Monday, June 30, 2008

FICAC investigates money transfers from NLTB to VDC.

The Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption is investigating the transfer of several million dollars in rent from the Native Land Trust Board (NLTB) to its commercial arm the Vanua Development Corporation (VDC).

read more | digg story

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A View-The Dual Documentaries.

Stumbled on two interesting documentary type videos, part of a series covering the sights and sounds of Fijian historigraphy. Both videos are informative, with some dramatic reenactment, highlighting one of Fiji's most under explored industry that has much potential.

Video 1 (below) covers the petroglyphs of Vatulele and the legend of the red prawns.

Video 2 (below) titled "Fiji Spirit" covers the importance of land and life.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Fiji Human Rights Commission (FHRC) Report: A Concerted Conspiracy?

Pacific Media centric blog: Cafe Pacific post titled "Another Assault on Media Freedom" is thought provoking, but merely skims the surface of very serious allegations.

Robie introduces the recent report published by the Fiji Human Rights Commission (FHRC) and highlights in the initial sentence, that FHRC is attracting flak from media organizations in Fiji, as a result of that. Robie further claimed that the report in question was leaked to the media.
The actual FHRC report (PDF).

Fiji TV news segment (posted below) also covered the controversial FHRC report.

Writing for Faifax media, mercurial journalist Micheal Field covered the issue of the FHRC report in an article. The excerpt of Field's article:

Fiji claims NZ diplomat interfering in Govt
By MICHAEL FIELD - Fairfax Media | Sunday, 22 June 2008

A key official in Fiji's coup regime claims she has email written by a senior New Zealand diplomat showing secret interference in Fiji's internal affairs.

Yet to be published in Fiji but obtained by the Sunday Star Times, a report by Fiji Human Rights Commission head and Ombudsman Shaista Shameem says Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy secretary Michael Green is involved in a "conspiracy to cripple the administration of justice in Fiji".

The 41-page report nominally on the deportation of two newspaper publishers links the conspiracy to a plot organised by the Albert Einstein Institution in Washington that she says is a Central Intelligence Organisation (CIA) front.

On Fiji Sun publisher Russell Hunter and Fiji Times publisher Evan Hannah, she says they had been "deliberately undermining the judiciary" and it was in Fiji's national security interest to remove them.

Mr Green was New Zealand's High Commissioner in Fiji until he was declared persona non grata last year.

Dr Shameem says he "was still interfering in Fiji's internal affairs". Without providing details of Mr Green's email, she claims he wrote to Suva lawyer Graham Leung and discussed aspects of a Supreme Court case bought against coup leader Voreqe Bainimarama by deposed Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase.

She says he was part of "unsavoury email correspondence about the judiciary and individual judges" that was part of the conspiracy.

Earlier this year Mr Leung complained his computers had been hacked by the military. Dr Shameem says she got the emails from Bainimarama and the military.

She demanded from the New Zealand Government, and Australia and the US, an "immediate apology and a guarantee of non-repetition of the behaviour engaged in by their citizens."

She says Fiji should take Green's interference before the Pacific Forum.

She says the Sun and Times and FijiLive website are "directly implicated" in the conspiracy.

"Unless immediately and urgently curbed, such concerted efforts will lead to breaches of law land order and safety and security of the people of Fiji."

On the Albert Einstein link, Dr Shameem obtained email sent to most of the NGO groups that provided a web-link to an Institution "anti-coup guide" based on non-violent actions.

She wants all the people on the email list investigated by Fiji's re-created security intelligence service.

She quoted Venezuela President Hugo Chavez saying the institution was CIA based.

Crippling the judiciary was part of the Institution's recommendations to "collapse the essential elements of law and order". Its blueprint "may include violent engagements as well".

"This is being done both for pecuniary and personal reasons by those involved as well as in support of foreign governments' interference with the internal affairs of Fiji." A link between the Institution and the US military "is of specific concern".

As well as assailing the media, she demands in investigation into the funding of NGO groups, while revealing many of them get money from New Zealand Government aid.

Dr Shameem has been a vocal supporter of the Bainimarama coup and previously claimed the Qarase administration had been involved in genocide against Fiji Indians.

Her Commission reports, including an attack earlier this year on the news media, have little credibility outside the military regime.

