheme to cater for all senior citizens above the age of 65 who are not in receipt of any other pension or other benefits and who are without adequate means of support to provide for their basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter.
Special parliamentary majorities, he recommended sections 191 to 192 in the 1997 constitution be appropriately amended to reflect the changed composition of both houses and requiring the support of 75% of members of both houses to alter act of the constitution.
He has urged the Commission to include a provision of the transnational arrangement to the draft constitution requiring the President to appoint an independent caretaker administration to assume charge of the government until such time as the government elected under the new constitution takes office.
Story by: Ronal Deo

What to do with the military………..

Withdraw RFMF officers from all current governance structures-FWCC

Publish date/time: 12/10/2012 [17:32]

The Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre has called for the total withdrawal of the Fiji Military Forces from all current governance structures and the reduction in the size of the RFMF.
While making their submission to the Constitution Commission today, Crisis Centre officials, Shamima Ali and Edwina Kotoisuva said this is necessary to ensure a free and non threatening process in the return to democracy.
The Women’s Crisis Centre has also recommended for the resignation of all serving military officers in the public service and those intending to enter the political arena for the 2014 elections.
They said a mechanism has to be established for dialogue between the elected government and the military to facilitate the process of re-establishing civilian control and resolving any disputes or misunderstanding.
The centre said this mechanism must adhere to the accepted principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
Ali said the Crisis Centre proposes that there should be a gradual reduction in the size of the military bearing in mind there are no external threats.
The centre claims in its constitution submission that there are misconceived fears about challenges to the government’s authority and it’s obsession with stopping dissenting voices which has resulted in the invocation of the Public Emergency Regulation.
The centre also calls for the strengthening of human rights protections in the 1997 constitution.
Story by: Vijay Narayan

The flaw with using “Near Infra Red” is that it only reads correctly on fresh cut cane………..First the delays at the mills need to be fixed. The farmers will pay for any delay at the mill.

Concerns about impact of change in Fiji sugarcane payments

Updated 9 October 2012, 18:35 AEST

A leading researcher on Fiji’s sugar industry has raised concerns about the the decision to pay growers based on the quality of what they deliver, not the weight.

The Fiji Sugar Corporation has announced it will adopt a “Near Infra Red” or NIR system, to test the quality of the cane delivered.

The system is widely used in most of the world’s sugar growing countries.

But as Pacific Correspondent Campbell Cooney reports there are concerns that while growers will be expected to improve their efficiency, the same improvement will not happen in Fiji’s ageing mills or to its transport systems.

Presenter: Campbell Cooney

Speaker: Dr Padma Narsey Lal, indepenent researcher, and author of the history of Fiji cane growing and processing

AFL-CIO Calls on Iraq and Fiji Governments to Improve Labor Rights

http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Global-Action/AFL-CIO-Calls-on-Iraq-and-Fiji-Governments-to-Improve-Labor-Rights

 10/05/2012
On Tuesday, Oct. 2, the United States Trade Representative convened hearings on labor rights in Fiji and Iraq in response to petitions the AFL-CIO filed.
As developing countries, both Fiji and Iraq receive tariff benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences.  In order to keep the benefits, countries have to comply with a number conditions, including the requirement to take steps to ensure their workers can exercise internationally recognized worker rights, including freedom of association, collective bargaining and freedoms from forced labor.
Last June, the U.S. government announced it had accepted both petitions.  At that time, it set a hearing date and deadlines for pre-hearing petitions and public comment.

