Saturday, September 22, 2007

Tale of a Smuggler's Leg

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A man accused of stealing three endangered iguanas from a nature preserve in Fiji and smuggling them into the United States in his prosthetic leg has been indicted.Jereme James, 33, of Long Beach, faces a single count of smuggling, according to a federal indictment returned Friday in Los Angeles.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Narrative of the Inquiry - Fiji's Vote Rigging.

The Report Findings:

The report of Fiji Human Rights Commission's Inquiry on the 2006 election, is yet to be released to the public according to a Radio New Zealand article.
The excerpt of the RNZ article:

New Fiji election not public, alleges vote-rigging

Posted at 05:22 on 19 September, 2007 UTC

The Fiji Human Rights Commission says the commission of inquiry report into Fiji’s 2006 general election has not yet been made public. Fiji TV reported last night that it obtained a copy of the report based on evidence given by 59 individuals and organisations.
It reported evidence of irregularities, bias, corruption, vote buying and vote rigging, and is also critical of the Elections Office. The commission says copies of the report have been given only to the state, the SDL party, and the Fiji Labour Party for review.

"The election was fair in terms of the international observers coming here and the report they gave and also the report prepared by the USP team. The big thing is that there was no protest after those or that report were publicly declared. But now they are coming up with new allegations that the elections was rigged and so on and so forth. That’s the problem right now."

The University of the South Pacific’s Dr Alumita Durutalo has been an election observer since the 1990s. She says observers from the EU, Pacific Islands Forum, Commonwealth and the USP deemed the last election in Fiji to be free and fair.

However, a copy of the report was made available to Fiji TV. Another article from Radio NZ confirms that Fiji TV were given a copy of the FHRC report.

The excerpt:

Inquiry claims Fiji 2006 election was flawed by vote buying and vote rigging

Posted at 22:49 on 18 September, 2007 UTC

A commission of inquiry into Fiji’s 2006 general election claims to have found evidence of vote buying and vote rigging. The inquiry was initiated by the Fiji Human Rights Commission and chaired by Suva lawyer G P Lala, with the other members being the former president of the SVT party and Rabuka government minister, Taufa Vakatale, and Dr David Neilson.

Fiji TV says it has obtained a copy of the report which is based on evidence given by 59 individuals and organisations.

"The report claims it found evidence of irregularities, bias and corruption, as well as inappropriate vote influencing in the 2006 general election to the unfair advantage of the SDL party.

It says there was a concentration of all these factors in key urban constituencies. The report says there were significant failures to ensure citizens’ right to vote, in particular against ethnic Indian voters. "

The report also criticises the Elections Office, saying there was a heavy ethnic bias in its employment of staff nearly all of whom were indigenous Fijians. The report has been sent to the interim government, the Fiji Labour Party and the SDL party for their responses.

All international election observers deemed the election to be free and fair.

The former Supervisor of Elections, Semesa Karavaki disputed the findings of the tribunal and described the Inquiry report as inaccurate because it brought up the issue of racial bias.

Karavaki even called into question the expertise of the tri-members in electoral procedures and exclaimed that the report also tarnishes the "Free and Fair" declaration stamped by the International Observers.

National Federation Party (NFP) stalwart, Parmod Rae declared the Inquiry report as a "load of rubbish" and took issue to "prominent and eminent persons like G.P. Lala, Taufa Vakatale putting their names to this piece of rubbish".

Rae further stated that, the Inquiry report into the 2006 Fiji Elections was not a report per say, but "allegations of vote buying and vote-rigging without evidentiary basis". Rae further added that, the 59 submissions were not proportionate to Fiji's number of voters, in excess of 500,000 persons.

FHRC's Dr Shaista Shameem also clarified the next series of steps for the tentative Inquiry report; stating that the draft report would be given to stakeholders for their comments and those additional comments will be taken into account by the Tribunal in their final report.

