Press release from UPP Leader Mick Beddoes

Statement No 22 September 28 2012

Subject: Beddoes says to Regime spokesperson Sharon-Jones Smith that attacking Shamima Ali does not absolve the authorities from its responsibility

STATEMENT

UPP Leader Mick Beddoes says it is Sharon Smith Johns is who is out of touch with reality, not Shamima Ali and attacking Shamima Ali for her statements on the issue of ‘excessive force’ does not absolve the authorities from its responsibilities in the matter.

Beddoes said in a statement today that ‘attacking Shamima Ali for her stated position on the excessive use of force on the escapees’ will not absolve the authorities of its responsibilities in the matter and it is Sharon Smith-Jones who is ‘out of touch’ with reality.

Beddoes said it is the Police and Prisons departments are responsible for keeping prisoners in jail, so it is the police and prisons who must take responsibility for the ‘escape’ and it the Police and Prisons department who are responsible for the recapturing the escapees.

If the Police had seen fit to abrogate its responsibility to the military, then they must explain to the people why they felt this was necessary?

What happened, how did they escape in the first place, which official authorized the level of force to be used in their recapture? Why was the military roped into what is essentially a police and prisons area of responsibility, these are the questions people are asking and these are the questions Sharon-Jones Smith needs to answer without distorting the ‘truth’ with deflective attacks on people like Shamima Ali.

Everyone citizen, despite his or her station in life, has a right to life, and must not be arbitrarily deprived of life, our 1997 constitution provides for this under the Bill of Rights and I do not expect the provisions in the planned new constitution to erode in any way the rights of our citizens.

Sec 25 (1) says, every citizen has the right to freedom from torture of any kind, whether physical, mental or emotional, and from cruel, inhumane, degrading or disproportionately severe treatment or punishment’ this includes prisoners or escaped prisoners.

Beddoes said he did not condone their alleged actions since escaping, and sympathizes with those people who have been traumatized by their alleged actions, but their actions do not justify the brutality meted out by the authorities in their recapture.

Beddoes said that as angry as one might be against the escapees, and the alleged violent actions they conducted, we cannot and must not forfeit our sense of humanity because they are human beings too and they have the same rights as the rest of us.

For the authorities to have had to resort to such excessive force to recapture the handful of escapees, even when the authorities would have had a huge advantage in terms of manpower, weapons and other resources at their disposal, compared to the relatively lightly armed escapees, says more about the authorities inability to deal with such situations despite their advantage, then it does about threat that the escapees really posed at the time of recapture?

If there is anyone in authority who is able to show leadership, responsibility and transparency in this matter, now’s a good time to step up and start telling us the ‘truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!

Authorized By Mick Beddoes

 

“All inmates are treated equally”………..anyone who has visited Naboro knows this is crap

No special treatment for Qarase

The Fiji Prisons and Corrections Service said there is no special treatment given to any inmate, including Laisenia Qarase.

Spokesperson, Ana Tamani said the authority has replied to Qarase’s lawyer, Tupou Draunidalo stating that all inmates are treated equally.

This follows a letter written by Draunidalo to the Officer in Charge at Korovou prison soon after Qarase was sent to jail early last month, that the 71 year old be transferred to an infirmary, due to his age and health condition.

Tamani said there are other diabetic inmates, so no one is treated differently.

Qarase was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment by High Court judge Justice Priyantha Fernando last month, after he was found guilty of six counts of abuse of office and three counts of discharging his duty with respect to property in which he had a private interest.

Story by: Tokasa Rainima

Press Release FTUC……………………Clearly the Prime Minister has been wrongly advised.

 

On June 6th the US Trade Representative in Washington DC announced that Fiji together with Iraq would be listed for General System of Preferences (GSP) hearings to examine whether the GSP for exports from Fiji should be withdrawn. The GSP Trade program allows duty free excess into the US imports from developing countries. However there are certain conditions which these countries need to observe to continue to qualify.

In Fiji’s case, the hearings would examine whether Fiji is taking steps to afford internationally recognized standards for worker rights. This comes on the heels of the regime expelling the ILO Contact mission to Fiji to examine Fiji’s compliance with the ILO Core Labour Standards. These standards are central to the determination by US Trade. Clearly the Prime Minister has been wrongly advised.

