Thursday, December 27, 2007

NZ Duplicity-Member of Fiji I.G, allowed into NZ to see sick wife.

Pramesh Chand, the military-appointed head of Commodore Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama's interim government in Fiji, is in Auckland to tend to his sick wife. None of the members of Cdre Bainimarama's interim government have been allowed to visit New Zealand since Cdre Bainimarama seized power in a bloodless coup last December.

read more | digg story

However, the most recent travel ban was also placed on a group of Scouts representing Fiji to the annual Jamboree held in New Zealand.

New Zealand Herald's Editorial published in Dec. 22nd 2007, slammed the New Zealand Government's gross inconsistency in applying these travel sanctions.

The excerpt:

Editorial: Excluding Fijian kids an affront to common sense
5:00AM Saturday December 22, 2007

Let the children come.

The group of 10 Fijian Scouts and Guides being kept from coming to New Zealand because of someone's interpretation of the sanctions applied by this country against the military regime must be allowed to attend their jamboree.

This cannot, surely, have been a Government decision, nor even a conscious one taken by senior officials. No doubt the Fijian Scouting movement did receive an indication that applications for their charges to visit here would be problematic. How formal and how definitive was that hint?

The detail does not matter. The fact that any issue has arisen over these children attending an international jamboree breaks the Government's newly minted "Law of Common Sense".

Around 50 Fijian children will be allowed here, so presumably the 10 outcasts have relatives in the military. To use children as young as 10 to score diplomatic points against their parents is beneath all standards to which New Zealand should aspire.The sanctions against members of the regime and their families have been inconsistently applied in any case.

Bizarrely, a serving Education Minister from the Bainimarama Government has visited this country for a conference, with the blessing of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its minister, Winston Peters. In that case the multilateral benefits on education throughout the Pacific were held to be more important than the bilateral relationship.

A Government minister can come, but his colleagues' kids cannot? Keeping 10 children from an international camp in Christchurch - especially Scouts and Guides seeking to become, in the words of their Scouting leader, "good citizens of the planet" - is silly, not serious. It demeans the sanctions and lessens New Zealand in the eyes of our wider Pacific neighbours.

Stuff Magazine published the slanted perspective by Dominion Post's foreign correspondent, Micheal Field. The excerpt:

Bainimarama supporter allowed into NZ
By MICHAEL FIELD - The Dominion Post | Friday, 28 December 2007

A key figure in Fiji's coup regime is in New Zealand tending his sick wife, just a week after 10 Scouts were excluded on the grounds of their relationship to the military. The military-appointed head of the Prime Minister's Office, Pramesh Chand, is in Auckland, according to Fiji media, on compassionate and humanitarian grounds after his wife became ill.

Mr Chand, the former South Pacific trade commissioner based in Auckland, assumed his key role just days after military commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama overthrew the elected government of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase in December 2006.

An Indo-Fijian, Mr Chand has been a strong and outspoken supporter of Commodore Bainimarama, and as recently as last week was condemning New Zealand for its sanctions. News of Mr Chand's entry represents a significant departure from the rules, as his role has been as a key aide to the military, and symbolic of the Indo-Fijian support for the coup.

[Chand] told the Fiji Times he was granted a visa on compassionate and humanitarian grounds and was happy the New Zealand Government was understanding of his situation. Mr Chand said his case was a genuine one as he had to be with his wife, who was taken to hospital as an emergency case. "She was taken in, but was not admitted, and she is now recuperating at home."

[Chand] would not divulge his wife's medical condition, but said she was recovering well. Mr Chand is due to return to Fiji tomorrow. Yesterday, the Fiji Times, one of the strongest critics of the military regime, attacked New Zealand over its "flip-flop" policy, saying it had prevented Scouts' entry, yet had allowed entry to a military-appointed cabinet minister.

"New Zealand must decide once and for all whether her borders are open or closed to the interim regime."

Field's article trivializes the inconsistency factor and also introduces Pramesh Chand as an Indo-Fijian, as if that fact was central to the storyline. Furthermore, Field fallaciously adds that Chand is a symbol of Indo-Fijian support for the 2006 coup. Field's conclusion has fallen victim to the dangerous logical trap known as "Post hoc ergo propter hoc" or coincidental correlation and further erodes his integrity as an objective writer.

