Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Blundering Downer- Bulldozing into the Crosshairs of Legal Action.

(Above image: Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer [L] and New Zealand Foreign Minister, Winston Peters [R] at their Press conference.)

John Howard's Government is being accused of war crimes by a team of lawyers, according to an article by WSWS.

Sydney Morning Herald's article even quotes from a Judge, who remarked that the actions committed by the Howard Government, constitute a war crime even under Australian Law.

An article published by News.com, described the opposing legal positions. Lawyers representing the Commonwealth of Australia argued that; although, the State had a moral obligation, there was no legal obligation to repatriate an Australian citizen from foreign custody.

Lawyers for Hicks countered that the Australian Government failed to call for a fair trial for one of its citizens and breached a time tested understanding, resting squarely on the fiduciary compact existing between a state and their citizens.

These legal minds, are also advocates of prosecuting the current Australian Prime Minister and other senior Ministers. It is reasonable to believe that, charges could also be directed at the Teflon coated Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer - since being a senior personality in Howard's Government and the Minister responsible for Foreign Affairs.

This legal action facing Downer, comes in the wake of his malingering efforts to lobby pressure on Fiji, an effort which was singled out by the interim Prime Minister of Fiji in an article by Sydney Mornig Herald. Fijilive article reports that, the interim Fiji P.M had issued a warning to other Pacific nations, to be wary of Australia's imperial intentions.

This is an excerpt of the Fiji Live article:

Watch Australia, Fiji PM warns neighbours
Wednesday February 28, 2007

Interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama has warned other pacific island countries to be wary of "Australia's strategy to assert power in the pacific".

In a press statement yesterday, Commodore Bainimarama said that an independent assessment by the Pacific Island Forum's Eminent Persons Group (EPG) is being used by Australia to "establish a relationship of power towards Fiji".

"One should reassess the manner in which Australia reacts and engages in Pacific issues and one could get a fair assessment of how out of context they can become," said Commodore Bainimarama.

He says Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer has caught Fiji's Interim Government off guard following comments he made during a joint press conference in New Zealand with his counterpart Winston Peters on Monday.

"I am surprised in the manner in which Downer is making utterance in an effort to influence the ability of individual Pacific Island Countries to make assessments of the situation here in Fiji."

"In such a situation the aspirations of the people of Fiji are subordinate to the wishes and expectations of Australia," he said.

He said the interim government has developed a comprehensive road map to return Fiji to parliamentary democracy by 2010 and is fully committed to accomplish that road map.

The lawyers exploring the charges of war crimes have reasons to believe that, the Howard Government colluded with the U.S Bush administration, resulting in the 5 year detention of Australian citizen, David Hicks.

Robert Richter, one of the lawyers involved had written a stinging outline in Melbourne's Age Newspaper. Richter's outline highlighted the dubious, dangerous and dualistic applications of international law, committed by the Howard led, Australian Government.

This is the excerpt of the Age article:

Hypocrites breaking our law at every turn

Robert Richter

PHILIP Ruddock is a hypocrite when parading his Amnesty International membership. He pretends to give a toss for the organisation and the principles for which it stands: the rule of law, freedom from arbitrary arrest and punishment, freedom from torture, opposition to the perversion of accepted civilised notions of justice and the obligations he owes to those notionally under his protection. Instead, he has publicly and shamefully betrayed all of these precepts.

He is a liar when he pretends concern for David Hicks' fate. His protestations about Australia's efforts to secure a speedy trial for Hicks cross the line of decency when we consider that Hicks is, after five years, not charged with any offence.

Nor is he subject to the jurisdiction of any lawfully constituted court of justice. We know he has not committed any offences against Australian law. Our A-G says so. We also know that he does not stand charged with any known crime against US law. So how is it that the Attorney-General has not demanded the return of Hicks to the country that owes him protection as a matter of law?

It is because the A-G has publicly prostituted his duties to the law — and to those he owes a duty of protection — in the service of his political masters in the government he serves.

I say this without cover of privilege and challenge him to sue for defamation and take the risk of the facts emerging in any litigation. Cabinet solidarity is one thing; his mealy-mouthed public utterances on the subject are another. He should at least have the decency to stay silent rather than seek to defend and advance the indefensible.

He is, when last I looked, the Attorney-General. That means he is the first law officer of the Commonwealth. It is his primary obligation as Attorney-General — not as a politician, which he discharges in the hurly-burly of politics as an ordinary MP — to transcend the lies and evasions of politicians intent on holding on to power, and to discharge his duties to the law and the constitution: to protect and uphold the rights and liberties of, as well as enforce duties by, citizens of this country.

His utterances about David Hicks are damp-squib lies and deceptions, as are those of his political masters John Howard and of Australia's-face-to-the world, Alexander Downer.

When I became a citizen of Australia, I believed that as part of my pledging allegiance I also acquired the protection of my country at home and abroad. I can no longer believe in the latter while people like Ruddock, Howard and Downer are custodians of such protections. Nor can other Australians.

Messrs Ruddock, Howard and Downer's pronouncements about seeking to have Hicks charged early in the new year (in front of commissions that have not yet been lawfully set up!) seem to me to be a desperate cover-up of their government's, fundamental dereliction of duty. Instead of demanding Hicks' return, they have made themselves complicit in procuring an illegal process to occur as soon as possible.

Rather than facing up to their duties to protect the fundamental rights of those subject to their theoretical protection, Ruddock , Howard and Downer are deliberately compounding the illegal actions of the American Administration by counselling and procuring an illegal process. This is a crime under our law.

Instead of confessing to a wrong and doing the decent thing by trying to set it right, they are pushing ahead with "churching the whore" after the abortion. They urge the Americans to create a facade of legality for what is seen by all honest jurists as a gross violation of national and international law.

Shame on you Philip Ruddock. I say the same to your superiors and accomplices, but I pick you out because you are supposed to be the enforcing arm of law and justice in Australia, instead of the aider and abettor of the disregard of national and international law and justice.

In his latest defence of the indefensible ( 7.30 Report, February 6), Ruddock likened the serving of "draft charges" on David Hicks to being charged in Australia pending committal proceedings. He is lying. Hicks has not been charged. This can only happen with the approval of a "convening authority", which does not yet exist. Moreover, he is deliberately lying when comparing the process to what might happen in Australia because he knows that a person charged here must be brought before a court as soon as practicable — within 24 hours — or have access to habeas corpus.

As a lawyer, he knows that if the matter had been placed before an Australian court, it would be struck out as an abuse of process for a number of reasons: one of the "draft" charges is retrospective and would be struck out.

The charge of attempted murder would be thrown out because, as any university law student would know, training is not an attempt to do it. You actually have to be "on the job" in trying to kill. This is so without even addressing the issues of hearsay or the use of coerced evidence, which raise other fundamental objections to what is proposed.

I used to say Ruddock bore an uncanny resemblance and presentation to an undertaker. I no longer do so because undertakers are decent, honest people doing a decent and honest job and should not be demeaned by a comparison to the indecency perpetrated by Ruddock as the frontrunner for his masters.

Shame on you all. Bring David Hicks home NOW.

Robert Richter, QC, is a Melbourne barrister.

Club Em Designs

Monday, February 26, 2007

Gauging Fiji's Democracy.

The article by Stuff highlights the unhealthy obsession displayed by the Trans-Tasman rivals on the issue of Fiji's democracy. This artificial induced diplomatic pressure on Fiji, is spearheaded by the most quintessential abuser of democracy; none other than the Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer.

Opinion article by a Fiji academic was published in Monday 26th February issue of the Fiji Sun. The opinion is informative and provides an accurate counter-point on the mechanics of democracy in Fiji and the structural elements supporting it.

Economic recovery vs democracy

By Dr Suresh Prasad

Fiji should develop a workable road map towards economic recovery and national capacity building and in the interim, the people crying for democracy should take a back seat. Once the nation has recovered economically, democracy will fall into place.

After all, several people, including self-styled merchant banker and deposed prime minister Laisenia Qarase have spoken about democracy being an alien '`bird'', clearly denoting that other, more important matters needed to be attended to before we could all bask in the glory of being a democratic nation.

Let's not pre-occupy ourselves with this illusionary ‘`bird’, democracy, while there are matters of higher importance on the national agenda, such as poverty reduction, the deteriorating health and education systems, a dwindling resources sector and the self-destructing service and employment sector.

