(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
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.
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.
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