Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Community Policing.

(Above image-The Peninsula of Suva, the large tracts of developed and undeveloped lands claimed by Suvavou villagers. Suva's central business district also falls into the claim).

The legal case of the Suvavou landowners, may be one of the most significant precedence in Fiji's legal system, because of the land's value, estimated to worth more than $F1 Billion and because the case is a legal wrangle between the State and an indigenous landowning unit. A Fiji Times article, covers their legal claim, now being debated in Suva's High Court.

Although the GCC Chairman is considering getting back to the habit of endless and fruitless meetings described in an article by Fiji Village. This particular Suvavou case, also reminds the indigenous landowners in Fiji of the inadequacies of the Great Council of Chiefs in solving such a major land claim, in addition to the delayed justice and due processes stonewalled by native institutions who have ignored the plight of the claimants. This case also underscores the validity of landowner's complaints against the Native Lands Trust Board.

Niu FM podcast interviews Fiji's interim Attorney General, who had requested the comments made by the Governments of New Zealand and Australia; to use the Pacific way of respectful dialogue. Not snide comments, which ridicule the sovereignty of a nation; like the idiosyncratic comments made by the New Zealand Foreign Minister, Winston Peters recently.
It appears that the talking points of the New Zealand Government have entered the echo chamber of NZ talk radio, outlined in an interview of academic (WMA), Robert Patman, a seemingly unbiased and unilateral expert of Fiji politics.

Although, quoted in a International Herald Tribune article and corroborated in a Fiji Times article, Peters had inquired into the evidence to the corruption charges, levied at the SDL Government by the interim Government's newly formed Corruption Agency headed by former Police officer, Nasir Ali who was interviewed in this Fiji Times article. Fiji's interim Prime Minister has also responded to Winston Peter's inquiries of corruption evidence, with a scathing denunciation, reported by Fiji Live article.

This is the excerpt of Fiji Live article:

I don't need to show proof: Bainimarama
Wednesday January 31, 2007

Fiji's Interim Prime Minister and army commander, Voreqe Bainimarama says there is no need for him to justify the coup to New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister, Winston Peters.

Peters had earlier asked Bainimarama to provide evidence to back up allegations he used to justify his coup.

Speaking to Fijilive this afternoon, Bainimarama hit out at Peters saying it was about time he realized that Fiji could manage its own affairs and did not rely on New Zealand as a 'big brother'.

"Who is he to interfere in our affairs, because we are a sovereign state and will not be pushed around by people who think they are too smart," said Bainimarama.

"He should stop spitting venom and leave this country alone."

Bainimarama added that Peters and New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark were being vindictive in their approach towards resolving the current impasse between the two countries.

"They should take sometime to think and try and map out a way to end the bitterness between New Zealand and Fiji," he said.

Peters also said that Bainimarama had become a judge, jury and an investigator for his country.


Fiji Live article questions why, the New Zealand Government is yet to dispatch experts in forensic accounting, to assist the interim Fiji Government in completing such investigations into the allegations of high level corruption. Such a delay, inextricably reflects on the reluctance of New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs to get involved, in spite of their lofty diplomatic ambitions to uphold law and order within the Pacific.

This is the excerpt of Fiji Live article:

NZ to consider Fiji request for help
Wednesday January 10, 2007

Fiji has asked for New Zealand help in investigating corruption allegations against the ousted government.

According to a report on TVNZ, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, Rob Hole, says they are considering the request in light of the wider issues in Fiji and will decide how to respond by the end of the week.

Interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama says a special military task force has begun sifting through dozens of files from various government departments and there is a pressing need for forensic accountants.

He says he will also be asking Australia and the United States for assistance.


The over-interference in the Pacific affairs by the New Zealand Government, was defended by Winston Peters in a speech to the Rotary Club reported by an article by Radio New Zealand.

In that speech, the Foreign Minister claimed that the Government is the absolute champion of democracy-a serious and noble role which they won't shirk! A role that was not consented to, by the voters of New Zealand, nor was this role approved by the citizens of the Pacific.
The egalitarian intentions by New Zealand was perceived as posturing rhetoric, by a senior officer in the Army, quoted in an article by Fiji Village.

New Zealand Foreign Minister, Winston Peter's speech was made available with an article by Scoop.

This is the excerpt:

Rt Hon Winston Peters
Minister of Foreign Affairs

Speech Notes

Putting New Zealand values to work in the Pacific

Delivered to the Orewa Rotary Club,
War Memorial Park,
Hibiscus Coast Highway
Embargoed until 7.30pm, 30 January 2007

Thank you for the invitation to address you this evening.

A New Year address at Orewa carries with it a degree of expectation.

While not being one to court controversy, it is hoped that today's address will none the less stimulate discussion. You have asked for an address on New Zealand's role in the Pacific, but before that here are a couple of observations about domestic politics in 2007.

If New Zealand has any hope of dragging itself up the OECD ladder, it must address some extraordinarily longstanding problems this year.

One is an outdated obsession with the monetary policy of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand. This year is Export Year, and yet the perverseness of New Zealand's monetary policy operates disastrously against export interests and encourages New Zealanders' obsession, not with the corporate sector or our still-strong primary sector, but with consumerism and multiple house buying.

You who live in Orewa should know this most keenly, given the Rodney Council is a recipient of numerous applications for further high rise development along the beach in some mindless attempt to replicate Queensland's Gold Coast.

But it is not these well-worn, well-tried and decades-old failed policies by themselves that are causing New Zealand's present economic dilemma of a banana republic current account balance (that is nine per cent of GDP in deficit). Although they do have an effect on our woefully falling home ownership rate.

One of the principal reasons for the low home ownership rate is our now three decades old inability to obtain bipartisan political agreement for a New Zealand savings strategy -- one of the principle reasons for the huge gap in living standards between New Zealand and Australia.

The Cullen Scheme is working because at least it is an attempt at a savings strategy. But much more should have been done and needs now to be done, and I hope in 2007 that Parliament will put aside its petty arguments on this issue and agree to give New Zealand earners a chance to enter the competitive economic world with a savings strategy to back it up.

Such a strategy will have a very serious effect. It will disincline the Reserve Bank Governor to keep ramping up interest rates, further vacuuming our economy and increasing business costs, and it will be a sound addition to the saving steps that many New Zealanders have made already.

There will be a huge debate on welfare-ism in 2007 but most of it will be to disguise the failing of the New Zealand economy, and that is that we are nationally not exporting enough, and therefore not individually earning enough.

Turning now to the Pacific, on the surface it would be easy to have a pessimistic outlook in the region.

From unrest in the Solomons, Timor Leste, Tonga, and finally the December coup in Fiji, the Pacific in the last year has at times resembled a wayward ping pong ball, with crises presenting themselves at regular intervals, bouncing from one part of the region to another.

While these recent crises have generated public and media attention, they stand alongside longer and deeper economic and social trends in the Pacific.
Pacific watchers over time will know that many of the issues confronting the Pacific are not new – some are decades old.

However we can, and we should, approach this year with guarded optimism. Not because we will solve all the Pacific's problems – we won't – but because we will play a constructive part in the region, strengthening key relationships and bolstering our own national interests.

This assessment is based on several decades of close association with the Pacific and its people.

In May 1989 I gave a keynote address to CEDA (Committee for Economic Development of Australia) focussing on the challenges confronting the Pacific. This occurred in the aftermath of the assassination of Kanak leader Jean-Marie Tjibaou and his deputy Yiewene Yiewene in New Caledonia -- events which sent shockwaves throughout the Pacific and beyond.

The backdrop at that time was further coloured by the first coup in Fiji and the instability that followed. It is somewhat bemusing, therefore, when hearing some commentators assessing my recent views and efforts in the Pacific as if they are a new development.

They are not – they have been shaped over the better part of three decades of informed engagement with the region. The Pacific is after all our neighbourhood and home, and its strategic relevance in global terms should have always been self-evident.

A brief perusal of nations that border the Pacific, and the fact that it accounts for nearly one quarter of the globe, highlight why countries with no direct connection with the region wish to remain actively engaged.

This has obvious implications for New Zealand. What we do in the Pacific matters more than just in the immediate sphere in which we operate, because partners such as Australia, the US, the EU, Japan, China and the UN among others, watch and value what we do.

Indeed much of our activity in the Pacific occurs in partnership with other nations and organisations. This brings us to a critical dimension of our work in the Pacific. Our partnerships and collaborative efforts are critical – particularly those with Australia and the United States.