The Report Recommendations:

Radio Fiji article quoted from the Fiji Election Scoping Mission (FESM) preliminary report for the next General Elections in Fiji and stated that, the estimated cost may reach $F25 Million. FESM had tabled their report to the Pacific Islands Forum Joint Working Group(PIFJWG) in Suva yesterday.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Few And Far Between- A Question of Audits in FAB.

Discrepancies to the accounts of several Provincial Councils(PCs) have resurfaced with much disappointment, in a Fiji Live article.

This is an excerpt of the Fiji Live article:

Concern over un-audited accounts
Monday September 17, 2007

The Fijian Affairs ministry is appalled at the status of provincial council financial accounts which have not been audited since 1995.

Executive officer Kini Rarubi confirmed that the ministry is trying to establish why the provincial councils did not get their accounts audited for so long. He said the Independent Investigating Team into Institutions Fijian (IITIF) which was appointed by the interim Government to investigate corruption, is currently looking at this.

“Most of these provincial councils have not had their accounts audited since 1995 and this is a concern for us.”

“We are very surprised because we did not expect this to happen as all provincial accounts should be audited every year.” He said the investigation team led by Colonel Apakuki Kurusiga is trying to establish why it took so long for the accounts to be audited.

The team recommended that the process be contracted to private firms so that the financial status of councils are finalised.


A series of Fiji Sun articles presented a somewhat extruded 'blame game' between the Fijian Affairs Board(FAB), Office of the Auditor General and the various Provincial Council.

The next Fiji Sun article follows up with a denial from Ba Provincial Council. The following is an excerpt:

Blame FAB, says provincial council
Fiji Sun
Last updated 6/26/2007 7:46:08 AM

Another province has revealed that if its accounts were not audited, the Fijian Affairs department should be the one to answer as its accounts were sent to them every three, six and 12 months.

The Ba Provincial Council Roko Viliame Burenivalu yesterday said sometimes the ministry used to call some of its council staff to help sorting out the council accounts with the Fijian Affairs office in Suva. He said when he enquired from his staff after returning from Suva they usually told him that they were working with the ministry’s staff to clear out the 2000 and 2001 accounts.

“If there is any lateness in the auditing of accounts then the ministry should be the one to answer,” said Mr Burenivalu. He said sometimes his staff informed him after returning to Suva that council accounts for 2000 and 2001 did not balance. “If the figures did not match than the Fijian Affairs should also answer,” he said.

Mr Burenivalu made the comment after former senator Ponipate Lesavua who is a member of the investigating team that conduct investigation on the Fijian Institution said none of the 14 provincial council had submitted report of the money that the Government provided every year.

Serua Provincial Council chairman Atunaisa Lacabuka said the last time its accounts was audited was in 2000. He said the Auditor Generals Office had audited its accounts and he wanted its council accounts to be audited every year.

The 2004 Auditor General's report overview for the 1994 accounts.

Another salvo of blaming the FAB, was fired from Lomaiviti, Naitasiri, Lau and Ba Provincial Councils respectively.

FAB blamed for non-audited account
Fiji Sun
Last updated 7/5/2007 7:36:13 AM

Provincial council heads have blamed the Fijian Affairs Board for the non-auditing of some accounts. A recent investigation into the Native Land Trust Board (NLTB)revealed that some provincial council accounts were not audited.

Lomaiviti Provincial Council said it sends its accounts quarterly to its head office (Fijian Affairs Board) in Suva, its administrative head, Ratu Filimoni Baleimua, said. Ratu Filimoni said its accounts were usually prepared and kept properly by his staff before they were sent to Suva. “The accounts are sent every quarterly to Suva,” Ratu Filimoni said. “The FAB is responsible for the accounts' audit.”

The NLTB investigation established, amongst other things, that most of the provincial councils did not have audit reports on funds given to them by the State.

" Tailevu Provincial Council chairman Josefa Seruilagilagi said it had tried to pay a private company to audit its account but was stopped by the Fijian Affairs".