Trade Union and workers’ rights which form part of human rights have been subject of scrutiny and condemnation by International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), International Labour Organisation (ILO), Global Unions Federation (GUFS), European Union (EU), ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly and numerous Governments and Trade Union National Centers around the world. This has been a result of the regime imposing various decrees that deny workers the right to collective bargaining and freedom of association. These decrees have denied workers the right to challenge unfair treatment at workplace and benefits. These decrees take away any form of job security and nullified decades old won benefits in Collective Agreements. Workers and Union leaders have been intimidated and beaten at work places. The list goes on.

It is therefore ironic that the regime should showcase a Permanent Secretary on TV reading a written statement blaming Union Leaders for the predicament that the regime finds itself having to go to Washington DC to justify its denial of workers and trade union rights in Fiji. The PS reading the statement mischievously alleges that Union leaders have a political agenda in this regard. The regime needs to admit that it is solely responsible for the situation it has got itself into and it can easily get out of this situation by doing the responsible thing and revoke all decrees that violate international labour standards and start respecting workers’ rights. The FTUC and the International Trade Union Movement will not sit back and accept such blatant violations.

Therefore the regime must stop shedding crocodile tears and pretend to be concerned about workers losing their jobs. It is time the regime takes responsibility for its actions. The regime’s decision to expel the ILO Mission will have its implications in this hearing as well. Again it can blame no one else but itself.

The FTUC will be represented by its sister National Center in the US, the AFL-CIO in the hearings.

FELIX ANTHONY

NATIONAL SECRETARY

Abusing the Law……………the deliberate delay by the police,even though he had a written court order clearing him, made him miss his flight to China……..

Fiji police prevent unionist from flying to China labour conference

Posted at 01:56 on 25 September, 2012 UTC

The president of the Fiji Trades Union Congress says police this morning stopped him from boarding an international flight to attend a world labour conference in Beijing.

Daniel Urai’s court case over charges laid almost a year ago of urging political violence was adjourned in May and since then he has had to apply for a permit to leave Fiji.

Mr Urai says despite a court order allowing him to make the trip to China, police took him into custody after he had cleared immigration, saying they had received an order from Suva to stop him from going.

“I asked them what, was I arrested and they said no, we’re just trying to clear you, then they said, you can fly. They said I can now go and fly after the plane was taxiing off the tarmac.”

Daniel Urai says he is hoping to be able to board this afternoon’s flight and will be seeking compensation from the police for his original ticket on his return from China.

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

If we are to believe the Fiji Attorney General ………………………………..

Repressive law

There is confusion in Fiji regarding fundamental freedom of expression amidst allegation of self-censorship by the media, which according to some stifle the democratic process of constitution submissions.

Law is by nature coercive but need not be repressive and government secures legitimacy by the general habit of obedience which makes coercion recede to the background.

However acquiesce founded in trepidation and sustained by apathy leaves a wide path for unrestrained authority. Moreover some forms of consent are distorted by lack of choice, for example, when weakness and disorganisation induce people to adopt the goals and perspectives of the government.   Indeed repression is perfected when it can forego coercion.

The basis of repression, therefore, lies neither in coercion or consent per se. What matters is how far power takes account of and is restrained by the interests of subordinates, as revealed by the quality of consent and the uses of coercion.

In its most distinct and systematic form repressive law displays the following characteristics:

  1. Legal institutions are directly accessible to political power; law is identified with the state and subordinated to raison d’etat.
  2. The conservation of authority is an overriding preoccupation of legal officialdom. In the “official perspective” that ensues, the benefit of the doubt goes to the system, and administrative convenience weighs heavily.
  3. Specialised agencies of control, such as the police, become independent centres of power; they are isolated from moderating social contexts and capable of resisting political authority.
  4. A regime of “dual law” institutionalises class justice by consolidating and legitimating patterns of social subordination.
  5. The criminal code mirrors the dominant mores; legal moralism prevails.

 

For this reason repression is a highly probable accompaniment of the formulation and maintenance of political order, and can occur unwittingly in the pursuit of benign intensions.

The most extreme manifestation of repressive law occurs in totalitarian states. There the idea of “order” encompasses more than peace, but in practice the attempt to force a radical reconstruction of society generates the same primordial urgencies. Unable to count on public allegiance, the totalitarian state is haunted by fears of resistance and treason, and must constantly resort to its (now far more sophisticated) coercive resources. Criminalisation is the favoured mode of official control, and a spirit of martial law prevails.

If we are to believe the Fiji Attorney General none of these is happening in Fiji, which by all intents and purposes is on the desired path to real democracy, whatever that is.

Ratu Vore

Father Barr now considered a “National Threat”?