Fiji

Responding to deplorable labor conditions in Fiji and requests for international assistance from Fijian trade unions, the AFL-CIO first filed a petition regarding Fiji’s failure to protect labor rights in December 2011.
In 2006, a military coup toppled Fiji’s government.  Although the Fiji Court of Appeal in 2009 found the interim regime to be illegal, it has remained in power—and implemented a series of decrees that limit worker and trade union rights.  For example, a 2011 amendment to the Employment Relations Promulgation of 2007 excluded public service workers from its coverage, denying them several rights and benefits including the right to collective bargaining.  And the Essential National Industries Decree of 2011 stripped rights from workers from 11 corporations in the finance, telecommunications, aviation, and public utilities sectors as essential industries—nullifying collective bargaining agreements, forcing unions to re-register and effectively eliminating the right to strike.
Not only has the interim government changed the law in ways detrimental to worker and trade union rights, it has in practice taken steps to intimidate and harass union leaders and silence worker voices.  On repeated occasions, the interim government has assaulted and harassed the highest ranking trade union official in Fiji, Mr. Felix Anthony, National Secretary of the Fiji Trade Union Congress and General Secretary of the Fiji Sugar Workers.  It even prevented Anthony from traveling to the International Labor Conference in 2011.  On June 22, 2011, two army officers assaulted another leader of the Fiji Sugar Workers Union (Mohammed Khalil).  During the beating, the officers demanded that the president submit his resignation from the union, or he would face the same treatment again.  The interim government attempts to maintain strict control over dissenting voices by requiring unions to apply for permits to hold public meetings and with an overly broad definition of treason that chills the speech not only of workers but also journalists.
The interim government, despite having expelled an ILO Mission just days before the hearing, generally denied the AFL-CIO’s allegations and instead argued that Fijian workers are better off, earning higher wages and benefits than before the new regime was put in place.  Nevertheless, the interim government made clear that continued eligibility for GSP benefits is critical the Fijian economy.
Despite its rhetoric—given the importance the government puts on GSP benefits—there is hope that it will abandon its anti-worker policies and practices and allow trade unions and their leaders and members to speak and operate freely.  The AFL-CIO will be working hard to make that happen.  Post hearing briefs are due Oct. 23, but the U.S. government is unlikely to make a determination in the case any time soon.

Iraq

The AFL-CIO first filed a petition against the government of Iraq in 2008, citing its failure to repeal repressive Saddam Hussein era laws effectively outlawing unions; the failure to enact a new labor code consistent withILO core labor standards; and failure to afford worker rights in practice, including the rights to freedom of association, collective bargaining and freedom from forced labor.
Since then, although Iraq’s legislature has enacted new laws regarding social security, journalists and NGOs, it has failed to enact a new labor or trade union code.  Although it has repealed approximately 60 Saddam era decrees, it has failed to repeal Decree 150, which denies public sector workers of the right to form and join unions by classifying them as civil servants.
The U.S. Department of State has stated that “[f]reedom of association and the right to collective bargaining were not respected in practice,” in Iraq and has placed Iraq on the Tier 2 Watch List in its annual human trafficking report.
Iraqi’s working families have so much to deal with, from security threats, to power shortages, to high unemployment.  The lack of internationally recognized worker rights only makes their jobs and daily lives even more precarious—the exact opposite of what they need.  Despite these challenges, after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the trade union movement in Iraq began to grow independently.
To help raise the standard of living for Iraqi working families, the best thing the government could do is to encourage the growth of these budding unions, which allow workers to empower themselves and learn democratic decision making in a very personal way.  The government should take this GSP petition as an opportunity to seek assistance from its own workers, as well as the ILO and the U.S. government to finally enact and effectively implement labor and trade union laws ensuring that all workers in Iraq, whether in the public, private or government sectors, can freely exercise fundamental labor rights so they can work in solidarity with each other to improve their own wages and working conditions.

And so the PR spin starts to convince USA not to remove the General System of Preferences.

Fiji employers say labour conditions better than ever

Posted at 19:38 on 05 October, 2012 UTC

An employers’ group in Fiji says the Essential Industries Decree has improved conditions for companies and workers in Fiji.

The President of the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation Mark Matthews says the decree was brought in to protect businesses and industries that are critical to the national economy and the outcomes have not impacted on workers’ rights.

The Fiji Government is preparing written submissions to the United States trade officials to avoid being removed from the General System of Preferences arrangement.

If the preferential trade arrangement is removed, the Fiji interim Government says up to 15,000 jobs could be at risk.

Mark Matthews says CEOs often tell him labour conditions in Fiji are better than ever.

“They are happy with the process, they are happy with the outcomes and they say their staff are also happy with the outcomes too, so I don’t believe there has been any job loss, any degradation of workers’ rights as a result of this. I think that the industrial relations landscape is probably better now than it has ever been in recent times.”

