Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Fiji Cycloned Out.

Letter Home From Fiji, a blog by Meg Campell-Back has an interesting perspective on the recent Cyclone Gene including video (with a suitable sound track) from the west coast of Viti Levu.

Oceanic blogger, Jonathan Seagal also posted video on the storm surge from his Suva point residence.

Veteran blogger, Mayvelous posted video images from Veiuto, a suburb in Suva.

A co-worker of Mayvelous Sarnil posted some reflections.

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Australia apology for Aborigines

The Australian government has announced it will issue its first formal apology to Aboriginal people when parliament resumes next month.

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Fiji Government condemns ‘outside’ visit

Fiji’s interim Government has condemned a planned visit by the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute next month saying that a number of matters are needed to be ironed out in the judicial system first before they are welcome in the country.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Fiji police keen on Qarase probe

Fiji police are still awaiting word from Interpol on their investigation into the military’s claim against ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase.The Fiji military had claimed that Qarase sought intervention from Australia and New Zealand’s armies at the height of the 2006 coup.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Fiji Media Inc.

Fiji Media has come across some important challenges recently in two different stories, one dealing with Fiji TV's recent tango with the Police and the other with the book launch by Fr. Kevin Barr.

First story titled "We Were Denied Media Freedom" was paraphrased from Fiji TV's lawyer appears in an article by Fiji Times and covers the recent arrest of Fiji TV crew for disobeying a lawful order. "Freedom of the Press is limited to those who own one", a quote from A.J Liebling, which Cafe Pacific writer David Robies corrected me on in a sterling post.

The excerpt:

We were denied media freedom'

Thursday, January 24, 2008

POLICE detained and interrogated a television crew for five hours yesterday for allegedly "disobeying a police order" while covering a school dispute in Nasinu.

Reporter Emily Moli and cameraman Shalendra Datt were ordered into a police van and removed from Rishikul Sanatan College where they were assigned to cover the dispute between the school management and the principal.

Their arrest follows claims by Superintendent Waisea Tabakau of the Valelevu Police Station claimed that the two had failed to abide by a lawful order.

He had told the crew that they were interfering in police business by filming the goings-on at the school yesterday morning.

The pair said they were at the school property at the invitation of Rishikul College management.

SP Tabakau and about 20 officers of the Police Tactical Response Unit arrived at the college, escorting ousted principal Mahendra Pal.

Mr Pal was locked out of the college on Monday by an angry management who refused to acknowledge him as principal.

Ministry of Education officials and the police attempted to have Mr Pal reinstated.

As the officers escorted Mr Pal into the college, SP Tabakau ordered the TV crew to leave.

When they continued filming the event, the senior officer told the journalists they were "disobeying a police order."

Fiji TV Legal Manager Tanya Waqanika described the detention as "totally baseless and totally unjustifiable." "We were denied media freedom," she said.

"Our journalists were shooting inside the private premises on the invitation of the school management." Two more Fiji TV employees were detained at noon after they shot footage from outside the school compound on a public walkway.

Reporter Edwin Nand and cameraman Trevuz Chung were told to get into a police van. They were also told by SP Tabakau that they had disobeyed a lawful order.

They were released a short while later along with the equipment that police had seized.

Ms Waqanika said they would lodge a complaint with the Police Commissioner and the Fiji Media Council on the treatment.

The other story in another article from Fiji Times titled "Media Owners Distort Electoral Process: Barr", covers the gate keeping role of the media during elections.

Media owners distort electoral process: Barr

Saturday, January 26, 2008

MEDIA ownership by a few rich elite has been cause for specific distortion of the democratic electoral process, poverty activist Father Kevin Barr claims.

In his book Thinking About Democracy Today, which was launched earlier this week, he said the media was used to protect the interests of its own class and suppress any criticism of the status quo.

"Their particular influence can affect the outcome of an election," he said.

If "big money" is needed for democratic elections, then democracy can never be truly inclusive of the people, Father Barr writes.

The issue of media freedom has been under the spotlight for some time particularly since talks of a legislation to govern the industry was introduced by previous governments, he said.

"The internal policies of those who own media networks seriously curtail the news which filters down to us. They decide what we should see and hear and what we should not see and hear.

"The media moguls mostly come from families of the extravagantly wealthy who have a particular perspective on the world. Consequently much of what is reported to us is far from neutral," Father Barr said.

He said those who reported the news were not free to report the news and were subject to certain fear because of inbuilt policies and prejudices of those they serve.

The Fiji Times Editor-in-Chief Netani Rika who has served the company for 15 years said while the company was owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Limited, he had never once received a call from him or the publisher dictating how the newspaper should be run or what news to cover.