Even countries with established democracies occasionally need to address issues outside the parameters of democracy. For example, the United States, Australia and New Zealand have all shifted from democratic paths when it suited them.

New Zealand certainly did not engage with the Maoris in observance of the tenets of democracy. Neither did Australia in its decimation of Aboriginals and Torres Strait islanders, nor the US in its annihilation of Native Americans and treatment of minorities. More recently, Australia's deplorable treatment of refugees was certainly not in line with the democratic principles it is so quick to preach about to the South Pacific nations, in particular, Fiji.

One can't help but make the observation that this kind of dictatorial sabre-rattling for democracy by New Zealand and Australia was conspicuously absent in the case of China, Pakistan and more recently, Indonesia. Perhaps the Eminent Persons Group from the South Pacific Forum countries, which recently visited Fiji will be allowed the same free passage to assess the plight of indigenous Australians and the abhorrent conditions that prevail in the country's various detention centres!

Where was this Eminent Persons Group in 1987 and 2000? Why is this group any more '`eminent'' than the EU and Commonwealth Election Observer groups who missed the pertinent issues by the proverbial mile?

A few eminent persons of our own - independent of the South Pacific Forum - have even questioned the credibility of some members to even be in this Eminent Persons Group given that some them did not declare their interests and have been involved in very undemocratic activities themselves. Their report is quite predictable: armed forces to the barracks and national elections sooner than later.

No attention was given to the wishes of the people of Fiji. No heed was paid by this so-called eminent group to the fact that the political life in Fiji has significantly stabilised since the hand-over of executive authority to President Ratu Josefa Iloilo.

The report, it seems, is yet another attempt to prop up and legitimise the much-maligned position that Qarase and his cronies had adopted under the guise of democracy. The report deliberately avoids any mention of the mini-Budget by the Interim Government, which is being compiled to pull out Fiji from a certain path of bankruptcy.

No mention is being made of the downsizing of the burgeoning public service previously headed by Qarase supporters on fat salaries. No word of approval on the recruitment of permanent secretaries to replace highly paid, very often incompetent and corrupt, chief executive officers and the reconfiguration and realignment of Government ministries.

The group makes no mention of the reinvigorated tourism industry, despite calculated efforts by our so-called friendly, neighbouring nations to impose travel bans to warn their citizens from travelling to Fiji. This so-called Eminent Persons Group made no effort to tap into the views of ordinary citizens of Fiji. Had they done so, they would have been told quite clearly that the law and order situation is at its best, tourists are starting to come back to Fiji's shores and businesses are thriving.

The Interim Government, through its streamlined Ministry for Foreign Affairs, is working on bilateral and multilateral engagements with immediate neighbours, including Australia and New Zealand. It is also sending delegations to India, China, Malaysia and Indonesia - the emerging economies of the future. And all of this is happening despite the calamities of widespread flooding and the closure of the Vatukoula mines, which will leave about 1700 people unemployed.

This has placed an additional burden on the newly formed Interim Government of Fiji, but no mentions of these are made in the group's report. The group spouts the same old gospel of democracy with no attention to economic recovery efforts in Fiji.

Countries that rather hypocritically `'cry'' for democracy are not quite democratic in their own conduct. Nascent forms of racism, discriminatory practices and jaundiced forms of justice are quite prevalent in these bastions of democracy.

At least Fiji admits to having these weaknesses, albeit a legacy of the Qarase era, and more importantly, in the full glare of international scrutiny, the Bainimarama Government has pledged to correct these deviant and corrupt practices that Qarase and his cronies engaged and indulged in for personal and political gains.

These were, in the Qarase era, masked by a sheen of a democratic hypocrisy that the US, Australia and New Zealand sponsored, endorsed and supported. Democracy is a subjective matter and one can only measure this rather elusive concept in shifts a country makes towards transparent, visible systems and processes, coupled with fair and just conduct in all matters pertaining to governance.

In Fiji's case, the move towards the path of democracy needs to be a well-considered and gradual one. Any impetuousness to appease and pacify just a few, including the Eminent Persons' Group, the forum countries and even the Commonwealth, will be a self-defeating proposition.

Fiji needs to heed the lessons of this hasty return to democracy in the aftermath of the previous coups and hostage taking. Any similar premature and ill-considered move would probably be quite catastrophic. The same can be said of the ill-conceived, hastily concocted and rather predictable advice contained in the report by the Eminent Persons' Group.

People of Fiji must be allowed to decide when and if they want to return to democracy and their national consciousness should not be dictated by a handful of highly paid NGO employees, lawyers who are really apologists for the blatantly corrupt and now, thankfully, deposed Qarase government and neighbouring nations with subtle but quite obvious, hidden agendas of their own.

There needs to be a widespread consultation and mature consideration and ratification via a national referendum before embarking on this rather illusionary path of democracy. In the meantime, Fiji should focus on the path to national economic recovery and make efforts towards becoming self-reliant and self-dependent. Fiji needs to develop sufficient capacities of its own to move away from depending on double-faced, fair-weather friends such as the US, Australia and New Zealand.

And this may not happen in the short term of up to two years that the eminent group prescribes in its report. The mechanisms that are prerequisites and an integral part of stable democracies need to be critically examined and strengthened before one can even contemplate moving towards a democratic election.

In Fiji's case, these would be an exhaustive review of the electoral system itself, which currently entrenches the existing racial divide and rather blatantly allows unscrupulous politicians to play the race card. Of course, people with a racist agenda will frown upon this constitutional shift, for their personal and political salvation is in keeping the major races polarised.

Fiji will have to move away from this type of racially divisive electoral system if it intends to achieve a stable democracy built on strong democratic principles of equity and fairness for all. Here, the Constitution will need to be tinkered with if not revised. But if a review is needed, then so be it.

It is an opportune time to examine this document in the context of a modern Fiji being part of a global community. Constitutions, like all national documents of law and conduct, need to be regularly reviewed and revised. Secondly, the electoral boundaries need to demarcated accurately to reflect geographical spread and shifts in Fiji's population and here, perhaps, the architects need to consider there being fewer constituencies to trim down the ever-burgeoning size of the parliament.

For the size of its population, Fiji seems to be over-governed; at least it certainly was when Qarase was at its helm. Thirdly, an accurate census needs to be carried out with, perhaps, the help of school teachers over the long, paid school holidays that they have as part of their conditions of employment. These teachers, through their social involvements in their respective school catchment areas, know best these regions as opposed to hired relatives of very many public servants who carried out voter registration for election 2006. This will avoid the debacle of the 2006 election when considerably more ballot papers were printed, giving rise to, perhaps justified speculations that the election was 'rigged' by the Qarase Government.

This, we hope, will come out in the wash when the armed forces carry out the clean-up of the electoral office. These are the bare minimum, but necessary, prerequisites to democracy and a deliberate oversight of these in impetuous haste to bring about a semblance of democracy to appease Australia and New Zealand and a handful of overpaid NGO employees funded by these countries would be not be in the best interests of the silent majority of Fiji.

Perhaps even the South Pacific Forum's Eminent Persons' Group will endorse this path of economic recovery and nation-building before Fiji travels the path of democratic national elections.

Club Em Designs

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Under Every Rock, Nook and Cranny.

The recent decision to launch an audit on Native Lands Trust Board(N.L.T.B), is a mile-stone of sorts; as far as the communal landowners are concerned. This audit of NLTB was seen as a long overdue panacea to their concerns of ancestral land abuse and mismanagement; a factor which inextricably affects landowner's long-term social mobility or the lack thereof.

The opening hand for this audit, was the suspension of NLTB's General Manager and Strategic Manager; both of whom allegedly were intimately involved with creative accounting with a 'wannabe' player in Fiji Telecommunications, Pacific Connex. PIDP article reports on this collusion between NLTB and Pacific Connex.

The decision making for an I.T upgrade is outlined by an 2003 article on NLTB's website.

This is the excerpt:


At its meeting on Friday 12th March, the Board of NLTB approved new arrangements for its information technology management. It will use an internationally-recognised software system, SAP.

The NLTB's IT needs will be supplied by PacificConnex (PCX), a joint venture of its subsidiary company, Vanua Development Corporation (VDC). VDC will hold a controlling interest in PacificConnex. Forty nine per cent of its shares are to be held by TUI Management Services. This is the investment company of Mr. Ballu Khan, a Fiji-born businessman, with wide international experience in IT.

