Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Winston Defames Fiji?

What Winston seems unable to get his head around is the fact that Fiji is not 'just like New Zealand' when he comments disparagingly about The Commodore's 'People's Charter' which in itself is the key to positive political change in Fiji.

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Perhaps a look into Winston Peters and the sources of his campaign finances, as outlined in this video (posted below)unravels the integrity of the New Zealand Foreign Minister.

Beta Democracy 2.0 -A Discussion On Fiji.

The opinion piece in the Fiji Times, written by Swani Maharaj was thought provoking and outstanding.

The excerpt:

"Thus the mindset of generations became based on kai Idia, kai Viti, kai Valagi, instead of as fellow citizens above and beyond race. When we think of any national issue we think from a racial perspective and not from a nationalistic one, or from the point of view of the good of the community in Fiji"

Only we can make it happen

SWANI MAHARAJMonday, March 24, 2008

Image (L):The various races that make up Fiji mingle in central Suva as they go about their business

The National Council for Building a Better Fiji is a dream. It is the dream of the interim Government to build a true democracy regardless of race, to unite the people of Fiji through equal value for vote, and to remove the inherent injustices imposed on many of the people of Fiji.

Whether it stays a dream or is translated into reality for the benefit of every citizen in Fiji is entirely up to us. The NCBBF hopes to produce a charter expressing the collective expectations of the people of Fiji from future governments.

This is not a unique phenomena the 1997 Constitution was itself the dream of people who genuinely wanted to build a better, more just, and truly multi-racial Fiji.

This is evident from Dr Brij Lal's comment (FT 3/3/08) that the letter as well as the spirit of the Constitution must be followed.

But neither was that dream was shattered by racial polarisation or perhaps by petty self interest which surpassed the interest of the nation either the leaders were so oriented or the people of Fiji were unable to consider themselves as people of Fiji rather than 'Indians", 'Kai Viti', etc.

So will the NCBBF succeed when the 1997 Constitution failed? Yes, it will if we do our bit.

This is the first time that the largest number of people from all walks of life, and not only political leaders can have their say. It will and it can because two coups later, and with demographical changes much has changed.

One important difference is that the 1997 Constitution was a result of the 1987 coup which propagated indigenous supremacy.

The NCBBF comes two coups later. Of these, the Speight coup was unable to effectively demonstrate that it did the ordinary Taukei any good.

And the 2006 'takeover' aimed to rescue a nation where racial discrimination masqueraded as 'affirmative action', where corruption was more pervasive than AIDS in Africa, and where the government was too arrogant to consider itself answerable to anyone be it the Opposition or the taxpayer.

This is an opportunity to rise to the occasion and speak up. To make a difference to the nation, to our future generations. It is a sacred responsibility.

A history of the politics of race

Our colonial masters laid strong foundations of institutionalised racial barriers in order to divide and govern Fiji. This racism permeated the deepest recesses of our psyche from our tender years we imbibed it in schools in which even the curriculum perpetuated racial compartmentalisation rather than integration and interaction.

Thus the mindset of generations became based on kai Idia, kai Viti, kai Valagi, instead of as fellow citizens above and beyond race. When we think of any national issue we think from a racial perspective and not from a nationalistic one, or from the point of view of the good of the community in Fiji.

The 1970 Constitution came with independence; its inherent racial compartmentalisation and the 1987 coup further entrenched the politics of race.

However, in 1996 there was a welcome and progressive change in the form of the Reeves Commission Report. This report was envisaged to become the basis of a united and consolidated nation as it laid the foundation for non-racial elections.

For the first time, it gave all the people of Fiji a say in the election of the President and Vice-President of Fiji.

Being based on true democratic principles, it reshaped the role of the GCC in the interest of uniting all the people of Fiji. Unfortunately, the leaders of the major political parties NFP, SVT and GVP changed the recommendations of the Reeves Report.

Sadly, for Fiji its recommendations were not incorporated in the 1997 Constitution. The members of the NCBBF could find valuable avenues and options in the Reeves Report to formulate the basis of uniting the people of Fiji.

Blair, Rudd and the NCBBF

In 2003 Tony Blair launched 'the Big Conversation' a kind of roadshow through which he endeavoured to talk to people from all walks of life by visiting churches, community halls, schools, and towns etc.

He appeared on TV-radio and was available on websites to listen to and address question by the average John Citizen. He shared his vision for the United Kingdom with his people and got their views as well. He won the election because it was a bottom up exercise that was all about listening and sharing his vision.

The NCBBF seeks to do the same. And Fiji must avail itself of this opportunity in order to work out its own destiny.

Two very important reactions to his summit are worth noting while the Opposition leader, Brendon Nelson, welcomed the summit, Alexander Downer, the former Foreign Affairs Minister, ridiculed the process saying "He is the PM, he should know what to do next, not consult a thousand people" (Courier Mail 4.02.08).

The NCBBF provides both an avenue and a challenge for the people of Fiji we can look at contributing positively through this avenue initiated by the interim Government. Or we can reject it out of sheer peevishness, small-minded self-interest or simply because we really don't want to make the effort to think beyond our noses.

