Come clean, Prime Minister

Come clean, Prime Minister!

[posted 14 Sept 2012,1300]

FLP Website

The Prime Minister’s continuous rhetoric about transparency and his government’s so-called clean-up campaign does not fool the nation anymore, says the Fiji Labour Party.

Although there has been corruption in the past, his own regime has the most appalling record in terms of corruption and a lack of transparency in handling the affairs of the State, FLP said.

The Party is responding to the Prime Minister’s statement to the Fiji Sun (14/9/12) that his government was “promoting credibility and transparency something past governments had ignored”.

If his government is really promoting transparency, then Commodore Bainimarama should answer the following questions:

  1. Why have government accounts and finances not been published for public scrutiny since 2008?
  2. Why are Cabinet salaries now processed by a Suva private accounting firm owned by a close relative of the interim Attorney General and not the Treasury as has been the practice under past governments?
  3. Why is it that the nation no longer knows how much Cabinet Ministers are paid – when Cabinet pays were a matter of public information under past governments?
  4. Why are government contracts awarded to favoured companies without tenders being called as is required under the Public Service regulations?

We can go on – the list is long – but let the four questions above be first answered.

Regrettably, the Prime Minister’s promises and assurances to the nation can no longer be relied on. As for the Constituent Assembly, to safeguard transparency and democratic norms, the Prime Minister should not be the sole arbiter of appointments to the Assembly which will determine the final constitution.

To give one person absolute powers in determining the size and composition of the Assembly is wrong in principle, and no amount of public assurances by Commodore Bainimarama will set this right.

It’s time to leave, Commodore…FLP

FLP Website

Commodore Bainimarama should stop playing god and listen instead to the pulse of the nation and the hardship our people are suffering under his regime.

The mounting social distress in Fiji, the cries and pleas of our people are coming through very clearly in the submissions of the majority of the ordinary people appearing before the Constitution Commission. Most of them have spoken of bread and butter issues, of the struggle to survive, the deplorable condition of roads, the deteriorating state of our hospitals and health centres – to list a few.

Yet the Prime Minister has the gall to tell the Fiji Sun (13/9/12), “My government will not listen to anyone who wants to tell us how to govern the nation”. He was responding to FLP’s call for a caretaker government to be appointed to oversee the constitutional and electoral process.

Bainimarama’s response is the arrogant hallmark of a dictator. He should listen for his own good. Had he done so in the first place, Fiji would not be the troubled nation it is today.

Look at the mess he has made of the sugar industry in the past four years, threatening the livelihoods of thousands of our people. Cane production has slumped from 3.3 million tonnes in 2006 to an estimated 1.4 million tonnes this year. Sugar produced was down from 310,000 tonnes in 2006 to 165,000 tonnes last year and is expected to decline to 125,000 tonnes this year.

The sugar industry is just one instance of the gross financial and economic mismanagement the nation has suffered under his regime. The fact that private investment levels are now down to 2% of the GDP, the lowest on record, indicates lack of confidence in Fiji by local investors.

Fiji urgently needs a change of government, indeed, a speedy return to democratic and constitutional rule, if it is to avoid becoming a failed nation by 2014.

Full FLP preliminary presentation to the Constitution Commission .

FLP questions the credibility and legitimacy
of the constitutional process

Fiji Labour Party today made a preliminary presentation to the Constitution Commission saying that the constitutional process was flawed and lacked credibility and integrity.

Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry appeared at the Commission’s sitting at the Suva Civic Centre before three Commissioners – Prof Yash Ghai, Dr. Satendra Nandan and Christina Murray.

Mr Chaudhry said Decrees 57 and 58 made it clear that the process was driven by the regime to serve its own interests and actually undermined the independence of the Commission itself.

As such it posed a dilemma for the Commissioners who had taken an oath to discharge their duties “faithfully, conscientiously with the best interests of the people of Fiji at heart without fear, favour, bias, ill will or prejudice”.

Mr Chaudhry asked: “How does the Commission propose to deal with the provisions of Decrees 57 and 58 that, according to its own admission, undermine the independence, integrity and credibility of both the Commission and the process itself?

He reiterated the Party’s stand that the only legitimate and credible way forward for Fiji was through the appointment of a caretaker prime minister and administration to oversee the constitutional and electoral process.

Herewith FLP’s full preliminary submission:

Preliminary submission to the
Constitutional Commission

We deem it necessary to make this preliminary submission at this point because we believe that the Constitutional process as sanctioned under Decrees 57 & 58 is fundamentally flawed and lacks credibility and integrity. It is driven by the regime to achieve its own self-serving agenda as is evident from the various repugnant provisions in the two decrees promulgated on 18 July 2012.

It is manifestly clear that the process is not going to be inclusive, participatory or even credible. Further, it has been unilaterally imposed on the people of Fiji without any consultation with their legitimate representatives.

We note that the Commission itself has expressed strong reservations about the manner in which the process is being driven. This was clearly stated in a media statement issued on 19 July by its Chair, Professor Yash Ghai

Among the issues Professor Ghai commented on were those of immunity for the perpetrators of Fiji’s coups and the absolute powers conferred on the Prime Minister in appointing members of the Constituent Assembly which will determine the final constitution. Professor Ghai rightly contended that the process should be kept independent of the regime given the probability that some of its members may be contesting the forthcoming elections.

This is a stand The Fiji Labour Party has maintained from the very beginning – that the process back to democracy and constitutional rule should not be driven by the regime. We now submit that there is only one legitimate and credible way back to constitutional rule. And that is to abide by the advice rendered in the decision of the Fiji Court of Appeal (FCA) on 9 April 2009 (Qarase vs Bainimarama-Civil Appeal No ABU 0077 of 2008s).

The Legitimate Way Forward

The FCA judgment advised that a caretaker Prime Minister be appointed with the specific mandate to oversee the process of holding general elections and restoring constitutional rule within a realistic time frame. Paragraph 156 of the judgment reads:

“The only appropriate course at the present time is for elections to be held that enable Fiji to get a fresh start.

Taking cognizance of the principle of necessity… for the purposes of these proceedings, it is advisable for the President to appoint a distinguished person independent of the parties in litigation as caretaker prime minister to advice dissolution of Parliament and direct the issuance of writs for an election under s60 of the Fiji Constitution. This is to enable Fiji to be restored to constitutional rule in accordance with the Constitution.”

We submit that His Excellency the President has the powers (Executive Authority Decree 2 of 2009) to take the following course of action appropriate to establishing a credible and legitimate process of returning Fiji to constitutional rule:

1. Based on the advice rendered in the Fiji Court of Appeal decision, His Excellency to appoint a caretaker Prime Minister – a distinguished person, independent of the political parties and the regime and one in whom our people can repose confidence – to advice dissolution of Parliament and direct the issuance of writs for an election under Section 60 of the Fiji Constitution.

2. A caretaker administration is then set up with the specific mandate to oversee the process of holding general elections and restoring constitutional rule, within a realistic timeframe. This should be no longer than 12 months as we deem it is possible to hold credible elections within that period.

3. The caretaker administration to assume full responsibility for the constitutional and electoral process.

4. A President’s Political Dialogue Forum (PPDF) is established following the appointment of the caretaker administration. The mission of the PPDF would be to assist the caretaker government and the Constitution Commission in obtaining consensus on the roadmap for the restoration of constitutional government via free, fair and credible general elections.

5. The following appointments will be essential to oversee the entire electoral process:

• Electoral Commission

• Boundaries Commission

• Supervisor of Elections

In the absence of a Constitutional Offices Commission (1997 Constitution), these appointments can be made by the President on the advice of a caretaker administration after due consultations with key stakeholders.

6. We believe there is no need to re-write an entirely new constitution. The 1997 Constitution should be used as the base document and amended to meet changes deemed necessary, such as, the electoral provisions, once consensus on these is reached at the PPDF level.

What is wrong with the current process?

As stated earlier, the Process as sanctioned by Decrees 57 & 58 is fundamentally flawed – it is driven by the regime to achieve its own agenda. It lacks credibility, integrity and legitimacy.