This comprehensive statement is issued to clear doubts and misconceptions that may have arisen as a result of recent media coverage on the subject.


* When the current Management of NLTB took office in 2002, one of the biggest issues it faced after having settled into office was that of its information system. Confidentiality, Security and Data Integrity were the initial areas of concern. It quickly became apparent that the development of a fully integrated IT system was to be the Way Forward.

* The local firm of Software Factory Ltd. (SFL) was engaged to perform a review of NLTB's system, and their preliminary findings were submitted on 8th July, 2003. SFL subsequently recommended an IT Roadmap for NLTB which was adopted.

Tender Process

* Once the specifications for the new system had been established, an expression of interest to develop the IT Roadmap was advertised in the three local dailies on 20th to 22nd January, 2004. This attracted 14 individuals and companies, 4 of which were approved to submit proposals:

1. Information Technology Services
2. Software Factory Limited
3. DATEC (Fiji) Limited
4. Tui Consulting

* At its meeting on 25th February 2004, the Board approved in principle the bid by Tui Consulting, Mr. Ballu Khan's main operating company. The Board has since also agreed to Mr. Khan assigning his tender obligations to the PacificConnex joint venture. Details of this joint venture were completed after agreement had been reached in principle on the IT tender by Tui Consulting.

* Price was only one of the considerations in the tender evaluation process. The primary consideration was to develop a fully integrated system. This is of crucial importance as NLTB now looks after around 90% of all land in Fiji, with a current porfolio of 32,000+ leases.

PacificConnex (PCX) Joint Venture

PCX is a major initiative by NLTB, through its wholly owned subsidiary VDC to acquire greater indigenous Fijian involvement in Fiji's developing IT industry. As well as handling the NLTB's requirements, it will be bidding for additional IT work.

Staff of the NLTB's IT division will be transferred to PacificConnex which expects to become a major IT employer. Tui Consulting will provide the company with technical knowledge and skills training. The NLTB will maintain control of board information through its control interest in PCX, by its subsidiary Vanua Development Corporation.

Price & Conditions of Approval

* As earlier announced, the NLTB renegotiated the tender price which has now been reduced from $1.8 million to $1.3 million per year. PCX will provide this service for 12 years. NLTB has the option of withdrawing from the arrangements if specific conditions are not met.

* Our records show that since NLTB's original computerisation in 1975, the cost of providing IT services has totalled $35,357,143, or an average of $1,178,571 per year.

* The cost of the new system to be introduced will therefore cost NLTB an additional $121,429 per year on average. Our assessment is that the benefits that will accrue to NLTB as a result of the upgrade will far outweigh the additional $121,429 per year.

The SAP Solution

* There is no doubt that we have negotiated the best solution for the NLTB. One of the unsuccessful bidders, Software Factory Ltd., wrote to us after being informed of the Board's decision saying "We congratulate you and the Board for deciding to go with SAP. As you are now probably aware, SAP is the number one enterprise-wide financial software solution in the world"

* TUI Consulting specialises in implementing SAP. It has assisted many international companies and organisations improve business opportunities through effective use of SAP. It has won contracts in South East Asia, the Pacific, the US, Canada and Europe.

* SAP applications will be used by PacificConnex in its work for the NLTB. It will allow us to fully integrate our land management data along with our human resource and financial information systems. PacificConnex has the sole rights for the use of the SAP system in Fiji.

Political Influence in the Tender Decision

* The Board rejects totally suggestions that political influence has been a factor in its decision. It is therefore mischievous and uncalled for that political considerations were a factor.

* The issue is obviously now being politicised by some people with a particular agenda. This tender has no connection whatsoever with the SDL Party or the Duavata Initiative Ltd.

* It is insulting and disrespectful to suggest that His Excellency the President, the Honourable Prime Minister and leading chiefs on the Board representing the Fijian landowners, have not followed proper procedures or acted in the best interests of the landowners and the Fijian people.


The commercial decisions the Board has taken will bring major benefits to the landowners and all other stakeholders through more effective information management. The Vanua Development Corporation and its first joint venture in PacificConnex will be working to increase indigenous Fijian participation in the economy.

Mr. Ballu Khan is a respected and successful entrepreneur from Fiji. His personal interest and assistance to education and sports (rugby) in Fiji are there for all to see. We look forward to working with him.

I am leaving at the weekend with Mr. Mojito Mua, the NLTB's Strategic Change Manager, to study a project recently completed by TUI Consulting in Tacoma in Washington State in the US. This US$50 million contract for the Tacoma Municipal Council, was completed by TUI Consulting on time and on budget. It will be a valuable opportunity for Mr. Mua and me to see how the SAP system works. Tacoma is the location of TUI Consulting corporate headquarters.

One media outlet has persistently tried to impute improper motives and unethical practices to NLTB's Board and Management, when in fact there is none.

NLTB defended the U.S trip of NLTB's General Manager, Kalivati Bakani and Strategic Manager, Mojito Mua in a April 2003 correspondence to one of Fiji's dailies. The letter was later posted on NLTB's website.

This is the excerpt of NLTB G.M's communique:



This statement is issued in response to queries and comments by the press following the full page advertisement that detailed the finalisation of NLTB's IT contract. This was published in the dailies of 14th & 15th of March. There were also commentaries on the trip undertaken to the US by the General Manager and our Strategic Change Manager, Mr Mua.

* The two previous press releases are circulated as background information.

* US TRIP - This was planned and undertaken only after the Board had given its approval in principle on 25th February 2004.

Benefits of the Trip - It was an opportunity for the General Manager to fully discuss the implementation of SAP by the Tacoma City Council. There were discussions held with two of the nine City Councillors, the current and former City Managers(equivalent of Town Clerk), as well as the Project Director of the SAP Implementation.

What we discovered from these discussions are summarised as follows:

* They undertook an assessment period of two years before approving TUI Consulting to undertake the work for Tacoma City Council. Their assessment included investigation of a considerable number of businesses where SAP had been implemented, within as well as outside of US.

* There were two companies that were finally shortlisted, IBM and TUI Consulting. TUI Consulting was given the USD50m job ahead of IBM.

* They confirmed that the job was finished on time and within budget.

* The major challenge that they highlighted was that inadequate attention was given to the project by certain departments of the municipalities. This meant that some departments missed out on training programs that were conducted by TUI Consulting in regards to SAP. NLTB will ensure that we learn from this experience and avoid making this mistake.

* Our Strategic Change Manager, Mr Mua spent the week in discussions with TUI Consulting experts on the implementation program for NLTB. This included the selection of appropriate skills for our IT upgrade.

* The implementation team is due to arrive soon. This is line with our program to ensure that the system turns live on 1st January 2005. The bid initially put by TUI Consulting was for an implementation period of nine months.

* The launching of Vanua Development Corporation and Pacific Connex will be held during the month of April. At that function, the public and the press will be given an insight into the capabilities of the SAP system that NLTB will be installing.

Whilst a lot of negative publicity emanated from the trip we undertook to the US, it has given us a confirmation that the decision we have taken is the right one and also gave us an insight into the pitfalls to be avoided when the installation of SAP is undertaken.

The outcome of this upgrade will go a long way into ensuring that the indigenous landowners obtain maximum benefits from land which is their basic and sometimes only asset. Whilst we Fijians claim to own 90% of the land in this country, the challenge which NLTB has taken up through Vanua Development Corporation Limited is to convert some of these fixed assets into cash. Only then will landowners be able to achieve the benefits pertaining to ownership of land.

Other stakeholders will also benefit from the new IT system as we expect information regarding leases to be readily available, and a more proactive stance taken in so far as the leasing of land is concerned.


Bakani and Mua, both were sent on a NLTB board of directors approved fact finding mission, regarding the SAP software and headed to Tacoma City Council, a local Government agency in the Washington state area. This article from SAP news confirms the arrangement between Tui Consulting and Tacoma City Council. Albeit with some technical problems surfacing.

However, an article published News Tribune, a Tacoma based news agency revealed another dimension to Tui Consulting's deal with Tacoma, amid controversies of conflict of interest.

This is an excerpt from New Tribune article:

Controversy just seems to follow head of TUI

Published: February 7th, 2005 12:01

BRUCE KELLMAN/The News Tribune
Besides problems with implementing Tacoma’s system, TUI Consulting CEO Ballu Khan has had problems with a system his company installed in Singapore.

When the City of Tacoma hired TUI Consulting to help install its new computer system, it got a lot more than just a consultant. It also gained a new corporate citizen and a close partner.