News Content © Radio New Zealand International           PO Box 123, Wellington, New Zealand

Fiji to learn first-hand about progress that has been achieved by North Korea?……who also has a crashing economy,lives on foreign aid and cannot feed its people…

Fiji foreign minister on first North Korea visit

Posted at 01:39 on 05 October, 2012 UTC

Fiji’s foreign minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola is in Pyongyang on the first visit by a Fiji minister to North Korea.

Ratu Inoke has met North Korea’s foreign minister, Pak Ui Chun, during his two-day visit.

Fiji’s information ministry says Ratu Inoke has thanked North Korea for its support towards Fiji’s successful bid to chair the G77.

He says he is privileged to learn first-hand about progress that has been achieved by North Korea which Fiji could learn from.

Mr Chun says the visit demonstrates the mutual trust, understanding and the spirit of cooperation that exist between the two countries as independent sovereign states.

News Content © Radio New Zealand International           PO Box 123, Wellington, New Zealand

Wu is telling the Fijian government exactly what it wants to hear.

Fiji is not China’s political football

by  Philippa Brant – 4 October 2012 2:46p.m.

Philippa Brant is a researcher working on China’s foreign aid. Concern has arisen again over China’s relationship with Fiji after a senior government delegation visit last week.

Wu Bangguo, China’s second-ranked Communist Party leader, caused a stir in the Australian and New Zealand media last week for his reported comments criticising the ‘bullying of strong countries over small or weak ones‘.

China has certainly not joined Australia and New Zealand in condemning the military-led government in Fiji for its continued restrictions on democracy, but it has, until now, tried to distance itself from appearing too close to Commodore Bainimarama. Since my research visit to Fiji in late 2009 I have argued that China would ultimately not risk its relationship with Australia and New Zealand over Fiji. Despite announcing a 34% increase since last year in Chinese-Fijian trade, the US$172 million is still dwarfed by China’s economic relationship with Australia.

Wu’s comments don’t change this basic judgment. They should be seen as political posturing rather than a nefarious attempt to use Fiji as some kind of political football in a Cold War-esque geopolitical contest, as some commentators have suggested. Wu is telling the Fijian government exactly what it wants to hear.

Wu’s visit was significant in terms of expanding development cooperation, with the signing of three new economic & technical cooperation agreements: two ‘framework documents’ (memoranda of understanding rather than anything concrete) and one concessional loan agreement of 200 million Fijian dollars ($US112 million) to upgrade the Nabouwalu-Dreketi road.

In recent years China’s concessional loans to Fiji have been, in total:

  • $US35.83 million for low-cost housing (2009).
  • $US102.4 million for three road projects (2011).
  • $US10.8 million for the Somosomo hydrodam (2011).

Of these, only the hydrodam loan was not part of the April 2006 Regional Soft Loan package. Last week’s agreement thus marks the first major concessional loan agreement since Bainimarama took power in October 2006. Other aid projects in the pipeline include the Navua hospital (agreement signed back in 2009) and the Vanua Levi rice program. Wu Bangguo also announced the provision of 30 scholarships for Fijian students to study in China.

Buried in the Chinese Ambassador’s statement on Wu Bangguo’s visit was an announcement that China is willing to work with other stakeholders to promote sustainable development in the South Pacific. Coming alongside the recent agreement for a joint aid project between New Zealand and China in the Cook Islands, this should be regarded as a positive step from China. Australia should read it as a signal to increase efforts to engage with China, to help ensure that China’s presence in Fiji benefits the Fijian people.

Not reported in Fiji is that BOTH sides have three weeks to make post-hearing submissions and it will be some months before a decision is made by the US government.

Restoring Fiji workers’ rights best option, says US unionist

Posted at 03:25 on 04 October, 2012 UTC

A United States union official says the best outcome of a review of Fiji’s duty free access is workers getting their rights back, so businesses don’t suffer.

The US is reviewing Fiji’s eligibility for the General System of Preferences after a petition by the US federation of trade unions, the AFL-CIO.