Police cancel ‘national threat’ march

Nanise Loanakadavu Saturday, September 22, 2012

THE Fiji Police Force yesterday cancelled a march by the Ecumenical Centre for Research, Education and Advocacy citing it as a “national threat”.

The march that was supposed to begin from Vanua Arcade to Civic Centre as part of ECREA’s celebration for International Day of Peace was stopped at the eleventh hour.

Father Kevin Barr of ECREA said they had prepared themselves with placards, posters and banners but were told that they could not go ahead with their plans.

“We had been issued with a permit but I don’t know why our march was cancelled,” Father Barr said.

When contacted yesterday, Senior Superintendent of Police Rusiate Tudravu referred all questions to Fr Barr.

“When the permit is cancelled that means it’s cancelled,” SSP Tudravu said.

However, later on during the day, another march took place at Battery Rd where more than 200 people wore T-shirts with “Just Peace-Just Wages for All” printed on them.

They had carried their placards and banners, which were also part of their submissions to the Constitution Commission.

Press Release

SDL   FLP   UPP    NFP

21 September 2012

JOINT MEDIA RELEASE

Political Parties call for Judicial Inquiry

We are shocked by revelations about the judiciary made by a former judge of the Fiji Court of Appeal Justice William Marshall QC,SC in a petition to the Prime Minister.

Justice Marshall made serious allegations on the Attorney General’s conduct  in relation to abuse of power and interference with the judiciary and individual cases before the Courts.

He speaks of a prevailing “climate of fear” in the judiciary and alleges it has been seriously compromised. Justice Marshall claims interference with trial evidence and Court judgments which has rendered the judiciary subservient to the executive arm of the regime.

The allegations are contained in a voluminous petition, backed by supporting documents, to Prime Minister Commodore Bainimarama and the Military Council. It provides case profiles of what Justice Marshall claims were fabrication of evidence, false allegations and intimidation of judges and other officials during his two year tenure here.

He was President of the Fiji Court of Appeal for two years until June 2012, when he left following non-renewal of his contract. His petition to Commodore Bainimarama was sent late in June 2012.

In his petition, Justice Marshall calls on the Prime Minister to “forthwith dismiss the Attorney General and his agents or beneficiaries of cultural nepotism practised by him”.

He even goes as far as to suggest that the Chief Justice retire, the (then) Chief Registrar be dismissed and the appointments of all Sri Lankan judges in the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court be terminated.

Justices Marshall alleges:

“…progressive inroads into the independence of the judiciary which process has culminated since mid-April 2012 in a judiciary which at all levels now does what it perceives is required of it by the Executive.

2

At all levels, judges having heard the evidence, having researched and found the applicable law, and having listened to the submissions of the parties now ask themselves: ‘Now what would the Attorney General like my decision and judgment in this case to be?’ and make their judgment and orders in line with their answer.”

Such allegations of interference in the judiciary by the Attorney General are not new.  They have been made by sacked Sri Lankan judges, magistrates and lawyers after their departure from Fiji.

Last year, a report by the Law Society of England Charity Chair, Nigel Dodds who had visited Fiji in November 2011, spoke of the compromised state of the Fiji judiciary and the lack of transparency in the legal system.

The Marshall petition is now in the public domain. The charges it makes are damning and strike at the very foundation of our judicial and legal systems. Coming from a top ranking judge, there is little doubt that it has tarnished the reputation of the judiciary.

By no means are we saying or suggesting that the charges and allegations are true but that can only be established by an independent investigation. And this must be done to restore public confidence in our legal and judicial systems.

We urge the President to commission an independent judicial inquiry into the claims made by Justice Marshall.

The Attorney General must step down from office to allow a free hand into the inquiry.

Until this happens and the air is cleared, people here and abroad will continue to speculate about the state of our judiciary.

The Justice Willliam Marshall petition may be lodged as evidence in the Fiji court…………. If allowed it becomes the albatross around the AGs neck.

Permanent stay application in Former PM case

11:44 Today

Taken from/By: Report by: Dev Narayan

A permanent stay application will be filed by the counsels of former Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry.

Chaudhry faces three charges related to violation of tax laws.

In court today, Chaudhry’s lawyer Rajendra Chaudhry said the application is based on a petition by former President of the Court of Appeal Justice Willliam Marshall.

He said the petition has been given to the military counsel and the Prime Minister two days ago.

Chaudhry said the petition stated that the Attorney General was interfering in court processes and targeted political situations.