Yet there seems to be an irrational, and growing, sense of sport among some quarters in New Zealand where it is considered a perverse badge of honour to take cheap shots at the Australians and Americans. These groups are quick to criticise what they disagree with and so so slow to acknowledge the huge effort that both nations put into the Pacific and beyond.

Let me make this as clear as possible. We need the United States, as well as Australia, to be intimately engaged in the Pacific if we are to be successful in our own endeavours. We also believe the EU has a positive role to play.

We need to work closely with the US and we need to have a positive forward-looking relationship. And there are significant efforts being made on both sides to achieve that.

All too often commentators in this country are quick to gnaw at American vulnerabilities, lashing out hardest when the United States is confronting difficulties, rather than being more understanding, as friends should be at such times.

Our areas of difference are well known. Less attention is given to the broad range of policy positions and interests that we have in common with the United States – our similar outlook is underpinned by shared values and a commitment to democratic principles.

The issues of democratisation, good governance, and stability, which the
United States is grappling with in a number of regions of the world, are similar to those we are grappling with in the Pacific. Our officials are in regular contact on these issues, sharing ideas about what has worked and what hasn't.

To this end, we are pleased that officials are currently looking at areas where we can maximize cooperation both bilaterally and in support of Pacific island states.
We work closely with Australia in the region. They are our nearest neighbours and closest friends. We have many mutually shared objectives in our combined efforts.

So while some in New Zealand are keen to see us jettison these relationships, these people need to grow up, shed their jingoistic baggage about the US and Australia, and start to address the serious reality in which we operate, rather than their fanciful fabrications.

Let's confront a simple question. How do you get a sound business relationship with someone or some nation who does not know you, or worse, does not like you? The media at times have regrettably tried to reduce these attitudes to a deep-seated form of anti-Americanism and anti-Australian sentiments.

This premise is false. New Zealanders are not by nature anti anybody. We have friendly rivalries – particularly on the sporting field – shared histories and sometimes even significant policy differences with other nations.

But we are not anti or opposed to any nation or people. From time to time we vigorously oppose particular policies, and occasionally disagree with various decisions made by governments, but it is not the New Zealand way to outright oppose a nation or its people.

This is because of who we are as New Zealanders. What we have embraced over time is a form of civic nationalism – bound by shared values and a common commitment to the institutions of democracy, the rule of law and the pursuit of a decent society.

This goes hand in hand with an underlying pragmatism, tolerance and an essential good-heartedness as the late historian Michael King put it.

Our disposition embraces the rule of law, including an inherent fairness and sense of natural justice in how we engage with others.

And it increasingly involves a respect and care for the sustainability of the environment – which all New Zealanders can commonly value as a legacy we seek for our children.

The understated character of our nationalism ensures we would rather get in and do the work than chase the limelight. We don't need to wear our nationalism on our sleeves, and we have charitable inclinations – it is in our nature to help.

We do have a sense of patriotism, often inconspicuous and less overt than other countries, but it is real none the less and it is strong. Sadly, however, we lack tangible touchstones – significant events we can point to which unite and bind us as a nation.

The signing of the Treaty of Waitangi could and should have filled this role as our equivalent of Bastille Day in France, or the 4th of July in the United States.

It should be recognised and celebrated as the significant and unique document it is. Instead, the Treaty has too often been sullied as a document based on grievance and division, just as Waitangi Day has been notable for protest and sadly the broad indifference of much of the population.

There are some indications that we can move beyond this as a nation. Thankfully this lack of a touchstone has not inhibited New Zealanders from embracing the core values that bolster our sense of identity.

Unlike New Zealand however, most Pacific nations have been in a post-colonial phase of development for only a brief period. Consequently, few of the institutions and democratic foundations of our Pacific neighbours have had enough time to mature since they embarked on the pathway to independence and sovereignty.

Just two years ago our parliament celebrated its 150th anniversary – making us among the world's oldest parliamentary democracies.

By comparison, Samoa's parliament was established in 1961, the Cook Islands in 1965, Fiji in 1970, PNG in 1975, and the Solomon Islands in 1976.

New Zealand is by no means perfect. Our institutions have evolved over many decades, which have seen constitutional changes such establishing the Maori seats, embracing universal suffrage, removing our Upper House, and more recently the shift to MMP. All these changes have created a distinctive form of New Zealand democracy.

Our Pacific Island neighbours, however, have not had the luxury of time. They have also, quite legitimately, sought to meld western styles of government with traditional indigenous structures.

Taken together, these elements have at times resulted in new institutions being vulnerable to influences that can undermine the foundations of democracy, the rule of law, and security.

In contrast, there is much that we take for granted in New Zealand because of the legacy of our Westminster system of government, and this has significant implications for our sense of identity.

Our society is underpinned by robust values that are stable and strong. However there are often different forces at play in parts of the Pacific, just as there are in other regions of the world.

Violence, or the threat of violence, is too frequently employed as the means of resolving domestic matters. The value of democracy is often subverted by a misguided sense of ethnic nationalism.

Ethnic nationalism emerges when the search for identity is couched solely in a traditionalist cultural context, devoid of the core values of democracy and rule of law. But these values need not be mutually exclusive – there can be cultural expression and democratic foundations.

In places such as Tonga, that is what the average Tongan wants – to give voice to their political preferences.

They do not want to abandon their cultural traditions, but they do see the inherent value in citizens having the right to express themselves in an organised and structured way.

In some parts of the Pacific ethnic nationalism can manifest itself at an even more rudimentary level – wantok tribalism – where historical tribal and extended family loyalties have at times overridden democratic values.

But we should never confuse ethnic nationalism with outright corruption and greed.

Corruption and greed are not cultural or ethnic based conditions – they are human phenomena. As the British parliamentarian and philosopher Edmund Burke once wrote, "Among a people generally corrupt, liberty cannot last".

We have heard the term corruption hypocritically bandied about in New Zealand over the past year. Those who have cried it the loudest have suffered the most, because New Zealanders know hypocrisy when they hear it.

In comparison, a lack of strong institutions of state to buttress vulnerable nations against corruption has left parts of the Pacific region in flux, and its future uncertain.

So while much of the internal struggle within Pacific nations has been cloaked in nationalistic fervour and the struggle for independence, the underlying cancer of corruption has too often been allowed to take root and spread.

New Zealand must never shirk its role as a champion of democracy in the region– it is after all what our heritage is built on.

The checks and balances of constitutional democracy are fundamental to the promotion of equitable development and respect for human rights and freedoms. Where these fail – as they have most recently in Fiji – the consequences are all too obvious.

We are seeing in Fiji a regime that has systematically suppressed freedom of speech, created a climate of fear, and abuse, and undermined confidence in key institutions of state whose role is to protect the rights of its citizens.

A detailed roadmap towards the restoration of democracy is urgently needed if further degradation is to be avoided. New Zealand's belief in the importance of constitutional democracy, strong institutions of state, and responsive government underpins our approach throughout the Pacific.

We are active supporters of democracy in Tonga, and are working as a partner within the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands to support the institutions of state in that country.

And consider the issue of the most recent Fiji coup and why New Zealand, among many other nations, has taken the stance it has. It was only mid 2006 when Fiji last held democratic elections, overseen by independent election observers.

Indeed New Zealand put significant resources into promoting democracy and ensuring the smooth running of the elections as much as was possible. On election night no one claimed the election was not fair.

We therefore cannot sit idly by as Fiji's military leader, who did not stand for election and does not have a democratic mandate, first through thinly veiled threats and then through the clear threat of violence, usurps office and then claims some perverse legitimacy.

Equally we will not be swayed by his threats of retaliation simply for voicing our outrage at his actions, and for taking the measures we warned him well in advance that we regrettably would take.

But the situation has become far graver in Fiji. We now have the dehumanising stories of those who voice concerns over the coup having bags put over their heads and being locked up with no sense of natural justice.

This is simply not acceptable at the most rudimentary level of human rights and we will continue to say so.

There was always a simple solution to any concerns that Commodore Bainimarama had over Fijian government policies. It is a solution that remains the most salient now. He should simply resign his military role and contest transparent democratic elections.

If he has the will of the people, then rather than having to appoint himself Prime Minister, he could hold the title legitimately – and be recognised by the international community as such.

As noted previously, we do not always agree with what other governments do, and sometimes we voice this publicly. However we respect their right as democratically elected governments to make independent choices.

We are also weary of those who seek to exploit the economic vulnerability of the Pacific. Organised trans-national crime, including money laundering and drug making, are already a reality in the Pacific, and require concerted international cooperation to be tackled effectively.

