Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Collective Good.

In a follow up to the S.i.F.M post: The Squeakiest Wheel, aFiji Times article quotes NZ lawyer, Janet Mason who commented on the issue of incitement, made by the GCC lawyer.

This is an excerpt of that article:

NZ lawyer queries military over Dr Sahu Khan comments

1447 FJT
Friday, June 01, 2007

Update: 2.47pm A NEW ZEALAND lawyer, who fled the country last week, is questioning why the military did not take any action against Ba lawyer Dr Shamsudin Sahu Khan when he floated the idea that native land not used by landowners be returned to the State.

Janet Mason says despite a State of Emergency warning against incitement, the military took no action against Dr Sahu Khan for his comments, according to a report by Pacific writer Michael Field.

Ms Mason says when lawyers Kitione Vuataki and Savenaca Komaisavai, who are representing the Great Council of Chiefs over its suspension, questioned the paper, the military accused them of inciting the indigenous people and hauled them into their barracks for questioning.

Ms Mason, who worked with the two lawyers in the GCC case against the interim regime, found that curious.

''If Dr Sahu Khan has recently presented this paper without being detained for inciting instability then I would have imagined that, for instance, I should be free to present alternative views at workshops around the country without fear of being detained,'' she said.

The New Zealand lawyer fled the country after she and her husband were robbed in their Lautoka home.

Realistically, the comments by Dr Sahu Khan was made in his submission to the proposed Qoliqoli Bill, launched by the SDL Government. In addition, Khan's remarks did not address the indigenous populace or make innuendos advocating violence. Mason's remarks to the Fiji Times prompted a scathing letter to the Fiji Times.

This is the excerpt to the response:

Janet Mason

I have been reading with interest the comments by New Zealand lawyer Janet Mason. She indeed highlights a few interesting points about the situation in Fiji.

However, it is ironic that she now goes to the media to raise her voice. After all, she would have had a lot of information way before she came to Fiji for the GCC suspension case.

After all, her husband would have been reading daily reports and analysis of the Fiji situation. Her voice was never heard when Qarase was trying to resolve the impasse with the army. I am sure her husband had a lot of information in regards to information analysis at the time.

Never at any time did she voice her opinions on the army stance against the Government. That was at a time when her opinion may have made a difference for Mr Qarase and his deposed ministers.

Instead, like our so called "big brothers" she waits for the noose to tighten before she actually tries to make her presence felt. It makes it look like the "knight in shining armour".

[Mason] should leave our problems to us to solve. She has chosen New Zealand ahead of Fiji and we don't need her expatriate views on Fiji.

We certainly don't need her belated concerns and advice.

Josaia Sovea

Fiji Sun's new look website published an interesting "Letter to the Editor". This is an excerpt of the letter:
Democracy and NGOs
Last updated 6/1/2007 11:52:59 AM

It will be oversimplifying to say that democracy is a form of government in which the sovereign power is in the hands of the people, because it is a bluff.
Having heard so much about the word recently, that is magic to some, I can only say that it is vile to me. The practitioners of democracy, and who are in Australia, New Zealand , Canada , USA are mostly Anglo-Saxons, Normans, Dutch, Scandinavian, Spaniards and Mediterraneans - in other word Europeans, a branch of the Caucasian racial group.

The natives of these states do not sit as a majority in their respective Houses of legislature. Why? In short, the natives were hunted and slaughtered like animals by new settlers (the polite term) who put strategies in place to starve them out of their God-given land.

These states have not been tested in the true essence and operations of this magic word. What is successful democracy to them is to be in a comfortable environment of compatible ethnic/racial groups. If not, then why are the natives of Australia, New Zealand and the Americas not represented as a majority in power sharing?
A century and a half and more has passed with this set up and mind set, making it difficult for them to perceive the reasons for the coups in Fiji; why Fijians are nervous about the Indians, which is yet another story.

One of the legs on which democracy stands is "the people's voice," but specifically the underprivileged groups. In brief then, the yardstick if democracy is really at work is to continually, if not continuously, monitor whether the lot of these groups is improving during the term of governments, or as some people like to hear, a democratically elected one.
What is an election, an opposition, all in the name of democracy, when the lot of the poor cannot be gradually improved to a decent level from one government to another?
We have had some 30 years of this system without success and peace. There are other models that would work better for Fiji; it is a matter of will to try it out; or we should be asking the 'experts' what type of democracy is best suited. They have had enough time to work that out.

Indeed the lot of the rich has got better in leaps and bounds. Those mushrooming 20 years age are now multimillion dollar organisations, well entrenched and self-serving. Which Prime Minister has not gained assets directly attributable to his Prime Ministership? The same question can be asked of cabinet ministers. Democracy is for the poor but instead it has been raped.

What is the NGOs' understanding of democracy, the underprivileged, and their human rights? Their comments seem to be rigorously channeled to the military only. What are 30 or 50 persons called to the camp compared to thousands whose human rights have been eroding throughout the years? If NGOs were true to their call we should have heard their rigorous criticism throughout the years a not only over the last five months.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

The Squeakiest Wheel.

Kitione Vuataki, Lawyer for the GCC members contesting their recent suspension has been taken in for questioning as the Fiji Live article reports. Vuataki has been accused by the Fiji Military of inciting the passions of the indigenous populace. This very allegation was raised by a S.i.F.M post, in particular regards to the affidavit filed in the Suva High Court by Vuataki.

The following is an excerpt of the Fiji Live article:

Army blames GCC lawyer of inciting
Friday May 25, 2007

The army says Great Council of Chiefs lawyer Kitione Vuataki has been detained for "inciting the indigenous people" against the military.

Vuataki was taken from his office in Lautoka earlier today by soldiers and later questioned at the Edinburgh Barracks.

It remains unclear when Vuataki will be released.

"I don't know when he will be released," said army spokesman Major Neumi Leweni.

"He will definitely be questioned for his statements on radio."

Vuataki and his colleague Savenaca Komaisavai filed fresh papers in court this week on behalf of several members of the 52-member GCC who are challenging their suspension by the interim Fijian Affairs Ratu Epeli Ganilau.

Vuataki said outside the court that the documents would enable the GCC to meet without interference saying the interim government had no right to suspend the council.

He said that the interim administration must keep in mind that the GCC was not formed for the benefit of the (interim) Prime Minister or the interim Government.

He said that discussions on how to make changes in the Native Lands Act would be impossible without the GCC.

"So now we have for the third time in our history an attempt to get our land back while the GCC is not sitting to amend the Native Lands act. We are not going to sit behind and let that happen," Vuataki said on radio fiji.

"From 1873 the British Government knew the Great Council Of Chiefs would keep the peace, now they have been dispelled. The protection of our land is now at stake.

Vuataki also questioned Ratu Epeli's authority to bring about changes to the GCC.

"This time the Minister in question is not one that is entrusted by our people... we don't know where he came from... his appointed by the interim regime who looks after their own benefits and not the benefit of our people."

Ratu Epeli was replaced as GCC chairman by Ratu Ovini Bokini, one of the plaintiffs in the case, amidst much debate two years ago.

The GCC's case will be heard in the High Court on June 29.

Undoubtedly, the allegations against Vuataki represents a similar strain of the ethnonationalistic ideology framed, before and after the 2000 coup in Fiji. Scoop publishes a letter addressed to the GCC, written by coupster, George Speight.

This is an excerpt:

Speight's Letter To Great Council Of Chiefs
Thursday, 25 May 2000, 3:23 pm
Press Release:

Parliamentary Complex, Suva Fiji 21st May 2000


I am writing on behalf of the group of indigenous Fijians who took over the Parliaments of Fiji on Friday 19th May 2000. The illegal and unconstitutional action that was taken is acknowledged. It represented a year's efforts on the part of a wide spectrum of the indigenous community to bring to the attention of the Government, our increasing concern in the way the People's Coalition Government began to address issues that are of fundamental importance to the indigenous community of Fiji.

For example, the nature of the tenancy of indigenous-owned landed to Indo-Fijian cane farmers, the progressive removal of affirmative action for the indigenous community which has lagged behind in every sector of the Fiji economy - in education, in commerce, in the professions, in Management, in technical staff, etc.

The 1997 Constitution was rejected by eight of the fourteen Fijian Provinces, however by a combination of Parliamentary and no-so- Parliamentary manoeuvring, the Great Council of Chiefs approved the amended Constitution. In fact, the 1997 Constitution is not an amendment of the 1990 Constitution but represents a brand new Constitution.

To compound this serious error of judgement on the part of the indigenous political leadership, the SVT Government with lack of foresight and prudence, at the tai1 end of its Administration, introduced a completely New Electoral Legislation. Worse still, it did not give itself sufficient time, nor made any effort to understand the complications to the new Electoral Law.

There was also at this point of time, a growing discontent on the part of segments of the indigenous community. There was a 'ganging up' of at 1east two indigenous parties in its allocation of their preferences which ultimately led to the defeat not only of the SVT-led political party but also of the National Federation Party (NPP) which had been the premier party, overseeing the interests of the Indo-Fijian community over the east 30 years.

