Thursday, April 30, 2009

Australia, NZ kick Fiji into the forum dead ball zone

SO THE countdown begins – the moment of truth arrives. By midnight on May Day, the Fiji military regime of Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama faces suspension from the 16-nation Pacific Islands Forum.

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Lay off Bainimarama, he's doing it for Fiji!

What else is he doing all this for? Certainly not the money or to make friends.Associate Professor Hugh LaracyIf anyone is used to criticism, it's Frank Bainimarama. Every day, Fiji's beleaguered military ruler is faced with a new barrage, with everyone from Hillary Clinton and Ban Ki-moon to the Queen and the European Union wading in with a call for him to change his ways.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

UN bans Fiji troops-yes, yes, no actually

Seems like a slap with a wet bus ticket. All rather reminiscent of one of the characters in the Vicar of Dibley really.If the Fijians were to bring their troops home from UN missions NZ and Australia are in no position to replace them. Which nations have the trained and effective troops to replace the Fijians.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

NZ TV1 Gutter Journalism

New Zealanders may not be the best informed people in the world but they pride themselves on their sense of decency and fair play. Over the past week or so we've had several informed and balanced programmes on both radio and TV on Fiji.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Samoan Disconnect- Ripples From Fiji.

In a follow up to an SiFM post on the US House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, Cafe Pacific latest post addresses the same comments made by American Samoan Congressman, regarding Fiji's political situation.

Cafe Pacific also highlighted the reactions of Western Samoa's Prime Minister to the Congressman's remarks.

Perhaps [Faleomavaega] has forgotten that Fiji has been independent since 1970 and its Legislature, Judiciary and the Executive branches of Government have been functioning until the military started to meddle with the affairs of government – a responsibility it was least capable of performing…

The good congressman completely ignores the fact that the regime in Fiji is a military dictatorship. And that Bainimarama’s regime has been engaging in a ruthless crackdown on dissenting public opinion and complete suppression of the media. Is not freedom of speech, freedom of the media and engaging in free and fair elections hallmarks of American democracy?
Recently, the Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi's juvenile remarks on Fiji, has been quoted by several media outlets.

Matangi Tonga (MT)article
cites from Samoan newspaper Savali. The excerpt of M.T article:



Samoa's PM takes jab at Fiji's Bainimarama
23 Apr 2009, 08:30


Apia, Samoa:

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has a peculiar take on the recent turn of political events in Fiji.



This is how Tuilaepa, who delights in pricking bubbles, describes last week's events,

"It's like a puppet show and Frank (Bainimarama) is the puppet master - a ventriloquist. And among his slew of dummies and dancing string clowns is his favourite hand puppet named Iloilo.

"

Part of last Thursday's act, Frank asks his favourite hand puppet 'And who do you think should be Prime Minister Iloilo?'. Iloilo shouts back, 'Why of course it's you Frank."

Prime Minister Tuilaepa giggles.

"But one day soon the puppets will grow a brain and see Frank for the evil puppeteer he really is. It is then the curtains will fall on Frank."

He adds.

"The whole thing is a political charade and the whole world is watching. Nobody is fooled and no one is laughing. Frank is only fooling himself."

"It's a political stick-up and Frank has all the guns."



Asked what advice he'd give Commodore Bainimarama if he had a chance to sit down with him, Tuilaepa smiles.

"I'd tell him to go back to his barracks. Go back to what he knows best - which is throwing salutes, beating drums and organizing marching parades. He has no business in government. He knows nothing about civilian government. Go put back on his military uniform or . . . maybe, he'd look better in a prison uniform." Tuilaepa chuckles.



The three arms of State, the Prime Minister says, are no longer in existence in Fiji.

"There's no Parliament, there's no Executive and thanks to Iloilo there's no more Judiciary, no law and order. He's also abrogated the Constitution.

"Now my question is, who the heck is he to abrogate the Constitution?

The Constitution is the supreme law of the land and the only place it can be amended, repealed or abrogated is Parliament where you have the elected representatives of the people.

"The Commodore should get over his greed for power and really sit and think. Is this the road he wants to take his country? Because his actions do not augur well for the future generations of Fiji ."



Prime Minister Tuilaepa believes the only way to return Fiji to democracy and "some state of political sanity" is through the actions of the people of Fiji .

"

The reality is, Bainimarama will try to hold on to power with whatever means necessary. Just when you thought he can't go any lower, the bottom drops.

"The people of Fiji � the men women and children, young and old - will have to stand up and demand a return of their government.

Pound the streets in protest marches if they have to. The Church leaders and traditional leaders of Fiji should also come out of their shells and lead the people.

"It has worked in Thailand, it has worked in the Philippines , Vietnam and Indonesia . And if the Fijian people want it bad enough, peaceful and passive resistance will work in Fiji . That is how Samoa gained political independence and that's how the people of Fiji will finally be free of Bainimarama's stranglehold on power.

"It's the only way you can rid yourself of such cheap idiotic dictators."