Fortunately the Pacific can draw on international best practice when confronting such challenges, and New Zealand plays a crucial role in this.
We will continue to rally our friends, who share our core democratic values, to help support legitimate Pacific island governments in their endeavours.

Despite its many challenges, the Pacific is not without hope. Our work is about incremental steps and long-term solutions. There is no magic wand or silver bullet that will fix the Pacific's diverse woes.

Over half New Zealand's aid budget goes to the Pacific, and our development initiatives extend across a range of government and business agencies and groups.

However we do not provide unaccountable largesse for Pacific leaders. We offer targeted aid where it can make the most difference over time.

The aid programme continues to transform to recognise new realities in the Pacific. It is focussed on addressing real poverty and hardship in the region. It is directed to the most needy and supports the region to lift its economic performance.

But many of the decisions that need to be taken for the Pacific to progress must be taken by Pacific nations themselves. We cannot and should not impose such decisions on them.

New Zealand's efforts in working in the Pacific are based on our own core values. This is why we can be optimistic that our efforts in our neighbourhood will be valued.

It is the nation in the mirror that shapes how we look in and how we look out in the Pacific.

Thank you.


Winston Peters' Rotary club speech, also came under fire from the New Zealand MP and Green Party Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, Keith Locke published in an article from Scoop.

Locke rebuts Peters' accusations
Wednesday, 31 January 2007, 9:49 am
Press Release: Green Party
31 January 2007

Green Party Foreign Affairs Spokesperson MP Keith Locke has rejected Foreign Minister Winston Peters' accusation that those who criticise the Bush administration are motivated by feelings of anti-Americanism.

"It is not 'cheap shot' anti-Americanism to criticise George Bush's war in Iraq. It is a 'cheap shot' however, for Mr Peters to accuse those who disagree with Mr Bush of wanting to 'jettison' relations with the United States," Mr Locke says.

"It is hardly 'anti-American' to side with the tens of thousands of patriotic Americans who are marching against the war, or to back American lawyers who are trying to help the people detained at Guantanamo Bay.

"New Zealand will earn a lot more American friends by telling the truth about Iraq, and by standing up for justice, than it will by keeping a cowardly silence."

"If Winston Peters was to be acting as a real friend of America he would, in our name, be cautioning the US government from proceeding further down its destructive path in Iraq, " Mr Locke says.

"Once a populist politician, Winston Peters has lost his ability to read the Kiwi mood, which is strongly opposed to the selfishness and the bullying of the Bush administration. It is sad to see our Foreign Minister choosing to go in to bat for George Bush, the most war-mongering American president in recent times.

"It is simply not acceptable for Mr Peters to say, as he did this morning, that we shouldn't 'go on' about Iraq.

"People here and around the world are alarmed that George Bush is adding fuel to the fire by sending more troops to Iraq, and by threatening Iran into the bargain. We have a responsibility to speak out, rather than just watch the death toll rise," said Mr Locke.


Club Em Designs

Monday, January 29, 2007

State of Origin.

New Zealand Herald's article confirmed by a report by the Australian, on the recovery efforts of the Australian Black Hawk helicopter that crashed last year inside Fiji waters, prior to the events of December 5th, may have stalled due to both the embarrassing location of the wreck and the embarrassing causes.

News Limited web article confirms that the crash of the Australian Black Hawk was related to a mechanical failure. Australian Defence Force has conducted research into reports of cracking of the internal panel. Air Systems Branch, an arm of U.S Army Research Labs has also published a study into the vibrational analysis of the helicopter rotor machinery. To date the underlying causes of UH-60 failure, are yet to be determined.

Sydney Morning Herald report estimates the recovery operation in Fiji, at a hefty price tag of A$8 million.

Perhaps the Fiji episode may have opened a new chapter of scrutiny in the murky track record of mechanical failures of the Black Hawk, used extensively by Australia, UK and the US military.
Here are other occurrences of Black Hawk crashes reported by media sources.

Bagram Airforce base, Afghanistan-Jan 30th 2003

Kuwait- Feb 25th 2003.

Fort Drum, New York- March 12th 2003.

Karbala, Iraq-April 2003

Tikrit, Iraq- Nov 8th 2003.

Florence, South Carolina-April 26th 2004.

Waco, Texas-Nov 2004.

Fort Hood, Texas-Nov 30th 2004.

Columbia, January 2005.

Al-Anbar province, Iraq- Aug 8th 2006.

Seattle, WA- Dec 20th 2006.

12km East of Tal Afar, Iraq-Jan 5th 2007.

Diyala Province, Iraq- Jan 20th 2007.

A news aggregator of Black Hawk crashes, provides a treasure trove of similar incidents.

Project of Government Oversight (POGO) website provides additional resources on Black Hawk manufacturer, Sikorsky Aircraft.

This is an excerpt of an article by News Channel 8 WTNH:

Team 8 Investigates
Problems with Sikorsky helicopters?

(WTNH, May 10, 2006 11:00 PM) _ Sikorsky Aircraft has filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against the Defense Department that would stop the government from releasing documents to News Channel 8 on quality control problems on the Blackhawk helicopter.

Team 8 Investigator Alan Cohn broke the story three years ago about defective parts being installed on Blackhawk helicopters.

This case is unique. It's not often the Defense Department and the Bush Administration go to court and fight for the release of what a defense contractor believes is confidential information to a reporter.

The question, the Defense Department tells us, is not if Sikorsky has been cited for continued quality problems on the Blackhawk, but how many times.

It's a simple, obvious question and with so many servicemen depending on Blackhawk helicopters in Iraq and Afghanistan, never has it been never more important.

Has Sikorsky fixed the quality control problems Team 8 first uncovered three years ago? If it has, why is the company blocking News Channel 8's efforts to find out.

"The fact there are obstacles being placed on the truth coming out really bothers me that there are priorities other than just making sure the troops are safe," says Danielle Brian, Project on Govt. Oversight.

In May 2003, News Channel 8 reported some of Sikorsky's own employees were saying defective parts from subcontractors were slipping through the company's quality assurance system and onto aircraft.

They provided us with this corrective action request from the Defense Department agency which oversees Sikorsky listing 19-quality issues including installation of unqualified parts and vendor quality control.

Sikorsky's response at the time; it's fixed its quality control problems.

Is that true? To find out, we filed a Freedom of Information request with the Pentagon asking whether Sikorsky has been issued any additional corrective action requests.

Now, the question itself is setting off a historic legal battle here at Federal Court in Washington, DC. For the first time ever, a defense contractor, Sikorsky Aircraft, is suing the defense department over the release to News Channel 8 of documents concerning quality control problems on the Blackhawk helicopter."

Initially, the Pentagon turned down our request for documents, then it suddenly reversed itself in December.

"We took another look at it and decided that the corrective action request you asked for should be released," says Richard Finnegan, Defense Contract Mgt. Agency.

The decision was made at the highest level.

"There is an appeal authority here that is the Chief of Staff," says Finnegan.

And as soon as the Defense Department told the company it was releasing the documents, Sikorsky slapped the Pentagon with a lawsuit.

"For us this is unique,

Government watch dogs and aerospace industry analysts we talked to say the case is fascinating. On one hand the military is spending billions on new Blackhawks. On the other hand in a rare push, the Pentagon is trying to release documents that could embarrass one of its most important contractors

"What it means to me is there are people inside the government who wanted to make sure you got this information."

"I could see the government is gaming this as wanting to release this information to embarrass Sikorsky to improve in manufacturing processes," says John Pike,

In its suit, the company is clearly concerned what the records we're seeking say, "Competitors would undoubtedly use the information (in the car's) "to unfairly disparage Sikorsky's manufacturing processes and quality assurance system in the eyes of Sikorsky's customers and potential customers."

"Is that something that is taken into consideration?

"No that's no part of the law. Embarrassment isn't an issue under FOIA," says Cathy Alphin, Defense Contract Mgt. Agency.

Sikorsky also warns if the documents are released, the company would seriously consider limiting the information it shares with the Defense Department in the future.

"My general view is these documents should probably be public," says Congressman Chris Shays. Connecticut Congressman Christopher Shays has looked into quality problems on the Blackhawk helicopter in the past and says in a time of war, when lives are on the line and with the Blackhawk playing such an important role...

"My basic view is the tax payer provides the money and the taxpayer via the media has the right to know what's happening and what's not happening," says Shays.

What does Sikorsky have to say? Nothing. The company is declining comment saying the Freedom of Information Act is clear. The Justice Department is asking the court to throw out Sikorsky's law suit. If that doesn't happen it could be another year until the issue is resolved.