The People's Coalition Party was the major beneficiary of the Constitution and the new Electoral Legislation. Of the 71 seats in Parliament the Fiji Labour Party won 35 seats. With the support of other parties it was able to control some 61 seats in Parliament. The Government that was subsequently formed comprises the Fiji Labour Party, the Fijian Association and two other smaller parties.

One of the basic concerns of the indigenous people when the draft of the Constitution was being discussed was the like1y loss of indigenous politica1 leadership and contro1. The indigenous people remain distrustful of the Indo-Fijian political intentions. The subsequent events following the formation of the People's Coalition Government in May 1999 confirmed and convinced indigenous body politic that their fears and trepidation of Indo-Fijian political leadership were well founded.

The SVT Party, which lost the election, won only 8 seats even thought they obtained 38 percent of the votes. One small indigenous parties which won 9% of the votes where given 2 seats in Cabinet. Another indigenous party which won l9% of the vote was given a Deputy Prime Minister post plus three other Cabinet positions. A provincial based indigenous was given two Cabinet seats. The SVT party, which had won 38% votes, had given certain conditions when it was invited to join the Government, Understandably, the Prime Minister, the Hon Mahendra P Chaudhry rejected the response of the SVT.

If the Prime Minister were to lead the country successfully he would have allowed the dust to settle, temperatures to coo1, and then come back for a dialogue with the party that represented 38% of the electorate.

Over the 1ast 12 months the indigenous pcep1e have watched, with dismay, concern and resentment, Mr Chaudhry's blatant attempt to weaken, or if possible destroy important indigenous institutions, namely the Native Land Trust Board (NLTB), the Great Council of Chiefs(GCC).

Of course central to indigenous concern is their land. The indigenous people of Fiji own some 86% of the land. But the ownership is not by individuals but by clans (mataqali). In fact every indigenous generation has the right of usage of the land for which they have. It is their obligation to ensure the land, which the clan owns, is protected and passed on to next generation.

It is interesting to note though that some of the best land has been completely alienated to private ownership, or has been used by Indo-Fijian cane farmers far the last 100-120 years. The 1ease fees for these lands, under cane farming, to put it charitab1y, are miserable. In the last 25 years for instance, Fiji has been allowed to sell 160,000 tonnes of sugar to European Union, at a rate that is three to four times the world price. Not a cent of this windfa11 has been given to the indigenous landowners, apart from their uneconomic lease fee. More over, it should be noted that over the years cane farmers owe a substantial amount of arrears to the NLTB.

The Agriculture and Landlord Tenancy Act (ALTA) which originally came as the Agriculture and Landlord Tenants Ordinance (ALTO) is now coming to an end. Under the Act, farmers were given 30 years to lease the land.

Every farmer that entered a leasing arrangement, under the Act, new that he had 30 years to farm the land, after which the lease expires. When lease expires, unless the landowners wish to renew the lease, the tenants have to move out. Since 1997 or thereabouts, a number of farms under the ALTA arrangement have their 1eases expired, and tenants are expected to go elsewhere if the indigenous 1andowmers decide not to renew the lease.

Since Mr Chaudhry came into power he has attempted to coerce the NLTB to continue granting leases to tenants under ALTA. This goes right against the face of a clearly stated policy of the Great Council of Chiefs and the NLTB that any renewa1 of 1eases will come under Native Land Trust Act.

As far as indigenous landowners are concerned, ALTA must and should be repealed. As far as the indigenous landowners are concerned, ALTA is dead. Yet Mr Chaudhry has continued to fight the indigenous landowners on this issue. He seems unable to accept that the indigenous landowners have the right to decide the terms and conditions on which their land can be leased.

The Fiji Labour Party since 1987 has advocated the establishment of a Land Use Commission. The late Dr. Timoci Bavadra who subsequently became Prime Minister when the Fiji Labour Party won the election in l987 first presented the proposal to the Great Council of Chiefs. Since the Government came into power in 1999 one of the most important elements in its policy p1atform is the establishment of a Land Use Commission.

Again the NLTB representing the indigenous landowners rejected this proposa1. What is worse is that the Government, ie, PM Chaudhry with his usual arrogance, which has become the trade mark of his sty1e of political leadership is dismissive of the stand taken by the NLTB and his insistence that Land Use Commission be established in spite of the indigenous landowners opposition.

In fact, in an attempt to hoodwink and subvert traditional indigenous leadership, a representative group of indigenous chiefs were sent by PM Chaudhry to observe traditional 1and owmership in Sarawak, Ma1aysia.

The troubling aspect of the Chaudhry-led Government is its ongoing attempt to divide the indigenous people of Fiji. He has certainly mastered the tactics of Divide and Rule.

For some time the previous Government (SVT) had to put in place policy initiatives to assist the indigenous community to catch up', particularly in the feild of education, and commerce, where indigenous participation, is non existent.

Indeed, when one reflects on the debate that led to the passage of the 1997 Constitution, the Indo-Fijian political parties, conceded absolutely nothing particularly in the field of commercial participation where their community hold all the cards.

Even before the People's Coalition Party came to power, Mr Chaudhry was a leading opposition spokesperson, who was always critical of affirmative action in favour of the indigenous community. And Mr Chaudhry made sure when he came to power that this affirmative action, in favour of the indigenous community was removed.

In its place, the social justice provisions of the 1997 Constitution was implemented with unbelievable speed and lack consideration and consultation with the indigenous community. As of now every community in Fiji will be put on an equal basis in spite of the fact that the Indo-Fijian community control the economy.

The events that took place on May 19, 2000 represents the culmination 12 months of frustration, anger, disappointment, and outrage in the manner in which Mr Chaudhry Government dealt with matters of importance to the indigenous community. What is worse is that the 9 indigenous Ministers in the Cabinet, two of who are Deputy PM appear to be completely 'under the thumb' of the PM.

They are, to put it elegantly, are impotent almost to the point of being eunuchs in their inability and failure to safeguard what was perceived by the indigenous community, as important to them. In fairness to the indigenous Cabinet Ministers the above judgment may appear to be unduly harsh. It would seem that none of the indigenous ministers was ever able to articulate either privately, let alone publicly, what was important to the indigenous electorate, which they purport to represent, and had elected them to Parliament.

It is useful to view the current crises in Fiji in the context of numbers. The indigenous people of Fiji, represent some 51% of the Fiji population of approximately 790,000. From a global perspective, the indigenous community of Fiji does not merely have to dea1 with the 300,000 Indo-Fijians who are now citizens of the country.

Against this number, the indigenous community of Fiji have to take cognisance of the one billion people of India itself, and a substantial number of people of Indian origin, in other parts of the world, notably Mauritius, Trinidad, Guyana and parts of East Africa. As well as this group, there are those who man some of the most important international institutions, such as the World Bank, the IMF, and the United Nations system for development.

As an indigenous people, we are part of the world's indigenous communities whose interests and precarious position (some of which borders on extinction) were singled out for special attention by the international community through declaration, the Decade of Indigenous People.

Indeed, the indigenous peop1e of Fiji are under threat and this dangerous threat is being undertaken by a Government that was constitutionally elected and uses the provisions of the Constitution that would put in place laws that would bring greater disadvantage to the indigenous community of Piji.

This letter is an attempt to provide your Excellency, with a background of why the events of May 19th 2000 have taken place. There is no going back. If the indigenous community do not assert their rights now and with urgency, to govern their own country, they will in next to no time become history.

The indigenous people of Fiji are not alone in this precarious position. Even the indigenous communities in our largest South Pacific states often find the going difficult.

The President of Fiji's dismissal of the genuine concerns of the indigenous community compounds the impasse of the last two days. The president appears reluctant to address these real and growing concerns.

The events of May 19, 2000 could have been avoided if Mr Chaudhry has the ability and the politica1 courage to listen to the growing unrest of the indigenous people and step down. The country would have avoided all trouble if in his place a leader was appointed who would at least listen and dialogue with the indigenous people with urgency, from the start of his administration.

In fact from all his recent pub1ic statements, PM Chaudhry dismissed the marches as being the work of agitators and those who could not accept that they had lost the election. The present crises lies squarely at the door of Mr Chaudhry, whose arrogance and refusal to listen to other view points, contrary ta his, are hallmarks of his style of governance. This of course is nothing new to those who knew him in his days in the opposition. Chaudhry banked very much on the fact that he had an absolute majority in Parliament, and that was sufficient mandate for to run "rough shod" over the concerns of the indigenous community.

Added to this, the grievance of the indigenous community was that the President ignored the grounds of dissatisfaction of the indigenous community as expressed throughout the media over the last 12 months. This then led to the two public demonstrations which was then subsequently followed by a third demonstration that culminated in the entry of representatives of the indigenous people into Parliament.

There is no denying that the events of May 19, 2000 represents an assault of democracy and constitutionality. The events represent 'the last straw' to many members of the indigenous community. It was not meant to be vengeance nor violent. Those who did what they did on May 19, 2000 did so because it was the only way available to them to bring to the attention of the powers that be, that the concerns of the indigenous are real and need to be addressed with urgency.