Naitasiri Provincial Council chairman Solomoni Naivalu said that its accounts were usually audited every year. This year's, however, is yet to be audited. Lau Provincial Council's Peni Sokia said it sent its accounts to the Fijian Affairs every month. He said if the accounts were not audited than the FAB should be accountable as it handled all the accounts.

Ba Provincial Council's Viliame Burenivalu said it sent its accounts to the FAB every three months. He said the board should explain delays in the auditing of some of the provinces' accounts.

However, axed Chief Executive of FAB, Litia Qionabaravi defended the Board's track record under her tenure. This is an excerpt of the Fiji Sun article:

Ex-FAB chief defends audit of province accounts
Fiji Sun
Last updated 7/6/2007 4:16:22 PM

The Fijian Affairs Board and the office of the Auditor-General made concerted efforts to update the backlog in the audit of accounts.

"The board had set out target dates for completion of all outstanding accounts and these were followed up with chartered accounting firms and the office of the Auditor-General," Adi Litia said.

Former FAB chief executive officer Adi Litia Qionibaravi said some of the efforts undertaken include giving out the audit of the provincial council accounts to chartered accounting firms since 2004. She made the comment in reaction to statements by some provinces that it blamed the FAB for the backlog in the audit of its accounts.

Colonel Apakuki Kurusiga, who leads the investigation into the Native Land Trust Board, highlighted the problem.

Adi Litia said the board had set up a special audit unit to facilitate the preparation of information required by the chartered accounting firms. She said it established an audit committee of the board to oversee the progress in the audit of accounts. Adi Litia said training had been provided to provincial treasurers on basic accounting, including the preparation of financial statement.

The former chief executive officer said all outstanding audits could be completed if efforts and action approved by the board are continued. She said the provincial councils, through the Roko Tui, remit their accounts on a fortnightly basis to the FAB.

The feeble defense by Qionabaravi begs the question that, if an audit committee had been formed in FAB to collate date for the private auditing companies; surely there is no excuse to say the data set from 1996 onwards, are yet to be prepared.
With such a lax attitude, coupled with no oversight; it is not surprising to see such a sad state of affairs, prompting a major and long overdue clean-up by the Interim Government.

Fiji Auditor General responded to the former CEO's claim in a Fiji Sun article:

FAB failed to send accounts: A-G
Last updated 7/7/2007 8:37:11 AM

The Fijian Affairs Board has not submitted its accounts to the Auditor-General’s Office for the last 10 years. And that is the main problem of the backlog in auditing its accounts, including that of the 14 provinces.

Auditor-General Eroni Vatuloka said yesterday the delay of the audit went back to the last five to seven years. “We audit the accounts of the 14 provincial councils in accordance with the Fijian Affairs (Provincial Councils) Regulations 1996,” said Mr Vatuloka. He made the statement in reaction to claims by some of the provincial councils stating that the A-G’s Office had not audited their financial accounts.

Mr Vatuloka said the only way to solve the problem was to wait for the committee which had been established to assist the FAB prepare the accounts and send them to his office.

Former FAB chief executive officer Adi Litia Qionibaravi said there had been a concerted effort between the Fijian Affairs Board and the office of the Auditor-General to update the backlog in the audit of accounts.

She said some of the efforts undertaken included taking out the audit of the provincial councils’ accounts to chartered accounting firms since 2004/2005. Adi Litia said the board had set up a special audit unit to facilitate the preparation of information required by the chartered accounting firms. She said it had established an audit committee of the board to oversee the progress in the audit of accounts.

Adi Litia said training has been provided to provincial treasurers on basic accounting including the preparation of financial statement.

Although, the Auditor General appeared to defend his office's reputation; he neglects the backlog of accounts gathering cobwebs on his door step. Seriously, the situation presents a recipe for a storm of financial abuse, which is seemingly trivialized by the Auditor General. Whether or not the Auditor General's office was culpable or was involved in any hint of collusion with the Provincial Councils is a worthy question to ask.