There is a second case very similar to this one and it involves another United Technologies company, Pratt and Whitney, which is also suing the Defense Department to block release to the Hartford Courant of records concerning quality problems on a military aircraft engine.

Video of flying in a Black Hawk over Iraq.

Back to Fiji Politics, the announced cancellations of the scheduled team marches in Wellington, is a disappointing start to New Zealand's premier Rugby international; a title which the Fiji Sevens team are defending.

(Above image: Image of historic fort in Sigatoka valley).
The historical Tongan fortress is located on the West Coast of Viti Levu, up towards the head waters of Sigatoka river.

The issue of having a central state Government is a question with a turbulent history in Fiji. The question of central authority then became a socio-religious conflict with tribal roots. The historical article by Fiji Times will perhaps prompt a much needed reflection on the forces of change in Fiji politics.

(Above: Image of a similar pacification by the Government troops in the Ba highlands at the same period, described in the F.T article.)

A letter to the Editor of the Fiji Times reminds the public, of the cost in having a native state within a state.

Corrupt natives

I AGREE with Eliki Gaunavou (FT 26/1) that one area that deserved an immediate mopping-up is the Ministry of Fijian Affairs including the NLTB and the Native Lands Commission dispute resolution tribunal.

Land title disputes are based on a history of tension within family communities and oral tradition. [Disputes] have and will continue to be at the centre of major disputes. [Disputes] have become increasingly important because of lease money. Whenever a dispute arises, lease money is likely to be withheld.

Consequently, local and foreign economic activities stagnate, children stay home or roam the streets, poor families get poorer and the inherent indigenous dependency syndrome on lease money aggravated.

Mr Gaunavou rightly concludes that continuing disputes over vanua titles contribute to a "corrupt native society" and calls for the abolition and replacement of the Fijian Affairs ministry with a Ministry of Native Affairs.

The Fijian Affairs ministry is in fact just that a ministry of native Fijian affairs. It begs more questions which have been raised many times before by your editorials.

Why should indigenous Fijians continue to be doubly governed, first under the Constitution and then reduced to be subjects of native regulations administered by the Ministry of Fijian Affairs?

Isn't it time for indigenous Fijians to be governed as full citizens of the Republic of Fiji and Rotuma just like any other citizen? After 36 years of independence, is not one government and one set of rules sufficient for all who call Fiji and Rotuma home?

Everyone wants to soar like an eagle, including indigenous people the world over.

Fijians have long known their disadvantage. They cannot soar as long as they are subjected to the currents of two laws the mainstream one and another especially just for them.

Morgan Tuimaleali'ifano

Club Em Designs

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Turning on a Dime.

Scoop article reports that, New Zealand Government's meddling into Fiji politics has gone as far as lobbying the removal of Fijian troops operating under the U.N banner in Iraq. Helen Clark's response was also criticized by the National Party spokesperson, as being a significant "back down".

New Zealand's Green Party spokesperson, Keith Locke interviewed in a Niu FM article accused the U.N of virtually funding the Fiji Army, resulting in its present strength. Locke concluded that without this funding, Fiji's coup might not have occured. Podcast of Keith Locke's interview.

Realistically, the final U.N decision was a sterling "smack down" of the New Zealand Government, which is also being buffeted by concerned local exporters; on the uncertain trading ties with Fiji, reported in an article by Stuff.

This is the excerpt of the article on the United Nations decision:

UN decision unprincipled; Clark response weak
Wednesday, 24 January 2007, 8:59 am

The United Nations decision to deploy additional Fijian troops to Iraq totally undermines the credibility of both the New Zealand Government and the UN, says National Party Foreign Affairs spokesman Murray McCully.

Mr McCully describes the UN decision as "unacceptable and unprincipled" and says the comments reported to date from the Prime Minister are "weak and represent a substantial backdown."

"The New Zealand Government warned the Fijian military that there would be consequences if they proceeded with threats to overthrow the elected Fijian Government. Both the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs warned that the removal of Fijian military personnel serving on UN peace-keeping duties would be one of those consequences.

“The National Party supported the Government in issuing those warnings at the time.

"New Zealand, along with Australia and many other nations, has now put in place the threatened sanctions. Fiji has been suspended from the Commonwealth.

"The Prime Minister's reported statement that the decision about use of further Fijian military personnel is a matter for the UN is weak and hollow in context of her earlier statements.

"We all have a huge stake in stability in the Pacific. There can be no stability without the rule of law. That is why the National Party has backed the position of the New Zealand Government. The Government now has some explaining to do about its communications with the UN over recent weeks. It must also make clear to the United Nations that this decision is unprincipled and unacceptable,” said Mr McCully.


Sydney Morning Herald article has now confirmed that, the New Zealand proposal was denied by the powers that be.

Is the U.N decision, a reminder of the worth of Fiji soldiers in international peacekeeping?

It is also a stark indication, of New Zealand's own reluctance to contribute soldiers on a large scale to war ravaged nations. This U.N decision, also underscores N.Z's juvenile approach to geo-politics.

This is an excerpt of the SMH article:

Fijian peacekeepers to stay: UN to NZ

January 24, 2007 - 5:54PM

New Zealand has attacked a United Nations decision not to suspend Fijian soldiers from peacekeeping missions as punishment for the Pacific nation's military coup last month.

Prime Minister Helen Clark on Wednesday put the decision down to the dire need for peacekeepers in Iraq. She said New Zealand had presented very strong arguments to the UN, saying Fijian soldiers must not be allowed to continue working as peacekeepers given their military's overthrow of the elected government.

"We've made it very clear to the UN that we do not believe they should be using Fijian troops," Clark said.

"Unfortunately our point of view did not get support from the United States, the United Kingdom or the United Nations bureaucracy.

"It's a considerable irony that when you look at the UN mission in Iraq which is to try to help restore some kind of decent government and democracy that Fiji troops are welcome there."

Clark said that former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan had agreed with her that a coup in Fiji would lead to the loss of peacekeeping work with the UN.

But things had changed by the time New Zealand approached the UN in the wake of the December 5 coup. "There has been a change of the secretary-general. There's a lot of pressure on the UN to maintain the mission in Iraq, it's very, very dangerous there," Clark said.

"We have one person there as a military liaison observer but New Zealand is not prepared to fill in any gap left by Fiji troops - we think it's extremely dangerous.

"I imagine the secretary-general has been under pressure to try and keep his small force of security up and he's ended up looking back to Fiji but it's not a step we approve of."

Clark believes that Fijian soldiers will become a less attractive proposition for the UN over time, as the military government is deprived of assistance programs from countries like New Zealand and Australia.

© 2007 AAP

U.N webcast on recent geopolitical events including a response to a question posed on Fiji's contribution to peacekeeping.
The reporter inquired whether the former U.N Secretary General, Kofi Annan's remark inferring the scaling down the use for Fijian soldiers in Iraq, still holds.

In spite of the additional recruitment of Fiji soldiers to Iraq, reported by a Radio New Zealand article confirmed by NZ TV3 news; the U.N spokesperson acknowledged that, he was unaware of the comments made by the New Zealand Prime Minister and skillfully skirted around the issue of removing Fiji from U.N operations in Baghdad, Iraq. The U.N spokesperson later clarified that, Annan's comment only applied to future use of Fijian peacekeepers and not existing engagements.

Website for Fiji's Mission to the U.N.

Club Em Designs

Monday, January 22, 2007

Game Theory

The delegation of the new interim Government to Asia, reported by the International Herald Tribune article may be a leading indicator of the changing tide of alliances. This story was corroborated by CNN web article and Sydney Morning Herald.

Perhaps this Fiji delegation to Asia may be well appraised of China's recent demonstration of their satellite-killing technology which was denigrated by Australia and New Zealand, wary of the threats this technology represents. China's Space program could well envelope the entire Pacific with well placed relay and tracking stations that will indeliably cast a looming threat to the interests of Western powers into the region.

This ratcheting up effect in diplomatic posturing, may include a ban of New Zealand manufactured products as reported by Stuff-N.Z. The widening chasm between the two nations stem from the incident, where an official nominated as the C.E.O for Fijian Prime Minister's office was denied entry into New Zealand.

Although, Australia had issued counter warnings to this retaliation, reported by Fiji Live article; this charade will be weighed accordingly against the offers made by the Asian nations to Fiji. This is the excerpt Fiji Live article:

Fiji neighbours retaliate against threats
Tuesday January 23, 2007

Interim PM and army commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama
Australia has warned Fiji that any threat to introduce trade and travel restrictions by its interim Government will have adverse effects on its people.