Samoa government's newspaper Savali, 21/04/09
.
Samoan P.M's comments on Fiji were also published by Samoan news article. What was interesting was the reader's reactions to their Prime Minister's outrageous diplomatic accumen.

MIA wrote:
22 Apr 2009 11:31 AM
Such a hypocrite...He will see the consequences of this ridiculous road switch that will take affect this year. I think the people of samoa need to come out of their shells and run him out of office.

Samoan in Samoa wrote:
22 Apr 2009 10:12 AM
you people don't know anything about Samoa..for every one person who opposes the switch there are probably 50 others who support it..you forget that there are are 140,000 (western) samoans in New Zealand and another 50,000 in Australia..don't be fooled by the media or the vocal few who oppose the switch..many of those who have been gifted or bought RHDs from those two countries are first time car owners, in what has for years been an industry, dominated by afakasi and Apia-based car merchants who've been ripping off local folks with overpriced crap American cars..Stui has always been a manm for the little people, and in this case again, is right on the money..he is certainly the best leader samoa ever had and is definitely heads and shoulders over his counterparts in the region..so please don't talk about things you don't know nor understand..

stau wrote:
22 Apr 2009 10:09 AM
'aua le fai fua i tagata o fiti, ae vaai ifo oe ma si au fo'i amio lena e fai i tagata o Samoa.....vaai le upu masani....'aua e te 'eu fua le utupoto o le mata o leisi tagata...'eu muamua le utupoto i lou lava mata....aua o le mea foi lena e tatau ona fai e tagata samoa ia te oe ali'i PM

Anonymous wrote:
21 Apr 2009 03:18 PM
It's very encouraging to know that the PM understands the democratic process in Fiji. How about Samoa Mr. PM? It seems like our people in Samoa don't have any say so.....JUST LIKE FIJI.

Mike wrote:
21 Apr 2009 03:17 PM
A week or so ago I heard a report on the radio that Fiji's very own Frankie-boy was upset that Samoa's PM, whose last name of Malielegaoi can be interpreted as 'watch out (for) the thief', was upset because 'watch out (for) the thief' had said that Frankie-boy should learn from Samoa's example.

Now many people would take that to mean that Samoa has a democracy that Fiji would do well to follow, but what 'watch out (for) the thief' really meant was that he had been able taken over an entire country and was now himself dictator and chief thief without needing any silly army or threatening anyone with guns, and that Frankie-boy, if he was really so smart, would learn how to do the same!

Tama Samoa Moni wrote:
21 Apr 2009 01:45 PM
While I appreciate PM's concern for the future of the people and government of Fiji, he has to look at his front and back yard to see that he is a hypocrite. There are so many cases including one that is shared by Anonymous concerning the right hand steering issue.

It was debated fairly and there were mass opposition to this ridiculous wish from the PM, yet, he continued to stand his ground, disregard the will of the people, and now everyone has to make a 360 degree turn just to satisfy the satiating and ridiculous wish of one PM, who by the way controls the Parliament, so in essence what he says is really what the party in power will do. Look within thyself first PM Tuilaepa before you poke much about the situation in Fiji.

Having said that, I believe that the situation in Fiji is pathetic and Banirama should be removed before that island nation drops flat to the ground with a Idi Amin approach of governance. I'm sure the people of Fiji are just in fear because he has all the arsenal to squash any uprising, even if it's peaceful.

Anonymous wrote:
21 Apr 2009 08:29 AM
A year ago, I saw this statement from above Polynesian airline, when the people of Samoa protested the right hand steering wheel for all vehicles in Samoa and changing the driving lanes. It was a scene that the people spoke of concern but the law makers did not listen even when the people march all the way to mulinu’u and protested outside the maota fono. Mr. Prime Minister, the people of Samoa spoke but you failed, you are not qualified to tell the people of Fiji how to deal with the issue when your own people “Samoa” cried out to you.

Another Samoan newspaper "The Samoan Observer" conducted an online survey, questioning their readers if they agreed with Tuilaepa comments about Frank Bainimarama. The results were 61% against the comments made by the Samoan Prime Minister.

Samoa's Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi should be well advised to concentrate on his own political problems; and considering the remarks from Samoan readers, it appears that Malielegaoi's own popularity is increasingly dwindling partly due to his decade long tenure at the helm.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Political baggage, Silent commentators [On Fiji]

ONE OF the curious things about this second phase of Fiji’s fourth coup, or "Coup four and a half", as one news blog dubs it, is the limited analysis in the New Zealand press[...]but apart from one or two analysis pieces from predictable commentators far from the scene there has virtually been nothing in the newspapers.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Dual Track- The New Chapter Of US Foreign Policy & The Fiji Dilemma.

US Secretary Of State, Hillary Clinton has been reported again to have commented on Fiji's situation, according to Australia Network News (ANN)article.