The relationship started before the city awarded a contract to TUI to help install SAP computer software across city government. TUI began working on the project before it secured the deal, and then – days before the City Council voted on the contract – announced it was moving its world headquarters from Melbourne, Australia, to Tacoma.

The city’s marketing staff pounced on the June 2002 announcement and touted it as evidence that Tacoma must be doing something right if a respected, international computer company was interested in moving here.

Pleased as they were by the news, though, top city officials – including Tacoma Public Utilities Director Mark Crisson and computer project manager Karen Larkin – said TUI’s decision to move its headquarters to Tacoma had no bearing on the company’s selection as the city’s computer partner.

About six months later, the partnership ran into controversy when Crisson, Corpuz and Larkin accepted a first-class, TUI-paid trip to visit computer-installation sites in Australia and New Zealand.

After the group left and questions of conflict of interest emerged, the Public Utility board voted to pay $24,000 for all of Crisson’s expenses and half of Larkin’s. The city officials say the trip was valuable in learning more about the system.

TUI paid for Corpuz’s tab.

Controversy isn’t new for TUI founder and CEO Ballu Khan. His company is being sued by Singapore’s largest electricity retailer, SP Services, for problems related to TUI’s implementation of a computer system there.

The utility said it encountered large-scale billing problems beginning in January 2000, eventually affecting about 144,000 of the 1.2 million electricity accounts, The Straits Times newspaper in Singapore reported. At one point, the utility had unpaid accounts totaling $800 million, the paper reported.

TUI has denied the claims and filed a countersuit for $3 million, blaming SP Services for the problems.

Then-TUI vice president Rob Jackson said the utility failed to provide proper resources during the project, leading to delays. The utility then ignored repeated warnings about the impact of the delays, Jackson said.

Khan told The News Tribune the Singapore lawsuit is a normal business dispute.

Khan has found controversy in Fiji, too, where he is part of a joint venture to implement SAP software for the government’s Native Land Trust Board. Critics complained the project was too expensive and noted that Khan paid to send two government officials to Tacoma to look at the city’s SAP implementation.

Khan downplayed his involvement in the venture and dismissed the Fiji controversy as “politics.”

Like Crisson and Larkin, Khan denied there was any quid pro quo between locating his company in Tacoma and the city’s awarding him the computer installation contract.

He responded angrily to questions about the move and Ray Corpuz’s role in either the awarding of the city’s contract or working at TUI. After Corpuz was fired as Tacoma city manager, he went to work at TUI.

“We’ve done nothing wrong whatsoever,” Khan said. “I have a business to run. This is not shady.”

Khan said Corpuz had nothing to do with the city’s decision to award the computer contract to TUI Consulting, adding that he didn’t know Corpuz “from a bar of soap” before the contract was awarded.

TUI has offered two accounts of Corpuz’s duties. Corpuz wouldn’t speak with The News Tribune.

But unless he worked directly on the City of Tacoma’s contract, there’s nothing in the city’s ethics code that would prevent Corpuz from taking a job with TUI, said assistant city attorney Steve Victor. And there’s no evidence that Corpuz worked on the Tacoma project for TUI, he said.

State Auditor Brian Sonntag offered no opinion on Corpuz’s work for TUI, but he said, in general, that public officials should think carefully before leaving a government post for a position with a company with which their agency had done business.

Washington law prohibits state workers prohibits such a move for one year, he noted. The law wouldn’t apply to a former city worker like Corpuz.

And even if there’s no prohibition against it, there’s a question of appearance, Sonntag said.

“Government’s credibility with the public is at an all-time low,” he said. “We need to look at these things through the public’s lens.”

Khan couldn’t say when Corpuz quit showing up at the TUI offices, but by last November the relationship had apparently ended, he said.

His account of what Corpuz did for him differs from what a TUI executive told The News Tribune in October 2003.

Jackson, while still vice president, said Corpuz wasn’t on the TUI payroll but was using the space to help coordinate a program to provide underprivileged students with computer skills. Corpuz had a “desk and about three phones,” Jackson said, but “It’s probably better to say he is working with us.”

When asked about Corpuz’s role late last year, Khan, an avid rugby enthusiast, told The News Tribune that Corpuz was actually helping the newly relocated company learn how to become involved in the South Sound rugby scene, schools and charitable causes.

For example, in Fiji, where Khan is from and still does business, a $1,000 donation might seem generous, but in Tacoma it might be viewed as insulting, Khan said.

Now that the company is more established in Tacoma, it no longer needs Corpuz for that kind of help, Khan said.

But it’s also sensing a change in the business environment that might prompt another move, Khan said.

He and his employees share a commitment to their adopted home, Khan said, and they all worked long and hard to make the city’s computer project a success. But criticism of the computer project, especially in the pages of The News Tribune, is souring the business climate, he said.

“I’m not going to sit back and see The News Tribune and the city tarnish my reputation unfairly,” Khan said.

Khan said he welcomes an outside review of the computer system and is eager for the paper to finish investigating it. “We have to get closure on this before it gets ugly and somebody gets hurt,” he told reporters.

Jason Hagey: 253-597-8542

Kris Sherman: 253-597-8659

The terms of reference for the NLTB audit was outlined by the interim Minister of Fijian Affairs, published in an article on Fiji Government website. S.i.F.M welcomes such an audit, but remains cautious on the expected outcome; without a surgical overhaul of the entire system of native institutions in Fiji.

This is the excerpt of the NLTB audit news release:

Statement on NLTB issued by the Chairman of NLTB and Minister for Fijian Affairs Ratu Epeli Ganilau

Feb 23, 2007, 10:17


The Board of NLTB at its meeting yesterday approved the selection of the accounting and auditing firm of KPMG to undertake the special audit for the mySAP IT system currently being utilized by NLTB to provide its information system.

KPMG has been advised of the Board’s approval and have started organizing their resources so that they can complete the audit within the timelines set for them by the Board. Their interim report is scheduled to be considered by the Board’s Standing Committee on 30th March. After that review, KPMG is to submit their final report to the Standing Committee for its later consideration by the full NLTB on 26th April, 2007.

Whilst several Chartered Accounting firms were requested to submit tenders for their Expressions of Interests for the special audit, two of them actually submitted their Interests. Appropriate selection procedures were followed culminating in the appointment of KPMG to undertake this assignment.


In view of the numerous allegations leveled at the NLTB and its officers, the Board has been informed through its Chairman, who is also the Minister for Fijian Affairs, that the Interim Government through its Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) will be tasked to carry out an operational audit of NLTB and determine if there have been breaches under the Native Lands Trust Board Act by officers of the Board. The Board would also like to reaffirm its major Stakeholders, the Landowners that any breaches of the trust as stipulated under the Act will be dealt with in accordance with the Law.


Several reports have over the recent weeks been appearing in the press relating to alleged commitments of Trust Funds controlled by NLTB and also certain agreements committing the Board in guarantees relating to PCX cannot be commented on by the Board at this juncture in view of the special audit now being undertaken. Suffice to say in the meantime that we do not want to pre-empt the outcome of these issues as KPMG would be covering them in their audit report to us in due course.


Also, certain allegations were recently made in the press by the Interim President of the Association against NLTB and it would be premature for us to comment on them whilst the audit is underway. However to allay the fears of Fijian landowners, I would like to categorically state that Trust Funds have not, and will not be used to meet any payments in the event NLTB is at fault in the alleged cases highlighted. The Board’s operational funds from poundage legally deducted under the authority of the Native Lands Trust Act for its operations would be used if NLTB is liable, and not landowners’ trust funds.


The Board would also like to reassure its clients and the general public that the audits will not affect nor impede the day to day operations of NLTB.

It is envisaged that at the end of the exercise the NLTB will be in a better position to provide efficient service to its clientele and deliver on its primary function, acting in the best interest of the landowners who they are obliged under the Act to represent.

Club Em Designs

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Johnny Come Lately.

New Zealand(N.Z) based blogger has an enlightening post, on the hypocrisy of New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark regarding the political landscape of Fiji. Clark is not alone in this arrogant display of diplomacy as another N.Z blogger addresses in this post: redrave: Imperialism pushes Fiji towards another coup

Alexander Downer, the mercurial Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, is fresh from denouncing the road map to democracy outlined by Fiji's interim Government; if that wasn't too much of a bone to chew on, Downer grandstands on the issue of Iraq, subsequent to the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair announcing the withdrawal plans from Iraq.