A spokesman for Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs says any retaliation will only harm Fijians as it won’t have any impact on Australia or New Zealand.

The Department says Fiji’s threat to introduce certain restrictions against Australia will not have the desired effect.

Fiji’s interim Prime Minister and military commander, Commodore Voreqe Bainiamarama responded by saying he would retaliate against exports and expatriates from both countries if travel bans on members of the military, interim and its executives stay in place.

New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark also voiced similar sentiments saying its sanctions will stay. She says her country’s position is the same as those of Canada, the US, the European Union and Australia.

New Zealand has also said that a move by Fiji to ask for assistance from Asian countries would not go well. Clark reacting to Commodore Bainimarama’s claim that Fiji would move to Asian countries if the metropolitan neighbours continue to impose sanctions.

Clark told National Radio that whilst holding talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in the Philippines just over a week ago reassurance was given that China supported New Zealand's actions in the Pacific.

"China indicated through him they were very concerned about instability in the South Pacific and specifically indicated considerable support for what New Zealand was doing in the region.

"The New Zealand Government position is very clear - that is we are waiting to see from those who have seized power in Fiji what their proposals are for a pathway back to constitutional government, and that of course would include some very clear signals that political freedom and freedom of speech and media are to return to Fiji.

"We haven't seen these signals yet," Clark said.

Clark reportedly said New Zealand stood its ground after the 2000 coup by keeping sanctions in place until the Commonwealth removed Fiji’s suspension which came about 18 months later.

Commodore Bainimarama yesterday announced that a high powered delegation comprising of ministers, senior officials and selected business people will visit China, India, Malaysia and Indonesia in an effort to diversify Fiji’s network of sources for import, tourist, investment, technical cooperation and inflow of aid.

He accused Australia and New Zealand of bullying Fiji and threatened retaliation after chief of staff Parmesh Chand was denied entry to New Zealand to visit his family.

Whilst extending a hand in diplomacy, Commodore Bainimarama warned both nations that "if diplomacy does not work, then my government will be left with no option but to adopt retaliatory measures."


Radio NZ article reports of antipodal perspectives to Australia's recent warning of difficulties in store for Fiji's interim Government, from the Fiji Human Rights Commissioner who highlighted the ever growing contempt within Fiji and the Pacific against the foreign policies of the Trans-Tasman countries tainted with a neo-conservative agenda.

The same agenda displayed in the invasion of Iraq, now being a hotly debated issue in the U.S, resulting in the record low approval ratings of the current President who is due to launch his revised plans in the annual State of the Union speech to the American people.

Club Em Designs

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Seeing Trees or a Forest?

Fiji Village reports a landmark ruling by the Suva High Court, which has given the landowners of a Serua Mahogany plantation the ability to apply for a forestry harvest license.

This is the excerpt of the Fiji Village article:

Serua Mahogany Landowners Entitled Harvesting License

By fijivillage
Jan 19, 2007, 17:19

In a bench mark ruling, the Suva High court yesterday ordered that Serua mahogany landowners are entitled to a license to harvest their own mahogany.

High court judge Jiten Singh ruled that they are now entitled to a license from the Native Land Trust Board to harvest mahogany planted on their land after the mataqali Naua applied to the NLTB for a license to log the mahogany which was denied.

In his judgment Justice Singh highlighted that the evidence before him indicates that the financial benefits to the landowners are far superior if they log their own mahogany since they have ready buyers for their products

Lawyer representing the landowners Isireli Fa said they have already negotiated a price for the mahogany which is estimated to earn the landowners $1.8 million after costs of extraction.

Prior applications filed by the landowning unit, was understood to have been denied by the agency responsible for indigenous land in Fiji, the Native Lands Trust Board (N.L.T.B).

This court ruling has also inextricably set up a new paradigm, allowing other native landowning units to contest the multitude of resources available on their ancestral land. This new found ability, further underscores the inability of the Great Council of Chiefs (GCC) to achieve such empowering actions, for the people that they supposedly spoke for.

Another contention is that, why these avenues of livelihood were denied in the first place by the N.L.T.B? The agency charted with responsibility of acting and managing these prime acreages of real estate, with the best interest of the landowners in mind; only had dubious intentions, well embedded in greed and subterfuge.

This court ruling has also confirmed firmly held suspicions that, these native institutions were created for the sole purpose of benefit ting this minority indigenous elite in Fiji. The unintended consequences of the agenda driven influences from a clumsy aristocratic hierarchy was, the political dramatization of class warfare in Fiji, resulting in a track record of coups.

Club Em Designs

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Poll Position

According to the new interim Minister of Commerce, Industry, Investment and Communication- Mr. Taito Waradi, is adamant that the staggering financial mess within Fiji's treasury was the result of the creative accounting and failed monetary and fiscal policies employed by the SDL Government, as reported by an article from Radio New Zealand.

To get a better handle of the financial quagmire within the Fiji treasury, it is prudent to outline what and where the lion's share of Government funds had been squandered on. Readers will have to look no further than the Great Council of Chief's new bachelor pad, an icon of myopic decadence and entitled exuberance. Albeit, on the tax payer's tab.

Fijian Affairs Trust Fund has been long rumoured, to be the underlying barrier to the social empowerment of indigenous Fijians from common stock. Presently this conventionally held wisdom still applies.

The Fijian Affairs Trust Fund is being perceived, as a ubiquitous symbol of cultural enslavement. Although, the Chairperson of the Trust fund proudly unveils the new G.C.C building in this Fiji Times article. There still remains an embarrassing and inconvenient question to ponder:
How does this benefit the aspirations of the indigenous?

The future of the new GCC complex, built unashamedly with a $F20 million state loan, which was converted mysteriously to a grant, will perhaps now reach the overarching system of check and balances; long denied. By denying this corruption, the machinery of native institutions perpetuated and rewarded, an ingrained system of cavalier expenditure and a system that was unfettered with chronic abuse.

It is an ideal window of opportunity to correct this duplicity in Fiji governance, especially after the recent military council order, which forbade the GCC from meeting without their approval.

Sadly, what is left in Fiji's state treasury, is basically what had not been consumed by personal profit, hidden revenue streams of kick-backs. Unravelling all these cobwebs of impropriety, is the task of the new interim Finance Minister.

Due to the vast extent of this deficit financing in Fiji, a new budget is expected to be created by the interim Government as reported by Fiji Live article.

This is the excerpt of the Fiji Live article:
New budget expected, says economist
Wednesday January 17, 2007

The recasting of the 2007 Budget by Fiji's interim Government is necessary and was to be expected, says an academic. The ousted government's 2007 budget was thrown out by the interim regime led by interim Prime Minister and army commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama.

But University of the South Pacific economist Dr Biman Prasad said while there will obviously be implications on revenue measures that have already been set out in the 2007 Budget, the recasting was necessary.

He said people should look at the way this is done particularly the allocation to key sectors and the delivery of public services including health, education and infrastructure.Prasad said investors will look at how the re casted budget will affect strategies promoting export and investment.

"It's important for the interim Government to give the right signal to investors in terms of fiscal incentives," he said.

"There should be emphasis on improving and developing new infrastructure for both agriculture and tourism growth."

Another aspect that needs urgent attention is the agriculture sector which he says has a lot of potential but is not realised. Prasad said a long-term objective in this sector should be to create productivity and opportunities for employment.

For the sugar industry, Prasad said there needs to be a concerted effort by stakeholders to first gain the confidence of farmers, cane cutters and others dependent on the industry.

He said the amount of restructure done and funds poured into the industry will come to nothing if there are no farmers out there. Accordingly, there should be appropriate measures in place to entice farmers to stay on.


Although deposed Chief Justice, says the appointment is a disgrace and a breach of his trust in a Fiji Times article.

[Deposed]Chief Justice Daniel Fatiaki checks out The Fiji Times, the front page on which is his successor, Justice Anthony Gates.

This is the excerpt of the Fiji Times article:

Gates broke trust: Fatiaki.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Chief Justice Daniel Fatiaki has labelled the appointment of Justice Anthony Gates in an acting capacity as an unfortunate development.

Justice Fatiaki said Justice Gates' appointment and his acceptance of the post was a breach of trust.

High Court judge Justice Gates was sworn in as the acting Chief Justice at Government House by the President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, on Tuesday.

That came as a result of Chief Justice Fatiaki and Chief Magistrate Naomi Matanitobua being sent on leave by military commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama.

The military said that was done to facilitate an inquiry into the judicial system.