He said QC Peter Williams instructed him to to apply for a permanent stay based on the petition.

Judge Justice Paul Madigan gave the defence 28 days to file an application for permanent stay.

Chaudhry says he will seek further instruction from Williams who is in New Zealand.

The matter has been adjourned to the 19th of October.

Fijian Government Welcomes New ILO Visit on Revised Terms

Statement from the Attorney General

The Fijian government has a policy of openness and transparency to outside scrutiny by organizations such as the International Labour Organisation. We welcome such visits as long as they are conducted by an independent delegation with no predetermined outcomes and a focused agenda.

The ILO delegation in question was not “ejected”, “expelled”, “deported” or forced to depart Fiji in any way. In order to make way for the next ILO visit under the Terms of Reference provided to the ILO delegation on Monday, they were asked to leave at their earliest opportunity. The Terms of Reference are being released separately.

The Fijian Government will be pleased to welcome an ILO visit that will produce an objective evaluation of the issues set out in the Terms of Reference.  Such an ILO visit will be welcomed to Fiji if they arrive tomorrow or anytime in the future.

Terms of Reference for ILO Delegation Visit:

TERMS OF REFERENCE

Scope of the Mission

(a)      To review the impact of the Essential Industries Decree 2011 (“Decree”) on essential industries, in particular –

(i)      Whether the aims and objectives of the Decree are in conflict with the fundamental rights of workers and employers in an essential industry;

(ii)    Whether workers in an essential industry have been able to collectively organise and form unions;

(iii)   Whether workers in an essential industry have been able to reach collective agreements with their employers;

(iv)  Whether workers in an essential industry have been able to collectively agree with employers on a fair means of resolving employment disputes;

(v)   Whether the workers in an essential industry, in effect, now have better terms and conditions than what was prevalent before.

(b)      To assess whether Fiji has adequate laws and processes to effectively investigate, prosecute and adjudicate complaints of assaults, intimidation and harassment by any person, including any trade union official;

(c)      To review the terms and conditions applicable for public servants, in particular, whether public servants have the right to form and join trade unions, and whether they are entitled to the fundamental rights and principles at work;

(d)      To assess whether public servants have recourse to have their individual grievances addressed by an independent judiciary;

(e)      To assess whether unions representing public servants are prevented from negotiating terms and conditions for public servants;

(f)        To assess whether trade unions, workers and employers are able to hold meetings and associate, in light of the removal of the Public Emergency Regulations;

(g)      To assess whether complaints made against the Fijian Government are with respect to concerns of all workers in Fiji, or whether such complaints are only made by a select few trade unionists for their own personal, political or pecuniary interests;

(h)      To genuinely assess the situation of workers and employers in Fiji, without simply heeding to what is being stated by a select few trade unionists (as was done by the Committee of Experts and the Committee on Freedom of Association);

(i)         To discuss with Government officials on the various reforms undertaken by Government to preserve and create jobs for workers, to sustain industries essential to Fiji, and to improve living standards of all Fijians; and

(j)         To assess Fiji’s commitment to ILO Conventions, in light of the recent ratification by Fiji of numerous ILO Conventions.

Schedule of Meetings of the Mission

Instead of just meeting the executives of FTUC, FICTU and FTA, the visit must also meet directly with workers employed in essential industries. In particular, they must meet the workers representatives in industries such as the airline industry (Air Pacific), factory workers representatives, workers employed in financial and banking sectors. They must also meet numerous other trade union officials recommended by Government and the employers, rather than only meeting with the executives of FTUC and FICTU.

The visit must also meet with the employers in essential industries, including Air Pacific, employers in the banking and financial sector (FRCA, ANZ, Westpac, BSP, Bank of Baroda, Bred Bank), telecommunications industry (FBCL, TFL, FINTEL), and the public utilities industry (FEA and WAF).

They must also meet with the Commissioner of Police, Commissioner of FICAC, and the Director of Public Prosecutions.

International Labour Organisation invited to Fiji and then expelled without reason……..

Fiji expels UN labour delegation

Updated 19 September 2012, 13:59 AEST

Fiji has expelled a delegation from the International Labour Organisation, but the Government is yet to say why.

An agency of the United Nations, the ILO is responsible for overseeing international labour standards.

The group arrived in Fiji on Sunday, at the invitation of the interim military government, to investigate claims by local trade unions that workers’ rights were not being respected.