It is a question of seeing the glass half full as Nelson sees it, or half empty as Downer sees it. We can be either optimistic or pessimistic the choice is ours. We can have our say and be heard it might make a difference. Or we can be quiet and deny ourselves the chance of being heard, let alone making any difference to our state of existence.

Under the 1997 Constitution, such a national consultation process is impossible. It would be superfluous a government voted in on the communal voting system, elected by one ethnic group, would work to sustain that vote bank and would thus have no reason to seek broad-based consultation or to formulate a national charter.

We, the people of Fiji, and our friends and well wishers in the international community, must appreciate that any so-called 'democratically elected' government in Fiji will never wish to engage in such an exercise.

Tradition and change

This is the reality of Fiji: One ethnic group is subject to 'traditional' controls clearly this does not constitute a democratic setup. And the other group exists in a partial and flawed democracy in which they do not have political democratic rights at all levels of government.

It is important for us to decide whether we want a modern day democracy and its benefits or we want to continue with this 'mutant' version of democracy. If we want a 'true' democracy, traditional institutions should be democratic in nature so that the population can benefit from their protection and guidance in which there is no opportunity for manipulation, or denial of democratic freedoms.

The voice of the commoner is equally important in a democracy by its very nature a democracy has no place for social hierarchies. Numerous advocates of 'democracy' and 'elected governments' fail to see this glaring anomaly, this flaw in the system.

Decisions in this regard must carefully consider the needs and values of future generations of indigenous people who will be living in a more materialistic world, in the digital age, competing on a level playing field.

The latest census figures show the rapidly increasing urbanisation of indigenous people tradition and modernisation can be conflicting realities for them, or they can be complementary realities. Perhaps the NCBBF is an appropriate forum to deliberate upon and arrive at decisions in this regard and embody these in the Charter.

A peep into the future

This brings us to the question of acquisition of land for the public interest in Fiji.

For example let us look at FEA. FEA has to pay over $ 50m in lease money in compensation to landowners every 50 years, that is $ 1m per year. Where does FEA earn this kind of money from? Obviously from its users. Before 1987, because of the larger population and urbanisation of Fiji-Indians, we may safely say that they may have been the group that primarily contributed to the FEA.

Twenty years from now, the Fiji-Indian population will be down to 20 per cent and the indigenous population will be the majority of electricity users and taxpayers they will then pay exorbitant rates in order to enable FEA to pay lease money. The recent payment by the Government for community-government school lands is a deterrent to public benefit and a huge burden on the taxpayers who will, in the near future, be ethnic Fijians.

Today, it is important to evaluate such payment arrangements from a non-racial perspective. The NCBBF may be the right forum to generate optional systems in the interest of public services such as hospitals/nursing stations, government offices, schools, airports, roads and wharfs.

This will avoid closures and demands which are detrimental to the economy and will also relieve the taxpayers' burden.

The views expressed are the writer's own and not those of the Fiji Chamber of Commerce of which he is president.

Interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama points out the resistance against the charter in a Radio Fiji article. The excerpt:

PM: Some resisting Fiji regimes effort
Thursday, March 27, 2008

NCBBF co-chair Commodore Voreqe Banimarama and John Samy (L)

Taken from / By: Fiji Broadcasting Corporation

Interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama says there are some within Fiji and outside who have turned a deaf year and resisted change in the country.

Speaking at the second meeting of the National Council for Building a Better Fiji in Suva, Commodore Bainimarama says these very people have taken every opportunity to fault Fiji, stir up controversy and disrupt the Interim Government’s efforts to take the country to elections.

He’s told delegates at the meeting that what is more important is the fact that the Interim Government has not deviated from its fundamental purpose.

These are, he says moving Fiji forward, putting new policies for growth and development in place and putting Fiji on a path of sustainable democratic governance.

The meeting ends this afternoon.

Perhaps the individuals who stir up controversy, may also include Fiji Sun's acting Publisher, who wrote an opinion article published in Tuesday March 26th 2008 issue.

The excerpt of FS article:

Fijian protocol must be respected in the promotion of the People’s Charter. The interim government must tread cautiously when trying to convince the Fijian people to support the charter.

Already, the Fijian people are divided and the charter cannot be forced on them.
On the record paramount chiefs of Rewa (Marama Bale na Roko Tui Dreketi Ro Teimumu Kepa), Naitasiri (Turaga na Qaranivalu Ratu Inoke Takiveikata), Cakaudrove (Turaga Bale na Tui Cakau Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu), Nadroga (Turaga Na Kalevu Ratu Sakiusa Makutu), Tavua (Turaga na Tui Tavua Ratu Ovini Bokini) and Namosi (Turaga na Tui Namosi Ratu Suliano Matanitobua) are against the charter.

Usually, Fijians follow their chiefs although to some extent this has changed.
Religious groups including the Methodist Church, the Then India Sanmarga Ikya (TISI) Sangam, Shree Sanatan Dharam Pratinidhi Sabha have decided not to be part of the charter.

We must be mindful of the rights in the 1997 Constitution. People have the right to decide for themselves and in the current case must decide on whether to accept the charter or not. We must be mindful of the fact that the charter is a new political vehicle initiated by Interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama.