The excerpt of Fiji Times Editorial of Thursday Dec. 27th 2007:

Ban all or nothing

Fiji Times Thursday, December 27, 2007

NEW Zealand's travel ban on people linked to the events of December 2006 is a joke. Last week, nine scouts mere teenagers were told not to bother applying for a visa to go to New Zealand to represent the country at a jamboree. These young people were forced to bear the brunt of our neighbour's anger over their parents' involvement in the overthrow of a legally-elected government.

This newspaper does not condone the events of 2006 nor does it support the rape of democratic processes which are designed to serve every citizen of this country. At the same time, we will not be silent over the treatment of innocent children. We know of their plight merely because it is a high-profile case and involves an international event.

There must be many children and families who have faced similar censure in the 12 months since December 2006. They are unlikely to come forward because of the shame associated with the travel ban.New Zealand's diplomatic mission here will not say how many of Fiji's citizens have been refused entry to that country on the basis of their relationship to members of the military or the interim regime.

When the smart sanctions were introduced after the military overthrew Laisenia Qarase's government, the system was seen as a tool with which to hit back at soldiers and those who intended to join the regime. Since the sanctions were introduced, New Zealand has banned a group of scouts and a soccer player. The soccer player was not related to a soldier. He was the fiance of the daughter of a soldier.

At the same time, New Zealand has flung wide her doors to a minister in the interim Government. The excuse? The meeting he attended was a regional event and would benefit and develop the education system here.These are fine sentiments. But would not the same argument work in the case of the scouts?

By mixing with their peers, would they not be enriched by the experience? Would the experience not help mould them into better individuals. Now we find out that the permanent secretary in the Prime Minister's Office, Parmesh Chand, has been allowed into New Zealand. The excuse? Medical reasons.

Again, a fine sentiment, but why Mr Chand and his family and not the boy scouts or the national team goalkeeper?

New Zealand cannot continue to play flip-flop politics with Fiji and other Pacific states. If it wants to ban people involved in the events of 2006 and the interim administration, go ahead. But there can be no grey areas in the ban. It must be all or nothing. If New Zealand decides to choose who is or is not banned on a case by case basis, the ban is an exercise in hypocrisy.New Zealand must decide once and for all whether her borders are open or closed to the interim regime.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Deposed PM misused Taiwan funds: Auditor General's report

Fiji's Auditor General has highlighted the misuse of Taiwanese funds by the Prime Minister's office in his latest report, adding it did not comply with financial regulations.

read more | digg story

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Fijian children barred from NZ dream trip

Ten Fijian children aged 10 to 13 have been banned from attending a New Zealand jamboree because their families have links to Fiji's military.About 50 Fijian Scouts and Guides are coming to Christchurch for New Zealand's 18th international jamboree, but 10 of their friends did not apply for visas…

read more | digg story

Need for more dialogue on Lands Issue in Fiji: CCF

There needs to be more dialogue between landowners and tenants to address the issue of land problems, says the Citizens Constitutional Forum.

read more | digg story

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Fiji In Color

A pictorial essay by Shifting Baselines blogger, Jennifer Jacquet on the scenes of Fiji's capital, Suva.

read more | digg story

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Natadola landowners unhappy

Landowners of Sanasana village, Nadroga, the site of Fiji’s multi-million dollar Natadola tourism project say they do not want Ratu Osea Gavidi to be their spokesman regarding the development.

read more | digg story

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Wheels of Justice- Hate Crime Against Fiji Immigrant.

In a follow up to the S.i.F.M posting, a story of a Fiji immigrant who was killed in an alleged hate crime at Sacramento; which was heard in a preliminary hearing held in the Sacramento County court house.
Satendar Singh's death sent shock waves through Sacramento, which is reflected in the atmosphere in his vigil. The event wove together the fabric of Sacramento society, most from varying stations of life. Youtube video of the Singh's vigil is posted below.

What is disappointing that no Fiji contingent(irrespective of race) attended the vigil in an official capacity, probably because of the person's perceived sexual orientation.