It is well within the high moral position of the President of Fiji to persuade the PM and his Government to voluntarily resign. It would give the opportunity, under the State of Emergency, to appoint an Interim Government drawn from all major political parties. The task of such a Government is first and foremost to address the grievances of the indigenous community in the light of the 1997 constitution.

Unfortunately to date, the President appears reluctant to adopt this path that could lead to immediate stability, reconciliation among the major communities, economic growth and development. This would be well within the legal powers of the President of Fiji since he has dec1ared a State of Emergency. Such prudent and statesman like action would have found acceptance and approva1 by the international community.


Other disturbing perspectives, was Native Lands Trust Board's role in promulgating the Deed of Sovereignity, post 2000 coup.

The following micro excerpt, is an archived article published by Fiji Live:

Fijilive web site, Suva - June 23, 2000

Fiji: Police investigating Native Land Trust Board over Deed of Sovereignty

Police are investigating the Native Land Trust Board [NLTB] for its part in the promulgation of the controversial Deed of Sovereignty document.NLTB's Lautoka office was raided and a senior executive was interrogated by police for three hours before he was released.Originals of the deed were confiscated in the raid.The deed, for which NLTB has claimed authorship, calls on clan chiefs to cede their lands to a Taukei civilian government.

That 2000 article by Fiji Live was corroborated by an article by Radio New Zealand International:

Radio New Zealand International, Wellington - June 7, 2000

Fiji rebels circulate "deed of sovereignty" among clan leaders

The rebels in Fiji have begun circulating a document among indigenous clan leaders, detailing why power should be handed over to rebel leader George Speight, Radio New Zealand International reported on Wednesday.It quoted Radio Fiji as saying that the 24-page "deed of sovereignty" says "all power" should be handed over to Speight's self-appointed interim civilian government.

Subsequent to NLTB's role in the "Deed of Sovereignity" was the application of grease to the indigenous wheels. Scoop published the master plan, which was titled:'Blue Print for the Protection of Fijian Rights' and was presented to the GCC by Laisenia Qarase. As of 2007, it has been confirmed in court testimony of the Kunatuba case published by a Fiji Times article alluding to the greater scheme of misappropriating state funds; which the defendant claimed was willfully ignored by the auditing team employed by the Ministry of Finance.

This is the exceprt of the Fij Times article:

Finance team 'crucified scheme'

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

THE Ministry of Finance team that audited the agriculture farming scheme was accused of carrying out shoddy work because it crucified the scheme without having perused all the necessary paperwork.

Testifying in his trial, former Agriculture permanent secretary Peniasi Kunatuba said the audit procedures were meant for normal times when ministry officials would have had the time to provide all the necessary information to the audit team.

Instead, the audit was conducted on the eve of the 2001 elections when the scheme was at its peak and ministry staff was limited. He said it was near impossible to organise the arrangement of accounts, which was running at about $200,000 a day and to do justice in attending to the audit officers doing the investigation.

He said in all possibilities, records and data while available would not have been readily accessible to the audit team then.

He said while most of the audit team's findings were outlined in an interview it highlighted the major findings and did not go into any in-depth discussion of these.

He said as a consequence the non-availability of what they would be seeking during the audit proper, would have left things hanging and without any follow through.

He said the investigating team faulted firstly in declaring that this was a new scheme.

He added that the prerequisite approval for funding of the scheme was given by none other than the Finance Minister.

He said his home gym set that police seized was a second hand one bought from one Manoj Bhika, a manager for Suncourt for $500.

Meanwhile, Mr Kunatuba said while police had revealed several discrepancies in the operation of the scheme by the ministry, the suppliers including Suncourt, Repina Wholesalers and Asco Motors were an integral part in the investigation.

He said without interviewing them the whole story of the scheme would not be completed and charges laid may not have been appropriate.

He said the hardware suppliers were in a better position to answer the questions of whether they required the recipients to sign invoices and delivery dockets.

Mr Kunatuba said in the absence of the interview records on these shortfalls from the hardware suppliers, things would remain hanging in the air on who were involved in the fraudulent aspects of the scheme that had been highlighted by the prosecution.

It was the same Manoj Bhika, who is the target of extradition requests by the Interim Government, as reported by a Fiji Times article:

Police want to extradite suspects

Thursday, May 24, 2007

POLICE are seeking the extradition of two people from Australia and New Zealand in connection with a conspiracy to steal more than $3million from the government through the agriculture scam.

Director Economic Crime Ravi Narayan yesterday confirmed efforts to extradite the two who have jointly been charged with two other Suva businessmen.

Mr Narayan said one of the men was known to be in New Zealand under a work permit while the status of the individual was still unclear. Manoj Bhika and Jitendra Pratap are being sought by authorities.

Mr Narayan said the extradition process had already started and was being handled by the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Dhansukhlal Bhika, a former Suva mayor along with fellow Suncourt Hardware director, Gulab Das Bhika have denied conspiring to defraud the government of more than $3million through felony, namely larceny. The men, who have denied the charge were released on $10,000 bail each.

Interim Agriculture Minister Jainendra Kumar says they have increased vetting of documents within the ministry, particularly for handouts in efforts to minimise the risk of another scam. However, Kumar said "in the sense of creating a brick-wall, we can't do anything about it". He said it was more to do with "the people who want to use the system to their advantage".

"Obviously we have to tighten up our system in terms of the use of our resources," he said.

In November last year, former permanent secretary for agriculture, Peniasi Kunatuba was jailed for four years by the High Court on charges related to the agriculture scam. Former civil servant Sakiusa Bole, was the first to be jailed over the same scam.

Scoop publishes an article written by Jone Dakuvula, raising this issue of NLTB's collusion to undermine Fiji's multi-racial fabric:

Press Release: Fiji Peoples Coalition Government
Dakuvula slates NLTB Issue

No: 280 12 December 2000

SVT member and pro-democracy campaigner, Jone Dakuvula has slated the NLTB for trying to install another Girmit in Fiji.

In a column he wrote in today's Fiji Sun, Dakuvula stated that the NLTB, in league with Apisai Tora, was carrying on with a political agenda to depose the elected government. It had no believable arrangement with Fijian landowners for the continuation of cane farming.

Dakuvula writes: "Tens of thousands of cane farms are very likely to revert to bush in the next three years". He says that the NLTB believes that the evicted farmers should be prepared to start again on undeveloped land yet to be identified. "But hardly any of these old farmers are in a position physically or financially to embark on another NLTB inspired GIRMIT". Dakuvula advises the NLTB to "go and see Lauan leaseholders in Lomaivuna who are preparing to return to their villages when the Naitasiri landowners reclaim their land. They do not want to start all over again".

Dakuvula says that the NLTB is led by people who have no business skills; instead they are led by blind nationalism. He says that the "nation will not survive on the basis of indigenous nationalism".

Meanwhile, today's Daily Post has also condemned the NLTB for not heeding the calls for reconciliation by continuing to evict farmers despite the willingness of the landowners to lease their land to the farmers.

END 12 December 2000

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Saving Grace.

Fiji TV news segment covers the new incumbent of Commissioner to Fiji's Anti-Corruption Commission, announced by the interim Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum (Right image).
This new Commissioner was confirmed by a Fiji Times article.

Mah Weng Kwai (Left image), who was offered a five year contract, has extensive legal experience behind him. As well as being a prominent member of Lawasia, a professional organization compromising of law associations, bar councils and law firms from the Asia Pacific region.
Fiji Village article reports that, the work of the Anti-Corruption unit is expected to be speed up; especially with Kwai's vast experience.

Fiji Times Editorial comments on the new Commissioner, the following is an excerpt:

Credibility is key

Friday, May 25, 2007

THE appointment of Mah Weng Kwai as commissioner of the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) is to be commended.

Mr Kwai's appointment, which would undoubtedly have taken many like the Fiji Law Society by surprise, is a significant development.

The man is a respected leader in his own right, one who has amassed more than 30 years experience as a lawyer. He is not only a leading member of the Malaysian bar but has invaluable expertise in prosecuting corruption.

He is also the serving president of Lawasia, a professional body of representatives from bar councils, law associations, law firms and corporations from the Asia Pacific region.

His credibility as a lawyer will certainly add weight to the anti-corruption commission, which has attracted a fair share of opposition.

This scepticism was to be expected particularly after Deputy Military Commander Esala Teleni was appointed as the deputy head of the commission. Thus, the appointment of an independent figure like Mr Kwai will to some extent ease public concerns.

And the public does have every right to be concerned given that this newly-empowered body has special powers to investigate corruption, make arrests and conduct interrogations. Already, more than 600-cases await the expert prosecution body's skills.

Many of the cases are of huge public interest like that against certain high profile figures in the Fiji Sports Council, the Native Lands Trust Board, the Fiji Institute of Technology and Airports Fiji Limited. Interim Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says Fiji's President Ratu Josefa Iloilo appointed Mr Kwai under the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption Promulgation 2007.