The format, content and authority of this charter are not yet clear.
President Ratu Josefa Iloilo addressing the first meeting of the National Council for Building a Better Fiji (NCBBF) said the council would chart out a course for peace, political stability, good governance, harmonious co-existence and prosperity for all, the people of Fiji. In fact this is a way forward for a new Fiji.

The charter must be supported by the indigenous Fijians to make it effective. The religious body which represents the majority of the Fijian people, the Methodist Church of Fiji and the political party that represents majority of the Fijian people (Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua - SDL) is against the charter.

SDL leader Laisenia Qarase said Fiji does not need a People’s Charter to achieve true democracy. He said the charter should not be forced on the people of the country and the interim government should take steps to start dialogue on the People’s Charter before formulating the document.

Already I must admit the Fijian people are suspicious about the charter. They are not happy with the reforms made in Fijian institutions. They are not happy with the new Fijian Affairs (Great Council of Chiefs) Act. They are not happy that the new Act that has ruled out chiefs who are SDL members or public office bearers in 2006 to be members of the Great Council of Chiefs. They are not happy that the charter will not allow communal voting. They are not happy that election will only be carried out if they accept the charter.

They are not happy because they now realise that the way forward for PM Bainimarama and backed by the Interim Finance Minister and Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry involves cutting long-established government programmes for Fijians that the new government’s leaders label racist and divisive. They are not happy with the militarization of the civil service.

It is a fact that the government of the day must try to unite the Fijian people and get their support before preparing the charter. Because of the lack of support from the Fijian people, all efforts to put in place the for the charter will be meaningless.

They have given their total support to the 1997 Constitution. They know that there is no provision in the constitution for a referendum to be carried out in the absence of parliament.

Ousted Opposition Leader Mick Beddoes when asked about the referendum to get the people’s approval said - “In so far as the suggestion of a referendum to adopt this charter, I am aware that there is currently no provision in our constitution for such an undertaking so some type of promulgation will obviously be required to create a law to deal with this, so as to regulate how the various questions are to be framed.
In this regard, I would like to think that some ‘external international assistance’ is sought to ensure ‘impartiality’ on the part of the Interim government.”

Mr Beddoes said although the referendum would probably be extra constitutional, the result could possibly be acceptable as it will ‘from the people’ who are after all the real source of power and sovereignty."
Majority of the legal birds contacted said the charter has to be put in place by a democratically elected government. It will be interesting to see how the charter will be put in place. If it is through a referendum so that the voice of the people is heard, it will be unconstitutional because the Constitution is silent on referendum.

Outside observers have speculated that the PM might argue for the postponement of the election until a charter is put in place. Some critics have gone further, wondering if the People’s Charter might become a populist vehicle to legitimising the military regime, perhaps displacing the 1997 Constitution itself.

Well, with the division in the Fijian society, government must use the Fijian protocol to get the support. It must first of all seek the forgiveness of the chiefs and ask for their support to the charter.

Government must concentrate on its clean up campaign and bring people implicated to justice. The Fijian people want a democratically elected government to decide on the political future and changes for the nation.

With the current progress I must admit that the Fijian people feel they have been discriminated. According to Fijian academic and Rewa young chief Ro Filipe Tuiswau it is becoming more and more apparent that the Interim Government is fulfilling a pre-conceived agenda to weaken the core strength of the Fijian people.

When one looks at the events of Dec 2006 and the overthrow, he says, it is basically aimed at the Fijian people. “To date, no SDL MP has been arrested for corruption so the coup was really just a pretext to launch certain individuals to power, apart from hiding their own corruption and illegal acts such as tax evasion, as the sun was about to set for them. Not only that, it propelled into powers the Labour Leader, his cronies and failed New Alliance politicians. All of them were going out and this was their last chance of glory.

However, when you look at the suspension of GCC, targeting of Fijian executives and Fijian institutions and businesses, there is a clear agenda in place. This agenda can easily be linked to the recommendations in Saiyed Khaiyums thesis publicised in the May 2007 Islands Business magazine.

It recommended the restructuring and weakening of Fijian institutions so that their loyalty is redirected to the state rather than to their provinces and chiefs,” Ro Filipe said. He said the Peoples Charter aim to create a non racial Fiji is all part of the anti Fijian conspiracy.

It is time for the government to rally for the support of the Fijian people.
Fijians are divided between allegiance and support for the military-led government and the GCC. Because there is a definite split it is time that Fijian leaders sit down and talk with our current leaders..

It is also time that the relationship between the interim administration and the GCC also needs to be rectified. According to Dr Steven Ratuva it is time for a bridge to be built across it and talks to begin for the future of this country.
The way forward is not the Charter but the support of the Fijian community.

Accordingly, SiFm offers a rebuttal for the opinion piece. The excerpt of the rebuttal:

The opinion article that appeared in Fiji Sun, Tues March 25th, 2008 regarding the Charter compiled by the National Council To Build a Better Fiji (NCBFF) is disingenuous, divisive and deceptive.

The article opens with an obtuse generalization stating that: “Fijian protocol must be respected in the promotion of the People’s Charter”. It is no doubt that the article has the finger prints of Fiji Sun's acting publisher, Samisoni Kakaivalu all over it, based on his previous writings that carry the same DNA: oversimplification, overwhelmingly ethno-nationalistic and devoid of facts.