Her sister, Justice Nazhat Shameem, headed a group soon after the coup that removed the Chief Justice, indigenous Justice Daniel Fatiaki.

A spokesman for Foreign Minister Winston Peters, said it was of "grave concern" that Shameem and the military were using what appeared to be hacked private emails.

He rejected any suggestions that New Zealand was interfering in the internal affairs of Fiji, saying their entire energy was "directed at getting Fiji to hold free and fair elections".

On his personal website, Field also published a rebuttal of the FHRC report findings, which was riddled with personal attacks, navel gazing and hyperbolic prose.

Page 1 of Field's rebuttal.
Page 2 of Field's rebuttal.

In retrospect, former Opposition Leader, Mick Beddoes eagerly dismissed the FHRC report in a Fiji Times (FT)article. The excerpt of the FT article:

Commission report irrelevant: Beddoes

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Update: 10:46AM Ousted opposition leader Mick Beddoes is surprised by the outcome of the recent Fiji Human Rights Commission report calling it irrelevant and unrelated.

Mr Beddoes, speaking to Radio Fiji, said he had initially requested the Commission to investigate whether or not any rights of the persons involved was violated in the deportation of the two Australian publishers.

He has termed the report as ridiculous and to a certain point hair rising, saying the results was totally irrelevant to what he had requested.

Mr Beddoes is currently trying to get in contact with Fiji Times publisher Evan Hannah and Fiji Sun publisher Russell Hunter to provide them a copy of the report to allow them to respond.

The report quoted Dr Shameem saying New Zealands Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy secretary Michael Green was involved in a conspiracy to cripple the administration of justice in Fiji.

Yesterday, Dr Shameem in a media report, said FHRC had done all it could and the report had been passed on to the rightful authorities to conduct further investigations.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Fact Checking Comments- A focus on Fiji's Former Vice President: Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi.

Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi has been a frequent opinion maker of the direction of Fiji's socio-political landscape, some persuading, others confusing.

One interesting opinion of Madraiwiwi was framed in his speech (PDF) at the Pacific Cooperation Foundation and later featured entirely in a Fiji Times (FT)article. The following is the excerpt of the FT article:

Challenges in building a new Fiji with a common vision

Thursday, May 29, 2008

One people ... we, as a people, must unstop the reservoir of goodwill that exists despite the ravages of four coups in 20 years

This is the address by former Vice-President Ratu Joni Madrawiwi at the annual Pacific Co-operation Foundation in Wellington and Auckland on this month.

Where does one begin? If we accept that four coups in the last 20 years have blighted our progress as a nation, what is the alternative? There is as yet no common vision to which we can all commit. Nor is there an identity that we all share and affirm together.

Beyond a collection of polyglot communities with an uneven sense of being citizens of Fiji, there is still a lack of shared values and unity. The fissures in our midst are a historical legacy.

However the time for blame, whether it is our long departed colonial masters or ourselves, has gone. We are responsible for perpetuating these divisions ourselves. How are we to create a new society with a renewed sense of purpose and commitment from the old?

Let us begin with developing a vision. A vision that articulates the nature of the society we feel represents the best of us and for which we are striving.

Our identity as citizens of Fiji is the practical reflection of this vision. In creating this vision, the people's voices must be heard. I mean the ordinary men and women of our country. Mine is just another elitist perspective.

We need to listen to people and find out what is it they conceive our vision to be.
The respective medium of radio and television, between them, would effectively reach the entire country so the concept of a vision could be easily explained.

People's opinions could be obtained by various means: whether by way of a tribunal soliciting opinions, a series of fora held across the nation to hear what people had to say or working through established structures such as provincial and advisory councils.

From these submissions, we could then distill what would best reflect a consensus. This vision would then be a guide and a reference point to which all of us could commit as well as share with each other. Together with this initiative, there must be a conscious effort by our new leaders (whoever they are) to adopt a no victors, no vanquished' policy.

This was adopted by General Gowon in Nigeria in 1966 after the Biafran civil war.

There is a worrying sentiment among some Fijians of penalising the Fiji-Indian community for its perceived support of the present regime when the country returns to democratic rule.

There is no place for these kinds of feelings.

Just as there was no cause for the triumphalism among Fijians that emerged post-May 1987 and post-May 2000.