The excerpt of ANN article:

Democracy Please, Clinton Tells Fiji

Kim Landers, Washington correspondent

Last Updated: Thu, 23 Apr 2009 09:31:00 +1000

The American of State, Hillary Clinton, is again urging Fiji's rulers to restore democracy as soon as possible. Appearing at a congressional hearing in Washington, Mrs Clinton says the American ambassador and Australia and New Zealand are painting a picture of "turmoil and chaos and undemocratic behaviour in Fiji".

She told a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee: "What we want is to restore democracy. "We want a functioning democracy in Fiji that can deliver for its people." A member of Congress from American Samoa criticised Australia and New Zealand for operating with a "heavy hand" towards Fiji.

Australia criticised

Congressman Eni Faleomavaega, who has just returned from talks in Suva, told Mrs Clinton the situation in Fiji was complex, and for too long Canberra and Wellington have been allowed to take the lead. He said: "It makes no sense, Madame Secretary, for the leaders of Australia and New Zealand to demand early elections for the sake of having elections in Fiji, when there are fundamental deficiencies in Fiji's electoral process."

Mrs Clinton then replied by saying the US administration wanted to a swift return to a functioning democracy in the Pacific nation.


According to the US House Committee website, the hearing, chaired by Howard L. Berman (D-CA 28th District) was not particularly focused on Fiji, as the ANN article frames; but was rather an invitation by the Foreign Affairs Committee to the nascent Secretary of State, to outline the new chapter of foreign policy unfolding in the Obama administration. The hearing itself was titled "New Beginnings: Foreign Policy Priorities in the Obama Administration". The video of the hearing.

History of Foreign Affairs Committee.

The House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs (known as the Committee on International Relations from 1995 until 2007) traces its origins to November 29, 1775, when the Continental Congress created a committee, by resolution "for the sole purposes of corresponding with our friends of Great Britain, Ireland, and other parts of the world." Chosen for this Committee were Benjamin Franklin—who served as chairman and guiding spirit—Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Johnson, Jr., John Dickinson, and John Jay.


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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

American Samoa Eyes Pacific Islands Forum Observer Status

Source: Xinhua | 04-22-2009 17:50WELLINGTON, April 22 (Xinhua) -- American Samoan member of the U.S. Congress Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin has asked the U.S. State Department to support the territory's application to become an observer with the Pacific Islands Forum, Radio New Zealand International reported on Wednesday.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

U.N Security Council On Fiji- The Dimensions Of Politics Within The Aging Institution.

The UN Security Council has compiled a joint statement on Fiji. Video of statement. The excerpt of UN web article :

Security Council, UN rights experts urge restoration of
constitutional law in Fiji


20 April 2009 – The Security Council and two human rights experts today joined Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other United Nations figures in voicing deep concern over the abrogation of Fiji’s constitution, the sacking of its judiciary and the imposition of press restrictions.

The South Pacific archipelago’s unelected executive fired the judges, set a longer time frame for parliamentary election and declared a public emergency on 10 April, following a court ruling that declared the interim leadership unconstitutional.

“It is a step backwards and needs restoration of the democracy process that Fiji has been undertaking, in cooperation with regional and international partners as well as the United Nations,” Ambassador Claude Heller of Mexico, which holds the April presidency of the Security Council, told the press this afternoon.

Supporting Mr. Ban’s approach to the matter, members of the Council expressed hope that Fiji will resume “steadfast” progress towards democracy and that fair elections will be held at the soonest possible time.

The island chain has suffered prolonged internal tensions between its indigenous Fijian and Indo-Fijian communities, and had four coups since 1987. Commodore Josaia V. Bainimarama, who serves as Prime Minister, came to power in a coup in December 2006, sparking criticism from the UN at the time.

Also today, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Leandro Despouy, and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, strongly condemned the suspension of rights in Fiji.

They urged Fiji’s authorities to restore the rule of law by immediately reinstating the judiciary and ending the restrictions placed on the rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

“The respect of the independence of the judiciary and freedom of expression are fundamental pillars of the rule of law and democracy,” said the joint statement of the two experts, who report to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council in an independent and unpaid capacity.

“Judges play a fundamental role in protecting human rights during states of emergency. It is crucial that the judiciary is immediately re-established,” said Mr. Despouy, maintaining that such states of emergency must be strictly limited.

He added that there have been deportations of foreign journalists and arbitrary arrests of others, with yet others summoned by the Ministry of information and warned to restrict the content of their reporting. “Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council as well as other neutral international observers should be allowed to visit the country in order to ensure the respect of the human rights
of the population.”

He has requested on several occasions that the Interim Government of Fiji allow him to undertake an official visit to the country, with no response as yet.

Soon as the UN Security Council issued their non-binding statement on Fiji, some segments in the Australian media, namely ABC were quick to pounce on the statement and wove in the story line, some unverified reports of shredding of legal documents and the article speculates at best that, the UN Security Council statement, was solely based on this shredding allegation, attributed to a posting on Intelligentsiya blog.