The Australian Newspaper published an article covering Downer's comments, whilst defending the political motives in Australia's own troop surge to Iraq.

Without a doubt, the early departure of Britain from Iraq will force Australia to pick up the slack-an indication that the Howard Government was not adequately paying their full price in troop deployments, considering the outstanding US military assistance to Australia, a Geo-political form of Quid Pro Quo.

Melbourne Herald Sun online feedback underlines the resistance to the Australian troop surge, from a wide swath of opinions.

This is the excerpt:

Downer denies 'political' troops boost

FOREIGN Affairs Minister Alexander Downer has denied the move to send more Australian troops to Iraq is based on a purely political decision.

He said the groundwork for the deployment of up to 70 more soldier trainers began well before Prime Minister John Howard's verbal stoush with US Democrat senator and presidential aspirant Barack Obama.

Yesterday's announcement came ahead of a visit this week by US Vice-President Dick Cheney, and amid the continued popularity of Labor leader Kevin Rudd's plans to bring Australian troops home.

"Well we have to roll our eyes every morning when we get out of bed and know that we have our political opponents who are always making party political points against us, whether they are the Labor Party or the Howard haters," Mr Downer told ABC Radio today.

"It's not true, it is nothing to do with that, obviously the chief of the defence force had been working on this for quite some time."

Mr Downer said the boost to trainer numbers would ensure Iraqi troops could assume control of the country "as quick as possible".

Mr Downer also said he understood opposition to the war in Iraq.

"I know it is not popular, but at the end of the day when you're the government you have to try to do the right thing by the nation's security."

Early last week, Senator Obama rejected Mr Howard's public criticism of his Iraq withdrawal policy by highlighting the low level of Australian troops compared to those from the US.

Australia's decision to send in more military trainers, is considered another blunder by the former head of Australia's special forces cadre- SASR, according to Sydney Morning Herald article.

It appears that much of the upcoming elections (in the UK, US and Australia) will hinge precariously on Iraq and that particular subject will either make or break aspiring candidates. If anyone understands the political fall-out of Iraq, it should be the Italians. BBC news reports the resignation of Italy's P.M. News of this resignation further reminds readers of the political retribution facing the leaders of Australia and UK, for their sins in Iraq.

According to an article from Political Affairs magazine, quoting an article from the Guardian newspaper that, political polls show an overwhelming disdain for the Howard Government and their policies. The Opposition Leader, Kevin Rudd described John Howard as a risk to National Security in an article by Melbourne Herald.

This is a micro-excerpt of the article from Political Affairs:

Howard’s big gaffe was the criticism of the US Democrat Presidential candidate, Barack Obama because of his opposition to the Iraq war. If Howard’s claim that Obama’s opposition would encourage terrorists was valid, the same must be said of the majority of the American people and those Democrats and Republicans who last week overwhelmingly voted for the phased withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

Howard’s statement is yet another example of his arrogance and willingness to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries without any consideration for what is appropriate in the relations between one country and another. It is part of the Howard Government’s pre-emptive strike policies by which he claims a right to send police and troops to other countries to take over government responsibilities and to control their police and troops – as is being done in the Solomon Islands and East Timor and as he would like to be able to do in Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

Club Em Designs

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Tale of Two Standards.

Radio NZ International article reports that, Fiji Human Rights Commission(F.H.R.C) has dismissed the Eminent Person Group's(E.P.G) leaked report regarding the situation in Fiji.

F.H.R.C Director had also identified some irregularities with two members of the group, which undoubtedly compromised the integrity of the EPG and their report on Fiji.

Director Shameem highlighted the activities of an Australian member of ECG- General Peter Cosgrove, who was involved with the Norwegian vessel: Tampa and the affair with Afghan refugees-an episode demonstrating unethical behavior.

Australian Federal Court papers filed by Victoria Civil Liberties Inc. Vs Minister of Immigration & Multicultural affairs, outline the track record on the embarrasing series of events.

The court subsequently ruled against the Australian Government for illegally detaining the refugees, reported by WSWS article.

(Above Image: Afghan refugees from the sinking vessel OLONG, involved in [C.M.I] or Certain Maritime Incident)

Truth Overboard.com outlines the chronology of events.

(Above image: General Peter Cosgrove)

General Cosgrove's dangerous descent in the moral Netherlands, on the issue of Afghani refugees was the not the only controversy surrounding his vast resume. Apparently, the honorable General was also accused of misleading the Australian Senate Estimates on East Timor and Abu Gharib prison torture.

This is a micro excerpt of S.M.H article, questioning General Cosgrove about the involvement of Australia in Abu Gharib.

Persistent questioning by the media and the Opposition following the publication of the abuse photos at the end of April led Defence to conduct an inquiry – its first inquiry - into its state of knowledge of the abuses.

The results of that inquiry, which included a survey of 298 members of the Defence forces, were announced by the Chief of the Defence Force, General Cosgrove and the Secretary of Defence, Mr Ric Smith, on 28 May.

We were informed that “none of those surveyed were aware of abuse or serious mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners or detainees, of the nature of recent allegations, during their deployment” and “there were no reports about the abuse or serious mistreatment of prisoners or detainees of the nature of recent allegations made, either through the chain of command or informally.”

Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer's ad-nauseum harrangue on Fiji politics should be superimposed with Australia's own involvement with Abu Gharib scandal in Iraq covered in a 2004 article by SMH or the theft of East Timor oil covered by this article by ASAP.

This is the excerpt:

The tempest in the Timor Sea

Asia Times - April 24, 2004

Alan Boyd, Sydney --

Benefactor or bully?

Australia has been portrayed as both in its protracted standoff with tiny East Timor over US$30 billion worth of deep-sea oil and gas reserves. So uneven is the contest, between the richest and poorest nations on the southern rim of the Pacific, that Canberra was always going to come off worse in the public relations battle.

"It is, quite literally, a matter of life and death," Timorese Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri declared in one of the more excitable quotations to come from the latest negotiations, which ended inconclusively in Dili on Thursday. "Timor-Leste loses $1 million a day due to Australia's unlawful exploitation of resources in the disputed area. That is too many lost and wasted lives," he said.

Five years ago, Australia was hell-bent on saving those same lives when it intervened in the militia war between Indonesian special forces and Timorese guerrillas, using hard cash and military firepower to eventually secure independence for the eastern half of the island of Timor.

Latest developments on the issue from News.com is that, the East-Timor Parliament has agreed to a 50:50 division of royalities from the Sunrise oil fields, but delayed the debate on the oil field's permanent boundaries for 50 years.

Delayed negotiation also means delayed justice, a matter which undermines Australia's pillars of justice and fairplay in the region.

Club Em Designs

Monday, February 19, 2007

Human Rights-Noblesse Oblige

Noblese Oblige-a French term meaning that, the nobility of any nation have a special obligation to serve society. This begs the question on the nobility of human rights, to what society does this obligation originate and end?

Fiji's more recently deposed Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase was quite rapid in supporting the latest Amnesty International(A.I) report on Fiji, which was released on 16th Febuary 2007.

This is the excerpt of Qarase's remarks published in an article from Fiji Times:

Heed Amnesty, Qarase says

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Interim Government should heed what Amnesty International is saying, ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase says.

"They are saying all the right things and I hope the interim administration will heed their advice because since December 5 we have seen some serious violations of basic human rights,"he said.

"I think that report is timely and should help bring the country to normality. No one is above the law, including the interim administration,"Mr Qarase said.

National Federation Party general secretary Pramod Rae said the party found the issue very amusing.

Mr Rae said for Mr Qarase to be accused of treason was like the pot calling the kettle black. A treason investigation was launched after the Fiji Military Forces filed a complaint with the police that Mr Qarase had asked for assistance from Australian Prime Minister John Howard and his New Zealand, counterpart Helen Clark.

Assistant Commissioner of Police Josaia Rasiga said Section 51 of the penal code dealt with instigating invasion and any person who instigated foreign invasion could be charged with treason, if there was concrete evidence.

Mr Qarase earlier said he would gladly give a statement to police if required to. The Soqosoqo ni Duavata ni Lewenivanua Party said: "We welcome the investigation because then Mr Qarase will be cleared of any such allegations.

Realistically, this A.I report, was a single chapter in the volumes of other A.I published articles on Fiji socio-politics.