Several news outlets covered the story, among the articles: Sacramento Bee, San Jose Mercury News, Fiji Live.

This video of the events before the attack was captured in released video from a CBS affiliate in Sacramento. Another perspective of the case was covered by KCRA an NBC affiliate, in a Youtube video posted below.

Both Prosecutor and Defense, argued that the video supported their version of events. Defense attorney avoided the term "Hate Crime" and according to her interview in the KCRA report likened Singh's assault, as a derivative of a drunken brawl.

The reason why the defense team is not denoting the term" Hate Crime" because it will open up doors for a Federal Court hearing which does not take "Hate Crimes" lightly and furthermore the penalties associated are more harsh and convicted felons must serve 85% of the prison term, as opposed to the State of California's "Determinate Sentencing" guidelines which allow a "judge broad discretion to select any sentence between two end points in the statutory range" according to Vikram Amar, a Professor of Law at University of California, Hastings College of Law at San Francisco in this legal analysis on a recent U.S Supreme Court case, which may close that particular window of discretion, afforded to the Judge.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Seed Newsvine


Add to Technorati Favorites

Club Em Designs

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Qarase against dual citizenship

Ousted Fiji Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase says former Fiji residents should not be granted dual citizenship because they can not be loyal to two countries.The issue of dual citizenship has been raised a number of times during the Qarase Government’s reign from 2001 to 2006 but it has been opposed.

read more | digg story

Saturday, December 08, 2007

2008 Budget pro-poor, says Academic

Dr. Sukhdev Shah says that Budget 2008 is not anti-poor (contrary to comments by ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase) and is the “best budget we can have under the situations.”

read more | digg story

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Govt would have bankrupted Fiji: Academic

An academic believes that the Fiji economy would have bankrupted in next three to five years if the Qarase government had continued in power.

read more | digg story

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Two Sides of the Coin- Fiji Coup Anniversary.

In the first anniversary of Fiji's forth coup, two different opinion articles from two New Zealand journalists commenting on the same event, are seemingly polar opposites in terms of context.

One from self-declared Pacific expert, Micheal Field appearing on Stuff website. Judging from the syntax of Field's opinion, it can be summed up that he sure has a large axe to grind.

The quotes used by Field are overwhelmingly from the same political segment and none sourced from the average Josefa.

The excerpt of Field's opinion article:

History repeats as coup eats its own
The Dominion Post | Wednesday, 05 December 2007

On the anniversary of Fiji's latest coup, Michael Field takes a personal look at the year since Voreqe Bainimarama seized power. Just to the west of Suva last month three cars were pulled over by police. That's not uncommon in Fiji, where police routinely stop cars to extract bribes. But this time it was different.

Eleven people were taken to Delainavesi police station. Witnesses remember another car, which delivered "civilians" to the station. But this was Fiji – the "civilians" were soldiers, one of them a sergeant in the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) who had thumped me in the back last year.

Agnes Bulatiko, who had been in one of the cars with her partner, Ballu Khan, a Suva IT businessman, remembered how they singled him out, fists smashing into his face. "Then the room filled with officers punching him. It was terrifying."

At first the military were open about that. "He was resisting arrest, that's why he got the beating," Lieutenant-Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga said.

Mr Khan survived but, in other incidents, Tevita Malasebe, Nimilote Verebasaga and Sakiusa Rabaka were beaten to death by the RFMF.

Behind Fiji's tourist bula-smile image lurks an explosive violence. I'd seen it up close during George Speight's 2000 coup when a group of rebel soldiers mercilessly pounded a man sitting beside me.

It's the irrationality of it that makes Fiji so dangerous.

My first experience of Fiji's self- declared leader Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama came when, during Speight's coup, he declared martial law.

A Melanesian from the chiefly island of Bau, he had, earlier that day, forced President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara – a rival Polynesian chief – out of office. A couple of weeks later he hand-picked banker Laisenia Qarase as premier. The elected prime minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, then a hostage of Speight, was not allowed back.

Commodore Bainimarama has risen through the ranks from seaman in spite of his rather basic education. His military career was modest, the high point his serving as a sub-lieutenant on the Chilean sailing ship Esmeralda, circumnavigating South America. Unlike 1987 coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka, Commodore Bainimarama never served under fire, till the day in 2000 when his own soldiers tried to kill him. Humiliatingly, he survived by jumping out a window and scrambling down a bank.