The excerpt of ABC web article:

UN calls for democratic process in Fiji

By ABC correspondent Kerri Ritchie and wires


The United Nations Security Council has renewed calls for Fiji to restore democracy.
The demand coincides with reports that the military regime has begun shredding legal documents that relate to court action against the interim government.

Fiji was plunged into a political crisis when its president reappointed military chief Frank Bainimarama as interim prime minister less than two days after a court ruled his government illegal. The Security Council says the repeal of the constitution and the delay of elections until 2014 is both undemocratic and a step backwards.

After the Security Council met, the current chairman, Mexico's Ambassador Claude Heller, said Fiji should let the people decide at the ballot box. "The members of the
Security Council are deeply concerned about the situation in Fiji, where
undemocratic decisions were made, including the abrogation of the constitution,"
he said. "The members of the Security Council hopes that fair elections will
be held at the soonest possible time."

- ABC/Reuters


Kerie Ritchie continues her misreporting on another ABC audio article, by a dynamic imbalance of interviews, from the usual talking heads. It is rather disingenuous for ABC to interview persons largely sourced from the same political segment, without any dissenting opinions.

This type of stove piping reporting by certain media outlets, resulted in the WMD excuse being propagated and parroted by oblivious journalists. It appears that the Australian media are guilty of the same offence.

MP3 podcast of Ritchie's interview. The excerpt of Ritchie's interview:


Fiji military shreds legal documents

AM - Tuesday, 21 April , 2009 08:24:00
Reporter:
Kerri Ritchie

TONY EASTLEY: There are reports out of Fiji this morning that the military regime has ordered that documents dating back as far as the 2006 military coup, be shredded.Fiji remains under emergency rule, with the interim government continuing its censorship of local journalists.The allegations that documents have been shredded have surfaced on Fiji blog sites.

New Zealand correspondent Kerri Ritchie reports.

KERRI RITCHIE: The heading on the Intelligentsiya blogsite reads 'Shredding
away justice from our courts'. Bloggers claim the military's lawyer, Major Ana
Rokomokoti, has been shredding documents. The lawyer was yesterday appointed
Fiji's chief registrar.The bloggers say the documents date back to 2006, when
the interim government took over after staging a military coup.Dorsami Naidu is
the President of Fiji's Law Society.

DORSAMI NAIDU: Like you, I hear it on the blog site.

KERRI RITCHIE: Mr Naidu has to be very careful what he says. He was arrested and kept overnight in a prison cell last week for speaking to the media.

DORSAMI NAIDU: That's what I've heard as well, that any action is pending against the interim Government, the military regime, files concerning those cases have been shredded. It's very childish and I cannot understand the reasons behind it.

KERRI RITCHIE: Australian QC Francis Douglas was one of the Court of Appeal
judges who ruled Fiji's interim government was illegal.He was sacked by Fiji's
President the next day, along with all the other members of the judiciary.This
is the first he's heard about documents being shredded.

FRANCIS DOUGLAS: It couldn't be effective in any event. I mean, the judgement at first instance is on the internet and, whilst I don't think the judgement of a Court of Appeal has yet received a number on the Osterley web (phoenetic), it is readily available in various places. I think one could obtain it from the Fiji Times, at least for a period of time, and it's also been posted on the New South Wales Bar Association's website.

KERRI RITCHIE: Eight magistrates and a chief magistrate were sworn in yesterday by Fiji's President Ratu Josefa Iloilo.No chief justice has been named and so far there haven't been any appointments to the high or supreme courts.Dorsami Naidu says yesterday was a very sad day for Fiji's justice system.

DORSAMI NAIDU: You know, they should think 10 times before they decide to
take up positions under this military regime.

KERRI RITCHIE: The United Nations Security Council says it's deeply concerned about the situation in Fiji.Claude Heller is the president of the UN Security Council.

CLAUDE HELLER: It is a step backwards. The members of the Security Council
express hopes that Fiji will make a steadfast advancement towards democracy and
that fair elections will be held at the soonest possible time.

KERRI RITCHIE: Dorsami Naidu has the same hopes.

DORSAMI NAIDU: People are scared to speak out.

KERRI RITCHIE: Are you taking a big risk by speaking out to me?

DORSAMI NAIDU: When they hear my voice over the radio, it is a risk.

TONY EASTLEY: The Fiji Law Society president, Dorsami Naidu, ending that report by our New Zealand correspondent Kerri Ritchie.



What was a relative stark omission from the Trans-Tasman media was the coverage of the UN Global Conference on Racism, currently being held in Geneva. Apparently, the conference got off to a shaky start amid the walk out of several diplomats due to comments of Iran's President on Israel. The US boycotted the conference because it could not agree to the language of the joint communique by the Conference of Racism, that was severely critical of Israel.

Perhaps the UN Security Council statement on Fiji, may not reflect the total consensus of the UN, judging from the Geneva walkout. This walkout in Geneva also a reminder of the political horse trading within the institution, by some member nations who will send smaller nations to the 'Head master's office' vis a vis Fiji; yet turn a blind eye to more egregious crimes against humanity.