However, Felix Anthony, the General-Secretary of the Fiji Trades Union Congress, told Pacific Beat the delegation’s meeting with the Labour Minister on Monday had been cut short.

On Wednesday, he confirmed news that the group was being expelled.

“I’m told that around 11am (local time) the Prime Minister’s office wrote to the head of the mission and advised the mission that it ought to leave Fiji as soon as possible,” said Mr Anthony.

He believes this could bring “further disrepute” to Fiji.

“There cannot be any valid reason for the expulsion, more particularly after they were invited to Fiji. And Fiji, being a member of the International Labour Organisation, ought to have respected the delegation’s visit and participated.”

Fiji’s interim Government has so far not given a reason for the expulsion.

‘Not the first time’

“This is not the first time the regime has behaved in this manner,” said Mr Anthony, from the Fiji Trades Union Congress.

He compared this to events of last December, when members of Australian and New Zealand trade unions were not allowed in to Fiji.

That group had also wanted to investigate alleged abuse of workers’ rights in Fiji.

However, they were turned back from Nadi airport, after the government accused them of bias

Fijis new “Agricultural Scam”? or “How to buy 25,000 votes”

Fiji government announcement it will pay water bills could be “vote buying” – Professor

Posted at 02:01 on 18 September, 2012 UTC

A professor of Pacific history says the interim Fiji Government’s offer to pay the water bills of 25 thousand Fijian households, businesses and schools appears to be a vote buying exercise.

In a statement the government says it is forgiving eight million US dollars in unpaid bills, a decision it says will benefit about 100-thousand Fijians.

Professor Brij Lal, from the Australian National University, questions if the regime can afford to pay the bills.

And he says there will be lingering suspicions about the motive for going ahead with such a move.

“I suppose they might see this as a voter pleasing exercise and I suspect as time goes on as we reach closer to the elections in 2014 that you will see more promises, more policys like this to endear the regime to the people of Fiji.”

Professor Brij Lal says the announcement is good one for ordinary Fijians who are living in difficult economic times.

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

CARREER CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS DENIED PROMOTIONS IN THE DEPARTMENT

 

Since the illegal appointment of Iowane Naivalurua as Commissioner of Corrections Service, a large number of positions in the FCS staff establishment have not been filled substantively but only temporarily. This trend has continued with the current illegal Commissioner Ifereimi Vasu. In many instances temporary appointments have exceeded 6 months, and under PSC policy such appointments are normally confirmed substantively after that period. However, under the illegal administration, the practice of temporary appointments have been used as a tool to manipulate officers. This provides the illegal Commissioner the means to change officers’ appointments “as and when” he desires as they are only on temporary appointments and would not generate much fuss if changes are made under such circumstance.

There are significant numbers of vacant positions existing in the department which have only been filled temporarily. Obviously, career correctional officers are being denied these positions which no doubt will be taken up by military personnels as part of the illegal regime’s grand strategy in militarising the FCS and other government agencies.

Efforts made to fill these positions in early 2011 by the then FCS Staff Board has not achieved much headway. The illegal Commissioner has introduced the required fitness level test (RFL), which was originally devised for military standards, as a critical criterion for officers’ promotion to higher ranks in the department. Obviously, many career correctional officers serving more than 20 years of service are not in a physical state to pass this strenuous test and despite their work knowledges and experiences they are being denied promotion for something that was purposely devised for the military.

While officers on acting appointments are doing their utmost best in handling their various duties and responsibilities with lesser pays than the normal salaries for such positions, the illegal Commissioner is enjoying a hefty salary of $120,000 plus annually, including perks, just for moving around and making a lot of noises, so to speak.

The Deputy Commissioner is still on acting appointment for more than a year now and being paid less than $50,000. What a huge disparity in salary. Well this happens only in Fiji under the illegal regime.

A number of career senior correction officers, who are holding senior positions on temporary appointments, will soon be leaving for duty in Sudan under the United Nations banner and no doubt their positions will soon be taken over by military personnel or coup apologist, particularly the post of Deputy Commissioner, as the writings are already on the wall.

God Bless Fiji

 

Orisi Vuki Katonibau

Former Acting Deputy Commissioner of Fiji Corrections Service

6 Sep 2012

PER to be reinstated?……….Not Likely!