Decree 57 of 2012 and the Question of Immunity

1. Section 7 (4) of the Decree directs the Commission to include in the draft Constitution provisions for broad immunity to the President, members of the security forces including the Fiji Corrections Services, individuals appointed to Cabinet or to any State service with regard to the 2006 and earlier coups; the immunity to cover their unlawful actions up to the first sitting of parliament elected under the new constitution. It excludes common crimes committed after the date of the two decrees. Such provision shall not be reviewed by parliaments in future or be challenged in the Courts of Law.

Decree 58 also requires the immunity provision as a mandatory element to be included in the new Constitution, before it is forwarded to the President for assent.

The directive to the Commission to include such a provision undermines its independence. Further, the immunity provisions are to be absolute and “shall not be reviewed, amended or revoked by the new parliament or any subsequent parliament”.

We submit that in a democracy Parliament is bound only by its own decisions taken in accordance with the procedures and Standing Orders applicable at the material times.

The Commission itself has publicly stated that this type of :

“retrospective immunity is most unusual, perhaps unique, and, we believe, undesirable … questions of immunity must be considered in the process of transitioning to democracy – it could be discussed through public submissions and debate in the Assembly. It is to be noted that those who have so far appeared before the Commission have rejected the notion of immunity”.

By providing blanket immunity in the past we have taken away the penal and punitive element from such heinous crimes and have simply encouraged more treasonous activities. If Fiji is to counter this coup-culture, the practice of writing immunity into constitutions must cease.

Non-negotiable elements

The Prime Minister says the subject of an electoral system is non-negotiable. The regime’s position here is for proportional representation based on one man, one vote, one value.

This is a crucial issue in ensuring racial harmony in the future and must be put to open discussions so that a fully representative system can be found which respects the rights of the minority communities and assures them due representation in Parliament and Cabinet. This factor needs to be addressed now so that a decision is reached on the way forward.

It should be remembered that the criteria set by the international community is for the consultation process to be inclusive, participatory, with a defined time limit and without any pre-determined conditions. Prescribing non-negotiables hardly meets this criteria.

As regards the Peoples Charter, many of the principles embodied in the Charter are commendable but nothing new. It must be acknowledged that the Charter does not have the full endorsement of the people of Fiji.

More importantly, it needs to be emphasized that the policies, decrees and actions of the regime to date are in gross violation of the universal principles and values the Charter enunciates. If they do not follow their own Charter, what right have they to parade it to the people?

This is yet another instance of the kind of hypocrisy inherent in their agenda. Let me list a few:

1. alarming lack of accountability and transparency in the affairs of the State

2. gross financial and economic mismanagement; rapid decline of the sugar industry threatening the livelihood of thousands of rural dwellers

3. high level of official corruption

4. promulgation of decrees that violate the human rights and freedoms of our people

5. compromised independence and authority of the Courts

We shall be elaborating on these and more in our substantive submission to be presented later.

Lack of an Open and Free environment

Despite certain relaxations to the Public Order Amendment Decree 2012, ie suspension of the requirement for permits to hold meetings on the constitutional process, this Decree remains in force and is being used to carry out arbitrary arrests and to intimidate the people.

The Constitution Commission expressed concern that, despite the temporary lifting of requirements for permits for meetings, the current atmosphere in Fiji was not conducive to

“…an open process in which Fijians can debate their future properly”.
Controls on the media and the wide reaching powers of the security forces in this regard are particularly worrying, as is the fact that generally people have no redress for actions taken against them by the State because the right of access to the Courts has been removed”.

It is to be noted that the period of suspension of Section 8 of the Public Order (Amendment) Decree terminates when the draft constitution is presented to the President by the Commission, thus reactivating the requirement to obtain permits to hold meetings.

This effectively means that no organized avenue would be available to the people to voice their opinions on the draft constitution given the fact that applications for permits were refused or made conditional in the past.

The most abhorrent features of the Decree continue in force ie.:

• Courts are denied the jurisdiction to deal with any challenge or redress to acts or powers exercised by the authorities under the Decree. The Chief Registrar has powers to terminate any such proceedings and this decision also cannot be challenged.

• The extraordinarily wide discretionary powers given to the Police Commissioner and Divisional Police Commissioners; as well as the sweeping powers of search, arrest and detention, without a warrant and on mere grounds of suspicion, available to ordinary police and army officers

• Powers exercised by the authorities to deny or withdraw permits for meetings etc to any group or organisation deemed to have a past record of, among other things, having “undermined or sabotaged or attempted to undermine or sabotage the economy or financial integrity of Fiji”.

• Powers given to the Security Forces (police and army) to use force of arms to break up protests, meetings, processions etc for which permits have been withdrawn; while powers given to army personnel to operate as police officers will result in further militarization of our society.

• Legitimate trade union activities can be targeted under the Decree if interpreted as an “attempt to undermine or sabotage the economy or financial integrity of Fiji”. Fines are excessive – $50,000 or a 10-year jail term or both for those found guilty. Participation in a meeting, assembly or procession without a permit can be liable to a $10,000 fine or a 5-year jail term.

• The powers given to the Prime Minister (Minister) to order detention beyond 48 hours and up to 14 days without recourse to legal proceedings is reprehensible. “Terrorism” is widely interpreted to include even legitimate trade union activities – any act perceived as “undermining or sabotaging the economy or financial integrity of Fiji”.

Intimidation by the authorities

The regime is using intimidatory tactics to stifle dissent. This is evident from the running commentaries of the Prime Minister in the media crossing swords with submittees who have questioned the credibility of the process, particularly those relating to the immunity provisions, the powers vested in the Prime Minister with regard to the appointment of the Constituent Assembly, the non-negotiables etc.

We are aware that many prominent citizens, business leaders, professionals and academics are reluctant to appear before the Commission to present their views because of fear of reprisal.

State Proceedings (Amendment) Decree 2012

This Decree grants privileged protection to the Prime Minister and his team in the lead up to the general elections. It is another blatant denial of individual rights and freedoms.

What it means is that the prime minister and his Cabinet colleagues can malign and slander any of their opponents and have this reported in the media for public consumption without fear of being sued for libel.

As such, it provides an unfair and unjust advantage to the prime minister and his ministers in the lead up to the elections while it denies their victims the right to legal redress. This can hardly be described as setting up a level playing field.

The regime claims that privileges accorded to its ministers under the Decree “is consistent with Parliamentary privilege as was applicable in Fiji and which is applicable in countries throughout the Commonwealth;”

This is absurd. Parliamentary privilege is restricted to proceedings in Parliament. Fiji has no parliament. Moreover, parliamentary privilege only applies to statements made in the House or the Chamber. The same statement made outside the House is not covered by parliamentary privilege.

The Decree violates the Media code of ethics based on principles of accurate, balanced and fair reporting. It violates the principle of transparency and accountability. Together with the Public Order (Amendment) Decree 2012, it will undermine any chance of the next elections being free, fair and credible.

Nor will it “facilitate open and frank discussion between Government, the public and other stakeholders…” as claimed by the regime.

Television (Amendment) Decree 52 of 2012 – This Decree was promulgated following reports that the Attorney General had threatened not to renew the operating licence of Fiji TV (due to expire at the end of June) because it had run interviews on its television network with former Prime Ministers Laisenia Qarase and Mahendra Chaudhry. Its simply another tactic to gag the media.

Fiji TV was warned that it would be closely monitored over the month. Although it publicly denied the report, Decree 52 confirmed the incident.
The Decree prohibits the Minister’s decision in such matters to be taken to any Court, Tribunal or Commission, thereby, denying the aggrieved licensee the right to redress or justice.

Censorship of the Media

The regime denies any censorship of the local media but the reality is that despite the lifting of the PER, the media in Fiji continues to operate as though it is still under strict censorship.

Indeed, the environment is still quite substantially coercive and threatening as evidenced by the incident that led to the promulgation of the Television (Amendment) Decree 52 of 2012.

We do not have an independent, free, liberated media in Fiji. The fines for incurring the wrath of the regime are so excessive that no media organization would dare fall foul of it.

The repercussions of such a cowed media are fatal for the success of a “free and open” consultation process. Articles, opinions or comments that question the regime or oppose its views are rarely, if ever, run. For instance, not a single mention was made in the news pages of the Fiji Times of the Constitution Commission’s media conference held on 19 July 2012. The Fiji Times ran a feature article two days later buried in the inside pages of its publication. How many people would have read the strong criticism voiced by Commission Chair Professor Yash Ghai, particularly of Decrees 57 and 58?