Along with those unfulfilled audits by Fijian Affairs Board, was the revelation of the legal costs ringed up by the Native Lands Trust Board (NLTB), as reported by a Fiji Village article, which outlined legal companies who were on retainer with NLTB.

Clearly the issue of retainership, appears to be the common thread between the two vestiges of Fijian Administration. While FAB has failed to retain private Auditors to scrutinize the expenditure of State funds to the various PC's, NLTB is guilty of over retaining the legal services to defend their litany of abuses, stemming from their failure in performing their fiduciary duties.

This is an excerpt:

Serious concerns raised over NLTB costs
Serious concerns have been highlighted in the Fijian Administration report on the amount of money spent by the Native Land Trust Board on legal costs.

The report prepared by the team led by Colonel Apakuki Kurusiga said numerous litigations against the NLTB reflect its inability to satisfy land owners requests. It said that litigation is purported to be the board's main business since it ranks second to salaries and wages in costs to the NLTB.

The report highlights that the 2004 Annual Report of the NLTB shows that legal cost alone is 1.474 million dollars and this depicts the notion that NLTB's main activity is litigations.

It has also been pointed out that over the years, staff turnover at the NLTB's legal section has been drastic and the board was forced to outsource legal actions with three legal firms which were Sevuloni Valenitabua in Suva, Vuetaki Qoro in Lautoka and Harry Robinson in Labasa. The report said that three thousand dollars was paid to Valenitabua as retainer fees per month, Vuetaki Qoro was paid four thousand dollars per month for a retainer and Harry Robinson paid two thousand dollars per month as retainer fees.

The Fijian Administration review team has recommended that the board should not outsource its legal work but hire the services of a senior or experienced lawyer preferably with Land Management qualification. The team was appointed to review the Fijian Administration as part of the President's mandate which includes that the NLTB should be restructured to ensure more benefits flow to the ordinary indigenous Fijians.

Another entity within the FAB is also under the microscope, according to a Fiji Times article:

Caginavanua in corruption probe

1201 FJT
Monday, September 10, 2007

Update: 12.01pm THE contract of Native Lands Reserve Commissioner Ilaitia Caginavanua with the Native Land Trust Board has not been renewed since its expiry last month.

Interim Fijian Affairs Minister Ratu Epeli Ganilau said the board of NLTB decided against the renewal because Mr Caginavanua was under investigation for alleged corruption, according to Radio Fiji Gold News.

"The Reserve Commissioner even though his contract has lapsed...the Board has also not renewed his contract, he is also being investigated by the committee of Colonel Kurusiga on some of the allegations leveled against him during his term as Reserve Commissioner", said Ratu Epeli.

The image below is an organization structure of FAB. Note that the Native Lands Commissioner is under the FAB umbrella. It is the various arms in Fijian Affairs Board which are being currently scrutinized.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Earl of Fiji.

2007 Survivor Fiji Winner, Earl Cole has vowed to be an unofficial ambassador of Fiji, after purchasing a house there subsequent to his win. Cole's time in Fiji during the Survivor series has left an indelible impression on his heart.

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A Silk Purse of Democracy Made From The Sow's Ear.

wo different articles on Fiji's current affairs, are worthy of comparison. First article published in Stuff and was written by New Zealand journalist, Micheal Field on the news of the reinstatement of Fiji's Emergency Decree.

Although, Field liberally quoted New Zealand's Foreign Minister, Winston Peters, who said ""Let us not gild the lily and make excuses for the regime's backers and the regime itself, this conduct is not acceptable in the democratic world."
It is apparent that the Governments of US, UK, New Zealand and Australia have already gilded the Lily of Iraq; whom they had promised Freedom and Democracy; along with the misguided threats of "weapons of mass destruction".

" It must be realistically pointed out to the numerous 'Monday Morning Fly-Halfs' or 'Monday-Morning Quarter Backs' depending on your choice of sports that, Fiji's democracy is not and should not be a Silk purse made from a Sow's ear. The proverbial Sow in this context, being the robber barons of US, UK, Australia and New Zealand."