Eight soldiers died that day, five of them after they had surrendered to loyalists. They were tortured to death.

In 2001 elections were held and Mr Qarase was sworn in. Commodore Bainimarama felt betrayed, believing Mr Qarase had promised not to become a politician. It was the start of bitter personal animosity that was as much to do with the later coup as any declarations over corruption and cleanups.

Just before elections in March 2006 the commodore was talking of "Qarase and his cronies" and saying indigenous politics was "dirty politics – at its worst it is cannibalistic". When Mr Qarase won again Commodore Bainimarama called a press conference to say democracy wasn't about numbers of votes on election day. He was so angry when I questioned his view that I feared he might hit me.

Commodore Bainimarama seldom takes questions now, feeling threatened by the insubordination of the lower castes. Tensions grew, in part over a couple of parliamentary bills that would have given indigenous villages control over the seabed and foreshore and another that would have given amnesty to those behind Speight's coup.

Toward the end of last year he flew to Wellington for a reunion with part of his family serving with the New Zealand Army. At Auckland airport, acting as though he was still in Fiji, he gave Mr Qarase two weeks to quit, or else. He was good to his word and, citing rampant corruption and the "doctrine of necessity", he took over, announcing a "cleanup" of government.

Two days before, late at night, soldiers had driven through Suva residential streets to fire mortars into the harbour in a surreal operation to fend off Australian warships and special forces soldiers they believed threatened them.

The coup came on a brilliantly mellow morning; suddenly the green, flak- jacketed soldiers were everywhere downtown. Oddly though, few had magazines in their weapons.

A YEAR ON, Commodore Bainimarama is yet to bring any corruption prosecutions and his doctrine has yet to be tested in court. Fiji's economy has dived, the court system plunged into disarray, people have been detained and beaten and media freedoms curtailed.

The intellectual bankruptcy of the coup was illustrated at the recent Pacific Forum in Tonga where Commodore Bainimarama, under pressure from Australia and New Zealand, agreed to elections by March 2009. He then told Fiji media that he would not let Mr Qarase's people stand. Commodore Bainimarama's single riskiest move since his coup has been to send his soldiers to close the Great Council of Chiefs (GCC), crushing traditional leadership.

Suva is an intimate town: Commodore Bainimarama lives right next to the official residence of the New Zealand high commissioner. But the relationship is not neighbourly and on June 14 high commissioner Michael Green was expelled.

At an All Blacks v Fiji game a couple of weeks earlier the military strongman had been outraged when Mr Green was given guest of honour status. "The rugby union has done this country a disservice. Out of 800,000 people in Fiji, they went and nominated the enemy of the day in a Kiwi to be chief guest."

I flew to Nadi to cover the expulsion, only to be detained for the night in what they called the "black room" at the immigration detention centre. Immigration Director Viliame Naupoto told local media I "wanted to resist", something Mr Khan was supposed to have done.

Previous Fiji governments had also banned me. Several sources have said this ban followed a story outlining how Commodore Bainimarama's coup had been a Muslim coup. Those who have done the best out of the regime overthrow all belong to a small Suva Muslim group, and the key intellectuals behind it include one advocating the removal of indigenous land protection.

Former vice-president Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi warned that among the indigenous there was "a sense of festering resentment" building. Though the coup was multi-ethnic in character, it looked like a counter-coup staged by Mr Chaudhry.

"The government is unfortunately perceived by many in the Fijian heartland as the handmaiden of Mr Chaudhry. Many Fijians are convinced this was an Indo-Fijian coup. Still others think it was a Muslim coup because of the association with a few prominent Muslims. These perceptions, even if mistaken, pass for reality from which conclusions are drawn," Ratu Madraiwiwi said.

Mr Khan is Muslim and, as the coup has worn on, it has become clear that the minority groups who at first prospered are discovering revolutions, even Fijian ones, tend to eat their own.

The indigenous majority has been alienated by the coup. The RFMF is almost completely indigenous but it has always claimed its training removed the vanua or clan from soldier. Ratu Madraiwiwi says Fijians have realised that the best place for the military in future is in the barracks.