"Our newsroom is an independent operation within The Fiji Times and we attempt to report all the news, fairly and truthfully. We report without fear or favour. We welcome all views that help broaden our news coverage and our doors are open to everyone.

"If Fr Barr takes issue with the news we do or do not cover, he is welcome to bring the matter to us," Mr Rika said.

Communications Fiji Limited's Managing Director William Parkinson said it was a shame Fr Barr did not take the time to meet with media organisations to research these issues fully.

"Instead it would seem he has stuck to the usual sweeping generalisations thrown around by the misinformed. If he conducted real research he would find a very different story actually exists," he said.

Questions sent to Fiji Television Limited remained unanswered.

The usual defense by the Fiji Times and Communications Ltd. Perhaps consumers of Fiji news should look into Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting(FAIR) website and the contents, reinforces Barr's views on the matter.

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Aust, NZ Relax Travel Ban.

A task team of the National Council for Building a Better Fiji (NCBBF) said it appreciates the decisions of New Zealand and Australia to relax the travel ban on those involved in drafting a people’s charter for Fiji.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Who Has The Fastest Downloads In the Pacific?

Coconut Wireless comments on the recent deal(termed Radisson accord) regarding the deregulation of Fiji's telecommunications industry.
While an Island Business article reviews the players in the ISP sector and their promises to bring broadband to Fiji.
The excerpt of I.B article:

Broadband at Long Last?
But bumps on the superhighway may make the wait longer.

Dev Nadkarni

Hope may be round the corner for Fiji's Internet services consumersfrustrated with snail-paced access speeds, dropping throughputs, linebreaks, and other assorted woes. Come May, the country's surfers couldbe whooshing the web at broadband speeds, downloading songs, even movie clips, at blitzing speeds. For, offering wireless broadband connectivity is I-Pac Communications Fiji Limited, a joint venture between Australian company I-Pac and Fiji's leading broadcaster Communications Fiji Media (CFM).

The joint venture announced the service last month at a press conference in Suva. A licence for operating the service had been issued to the company as long ago as in 2001 by the ministry of information,communications and media relations.

The service provider's technology is wireless throughout, thus completely independent of the telecom network. From sourcing its bandwidth from FINTEL to distributing the service to homes, offices and people on the go, the technology is wireless.

"Access speeds begin at 256 kbps (kilo bits per second) and go up to 1m (mega) bps," says John Pollock, I-Pac's executive chairman. This would be a bonanza for most users, as presently, dial up customers can hope to get connected at a top speed of 56 kbps, though the averagerarely exceeds 33. Users having to share a connection on networks are far worse off.

Besides, the advantages of a wireless connection are obvious. Consumer scan be connected to the network at any place where the wireless network exists. To begin with, this means places around the Suva-Nausori-Lamibelt, Nadi, Lautoka and parts of the Coral Coast -an area that comprises most of urban Fiji.

CFM's radio towers at strategic locations on Viti Levu will be instrumental in providing the wireless network. Consumers wishing toget on to the service will however have to buy some hardware -a special modem whose base version is expected to cost around F$ 300 (versions with hub-capabilities will cost higher). CFM managing director WilliamParkinson says these modems will be made available through consumer electronics stores nationwide.

I-Pac's licence covering radio frequencies of 2.3 to 2.4 and 3.4 to 3.5GHz (giga Hertz) matches with that of Sydney's wireless services provider Unwired, thereby enabling Fijian customers to connect to the Australian network seamlessly whenever they visit Sydney and forUnwired's customers to do so when they are in Fiji. This is a major selling point for tourists, says Pollock. Similar wireless networks exist in New Zealand and are being introduced all over the world.

A connection to the web is just one facility that the service offers.It also has capabilities of voice transmission and delivering a pay TV channel on an Internet Protocol (IP) platform. But Pollock is vary. "We will not provide voice transmission services," he says. "And not pay TVat least for some time now." I-Pac's guarded approach to questions ontelephony and television are understandable. For both voice telephony and television are holy cows in Fiji and anything concerning the two need to be dealt with carefully.

Already, the announcement of the service has caused a stir that could grow into a full-blown controversy in the coming months complete with legal wrangles. Telecom Fiji has gone on record in the past that itcould not recognize any licence that allows provision of Internet services to parties other than its subsidiary Connect, thanks to the exclusive right to terminate all calls within Fiji. The company says its has legal opinion that holds that this exclusive right precludes any other entity providing such a service.

In fact, there are said to be six or seven ISP aspirants whose applications are pending for this very reason. Telecom Fiji has its own reasons for holding on to exclusivity pending deregulation and the absence of any road map and an interim plan and of course the deadlock on its tariff rebalancing proposals (see accompanying story on tariffrebalancing).