This is an excerpt of Field's article:

Fiji under martial law
State of emergency re-imposed

By MICHAEL FIELD - Fairfax Media | Thursday, 6 September 2007

Fiji's military has declared an emergency - or martial law - in a bid to silence deposed prime minister Laisenia Qarase. Self appointed Prime Minister and military head Voreqe Bainimarama has claimed Qarase was trying to incite trouble in the country.

" They probably want to make sure that the transition into the election is not peaceful and maybe the idea is to bring about some instability in the country so that the Australian military can come back in - that's what Qarase wanted in the first place, maybe he's still after that," he told Fiji Broadcasting."

Bainimarama staged a coup in December, bringing down Qarase's government. Qarase fled to his home in the remote Lau Islands and remained in exile until last weekend. Fiji Military Forces Chief of Staff, Lieutenant Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga, claimed they were acting because Qarase was inciting public hatred. Tikoitoga said the military council - which Bainimarama heads - believed Qarase was making statements on behalf of somebody else.

"At our military council meeting we felt that the complaints made by Mr Qarase on death threats and other matters did not augur well with the security situation so we decided it would be best to bring the (emergency) decree back," he said.

"It is unfortunate that he continues to go on this path and we have seen that he has not only gone locally but internationally with these statements that could cause instability in the country."

He said soldiers and roadblocks would not return to the country's streets this time, and the security situation would be left to the police. "At the moment they take the lead while we will play a supportive role and only come in if they need us," he said.

New Zealand is dismayed emergency regulations are being re-invoked, Foreign Minister Winston Peters said today. Speaking at the Apec forum in Sydney, Mr Peters said the move undermined any moves to restoring democracy.

"The public of Fiji should not be unduly concerned about this. This is not going to change anything with regards to the security situation," coup leader Commodore Voreqe Bainimamara said on commercial radio. "It means that the climate for freedom of expression and human rights that is necessary for democracy to prevail in the long term is not there."

Mr Qarase returned to Suva on Saturday from exile on his home island in the remote Lau group of islands ahead of a court case in which he wants the December 5 coup against his government declared illegal. The emergency regulations were lifted at the end of May after being introduced when Cdre Bainimarama announced he was deposing Mr Qarase, in what was the country's fourth coup since 1987.

Under the regulations, some constitutional rights were withdrawn and the military gave itself powers to detain people without charge Fiji has been under the control of Cdre Bainimarama since he seized power in a coup last December.

Mr Peters said the behaviour had become an ongoing embarrassment for Fiji. "There should be no doubt that the Pacific community and the world is watching on this matter and our frank advice to the commander is to take his army back to the military barracks and stop embarrassing Fiji and the Pacific."

Mr Peters said the excuse for restoring virtual martial law was that Mr Qarase had left self-imposed exile and returned to the main island of Suva. "Surely that can not be the reason for such a serious step which has dramatic economic overtones that will be disastrous for the Fijian people" Mr Peters said.

"It also means we have to doubt their sincerity about their pathway to democracy." The action could see suspension in aid from the European Union and this would seriously damage an already weakened economy. Asked if he had concerns for the safety Mr Qarase, Mr Peters said: "One has concerns about safety of people in Fiji, if you go on their recent record of people being picked up and apparently harassed.

"Let us not gild the lily and make excuses for the regime's backers and the regime itself, this conduct is not acceptable in the democratic world." Fiji is not a member of the Apec forum, but Mr Peters said he was certain the issue would come up at the forum in meetings.

Mr Peters said New Zealand would be going to upcoming Pacific Forum, but he hoped some of those countries who have offered sympathy to the Fijian regime, might now change their tune.

"Let's have confidence the Pacific people at the forum will see this with new eyes. Yes he can come to the forum if he wants to. But lets make no bones about it, there will be 15 countries there appearing because they are democratically elected with a mandate of the people... and one will be there at the barrel of a gun."