Clearly the Fijian protocol is not in contention and for the article to even suggest that is reprehensible. The opening statement, is merely the opening moves of an article, riddled with condescending logical flaws.

Kakaivalu drops the names of six chiefs who have not acceded their support to their charter, after stating that “the Fijian people are divided and the charter cannot be forced upon them”.

The article contradicts its opening premise on the chiefs decision by correctly alluding that: “Usually, Fijians follow their chiefs although to some extent this has changed”.

The article list the religious organizations which also do not support the charter and then follows up with the suggestion that under the 1997 Constitution, people have a right to choose on their own accord. That also means that, regardless of what the chiefs or religious organization have declared, the people will determine their own destiny.

Kakaivalu continues his ethno-nationalistic generalization of how the Methodist Church is made of majority Fijians, as with the SDL party and with a “Non Sequitur” inference, concludes that the decisions made by the Methodist church and SDL are best for the Fijian people.

The article quotes from deposed Prime Minister and SDL party leader Laisenia Qarase: “Fiji does not need a People’s Charter to achieve true democracy”.

According to Qarase's model of true democracy, raced based voting system is prevalent, where chiefs use their traditional authority to force their people to vote a certain way, where culture, religion and politics are so intertwined and blurred that people are not sure if they are voting for a lay minister or a chief.
"The ripples of fears emanating from the detractors of charter to take Fiji forward, are perhaps self induced doubts by those living in the past and like crabs in a basket, continue to drag back in, those trying to escape".
Under Qarase's 6 years of true democracy, the resources of the state where squandered in vote buying schemes known as the Agricultural scam and where $F20 million loan to construct the Great Council of Chiefs(GCC) complex was mysteriously converted to a grant. The legacy of Qarase's true democracy leaves a wake of poor and rural dwelling Fijians, clutching at unfulfilled promises.

Kakaivalu further outlines how the Fijian people are unhappy for litany of reasons, without providing evidence of his source. For all we know, the article's author could have plucked those supposed facts, out of thin air. The article quotes from people who undoubtedly have their own axes to grind and then continues with ethno-nationalistic fear mongering, a well used approach by Kakaivalu during his tenure at the Fiji Times.

The article further falls victim to “Post hoc, ergo propter hoc”, a classic logical fallacy when quoting from Filipe Tuisawau who was commenting on the charter:
“It recommended the restructuring and weakening of Fijian institutions so that their loyalty is redirected to the state rather than to their provinces and chiefs [...]the Peoples Charter aim to create a non racial Fiji is all part of the anti Fijian conspiracy”.
It is circular reasoning to conclude that that all Fijian people are first citizens of the provinces, subjects of their chiefs and not the state. The Fijian people use the currency of the state to purchase goods, not on monetary notes issued by the province. The Fijian people who travel, have passports issued by the Fiji Government, not by the provincial chiefs. Fiji is a member of the United Nations, not Rewa, Naitasiri, Cakaudrove, Nadroga, Tavua, Namosi or any loose alliances in between.

The Fijian people had watched the Fiji team play well during the last world cup and with the upcoming 2008 IRB Hong Kong Sevens tournament, the rugby team will be wearing Fiji jerseys, not provincial ones. Nor will the question of provinces or loyalties to a chief will be raised, because even the chiefs themselves will be watching the game in anticipation, as well as cheering when the Fiji team excels.

Being a chief is not the criteria for choosing the rugby team representing Fiji and if it would, the team would succumb to traditional protocol, just to figure out who runs on to the field first and who should be the Captain. Even the choice of passing, tackling and kicking the ball would have to be first determined under consensus using traditional protocol.

It would not take a rocket scientist to figure out the track record of such a hypothetical team and its ultimate fate; for certain it will be become the greatest laughing stock of the entire sporting world. We dare not think about the future of a state, under the same conditions of provincial bickering, handicapped by traditional protocol and governed by chiefly duplicity.

Fijian culture is not being threatened; for the arts and crafts, mannerisms, respect for the elderly are inherently safe and that knowledge is passed on from generation to generation.

The fear of divided loyalties, unfortunately lies solely with those disgruntled detractors who are aligned with the chiefly system. The detractors worry that, no longer will they have any subjects to rule and no longer can they influence people and arrest their god given right to choose, live and think for themselves.
Although, there is some legitimacy to the fear of change; people cannot be permanently paralyzed by all things new, as that will reduce the populace to the wasteland of a fortress mentality.

As the article pleads for the Interim Government to unite the Fijian people, it is rather ironic that the main thrust of Kakaivalu's article, magnified the matters the divide the nation and dismissing the ties that bind the nation together.

According to renown African American scholar, W.E.B Du Bois' 1944 essay: "My Evolving Program For Negro Freedom" :
“The hope of civilization lies not in exclusion, but in inclusion of all human elements; we find the richness of humanity[...]not in great aristocracies, chosen people and superior races, but in throngs of disinherited and underfed [people]. Not the lifting of the lowly, but the unchaining of the unawakened mighty, will reveal the possibilities of genius, gift and miracle, in mountainous treasure trove, which hitherto civilization has scarcely touched”.
As the charter proposes to steer the nation of Fiji on a new course for the future and inspires the building of bridges, as opposed to burning them; perhaps those who oppose that, are merely obstructionists for their own reasons, reasons far divorced from those of the nation.