But the new wireless entity claims to provide Internet services completely independent of the telecom network, so the question of interconnection does not seem to arise, which is perhaps the reason the company was given a licence to operate by the communications ministryin the first place.

When contacted for his reaction to the new wireless provider's announcement, Lionel Yee, chairman of Amalgamated Telecom Holdings(ATH), the holding company that owns Telecom Fiji and its subsidiary Connect, did not comment, saying that a statement would soon bereleased by Telecom Fiji.

In reply to queries from Islands Business, Telecom Fiji publicrelations manager Salote Uluinaceva issued a statement saying: "Thetelecommunications industry is currently a strictly regulated market.This is a licence issue and we are reserving our position. Our lawyersare currently examining the issue. There should be an agreed road mapto a deregulated market."

In the months preceding the December announcement, the ministry ofcommunications had apparently tried to sort matters out betweenI-Pac/CFM and ATH concerning the conflicting perceptions of exclusivityand one might have thought the matter had been resolved. Telecom'scryptic statement seems to point the other way, though.

Undeterred, Pollock and Parkinson are going ahead with their plans.Technical testing would progress in the coming months and a testservice would be up by April, says Pollock. From a business standpoint,the company plans to cash-in on the pent-up demand for broadband accessin the country and expect a part of the approximately 10,000 dial-upcustomers will switch allegiance. The company is still working out itspricing plans. As for bandwidth, there seems to be plenty to spare: ofthe 32 Mbps available from FINTEL in Fiji, only 18 Mbps is in use.

For Fiji, broadband may well be round the corner. But it looks likethere will be a few bureaucratic and legal bumps to negotiate on thesuperhighway before surfers can really see themselves whooshing off.

Doing a little checking on the advertised speeds claimed by some companies, I decided to compare their claims and the actual speeds as measured using an independent speed measuring website called Speed Test.

Connect Fiji has a complicated pricing framework for their advertised download speeds.

FINTEL also is offering broadband services.

Vodaphone's new 3G network also has claims of super-fast speeds.

Results of the speed measurements in Fiji are as follows:

ISP comparison of download speeds in Suva.

ISP comparison of upload speeds in Suva.

Download speeds in Nadi.

Upload speeds in Nadi.

To compare with other nations.

Australia's broadband speeds divided by region.

New Zealand download speeds, divided by city.

New Caledonia download speeds.

Guam download speeds.

Northern Mariana download speeds.

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Australian defence homes returned to Fiji’s interim Govt.

SUVA, FIJI ---- Fiji’s interim government has taken possession of three out of the 10 defence homes located in Suva’s exclusive Domain Road area.Fiji Military Force spokesman, Colonel Mohamed Aziz confirmed to the regional news agency, PACNEWS the three homes were returned to the interim government last week.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Fiji's Tax Agency Happy With Court Order.

The Fiji Islands Revenue and Customs Authority is happy that the Lautoka High Court has told Natural Waters Viti Limited to pay a bond before they export Fiji Water until the 31st of January.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Fiji Water granted leave to export

Fiji Water has been granted leave by the High Court in Lautoka today to resume exports of the product until January 31. The court will then sit further to deliberate on the matter, it was ruled today.The court sat at 9.30 am today. No further information was available immediately.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Monday ruling for Fiji Water case

The High Court will rule on Monday whether the Fiji authorities can continue to block Fiji Water exports to the USA.A special court sitting to hear the matter, brought by Fiji Water Limited on Thursday, took place in the High Court in Suva today, and has been adjourned for ruling in the High Court in Lautoka.

read more | digg story

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Fiji Water sues Fiji tax department

Natural Waters of Viti Limited, the manufacturer and exporter of Fiji Water, announced today that it had filed court proceedings against the Fiji Islands Revenue & Customs Authority (FIRCA) to resume exports of Fiji Water.

read more | digg story

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

String Theory On A Political Dimension in Fiji.

Stumbled upon an interesting paper titled "Historical Analysis of Population Reactions to Stimuli- A Case Study on Fiji" a document authored by Sen Kikkert and Patricia Dexter from Australia's Department of Defense, Department of Defense Science and Technology-Land Operations Division.

It is debatable how a pseudo Historical Analysis case study is being churned out by a Department of Science and Technology. However, when considering the Fiji's Interim Government's plan for a Lands Use Commission as published in a recent Fiji Times article; the document may have some value from a macro perspective, despite some historical flaws and socio-political, geo-political minimization. For example, Rory Ewins's research on Fiji's 1987 coup is a micro analysis.

The excerpt of Fiji Times article:

State approves land body

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The interim Cabinet has approved the formation of a Committee on Better Utilisation of Land which has been aggressively opposed by a Fijian political party.

Cabinet based its decision on a submission by the interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama yesterday.