How can a fair and proper consultation process be conducted in an environment where the people of Fiji are given only one side of the picture – that of the regime?

There is no public debate on important issues facing our nation, no balanced coverage of views and opinions. News items that may put the regime in a negative light are not reported eg. the arrest and detention of former SDL parliamentarian Mere Samisoni on Friday 3rd August.

It should be kept in mind that the majority of our people can be fairly vulnerable to influence peddling and if only one point of view is constantly paraded before them, they will tend to believe it.

Decree 58 of 2012 – the Constituent Assembly

Decree 58 [Section 9 (1) &(2)] gives the Prime Minister full control over the size and composition of the Constituent Assembly and its Chair. The Commission itself has expressed strong dissatisfaction with this provision and has articulated the need for the Assembly to be kept independent of the regime because of the probability that some of its members may wish to contest the next elections.

In our earlier communication with the Commission we had raised fears about the Constituent Assembly being stacked in favour of the regime. These doubts have now been confirmed. We also questioned why appointments to the Assembly were being withheld until December, almost to the eve of its sitting.

• More importantly, the prescribed groups [s9(2) i-xiv)] should be allowed to nominate their own representatives to sit in the Assembly; the interim Prime Minister should not decide who should represent them. One must also question the representation of the military in the Assembly when the regime too is represented in the guise of government. Is the military separate from the regime?

• Section 10 (1) & (2) – prescribe eligibility requirements for appointment as members of the Constituent Assembly. Some of these requirements are harsh and seem to be deliberately inserted to exclude representatives and leaders of certain political parties from membership.

Section 10 (2) (b): A person is not eligible to be appointed as a member of the Assembly if the person has been convicted of an offence of dishonesty or an offence carrying a penalty of more than six months in prison;

The 1997 Constitution restricts eligibility as a Member of Parliament to persons “serving a sentence of imprisonment of 12 months or longer”. Why has this criteria now been reduced to a conviction for an offence (whenever committed) carrying a 6-month jail term? Is it to serve a certain political agenda?

• Schedule 2 Section (3) of the Decree on Code of Conduct of Constituent Assembly Members prohibits a member from expressing dissent, publicly or privately, with the decisions of the Assembly outside the Assembly. This is preposterous – it is tantamount to gagging and a denial of the right of expression. Why is the regime afraid of any public expressions of dissent? What is so sacrosanct about the deliberations of the Assembly? Doesn’t the public have a right to know?

There is an obvious contradiction between Section 3 (d) (i) and (ii) and Section 7 (4) of Decree 57. Section 3(d) states the purpose of the Decree is to draft a Constitution for Fiji that includes provisions appropriately designed to achieve, among others:

(i) true democracy
(ii) respect for, and protection and promotion of human rights

But Section 7 (4) makes it mandatory for immunity to be granted to the usurpers of democracy under whose rule grave violations of human rights of our citizens were officially sanctioned and enforced through the promulgation of draconian decrees.

We submit that it would be ridiculous to write-in absolute immunity provisions for these usurpers and simultaneously claim that the constitution is designed to achieve “true democracy and respect for and protection and promotion of human rights.”

Public comments

We refer to Section 7(l) (j) of Decree 57 which requires the Commission to present a draft constitution together with an explanatory report to the people of Fiji for their comments but note that no allowance for this has been made in Schedule 1 – Stages of the Process.

Is this an inadvertent omission? Can it be clarified as to when exactly will the documents be presented for public comments and how much time will be given for public comments? Will the Commission undertake to have the comments from the people published in the media?

Conclusion

It is discernible from reports we have been able to gather about views expressed at the public consultation sessions of the Commission, that there is significant opposition to the granting of immunity to the coup makers while there is support for the retention of the 1997 Constitution which the Court has ruled remains in place and has not been abrogated.

This brings us back to the point made earlier. This process is being driven by the regime in a direction that suits its agenda. It is fundamentally flawed, is not participatory and not conducive to a free and open environment for discussions and debate on important national issues that confront us.

The question we pose is: How does the Commission propose to deal with the provisions of Decrees 57 and 58 that, according to its own admission, undermine the independence, integrity and credibility of both the Commission and the process itself?

How do the Commissioners propose to deal with this dilemma given that their oath of office requires them to discharge their duty “faithfully and conscientiously with the best interests of the people of Fiji at heart and without fear, favour, bias, ill will or prejudice”.

We implore members of the Commission to carefully consider transitional arrangements to democratic rule and make adequate provision in the draft constitution for the same, including the appointment of a caretaker government to take charge of the process of returning Fiji to constitutional rule via free, fair and credible elections.

The Fiji Labour Party submits that a number of issues raised in this submission need to be addressed now. We also feel strongly that the members of the Commission must not regard themselves bound by those unethical provisions of Decrees 57 and 58 which they consider inhibit the proper discharge of their duties and responsibilities in accordance with their oath of office.

The interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum calls Shamima Ali’s concerns “concoctions” (Lies)

Fiji’s AG denies police intimidating people at constitutional commission

Posted at 20:52 on 03 September, 2012 UTC

The Fiji interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has denied police are intimidating people giving submissions to the constitutional commission.

Shamima Ali, the coordinator of the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre, has said the plain-clothed officers were taking copious notes and people were afraid to speak out.

Her comments were supported by the Head of the Women’s Rights Movement, Virisila Buadromo who said there would be more people giving submissions if they felt it was safe to do so.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum says the allegations are false and people are free to criticise the government. He says those speaking out on the issue of intimidation are doing so with ulterior motives.

“Look these are all concoctions from Shamima and her group of people. This is not to take away from the work of the women’s crisis centre, they are also a lot of important work, but it would appear that some of the agendas that they are taken up now have nothing to do with their specific mandate but has to do with some wider political agenda.”

The interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

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

Rajendra Chaudhrys reply to Felix Anthony

Felix Anthony issued the following release as National Secretary of FTUC on
29th August 2012.
My reply follows the comments by Mr Anthony – Rajendra Chaudhry.
(FTUC) MEDIA RELEASE

Fiji Labour Party No Longer Represents Workers

The Fiji Labour Party was formed by the Fiji Trades Union Congress in 1985 after
the then Government imposed a wage freeze on workers of Fiji. The Workers at the
time recognized that they needed a voice in Parliament and Government so that
their interest and concerns could be effectively addressed. Workers of all races
and backgrounds supported the Party because of its social policies and the fact
that it was truly multiracial.
In 1987 when the Party first formed the government, four of the key portfolios
were given to versatile unionists of the time. Today the Party has lost its
direction and is caught in the quagmire of deceit, dishonesty and hypocrisy.
In the current climate, the Trade Union Movement and workers are facing even
greater challenges to their very existence through the draconian decrees that have
been imposed by the regime and human rights abuses.
Democracy now is likened to a mirage. The FLP has had a string of controversies
involving senior members of the Party. These conditions call for a re-thinking of
our options and political strategy. With this in mind, I had discussions with the
Party Leader on a few occasions and on the morning of the Delegates Conference in
Nadi last Saturday, 25th August, 2012, an agreement was reached that we needed
greater consultation on ensuring that we had credible people as office bearers of
the Party. The election to be held on that day was to be deferred to allow this
course of action.
During the meeting I spoke at length on the need for the Party to return to its
roots and become truly multiracial and that the Party makes it mandatory that all
Branches must include all races and people from all walks of life.
I spoke on improving internal democracy within the Party and greater tolerance for
differing views and positions. I highlighted my concerns on the fact that many
well-educated, professional and people of good standing had over the period left
the Party because there was no tolerance for debate, opposing views and any
questions was interpreted as a challenge to the leadership.