Both kinds of emotions are counterproductive and destructive. Because they simply prolong division and dissension. Leadership will place a heavy responsibility on those who assume power.

They must initiate a process of reconciliation and engagement. This is unfinished business as the one which the previous SDL Government embarked upon was not inclusive enough.

It left many wounded and festering feelings in the Fiji-Indian and other communities.

So careful thought and wide consultation among civil society and the faith communities will be required to ensure that what is envisaged is workable and broadly acceptable.

We have examples of the Truth Commission in South Africa and similar Commissions in South American States such as Chile to consider.

It would be foolish of me to deny the existence of ethnic feelings in our society.

They exist in all our communities, but are more obvious among Fijians and Fiji-Indians because they are the larger groups. Social integration has been slow for obvious reasons: People are more comfortable with their own.

However, there are a series of initiatives that could be undertaken to reestablish a sense of fairness and reinforce social cohesion.

These include ensuring the merit principle is closely adhered to in the public service, with allowances for ethnic balance where necessary. This must apply to statutory corporations as well.

Care must be taken to ensure the awarding of scholarships to all students is open and transparent.

Where affirmative measures remain in place, they must be monitored, open to public scrutiny, and have measurable guidelines as well as time lines.

In addition, appointments to statutory boards and corporations must be carefully screened by the relevant authorities. Too often they have taken on an ethnic slant as well assuming an element of cronyism.

The military must become more reflective of the general population in its composition.

And I echo calls made by Mr Mahendra Chaudhry and Ratu Epeli Ganilau on previous occasions that consideration be given to the Vice Presidency being held by non-Fijians.

The collective purpose of these actions is to re-establish confidence in there being a level playing field as well as conveying inclusiveness. Much of the issue of vision and identity relates to the ambivalence of Fijians about those concepts.

In challenging Fijian institutions such as the Bose Levu Vakaturaga, the Methodist Church and the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua party, the Commander has provided opportunities for reflection and soul searching.

What real difference do the Bose Levu Vakaturaga (BLV) and the Fijian Administration (of which the BLV sits at the apex) make in the lives of ordinary Fijians?

Does the latter serve any purpose in view of the fact that the Government has responsibility for infrastructure and economic development?

What place has the traditional system in the scheme of things?

The Fijians themselves need to be heard on those issues. Their leaders have a responsibility to listen and discern what it is they want. In what form do they wish their indigenousness (and all that attached to it) survive. My preoccupation has not been with the form and the hierarchy. It is with the values of kinship, reciprocity and mutual respect that provide a bridge to the other communities. These are qualities that can be harnessed to enhance the vision we seek.

The stated aim of the interim regime to remove the present electoral system is welcome. Because there is little argument that it has reinforced ethnic patterns of voting.

But the process has survived this long because all political parties were supportive of it. The concerns of some Fijians who resist any change because it would remove their ethnically entitled seats is understandable. But it is mistaken.

The preponderance of Fijians in the population, coupled with Fiji-Indian emigration, will ensure Fijian numerical superiority in the next elections however boundaries are drawn.

We no longer need those ethnically based seats from the Fijian point of view because their fears of being swamped no longer apply. However, the Fiji-Indian community may now be reconsidering the issue because under the present arrangement, they are guaranteed a certain number of seats.

The concern now is the protection of minorities.

Whether they are Fiji-Indian or from other communities, they must be guaranteed a voice in Parliament. The only system that assures that outcome is proportional representation.

That is what we need to be thinking about. It does not prevent ethnic voting but it does more accurately reflect the will of the electorate and the support for political parties.

There is space for parties that attempt to capture the middle ground.

Those who favour the charter process that has been initiated by the National Council for Building A Better Fiji, are fond of saying elections will not solve any of our underlying problems. That is not their purpose.

Elections create the basis for legitimacy. It is a mandate from the electorate. They begin the process of re-establishing democratic governance. That is why it is critical for there to be political engagement.

It matters not whether it is through the informal process sponsored by the Commonwealth Secretariat (Comsec) or the more formal joint UN/Comsec initiative proposed by the interim Government.

If one takes the interim regime at its word, the Constitution is intact. It cannot be amended by referendum or presidential promulgation. Therefore, the next elections will have to be held under the present electoral system.