Commodore Bainimarama said the committee came about as a result of a resolution by the interim Cabinet last year that the Ministry of Fijian Affairs team up with the Native Land Trust Board and the Provincial Administration to approach landowners regarding ALTA leases that had or were about to expire.

But Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua Party spokesman Peceli Kinivuwai said the interim administration should not be suggesting the formation of such committees.

Mr Kinivuwai said Fijians were wise enough to utilise their land and find solutions to their own problems without influence from outside sources without a mandate from the people.

"Our party does not see the need for non-Fijians to deal with our land," said Mr Kinivuwai. He found it strange that members of the interim administration proposed to resolve the land issue when it did not belong to them.

Mr Kinivuwai said as opposition leader in 2002, Mahendra Chaudhry had engaged in talks with the elected government on land and later backed out.

"It simply does not make sense that after backing out then, today Mr Chaudhry says he has solutions to the land problems," said Mr Kinivuwai.

He said landowners needed to be consulted over such a sensitive asset.

Commodore Bainimarama said four teams with representatives from the Ministries of Indigenous Affairs, Provincial Development and Agriculture, the Department of Lands, the Native Lands Trust Board, as well as the provincial councils would visit and meet landowners in key areas in the central, eastern, western and northern divisions.

"The teams would explain to landowners the possibilities and benefits of re-leasing their land to tenants wishing to pursue farming activities," said Commodore Bainimarama.

The interim Prime Minister said land was the most productive resource of every country and provided wealth to many.

"Fiji was blessed with good climate, productive land, keen and skilled farmers and yet we cannot fully exploit the land," he said.

"The Fijian landowners who own almost 90 per cent of all land on communal basis have unnecessary fears that their land can be alienated or removed by tenant farmers who are largely Fiji Indians.

"Politicians and nationalists caused reluctance among Fijian landowners from leasing their land because of absolute misadvised lies and political manipulation espoused by narrow minded politicians and other individuals.

"The ultimate result has been a national disgrace, loss of livelihood for landowners and the tenants as well as loss of farm knowledge and skills."

He said Indians lived in Fiji for close to 130 years and had never taken an inch of Fijian land held under customary ownership.

"The perception of uncertainty and fear instilled in the minds of landowners needs to be removed and this can be done through a massive outreach campaign organised and funded by the Government to expose and educate the Fijian landowners about the many good things which continued leasing of land would bring to them, tenants and the country as a whole."

"The Fijian landowners are now also increasingly realising the many disadvantages they are facing as a result of their unwise decision not to continue leasing their lands," said Commodore Bainimarama.

He said the consultation would convince landowners to lease their land.

The committee will comprise the Permanent Secretaries of the Prime Minister's Office, Indigenous Affairs, Provincial Development, Lands, Agriculture and the chief executive of the Native Land Trust Board while being chaired by the Permanent Secretary for Indigenous Affairs.

The committee will also examine the relevance, viability and acceptability or otherwise of NLTB's proposal for some incentives to be offered to the landowners and a paper on this will be prepared and taken for Cabinet consideration in their next meeting.

Reactions to the story was published in Fiji Times "Have Your Say" Column, igniting vitriolic postings bordering on racist.
Fiji's Interim Prime Minister, realizing the dangerous under current, was quick to condemn the negative spin on the proposed initiative, from fear mongers with an ethno-nationalistic mindset. Teresia Teiawa's paper underscores the complexity and dove tails into the population stimuli thesis raised by the paper.

The except of Fiji Times article:

Voreqe condemns land use critics

1454 FJT
Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Update: 2.58pm INTERIM Prime Minister, Commander Voreqe Bainimarama has strongly condemned suggestions that the interim Government's proposed land use initiative is geared towards changing land ownership.

And he has called on those making those comments and SDL party not to mislead the landowners and politicise the land issue but let landowners decide what is good for them. He has warned politicians and nationalists not to create unnecessary fear and whip up the emotions of the landowners.

"The traditional Fijian landowners who own almost 90 per cent of all land in the country have unnecessary fears that their land can be alienated or removed by tenant farmers who are largely Fiji Indians," Commander Bainimarama said.

"The reluctance of Fijian landowners resulted mainly from bad advise, lies and political manipulation espoused by narrow-minded politicians and other individuals."

"The Fijian landowners are now realising the many disadvantages they are facing as a result of their unwise decision not to continue leasing their lands."

[Bainimarama]said the proposed initiative by the interim Government has nothing to do with ownership of the land or changing land legislations and policies but it was to generate interest amongst the landowners for better utilization of their land.

It is also ironic to note that this "Lands Use Commission" was a concept floated by Fiji's 1999 democratically elected Government and it has been argued that the issue was used a political ammunition by elements supporting the status quo. Suffice to say, the same fears being echoed from the same elements of danger.

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