Again, just like all other senior appointments since the December 5 takeover, this one is bound to face strong scrutiny and will in all likelihood be challenged in court.

The legality arguments are best left to the courts. For now, what is of utmost importance is that we satisfy the pressing list of criteria that has been set by our international friends, particularly the European Union.

Nevertheless, it must be said that Mr Kwai's acceptance is an interesting development given the recent Lawasia observer mission's report which raised its concern about a range of events, including the military takeover and the credibility of the judiciary following the suspension of the Chief Justice.

While the editorial raises the question of credibility of the judiciary; these fundamental issues was reflected in comments by the President and Vice-President of Fiji Law Society was openly challenged by veteran lawyer, described in a Fiji Village article.

This is an excerpt of Fiji Village article:

Dr Sahu Khan Takes Law Society VP to Task

By fijivillage
May 25, 2007, 07:56

(Image right: Shamshud Dean Sahu Khan)

Prominent Ba lawyer Doctor Shamshud Dean Sahu Khan has now taken the Fiji Law Society President and Vice President to task in relation to recent comments made by the top officials of the society.

Doctor Sahu Khan said he is concerned that Law Society Vice President Tupou Draunidalo made general statements that lawyers no longer had confidence in the judiciary.

[Khan] said these statements are totally misleading and unjustified. Doctor Sahu Khan said the President of the Law Society Davinesh Sharma also cannot say that some of the lawyer’s complaints against Draunidalo's statements is an internal matter.

Sharma and Draunidalo are expected to comment later.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Rim of Fire- High Stakes Poker.

The efforts by Interim Finance Minister to seek and secure bilateral assistance from India, as reported by a Fiji Village article, has finally produced results.

According to India Defence online, the Government of India has offered military assistance to Fiji, among the wide aid package it has presented. Including in this multi-sector programs, is specialized assistance to Fiji's sugar industry, health, investment promotion in tourism, and technical cooperation in information technology.

Radio NZ article covers the recent visit to Suva by a Chinese vessel Yuan Wang with missile and space vehicle tracking capabilities, as well as carying 340 odd scientists. Obviously the latest developments have prompted much discussion in the capitals of Pacific rim countries, all trying to put these diplomatic engagements by Fiji into perspective.

This article appearing in the Asia Times in the year 2000, originally published in June 12, 2000 by Stratfo. The state of flux articulated by Stratfor, may have a resonating similarity to the geo-political landscape in 2007.

[...]The U.S. focus on Iraq and Afghanistan will not last, and the security triangle Washington is forging with Tokyo and Canberra is solidifying. Responding to dozens of small flare-ups across the region in the next decade (for humanitarian relief or stability operations) by putting boots and humanitarian supplies ashore ultimately could be more effective at gaining tangible footholds from the Strait of Malacca to Fiji than putting fighter jets over the open waters of the Western Pacific at the end of that decade[...]

[...]Although compelling, it will count for little when it is Australian, Japanese or South Korean troops who set foot on the beach in the next humanitarian crisis.

This has great significance for Washington as well. Though there will continue to be a U.S. carrier (along with an Expeditionary Strike Group and a Marine Expeditionary Unit) home-ported in Japan, the U.S. Navy's days of being the only game in town are numbered. Washington, of course, wants Canberra to be able to manage, for example, a stability operation in Fiji[...]

This is an excerpt of the Stratfor article on Fiji:

Why Fiji may matter

Global Intelligence Update
June 12, 2000


Last month, a political crisis erupted in Fiji. Last week, another exploded in the Solomon Islands. So far, the world has largely shrugged. After all, these are isolated islands in a region that has become a bit of a strategic backwater. But taken together with the steady crumbling of Indonesia, instability on these islands can allow an outside power to gain a strategic advantage. Why? To keep the US Navy out of Asia.


Last month, a political crisis erupted in Fiji: an attempted coup, followed by the seizure of political hostages and a confrontation that continues. Last week, a political crisis exploded in the Solomon Islands. Both cases involve complex internal political, economic and ethnic issues that, in general, are of great interest to the citizenry but not of particular interest to the outside world.

It is therefore startling to step back and realize that with these two crises, a virtually unbroken belt of instability now stretches from the Straits of Malacca in western Indonesia to the south central Pacific. It is easy to dismiss this as an interesting coincidence. And it may well be that purely local forces exploded simultaneously. Nevertheless, the strategic implications of events may be very real, if not at all intended by the actors involved.

So far, the world has largely ignored the events in the Pacific. No calls for international intervention have gone up. The government in Australia, which has sought a larger role in the region, has in effect shrugged. Alone each of these events means little. But taken as a whole, they could threaten commercial shipping - and naval traffic. If, in the course of a few years, hostile forces emerge in control of these islands and portions of Indonesia, the world will find every reason to care.

At one level, there is both a common element and a common force driving events from Indonesia to Fiji. All of these societies are complex mixtures of traditional political arrangements coexisting poorly with approximations of modern states. But the tension between tradition and modernization has not been dealt with satisfactorily in any of these societies. As a result, long-standing ethnic tension has mixed with divergent economic interests to produce the ingredients of instability.

This region has, as of late, been a bit of a strategic backwater. But it was not always. During the US-Japanese competition for preeminence in the Pacific from the 1920s until 1945, these islands made up the centerpiece of a great strategic struggle. American power projection into the Western Pacific toward China, Japan, Australia and the Philippines depended on the ability of the US Navy to navigate past these islands. Japanese airfields denied the US fleet passage during World War II. Brutal fighting from Guadalcanal to Tinian revolved around the use of these islands as unsinkable, if immobile aircraft carriers.

Defeating the Guadalcanal prevented them from moving east through Polynesia. And so the line of supply stretching from Pearl Harbor to Australia was never cut by Japanese air power. The United States could project power to Australia, blocking any plan to invade Australia, and allowing American forces to begin rolling back the Japanese in the Solomon Islands and New Guinea.

More than a half-century later, the US Navy still enjoys unchallenged access to and through all of these routes, the most important of which are the sea-lanes through the Indonesian archipelago. Through here pass the US carrier battle groups on their way to the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf. Choking these off would cripple Washington's modern-day ability to project power. This is not as unthinkable as it might seem. Every day, Indonesia crumbles literally one island at a time.

But what power would be in a position to benefit from this situation? There is but one: China. The government in Beijing is clearly intent on becoming the dominant East Asian power; it has an interest in keeping US forces at bay and it has the means to take advantage. So long as American fleets lurk just over the horizon, China will fail in its ability to redraw a new regional order.

Consider the problem from the Chinese viewpoint. The presence of US naval power near - and sometimes just off - the mainland coast makes it difficult for Beijing to control coastal political interests that are naturally inclined to be more oriented toward the outside world than inland China. Today, coastal entrepreneurs have the navy of their foreign financial partners reassuringly over the horizon. The government is acutely aware that the US 7th Fleet affects both the regional balance of power and the domestic psychological fabric. The fact that Beijing cannot solve its Taiwan dilemma is testimony to this fact.

For now and the foreseeable future, Beijing has few conventional military levers at its disposal. A blue-water navy capable of challenging the US Navy could be generations away; it certainly won't put to sea in the lifetime of China's current leadership. There is no powerful navy in the world with which the Chinese can ally.

But if the current situation in the Pacific continues to deteriorate, it could allow Beijing to reach for an unconventional lever. The goal is not the destruction of the US 7th Fleet; the goal is merely to make access, transit and the concentration of forces thorny. All China would need to do is take advantage of this emerging belt of instability, increase the risk of passage through the central and southern parts of the Pacific Ocean and divert US ships. Instead of, say, showing up unchallenged off of an Asian coast, American forces would have to first figure out how to get there.

The problem is partly political and partly technological. The Chinese have worked hard on the technical problem. Knowing that they are weak in both surface weaponry and air power, and aware that US anti-submarine warfare capabilities could probably rapidly diminish China's submarine force, China has concentrated on the use of missiles. In particular, the Chinese have concentrated on developing a generation of land-based anti-ship missiles, including cruise missiles. Already, these missiles have made American planners pause and consider that Beijing can at least partly enforce a blockade of Taiwan.

Now, imagine that these missiles are transferred to irregular forces operating on a string of unstable islands in Indonesia and the western and central Pacific Ocean. The United States is suddenly facing an equation very similar to the one it wrestled with in 1942. If the Chinese - or any other power - emulate the Japanese strategy with modern missiles, the American navy would find its way much riskier than ever before.

Since the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is already at work on the technical problem, Beijing would have to grapple with the political problem. Even in a crisis, placing Chinese forces on these islands is a difficult task. All of these nations are heavily exposed economically and politically to the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

Penetration is not easy, but at the same time Pacific Islanders have been extraordinarily neglected, in many cases by these same countries. Particularly north of the equator, the level of development is so primitive that it is hard to find a government to influence. South of the equator, in Polynesia and some of Melanesia, the problems are so complex and idiosyncratic that it is difficult to get a handle on them.