All the more reason to encourage political engagement, dialogue and agreement.

Subsequently, the elections could then be held with the new Parliament then amending the Constitution in accordance with what had been agreed. In spite of the divisions that have been exacerbated by the December coup, it is absolutely critical that the next government is one of national unity.

The Constitution envisages a multi-party government but that could be altered to allow for more flexibility. The imperative for such a government is self-evident.

At a time when our country has been fractured as never before, it requires a government with which the entire nation can identify. It is a tragedy in hindsight that we lacked the courage and the statesmanship to do so after the upheavals of May 2000.

We need national solutions to our problems and we need a government that has a broad mandate to consolidate and deal with the issues decisively.

These are readily identified.

Re-establishing mutual trust and confidence between the government and the people as well as between communities will be a continuing preoccupation.

Restoration of the economy and our relationships with both Australia and New Zealand are critical. Economic growth has averaged 2 per cent for the last decade, which is inadequate to cater for employment opportunities, infrastructure, health and social services as well as alarming levels of poverty and related social ills.

Definitive solutions still evade the landlord tenant relationship in relation to native leases.

All these issues require the requisite political will and commitment to be dealt in an integrated manner. There is a legitimate concern about the absence of an opposition were there to be a government of national unity.

It is important to remember that this new government will have heavy responsibilities to meet and high expectations to live up to.

Not only will it have to restore trust and confidence in the institutions of state as well as in the community, it will have to build the economy and deal with rising levels of poverty and degradation.

We have become accustomed to thinking in terms of an opposition in the Westminster form of government.

Under our Constitution, there is provision for sector committees on various aspects of government. Given the appropriate understanding and agreement among the political parties, these committees have the potential to function as a check on the executive.

What is required is a redrafting of the Standing Orders of the House and Senate to reflect these changed circumstances.

There is an element of good faith as well that the major political parties will not use their numbers to sabotage these arrangements.

The immediate concern is the role of the military. They have been at the centre of the four coups we have had. Their pronouncements since the December 5, 2006, do not suggest any dilution of their assertions they are the guarantors of stability and order. To deny them any participation in national affairs for the foreseeable future would be unrealistic.

But clear protocols need to be developed between the government and the military.

Regular consultations need to take place as well. Discussions will need to take place about its size as well. A considerable portion of the budget is allocated to the military.

The starting point must be the question of immunity. It is an issue which divides those who opposed the coup of December 5, 2006. But it is a matter of realpolitik.

Without it the military will not engage let alone negotiate. But perhaps the nature of the immunity can be discussed. Because there are certain military officers who must be held accountable for some of the serious human rights abuses.

I accept the argument that this approach may encourage future coups. It is a risk we must be prepared to take. The room for maneuver is slight and this potential threat will have to be addressed over the long term. It will lie in the strengthening of democratic institutions and civil society as well as the inculcation of democratic values in the community.

Part of those developments must necessarily include greater engagement with the military in understanding its proper role in a liberal democracy. There is the challenge to build a democratic culture.

It needs to be inculcated in the hearts and minds of the people. Part of the problem is that the chattering classes themselves are ambivalent about the concept as can be seen in the coup of December, 2006.

Too often, principle has been sacrificed for political gain. As long as this continues, the military will be nurtured in its misconceptions. The creation of a democratic culture is a gradual process. It will require the concerted efforts of all sections of our society.

Introducing more horizontal structures and accessible forms of authority whether in the traditional sphere or the religious organisations which play an influential part in our lives would reinforce these tendencies.

What it takes is the empowerment of people within their own communities. To allow them to develop the capacities to be assertive and questioning of authority.

This would be achieved by encouraging them to participate in decision-making and in the discussions surrounding them. Civil society has played and is playing a significant role in this empowerment.

Many of them have given voice to those who otherwise would not be heard.

While there has been a split between those who had supported the coup for reasons of social justice and others who recognise the indivisibility of rights (political, economic and social), there is no denying the increased prominence to social issues given their advocacy.

In fashioning not so much as a new Fiji as a better one than we already have, an attempt has been made to put this in the context of the significant factors at play. The challenges do not lie in the actual economic, social and political problems that we face although they are in themselves considerable.

Those will always be there in one form or another.