Page 2

My reply:

This is utter nonsense. People left because they could not tolerate a
strong, committed and disciplined leadership which was/is the strength of the FLP.
Opposing views and divergence of opinions have always been entertained but at the
end of the day it is what the members of the FLP decide. If they choose Mr Chaudhry
over others then it is a right that the FLP membership has and exercise. What the
FLP does not tolerate is dissent and undermining the party in public and bringing
it into disrepute. Persons who have been indicted for such actions are Krishna
Datt, Felix Anthony, Atu Bain and Agni Deo Singh in 2006. Datt and Bain were
expelled from the FLP and Felix and Agni apologised and were given a reprieve.
I suggested that the Party must reach out to these people and attempt to get them
back on board so that the Party can re-invent itself and be on a stronger footing
to meet the challenges of the time.
My reply: Why should the FLP get back people who have openly undermined it and
sought to weaken it? Having said this, Datt and Bain did not appeal their expulsion
and if they now choose to return then they must reapply in accordance with the
rules of the FLP.
I also raised concerns at the lack of Worker Representatives in the Party
structures. Some of these issues would have required a Constitutional change which
is not difficult. These matters were totally ignored as the Party leader and his
Son thought they were unimportant to discuss.
My reply: Workers representatives are part of the National Council. Felix knows
about this and has never raised any issue on this till now.
The National Treasurer attempted to present a financial report by simply reading
from some paper which made no sense to anyone. I again raised concern at the
report and suggested that it be withheld and a proper report be presented to the
Executive Committee.
My reply: The audited financial report as presented by the Treasurer was proper in
every respect and was adopted.
I again stressed that the Party has come under considerable scrutiny on financial
matters and there was a need for greater transparency and accountability. While
this was not received well by the Leader and his cronies, the matter was
eventually referred to the Executive Committee.
My reply: This is not correct. Felix’s comments on this matter were heard but did
not go any further as no one supported any of his motions. He was told that there
were processes in the FLP constitution to admit members or to make any
constitutional changes and that should be followed, that elections must be in

Page 3
accordance with the FLP constitution and that it was the duty of branches and not
the Management Board to ensure that branches were functional and operating within
the ambits of the FLP constitution.
In the next cunningly calculated move, which has been the hallmark of the leader,
he proceeded to read a motion signed by some branches to conduct elections. It is
believed that the son worked behind the scene to get signatures from cronies and
those who were hired as delegates. The process was over within a couple of
minutes. I abstained and asked for this to be reflected in the minutes.
My reply: There was consensus on the election of members of the Management Board
and even after reading out the list as endorsed by 9 branches, Mr Chaudhry still
invited nominations from the floor but none were forthcoming. This riled Felix and
he probably then realised that it was he who had become irrelevant and not the FLP
or its leadership.
Again we witnessed the total manipulation of the process which is not new to the
Party. Here we have a Party that preaches democracy but its practices and its
operations are totally opposite to the very principles of democracy. In utter
frustration and disgust, I decided to walk out of the meeting.
My reply: As can be gleaned from this statement it’s all about ‘I ’ – being
Felix. He says he wasn’t given an opportunity to speak but from his own statement
it is clear that that he was clearly given more than ample opportunity to speak.
Felix fails to forget that the FLP Delegates Conference is about branches and their
decisions and not individuals like Felix and his gun for hire on that day, Aman
Ravindra Singh. Felix was clearly unsupported by any of the delegates and left
after the election of office bearers.
Those who were in the meeting would have observed the father-and-son domination on
each and every discussion and allowed little room for anyone else to have their
say.
My reply: This is nonsense. No one raised this issue at the meeting. The party
meeting was chaired by the acting president. Delegates from all branches were
present. Felix never raised any objections to the chair or any of the delegates
that were present. In fact, Felix, contrary to his statement, was the one doing the
most talking at the Delegates Conference but his comments were not finding any
traction with the delegates.
My interventions were only possible as I had to stand my ground and make a point
but on every other issue, Rajendra Chaudhry was allowed to have a comment before

Page 4
anyone else was allowed a voice. This is the antithesis of transparency and
democracy.
My reply: Felix was always given an opportunity to speak at the Delegates
Conference. My comments were only in response to the broad and sweeping allegations
by Felix Anthony – allegations unsupported by facts and neither by any other
delegate, including Daniel Urai – the president of the FTUC. In fact, FLP minutes
will show that the person who talked the most was Felix.
The current lineup of officials of the Party is weak at best and none of these
officers have shown any real commitment to the Party other than to the Leader
only. The leadership does not represent workers nor can we rely upon them to give
workers a credible voice.
My reply: The FLP is a democratic party with elections for principal office
bearers. All branch and national council members are elected as are branch and
constituency representatives. Felix is well aware of this and has never raised it
previously. He is only now raising it as he was not considered for a position of
vice president of the FLP – a post he formerly held. Felix was not nominated by 3
branches as required by the FLP constitution. Even his own branch – Lautoka – did
not nominate him. As for commitment to the FLP, this is best left to the FLP
membership and the electorate. Further, the FTUC disassociated itself with the FLP
in 1992 and the FLP has still been able to effectively articulate workers’ rights
as well as other issues of concern to the electorate so this statement by Felix
that the FLP does not give workers a credible voice is hollow in rhetoric as it has
been the FLP which has been at the forefront of workers issues since 1987.
Let me remind those that have forgotten that here was the Leader of the Fiji
Labour Party who in March, 2007 recommended 5 percent across the board reduction
in Public Service salary and wages as the then Minister of Finance announced as
part of the policy measures in the 2007 Mini Budget.
He now has the temerity to talk about the hard times that workers face. If he
thinks that people have short memories he is sadly mistaken once again.
My reply: The 5% wage cut was imposed by the regime before Mr Chaudhry joined
Cabinet at the invitation of the President and that was subsequently restored.
Instead of criticising Mr Chaudhry, who was given the mandate by the FLP to accept
the President’s offer to join Cabinet, Felix should explain how and why he as the
leader of the trade union movement supported the Bainimarama regime, especially
after the same regime cut civil service pay by 5%? Did the FTUC or his union give
him the mandate to accept positions in the regime?

Page 5
The Party sadly has become the personal property of Mahendra Chaudhry. Eighty
percent of the delegates are National Farmers Union officials or members. The
other 15 percent are the leader’s cronies who survive in politics at his behest.
The Executive Committee of the Party is no different. Now he has all his people in
the Management Board. His Son, apart from being the legal adviser appointed by the
Leader himself, is now also the spokesperson.
My reply: This is a statement unsupported by facts. Mr Chaudhry has the support of
the FLP as he is a tried and proven leader. It is these leadership qualities that
make him the obvious choice for the leadership of the FLP – which he has held since
1991. All branches are independent of the Management Board and the Management Board
is answerable to the Delegates Conference and the National Council between
Delegates Conferences.
The Labour Party that we the workers formed has been hijacked and used as a
personal property to advance the personal agenda of the leader and his son.
My reply: This statement is incorrect as Felix had nothing to do with the formation
of the FLP and secondly the FLP is not the personal property of any person
irrespective of what Felix says. It is a case of sour grapes by Felix after not
being considered for election to the FLP Management Board. I have no interest in
any position in the FLP at present and will decide when I think the time is right.
It was for this reason I did not contest any position in the FLP Management Board.
In any event who is Felix to question my membership of the FLP? I have been a
member of the FLP since 1987 and I have stood by the FLP since then. My commitment
to the FLP is unwavering and will remain so.
The party has really become irrelevant and is on a downward slide and will see its
demise in a very short span of time.
My reply: Instead of criticising the FLP publicly, Felix should concentrate his
efforts on those who employ him – his members and fight for their rights. The FLP
has faced many challenges and survived them all. If Felix believes that the FLP
will see its demise in a very short span of time then it is his personal view along
with a few other unionists and a public relations consultant – all of whom have no
following in the FLP.
The possible succession of Rajendra Chaudhry as the leader is an absolute
disaster.
My reply: The only talk of succession is only coming from Felix. No one else is
talking about it. FLP members are more focussed on the challenges ahead rather than
internal bickering. The leadership of the FLP is well settled. Any talk of
succession is premature and irrelevant. This will be another reason for the

Page 6
ultimate demise of the party. Brash, abrupt and uncouth reaction to people is a
far cry from the polished, responsive style of the founding fathers’ of the
party.
My reply: Felix should be the last to talk about brash, abrupt and uncouth for it
was he who was recorded on national television in 2006 spewing expletives in public
on his fellow parliamentarian – Vyas Deo Sharma and which was then subject to a
police complaint by Mr Shamra on or around 29
th
June 2006. The FLP also subjected Mr
Anthony to disciplinary proceedings on this issue as well as trying to undermine
the FLP’s leader’s nomination to the Senate in 2006 and for which he then
apologised to the FLP. Fiji is too small a country to emulate the dynastic
succession of autocratic countries as seen in Libya.
My reply: The issue here is not of dynastic succession but who the membership of
the FLP wants to lead it. No one has an automatic right to leadership in the FLP.
To lead one must demonstrate the necessary qualities of commitment, perseverance
and loyalty to the party. Further Felix gets his basic historical fact of dynastic
succession wrong when he refers to Libya when in fact it was Syria.
In any event I remain loyal to the FLP and unlike Felix I prefer to raise issues
within the confines of the FLP meetings and seek solutions therein. Wailing like a
banshee and running to the media, as Felix did after being rejected by the FLP for
a Management Board position, is not my way of handling issues. It is the duty that
one owes to the party. Finally, I prefer to do my talking in the proverbial ring
and not complain after the fight as Felix has chosen to do in this case.