The ripples of fears emanating from the detractors of charter to take Fiji forward, are perhaps self induced doubts by those living in the past and like crabs in a basket, continue to drag back in, those trying to escape. Undoubtedly people must be inspired to lift themselves out of the basket of hopelessness and misery, to a forge a new paradigm which the charter encapsulates. In order to ignore those fears of change, the slogan of the Barack Obama's US Presidential campaign is invaluable- “Yes we can!”.

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Fiji Nuclear Veterans-The Legal Grapple.

Fiji veterans who were part of the 1950's nuclear test at Christmas Island, known as Operation Grapple had their case covered in a SBS documentary. Although, the video was aired in 2003 it was recently added to Youtube.

The other development was a class action law suit against the Ministry of Defense, according to an article published in Legal and Medical online magazine. The class action lawsuit was first covered in an 2002 article from Radio NZ. A researcher at Massey University in New Zealand conducted tests on 50 veterans and initial results pointed out that DNA was damaged, as covered in the Massey University web page.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bainimarama slams Qarase on land rental

Fiji’s interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama said if the actual land rental levied on native land was 2 or 3 % of UCV, “then why didn't the Qarase administration do anything during its time in office to increase it to actual 6 percent”?

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Document in Question.

The allegations of emails being hacked in Fiji, are being spun heavily by the Fiji media. Concerns of privacy aside, what are the facts of the issue?
Local lawyer, Graham Leung admits to be the author of a document titled " Exposing the Lie" which was circulated to a Public Relations consultant, Matt Wilson for his advice.

Interim Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum had summoned the Fiji Times Publisher to address the contents and accuracy of that particular document, in relation to the recent media coverage on allegations of tax evasion, which seemingly appeared to be unfair and unbalanced.

Background on Graham Leung.

Lawyer representing, Ballu Khan regarding the allegations of financing an assassination plot and also represents former Chief Justice, Daniel Fatiaki.
Leung, the Vice-President of LAWASIA was prevented from attending a legal conference in New Zealand, according to an article published by Lawyers Weekly online. Leung was also involved in pressuring LAWASIA President, Mah Weng Kwai to resign from the newly from corruption unit known as FICAC, the resignation was reported in a Fiji Times article.

Background on Matt Wilson.

Former Fiji Times journalist and speech writer for deposed Fiji Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase. Owner of Public Relations firm, Matt Wilson Ltd, Director and Major Shareholder of Communications Fiji Ltd, according to their website.

Fiji Sun article quotes from Telecom Fiji employee regarding the legality of phone tapping.

Phone tapping illegal: Telecom
Last updated 3/20/2008 8:19:52 AM

Any directive to tap into personal telephone lines can only come from the President, says Telecom.

Telecommunication Fiji Limited acting chief executive officer Taito Tabaleka said the permission to tap into any person’s phone calls could only come from Ratu Josefa Iloilo.

Mr Tabaleka said the company did not receive any such order from Ratu Josefa in the recent past to tap into telephone conversations.
“Under the Telecom Act, only the President can order to have a telephone tapped and only under extreme situations like for national security reasons,’’ he said.

“Only then does TFL implement necessary equipment to satisfy the request from the President. “Under the current situation we’d like to confirm that no such order has been received.”

Mr Tabaleka however did not say whether any other organisation in the country had the necessary equipment to tap into and listen to phone conversations. He also did not say if phone conversations were safe.

The revelation came after concerns were raised over the suspected tapping of phones and lines belonging to individuals and organisations.Meanwhile, a media consultant yesterday alleged to have been threatened by a military personnel over an article he had edited.

Matt Wilson, a public affairs and media consultant, said he was threatened by someone he suspected to be from the military over professional editorial services he had provided for a draft article sent to him by Suva lawyer Graham Leung.

In a statement, Mr Wilson said the article critical of the interim regime was similar to countless others he had done in his career. “Mr Leung’s draft contained some forthright comment but I did not think it was particularly strident,’’ he said.
“I have seen more outspoken commentaries on the local situation.

It was for Mr Leung to ensure that the final version was accurate.” Mr Wilson said at about 5.40pm a caller speaking in a loud and aggressive voice demanded to speak to him.

“I asked who was calling and I thought I heard the name ‘Sota’ or ‘Sotia’,’’ he said. “He told me to be careful and to watch out, and said “we know what you are doing”. “He said “we have intercepted your letter to the Fiji Times”.

Then he put the receiver down.” “Of course, there was no letter from me to the Fiji Times. There was a draft article that I believe Mr Leung intended to send to that newspaper.”

Mr Leung had told an overseas journalist that he had also been threatened by someone from the military over that same letter.

In an article on Radio Fiji website, Fiji Times Editor has disputed the recent comments of the Interim Attorney General, regarding the article written by controversial lawyer, Graham Leung.

The excerpt of the Radio Fiji article:

‘Come out with proof’ says newspaper
Monday, March 17, 2008

The Fiji Times has questioned the Attorney-General office to come out with proof of allegations he made last Friday of articles which the newspaper states does not exist.