The challenges arise out of the barriers we have erected, and perpetuated for one reason or another. They have created these distances between us as members of the various communities that comprise Fiji.

Time and again they have been manipulated for advantage by one side or another. In the latest twist, the spectre of ethnonationalism was used to justify the coup. We can dismantle these barriers because I still believe in our country and its people. In spite of our vicissitudes, there has been minimal violence.

There continues to be reservoirs of goodwill in spite of all that has happened.

They will be required to put in place a vision and identity that belongs to all of us, together with the actual practice of the democratic principles we all affirm, so that we break this cycle of instability that has been our albatross for the past two decades.

A particular line in Madraiwiwi's speech at Pacific Cooperation Foundation refers to the debate between the Charter and the Elections:

Those who favour the charter process that has been initiated by the National Council for Building A Better Fiji, are fond of saying elections will not solve any of our underlying problems. That is not their purpose.

Elections create the basis for legitimacy. It is a mandate from the electorate. They begin the process of re-establishing democratic governance. That is why it is critical for there to be political engagement.

Days after his Wellington speech, Madraiwiwi is a keynote speaker at the Fiji Institute of Accountants conference at a Sigatoka resort and stated that "There was no use to have an election" in a Q & A session published in a FT article. The excerpt is as follows:

No use to have polls: Ratu Joni

Friday, June 13, 2008

Update: 5:01PM THERE is no use having elections if the interim Government wishes to limit it, says former Vice president of Fiji and lawyer Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi.

He made this comments at a panel discussion at the Fiji Institute of Accountants Congress held in Sigatoka today.

Ratu Joni said: "I think the question one needs to ask is if the army commander does not want a party that has indigenous platform as part of the manifesto in the next elections, then really what is the point of having the elections at all.

"We need to have discussion and if the military and commander wishes to limit the elections then what is the point of having elections."

Ratu Joni was responding to questions raised by the Pacific Suns general manager Manoa Kamikamica who questioned the panelist in regards to whether elections were the best way forward.

The panelist included the Australian high Commissioner James Batley, Ratu Joni, Fiji Waters director of Marketing Margo Schmidt and Westpac Banking Corporations general Manager Fiji John Cashmore.

Fiji TV news captured segments of Madraiwiwi's speech at the Fiji Institute of Accountants conference.

Video 1 below: Madraiwiwi on The Abrogation of the Fiji Constitution and the future role of the Fiji military.

Video 2 below: Madraiwiwi on the Judiciary in Fiji.

Placed in context, Madraiwiwi had indicated in his Wellington speech, that his view is an elitist perspective. One may extrapolate that, most of Madraiwiwi's speeches and social circles are ingrained with elitism:

Our identity as citizens of Fiji is the practical reflection of this vision. In creating this vision, the people's voices must be heard. I mean the ordinary men and women of our country. Mine is just another elitist perspective.

Some readers may also detect verisimilitude opinions. Fiji Ombudsman labeled Madraiwiwi's comments as"running out of ideas" in a Fiji Times article. The excerpt of FT article:

Ratu Joni running out of ideas: Shameem

Friday, May 23, 2008

Update: 4:59PM Ombudsman Dr Shaista Shameem says people like former Vice President Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi were running out of ideas about what to do with their political platforms.

She said Ratu Joni was threatened by the constitutional authority and legal effectiveness of the Fiji Human Rights Commission. [Shameem] said everyone knew the effectiveness of the FHRC since its inception and that the Commission no longer had to prove anything to anyone.

Dr Shameem said it was a waste of time and breath for Ratu Joni to keep harping about the FHRC because it was here to stay.

While Madraiwiwi called for the Fijian people to speak up, in the Wellington speech:

The Fijians themselves need to be heard on those issues. Their leaders have a responsibility to listen and discern what it is they want. In what form do they wish their indigenousness (and all that attached to it) survive. My preoccupation has not been with the form and the hierarchy. It is with the values of kinship, reciprocity and mutual respect that provide a bridge to the other communities.

Although, Madraiwiwi commented on the values of culture which he wants to keep intact, among these are kinship, reciprocity and mutual respect; perhaps all three values were instinctively demonstrated by Madraiwiwi, when he became a character witness to Alice Tabete, a former CEO of Fiji Sports Council, which an earlier SiFM posting "Ways and Means" addressed.