It is a pity that Mr. Anthony has decided to air his disappointments in public……Felix spoke the longest and the loudest.

Labour replies to Felix Anthony

[posted 29 Aug 2012,1615]

Felix Anthony’s statement to the media titled “Fiji Labour Party no longer represents workers” has to be the biggest joke of the year as the Party has been a consistent and diligent voice advocating workers’ rights and welfare over the years.

His statement, therefore, that Labour “can no longer be relied on to give workers a credible voice in the hard times they are facing”, is simply malicious and dishonest.

FLP’s record in standing up for the interests of the workers and the poor of this nation, cannot be challenged. The same cannot be said of Felix Anthony’s own leadership of the trade union movement which leaves a lot to be desired.

Indeed, FLP understands that his statement to the media is not an officially sanctioned FTUC release but the personal comments of Felix Anthony.

It is a pity that Mr. Anthony has decided to air his disappointments in public. His comments about the conduct of the FLP Annual Delegates Conference in Nadi on Saturday are a pack of lies.

He came to the meeting with a pre-planned agenda but could not get support from the delegates. It was he who wanted the election of office bearers deferred but the delegates wanted elections held – after all, the ADC was held after a span of three years and elections were long overdue, executive positions left vacant had to be filled.

Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry rubbished claims by Felix Anthony that he and his son dominated the conference on every issue. “Felix spoke the longest and the loudest. He came with a divisive agenda but failed to receive support from delegates and left before the conference concluded,” Mr Chaudhry said.

This is certainly not the first time Felix Anthony has gone public with his challenge to the Labour leadership. He tried this in 2006 and failed. He and five other dissident members brought considerable disrepute to the Party and had to be disciplined. Felix later apologized and was taken back but received a strong reprimand.

“The Fiji Labour Party has a lot of other more important matters to attend to than waste its time over such malicious and frivolous comments,” Mr Chaudhry said.

FBC News rang Chaudhry again but he still maintains he left on his accord.

We got rid of Chaudhry from our govt:PM

07:16 Today

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama

Taken from/By: FBC News Report by: Dev Narayan

Fiji Labour Party Leader Mahendra Chaudhry was booted out of the Bainimarama government in 2008.

This was the comment from the Prime Minister himself.

The details of his departure have been shrouded in speculation while Mahendra Chaudhry maintained, he left the government on his own accord.

“Now the truth was that we don’t want him in government anymore because he keeps coming up with issues that we could tell it is to do with race, we told him thanks but not thanks, it’s time that you go.”

The prime minister’s statement ends four years of speculation as to the real and true circumstances surrounding Chaudhry’s forced departure from the government.

The prime minster says the labour leader has never helped towards nation building and has consistently used his type of politics to divide the country.

“He complained about the SVT, SDL and of course he will complain about the government now because we kicked him out in 2008, for that he is not very happy, for his political parties to survive after 2014, he needs to come up with something positive not negative.”

FBC News rang Chaudhry again but he still maintains he left on his accord.

FLP Statement after Annual Delegates Conference.

Caretaker government should take charge of Constitutional Process

[posted 27Aug2012,1300]

 

The Annual Delegates Conference of the Fiji Labour Party met in Nadi today and called for the appointment of a caretaker government to take charge of the process of restoring Fiji to democratic and  constitutional rule.

 

The current constitutional process sanctioned under Decrees 57 and 58 are fundamentally flawed, lack credibility and integrity and cannot be seen as inclusive and participatory.

 

The entire exercise is being driven by the regime in a pre-determined direction to serve its own interests and agenda.

 

Delegates took note of the strong reservations expressed by the Constitution Commission about the manner in which the process was being driven, in particular, the provisions of the two decrees which undermine its credibility, integrity and independence.

 

There were two overriding concerns:

 

·the provisions relating to immunity for the perpetrators of the 2006 and earlier coups; Delegates felt that writing immunity    provisions into the constitution merely encouraged further coups by taking away the penalty for such treasonous crimes. It was strongly recommended that perpetrators of coups be barred from holding public office for life and that they be made answerable for their treasonous acts.     

 

·the absolute powers vested in the interim Prime Minister to control the size and composition of  the Constituent    Assembly. Commission Chair Professor Yash Ghai told a media conference on 19 July that the provisions were tantamount to  ignoring the essential principles of democracy and negating the independence of the Assembly.

 

The Commission has also expressed worry that the environment in which the constitutional talks are being held are not conducive to free and open discussions – in particular, controls over the media and the wide reaching powers of the security forces.

 

The Conference felt that interference by the regime in the constitutional process was making a mockery of the entire exercise.  It needed to be detached from the regime and made the responsibility of a caretaker administration.

 

Indeed, to ensure the credibility and integrity of the process, the only  lawful and legitimate way forward for Fiji was to abide by the ruling of the Fiji Court of Appeal in April 2009.

 

The Appeals Court had found the 2006 takeover of power unlawful. It  had recommended that the President appoint a distinguished person,             independent of the regime and political parties, as a caretaker Prime Minister who would then appoint a caretaker government to oversee the process of holding general elections and restoring constitutional rule.  

 

The conference noted that the President had the powers to implement the roadmap recommended by the Appeals Court.

 

Delegates spoke in favour of retaining the 1997 Constitution which had wide support among the people of Fiji.

 

However, some amendments and additions were considered necessary, particularly those relating to the electoral system and good governance. The insertion of safeguards to hold elected governments accountable for their actions were also needed.

 

These could be discussed and agreed to in an appropriately constituted forum similar to the aborted President’s Political Dialogue Forum of 2009.

 

The conference called for the involvement of the Commonwealth   Secretariat and the United Nations in an advisory capacity to assist in the transition to democratic rule.  

 

 

Anti poor and anti worker measures arbitrarily decreed by the regime…….

Regime’s policies lead to escalating levels of poverty

The Delegates Conference of the Fiji Labour Party having noted the rising poverty level in the country, expressed strong disapproval of the harsh measures inflicted by the interim administration on Fiji’s poor.

The regime’s policies and actions over the past four years clearly demonstrate its insensitivity towards the poor and the working class.

The anti poor and anti worker measures arbitrarily decreed by the regime include:

  • · Increase in VAT to 15% which forced a hike in the cost of basic food items as well as the cost of all goods and services including the utilities – water, electricity and telecommunications
  • · substantial reduction in the FNPF pension benefits which forced 90% of  our retired elderly into abject poverty, considering that of the total 10,826 FNPF pensioners, 9627 were receiving less than $800 a month before the cuts. In almost all cases, the benefits have been reduced by 50% or more which means the majority of FNPF pensioners are now receiving less than  $400 a month – pushing them into the poverty pit.
  • · repeated deferment of increases recommended by the various Wages Councils to the wage rates of non-unionised workers, it being a fact that low wage rates are the root cause of poverty in Fiji· withdrawal of welfare payments from several hundred recipients who are without adequate means of support  
  • · removal of some 100,000 poor households from the life-line FEA tariff while implementing sharp increases in electricity rates
  • · sanctioning huge increases in the water meter connection charges

The Conference called on the regime to restore pension benefits to their former levels, take action forthwith to implement the wage increases recommended by the Wages Councils and to reinstate welfare payments  to the deprived recipients.