However, when examining the history of remarks on human rights made by Qarase; it is prudent to note that Qarase's 2007 position on Human Rights was somewhat contradictory to his comments made in 2001 referring to the aftermath of the 2000 coup, also featured by Amnesty International article.

Shifting the goal posts, is probably the closest analogy when comparing these flip-flopping statements. What readers seriously have to consider is that, Qarase mentions two diametrically opposed views on human rights-one in 2001, the other in 2007. These recent remarks by Qarase raise more questions, than answers.

Are Qarase's views erroneous then, as it is now?

Is this is another clear example of waving the flag of human rights, when it suits one persons political motives?

Would it be safe to say that, the preceeding issues raised by Amnesty International, is now considered absolved by the 'white-gloved' inspectors of democracy, simply because Laisenia Qarase won a mandate in 2006; albeit under suspicious circumstances?
A mandate of elections, using irregular boundaries, amid the controversy in media reports of extra-ballot papers being used.

This is the excerpt of Laisenia Qarase's remarks published in the A.I article:

1 March 2001

AI Index ASA 18/002/2001 - News Service Nr. 38

Fiji: Rule of law or rule by force

Today's Court of Appeal ruling in Fiji upholding the Constitution is a landmark human rights decision which supports the rule of law over rule by force, Amnesty International said.

Fiji's Interim Prime Minister, in a first reaction to the judgment which ruled that the government which took over after the May coup was illegal, has suggested that a different "standard of human rights" applied in Fiji.

"Human rights are internationally recognized as universal - they apply equally everywhere for everyone. Fiji needs to find a way of solving its problems in accordance with these international standards, recognizing that indigenous rights are equal - not superior - to other human rights. Racial discrimination, or even racist violence, cannot be justified," the organization said.

"In UN peace-keeping operations, Fiji soldiers have died in defence of human rights and the rule of law. Amnesty International urges the Great Council of Chiefs and the Interim Administration to now defend these fundamental values at home."

The Fiji authorities' response to today's Court of Appeal judgment on constitutional rights will be an example for future generations and far beyond the Pacific, Amnesty International said.

For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact Amnesty International's Australia-Pacific spokesman, Dr Heinz Schurmann-Zeggel, in London on +44 20 7413-5720, or the organization's Asia-Pacific Press Officer, Maya Catsanis, on London +44 20 7413-5729.

Club Em Designs

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Foreign Flower or Foreign Policy?

Fiji Sun published an interesting opinion article written by a local promoter of social issues, regarding the subject of Democracy and the remote cat-calls for Fiji to return to it, voiced by some egalitarian nations.

Democracy in many disguises-Sham or genuine, the demand for a quick return to democracy solution

By Aisake Casimira

One of the predominant, if not central demands made of the interim government since the military ousted the Qarase government on the 5th of December 2006, was the “quick return to democracy” and, in the same breath “show us the road map to democracy”.

This demand was made not only by some local NGOs, lawyers, political parties and ousted politicians, but also from governments, organisations and NGOs outside the border. From Fiji’s closest neighbours - the Australian and New Zealand governments - to the farthest of governments and organisations - the US, EU, the Commonwealth, and at least one Human Rights organisation in the US have being singing the same tune.

From their point of view, it makes ‘democratic’ sense to legitimately re-establish ‘overnight majority rule’. This will ensure the resumption of bilateral aid, the release of project grants, the restoration of investor confidence and, hence, hasten economic recovery.

But, in a developing country like Fiji, it is not as simple as what these governments and organisations assumed. The “quick return to democracy” solution, in the form of holding general elections, for example, barely one year after the 1987 and 2000 coups respectively, if any thing, did not solve much of Fiji’s governance problems.

Rather, it left many issues unattended, in particular, the assessment of whether it was wise to pursue democracy at the same time that it was adopting a free market economic model.

One thing to note in this regard, as Amy Chua (2004:195) says, is that none of the western countries, including Australia and New Zealand ever adopted or implemented democracy and the free market or laissez-faire economic model at the same time.

[Chua](ibid) added that what helped these countries to implement democracy gradually (and not overnight, although overnight democracy is what has been touted by the western countries around the world through conditions on aid, objectives of governmental funding agencies and through bilateral and multilateral trade agreements), was the strong social welfare system they had.

This helped to cushion the worst impacts of the free market. The argument of the interim government, however, is that once the tasks set before them by the President - to review the electoral system, conduct the national census, revive the economy, etc - are achieved, then general elections can then be held.

The intention to care for the worst off in our society, the low income earners and the needy may not only be a necessary policy choice but may also be a wise one. If, in the meantime ‘democracy’ is suspended so as to ensure a stronger ‘democratic’ foundation for the future, then pursuing free market policies as well as solidifying and expanding our social welfare schemes may make a lot of sense, than simply a “quick return to democracy” with little substance to the process, with a weak social welfare system to cushion the impact of the free market.

The triumphalism view of the governments of New Zealand, Australia and the EU about democracy and their near fanatic insistence on a “quick return to democracy” solution rests in part on a certain hypocrisy. If universal suffrage were a reality rather than a sham, one might wonder whether most of today’s professed free marketeers, foreign investors and international financial organisations would be supporting it.

Indeed, even today, there are many within these countries and international organisations who, at the first sign of a possible trade-off between the free market and genuine democracy, make it clear that their first commitment is to the former.

A clear example of this is the New Zealand government’s recent commitment to continue talks with Fiji on the free trade agenda. Moreover, as one US economist said just after Venezuela’s democratically elected president Hugo Chavez was deposed in a military coup (and before he was reinstated), “Democracy is not necessarily the most efficient form of government.

It is better to be an open advocate of the priorities of the free market, (note here New Zealand’s ‘no problem attitude’ on continuing free trade talks with Fiji), than to be a self-congratulatory advocate of sham democracy.”

The difficulty that Australia, New Zealand and the EU seem to have with a genuine commitment to majority rule in Fiji is that genuine democracy could produce anti-market results such as justice, fairness and the application of democratic principles to the conduct of free trade and the free market, and the engendering of ethnic harmony in countries that have experienced ethnic tensions and violence in the past such as Fiji.

Instead, one would suspect that what New Zealand and Australian governments, in particular, really want by their call for a ‘quick return to democracy’ is sham democracy. Far from committing themselves to helping and assisting Fiji (and the Pacific Island countries) develop a genuine democratisation process, they seem to advocate a kind of democracy that will not interfere with their free market agenda and one that encourages ethnic dislike.

Being Fiji’s closest western neighbours, one would expect that Australia and New Zealand governments would have learned the lessons of history and not promote overnight majority rule (a form of democracy that even they have repudiated a long time ago) by their demand for a “quick return to democracy”.

Their assessment should have taught them that what is needed is their help in assisting Fiji (and the Pacific Island countries) to rethink the democratisation process over the past 2 or 3 decades. If genuine democracy and the free market are to be peacefully sustained and mutually beneficial, the process of democratisation cannot be reduced to carting ballot boxes and voting in national elections.

It has to mean more than overnight democracy, majority rule or merely freedom to vote and elect governments, although these are necessary factors. These countries seem to forget that there are many different models of democracy, even among themselves. Democracy can vary along a large number of axes: for example, the U.S style presidentialism versus the U.K style parliamentarism; first past the post electoral systems versus proportional representation; bottom up democratisation (starting with local village elections) versus top-down democratisation (starting with national, presidential elections).

These different versions of democracy can have significantly different effects on how the Pacific Islands govern themselves and their politics. The western countries one-sided view of democracy is quite revealing in the case of China. While China is fundamentally autocratic at the national level and has a bad human rights record, it has, according to politics professor, Minxin Pei (1998:68), been undergoing political reforms since the 1980s that are not even known to most western countries.

These political reforms have far reaching effects. He went on to add that throughout China, there are semi-open local village elections, which despite their limitations, offered a nontrivial measure of political participation, and more critically, legitimate competitive elections as an important part of the political process (ibid).

But the reason, says Minxin Pei, why these and other reforms happening at the local and national levels went unnoticed by the western countries is because their “… politicians and news media measure the progress of political reforms in other countries against a single yardstick - the holding of free and open elections at the national level.” (ibid) Indeed, democracy comes in many guises and it maybe neither the pakeha nor the kaivalagi’s road map to democracy that Fiji needs but one that is born out of the learnings of her recent and past experiences, however limited and ‘un-western-like’ it may be.