The "Tabete factor" undeniably taints the integrity of Madraiwiwi and his ability to speak on national issues. Madraiwiwi's role in helping the absconding Alice Tabete, was covered in a Fiji TV news article.

The excerpt of Fiji TV article:

Tabete applies for permanent residency in New Zealand
18 Feb 2008 00:57:35

It has emerged former Fiji Sports Council chief executive officer Alice Tabete has applied for temporary or permanent residency in New Zealand.

The information is contained in a letter of support written for Tabete by the former vice president Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi. The Bauan chief says in the letter Tabete is being pursued by authorities here for political expediency.

A copy of this letter was obtained by One National News.

Its dated 4th February 2008.

The former vice president Ratu Joni Mandraiwiwi wrote this letter in support of Alice Tabete. Ratu Joni says both Tabete and him have traditional connections.

He writes since 5 December 2006 when the Republic of Fiji Military Forces ousted the elected Government, our system of justice has been exposed to great pressures and compromised to some extent.

Ratu Joni then writes about the Fiji Independent Commission against Corruption which is currently investigating Alice Tabete. He says investigations are usually commenced in a blaze of publicity with scant regard for the reputation of those accused.

Adding the entire point to this recitation of events is that Alice will most likely be treated in the same manner.

Ratu Joni writes in the nine months since her termination, Alice Tabete hadn't been charged and that she was prevented from living the country twice. He says Tabete was only allowed to leave the country after the Commander himself intervened.

Ratu Joni writes in light of the foregoing I have no hesitation in supporting Alice Tabete's application for temporary or permanent residence in New Zealand for the reason that the authorities wish to pursue her for political expediency to justify the clean up campaign rather than on substantive grounds.

In reply to our queries today Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi said he had no comments. Alice Tabete hadn't answered our e-mailed questions when this report was prepared.

A response to the Madraiwiwi's Pacific Cooperation Foundation speech was published in the FT Letters to the Editor column, authored from former Fijian Holdings (FHL)board member according to the FHL website, Radike Qereqeretabua. Indeed the questions from Qereqeretabua are pertinent but also belated, when juxtaposed with his tenure at Fijian Holdings, the supposed investment vehicle for indigenous Fijians, currently being under review by the Interim Government. The excerpt of Qereqeretabua's letter:

What difference?

I write to express my full support for the views of the Roko Tui Bau, Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi (FT27/5), and I will be very surprised if most Fijians do not share the same sentiments, and indeed do ask the same question: "what real difference do the GCC and the Fijian administration make in the lives of ordinary Fijians".

One does not have to look very hard or very far to find evidence of the deterioration of the living standards and morals of the Fijian people in general, in spite of the long existence of these two institutions the Fijian Affairs Board, and the GCC.

We look at the prison population, the perpetrators of burglaries, break-ins, rape and incest; the dilapidated Fijian villages, the ever growing number of Fijian families in squatter settlements while some Fijian land lie idle.

We look at the poor shipping services for the maritime provinces of Lau and Kadavu, Lomaiviti, and Rotuma; the largely neglected roads in these islands including southern Taveuni the Garden Island of Fjii.

We look at the generally poor conditions of Fijian schools in the rural areas, yet we continue to wonder why Fijians are comparatively backwards in education results and achievements compared to our Indian counterparts.

Last year I questioned the wisdom of our Fijian leaders in their decision to build a $30m GCC complex while Indian leaders opted to establish the University of Fjii an affordable institution of higher learning for the nation's youth alike, an institution that will make a great contribution to their future livelihood, and to the nation as a whole.

I stated then that what the Fijian people need are "monumental decisions" from our chiefs and political leaders: decisions that will change our lives for the better: not monumental buildings which only serves the purpose of self-aggrandisement and the creation of inflated egos for themselves, but absolutely useless for the betterment of the lives of the ordinary Fijian.

Radike Qereqeretabua

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Monday, June 16, 2008

No military coup will sustain in Nepal: Ex-Fijian PM

Former Prime Minister [and 1987 coup leader] of Fiji Sitiveni Ligamamada Rabuka has said that military coups would not sustain in Nepal.

read more | digg story

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Fijians In America.