The excerpt of the Irish Times article:

Irish diplomats join walkout at UN racism conference

MARY FITZGERALD, Foreign Affairs Correspondent

IRISH DIPLOMATS were among those to stage a walkout at a UN conference on racism in Geneva yesterday, in protest at a speech made by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during which he denounced Israel as “the most cruel and racist regime”.

Daithí Ó Ceallaigh, Ireland’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, and three other Irish officials, left the conference chamber along with other EU delegates after Mr Ahmadinejad “crossed the line” in his tirade against Israel, according to diplomatic sources.

Several protesters, some wearing multi-coloured wigs and red clown noses, had been removed by security guards after they shouted “Shame! Shame!” and “Racist! Racist!” as the Iranian president prepared to give his address. Mr Ahmadinejad, in a rambling speech which was applauded by some delegates, railed against Israel, saying it had been established following the second World War “under the pretext of Jewish suffering”.

Speaking through a translator, the Iranian leader continued: “They sent migrants from Europe, the United States and other parts of the world in order to establish a totally racist government in the occupied Palestine . . . In compensation for the dire consequences of racism in Europe, they helped bring to power the most cruel and repressive racist regime in Palestine.” EU delegates had made “contingency plans” before Mr Ahmadinejad’s speech because of fears he might “overstep the mark”, one European diplomat said.

“As soon as he started to address the question of the Jewish people and Israel, we had no reason to stay in the room,” explained French ambassador Jean-Baptiste Mattei. French president Nicolas Sarkozy later described Mr Ahmadinejad’s speech as “an intolerable call to racist hatred”.

British ambassador Peter Gooderham condemned what he said were “offensive and inflammatory” comments. “Such outrageous anti-Semitic remarks should have no place in a UN anti-racism forum,” he added.

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon accused Mr Ahmadinejad of using his speech on the first day of the conference “to accuse, divide and even incite”, contradicting the very purpose of the meeting. The Iranian president’s remarks make it “significantly more difficult to build constructive solutions to the very real problem of racism”, Mr Ban, who sat directly behind Mr Ahmadinejad during his speech, added.

Last night the Czech Republic, which currently holds the EU presidency, announced it was withdrawing from the conference in a national capacity. UN high commissioner for human rights Navi Pillay, however, said the best response to what she described as “objectionable” political grandstanding was to “reply and correct, not to withdraw and boycott” the conference.

“The overall atmosphere was quite sour. One now has to ask if today’s events have the potential to unravel the whole thing,” a diplomatic source said last night. “We will have a better idea tomorrow.”

Even before yesterday’s opening speeches, the conference, held to review progress on the implementation of commitments made at the 2001 World Conference against Racism in Durban, had been overshadowed by controversy.

Several countries, including the US, Germany, Canada and Australia, decided to
boycott the week-long event because of concerns that Muslim states would use it
as a platform for denunciations of Israel and calls for “defamation” of religion
to be defined as racism.

Some diplomats feared a repeat of the bitter wrangling that marred the Durban gathering, which saw delegates clash over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the issue of slavery reparations. The US and Israel walked out of the Durban conference following attempts – which later proved unsuccessful – by some participants to equate Zionism with racism.

Meanwhile, Israel yesterday recalled its ambassador to Switzerland in protest at a meeting Swiss president Hans-Rudolf Merz held with Mr Ahmadinejadon Sunday during which Mr Merz pressed the case of Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, who has been jailed in Tehran.








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Monday, April 20, 2009

Links to NZ Over-the-Weekend Discussion on Fiji

New Zealand radio and TV gave much attention to Fiji over the weekend, and for a pleasant change some programmes presented a range of opinions.

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'Toxic and irresponsible' troops comment by New Zealand P.M.

UNBELIEVABLE! NZ Prime Minister John Key's statement about the military is astonishingly inflammatory, given his own remarks a few days ago about how volatile the situation was in Fiji. He said NZ would consider sending armed forces to Fiji if they were "needed to stabilise the peace".

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Trouble in Fiji?

They say that a week is a long time in politics, but sometimes the whole state of a nation can change in a remarkably short amount of time. Recent events in Fiji prove the point.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Events in Fiji

Chris Trotter is well able to look after himself, but the recent criticism on him by No Right Turn [blog]over the Fiji situation is worth a few comments.

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Covering Fiji's Political Climate- Views Far & Wide.

Cafe Pacific blogger and Associate Professor David Robie of AUT's Pacific Media Centre tells Nzone Tonight's Allan Lee about the background to the current unrest and explains its huge significance to the region. (Video posted below)



David Robie also appears in TVNZ Media 7 segment on Media Censorship, that had a panel discussion with Barbara Weaver, Thakur Ranjit Singh.
Another view from across the Tasman, comes from ABC podcast.






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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Dealing With Fiji And Its Politics.