This, of course, is the precise atmosphere in which a relatively low-cost campaign of destabilization and influence-buying could achieve a great deal. Given the fact that no one really is watching, the situation that is now unfolding can present a tremendous strategic opportunity for China. It does not take a lot of resources to buy influence in these places. And it doesn't take a great deal of acumen to trigger crises in societies that are tinderboxes anyway. Certainly, no matter who triggers the crisis, it does not take much to exploit it.

Is there any evidence that China is behind any of the crises? Very little, although over the past year some straws have blown in the wind:

1.) Rumors have circulated that conflict in Guadalcanal was related to a struggle between pro-Chinese and pro-Taiwanese factions. Taiwanese foreign ministry spokesman Chen Ming-cheng responded to questions saying, ''The turmoil should not be used as an excuse to influence ROC (Taiwan)-Solomon Islands relations.'' It is interesting that the spokesman didn't just reject the question out of hand.

2.) Nauru, an island nation just northeast of the Solomon Islands has applied for membership into the United Nations. Its application had been deferred due to Chinese opposition. China objected on the grounds that Nauru has recognized Taiwan. Taiwanese Foreign Minister Jason Hu has called the Chinese policy ''naked hegemony'' and said that the Chinese stance was intolerable.

3.) China endorsed the application of Kiribati for UN membership. The Chinese maintain a satellite and missile tracking facility on Kiribati, which is located on the equator, east of Nauru. Interestingly, Kiribati's government has given final approval to Japan's national Space Development Agency to build a spaceport on remote Kiritimati, or Chistmas Island. On the equator and at 180 degrees longitude, Kiribati occupies an extremely strategic position for missile launches and communications satellite management. Boeing has plans to launch communicates into geostationary orbit from oil drilling platforms towed to the region.

4.) Vanuatu's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Business Development visited China last summer. The invitation was extended by Chinese Vice Prime Minister Qian Qichen. Vanuatu is sandwiched between Fiji and the Solomons.

The point here is that the governments in Beijing and Taiwan are - unlike much of the rest of the world - acutely aware of the importance of this region. The Chinese are not acting aggressively to expand their influence, but they are acting. Too aggressive a course would undoubtedly trigger a US response. Quiet bridge-building is the key. And the Chinese are quietly building bridges.

For about 50 years, no one has had any interest in increasing their influence in this region. This may not continue to be the case for much longer. China's need to counter American power - combined with Beijing's limited naval capability - makes a Pacific Island strategy as natural to them as it was to the Japanese decades ago.

There is, however, ample time for the United States, Australia and New Zealand, acting in concert, to developing a blocking strategy that is both effective and cheap. The governments in Australia and New Zealand, however, are relatively impervious to strategic thinking these days, tending to look at events piecemeal instead of eyeing long-term threats. And right now US strategy is on autopilot.

A potentially important chapter is opening in the Pacific. It will be interesting to see if Beijing takes advantage of it and whether anyone will care enough about this ignored region to devise a counter-strategy.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

A Tale of Two Scandals.

Fiji blogs are getting some global media attention.

Global Voices have labelled this as "threat to national security". It is interesting to wade through the multitude of opinions relating to the undemocratic nature of filtering out blogs. It is also reasonable to point out that the U.S Army has also banned bloggers, according to the Times of London. Undoubtedly, blogs have become menace to some and a gift to others.

Whilst some circles have lampooned the Fiji Military in blocking access to certain blogs, it appears that some form of filtering exist in other nations, as the Kuwait Times article reports. This view was confirmed by a CNN article.

Is blogging filtering anyway more egregious than blanket electronic surveillance?

It may be prudent to point out other more dubious acts like the issue raised by USA Today article, regarding electronic surveillance by the US agency- NSA which manages massive databases on American citizens, as well as being collector of information outside their borders, by colluding with other Governments.

Echelon is a system operated by NSA. Deep Black, a book written by William Burrows, covers the enormous use of foreign bases to collect electronic communications which used liaison arrangements with foreign governments.

This is the excerpt of the book:

Despite numerous references to the Agreement in print, officials of some of the participating countries have refused to confirm not only the details of the Agreement but even its existence. Thus, on March 9, 1977, the Australian Opposition Defense Spokesman asked the Prime Minister:

1. Is Australia a signatory to the UKUSA Agreement?

2. Is it a fact that under this agreement NSA operates electronic intercept stations in Australia?

3. Does any other form of station operate in Australia under the Agreement; if so, is it operated by an Australian or overseas authority, or is it operated under some sort of joint authority?

4. Will he [the Prime Minister] identify the participating country or countries in any such Agreement?

The Prime Minister refused to answer and referred to a previous response wherein he said the government would not confirm or deny speculation in that area. And the Australian D Notice, "Ciphering and Monitoring Activities," requests the media to refrain from publishing material on Australian collaboration with other countries concerning monitoring activities.18

This is issue of NSA surveillance, now appears to be a political hot potato; after the testimony of former Assistant Attorney General James Comey, who had testified in a Senate hearing alluding to the fact that, the White House had attempted to get approval from John Ashcroft who was lying in hospital.

Below is the video of Comey's testimony that, has increasingly placed the present US Attorney General's tenure under a serious cloud. An article by Washington Post has also underscored that US Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales was critically "Stuck in the M.U.D" (Monotonous Unsubstantiated Denials).

International Herald Tribune article covers the wake of criticism, derived from the White House actions.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Mercy Came Running.

In diplomatic moves that could prove to be a thorn in the sides of ANZUS alliance and their grandstanding foreign policy, a Fiji Sun article reports that, the Venezuela Government has offered assistance in the form of oil that includes an oil refinery project in Fiji, which was corroborated by a Fiji Times article. This is the excerpt of the Fiji Sun article:

Venezuela to boost ties with Fiji

The Government of Venezuela has expressed its willingness to engage with Fiji on the possibility of establishing in Fiji of an oil refinery and the supply of low cost oil says Minister for Public Enterprise and Public Sector Reform Poseci Bune.

In a bilateral meeting with the Deputy Ambassador of Venezuela to the United Nations, Aura Mahuampi De Ortiz in New York yesterday, Mr Bune said the Venezuela official confirmed the willingness of her government to support Fiji and other small island developing states in their energy needs. “They are not only looking at the option of supply of low cost oil to Fiji but are also willing to explore the possibility of setting up an oil refinery plant in Fiji to service the Pacific region,” he said.

Venezuela supplies oil to China, USA, and some Caribbean and African countries.
Mr Bune said Venezuela had also extended an invitation to the Minister and the Fiji Government for a visit to their country to discuss amongst other things, these energy initiatives and the strengthening of diplomatic relations. “It is high time to strengthen diplomatic relations with this very important partner, after 24 years of the signing of relations between Fiji and Venezuela. A visit later this year will do well to further pursue what has transpired from this first initial exchange,” said Mr Bune.

Meanwhile, the Fiji Times article confirms that, Cuban Government has also offered assistance to Fiji in the form of Medical and Sports experts. This is the excerpt of the article:

Cuba offers Fiji assistance

1300 FJT
Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Update: 1.00pm CUBA has offered direct assistance in the medical and sports sectors, and is willing to explore other forms of assistance and partnerships with Fiji.

At a bilateral discussion with the Minister for Public Service, Public Enterprises and Public Sector Reform, Poseci Bune, Cubas Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Rodrigo Malmeirca Diaz, said his government is more than willing to assist Fiji in these fields and other forms of assistance and partnerships in the areas of agriculture and sugar.

''We are willing to further strengthen our bilateral relations through provision of medical scholarships and provision of expert trainers in boxing and other sports, including special programmes for agriculture and sugar,'' Mr. Rodrigo said.

Cuba currently supplies doctors and other professionals to countries in Africa, the Caribbean and Solomon and Nauru in the Pacific.

Mr Bune in response said that Fiji appreciates Cuba's offer for assistance, which would be considered seriously.

''I will certainly take this up with Cabinet and hopefully a follow up mission to discuss these issues with Cuba can take place soon before the end of this year. This could happen together with a special trade and development mission to Venezuela and other South American countries,'' Mr Bune said.

Fiji established diplomatic relations with Cuba in 2005.

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Beta Democracy in Fiji?

The Pacific Island Leader's summit in Washington, has received some recent attention, as the S.i.F.M post described.

Below is the actual video of the US Secretary State, Condaleeza Rice's address to the invitees.

This particular reference to Fiji's political situation received a jibe by a local personality. The following is a letter to the FT Editor:

Tell us Rice

CONDOLEEZA Rice told the Pacific Islands conference of leaders in Washington that the Pacific must not devolve into an area where strongmen unilaterally decided the fate of their country and destabilise the democratic foundation of their neighbours.

It is a good message.

But would someone kindly tell Ms Rice that many nations of the world are fed-up of a strong superpower unilaterally trying to influence their fate and destabilising their nation in the name of economic globalisation and US-style democracy.

Father Kevin Barr

Several poignant articles appearing in Fiji Times regarding democracy and the issue of culture and modernity, prove that intellectual analysis is in demand. ECREA's official position on the political juncture is published on their website(PDF).

The first article was from Fr. Kevin Barr, a representative of ECREA, a local NGO in Fiji.