Rural Poverty and the Sugar industry

The conference believes that the continuing decline of the sugar industry is a major contributing factor to the rise in rural poverty levels, noted in a recent USP survey.

The sugar industry has shrunk by some 40% since 2006. This has meant a  notable decline in the incomes of not only cane farmers but also large numbers of the rural poor who were dependent on cane farmers for employment as farm hands and cane cutters.

Apart from cane farming and some market gardening activities, Fiji’s   rural sector is largely undeveloped. The sugar industry provided a  significant source of employment opportunities as well as income. This is clearly indicated in the high increase in poverty levels in the North which has been worst hit by the decline in the sugar industry. 

The rapid decline in the industry since 2006 is attributable to: 

1. land lease renewal problems

2.   huge revenue losses resulting from chronic milling

      inefficiency and depressed cane prices

 3.    sheer incompetence of the Sugar Ministry

 4.    lack of adequate financial support to the farming community

 5.    arbitrary dismantling by the regime of industry institutions which ensured accountability and transparency and gave cane farmers a voice in the affairs of the industry

 6.    loss of some $420m in assistance to the sugar industry from the  European Union due to adverse political developments

“Because he has agendas of his own which included discriminatory policies, his own vote banks, it made him just irresponsible.”

Election promise, Chaudhry resigned

07:09 Today

 

Taken from/By: Google Report by: Devendra Narayan

Members of the Bainimarama government were told in 2008 that elections will be held in 2009.

Fiji Labour Party Leader Mahendra Chaudhry says this prompted him and others to tender in their resignation.

“We were supposed to have elections in March 2009, the PM wrote to all of his Ministers and explained those who wish to contest for elections have to resign so we resigned in August to prepare for the elections in March 2009.”

However Land Force Commander Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga says elections would not have seen the developments that have happened in the past few years.

“If we went back to 2009 and did elections then what we have shown people of Fiji about what you were preaching to be different from what they were thinking, what they been taught and what they have been shown, so that is one necessary, it was explained to Chaudhry, but because he has agendas of his own which included discriminatory policies, his own vote banks, it made him just irresponsible to say that.”

Fiji Labour Party Management Board is now drafting their proposal and is challenging the manner in which the Constitutional Process is carried out.

Clear lines emerging between the old guard and the new ideas.

FLP seeks coalition

08:01 Today

 

 

Taken from/By:
Report by: Devendra Narayan

The Fiji Labour Party says there is nothing wrong in engaging with their once bitter rivals, the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Levanivanua – SDL, National Federation Party and the United Peoples Party.

Party Leader Mahendra Chaudhry says he sees no reason why we cannot be united.

“What’s wrong with that – I’m asking you – you tell me? Why can’t three parties sit down and talk together. You know we were together in government one time and it’s not a question of whether we are friends or not – we have a problem on our hands and the whole nations wants to go back to democracy and if parties are cooperating to take us to that goal – I don’t see anything wrong with that.”

Chaudhry claims they can be a better government if given another chance.

Meanwhile Lavenia Padarath has been appointed the new President, Mahendra Chaudhry has been re-elected as General Secretary while David Eyre, Monika Raghwan and Surel Lal will act as VPs.

FLP held its annual conference in Nadi yesterday.

Mr Qarase and Mahendra Chaudhry were to unite against the interim regime.

Conviction of Fiji’s Qarase described as victory for regime

Posted at 22:54 on 01 August, 2012 UTC

The prosecution of Fiji’s last democratically elected Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase, is being described as a victory for the current regime.

Mr Qarase has been found guilty of nine counts of corruption-related charges, dating back to the 1990s, and will find out on Friday whether he is to be jailed.

The recently retired defence lawyer Peter Williams QC works in Fiji and says Mr Qarase and Mahendra Chaudhry were to unite against the interim regime.

“Those two people are going to join forces, and of course it’s a great victory for the present government to be able to smear these people and possibly to be able to stop them from standing.”

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

FLP queries political neutrality of the civil service.

“Why is a government Ministry getting involved in identifying candidates for the general elections?,” the party said in the statement.

“The Provincial Councils and women’s organisations, including units in rural areas, are being used in this highly questionable exercise.”

“Dangers of indoctrination as well as an attempt by the regime to plant its own people into the process, cannot be overlooked. One also wonders at what inducements will be offered to get these people on board.”

“The FLP has from the outset questioned the day to day involvement of the regime in the electoral process and now we have the civil service being blatantly involved in the selection and identification of candidates.”

“This is against rules requiring the political neutrality of the civil service. The regime is setting dangerous precedents by interfering with this independence,” the party added.

 

http://www.fijilive.com/news/2012/07/luveni-clears-the-air-on-potential-women-leaders/45846.Fijilive

“Labour’s support among the grassroots is intact. But Mr Datt is welcome to put this to the test,” said Mr Chaudhry.

Labour’s response to Krishna Datt

FLP WEBSITE

Krishna Datt was expelled from the Fiji Labour Party for breach of Party discipline. His attack on the FLP Leader at a media conference in Suva today, therefore, smacks too much of political vendetta.

He faced expulsion from the Party, along with some others, not because he was a threat to the leadership but because he went against Party values and principles, particularly in supporting policies that hurt the poor such as the hike in Vat to 15%, when he was a Minister in the multi-party Cabinet in 2006.

Mr Datt is now trying to pose as a political saint but everybody knows how self-serving he has been in his political career.

As for his snide remark that “having lost credibility among Indian voters, (FLP) was now wooing Fijian support by leaning on Qarase”, well, this is not the first time Krishna Datt will be staking his political future on such baseless claims. He obviously refuses to face the reality on the ground.

“Labour’s support among the grassroots is intact. But Mr Datt is welcome to put this to the test,” said Mr Chaudhry.

“The FLP is a democratic entity and its party leadership has always been elected. My position as secretary-general of the Party is an elected one. So is that of Party Leader, and it is based on the overwhelming mandate of the electorate,” Mr Chaudhry said.

In any case, there are more important issues of national significance to occupy the attention of the FLP, than the misguided ravings of a person who can’t quite decide whether he wants to form a new political party or not. It won’t take him long to realize that in the political arena there is no place for people with confused minds.

“What we are doing along with the SDL and the UPP, is to try and unite the nation as it treads the path back to democracy and constitutional rule via general elections. This process can only be credible and legitimate if it is based on fundamental universal values and principles.


Fiji- a Police State? …… The regime, it seems, is consumed by fears of its own unpopularity

Fiji- a Police State?

Television (Amendment) Decree 52 of 2012

FLP WEBSITE

The Fiji Labour Party condemns the promulgation of the Television Amendment Decree No 52 of 2012 as yet another attempt by the regime to gag the media and restrict freedom of expression.

The Decree which came into effect last Thursday empowers the Minister to revoke or vary a television license if the licensee is found to have breached the Media Code of Ethics under the Media Industry Development Decree.

The Decree, further, prohibits the matter to be taken to any Court, Tribunal or Commission for adjudication, thereby, denying the licensee the right to redress or justice.

The FLP finds this absolutely abhorrent. “This shows that Fiji is regressing further into being an authoritarian State rather than moving towards democracy as promised by the regime,” said Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry.

There are a number of issues that arise from the Decree itself:

  • The Decree states “If a licensee is found to have breached the Media Code of Ethics and Practice …”. Who decides that the media code of ethics has been breached? Is it the Minister who will be the sole arbiter?

  • And what is the need for Decree 52 when an independent Tribunal under the Media Industry Development Decree has already been set up to deal with any breaches of the media Code of ethics?

Justice and fair play demand that an aggrieved party must have the right to seek legal redress against any action or policy of the State. Yet, the people of Fiji are being increasingly and systemically denied this fundamental right by a regime that does not hesitate to use ‘blackmailing’ tactics to silence all opposition by gagging the media.

What is it afraid of? Two weeks ago, Fiji TV was, reportedly, warned by the regime’s Attorney General that its licence may not be renewed because it had given coverage to interviews with former Prime Ministers Laisenia Qarase and Mahendra Chaudhry. It was told that its news broadcast would be closely monitored by the regime during the month.