NFP raises concerns

September 17, 2012

NFP raises concerns

By JYOTI PRATIBHA The National Federation Party (NFP) yesterday raised concerns that the Public Emergency Regulations could be reintroduced once the Constitution Commission finishes the consultation process. Senior Government officials contacted yesterday for a response did not wish to comment immediately on the NFP claims. But there has been no indication of any reintroduction of […]

Continue reading …

Ro Teimumu and the nine chiefs from Rewa say just as amnesty was denied to the perpetrators of the 2000 coup, so should it be denied to the perpetrators of the 2006 coup and any persons planning similar activities at any time in the future.

Rewa submission asks for 1997 constitution to be reinstated

The head of the Burebasaga confederacy and paramount chief of Rewa, Ro Teimumu Kepa today asked for the 1997 constitution to be reinstated as part of her submission to the Constitution Commission.

Ro Teimumu presented the submission signed by her, Na Tui Noco, Ratu Isoa Damudamu, Na i Liuliu ni Sau Turaga, Ro Dona Takalaiyale, Ratu Luke Vuidreketi, Na Tui Toga, Ratu Meli Todua, Saiasi Navulagilagi, Na Tui Suva, Metuisela Mudunavosa, Joave Tukitoga, Ratu Timoci Matanitobua and Ratu Kevueli Tavainavesi.

They say that they speak on behalf of the people of Rewa and the 1997 constitution is the instrument the people of the province believe best protects the interests of the indigenous Fijians as well as protecting the rights of the races that have come to call Fiji home.

Ro Teimumu and the nine chiefs from Rewa say just as amnesty was denied to the perpetrators of the 2000 coup, so should it be denied to the perpetrators of the 2006 coup and any persons planning similar activities at any time in the future.

They say substantive steps should be taken to end, once and for all the coup culture in Fiji.

The chiefs say the staging of coups within the Rewa province has resulted in abject poverty and the denial of opportunities and it has brought about arrogance and the dismissal of rights and privileges.

The Rewa chiefs led by Ro Teimumu also told the commission in Noco today that they wish to reaffirm that Fiji is a country firmly rooted in Christian beliefs, meaning that Fiji emulates and observes Christian teachings.

He said the Christian faith is the hope, the keel and the compass by which Fiji’s ship of state sails.

Ro Teimumu and the chiefs say the entrenched legislations requiring the consent of the senate members nominated by the Great Council of Chiefs must be a requirement before any legislation is passed regarding any issues affecting the rights and resources of the indigenous Fijians.

They also strongly advocate the protection of the indigenous ways of life including all of the previous laws and regulations relating to land rights, fisheries rights, culture, language and all the intellectual property rights the indigenous people of Fiji hold sacred.

The chiefs from Rewa want the House of Representatives and senate in place. They strongly oppose the federal system as implemented in the US where the President is empowered to hand pick the members of the cabinet.

The chiefs say cabinet members must be comprised of the parliamentary members.

Story by: Vijay Narayan

The reply to “Edgefest” on Grubsheet……”What Davis does, of course, is hardly journalism. He is, instead, an attack dog devoted to hounding anyone who questions any actions of the Interim Government in Fiji. To suggest that I am not in favour of social responsibility in journalism is a distortion”.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Do journalism standards in Fiji need raising?

http://fijimediawars.blogspot.co.nz/2012/09/do-journalism-standards-in-fiji-need.html

One of the points of contention that emerged from our symposium on Media and Democracy in the South Pacific at USP last week was whether the standards of journalism in Fiji need raising or not. As usual, the topic became one of bitter disagreement. My understanding when I was hired as Head of Journalism at USP a little more than a year ago was that I was here to help bring standards of journalism instruction at USP up to an international level and thus help to improve journalism in Fiji and across the South Pacific. Having been a journalist in Canada for 20 years, holding a PhD in the subject, and having taught journalism since 1998 at universities in four countries, I am well-qualified to do so. I believe that the need for higher standards in journalism here is USP’s official position, as articulated by Deputy Vice-Chancellor Esther Williams in opening the conference. David Robie, a Professor of Journalism at Auckland University of Technology and a former Head of Journalism at USP, disagreed with this contention, however. Then he read a Fiji Times article that covered a paper he had presented. Suddenly Fiji journalism standards didn’t seem too good, as he complained in a letter to the editor.
Your reporter has given no insights into what it is actually about. My interview with your reporter has been reduced to two selective sentences in your newspaper, which is hardly fair and balanced journalism. “Why” is a fundamental tenet of news reporting yet your story does not provide this critical component of any good news story — context.
The need for Fiji journalism to improve was even stressed by Sharon Smith-Johns, Fiji’s Permanent Secretary for Information, who until earlier this year acted as the country’s chief censor under the Public Emergency Regulation, which imposed martial law on the country in 2009. In what was undoubtedly the most important message to come out of the symposium, she urged journalists in Fiji to not let the past three years of censorship be an excuse for failing to fully inform Fijians.