"There being no external security threats as such, the military is now a law unto itself. Any meaningful attempt to prevent any further coups must deal with this issue. If not we are destined to travel this weary path repeatedly in the future, periodic hostages to the messianic ambitions of one military officer after another."

Fiji is afflicted with a sense that more is to come. Everything seems incomplete and many a scenario is offered; very little is optimistic.

* Fairfax correspondent Michael Field has covered Fiji politics since 1976 and wrote Speight of Violence: Inside Fiji's 2000 coup. He is barred from entering Fiji.

The other opinion article published by the New Zealand Herald, appears to be exceedingly fair and balanced in comparison and quotes from a wider spectrum of people than Field.

This is the excerpt of Angela Gregory's opinion piece:

Time to rebuild bridges
5:00AM Saturday December 01, 2007
By Angela Gregory

Mahesh Prasad lives in a tin shack with 6 members of his family.

Photo / Dean Purcell
Fiji coups

Shalesh Vinay has met Helen Clark, has even had his photo taken with her, and thinks she's a nice person. But he can't stand her politics. The 33-year-old hotel worker from Fiji's Coral Coast, north of Suva, has lost half his income since last December's coup.

He accepts coup leader Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama should take some of the blame. But the focus of his resentment is the ongoing travel advice maintained by New Zealand of security risks to tourists in Fiji. "The travel advisories have been too harsh. To be honest, I blame Helen Clark. I think she is punishing ordinary Fijians, the poor people, when it is a government-to-government issue."

Vinay served Clark when she attended a 2002 Pacific Forum retreat at the Lagoon Resort in Pacific Harbour, operated by New Zealand couple Jim and Heather Sherlock. The resort has had only about 19 per cent occupancy this year compared with an average 65 per cent occupancy in previous years.

The Sherlocks have had to cut back staff hours, with some workers getting only $75 a week. They say they weren't as severely affected by the 2000 coup, as the travel warnings were not maintained for so long.

Like the Sherlocks, Brad Johnstone, a former All Black and former coach for the Fiji national rugby side who runs the Funky Fish budget resort in the Mamanuca Island group, also blames the ongoing travel advisories and "continuing negative press for a big drop in business". He says the Fijian Backpackers' Association normally runs at 80 to 100 per cent capacity all year but in the past year occupancy has fallen off to 40 per cent at times.

Johnstone says New Zealand should be helping to get a political system in place in Fiji where elections are not based along racial lines. "The country will not be able to prosper until Indians living here feel Fijian ... I'd love to see my country get in behind Fiji."

The Sherlocks' staffer Vinay lives in the rural area of Nakaulevu where he supports his wife, daughter, parents, grandfather and uncle. He has worked in tourism since he was 21 and has skills as a barman, cook and waiter.

Before the coup he used to pick up extra jobs, but they have now dried up. His wife, Irene Resma, had worked as a cook in the Pacific Harbour village but the restaurant closed after the coup because there were too few customers.

Vinay has to pay the mortgage on the family land, electricity and water bills for three houses, groceries for seven and medical expenses for his father who is a heart patient. "It's too much for me ... we are really struggling. I have to do my budget carefully - I can't spend one dollar unwisely, so no new clothes or presents."

Vinay reads the newspaper every day but says there is no good news in it for him. "We don't understand politics. All we understand is money in our pockets to feed our family." Despite the bleak outlook he supports Bainimarama who has "done some good things", like moving towards a multi-racial Fiji.

In the slums of Suva, dogs rummage through roadside rubbish not cleared for weeks, children who should be at school play on water pipes crossing polluted streams and taro grows between tin shacks and old car wrecks. A man sits behind a car wash sign with a bucket and hose but no customers.

There are about a dozen squatter settlements scattered around Suva, many populated by Indians displaced from the sugarcane-growing areas after the Native Land Trusts Board discouraged the renewal of land leases.