LIKE many military leaders before him, Frank Bainimarama can be autocratic[...]If that seems a ludicrous proposition when constitutions are being abrogated and the media proscribed, it's time to consider some basic truths that seem to have been overlooked in the "good guy, bad guy" narrative that invariably passes for analysis in much of the Australian media.

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The excerpt of Australian article:

Dealing with the dictator

Graham Davis April 16, 2009
Article from: The Australian

LIKE many military leaders before him, Frank Bainimarama can be autocratic, stubborn, wilful, obstinate and disdainful of the traditional nuances of civilian politics. He may also be the best hope, albeit in five years' time, of a democratic Fiji for all its citizens and not just the amply endowed indigenous majority.

If that seems a ludicrous proposition when constitutions are being abrogated and the media proscribed, it's time to consider some basic truths that seem to have been overlooked in the "good guy, bad guy" narrative that invariably passes for analysis in much of the Australian media.

The bad guys, of course, are held to be Bainimarama and his patron, Fiji's octogenarian President, Josefa Iloilo, who have defied the courts by ruling out any popular vote until they can change the electoral system.

The good guys are those calling for an immediate election: a coalition of lawyers, human-rights activists and elements of the local media, plus the man Bainimarama deposed at gunpoint in 2006, former prime minister Laisenia Qarase.

It's time to dispense with this simplistic premise because a compelling argument can be made that, in fact, the reverse is true; that Bainimarama and Iloilo, for all their flaws, are embarked on the more worthy crusade. Or certainly more worthy than they're being given credit for by their burgeoning number of foreign opponents.

The Fiji saga, by its very nature, defies simplicity, yet stripped to its bare essentials presents the international community with a stark choice between upholding the principle of democracy now and sacrificing racial equality in the process. Wait five years - maybe less if some international agreement could be brokered - and we might get both.

Bainimarama and Iloilo have decided that the brand of democracy Qarase champions makes second-class citizens of the 40 per cent of Fiji's population who aren't indigenous, and is not conducive to the development of a thriving, modern state. Qarase and his ilk, they've determined, can only be kept at bay if the electoral system is changed from one that favours indigenous Fijians to one that gives every vote equal weight.

So that is what they intend to do before the country goes to the polls again in 2014, and no amount of hectoring or sanctions is likely to deter them.

In the meantime, the regime needs to embark on that electoral reform, behave less erratically, cease harassing the media, expelling publishers, hounding its opponents and put its case far more cogently than it has.

Australia, in turn, needs to listen, assist in the electoral reform process and do all it can to prevent the collapse of the Fiji economy, which will hurt everyone but the elite and bolster our immigration queues when we can least afford it.

Why is Australia and the rest of the international community insisting on an immediate expression of the public will when Fiji's electoral playing field is yet to be levelled? That's the question that not only frustrates and angers Bainimarama, and fuels his increasing petulance, but perplexes many Fiji-born Australians such as myself.

For all the voluble calls by Kevin Rudd and Foreign Minister Stephen Smith for "a return to democracy in Fiji", they seem oblivious to the fact that there's never been real democracy in Fiji. That's right, never.

Certainly not the brand of democracy taken for granted in Australia, New Zealand, the US and in the European Union, those now casting themselves as righteous crusaders against Bainimarama's supposedly despotic rule.

There's no one-man, one-vote in Fiji but a contorted, distorted electoral system along racial lines that was always designed, in practice, to ensure indigenous supremacy.

This was a parting gesture of the British at independence in 1970 to their loyal Fijian subjects, along with guaranteed indigenous ownership of more than 80 per cent of Fiji's land area. It's certainly in stark contrast with the colonial dispossession of the native populations of Australia and NZ, and may account for the fact that many homes in republican Fiji still sport photos of the Queen.

No non-indigenous Fiji citizen can become the country's president, and just one,

Mahendra Chaudhry, made it to the prime minister's office before he was removed at gunpoint in 2000.

Nor is the president elected. He is chosen by an unelected hereditary body called the Great Council of Chiefs, the apex of a social order that insists indigenous rights are paramount.

Fiji citizens of Indian, European, mixed race or other island heritage are disadvantaged comparatively in everything from land rights to "positive discrimination" programs in employment and education that solely benefit the indigenous majority. They even have to suffer the apartheid-style humiliation of listing their race on immigration arrival documents.

Would Australians and New Zealanders accept this? Not on your nelly. So why the chorus of regional disapproval when an indigenous Fijian, Bainimarama, finally decides enough is enough?

Forty per cent of the population not only lives daily with this disparity of rights but, in the main, accepts it. Why? Partly in the spirit of acknowledging the importance to indigenous Fijians of their vanua (land and traditional ties) but mainly as the price of ensuring racial harmony. It's this largely unspoken consensus that's underpinned whatever success Fiji has had as a functioning multiracial nation to date.

Yet it also depends on indigenous Fijians displaying their own generosity of spirit or, more pertinently, not being too greedy in sequestering all the spoils for themselves.