You will hear a lot about self censorship, the notion that journalists in Fiji are too afraid to report fully and without fear or favour. Such fears are understandable in the transition from censorship to freedom. But I urge journalists not to use this as an excuse not to do their jobs. . . . I know some of you have a jaundiced view about the Fiji government’s attitude to media freedom. As a country, we are a work in progress. But huge progress has been in achieving genuine democracy.

The naysayers, of course, blame the news media for fomenting the political instability that led to the 2000 coup and advocate tight controls such as contained in the 2010 Media Decree. It provides fines for what were once ethical lapses and even prison sentences for journalists found to have reported something contrary to the national interest, whatever that is. Australian blogger Graham Davis dubbed last week’s symposium “Edgefest” and attacked me online and in the Fiji Sun for advocating “total freedom for the local media at a time of intense discussion over the appropriate model for developing countries such as Fiji.” He contrasted that with the views of my predecessor as Head of Journalism at USP, Shailendra Singh, who “has advocated more social responsibility.”
What Davis does, of course, is hardly journalism. He is, instead, an attack dog devoted to hounding anyone who questions any actions of the Interim Government in Fiji. To suggest that I am not in favour of social responsibility in journalism is a  distortion of the truth. Instead I teach students the need to balance press freedom with responsibility. As an object lesson of the need for social responsibility, I use the example of Yellow Journalism that railroaded the U.S. government into the Spanish-American War in 1898. I often mention how history repeated itself when the U.S. press didn’t do its job well enough in the run-up to that country’s invasion of Iraq in 2003. I also use the example of press freedom in my country, where it is not absolute as under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but instead is balanced against the rights of others in society not to be subject to hate speech.
If you want to see for yourself some of the discussion that went on at our symposium, as well as interviews with our Chief Guest, Professor Robert Hackett from Canada, and myself, I would suggest watching Fiji TV’s excellent “Close Up” programme from Sunday, which can be viewed online here, here, and here.

Posted by at 8:20 PM

The draft constitution will be given back to the people

“The draft constitution will be given back to the people to have their comments and then it goes to the Constituent Assembly which will be made up of the people who represent various communities, not just the political parties but various level of the community, villages, settlements, districts and religious people, social institutions, women and youth groups.”

http://www.fijitimes.com/story.aspx?id=211502

Commodore Bainimarama must feel he instigated Fiji’s coup too early – had he waited until February 2012, he too could have learned how to usurp power and avoid the censure of the watching world.

How To Plan The Perfect Coup: Lessons From Fiji And The Maldives

Posted: 09/10/2012 1:00 pm
In 2006, in the Pacific island nation of Fiji, troops overran the capital city, threatened the Prime Minister, forced his resignation, placed him under house arrest, imposed censorship on the media, and the coup leader, in the form of the head of the army, went on television to declare himself the new ruler of the country.

In 2012, in my country, the Indian Ocean island nation of the Maldives, mutinying police andsoldiers overran the capital city, gave me, the President, an ultimatum to resign within the hour or face bloodshed, placed me under effective house arrest, raided the headquarters of the national broadcaster, and the coup leader, in the form of the Vice President, went on television to declare himself the new ruler of the country.

In the case of Fiji, the international community swiftly condemned the coup, blackballed Fiji from the club of civilized nations and suspended it from the Commonwealth. In the case of the Maldives, a report drafted by a Commission of National Inquiry (CoNI) which was dominated by hand-picked appointees of the coup-installed government, and endorsed by the Commonwealth, has just whitewashed the coup, declaring it a perfectly legitimate and constitutional transfer of power.

Fiji and the Maldives’ contrasting experiences provide useful tips for coup-plotters everywhere. When planning your coup, remember that first impressions count — so don’t dress like an obvious coup leader. The man who takes over from the democratically elected leader should not wear military fatigues, as Commodore Frank Bainimarama did in Fiji; instead wear a lounge suit, as former Vice President Waheed Hassan did in the Maldives.

Secondly, get your messaging right: never, as in Fiji, publicly state you are overthrowing an elected government; instead, as in the Maldives, announce that the President’s resignation is a run-of-the-mill and Constitutional transfer of power.