Living in a tin shack perched on an unstable mud bank is Mahesh Prasad with five of his children - the youngest aged 12 - and a grandchild. Up rickety wooden steps he sits on patchy linoleum with a bowl of kava, ready to serve his visiting brother.
[Prasad]once worked the sugarfields at Rakiraki but "the natives" took back the land. Only his two daughters have jobs, both working for the Government. Prasad has had odd jobs like tiling and building maintenance but it's been hard to get work since the coup.

New Zealand should be more understanding, he says. He wants his sons to work in New Zealand to boost the family income. "Can you help us?" he asks, unaware the New Zealand Government has taken Fiji off a list of Pacific countries that can use a new temporary visitor workers scheme.

About a kilometre away down Ratu Dori Rd, "no squatting" and "no planting"signs have been erected in anticipation of a new housing development.

Living at number 17 is indigenous Fijian Fulori Sicinilawa who has been squatting there for seven years with her brother, aunt and husband. Her husband has a job doing deliveries, the others are unemployed. Now all the residents have been told to get out with just a week's notice. "There are not enough jobs in Suva,"she says.

"This land is going to be vacated for new housing, we have to pull out our cassava and taro ... we don't know where we are going." A friend, Akisi Lewatu, says she has no job and stays at home and looks after her two children aged five and 16. "I blame the Government."

Another woman says she knows nothing about the Government and is nervous sharing her views with a reporter. "I only eat and rest. I don't know anything." She votes in national elections but claims to have no interest in politics. "I don't feel I know enough. Sometimes I listen to the news but I don't want to think about it. We mind our business."

Mark Hirst, president of the Fiji-New Zealand Business Council in Suva says jobs in construction and tourism have declined dramatically. Hirst believes tourism might not have been hurt so much but for the reaction from New Zealand and what he calls misleading media portrayal of soldiers on the streets eight months after the coup.

"They made it look worse than it was ... you'd have had to come to Fiji before to know there is no risk."

His vice-president, Bevin Severinsen, is also disappointed at how New Zealand is treating a close trading partner to which it sells far more than it imports back.
New Zealand should try to repair relations and start building bridges, he said.

"It's now a year on. It's time we sat down and start to find ways to get the show on the road."

Severinsen sees New Zealand adopting a hardline, black and white foreign policy to Fiji "yet other things we do are grey". Though not supporting the coup Severinsen believes the end result is the "best thing that could have happened".

"It is probably the first time in Fiji's history that the country has seriously committed to trying to rid itself of all things which affect a developing country ... like corruption, a massively oversized public service and poor performing infrastructure."

Whether the new administration succeeded remained to be seen "but at least they show resolve". "Frank [Bainimarama] is a dictator but he should be applauded for trying to do the right thing. I believe a lot of people are warming to him."

Severinsen concedes the beating by military and police of Ballu Khan, a New Zealand citizen, over an alleged assassination plot was unhelpful but that such behaviour went on before the coup. He is critical of the travel blacklists imposed by countries including New Zealand against those in the interim Government and their families.

The travels ban were extended, following the expulsion of the New Zealand High Commissioner Michael Green in June, to cover all those appointed to head government departments and agencies, or placed on statutory boards, and their immediate family members.

Severinsen says it is putting off genuine people with good intentions to help get Fiji back on its feet. He says the business council has had dialogue on many levels with the new administration and found it very accessible, more so than the former regime.

Caz Tebbutt, president of the Fiji-Australia Business Council, has no issue with sanctions but says some can be counterproductive. "What we like to ask is for politicians overseas to understand the punitive impacts on the private sector ... businesses here have taken a battering this year."

He said Fiji's neighbours should adopt the 24-hour rule. "Stop and think, because once sanctions are put on, they are hard to take off." But Ulai Taoi, president of the Fiji Indigenous Business Council, believes the stance of New Zealand and Australia is correct, although many Fijian-owned businesses have been badly hurt. Turnover has halved at his office supplies company.

Taoi, who was roughed up in a military cell after being accused of creating anti-Bainimarama blog sites, says: "This is the fourth coup. I am concerned this will never end, it is something the military has picked up and will wield every now and then."

Local media tried to position Fijians against New Zealand but he believed grassroots Fijian resentment remained targeted on the military takeover.

Gregory's other article "Post Card from Fiji" is also a good read.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Seed Newsvine


Add to Technorati Favorites

Club Em Designs