What Qarase, Bainimarama's chief political opponent, did before he was overthrown in the 2006 coup was to cross an important line.

By insisting that indigenous Fijians gain coastal rights as well as land rights, and be paid cash by other citizens to swim in, fish in and even cross their seas, he demanded more from the other races than many regarded as equitable and fair.

By doing so, he recklessly jeopardised the delicate consensus on which Fiji's future as a viable independent entity depends.

Just as bad, in Bainimarama's eyes, Qarase's coastal bill raised the spectre of envy and conflict between Fijians themselves, for those living in remote areas would never be able to glean the riches available, for instance, to those holding the tourist industry to ransom.

For all their comparative advantages, many ordinary indigenous Fijians still maintain a barely disguised sense of grievance against other races, perpetuating the myth of a threat to their way of life.

This was the big lie of Fiji's first coup in 1987, the preposterous spectre of then military strongman Sitiveni Rabuka claiming indigenous interests were threatened because an indigenous Fijian, Timoci Bavadra, was surrounded by a brace of Indian cabinet members.

Ordinary Fijians should be asking their own leaders why they're still disadvantaged, because if they are being fleeced, it must be by their own elite who have been in control since independence. The political instability of recent years is all part of a crude tug of war between competing Fijian chiefs, career politicians and (mostly) wannabe business types for the spoils that come with government: patronage, leverage, the dispensing of contracts and the accumulation of wealth.

The apotheosis of this was the 2000 coup led by the strutting George Speight, who was merely a puppet for a gaggle of opportunistic chiefs and commoners who used the Indians as scapegoats in a sordid lunge for power.

In an obscene echo of their atavistic past, the Speight clique trashed the supposed citadel of local democracy, the parliament, took hostage then prime minister Chaudhry, and proceeded to engage in an eight-week orgy of drunkenness and sex.

Enter the hero of that hour, but the man Rudd and much of the international community now casts as a villain nine years on.

Bainimarama, as military chief, tricked Speight into surrendering, and turned him over to the courts to be dealt with for treason. He also had to contend with a bloody mutiny in his own ranks in which he barely escaped with his life. Yet no one seems to ask a simple question. If he really wanted to be Fiji's dictator, why didn't Bainimarama impose his will then, when a grateful nation would have strewn garlands at his feet?

Instead, history tells us, he handed over power to Qarase, a one-time merchant banker whom he trusted to stabilise the country, lay to rest the racial bogey once and for all and return Fiji to a semblance of democracy.

What did Qarase do? Not just extend indigenous supremacy but bring some of the key players in the 2000 coup, who Bainimarama wanted punished, into the heart of government. Qarase got plenty of warnings to back off but didn't. It was only a matter of time before Bainimarama's fiery temper snapped.

Qarase never believed one of his own would oppose him, but it was a grave miscalculation based on his own ignorance of Bainimarama's background and attitudes.

Most of the Fijian elite come from exclusively Fijian schools but Bainimarama grew up with other races at Suva's Marist Brothers College, where the emphasis was on multiracial tolerance and nation building. His friends say the relationships he forged there are real and enduring.

He's said to be gripped with a sense of destiny yet has some glaring blind spots, such as a tendency to shoot his mouth off when theoccasion calls for at least a modicum of diplo-speak.

More serious for even Bainimarama's staunchest supporters are some appalling lapses of judgment, including the latest, muzzling the local media and expelling foreign journalists such as the ABC's Sean Dorney.

The most glaring was when he reinstated his brother-in-law, Francis Kean, as head of the navy after Kean spent nearly two months in jail for killing an uncle of the groom at the wedding of Bainimarama's daughter.

"What's wrong with that?", Bainimarama has testily asked interlocutors. Plenty.

Yet for many Fijian citizens, the military chief remains their best hope for a meaningful stake in the future, and if he can deliver on his promise of equal rights, all will be forgiven.

It's certainly a striking paradox that having forged vibrant, multicultural nations from their own monocultural origins, Australia and NZ should be condemning Bainimarama for trying to do the same in Fiji.

Graham Davis is a Fiji-born journalist who reported successive coups for the Nine Network's Sunday program and is now a principal of Grubstreet Media.




Earth Sharing.org's Radical Reaction has a posting on Fiji's political arena, including two podcasts, recording an interview that, includes Fiji's role in the Pacific geo-strategic sphere and geo-political environment.

Radical reactions: we talk to Mosese Waqa (Pacific Islands Network) on the Fiji coup. We provide the full extended interview detailing the 4 coups, australian vis chinese diplomatic styles and future war games. Close to 55 minutes in 2 parts. Compelling listening for anyone interested in the Pacific.