But Justice Fatiaki said as far as he was concerned, he had not received any formal notice of any allegation or charges against the judiciary. He said Justice Gates' appointment was unnecessary.

"They could have recalled me but they did not," he said. He said the interim administration should not have interfered if it was really concerned about the independence of the judiciary.

"Why did the Attorney-General ask another judge to call a meeting of the Judicial Services Commission?

"The meeting for the commission is only supposed to be convened by the chair of the Commission which is the Chief Justice.

"It doesn't mean that if I'm on forced leave that is, that I cannot come in and call a meeting of the Commission," he said.

Acting Chief Justice Gates yesterday said he had no comment to make on these remarks. Judge Nazhat Shameem yesterday said she was saddened to hear Chief Justice Fatiaki's statements.

"I am saddened to hear his remarks about me,'' said Justice Shameem, on criticism that was reportedly levelled against her and Justice Gates by Chief Justice Fatiaki.

She would not comment on the appointment of Justice Gates as acting CJ or changes to the judiciary. Justice Gerard Winter declined to comment.

Interim Minister for Justice and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said comments by Justice Fatiaki, who is on leave and was probably ill-informed about what happened at the Judicial Services Commission meeting, were unfortunate and "with respect, inappropriate for a judicial officer".

"It is precisely this sort of conduct of some judicial officers that is of concern," Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

"As for the meeting itself it was convened after independent legal advice was obtained from Queens Counsel. It was conducted in accordance with our Constitution," he said.

He said the most senior substantive puisne judge who was the natural successor to the Chief Justice was asked by the Attorney- General and Minister for Justice to chair the Judicial Services Commission.

"The Judicial Services Commission allows the judiciary to take control over its own processes, independent of the Government and of any other institution and persons,"Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

He said one would expect all persons interested in the independence of the judiciary to support the holding of the commission's meeting and the subsequent appointment of Justice Anthony Gates.

"Other judges may feel aggrieved that they were not chosen by the JSC to act as CJ, however I was advised by Judicial Services Commission that the most senior puisne judge after Justice Shameem was Mr Justice Anthony Gates.

"So his appointment is uncontroversial and constitutionally correct," Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said. Fiji Legal Aid Commission director Vilimone Vosarogo said he supported Justice Gates' appointment.

"He is a highly decorated lawyer and competent by his own rights,'' said Mr Vosarogo. "As a judge he has done his job well."

"As solicitors we should be able to trust that we are appearing before judicial officers who are not biased and who are confident of upholding the integrity of the judiciary,'' said Mr Vosarogo.

He said the recent judicial changes had had little effect on the running of the courts. "It hasn't really affected our timetable. We've set trial dates for most of the High Court trials and we intend to stick to it. The judiciary has informed us of the same stand and that it would like to dispose of those cases quickly,'' said Mr Vosarogo.

However, the new appointed Chief Justice Anthony Gates calls for an efficient system of justice, in this Fiji Village article.

Justice Gates calls for more efficient justice system
By fijivillage
Jan 17, 2007, 13:03

Newly appointed Acting Chief Justice, Anthony Gates has today made a statement on the way forward for the judiciary as certain parties continue to argue whether his appointment is constitutional.

In a statement released to Village News, Justice Gates said Fiji must have a more efficient justice system as the current inadequacies of the legal system are now notorious and have undermined the rule of law.

The Acting Chief Justice said the manner of dispatching business by the courts should change as efficiencies need to be improved by the judicial officers.
Justice Gates said we often hope that life will continue on as before and indefinitely but it is now inappropriate for the judiciary to say that it will be business as usual.

The Acting Chief Justice said there have been too many serious allegations but the independent role of the judiciary will not change. He said the judiciary can and must and will stay independent, and the final bulwark of liberty is the courts, the independent guarantor of freedom under the law.

Justice Anthony Gates said the constitutionality of the present situation inevitably will be raised before the judges. He said at that time, the only appropriate time, those judges will hear from the parties concerning the evidence and the law, and then give their decisions in accordance with their oaths in office.
Justice Gates also welcomes the comments of the Interim Attorney General that the military should not abuse the rights of ordinary inhabitants. The Acting Chief Justice said a wise army remains a disciplined army and there is no time for vindictiveness, petty bullying or score settling.

Justice Gates said if claims of abuse of human rights are made out, litigants will obtain necessary redress from the courts. He said the need for a comprehensive 'no stone unturned' inquiry into the serious allegations raised about certain judicial officers and practices is self evident.

Justice Gates said he will meet shortly with his fellow members on the Judicial Service Commission, President of the Law Society and the Chairman of the Public Service Commission, to map together a plan for the creation of a robust, healthy and efficient legal system in Fiji.

Should the Fiji public imply from his comments that, the deposed Chief Justice Daniel Fatiaki represented an inefficient system of justice?

Regime's illegal: Lawyers

Thursday, January 18, 2007

THE interim administration is illegal and interference with the judiciary is wrong, the Fiji Law Society maintained yesterday.

The society, reiterating its position, follows speculation it had changed its stand because of reports it was part of the Judicial Services Commission, which recommended that High Court judge Justice Anthony Gates be appointed Acting Chief Justice.

Yesterday society vice president Tupou Draunidalo said the society's earlier statements on the legality of developments that had unfolded since the December 5 military takeover were unchanged. She refused to elaborate or respond to further queries.

Ms Draunidalo made the comments in response to questions regarding issues raised by Suva lawyer Richard Naidu in a column in this newspaper on Tuesday.

Mr Naidu had said, among other things, that the return of power by military commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama to the President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, was futile because it did not legitimise the events that unfolded on December 5.

Society president Devanesh Sharma said while they accepted the society would deal with the administration without prejudice to any legal action on the validity of its appointment, it should not be assumed that it meant they accepted the interim Cabinet to be legitimate in the eyes of the law.

The society met last weekend to discuss its stand on the issue. Mr Sharma said Ratu Josefa had the power to make constitutional appointments only in compliance with the provisions of the Constitution. "He (the President, Ratu Josefa) can not act unconstitutionally himself," Mr Sharma had said.

He has asked Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum to impress on the military the importance of the independence of the judiciary and the need to allow Chief Justice Daniel Fatiaki and Chief Magistrate Naomi Matanitobua to resume duties.

He said the society was reviewing its options to shortly institute legal action against the ban on land sales and the forced leave of Justice Fatiaki and Ms Matanitobua. "The society deplores the attempts made by the RFMF to interfere with the judiciary. The Chief Justice and the chief magistrate must be allowed to immediately resume their official duties," Mr Sharma said.

Interim Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the appointment of all individuals under the regime, including interim Cabinet ministers, were mandated by the President.

He had earlier said the military regime upheld and respected the Constitution. Mr Naidu had said in an earlier interview that the system of things as they were was illegal.

He said if the Constitution was indeed being upheld, where was the Vice President, Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi, who was appointed by the Great Council of Chiefs during the reign of a democratically elected government.

Although, Fiji Law Society was infuriated with the decision to replace Justice Fatiaki described in this Fiji Times article, the new Chief Justice's comments provided solid justifications, on this latest series of rolling reforms.

Despite the swearing ceremony of his successor, the deposed Chief Justice still clutches onto the office, as Fiji Sun article confirms.

I’m still the CJ: Fatiaki


Chief Justice Daniel Fatiaki, who was forced to go in leave by the military regime, yesterday maintained that he is still the CJ. And he angrily denounced the appointment of Justice Anthony Gates as acting Chief Justice as a disgrace.

"I am still the Chief Justice," he said. Justice Fatiaki also criticised Justices Gates and High Court judge Justice Nazhat Shameem for "betraying my trust" and the judiciary by supporting the military. Justice Fatiaki said actions by the High Court judges that supported the military were cowardly.He said no investigation had been initiated on allegations of corruption against the military.

Said Justice Shameem: "I am sorry to hear the CJ's reported comment about me but it's not appropriate to comment on the matter as a judge". Justice Gates declined to comment.

However, the Fiji Law Society maintains that there are no new judicial appointments.
President Devanesh Sharma said there were no new appointments within the judiciary.
"In actual fact, people are completely mistaking the issue," he said.
"The judicial service commission is a body that deals with recommendations and it is the president that makes the recommendation."

Mr Sharma said the appointment was within the Constitution. "The only one that has been announced is an acting CJ," he said. "What that simply means is in the absence of the CJ (Fatiaki), who is on leave at the present time, it is permissible to appoint an acting CJ.

"And the acting CJ will step down as soon as the CJ comes back." Interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum said Justice Fatiaki was on leave and was probably ill-informed about what had happened at the Judicial Services Commission meeting.