Fiji Times editor-in-chief Netani Rika in responding to the AG’s claims at a media conference says it’s unfair of Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum to make accusations on non-existent articles.

“To be intimidated over an issue which doesn’t even exist and which is being created by the Interim Attorney General himself I don’t think that’s fair on anyone.

“We have made a current check of our database and nothing existed there, I don’t know where he got the documents from and so it’s actually for him to say where he got the documents from and what is contained in them,” he said.

Rika adds the Attorney-General needs to support his claim against columnist James Bolavucu because as far as he’s concerned Bolavucu has been a regular contributor who lives in the United Kingdom.

On Friday, the AG also claimed that the interim government was reliably informed that Bolavucu was not corresponding from the UK but from Tamavua.

The excerpt of the Fiji Times article:

Military threatened me, Leung tells Radio NZ

Monday, March 17, 2008

SUVA lawyer Grahame Leung yesterday told Radio New Zealand he received a threatening phone call from the military this week.

Mr Leung told Radio NZ the threatening call he received was over an article he was writing for The Fiji Times, criticising the interim Government. He is representing New Zealander Ballu Khan who is charged with conspiring to kill interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama and some other interim Government members. Mr Leung could not be reached for a comment on the issue yesterday.

However, New Zealand lawyer Peter Williams, QC, who is also representing Mr Khan told Radio NZ he was worried for Mr Leung, given the number of incidents in which people had died or were beaten while in custody.

Mr Williams said there was the potential for violence, as there seemed to be a lack of control and restraint in Fiji at present. When asked yesterday if police had received any complaints from Mr Leung on the issue, assistant police spokesman Corporal Josaia Weicavu said they had not.

On Thursday last week, interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum had summoned The Fiji Times Publisher Evan Hannah to his office.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said in a press conference the same afternoon that the meeting was to discuss the possible publication of certain articles that the Prime Minister's Office had received on Thursday afternoon. He said the PM's Office received a couple of articles from within The Fiji Times that apparently were going to be printed as an opinion piece.

[Sayed-Khaiyum] said the interim Government believed the articles contained factual inaccuracies, was highly emotive and discussed matters that were in court.

The Fiji Times editor-in-chief Netani Rika said Mr Sayed-Khaiyum had done himself, the media and country a great disservice by trying to create a situation that did not exist.

Mr Rika said perhaps Mr Sayed-Khaiyum should make known everything that he said to the publisher during their meeting.

Leung ratchets up his paranoia by another notch stating in a Fiji Village article that his emails are being hacked and phones tapped. That allegation was also covered by Radio Fiji article. The excerpt:

Leung believes ‘phone’s being tapped’
Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Suva lawyer Graham Leung believes his phone lines could be tapped. Leung had reportedly claimed he was being threatened last week for an article, which a local daily never published.

Speaking to Radio Australia, he says an overseas journalist had told him his phone was giving a lot of echo during the course of an interview.

“You can call it if you like a sixth sense, I do feel that my communication has been intercepted”.

Pacific Beat had asked the Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum if there’s email hacking or phone tapping activity going on. “Absolutely, I have never authorized anybody to tap phones or hack into emails.

“The point is its unfortunate it appears to me that if a certain group of people in Fiji makes an allegation, suddenly it becomes the truth and not the allegation,” he said.

Fiji Times article amplifies Leung's anger over the claims of hacked emails.

The excerpt:

Breach angers lawyer Leung

Thursday, March 20, 2008

SUVA lawyer Graham Leung is almost certain his office computers have been hacked after a series of electronic correspondence were intercepted by parties other than the intended recipient.

He said several weeks ago, an email by one of his colleagues (at Howards Lawyers) to someone in New Zealand was leaked.

"A list of cases that were sent to me from my New Zealand lawyer who I am assisting with the Chief Justice's case before a Tribunal, found its way into the hands of third parties unconnected with the case," said Mr Leung.

"The final evidence was when a media consultant whom I emailed a draft copy of an article I am researching, received a phone call last Friday about the same time as I did and was told 'Be careful, watch out. We know what you are doing. We have intercepted a letter to The Fiji Times'."

He confirmed yesterday the number recorded on the caller ID of his land telephone line was from the Queen Elizabeth Barracks 3385222 - although the caller did not identify himself.

Calls to the military's media cell yesterday afternoon were unanswered.

At a press conference last week, interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the Prime Minister's Office received a couple of articles that were written as an opinion piece and was to be published by this newspaper. This is the same article Mr Leung was compiling but which had not been released to The Fiji Times.

Mr Leung said with the availability of modern satellites, spying on people thousands of miles away and computer hacking would be quite easy.

But, he said, his article that was in the interim Government's possession, could not be said to be stolen as there were no laws to criminalise hacking or unauthorised interference with computers and receipt of this information.

"But in many countries, the person or persons who hacked my computer would have committed a crime by what they did," he said.

"In any event, my legal right to privacy has been violated. I can't understand the fuss about the article. Like any other citizen, I have a right to freedom of conscience and expression. I am entitled to enjoy those rights because they are in the Constitution," he said.