Mr Peters said New Zealand would not boycott the event if the commander turned up. "We are not going to have our great future and out work in the Pacific contaminated by one aberration."

Earlier today Bainimarama told Fiji Broadcasting that Qarase and Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua Party director Peceli Kinivuwai would be "put on a plane and sent to Vanuabalavu (in Lau) if they continued to give false statements about the military council".

He said statements by the two were being published overseas.

He said overseas leaders who faced similar exile from their country were Pakistan's former Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, who faced exile after the 1999 coup carried out by General Pervez Musharraf.

- With NZPA

The second article published in the Fiji Times, was by local academic and Political Scientist, Dr Steven Ratuva. The following is a excerpt from Ratuva's opinion article:

Stuck in a cycle of political vengeance

Friday, September 07, 2007

Like a Hollywood mafia script on vengeance killing, we unfortunately now find ourselves caught in a cycle of vengeance, vindictiveness and recrimination between the SDL and the military-backed interim Government.

Politics of divergence

A manifestation of this was the recent public exchange between interim Prime Minister, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, and the Naitasiri high chief and strong SDL supporter, Ratu Inoke Takiveikata.

The disagreement was more than just a matter of opposing opinions. It was a reflection of the deep-seated personal and political contradictions and psyche of vengeance which now characterise our post-coup political culture. Ratu Inoke and the Naitasiri Provincial Council rejected the proposed People's Charter and in turn Commodore Bainimarama rejected Ratu Inoke's proposal for reconciliation.

Very straight forward

Simple logic would probably suggest that if Ratu Inoke had accepted the proposed People's Charter, Commodore Bainimarama would have looked at his reconciliation proposal sympathetically. Politically and symbolically, both men represent the two opposite ends of the continuum as well as the two major fragments of a divided nation.

Ratu Inoke and many coup opponents saw the proposed People's Charter as another political gimmick by the interim Government to consolidate and legitimise its power and rejected it outright, despite the fact that it contained some very constructive and appealing proposals for national unity.

On the other hand, although Ratu Inoke's proposal contained some attractive concessions for the interim Government such as the granting of amnesty for the 2006 coup makers, it was rejected outright. Commodore Bainimarama probably saw it as another political trick by Ratu Inoke to re-assert his presence, power and legitimacy and divert attention away from his recent conviction.

"In addition, both men saw each other in terms of who they were and what they represented. To Ratu Inoke, Commodore Bainimarama was a usurper of indigenous rights and an illegal coup maker. To Commodore Bainimarama, Ratu Inoke was a murderous mutineer (he was convicted of inciting the 2000 mutiny) and extremist nationalist of dubious political ambitions. "

The respective proposals by the two men were rejected outright by the other because they (proposals) happened to come from the wrong people. The importance of the message was undermined by the nature of the medium. This is one of the biggest political bottlenecks now.

Some political and business interests opposed to the coup and its aims would no doubt be behind Ratu Inoke and some would have even helped him draft the controversial advertisement, which former Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka and others have referred to as a tactically nave and insensitive approach. Although Ratu Inoke, as a person may be serious about his reconciliation intent, there is serious worry that there are other hidden forces which are propelling him forward and using him and his influential status as their frontline soldier to articulate their demands as well as absorb the incoming flak.

Laisenia Qarase's presence in Suva will no doubt provide a morale boost for Ratu Inoke but I doubt if Mr Qarase, who appears to be in reconciliation mode, is in a mood for more confrontation. However, on the other hand, Commodore Bainimarama's unpromising stance, while helping to consolidate the regime and the reform process, has the potential to exacerbate differences and prolong the stand-off. There is a worry that some within and outside the interim Government may be using Commodore Bainimarama's powerful position to sustain and drive their agenda forward.

Inability to listen

Of concern is the fact that we no longer listen to the good things others say and propose. We are too pathologically fixated on listening only to what we want to listen to and if we listen we are only listening to negative things and use them to design and articulate our political strategies to outshine our political adversaries.