Note: Aisake Casimira works at the Pacific Conference of Churches. The views expressed here are his own and do not represent the views of the organisation where he works.

Club Em Designs

Friday, February 16, 2007

What Goes Around, Comes Around.

The decision by the interim Fiji Government to change the electoral system from the race based one, described by International Herald Tribune article, is indeed a mile-stone of unprecendented reform; despite the Holier-than-Thou attitude reflected by a minority of detractors within the Fiji Law Society.
These sunshine democracy advocates, are also the same naysayers who seem to gloss over the undemocratic aspects of the existing race based polling system, which Fiji had used since 1970.

Other outstanding reforms, is the creation of Permanent Residency status for former Fiji citizens. The reaction to such proposals was a question posed by Fiji Times' website feedback page- Have Yor say.

The long overdue audit and overhaul of the Native Lands Trust Board (N.L.T.B) is moving in leaps and bounds. Fiji Sun article outlines the systemic abuses exercised by the NLTB.

This is the excerpt of the Fiji Sun article:

NLTB to face $1.5m payout-Guarantee of vehicles for IT firm under scrutiny


The Native Land Trust Board may be liable to pay further liabilities of more than $1.5million under another guarantee to Pacific Connex. This includes the purchase of three vehicles – a BMW, a Toyota Landcruiser Prado four-wheel drive and a Toyota Rav 4 – all valued at $353,500, from Credit Corporation.

The amount also includes the purchase of nine four-wheel-drive vehicles which cost $438,372 and other information and technology hardware and software. The NLTB provided guarantee for the purchases and if Pacific Connex does not meet payments by January next year, the NLTB will have to pay up.

Documents obtained by the Fiji Sun show separate transactions to the value of more than $1.54million. The NLTB, as guarantor, is obligated to meet all payments for assets acquired through Credit Corporation if Pacific Connex defaults or is not able to pay the full amount by January next year.

Minister for Fijian Affairs and NLTB chairman Ratu Epeli Ganilau said it would be inappropriate to comment on the deals because he has instigated investigations.“But carry on with your investigations and we will continue with the audit,” he said.

Other assets acquired by Pacific Connex include printers, 24 flat screen computers, four service data centres, eight HP units, 13 desktop computers, cyber driver CD writers, colour printers wireless network, modems, printers, fibre channel, servers, a laser printer, ultra power supply, processors, and other IT hardware. Ousted NLTB general manager Kalivati Bakani, who has been sent on indefinite leave pending investigation, had signed documents committing the NLTB to pay.

The Credit Corporation 'Notice of Assignment' states that the NLTB is obligated to pay if the agreement between itself and Pacific Connex is terminated before the payment of the amount is due. “This guarantee by NLTB shall be a continuing guarantee and shall be a principal obligation between the NLTB and Credit Corp and shall be available as a guarantee for the whole sum due and owing at that time by Pacific Connex to Credit Corp.”

The services of Pacific Connex as the exclusive provider of software called mySAP to the NLTB has been suspended pending investigations. It is unclear whether Pacific Connex has other income with which to meet its commitments. Managing director Ballu Khan could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Fiji Village's Yellow Bucket provides their analysis on these series of reforms and the possible effects on the nation as a whole.

Another round of developments to report, is the legal action taken by the SDL party, in pursuing a court ruling to declare Fiji's 4th coup illegal. This court action is briefly reported on, by an article by the Honolulu Advertiser.

However, the counter charge of treason is being directed at Laisenia Qarase for his attempt to seek foreign intervention with the Trans-Tasman nations. Although, the denials by the deposed Prime Minister seems to have fallen on deaf ears; particularly when the Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand had been quite vocal in the media, for refusing Qarase's request to send soldiers to Fiji.

This is the excerpt of Fiji Live article:

Treason investigation on Qarase
Friday February 16, 2007

Fiji's deposed Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase could be charged for treason should it be determined that he had called for armed foreign intervention to prevent the December 5 putsch, says Assistant Commissioner of Police (Crime), Josaia Rasiga.

The police are currently conducting an investigation, which was launched after the military reported to police Qarase's request to the Australian and New Zealand Prime Ministers for armed intervention.

"Section 51 of the Penal Code deals with instigating invasion," Rasiga said. "Any person who instigates a foreign intervention into your country is liable for treason, if there is evidence to prove that he did it."

Rasiga said charges would be laid if the investigators get sufficient evidence on the intervention request. Australian Prime Minister John Howard confirmed last month that he received a "last minute" request for an armed interventionfrom Qarase but declined because he was "not prepared to risk the lives of Australian men and women needlessly".

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark also declined a similar request. Qarase has strongly denied making the request to both Australia and New Zealand.

Although, Qarase is claiming the existence of a military plot to frame him, as reported by a Radio NZ article; So far there is little to no debate, in determining whether Qarase had really requested foreign intervention. The niggling question is, whether Qarase's actions is legally considered to be inciting foreign invasion, using Section 51 of the Criminal Code-therefore constituting an act of treason.

(Above Image: Helen Clark [L] and John Howard [R])

On the subject of Trans-Tasman diplomacy and their attempt to interfere with Fiji, one of the prime reasons for the impromptu State visit to New Zealand, by the Australian P.M, John Howard- a visit that is also getting alot of attention from protesters. Attention which undoubtedly will derail Howard's re-election bid.

(Above Image: New Zealand Protestors Waiting for Australian P.M)

The media covering the visit by John Howard, were dredging up the recent cheap shots made by Howard against the Senator from Illinois, Barrack Obama-one of the democractic hopefuls pursuing the 2008 U.S Presidential elections.

New Zealand Herald's article reports that, during a press conference which New Zealand P.M, Helen Clark had attempted to shield John Howard from probing questions, raised by reporters.

"Jack Boot diplomacy" was a label tagged by the New Zealand Herald, regarding Helen Clark's aggressive response to the flurry of questions regarding Australia's involvement in Iraq, as reported by TV New Zealand.

Club Em Designs

Monday, February 12, 2007

To the Victors, Go the Spoils!

The IRB tournament at Petco Stadium in San Diego has made an indelible impression on local observers and players alike. National Public Radio (NPR) item had covered the event, with their colorful audio production with a brief introduction on the Rugby basics, the exotic names of spectators, with tiny sound clips from the San Diego tournament.

Fiji Rugby Sevens team are still savouring their first IRB 7s win on US soil, despite being denied a victory for the last 3 Grand Prix circuit outings in Southern California. Undeniably, the revenge against the Samoan team is indeed sweet for the Fiji team, which displayed resilience and tenacity.

Fiji Times Editorial jumps onto the bandwagon of Fiji's win, with a fairly pedestrian angle of the uniting factor for these sporting victories. San Diego Union Tribune's article covered the story of former Fiji residents, cheering and singing for the team. Harnessing this unity, will be a subject worth exploring, to facilitate the Fiji's forward momentum post-2006 coup.

Club Em Designs

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Across the Great Divide.

Barak Obama, Senator from Illinois and the charismatic Democratic, recently launched his campaign for the 2008 Presidential elections in the US. Obama rallied enthusiasts against the back drop of the old State Capital, the same venue where the President Lincoln gave his infamous "House Divided" speech. Senator Obama's speech announcing his candidacy, encompassed a similar tone of eloquence, weaved expertly with a forthright perspective for the future.

ABC International article reports that Australian Prime Minister, John Howard "slammed" the Iraq plan outlined by Senator Obama and continued to bad-mouth the Democratic caucus as a whole. These crude comments is certainly creating tidal waves on both sides of the Pacific and only adds support to the popularity of Obama, the 2008 candidate for the office of U.S President. The remarks of the uncouth variety made by the Australian P.M was corroborated by Radio New Zealand, Globe and Mail.com, CNN, NEWS24, Guardian.

Television New Zealand (TVNZ) article's opening sentence, described John Howard's gobbing off as setting off a firestorm. An article by newspaper "The Australian" also used the analogy of a 'firestorm'. CBS article went further and singled out a particularly apprehensive line, in John Howard's comments.

"If I were running al-Qaida in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008 and be praying as many times as possible for a victory, not only for Obama but also for the Democrats."

Australian P.M defended his comments in a report by Herald Sun, as well describing the opening salvo of flak by Opposition leader, Kevin Rudd.

Melbourne's Age Newspaper article reports that, Senator Obama's laughs off Howard's comments with a classic comeback.