An interesting video segment(posted below)from Fiji TV on the experiences of Fijian migrants residing in Washington D.C and their nostalgic memories of home. This is perhaps one of the few perspectives from Fiji TV that, actually ventures away from their comfort zone and portrays Fiji people abroad.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Island In The Sky- Profits Flying Away?

Fiji's flagship airline, Air Pacific is being closely scrutinized by its majority shareholder, the Fiji Government.

Scoop magazine article quotes from Fiji's Finance Minister, regarding the lethargic financial perfomance of Air Pacific, which was widely believed to be a result of the dominance of the minority shareholder, Qantas.

The excerpt of Scoop article:

"Air Pacific Is A Stagnating Airline" -- Fiji Govt

Air Pacific Operations Review

Government owns major shares in Air Pacific which makes the airline's commercial viability very much its concern, said Finance Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry.

He was responding to a front page report in The Fiji Times on Saturday quoting the Association of South Pacific Airlines telling government to stay out of Air Pacific's affairs.

"Air Pacific is a stagnating airline. Its profit is declining, it is not expanding, no new major international destinations have been added to its flight network in the past two decades. It is also beset by serious employee relations' problems."

"It is ridiculous for anyone to say that as the major shareholder the Fiji Government should sit back and not take timely action to set things right to avert," Mr Chaudhry said.

Government's concern, as outlined in its media statement, stems from months of complaints lodged by Air Pacific employees, concerned members of the tourism industry as well as the traveling public.

The national airline's deteriorating standards is a worry to the tourism sector. Chronic mechanical problems associated with its ageing fleet of aircraft, is causing delays in the airline's on time performance, sapping confidence in its reliability and efficiency.

"As Fiji's flagship carrier, it is expected to contribute to a vibrant tourism industry by exploring expansion into new markets and destinations. But we have not seen the national airline embark on any new initiatives in the past two decades.

"Air Pacific Board and senior management have to take full responsibility for the poor state of the airline today."

It is widely believed that Air Pacific's current state of inertia is the result of dominance by minority shareholder Qantas Airways.

"This is why we need to review the shareholding agreement with Qantas Airways to ensure that Fiji's national interest is not compromised by this partnership," Mr Chaudhry said.


However, Qantas denies any responsibility in Air Pacific's financial track record, according to a Fiji Times article.

Qantas washes hands off Air Pacific woes

Fiji Times Thursday, May 29, 2008

QANTAS says it is not responsible for the perceived sluggish performance of our national carrier Air Pacific.

And the airline, one of Australia's strongest brands, has taken strong exception to the interim Government's claim that Air Pacific's deteriorating standards was the result of Qantas' dominance.

A company spokesman from the airline's Sydney office said they were aware of the interim Government's plan to review the operations of Air Pacific.

With 46 per cent shares, Qantas is the second major shareholder in Air Pacific.

"We will, as a major shareholder, make a submission to the review at the appropriate time, the spokesman said.

"However, we reject totally the assertion that any perceived inertia in Air Pacific is the result of Qantas' dominance. The opposite is the case, we have provided operational and commercial support only when requested."

In a media statement this week interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry said it was widely believed that Air Pacific's state of inertia was the result of dominance by minority shareholder Qantas.

"This is why we need to review the shareholding agreement with Qantas to ensure Fiji's national interest is not compromised by this partnership," he said.

The review exercise will include a review of the shareholders' agreement between the two airlines, entered into some two decades ago.

Mr Chaudhry said government owned major shares in Air Pacific which makes the airline's commercial viability very much its concern.

"Air Pacific is a stagnating airline. Its profit is declining, it is not expanding, no new major international destinations have been added to its flight network in the past decade."

In a Radio Australia web article, Qantas claims that it actually helped Air Pacific.

Qantas says it's helped Fijian carrier

Updated Thu May 29, 2008 7:00pm AEST

Australia's main airline Qantas has hit back at claims by Fiji that it's responsible for the perceived sluggish performance of Air Pacific.

Qantas has told the Pacific News Service it's taken strong exception to the interim government's charge that Fiji's national carrier's falling standards, are a result of Qantas' dominance. Qantas says it's actually helped Air Pacific; providing operational and commercial support when asked to.