This is precisely where the problem lies. Our capacity to listen and identify the good in others is waning fast. No one seems to be listening any more. Both sides are out to exert their will and claim the moral high ground. This has thrown the nation into confusion.

The problem is not so much the lack of political will to reconcile because everyone is itching for it the military, the interim Government, the Great Council of Chiefs, the SDL Party, the employers, the unions and in fact the entire nation wants it and is ready for it.

" But the problem is differences over how to reconcile, who should define what reconciliation should be and the conditions under which it should take place and who should determine the shape of the reconciliation process. The differences in approach started after the 2000 coup.

The SDL, vanua and the Methodist Church wanted reconciliation using the political, traditional and religious approach. Instead the military and the Fiji Labour Party leadership wanted the legal process to take its course."

After the 2006 coup the situation reversed. The SDL, GCC and the Methodist Church wanted to follow the legal process while the interim Government through the proposed People's Charter wanted to address the problem through political means.

During the 2004 national reconciliation week, the SDL, churches, GCC and the vanua were deeply involved but the military, Labour Party and other political groups refused to be part of it.

Now the situation has reversed. Those who were involved in the 2004 reconciliation have refused to entertain the proposed People's Charter and its reconciliation framework. We have come full circle in our vengeance politics. We have reached a political deadlock out of which we need to wriggle ourselves. How do we do that?

The way forward

Firstly, we have to shift our minds away from the narrow, exclusivist, partisan and self-serving political agenda and begin to see the interest of the nation as paramount. That is the bottom line.

We all have our party, religious, organisational, vanua and personal loyalties and interests, however, at this point in time, these should be subservient to the common national good. Despite official optimism, our economy is not doing well, investor confidence is down, socio-political relations are at their lowest and national moral is in tatters.

Yet despite all these we are still trying to win political and moral points over our adversaries as if that will solve our collective problems when the opposite is in fact happening.

Secondly, on a more practical note, we need to identify the good suggestions from both sides and synthesise them into a common proposal for national reconciliation. Both the proposed People's Charter and Ratu Inoke's proposal contain points worth considering and discussing.

Thirdly, we urgently need to put in place a reconciliation process as well as a framework for political stability for the future before the election. To do that after the election, although constitutionally legitimate, would be politically too late. Since the hurt and pain are very deeply embedded, the election could become an arena for expressions of anger, vindictiveness and vengeance and these have the potential to rear their ugly heads again after the election.

Historically, political instabilities in Fiji have only happened after elections.

The pre-election differences, antagonism and volatility will haunt us once again after the next election if we are not careful. That's why it is important to put in place a reconciliation and post-election governance framework we all agree on well before the election.

We must remember that the reconciliation process must not be merely an exercise in public expression of remorse and apology, although these are very important components, but must be embedded in principles and practices of good governance.

As part of the reconciliation process we should agree on having a government of national unity and put in place mechanisms to promote good and meaningful governance.
We must not allow a single party to rule but establish a power sharing system to ensure sustainable future stability.

Fourthly, as part of the framework for future stability and reconciliation, we urgently need to address the question of coups. How do we ensure that we eradicate the coup culture? What type of governance structure, development policies and security mechanisms should be put in place to achieve this?

One of the sad things is that since the coup, middle ground politics has disappeared as people began to shift to either side of the divide. Even religious organisations and churches have taken sides and contributed to more tension.

Both sides are trying to occupy the moral high ground and in the process breed antagonism. It's time to start thinking positively and imaginatively about our future. Let's transform our negative feelings that we express meticulously and exuberantly in letters to the editor, TV interviews, press releases, internet blogs, pub debates, kava sessions and pulpit sermons, into positive spirit to unite and save our country from disintegration.

We only have until the election to work something out. If we can't then chances are that we might miss the boat again!

Dr Steven Ratuva is a political sociologist and these are his personal views and not of the University of the South Pacific where he works

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