Finally, have patience: if you follow steps 1 and 2, sooner or later the international community will tire of political upheaval and accept the new, coup-led political order, regardless of outward commitments to democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

The CoNI report, which declared the Maldives’ coup lawful, has been a huge blow and a profound disservice to the Maldivian people, many of whom watched February’s illegal transfer of power unfold in front of their eyes: in the streets, on television, and through the hundreds of eye-witness video clips posted on YouTube and Facebook.

On the one hand, Maldivians should not have been surprised by the CoNI’s conclusions. The Committee was created by Waheed, the chief beneficiary of the coup, who stacked it with his own allies, and placed the defence minister of former dictator Gayoom at its helm. However, the eleventh hour inclusion of a retired Singaporean judge, appointed with the blessing of the Commonwealth, plus one single nominee, appointed by me, was supposed to provide a modicum of balance to the final report. Sadly, it did not.

My nominee, Ahmed Saeed, resigned from the Committee before its report was released, citing that crucial evidence, such as video footage of the police rampaging through Male, was not included in the Committee’s report. He further noted that the testimony of key witnesses was not included, and that central figures involved in the coup, such as opposition figure Umar Naseer who publicly admitted the existence of a coup “command center” from which events were directed, were not even interviewed.

recent assessment of the CoNI report by a legal team led by Sri Lanka’s former Attorney General, states that the report “amounts to a dangerous and severe erosion of the electoral franchise and mandate of the people.” In effect, the CoNI report says it is perfectly legitimate for a mob of mutinying police and army to topple an elected government from the streets. The legal team’s assessment further states: “there was in fact adequate evidence to suggest that duress (or even ‘coercion’ and/ or illegal coercion as used by CoNI) is attributable to the resignation of President Nasheed.”

Despite these serious flaws, and in the interests of moving forward, I have formally accepted the CoNI report – but only alongside Ahmed Saeed’s reservations.

A more useful analysis of the Maldives’ sorry situation comes from a recent report by Amnesty International, whose researchers conducted a professional and truly independent on- the-ground investigation. Amnesty’s report strongly condemns the on-going abuses by the coup-installed regime, stating that: “Without an end to – and accountability for – these human rights violations, any attempt at political reconciliation in the Maldives will be meaningless.”

Many other international human rights bodies have joined Amnesty in categorically condemning the Waheed regime’s repeated human rights violations, including Reporters without Borders and the UN Human Rights Committee.

Unfortunately, the CoNI report has gifted the regime with the get-out-of-jail-free card and the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group may now decide on 11 September to remove the Maldives from its watch-list of human rights violators. If they do, it will offer the regime a green light to crack down even harder on civil society, the media and the political opposition.

In an ironic twist of fate, the regime has also announced that they will use the CoNI report as a pretext to place me on trial — likely barring me from standing as the MDP’s elected nominee in the next presidential election.

As the Arab Spring continues its inevitable march across the Islamic world, the Maldives could have been an example of where the international community stood up for Muslim democrats, by forcing a coup regime to hold early elections and restore democracy. Sadly, the Maldives’ case is more likely to be used by aspiring coup plotters, as a useful guide on how to pull it off. Commodore Bainimarama must feel he instigated Fiji’s coup too early – had he waited until February 2012, he too could have learned how to usurp power and avoid the censure of the watching world.

 Follow Mohamed Nasheed on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MohamedNasheed

There is a lack of investigative reporting in Fiji…………

Report on issues of controversy

Nanise Loanakadavu
Tuesday, September 11, 2012

CALLS have been made for journalists to report on issues that seem to be controversial.

The call comes ahead of a panel of discussion today at the University of the South Pacific (USP).

The panel discussion is jointly convened by the USP’s School of Government, Development and International Affairs, Faculty of Business and Economics and the Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM).

Other women’s groups like the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre will also be actively involved in the discussion.

Speaking from Melbourne yesterday, centre co-ordinator Shamima Ali said the discussions today would be significant to the constitution consultation process currently taking place in Fiji.

“This is a very important discussion and I hope the media will play its role in publishing some issues raised by the speakers,” Ms Ali said.

“The people need to be aware of what these people will bring to the table.”

Members of the public have been coming forward with their submissions for the new constitution.

The three-hour session will be chaired by Constitution Commission chairman Professor Yash Ghai.

The subjects include women’s participation in constitution-making and the South African experience.

The commission will also be present to hear submissions from the public.

Prof Ghai will also launch the book Listening to the People of Fiji.

The discussions begin at 6pm.