In a statement this week, interim finance minister Mahendra Chaudhry said the government would be reviewing the operations of Air Pacific of which Qantas is the second major shareholder. He says Air Pacific is a stagnating airline with falling profits and no new major international destinations have been added to its flight network in 10 years.

The sluggish performance by Air Pacific has been one of the reasons outlined, including certain powers given to Qantas, Australia's international carrier. According the Fiji's Attorney General as quoted in a Fiji live (FL)article, despite holding 51% shares; the Fiji Government is unable to exercise certain powers normally awarded to majority shareholders.

The excerpt of the FL article:

Fiji Govt unhappy with Qantas deal
11 JUN 2008
The Fiji Government is unhappy that Qantas airline has more say in the operations of its national airline Air Pacific.

The Government has majority shares in Air Pacific. However its aim to integrate the airline in its plans to boost the country’s economy has been inhibited by the status quo.

Interim Attorney-General and Public Enterprise Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said today that the Government will be calling for public submissions for the next 28 days in the hope that it may make changes.

“Government has 51 per cent shares in Air Pacific. However, despite this the Government of Fiji is unable to exercise powers that it may normally do as a majority shareholder,” he said.

“For example, under the Articles of Association, Qantas, which owns 46 per cent of Air Pacific, has veto powers in a number of key operational areas.

“These include the commencement of any new air routes, the issuance of shares, the adoption of an annual operating budget, the adoption or material variation by the directors of a dividend policy of the company, and the entry by Air Pacific into any major commercial agreement.”

Sayed-Khaiyum adds that many interested parties like the tourism operators, employees, business houses and members of the travelling public have raised concerns regarding equal employment opportunities in Air Pacific. He said Fiji needs to have direct connectivity with South East Asia, Middle East and Europe, which will among other things give Fiji a bigger tourism market.

The AG’s comments follow the establishment last month of a Cabinet task force to oversee a comprehensive review of the operations of Air Pacific.

The Cabinet team comprises Civil Aviation Minister Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, Sayed-Khaiyum, Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and Tourism Minister Tom Ricketts.

The public submissions sought by Government will be presented to the task force.

Sayed-Khaiyum said the task force “will undertake further exercises to give Government a true picture of its position as 51 per cent shareholder of Air Pacific”.

Air Pacific CEO John Campbell told Fijilive this afternoon that he hasn’t had any communication with Government regarding the review.

Comments are being sought from Qantas.

Meanwhile, ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase had said Government was interfering into Air Pacific's operations and is cause for concern. He said Qantas is one of the most reputable airlines in the world and it's partnership has ensured the survival and profitability of Air Pacific over the years.

The Association of South Pacific Airlines had also called on the interim Government to ‘stay out’ of Air Pacific’s affairs.

Fiji Times article also reported that three directors will be appointed to Air Pacific's board.
The excerpt of the FT article:

Three new directors set for Air Pacific

Thursday, May 15, 2008

THREE new directors will be appointed to the Air Pacific board from next month.

Board chairman Nalin Patel says Air Pacific's major shareholder, the Government, has informed him three new Fiji directors would be appointed next month.

The Government owns 51 per cent of shares while Qantas Airways Limited is the second largest shareholder with 46 percent.

Mr Patel said the names of the three directors would be advised by the government in due course. He said the chairman, managing director and Qantas-nominated directors remained unchanged.

"It's the shareholders prerogative and the Government owns 51 percent of the company. The appointments are done by the shareholders themselves," he said.

"The Government has the final say in regards to the Fiji directors. Fiji has five and Qantas has four. The appointments are done on a yearly basis and done at the annual meeting which is usually held in September."

Mr Patel said directors Daniel Elisha, Sitiveni Weleilakeba and Sekonaia Mailekai would step down after the May 29 board meeting. The interim Government will appoint the new directors by next month.

Mr Patel said he appreciated the contributions of the three departing board members.

Yesterday Civil Aviation Permanent secretary Ross Ligairi referred all questions to the director of Civil Aviation.

But Akuila Waradi said the Government was working on confirming the new board members.

"What's come out in the news is news to us. We're working on confirming the new members and who will be replaced," he said. "I'm not aware whether the board of directors are on contract but the term is usually for a year and renewable for a maximum of three year but all that has to be looked into."

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