This is the excerpt of the article by AGE:

Obama laughs off criticism by PM Howard

February 12, 2007 - 7:04AM

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has laughed off criticism from Australian Prime Minister John Howard about his plans for an Iraq withdrawal. Mr Howard said Obama's plans for Iraq "encourage those who wanted to completely destabilise and destroy Iraq."

The American senator has called for capping the number of US troops in Iraq and then beginning to withdraw them on May 1. He wants a complete pullout of combat brigades by March 31, 2008.

"It's flattering that one of George W Bush's allies feels obliged to attack me," Obama said, about Mr Howard's comments. Obama said that if Howard did not think enough was being done in Iraq, he should consider sending more Australian troops to the region. Australia has about 1,400 troops in Iraq, mostly in noncombat roles. Obama formally announced his candidacy in Illinois on Saturday.

Obama's religious background has come under scrutiny because he attended a Muslim school in Indonesia from age 6 to 10.

Obama, who was born in Hawaii, lived in Indonesia with his mother and stepfather from 1967 to 1971 and subsequently returned to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents.

Obama now attends a Chicago church with his wife and two young daughters. "If your name is Barack Hussein Obama, you can expect it, some of that," he said. "I think the majority of voters know that I'm a member of the United Church of Christ, and that I take my faith seriously," he said.

Obama dismissed concerns about his own security, but would not answer directly when asked if he had received death threats. The Reverend Jesse Jackson drew early Secret Service protection because of violent threats during his campaigns for president in the 1980s.

"I face the same security issues as anybody," he said.


What does this have to do with Fiji one may ask. One simply has to view the 2008 race, as an early indicator of the changing political climate. The same climate that affects Australia's foreign policy, Fiji and the rest of world in one indirect way or another.

Club Em Designs

Friday, February 09, 2007

Going Native.

Survivor Fiji was launched by CBS last night and already there is a first victim of the tribal council, described by WCBSTV article. The reviews of the first episode was made available by BuddyTV article.

There is also a similar thread between the Tribe Wanted project on Vorovoro and the reality show-Survivor Fiji on a nearby island.

It would be interesting to the see Survivor group meet and greet their Tribe Wanted members. Perhaps a real detour from the script, a detour that will inevitably discover and form some ethnological theory of tribes and their interaction.

(Above image: Islands off Macuata coast.)

(Above image: Macuata coast with a North-South view of Fiji Islands.)

Both venues are in the Macuata province and the parallels between the two genres is a simple premise: bringing together different people with different backgrounds and attempting to create a tribal identity. An identity that binds each member's strengths and weaknesses, with the objective of creating a society, forming their own ethos.

Regarding the audit of Native Lands Trust Board, investigators may have to re-visit the complaints raised by the Macuata landowners who claim that, the NLTB acted unilaterally to approve the filming, with little market priced compensation given to the landowners.

The sentiments of these landowners in the Survivor case, add to the litany of other complaints, legal actions made against N.L.T.B, despite the efforts to use their website to add a special page to downplay such accusations by landowners.

One such case, was the land mark ruling by Suva High Court which gave the landowners clearance to apply for logging licenses on their own land. NLTB have annouced in an article by Fiji Times that, they will pursue an appeals proceedings against the ruling.

This is the excerpt of the Fiji Times article:

Right of redress in timber case: NLTB Mahogany

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

FIJI Hardwood Corporation Limited and government still have the right to pursue redress on the ownership of mahogany, says the Native Land Trust Board.

NLTB deputy general manager Semi Tabakanalagi said this was not even considering that if a licence was issued under thelaw, theForestry Department or the Government would be the regulator tomonitor or manage the harvesting measurement of logs before they were taken to the mills.

Mr Tabakanalagi was commenting on a High Court ruling allowing a landowning unit of Serua to be issued a license to harvest mahogany planted on their land by the FHCL.

"NLTB through the approval of its Board in 2005 had put in place a mahogany way forward roadmap to regularise or correct theirregularity that was made in the issuance of 99-year lease in the 1960s rather than 50- year leases,'' Mr Tabakanalagi said.

"We had tried to implement this for Atunaisa Tiva's Mataqali Naua, who decided to log the mahogany themselves. WhenNLTB refused issuing the licence, it resulted in the court caseand hence the recent decision by the High Court. NLTB has always been of the position that through leasing it will create a sustainable economic and environmentalprovider to landowners rather than just one off harvesting with no guarantee of replanting in the future," Mr Tabakanalagi said.

"With the recent High Court ruling we will relook at our position again and inform the NLTB Board in its next meeting for its direction on the next step from here.

"It will either be complying with the recent ruling to issue a licence to landowners or appeal the decision to the Fiji Court of Appeal," he said.

With regards to the Nukurua mahogany plantation in Tailevu, Mr Tabakanalagi said mahogany reafforestation was a government policy initiative in the 1960s.

He said it was undertaken with noble intentions as an investment that would generate business not only for the landowners but to the national economy as well during harvesting.

"The said mahogany (in Nukurua and Serua) are now ready for harvest and the past administrations have tried their utmost best in addressing the competing issues in particular from landowners leading to the setting up of FHCL and Fiji Mahogany Trust and provision for 10 per cent shareholding in FHCL by landowners," he said.

"All the mahogany leases have not been surveyed and leads to certain irregularities in the lease boundaries, whether some leased land are in reserve and in the case of Mataqali Rara in Naimasimasi their claims for the return of their old village site or Yavutu," he said.

Mr Tabakanalagi said the recent ruling now again gave another new dimension to all the issues relating to the mahogany leases in the country.

Meanwhile, Native Land Trust Board is trying its best within thelaw to collect arrears or lease rentals from tenants.

Mr Tabakanalagi was reacting to threats made by Tamavua villagers who were going to evict tenants with lease arrears.

Deputy General Manager Operations Semi Tabakanalagi said NLTB had established a new Department late last year to deal with arrears.

"The Department has put in place strategies in how best to curb this recurring probleminclusive of visitation and discussion with tenants, liaison with employers and Fiji National Provident Fund for deductions, part payments, incentives such as writing off interests, joining the Credit Bureauand other ways to tackle the problem in this short term," he said.

"We are looking at putting extra effort both manpower and resources this year 2007 to boost our drive for collection of arrears.

"Other ways include strengthening our powers within the Native Land Trust Act (NLTA) to empower NLTB on rental collection as similar to Municipalities (rates) and FIRCA (tax payments).

"In the long term we are looking at getting the best clients on board which means proper screening of applicants for future lease contracts," Mr Tabakanalagi said.

This view was based on the Fiji Sun article that was published on this website for fans of Survivor Fiji. The excerpt of the Fiji Sun article is as follows:

$10 million demand on TV series

Note that filming has begun on Oct. 30, 2006 for Survivor 14 in Fiji.


Landowners want $10 million to allow filming of the renowned television series, Survivor. And if they don’t receive the money, they say they will halt production.

Members of the Mataqali Walana in Macuata have demanded that the Native Land Trust Board make a $10 million payment if it wants the series to continue filming on their land.”We are seeking legal advice on the matter and we are also checking ownership of other areas involved as the filmmaking of this series involves seven islands,” said mataqali member and spokesman Asaeli Tuicakau.

“The NLTB just claimed the areas without requesting any consent from the landowners,” he said.

“How can we just sit by and watch them lease our land without following the proper procedure?” Mr Tuicakau said the landowners were not told how much money had changed hands between the filmmakers and the NLTB.

“They have offered us $30,000 for a period of three months but we want $10 million for the three months that they want to use our land. If our demand is not met, we will close the site tomorrow,” he said. Mr Tuicakau said the landowners had chacked with officials from the NLTB once and no documents had been issued to them for approval of lease to the series production company.

A total of 170 tents have been set up in the area to accommodate the cast and crew in the series and filming began yesterday.

However, the climate of corruption within such Fiji native institutions, have attracted alot of scrutiny into the transactions made by N.L.T.B as this Fiji Time article reporting the audit of a particular contract to use SAP software purchased at an astronomical price of $F16 million paid over 11 years.

Froogle has a list of SAP software and listed prices, the most expensive platform is actually a fraction of the million dollar mark paid by NLTB.

Another attention spotlight on Fiji, was a unique take from a contributor to Rhode Island's Brown University, publication and his satirical opinion article, advocated the U.S Government to invade Fiji, as a political jibe at President Bush's decision to invade Iraq in 2003.

Club Em Designs