Both sides now have three weeks to make post-hearing submissions.

The AFL-CIO’s trade and globalisation specialist, Celeste Drake, says the Fiji Government’s general approach during the hearing was that it isn’t doing anything wrong.

“To us, and to the Fiji Trade Unions Confederation, the best outcome possible is for the government to withdraw some of these decrees, especially the Essential National Industries decree, and the ERP amendments decree, give workers their rights back, and then workers have their rights, Fiji gets to keep its trade benefits, and everyone will be better off.”

Celeste Drake says it will be some months before a decision is made by the US government.

News Content © Radio New Zealand International
PO Box 123, Wellington, New Zealand

NJV given the green-light by Govt against the wishes of the Tikina Namosi Landowners Committee (TNLC)

NJV given the green-light by Govt

September 18, 2012 05:20:20 PM

Fiji’s government has given the green light to the Namosi Joint Venture (NJV) to recommence all activities relating to special Prospecting License including exploration, project studies and Waisoi Project Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) until 2015.

Prime Minister Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama made the decision following the successful rehabilitation of environmental issues raised by landowners earlier this year.

Government in a statement said the Tikina Namosi Landowners Committee (TNLC) and NJV have worked in partnership to address landowners’ concerns that enable both parties to develop a cooperative way forward.
“Government is pleased with NJV’s commitment to the rehabilitation works and the new initiatives that have been introduced which demand more consistent dialogue with Government and TNLC on future works (exploration and geo-technical studies including drillings) together with appropriate rehabilitation programs.”
Government and the landowners will meet again once the EIA is completed.
By Indrani Krishna

“So many people have been flocking to make submissions, but some are not airing their views. For example, business people, civil servants. Many people I know, friends and relatives, don’t air their views because they don’t feel free to do so.”

Fiji academic says commission ‘breath of fresh air’ for free speech

<!–

–>Mosmi Bhim

A Fiji National University lecturer in ethics and governance, Mosmi Bhim, speaking at the Media and Democracy Symposium at the University of the South Pacific. Image: Alex Perrottet/PMC

Pacific Scoop: Report – By Alex Perrottet in Suva

Fiji’s Constitutional Commission has improved  freedom of expression and has been a “breath of fresh air”, says a Fiji academic and former journalist.

Speaking at the Media and Democracy Symposium at the University of the South Pacific, Fiji National University  lecturer in ethics and governance Mosmi Bhim gave an update on the commission and stressed her study was a “work in progress”.

Regarding the new constitution, she said it “seems to be on track” and “hopefully we will have a truly democratic system with free and fair elections in 2014”. However, she put some hard questions to the government, saying “restrictive laws are still in place”, such as a lack of ability to hold the government to account.

“If we cannot take court action against those in power, it seriously restricts our freedoms,” she said.

Fiji Village has since reported that Fiji’s Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum defended those comments, and said there are many current actions against the government.

Bhim, a journalism graduate of the University of the South Pacific, said the constitution had helped freedom of expression through the media.

Highlighting both sides “The media is highlighting the views of both sides. A few months back these views would not have been published,” she said.

But she said self-censorship in the media was leaving an impact on the quality of the news: “Our news is very dry, not very exciting because of that.”

She also sounded a warning about what might happen when the commission’s work is completed.

“Will these freedoms continue after the Constitutional Commission is finished? Is this a temporary freedom?”

She confirmed people were bringing up issues that the commission could not deal with, such as workers’ issues with wages, and problems such as poverty.

And she confirmed that despite the government encouraging people to come forward, many did not feel it was safe to do so.

“Why didn’t these people go to the authorities? Why did they go to the Constitutional Commission? Perhaps it shows that people see the commission as a ray of hope for them.

Many submissions “So many people have been flocking to make submissions, but some are not airing their views. For example, business people, civil servants. Many people I know, friends and relatives, don’t air their views because they don’t feel free to do so.”

She also warned that there needs to be more political actors standing up to take part in the emerging democracy.

“New political actors are not emerging in Fiji,” she said. “This is raising some worry”.

Alex Perrottet is contributing editor for Pacific Media Watch and was at the Media and Democracy conference.