This is the excerpt:
Solutions before democracy

Monday, May 14, 2007

There seems to be a great deal of international concern that Fiji should return to democracy as soon as possible.

Calls for democratic elections have come from Australia, New Zealand, the United States, the European Union and the Commonwealth. We have had the report of the Eminent Persons Group. Recently we have been inundated with overseas visitors the UN fact finding mission as well as the Commonwealth Human rights fact finding mission.

Then the Pacific Islands Forum is organising a committee to advise on the holding of elections.

This great flurry of activity is very interesting. It seems the international community thinks that as soon as Fiji holds elections and returns to democracy, all its problems will be over. It will be accepted back into all the organisations from which it has been expelled and all will be right with the world. There can be great rejoicing and everyone can sit back satisfied that democracy has been restored.

All this is well and good. But it has all happened before. After previous coups in 1987 and 2000 Fiji was urged to have elections and return to democracy as quickly as possible. This happened and the international community was overjoyed to welcome Fiji back into the democratic fold.

But elections did not solve Fiji's basic problems and when those problems raised their heads again and caused serious tensions and upsets (as they did during the Qarase regime) the international community seemed quite unconcerned because a democratic government was in place.

No fact finding missions came from the Commonwealth or the UN. No Eminent Persons were selected to look into the problems. Our closest neighbours did little to put pressure on a racist regime to act in the interests of all its citizens. They had seen to it that a democratically elected government was in place and that was all that was required.

Yet, by now we should have learnt that democracy measured by elections is not a panacea. Every coup exposes wounds that need to be healed and the deep underlying problems that need to be attended to. Before Fiji can gain stability and effectively return to some degree of democracy a number of serious issues need to be addressed and resolved.

1. The agenda of the extreme nationalists needs to be addressed Fiji for the Fijians, calls for "Fijian unity" and the demand for a Christian State.

2. The racially explosive mix of fundamentalist religion and extreme nationalism found in the Assembly of Christian Churches in Fiji (ACCF) which seeks to have a strong influence on the political and social scene.

3. The conflicts and tensions within the Fijian chiefly families and confederacies.

4. The culture of corruption, nepotism and cronyism.

5. The economic policies which are creating greater poverty and inequality and giving rise to "two Fijis".

6. The electoral system which encourages racial divisiveness.

Besides all this we need:

A well conducted Census;

The establishment of fair and proper electoral boundaries; and Extensive voter education about the nature and purpose of democracy.

We don't just need a timeframe for a return to democracy, we need strategies that will address the big problems underlying our instability and giving rise to constant coups. We do not have a "coup culture", we have rather a number of serious unaddressed problems which will continue to cause instability until they are effectively acknowledged and addressed. Any attempt to throw a cloak of superficial democracy over them will be counterproductive.

The second of such FT article was from local academic, Ropate Qalo and the following is an excerpt:

There's a time when politics and chiefs cannot mix

Monday, May 14, 2007

From left - Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba and the Tui Mavana Ratu Josefa Basulu at a meeting of the GCC.

It is common knowledge that most chiefs of the past 50 to 60 years live with their people in a face to face' socially integrated and structurally integrated society. Most were impressed with and followed Ratu Sukuna's plan for ethnic Fijians as a civil servant.

Today the social and the bureaucratic structures are divided and most chiefs live in towns and cities, if not physically at least mentally.

Many are politically motivated. Their view of the good life is based on urban standards like most people on the planet. Such a dominant view of so-called' modernisation is embedded in most development plans, the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), and the evolving Pacific Plan.

This opinion is part of some of the writer's observations related to chiefs and politics and the loss of their integrity because of the differing context in which they now operate.

Social integration and structural integration just cannot mix if we follow Giddens sociological analysis. Of course there are many theoretical analysis that could be used. But if we use Giddens, therein lies what Nayacakalou "called a monstrous nonsense" or contradiction when chiefs and Fijians believe that they can preserve and change or do both simultaneously. But that is a matter of opinion when we consider monarchies of modern and not so modern states e.g. Britain, Japan, India, Malaysia, Thailand, and so on that are able to separate social traditional and bureaucratic structural institutions.

To those who have been following the news and the suspension of the Great Council of Chiefs (GCC) this perspective may add another dimension to some aspects of chieftaincy from an urban-rural Fijian point of view. Let me go back a decade and flag what appears to be the decline of chiefly integrity because of political and traditional' confusion of roles and conclude why Ratu Sukuna has become a symbol of chieftaincy to a great number of Fijians (Ethnic, Indo and those not included in those categories) because he could separate the roles he needed to play.

Ten years ago, Major General Sitiveni Rabuka was elected ahead of the late Adi Lady Lala Mara for president of the SVT in 1996 or there about. Many remember that election.

It may be called the end of an era'. That was the first public political interaction of Fijians suggesting an institutional shift, illustrating that a paramount chief can be moved from leadership in our now time'.

Although the earlier coup was claimed to place chiefs back as leaders with the late Ratu Mara who became the interim Prime Minister. We have so far had three significant interim prime ministers: Ratu Mara, Laisenia Qarase, and Ratu Voreqe via coups.

It was reported the Great Council of Chiefs had finally decided they should be independent of political parties in January 1997. This decision essentially admits the fact it had been politicised since 1970 and more so in 1987 by the coup leader and his SVT government.

He was made a life member and it might be recalled the SVT claimed to be the chiefs' party. This may also be attributed to the constitutional reform then being finalised.

The late Sakeasi Butadroka applauded the decision together with a great majority of this country (one must add, at the time). This is perhaps why it was called "Chiefs score major coup" two days earlier than the applause from the late nationalist. Perhaps it should be given a more sober title like "FA welcomes chiefs' move". This is a more subtle use of words that conveys culture, sensitivity, and thought relative to the reference to coups.

It was also later reported that "Government yesterday clarified that the Bose Levu Vakaturaga did not discuss a severance of ties between the BLV and the Soqosoqo ni Vakavulewa ni Taukei (SVT)". The same report stated "Assistant Minister for Fijian Affairs said, however, that the discussions during the meeting centred around the establishment of a secretariat and the appointment of a chairman for the BLV."

The above paragraph conveyed to GCC members the BLV was satisfied with the then arrangement of the BLV and SVT partnership. However, the GCC was serious that the members wanted a chief to be in the position of chair in a separate entity such as the one that has now been suspended. It was also put in the statutes that members of parliament were not to be GCC members. This is a far cry from the previous GCC membership that was inclusive of politicians and ministers.

This week and the previous, newspapers and television carried items of news articulating the older order of chiefs against the younger ones it seems. Time has exposed the bureaucratic structure was susceptible to traditional infiltration or social integration.

Those who conducted the latest coup are bent on bureaucratic structural integration. Some GCC members appear not to appreciate the contradiction. The structural integration separated from the social may be encouraged by Parliamentary Paper No. 71 of Fiji, Volume II (2002: 26-7) as well as Volume I besides the Fijian Affairs Act. It is also possible that it is backed by the LLM Thesis of the Interim Attorney General.

We all tend to agree that in the march of time the country must adjust itself to the reality of our now time' with rising sea levels which will definitely have a good number of our chiefly villages submerged. Globalisation, sustainable development, and good governance all become important as we move from a tribal system to a class system in the Pacific Plan.

Theoretically the tribal being the "face-to-face" social integration reciprocity relationship and structure integration reciprocity are one and the same thing. In the class society they are separate where the structure involves reciprocity between groups and collectives i.e. achieved over time and space (cited in Craib's criticism of Giddens Theory of Structuration in modern social theory: from Parsons to Habermas 2nd Edition 1992: 115).

Ratu Sukuna's words written just over ninety (90) years ago "The truth is that the theory of equality in relation to Fijian society is a destructive theory with all the defects of its kind" (23.01.17 in Scarr's Three Legged Stool 1983: 48) appears to be the interpretation embedded in the Fijian Holdings Limited (FHL) with the dividend of more than $2.046 million (Fiji Times May 5th, 2007: 20) to some.

It is straight out of Animal Farm in the words of Squealer "some are more equal than others". Such warped interpretation of tradition is more than interesting and is rumoured to be the focus of the Interim Government's so-called clean up campaign. FHL is legal as an entity but questionable ethically it seems. Herein is the debate of social responsibility or democracy first the egg or chicken first debate. The FHL interpretation also applies to the $60million that runs the GCC in such a view.

It also may be argued to relate to the BLV and SVT coalition. Some might even stretch it to the latest Sports Council audited report now making our so-called news.

These interpretations need to be examined in some detail and depth beside other specifically Fijian ones that we will consider below.

However, back to the words of Ratu Sukuna, these were spoken as he was contemplating the mammoth task of the codification and registration of Fijian traditions, especially on land, and culture in 1917. Demographic trend at the time and belief show that Fijians will be extinct in the near future.

Now we have the wisdom of hindsight. He stood up to protect the indigenes as the knowledge of time allowed. His lone work to his retirement and death was incomplete as noted in Scarr in the above book.