It is of concern that Fiji TV’s licence due to expire this week-end, has reportedly still not been renewed.

FLP questions the motive behind the promulgation of this Decree at this point in time when Fiji is poised to embark on the so-called constitutional process to restore democratic rule via general elections.

It is obvious that despite repeated assurances by the regime, the process is still highly restrictive in terms of freedom of expression and a free and independent media. The local media continues to deny fair coverage to statements issued by political parties. In most cases, they are simply not published or broadcast.

How can the process be said to be inclusive and participatory if the views of political parties and their leaders are prevented from getting through to the people?

The conditions laid down by the Police for meetings of political parties point clearly to Fiji being a police state.

The regime, it seems, is consumed by fears of its own unpopularity – hence all these restrictions on freedom of assembly and expression!

Is trying to replace the current government considered an ulterior motive? This is the aim of every political party in every country.

Political party meeting permit conditions will not be reviewed for now

http://www.fijivillage.com/?mod=story&id=2606123f1efb617417f375600d510c

Share Police have today stressed that the conditions set out for political party meeting permits will not be reviewed for now.

This follows concerns raised by the Fiji Labour Party.

Police Director of Operations SSP Rusiate Tudravu said police presence will remain during the meetings, the party has to stick to the agenda provided in the permit application and no intimidating language or threat must be uttered in the meetings which would cause alarm to the general public.

SSP Tudravu also said the Fiji Labour Party should visit the police station if they want to raise any concerns.

However, Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry said they should have the freedom to hold the discussions in the meetings.

Chaudhry said they will raise these concerns with the Constitutional Commission when it starts its consultations from next month.

SSP Tudravu maintained that the Fiji Labour Party should not be worried about the conditions if they do not have an ulterior motive.

Story by: Vijay Narayan

FLP meeting ……..Police presence a condition of permit. The 1997 Constitution has wide support

Police presence at FLP consultation meeting

The Fiji Labour Party held its second constitutional meeting in Ba last Saturday (June 16). It was attended by 40 participants from Ba, Tavua and Ra.

Permit for the meeting was approved by the Divisional Police Commander, Western under the following conditions:

• A civilian police officer will be present throughout your consultation programme

• No issue will be discussed in the meeting that will create threat or instability to the people at large

• The meeting should be confined to the agenda sent to the Police

Retain 1997 Constitution

Despite the presence of Police, the participants were adamant that we do not need to write up a new constitution. They resolved unanimously that:

• 1997 Constitution be retained and amended or added to where considered necessary by the genuine representatives of the people through a forum which should be created for the purpose.
This forum should complement the work of the Constitution Commission.

• The future role of the military should be thoroughly dealt with in the constitutional exercise

• The process must be detached and be independent of the interim government

• Every endeavor must be made to ensure the independence of the Constitutional Commission

• All issues relevant to constitution making should be considered by the Constitution Commission and there should be no caveat on any subject

• The entire process of returning Fiji to constitutional rule should be legitimate and credible and have the support of the people

• All sides should exercise calm and restraint and avoid the use of offensive and/or threatening language in their public statements

The final decision on the constitution should be left to the people

Policing of consultation meetings of political parties and/or NGOs should cease. There should be a free environment for discussions and expressions of views by the people

Restrictions on the media to report freely and fully should be removed. There are confirmed reports of the media being warned by the regime not to report statements by political leaders

Similar consultation sessions are planned for other districts. 

According to the FLP ….”Interim Attorney General Aiyaz Khaiyum must confirm or deny reports that he threatened not to renew Fiji TV’s licence”

Threats to Fiji TV

posted 13 June 2012,1600]

Interim Attorney General Aiyaz Khaiyum must confirm or deny reports that he threatened not to renew Fiji TV’s licence if it continues to give coverage to interviews with elected political leaders.

According to media reports, the threat was issued following TV One’s news coverage of interviews with former prime ministers Laisenia Qarase and Mahendra Chaudhry .

If the reports are accurate, then it is a matter of grave concern at a time when Fiji is embarking on the process to restore democracy and constitutional rule.

It is contrary to repeated assurances given by the interim prime minister as well as the interim attorney general, both locally and to the international community that, with the lifting of the Public Emergency Regulations, people are free to speak on political issues and concerns.

The FLP has been concerned for some time that, despite these assurances, the ground reality is quite the opposite. Local media organisations are still not giving fair and balanced coverage to elected political leaders perceived as “opposition” by the regime.

The reported threat by the interim attorney general goes to confirm that the media here is still operating under considerable constraints placed on them by the authorities.

Is the regime so afraid of elected leaders that they must resort to the tactics of a police state to shut them out from the people?

The FLP intends to raise this matter with the Constitutional Commission and other relevant organisations because it is now very clear that the process of taking Fiji back to democratic rule via general elections is not taking place in a free and fair environment.

The process can hardly be described as inclusive and participatory if the voice of elected political leaders is going to be gagged by the regime.

Fiji Sun continues as the Pro Government propaganda sheet.

Chaudhry, Qarase union = Mutually Assured Destruction

By GRAHAM DAVIS

(Fiji born and educated Mr Davis is an international award-winning Australian journalist. He blogs at grubsheet.com.au)

There have been few things more startling in recent weeks than the prospect of a political union between the party of indigenous supremacists in Fiji and the only Indo-Fijian ever to become the country’s prime minister.
That union would see Laisenia Qarase’s SDL Party in some form of association with Mahendra Chaudhry’s Labour Party to try to thwart any plan by Frank Bainimarama to morph into a democratically-elected prime minister at the promised elections in 2014.
Both men have spoken publicly about working together to find common ground to contest the elections. And while they haven’t yet defined the precise nature of any alliance, it’s clear from those comments that the proposal is being seriously considered.

CHAUDHRY GETS
BALL ROLLING

It was the wily Mr Chaudhry who got the ball rolling, saying that despite their deep differences in the past, he saw nothing strange in Labour uniting with a rival political party to “salvage the country from a despotic government”.
Mr Qarase stunned everyone by describing it as “a very good idea. I think it is important that we find some common grounds and fight the next election on those common grounds”, he said.
Quite where any discussion between the two has got isn’t clear. Yet even by the byzantine standards of Fiji politics, the prospect of these two old warhorses in passionate embrace is an extraordinary one.
It represents a triumph of the age-old truism that “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”. Their mutual hatred of Voreqe Bainimarama evidently far eclipses their own dislike and distrust for each other. But why would the country turn to these two again? There’s evidence aplenty that both Mr Chaudhry and Mr Qarase treated the electorate with disdain during their respective periods in government. Both of them certainly overplayed their hands.
For all his undoubted political strengths, Chaudhry as prime minister was dogged by perceptions of arrogance. Certainly, any sensible Indo-Fijian assuming the country’s leadership for the first time would have made managing indigenous sensibilities their first priority.

SEWING SEEDS OF
OWN DESTRUCTION

But, alas, Chaudhry did nothing of the sort and arguably sowed many of the seeds of his own destruction in the disastrous George Speight coup of 2000.
For his part, Laisenia Qarase – having gained power in the wake of that coup – overplayed his hand by trying to free Speight and his gang and by pushing through legislation to promote the indigenous cause against the wishes of the man who’d installed him as prime minister – Voreqe Bainimarama. For months, the military commander demanded that Qarase back off. He didn’t and guaranteed his own downfall in the subsequent takeover of 2006.
The notion that Mr Qarase and Mr Chaudhry can now work together is both mad – as in deranged – and MAD – as in ensuring Mutually Assured Destruction. Does anyone else in Fiji seriously think that these two failed leaders can forge their vastly opposing political forces into some kind of tilt at government in 2014?
One – Mr Qarase – stands for the paramountcy of one race, the iTaukei, over all others and actively worked in government to disadvantage other races through the Qoliqoli or coastal resources bill and the proposed changes to land title. The other – Mr Chaudhry – heads an ostensibly multiracial party in Labour but with a high Indo-Fijian component who still see themselves as having been the targets of Mr Qarase’s programme. The idea of any form of union not only reeks of an ill-considered marriage of convenience for short-term political gain but makes no practical sense whatsoever.
How on earth could the SDL’s hardline indigenous supremacists work with the Indo-Fijians they habitually describe as vulagi-visitors to Fiji – rather than equal citizens? How on earth could members of the Labour Party – and especially Indo-Fijians – work with those they regard as the architects of their demise in 2000 and their political disadvantage since?