"It is precisely this sort of conduct of some judicial officers that is of concern," he said. "As for the meeting itself, it was convened after independent legal advice was obtained from the Queen's Counsel." Mr Khaiyum said it was conducted in accordance with our Constitution. "The most senior substantive puisne judge who is the natural successor to the Chief Justice was asked by the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice to chair the Judicial Services Commission," he said.

"The Judicial Services Commission allows the judiciary to take control over its own processes independent of the Government and of any other institution and/or persons.
"One would expect that all persons interested in the independence of the judiciary would support the holding of the commission's meeting and the subsequent appointment of Justice Anthony Gates.

"Other judges may feel aggrieved that they were not chosen by the JSC to act as CJ. However I was advised by the Judicial Services Commission that the most senior puisne judge after Madam Justice Shameem was Mr Justice Anthony Gates. "So his appointment is uncontroversial and constitutionally correct."

The case of Sugar Cane Growers Council Chairman, Jagannath Sami who recently won a reprieve in the Lautoka High Court, contesting his illegal removal by the military post 2006 coup, may reflect the Archilles heel of the Fiji Army's legal precedence; if not corrected in a timely redress.
Fiji Village reports that, Messr Swami returns hopefully to his position in work, unmolested and unrestrained. Fiji Times article emphasizes the court order to the military, in dessisting any 'overly friendly' influences.

Despite the overwhelming availability of experts in Civil Liberties and Human Rights in Fiji; the following report by Niu FM, underlines the desperation of certain media outlets, in obtaining reliable and credible sources.
Niu FM podcast interviews 1987 coup leader and self-declared expert on Human Rights, Sitiveni Rabuka on the recent performance of Fiji Human Rights Commission.

Club Em Designs

Rumour has it.

Fiji Buzz published an opinion article by Fiji Academic, Dr. Sitiveni Ratuva that addresses the fuzzy aspect of rumors and their influence in Fiji's socio-poltical landscape. This is an excerpt:

Unseen Faces Of The Coup.
Written by Dr. Steven Ratuva

COUPS do not only involve the usurping of power and consolidation of new forms of authority at the visible political level. There are also behind-the-scene activities and behavioral dispositions which result from the archaic social atmosphere created by the coup.

What normally captures the attention of the media and the public are the dramatic extra-legal changes and reconfiguration of the old order at the politico-public realm. However, what happens at the socio-cultural and private realms are often hidden and are usually transmitted through rumours...

Rumours are no longer just mere snippets of stories banded around by curious and nosy individuals. They have in fact become a complex web of information flow with a particular set of dynamics and culture. Rumour-mongering has become a socio-cultural institution in its own right.

Rumours Galore

Apart from the news through the formal media, perhaps the most prevalent aspect of information flow is through the rumour machine, locally dubbed the "coconut wireless".

Some people literally thrive on rumours by enthusiastically inventing them, spreading them or internalising them as if they constitute gospel truth. Because of restrictions on public speech and information by the military, people would go "underground" to voice their concerns about various issues, condemn their most hated military officer, spread lies about their detested neighbours or simply pass on what they have heard to as many people as possible either by whispered word of mouth, saucy text messages, mobile phone, telephone or mass distributed e-mail.

What may start off as a small socially engineered lie by a frustrated individual could snowball into a massive believable "truth" after going through a thousand mouths and sets of ears and millions of unaware brain cells.

This works very well in a community like ours where oral discourse and exaggeration of events are culturally valued modes of community communication.

Within the indigenous Fijian cultural ethos for instance, a story must have a "flavour" in the form of exaggeration or supernatural touch before it is considered a "good talanoa" that will attract admiring ears and sympathetic hearts.

Rumours abound in the capital city. There are rumours of soldiers' wives having affairs while their boys are at the checkpoints and there are also rumours of military officers being bankrolled by rich business people to get rid of the Qoliqoli Bill.

There are also rumours of Qarase's countless corrupt deals, the latest of which is linking up with some rich people to "buy off" soldier's loyalty.There are even rumours of warriors secretly training and ready to face the military head on using bamboo spears. A number of rumours revolve around important people like the President, his wife, the military commander, CEOs and former politicians. Some of these rumours have conspiratorial political themes while some have the usual juicy sexual undertones.

The formation of the interim cabinet has opened up new Sherlock Holmes-type conspiracy theories packaged as rumours. These are to the effect that the long suspected "shadowy figures" have eventually been brought to light.

One of the significant things is that the subject of rumours are usually powerless to do anything because one cannot track down everyone who has heard and passed on the rumours, let alone identifying their origins.It is virtually impossible to reverse a rumour unless one starts a counter rumour to nullify the effect of the first one. Even this is not easy.

Dangerous and Deliberate Rumours

I have been part of such rumour mongering myself. I heard rumours circulating among some people at the University of the South Pacific, Forum Secretariat, within government circles and expatriate community that I was an adviser to the military. My first reaction was to laugh at how people could possibly invent lies, spread them and had them believed by prominent and respectable people.Ironically and interestingly there was another rumour that the military was after me. I heard the rumour from three people who told me they heard rumours that the military was going to pounce on me because I was talking too much.

It seems the rumour mongering culture in this coup is not as intensive as during the 2000 coup where there were deliberately planted rumours by the coup perpetrators in a big and systematic way. Rumours about the riches and the 'evil' deeds of the Ratu Mara family, about Ratu Mara's blood-drinking antics or about Mahendra Chaudhry trying to sell Fiji to India plus all sorts of conspiracy theories were circulated widely in pamphlets.Supernatural explanations were used to spice up the stories.

After the 2000 coup people lived their lives on the basis of responses to sudden rumours. Everyday there were rumours of the "boys from Parliament" intending to march down to the city. This was enough to send people rushing home as fast as possible before work finished. There was an atmosphere of constant fear fuelled by an assortment of wild rumours of possible mass murder, intervention by Fijian ancestral gods and more.

Rumours and counter-rumours became part of the psychological war between the military and the Speight group. Moreover, I don't think I will ever forget the rumour mongering incidents which got me into trouble with the military during the 1987 coup. Because I had just returned from the Soviet Union a couple of years earlier and was still full of youthful political idealism, it was rumoured that I was a KGB agent spying and conspiring against Rabuka's government. For that I was arrested and interrogated by the military.

Not long after that it was rumoured that I was organising a secret urban guerrilla group which was planning to kidnap and kill General Rabuka's wife who was then teaching at Lelean Memorial School. Again, the military did not hesitate to arrest and interrogate me. Everytime the military heard a rumour about me they would come for me. Altogether I was arrested about four times and harassed countless times in nightclubs, streets and even at the airport by military personnel.

I was amused by the fictitious and atrocious allegations contained in the rumours and my first reaction was often to laugh them off. I later learnt the horrifying lesson that to burst out in sarcastic and mocking laughter in front of angry and suspicious soldiers armed with M16 was not a very good idea at all. My bruised ribs are testimony to this.

E-rumour, E-coup And The Silent War

The use of the internet to transmit and circulate rumours has been a common obsession in this coup.It is used by both sides of the political divide. Supporters of the coup have been circulating stories about corrupt practices by former Prime Minister Qarase and some of his close associates.
Part of the story is that they ganged-up to plunder Fijian Holdings shares after the company became a limited liability company in 1992. They were portrayed as a bunch of evil conspirators who were out to atrociously deprive ordinary Fijians their share of the wealth.

There were rumours that Qarase's stooges were planted in boards and institutions and whose job it was to channel money to his account. These sorts of rumours have provided the clean-up campaign more moral enthusiasm.

Opponents of the coup have been active with their e-rumour machine, manufacturing and distributing stories. Among these is the conspiracy theory about the Mara dynasty using the coup to reclaim lost political glory. Some e-rumours talk about alleged behind-the-scene manipulation of the President by the military. The use of e-rumours represents a dynamic silent war involving competing claims, ideas and perceptions of legitimacy.

It is an unavoidable consequence of globalisation where the IT culture shapes and reinvents our relationship with each other in a profound manner. The coup not only takes place in real political life, it is also carried out in the virtual realm where IT becomes the engine for a silent war. We may call this phenomenon 'e-coup'.

Rumours And Reality

Rumours are not all figments of the imagination of some obscure conspiratorial propagandists. Some are based on real situations, some on interpretations of real situations, some on distortions (either intentional or unintentional) of real situations and some on pure invented fantasy. Some are meant to ridicule, some are meant to destroy characters, some are meant to amuse people while some are for serious information.