Perhaps Leung should realize, that everyone's electronic communications are routinely sucked up by global intercepts.
These electronic intercepts are done globally and vacuums up tera bytes of data in the program known as Echelon, which actually makes Leung's unfounded allegations appear dwarfish in comparison.

The super network of electron filters is run by NSA and the organization is perhaps the biggest consumer of resources in all of America's Government agencies.

One thing is for sure, the proposed retroactive immunity for Telecom companies was rejected in the Democratic controlled House, according to a New York Times article. The US President has vowed to veto any legislation that omits Telecom immunity.

An interesting letter appears in the Fiji Times Voice of the People column in response to an earlier Fiji Times article regarding the allegations of local lawyer, Graham Leung.

The excerpt of the Letter:

Biased Report

Your article about Mr Leung's report of military harassment to Radio New Zealand is in itself a patently biased piece of reporting.

Mr Leung's report is just that it is nothing more than a claim, yet you jump from that to report instances of abuse in custody which Mr Leung is not and then go on to refer to the Attorney-General's attempts to pre-empt the publication of inaccurate and possibly contemptuous articles.

There is nothing of substance in the article whatsoever.

Mr Leung does not state what threats were made to him, the Attorney-General does not disclose the nature of the articles he is concerned about. Yet you seem to link all these nebulous events to create a web of political unrest and violence that doesn't exist and which defies logic.

K. Madigan
Hong Kong

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Fiji’s media labelled ‘divisive and racist’

Interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry says Fiji’s media should be licensed because it’s divisive and racist.He says it’s not practising the way it should be and is not following media principles or ethics.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

A Cafe Pacific Analysis-Fiji Times 'voice of the people'

One of my Fiji journo colleagues has brought to Cafe Pacific's attention a few interesting letters on the Fiji Times Online website.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I did not call on Australian army: Qarase

Fiji's ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase has denied asking the Australian military to intervene on three occasions prior to the Dec 05, 2006 coup.Under cross examination in the High Court in Suva today, Qarase also said he is not aware of a proposal submitted to the National Security Council...

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Fiji Times -Hoisted By Their Own Petard. (Edited)

The released independent report (PDF) on tax evasion.

"FIJI Times Limited has been ordered to pay interim Cabinet Minister Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi $30,000 in defamation damages for articles and letters to the editor published between 1999 and 2003."

"It is quite clear that the allegations of the Fiji Times are merely that, and covers the spectrum from absurd to ridiculous".

A foregone conclusion

Fiji Times Editorial. Wednesday, March 12, 2008

THE conclusion of the inquiry into interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry's tax matters was foregone. Once the terms of reference were made known at the weekend, even a blind person would have been able to see what the three-member team would say in its report.

There was no mention in the terms of reference of the $A1.6million at the center of the tax issue. There was no mention of who provided the money or, indeed, where these mysterious funds may be at this time. Nor was there any attempt to find out how involved a foreign power has been in the internal politics of this sovereign nation.

It is obvious from Mr Chaudhry's bank statements that over $A500,000 was deposited in his account by a Sydney-based consulate general of a foreign government. This government has always decried the attempts of Australia, New Zealand and the United States to influence our affairs.

This time, however, it has been deafeningly silent. More troubling is the fact that this team was chosen, provided a terms of reference and started work without the public being informed that the inquiry would take place. By the time the interim administration announced the team's terms of reference, the report had been prepared and was ready for dissemination.

This is rich, coming from a regime which espouses transparency and accountability. Last week this newspaper approached several members of the administration to seek information on this matter. At no time was any information forthcoming on the issue.

This secrecy does not augur well for the regime or the nation. Neither does the fact that at least one member of the inquiry team has been contracted by the interim Attorney-General to provide tax advice on a project involving the State.

But the exercise has now been exposed for what it was a sham.

Hoisted By Their Own Petard.

The Fiji Times Editorial of March 12th 2008, decrying the independent report into Mahendra Chaudhry's alleged tax evasion is disturbing for many reasons. First and foremost, it has reinforced the concept that the Fiji Times has an unhealthy fascination to tarnish the reputation of the report, in retaliation for the upcoming court trial for defamation of character.

Secondly, it also appears that the Fiji Times has up-changed gears in its smear campaign against the efforts of the Interim Government, stemming from the proposed charter to take Fiji forward, the proposed native land de-reservation project, to this failed mud slinging effort of tax evasion and its recent released independent report.

The Fiji Times (FT) Editorial says:

“Once the terms of reference were made known at the weekend, even a blind person would have been able to see what the three-member team would say in its report”.

It is rather unfortunate that the Fiji Times had used the example of a blind person to launch its tirade of visceral allegations, based on layers of inaccurate and unfair reportage. The choice of metaphors by the Fiji Times reveals the unapologetic stance of the publication, which has now painted itself into a corner and now has resorted to breaking the walls of reason, to escape the wrath of legal proceedings.

If the Fiji Times had published a braille version of its paper, so that the blind people of Fiji could be updated with current affairs, perhaps they would also detect the subtle and underlying bias, punctuated by a litany of factual errors, as well as an embarrassing track record of plagiarism.

The FT Editorial continues its scatter shot of allegations that, spin off the tangent of tax evasion, into wild speculation:

[...]Nor was there any attempt to find out how involved a foreign power has been in the internal politics of this sovereign nation.