Today some chiefs through birth, great or small, have lost the use of knowledge, wisdom and tact from consultation with members of the clan in the service of their kin or veiwekani. Ratu Sukuna was selfless and stood for integrity rather than heroism given his time and space in our recent history. Chiefs today and coup leaders will be remembered by their fellow citizens in the fullness of time and perhaps judged publicly or privately.

Meanwhile, it seems that the preference for more and more still is all too obvious, unlike Ratu Sukuna. It appears integrity has been overcome by public relations, popularity, and the vote, needless to mention the pursuit for the almighty dollar one way another without scruples by some. In this sense it appears but cannot be confirmed that the latest coup leader has adopted the truism that sometimes you have to be cruel in order to be kind'. Only time will tell.

After 20 years, the coups have created more problems than they have solved. Coups are for those who refuse to see the obvious. The obvious being, one, two, three, four wrong or coups cannot make a right. As we look to the future realistically Ratu Viliame Tagivetaua in the Native Lands and Fisheries Commission has spoken out about the chiefly tradition of the need for consensus to install a chief in each yavusa. We have 1456 yavusa and 221 vanua and 192 tikina or district (PP No. 71 Vol. 1 of 2002: 50) in the whole of Fiji. The GCC is the pinnacle of the yavusa through consensus at district and provincial level.

Strictly speaking, traditions that are Fijian are determined by those yavusa. The independence of Fijians is thereby determined and practised as it is interpreted between the Navatu and Bau people for example, as veitabani within certain limits that are not defined and susceptible to abuse. Is this an interpretation in 1987 that gave courage rather than reason to those who carried it out?

This tribal system raises numerous obvious legal questions and the interpretation of common law that goes back to the Magna Carta between Rome and England over 800 years ago. It is maintained that in Fiji such interpretations and interactions resting on tribal ways and symbolism that needs to be examined for traditional, cultural, and political reasons. This seems to be the untouched area that Fijians are so sensitive about and to which most researchers find too sensitive to cover.

Work on Fijian tradition of thoughts on a topic about Thinking about thinking', Na vakasamataki ni vakasama may be the most unlikely solution to stop what some have referred to as the coup culture. Such a label may be correct in the era building up to the cession in 1874 which was reignited in 1987.

However, with all our present day knowledge, information technology, and mobility it is difficult to understand how Ratu Sukuna's work could remain untouched and incomplete for 49 years or half century with the view of a more realistic interpretation that will maintain the integrity that was central to his work.

After all our past is in the future when our descendants will find new knowledge and impress upon it their own interpretations. Failure to prepare for an institutional interpretation that evolves integrity is a preparation for failure.

This will mean prolonged chaos. We need to get our institutions like schools, church, districts, provinces, towns, cities, GCC and so on to do things like Ratu Sukuna with integrity. Put simply, integrity is what we do honestly, pure, and unselfish when there are no spectators.

As we celebrate Ratu Sukuna's life later in the month, on May 28, we might ask our leaders and ourselves to reflect, ponder, recognise the contradictions and the need for integrity that chiefs and everyone needs to promote our bleeding country.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of his employer, the University of the South Pacific.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Moral Imperative (Update)

The Fiji Times (FT)Editorial of Thursday May 10th is a shining example of a conviction, clouded by a certain mania of sorts; the type one usually associates with an acute refraction of the facts, a by-product of truth suppression.

This is an excerpt of the FT Editorial:

Valid figures, not hot air, please

Thursday, May 10, 2007

INTERIM Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry has done his best to shock the nation with claims of massive electoral fraud and mismanagement.

There were, he said, more than 650,000 unused ballot papers missing after the May 2006 general election, which meant there had been a direct attempt to "interfere with and manipulate the results ...".

That a large number of ballot papers were printed and never used proves absolutely nothing, and is in no way relevant to the outcome of the election. At worst it may show up some wastage of money and a lack of some proper procedures within the Electoral Office.

It is totally irrelevant how many ballot papers were printed and how many were unused or even if they were destroyed or not. Once the election was over they were nothing more than waste paper.

What is important is how many votes were cast in each seat compared to the number of people on the electoral roll and those essential facts seem to be missing from this so-called'audit'.

An election is nothing more than simple mathematics. There are a certain number of people entitled to vote in each seat. Over the course of polling a number of them will vote and a number of them will not, for various reasons. At the end of polling the votes are counted and obviously the number of votes cast should never exceed the number of people enrolled.

The number of votes cast should also match the number of names crossed off the electoral rolls by the polling booth staff.

In every election far more ballot papers are printed than there are registered voters for the simple reason that, as people are allowed to vote at any of a number of polling stations, each has to have sufficient papers to cater for however many people may turn up.

For instance, how many Rotumans could be expected to vote in Suva and at which polling booths? It is almost impossible to know.

Complicating this even further is the lack of a recent census. Using the Rotuman example again, how could the Elections Office possibly know how many Rotumans lived in Suva and at which polling stations they would vote? Because those facts were not, and could never be fully known beforehand, the Elections Office had to ensure there were enough ballot papers available at every polling station on a "be prepared" basis.

It is difficult to believe a seasoned politician such as Mr Chaudhry does not know all this. Let us also not forget that the election was overseen by a number of independent teams, including the European Union, the Commonwealth, the US and even a local contingent from the University of the South Pacific.

They all gave the thumbs up, acknowledging that while the election was not perfect, the mistakes had no bearing on the outcome. Were these teams incompetent or corrupt? It is difficult impossible, in fact to believe so.

Mr Chaudhry now needs to provide proof that his audit team knew what they were doing. He needs to provide the real figures that are needed the number of electors registered in each seat, compared to the number of votes cast.

If they show significant differences, he may then have some hope of convincing the public the election was rigged. Until then, it is all just more political hot air.

(Above: Video on the conversations by Navitalai Naisoro, a former civil servant and SDL confident, alleging the act of ballot rigging during the 2006 elections)

These allegations pointing to the unforgivable offence of vote rigging, was derived from the Auditor General's report, which some circles have obviously denied outright. Was it not the same AG report who revealed the layer of corruption within Fiji Sports Council or the abuse of the Affirmative action programs?
The cruel realities on hand, may have prompted a furious defense by entrenched SDL apologists, who attempted to fight off these inexcusable actions by the Election Office Supervisor, Semesa Karavaki; who just months before the 2006 elections was on study leave in Australia.

FT Editor said
"That a large number of ballot papers were printed and never used proves absolutely nothing, and is in no way relevant to the outcome of the election. At worst it may show up some wastage of money and a lack of some proper procedures within the Electoral Office".

It is quite regrettable for the Fiji Times Editor to downplay such serious and willful breeches of authority that, raise serious clouds of suspicions over the electoral process, giving probable cause to further investigations and convictions by the new Anti-Corruption Commission.

Although, the Editor raised an important detail, albeit portrayed through rose colored glasses:
"It is totally irrelevant how many ballot papers were printed and how many were unused or even if they were destroyed or not. Once the election was over they were nothing more than waste paper".

To print out an excessive amount of ballot papers and then later incinerate them without use; defeats the purpose of having an accurate count of voters in the first place.

It is unfortunate for the FT Editor to categorize the unused, untracked and unaccounted ballot papers as mere 'waste paper' destined for the incinerator; before ascertaining their worth. It is also blatantly reprehensible of the Editorial to trivialize these departures in electoral procedures and other irregularities, by questionably classifying these abuses, as a simple case of public resource wastage.

Fiji Times editorial unapologetically uses slanted language, underscoring the lack of proportionality used by the editor; akin to labeling genocide, as nothing more than serial murders.

The Editor further over simplifies the enormity of these questions that point to the unprecedented malfeasance. One must be appraised of the Latin term: 'Modus vivendi'-Or the acceptance of a continuing and fundamental disagreement, held in abeyance; in order to successfully filter through these iconic misrepresentations.

The FT Editor may have forgotten the existing Public Service Commission regulations forbidding the destruction of official documents. Undoubtedly, voting ballots is an official government document as it gets and their hurried incineration, fitted the uncanny label of hiding evidence. Without verifiable documents underlining the approval of Electoral Commission in this act of capital destruction, perhaps done under the cover of the night, raises further alarming and embarrassing questions on the lack of oversight.

Paper trails serve an important function in national elections and this issue has created some controversy in the last U.S elections, regarding electronic voting machines; which was also susceptible to hacking. These machines were manufactured by Diebold Inc, a loyal contributor to Republican Party and the end result forced several American states to abandon those machines; favoring paper trails used by conventional ballot cards.

All paper ballots themselves are not without scrutiny, as the Fiji allegations of vote rigging prove.

The equivocation (WAX) of the British High Commissioner was quoted in Fiji Village article, along with other stove-piping pundits who pointed out that, the E.U observation teams did sign off declaring the 2006 Fiji elections as free and fair.