TOO HARD TO
STOMACH

For Mr Chaudhry and Mr Qarase, Mutually Assured Destruction would surely come at the polls as their traditional supporters find the whole crazy notion simply too hard to stomach.
All of which suggests that Voreqe Bainimarama must be rubbing his hands with glee at the prospect of an alliance of his political enemies.
He knows they won’t be able to share the same bed for long and already has strong evidence from the Lowy Institute opinion poll that he would romp home at the head of a multiracial party and become elected prime minister in his own right.
Of course, nothing is guaranteed. As they say, a week is a long time in politics so the two years and four months to September 2014 is an eternity. But will these “blasts from the past” even be contesting the next election?
Laisenia Qarase is currently facing corruption charges that carry a jail sentence and – if convicted – a permanent ban from standing for public office.
And there’s serious doubt that the SDL will ever be able to meet the regime’s stipulation that only multiracial parties can contest the 2014 poll. For his part, Mr Chaudhry will also have to explain to voters where substantial sums of money from Indian donors ended up.
In the meantime, both Mr Qarase and Mr Chaudhry have regained their political voice – thanks to the lifting of censorship – and are actively positioning themselves for whatever happens after the Constitutional Commission completes its work.
Their idea to join forces is just plain dumb.

FLP Press Release on MCG meeting.

FLP submission to the Forum Ministerial Contact Group

The Fiji Labour Party has told the MCG that the regime’s constitutional process cannot be recognized as inclusive, participatory and credible so long as restrictions on human rights remain in place under the various decrees.

In a written submission handed to the MCG yesterday, FLP Leader Mahendra Chaundhry emphasized that statements made by the Attorney General that there is a free environment for public discussions and debate on the constitution making process, are not true.

The Police insist that permits be obtained for any gathering of people to discuss any issue. And the military and Police are known to harass, interrogate and intimidate political party supporters and activists.

The FLP submission raised several other issues connected with the process and has called for it to be replaced by a roadmap that is truly participatory and inclusive.

The full text of the FLP submission follows:

To: Honourable Members of the Ministerial Contact Group
Pacific Islands Forum

The Fiji Labour Party (FLP) welcomes the visit to Fiji of the Ministerial Contact Group (MCG) of the Pacific Islands Forum. Regrettably, the visit is very short – it does not give enough time to the MCG to meet with a wider cross-section of the Fijian community.

We believe the visit is made in connection with the constitution process announced by Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama on 9 March 2012. The process involves the promulgation of a new constitution – the fourth such constitution since independence in 1970.

The Fiji Labour Party considered the process and the timetable as announced by Commodore Bainimarama, in its National Council meeting held on 24 March 2012. The Party issued a statement after the meeting outlining its concerns and calling for the regime’s roadmap to be replaced by one that is truly participatory and inclusive. The National Council statement is attached for MCG’s perusal.

Members of the MCG may be aware that Commodore Bainimarama has openly expressed his hostility towards the FLP and other political parties. We do not, therefore, expect that he will entertain our views and suggestions on how the constitutional process can be made truly inclusive and participatory. We hasten to add that the process as announced by the Prime Minister on 9th March, is solely driven by the regime without any input being invited from political parties or civil society organisations.

A free environment

It is our view that the process, to be accepted as credible and legitimate, must guarantee an unrestricted environment for full and free discussion and debate by all citizens’ organisations, such as, political parties, NGOs, trade unions, religious organisations etc on all matters relevant to constitution making.

In this regard, we draw your attention to a statement issued by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) following its last meeting in London on 16 April 2012. In the statement the Group expressed concern that:

restrictions on human rights remain in place under the Public Order Amendment Decree and other decrees. CMAG urged the Government of Fiji to restore full respect for human rights, including freedoms of expression and assembly, and access to justice, noting that these values were not only fundamental to the Commonwealth and essential in their own right, but also indispensable in order to create the environment necessary for credible constitutional consultations and elections.

The FLP supports the statement and urges the MCG to take up this issue with the authorities in Fiji.

The Ground Reality

The situation on the ground is very different from the assurances that may be given by the administration that discussions and consultations on the constitution process can be undertaken freely. The authorities here insist that permits be obtained for such activities. Both the military and the police are known to harass, interrogate and intimidate political party supporters and activists.

The Police insist on being provided details of the meeting agenda, the number of people attending, number of vehicles to be used etc. Moreover, there are unexplained delays in the processing of applications for permits making it next to impossible to schedule any programmed activity.
The involvement of political parties and civil society organisations in the civic education programme is absolutely essential, if the process is to be considered credible. But this is being obstructed by the requirement to have permits which would seriously hinder their participation.

The “non-negotiable” Principles and Values

In his address of 9th March announcing the constitutional process, the Prime Minister referred to what he called universally recognized values and principles which are non-negotiable, insisting that these must be incorporated in the constitution.

But the fact remains that most, if not all, of these principles and values, except for those concerning the electoral provisions, were enshrined in the 1997 Constitution. As for the electoral provisions, these must be negotiated and an acceptable system which takes due cognizance of the rights and interests of the minority communities, adopted.

Speaking of values and principles the Prime Minister terms as non-negotiable, we must say that his own administration falls far short of following most of them. His obsession with the principles set down in the Peoples’ Charter is but for public display – very little of it, particularly those on good governance, is practiced by him or his ministers.

The Constituent Assembly

This assembly is of utmost importance in the entire process as it will finally decide the constitution. According to the Prime Minister’s timetable, the Constituent Assembly will be announced in December 2012. This is not acceptable – its membership will not be known until the very last minute.

According to the Prime Minister’s statement, the rules for the Assembly are to be finalized with the assistance of the international experts prior to the formation of the Assembly. We are apprehensive about the composition of the Assembly – we fear it may not be truly representative of the people given the record of the regime in such matters.

We feel strongly that the composition of the Constituent Assembly must be discussed and finalized in consultation with the leaders of the political parties represented in the 2006 Parliament.

We note with some concern a recent government announcement that chairpersons of all Provincial Councils will from this year be appointed by the Minister, and not elected by the members of the respective Councils. Provincial Councils will, no doubt, be members of the Constituent Assembly. Plainly speaking, we need to be assured that the Constituent Assembly will not be stacked.

Speaking from experience, it is our view that there is likely to be undue interference by the regime in the constitutional process. What has been announced is for public consumption and for the international community but there is real danger that every attempt will be made to have a tight control over it in order to obtain a pre-conceived outcome. This is something the MCG must note.

The role of the Military

There is one significant omission from the Commodore’s list of essentials that must be written into any new constitution. We refer to the role of the military in any future governance of Fiji.

Whether the constitution is re-written or not, the role of the military has to be thoroughly determined and finalized once and for all. The Army has been responsible for trashing our constitution twice. Fiji has to ensure this does not happen again otherwise the nation could be treading the same path again and again in the future.

FLP reiterates: Fiji does not need a new constitution. What we need is to ensure respect and adherence to our national charter, to reform the electoral system to ensure non race-based elections and to determine what role the Military should play in the future of our nation.

Referendum

The FLP believes that the final acceptance/rejection of the Constitution should be determined by a national referendum rather than a constituent assembly of the type suggested by the regime.

The Election Process

The Attorney General has been given ministerial charge of the elections office. The position of Supervisor of Elections remains vacant while voter registration work is reportedly in train.

We are concerned that the independence of the Office of the Supervisor of Elections is being undermined. We exhort the MCG to take note of this and require that all matters connected with the elections be carried out by the independent office of the Supervisor of Elections and that an appointment to the position be made soonest of a suitable person who is acceptable to the stakeholders – political parties and civil society organisations.The person may be sourced from the Commonwealth Secretariat, if possible.

Finally, we believe that a sustainable solution to Fiji’s complex political and socio-economic problems can be achieved only if it is predicated on universally recognized democratic principles and values accepted by the international community.

A solution which serves political expediency at the cost of democratic values and traditions will not be in the interest of the people of Fiji.