It is obvious from Mr Chaudhry's bank statements that over $A500,000 was deposited in his account by a Sydney-based consulate general of a foreign government. This government has always decried the attempts of Australia, New Zealand and the United States to influence our affairs.

If those allegations are true, the Interim Government would not have jurisdiction in taking action against the Sydney based Consulate General and further to that, if the FT has evidence that alleged deposit came with the expectation to disrupt the tranquility of Fiji via violence; then by all means report that the matter to authorities. To fallaciously assert that all donations from Foreign Embassies, also come with expectations to influence internal politics; then most Non-Profit-Organizations in Fiji would be guilty of the sin.

It is quite clear that the allegations of the Fiji Times are merely that, and covers the spectrum from absurd to ridiculous. If foreign intervention was really a concern to the Fiji Times, then the Fiji public should be concerned about the troubling events in 2006 where covert Australian troopers had overtly undermined the sovereignty of Fiji, by avoiding the Immigration Checks at Nadi terminal, in addition to importing undeclared weapons in silver boxes, which is a serious breach of International Law.
News of this was covered by:

The Australian.

Fiji Times article.

SiFM posting : "Of Arms and Men".

SiFM posting: "Aussie- Oi,Oi,Oi".

It was also brow raising that these troopers were whisked away in Fiji Police vehicles, under orders from the Australian Police Chief. Unashamedly, the FT coverage of this gross and willful defiance of International Protocol was poor and the reportage glossed over the severity of the case, in comparison with the obsession into the alleged tax evasion.

Fiji Times Editorial then returns to the tax evasion and in particular the terms of reference:

“More troubling is the fact that this team was chosen, provided a terms of reference and started work without the public being informed that the inquiry would take place".

This marks the high water mark of the lack of FT's impartiality and objectivity.

Although, the Fiji Times Editorial demanded that an independent inquiry take place over the allegations of tax evasion; now the FT is crying foul, simply because they were not privy to the terms of reference.

Since the report had exonerated Mahendra Chaudhry, one would ponder, if the terms of reference would ever be questioned by the Fiji Times, if the result was reversed?

Sadly, the only secrecy that is embarrassing obvious to readers, is the ulterior motive of the Fiji Times, which had launched a similar defamation campaign against the 1999 Coalition Government; and subsequently lost a law suit pertaining to that campaign. Article on defamation case in Fiji Times.

The excerpt:

Times to pay Vayeshnoi

Thursday, November 29, 2007

FIJI Times Limited has been ordered to pay interim Cabinet Minister Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi $30,000 in defamation damages for articles and letters to the editor published between 1999 and 2003.

Mr Vayeshnoi had filed two cases against Fiji Times Limited. The first case filed in 1999 was against then editor Samisoni Kakaivalu, chief sub-editor Netani Rika and Fiji Times Limited.

In the second case filed in 2005, Mr Vayeshnoi filed an action case against Mr Kakaivalu, Mr Rika, then senior reporter Margaret Wise and Fiji Times Limited. There were 12 occasions on which Mr Vayeshnoi alleged he was defamed. He had sought $320,000 in damages but Justice Jiten Singh found he was defamed on five occasions only and awarded him $30,000.

Fiji Times Ltd had argued that all of the publications were fair comment on a public, political figure and protected by freedom of speech in a democratic society.

It also argued that his electoral support had increased and he had risen in parliamentary ranks after the publications, showing that they had not damaged his reputation.

Mr Rika, who is now the Editor/Editor-in-Chief of The Fiji Times, said they would appeal against the ruling. "We believe there are strong grounds for appeal," he said.

Fiji Times articles had tossed 'soft-ball' questions into the actions of SDL Government during its 6 year reign, which had squandered and mis-appropriated state funds as demonstrated in the Agricultural Scam court trials, involving enormous sums of money that, make the sums in the tax evasion look like loose change.

The Ag Scam was addressed in an article from Pacific Islands Report and SiFm posting: "Probing the Deep End".

The FT also did not question how the donation of garden tools and outboard motors procured by the Agricultural slush fund, was a form of vote buying. Neither did the FT ever question or independently research how such vast sums could be used by the convicted mid-level civil servant, without the complicity of the higher echelons of the SDL Government. Nor has the question of how a $F20 million state loan, which was converted to a grant ever been addressed by the FT.

As an old English expression outlines, “You cannot run with hares and hunt with the hounds”.

Undeniably, the only sham and forgone conclusion that has been revealed is the culpability of the Fiji Times in defaming, discrediting and destroying the reputations, character or integrity of people who are trying to move Fiji forward.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

It was personalised: Interim A-G

INTERIM Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has accused some politicians and media organisations of engaging in personalising the issue of interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry's taxation matters.

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Chaudhry didn’t ‘willfully’ evade tax: report

The independent inquiry into the tax affairs of interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry has found “no basis on which the minister should have been charged with tax evasion”.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Fiji finance minister preparing to sue newspaper

SUVA, Fiji: Fiji's finance minister plans to sue the Pacific island country's leading newspaper for US$660 million (€440 million) for alleging that he evaded taxes, his lawyer said Tuesday.

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