Regrettably, this echo chamber defense was raised also by the Fiji Times Editor and seemed to have a bizarre similarity to talking points press releases, made by the SDL party members:
"Let us also not forget that the election was overseen by a number of independent teams, including the European Union, the Commonwealth, the US and even a local contingent from the University of the South Pacific. They all gave the thumbs up, acknowledging that while the election was not perfect, the mistakes had no bearing on the outcome. Were these teams incompetent or corrupt? It is difficult impossible, in fact to believe so". (sic)

Of course, those with difficulty in comprehending the possibility of vote rigging; may be divided into to two groups. The first group being highly deficient in thinking 'out of the box' and the second group possessing a superior political bias.

The 2006 election reports, did acknowledge some irregularities in the election process and recommended the remapping of electoral boundaries in Fiji. It might be accurate to factor in, the undeniable reasons of contamination regarding the locations of observer teams.

One should understand that, there are only a finite number of observers and none of them could ever defy the laws of physics, even if they tried their hardest to be omnipresent during the 2006 elections. This astounding fact does have a direct bearing on the election outcome, despite the appeals to ignorance floated by the FT Editor.

The transport of ballot boxes from the voting booths to the counting centers were not observed 100%. Therefore, it is plausible to deduce that, the observers may have scrutinized the voting booths, but the deduction also begs the questions: Did any of the observers physically escort 100% of election boxes in transition?

There were several articles(none published by Fiji Times) pointing to complaints raised by several political parties after the closure of voting centers, pointing to the detour of vehicles(transporting the ballot boxes) to strategic locations, then reappearing at the counting centers without anyone really questioning or scrutinizing this lapse of time or route deviation?

Equally disturbing was the media reported incidents highlighting, last minute changes to the locations of voting centers by the Election Office officials; who took the time to inform the SDL party but not other participants. Other discrepancies regarding the integrity of the Elections Office is seen in this 2001 Fiji Sun webpage.

This is the excerpt of IFES Election Guide on Fiji's 2006 elections:

Police investigating opposition claims against election administration

Posted: 05/11/2006
On Wednesday the Prime Minster downplayed the police investigation of opposition parties' claims against the ongoing parliamentary elections. The opposition alleges, among other things, that around 13,000 some of its supporters were not included on the roll. Historically there have been many tensions between ethnic Indians and indigenous Fijians, who are currently in power. Elections to the country's 71-seat parliament started on Monday, May 8, and will continue through Saturday, May 12. The vote count will begin on May 14 and results are due to be announced four days later.

Source: ElectionGuide

Confident Fiji PM brushes off election complaints

Posted: 05/10/2006
SUVA, Fiji (Reuters) - Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase brushed aside on Wednesday complaints about Fiji's chaotic election, which police are investigating, and said he was confident of returning to office.

Source: Reuters: International

Wansolwara online corroborates the 2001 election rigging complaints.

The ugly fact reported in the Auditor General's report stated that, voting center officials did not have any idea of the number of actual ballot papers, simply because there were no accounting checks and balances nor documents quantifying or accurately tracking the ballot papers. This reflects gross ineptitude by the Supervisor of Elections, who repeatedly showed contempt for the public interest and transparent accountability, demonstrated in a Fiji Times article defending his incompetence. If anyone owes anyone an apology for this debacle, it is the Supervisor of Elections.

Irrefutably, there is an ubiquitous and offensive odor of spoiled meat, now emanating from the bowels of the Election Office with regards to the 2006 elections. The same execrable stench which some personalities have feebly attempted to neutralize. The aftermath of the Kunatuba case and the Agricultural Scam case proves the existence of a multi-agency vote buying scheme which arrogantly abused affirmative action programs. Ostensibly the abuse directed any culpability and public opinion to the SDL Government.

It is not counter intuitive for the public to closely re-examine those realities, without being confused with other Red Herrings and cloudy judgments raised by individuals holding a political bias.

It has been proven by independent media analysts that, the Fiji Times led a repulsive defamation campaign against the 1999 Prime Minister and now Interim Finance Minister; this campaign eventually paved the way for the 2000 putsch. Other observations include some Fiji Time Correspondents, who blurred the line between journalism and subject, by closely associating themselves with the perpetrators of the 2000 coup and maligning their very independence as well as staining their integrity.

A similar type of bias is reflected in the tone of FT Editor who chooses a cynical view :
"There are a certain number of people entitled to vote in each seat. Over the course of polling a number of them will vote and a number of them will not, for various reasons".
and simultaneously the FT editorial diminishes the importance of a non-partisan electoral system, without even raising the issue of unaccountability, let alone mention deterrents to voter fraud.

Whilst, the editor hastily points out a juvenile correlation between voting and mathematics:
"An election is nothing more than simple mathematics"

A fact ignored by the FT editorial is that, numbers require an accurate and verifiable source before one gives credence to its value. A hasty conclusion of the editorial:
[...]At the end of polling the votes are counted and obviously the number of votes cast should never exceed the number of people enrolled[...]

What is quite concerning regarding the question of numbers, is that the amount of printed ballot papers should never exceed the number of registered voters by such great percentage, as seen in the 2006 elections.

This argument by Fiji Times Editor holds true only if, the number of registered voters is derived from an accurate population count known commonly as the national census. It was this census that was avoided like the plague by the SDL Government, blaming an acute shortage of State funds in not exercising this basic role of good governance.

Fiji's national population is certainly not an arbitrary number which the Election Supervisor or the FT Editor can pluck out of thin air. In addition to this myopia, the electoral boundaries were exceedingly antiquated and should have been remapped subsequently to the scheduled census. In fact, Fiji has hardly remapped the current boundaries since its independence.

Arguably, the 2006 elections were far less free and fair, if these basic fundamentals of governance were conveniently sidelined by the SDL Government; which the Fiji Times Editor and International Observer teams unreasonably swept under the rug.

The reactions to the allegations of vote rigging are coming in fast and furious, as seen in Fiji Times website.
Ousted PM

IT is surprising that the ousted PM uses the term "democratically-elected government" in almost all his comments.

May I ask the ousted PM why, if he wants the people to support a democratically-elected government, did he accept the post of interim PM when the Labour government was toppled in 2000?

Ronald Jeet

Ballot papers

YOUR editorial (FT 10/5) on the missing unused ballot papers shows an unfortunate lack of understanding of issues involved, particularly the enormity of the fact that more than 600,000 unused ballot papers cannot be accounted for.

Equally surprising is the fact that an issue which your paper thought was important enough to hit the front page (FT 9/5) should hours later become merely "hot air".

It says a lot about the credibility of your editorial team, than that of the Finance Ministry's audit team.

The issue at stake here is not just one of about 600,000 unused ballot papers, although that is worrying enough. The main concern is 665,256 missing unused ballot papers.

The Electoral Act makes absolutely stringent provisions for the accountability of every printed ballot paper, issued or otherwise.

And rightly so, because the integrity of any general election hinges on such accountability.

Sections 85, 86 and 87 lay down very specific instructions for the handling of and responsibility for all ballot papers used, unused or spoilt.

The ultimate responsibility for the safety and accountability of ballot papers lie with the Supervisor of Elections. He stands accountable under the law.

He must tell the nation what happened to the 600,000-plus ballot papers.

That they were used to stuff ballot boxes cannot be easily discounted.

This is why the matter is with the Fiji Independent Commission against Corruption for further investigation.

The Finance audit team found discrepancies which must be thoroughly investigated.

The fact that the Supervisor of Elections failed in his duty to keep a master record, failed in his duty to ensure every Returning Officer filed returns as required under the law, made it impossible for the audit team to probe further. FICAC will now look into these and other issues that have come to light. Let the Supervisor of Elections and others of his ilk answer to the investigating team.

There are a number of other highly disturbing features of the 2006 and 2001 general elections that need to be fully investigated.

Indeed, there is enough compelling evidence to warrant the setting up of an independent commission of inquiry into the conduct of the 2006 election.

In the past, such complaints were brushed under the carpet. Complaints regarding irregularities and electoral malpractices were lodged after the 2001 election but no action was taken by those in authority people who were part of Laisenia Qarase's gravy train.

When police started their investigations under Commissioner Andrew Hughes, it was found that relevant records could not be found. We must prevent records being destroyed this time.

The accountability and integrity of the electoral system is a must, otherwise the exercise becomes a mockery and a farce.

Needless to say, an alert, impartial and informed media, in its capacity as the public watchdog, has an important role to play in this respect.

Mahendra Chaudhry
Interim Minister for Finance
National Planning

Sour grapes

MAHENDRA Chaudhry is again trying to discredit the result of the 2006 election by instigating an audit by his boys to raise queries on its credibility.

Instead of trying to move the country forward and using government resources to get the country back on the road to democracy, he has chosen to create doubts on the result of the election when his party lost.

He must note that no matter what his audit team comes up with, the military coup has happened and nothing that he says or does will reverse the election result. It is a mere waste of time and money. He maintains that surplus ballot papers were printed which were not accounted for. This does not prove anything. It proves nothing.

If there were discrepancies in the number of voters crossed-off in the rolls at polling stations, when reconciled against the ballot papers that were used for voting, there should be ground for further investigation.

It appears to me as a case of sour grapes. He should rise above petty issues and take positive steps to move Fiji forward.

James Bolavucu

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