At some point, people can no longer distinguish between reality and fiction. People often believe rumours just because it has been converted into "truth" after going through so many people. It is often suggested that rumour-mongering is a favourite pastime of uneducated and ignorant peasants and workers. Nothing is further from the truth. Rumour-mongering is very much an established middle class culture. Even those who claim to be society's intelligentsia are among the biggest perpetrators and most susceptible to this seemingly primitive behavioural disposition.

The IT culture has made rumour-mongering a highly sophisticated and intellectual activity in its own right. Even the media has, through its reporting, sparked rumours or even validated the rumours.

The 2006 coup in Fiji has become a fertile ground for rumour-mongering, either in support or rejection of the coup. Seriously, we may say that we detest rumours but in reality, we like listening to them and passing them on as if they would bring us good luck.

Let me finish by passing a fresh rumour to you. Shhh.. I heard at Traps Bar the other night that Suva is a rainy city, with frequent water cuts and full of gullible, rumour-mongering idiots. Shsh, pass it on.

Dr Steven Ratuva is a political sociologist at the University of the South Pacific. The views expressed in these articles are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the University.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Fiji Auditor General Accused of Stonewalling Findings.

Discrepancies into the affairs of the office of Fiji Auditor General is paramount among the priorities of new interim Minister of Finance, Mahendra Chaudary. The new incumbent has raised interesting questions regarding certain select 2005 findings that, were withheld from being tabled in Fiji Parliament.

"There is enough evidence in those reports. I have reason to believe the reports were shelved because the contents compromised the ousted Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua Government.

"You will remember that the Auditor-General was summoned by Laisenia Qarase when he was Prime Minister, where he was talked to. Thereafter, a general slacking from the Auditor- General was evident," Mr Chaudhry said, accusing Mr Vatuloka of being selective in his reports.

Select findings reported by the Fij Times, is as follows:

Two reports obtained by The Fiji Times show there were no travel guidelines for State CEOs overseas travel, enabling them to capitalise on loopholes without telling the Public Service Commission in time.

One report said the Minor Tenders Board in a Flying Minute in September 2002 approved the purchase of three return tickets from Nadi to Geneva for an Inter-Parliamentary Union meeting.

The trip for then Speaker of the House Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, backbencher Filimoni Banuve and former FLP backbencher Vijay Singh cost taxpayers $26,187. Former Secretary-General Mary Chapman joined the contingent at an additional $8729 without the approval of the Minor Tenders Board or an explanation for the last minute inclusion.

The report highlights the need for State ministries and departments to file supporting documents for official trips overseas, after it was discovered organisations funded air fares and per diem allowances for MPs.

Former MPs cited in such instances include ex-SDL Cabinet member Mataiasi Ragigia, ousted Commerce Minister Tomasi Vuetilovoni, Isireli Leweniqila who at the time of the report was Sports Minister, Simione Kaitani, who was then Information Minister, Solomone Naivalu as Health Minister and then Public Enterprise Minister Irami Matairavula. The report cited breach of an agreement the Government had with Air Pacific Fiji Limited on all overseas travel services for civil servants.

Included in this were former Home Affairs Minister Joketani Cokanasiga, Mr Naivalu and Agriculture CEO Luke Ratuvuki, who travelled Qantas Airways for business purposes.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Ab Absurdo Australis

Australia's meddling into the political affairs of Pacific island nations, has now received a stern rebuke by the Melanesian Spearhead Group.
China Post article dissects the news of this dispatched communique which included a statement of solidarity and support of Fiji's new interim Government.

An article by The Age newspaper title uses the word "Bully" in the title. In another opinion piece by The Age, reflects on the foreign policy and the diplomatic engagements designed by Canberra, which is described in the article as "lacking in imagination".

This is the excerpt of the article:

Our parlous region

January 13, 2007
Page 1 of 3 | Single page

Australia's policy in the South Pacific is obsessed with security concerns and market-driven solutions to theproblems of poorer nations, write Shahar Hameiri and Toby Carroll.

THE recent release of a commissioned progress report into the largest Australian-led state building program in recent history demonstrates the need for a qualitatively new approach to assisting the Pacific. After three years of extensive involvement through the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands, the report paints a disturbing picture.

Although the security situation has thankfully improved under RAMSI, the same cannot be said for the economy, with Solomon Islanders suffering prohibitive prices for basic goods and low employment prospects.

Unfortunately, the Australian Government's approach to the Pacific region is constrained by a lack of imagination that does little to improve the development prospects of our neighbours or advance Australia's long-term security interests.

Indeed, not a day has gone by in the past year without news of political and social unrest in the Pacific. In some circles, the island states to Australia's north and east have acquired the dubious moniker of the "Arc of Instability".

Important questions relating to the nature of this instability, as well as to Australia's approach to ameliorating it, need to be raised. This is because the fundamental reading in Australia of the Pacific quagmire is biased in favour of promoting stopgap measures that are difficult to implement and, when implemented, can amplify the root causes of the problem.

Crucially, the Australian Government's short-term interests are with curbing immediate regional security threats in the form of migrant outflows, international crime and breeding grounds for terrorists.

In the long-term, the Government's plan is to stabilise the region and implement so-called "good governance" programs, which are seen as the bedrock of market-led development. Market-led development, in turn, is seen as generating stable societies, thereby guaranteeing Australia's security.

The short-term concern for stability goes some way towards explaining the Howard Government's recent decision not to intervene in Fiji after the military coup — preferring the use of diplomatic sanctions and other softer measures. In sum, the existence of a capable Fijian military, while detrimental to democracy, is congenial to Australia's immediate security interests, as perceived by the Australian Government.

In the Solomon Islands, the situation has been very different. In the Solomons, before the Australia-led intervention, no such circuit-breaker existed to control unlawful elements. This meant that the Australian Government had a more elemental interest in stabilising the security situation as a precursor to governance and economic reforms.

The problem with the Government's approach in the Pacific is that it almost never works. Even in the Solomon Islands, where the intervention was initially lauded as a great success, devastating riots and increasing tensions reversed this appraisal drastically, as the report suggests. In Fiji, where Australia is a leading donor, we also see the limits of "good governance" programs.

A report such as the RAMSI one can lead to knee-jerk reactions from those who are already sceptical of the utility of Australian aid. We should be clear that we do not advocate reducing or eliminating Australia's efforts in the Pacific. We do, however, argue for a qualitatively different framework.

Pacific states are geographically small and widespread, have limited natural resources and face significant environmental challenges — especially those associated with climate change.

The problems of the Pacific cannot be solved with the logic of comparative advantage, so critical to market-led development approaches. For example, in the Solomon Islands, deforestation has created massive social and environmental problems, making the industry unsustainable and divisive.

There are many possible policy alternatives to those being promoted by Australia and other major donors.

First, there should be a stronger shift away from "boomerang aid" that often ends up in the pockets of Western companies and consultants. Rather than playing a Keynesian-style role in developing local economies, this form of aid has very little impact on kick-starting domestic markets.

While critics might be concerned about corruption in the process of financial distribution, this should not preclude considering such policies in tandem with suitable checks and balances.

This is because corruption has both played a part in the development of Western economies and actually continues to play a role in promoting Western economic interests in developing countries. To focus on corruption as the primary cause for development failure is to miss the bigger picture.

A second measure has been endorsed by the Labor Party's foreign affairs spokesman, Robert McClelland, and the World Bank. This involves opening up Australia's labour market to temporary workers from the Pacific. At present, Australian employers in seasonal industries, such as agriculture and hospitality, cannot meet staffing demands. In the Pacific, on the other hand, we see a "youth bulge" and massive unemployment. In the Solomon Islands, for example, the median age is just under 19, whereas in Australia it is about 37.

The final policy option relates to a combination of tax concessions to promote Australian foreign direct investment in the Pacific, controlled transfer of technology associated with productive output, and preferential trading arrangements for Pacific states.

But preferential trading should not take the form of free trade agreements, which invariably give preference to the most powerful party.

New trading regimes should nurture budding industries and protect them from competition, where appropriate, within a regional framework.

The World Trade Organisation is a potential barrier here, but the present international trade regime is part of the problem that needs to be tackled.

Far from radical, some of the policies were flagged in 2003 by a report of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. But the report's recommendations have found little expression within Australian Government policy.

The present approach of the Australian Government is not only tight-fisted, it is inefficient in generating outcomes congenial to regional stability.

The debate on regional engagement needs to be expanded beyond its ideologically and politically constrained boundaries.

Shahar Hameiri and Toby Carroll research regional economic development and security issues at the Asia Research Centre, Murdoch University.

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