Podcast Part 1.
Podcast Part 2.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Expats Guide Towards Surviving a Fijian Coup [& Rumours, Sensationalised Media Reports]

(From Oceanic Fiji Blog)The doomsday headline "Fiji military given OK to shoot civilians." called out to me from UPI.com. I'm not sure what was more jarring, actually. Was it that fear-mongering, sensationalist headline or the fact that UPI.com's tag line is "100 years of journalistic excellence"?

read more | digg story

NZ PM To Raise Fiji Aid Quandary With Chinese Premier

New Zealand’s Prime Minister, John Key, says he will raise the matter of the current crisis in Fiji with the Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, during his current visit to Beijing[...]John Key says China gives aid to Fiji, and there is a risk that if Australia and New Zealand pull aid away from Fiji then China may simply step in and fill the gap.

read more | digg story

New Zealand blog "Tailor of Panama" whose latest posting covers John Key's latest speech at Peking University. It would be a stretch of the imagination, on DFAT's part, to think Key's insistence on controlling China's aid to Fiji will gain any traction in Beijing, let alone an audience.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The folly of legalism for Fiji’s people

The October 2008 decision of the Fiji High Court which provided support for the continued rule of Commodore Frank Bainimarama and the military was roundly condemned, especially by lawyers and academics.

read more | digg story

What On Earth Did the Court Expect?

I would have preferred a few days to reflect on Friday's developments but given that others are not disposed to do so, I add my thoughts for consideration.

read more | digg story

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Parallels between Fiji and Thailand

Although it may not seem likely on the face of it, there are some significant similarities between the political situations of Fiji and Thailand. To understand why, we must start with some background and definitions. Fiji and Thailand are modern examples of praetorian societies.

read more | digg story

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Fiji Smoothly Slides Into A New Political Order.

In a follow up to an earlier SiFM post on the road less traveled by Fiji.

ABC video of the political situation in Fiji, just over 24 hours ago. (posted below)




Since the ABC news cast, there has been developments. Fiji TV news segment (posted below), covers the second Frank Bainimarama swearing-in ceremony as Fiji Prime Minister.

video

The new cabinet lineup, as published in Fiji Government website.

Cabinet Ministers sworn in by His Excellency the President
Apr 11, 2009, 17:55


His Excellency the President, Ratu Josefa Iloilovatu Uluivuda has this afternoon swore in Cabinet Ministers of the Fiji Government, following their appointment by Prime Minister Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama.

The 9 Cabinet Ministers include:

1. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum Attorney General and Minister for Justice

2. Ratu Epeli Ganilau Minister for Defence, National Security and Immigration

3. Ratu Epeli Nailatikau Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Provincial Development and Multi Ethnic Affairs

4. Netani Sukanaivalu as Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources;

5. Joketani Cokanasiga Minister for Primary Industries

6. Dr Jiko Luveni Minister for Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation

7. Filipe Bole Minister for Education, National Heritage and Culture & Youth and Sports

8. Captain Timoci Lesi Natuva Minister for Works, Transport and Public Utilities

9. Dr Neil Sharma Minister for Health

The Cabinet Ministers will take up office on Tuesday 14th April, 2009.





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Friday, April 10, 2009

The News Cycle In Fiji.

Well, a lot has happened in the past 24 hrs post-Appeals Court Judgement. An ABC web article has a well researched page on the political scene in Fiji with interviews with former Interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama.

Google News aggregate has a chart analysing the news cycle of Fiji.





Timeline of articles & Number of sources covering this story






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Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Question Of Legality-Fiji Appeals Court Judgement

The latest Appeal Court ruling has been made. Full Appeals Judgement.
What is rather bizzare is the Australia Acting Foreign Minister, calling on the Interim Government to respect decision; however before the actual Appeal, it was Australian Bar Associations among others that raised unfounded doubts regarding the judiciary and even warned other would be appointees, about taking office in Fiji, as published in The Australian.
What happened to their doubts post Appeals Court Judgement?

The excerpt of the Australian article:


ABA cautions lawyers on taking judicial office in
Fiji

Chris Merritt, Legal affairs editor March 13, 2009
Article from:
The Australian

THE Australian Bar Association has warned lawyers to be wary about accepting judicial office from Fiji's military-backed government because their appointments could be seen as tainted.

The warning, from ABA president Tom Bathurst QC, comes soon after the International Bar Association raised doubts about the legitimacy of judicial appointments in Fiji since the 2006 coup. The IBA's concerns are outlined in a damning report by the organisation's Human Rights Institute that says the rule of law has been steadily deteriorating in Fiji since the coup. Mr Bathurst said the report
was in line with the ABA's own concerns. Anybody who might be considering
accepting judicial office in Fiji "ought to have a good read of this report before they do so", he said.

"Much as you might like to assist these countries, it is very difficult when on an objective view it could be seen as a tainted appointment. "People have got to look very hard before they take these appointments. They are superficially attractive but they have huge problems." The IBAHRI report says the military-backed regime "has taken steps to influence, control or intimidate the judiciary and the legal
profession".

"The interim regime, apparently allied to some members of the
judiciary, the legal profession and the Fiji Human Rights Commission, have
attacked those members of the judiciary and the legal profession who have
attempted to defend human rights and the justice system," the report says.
Judges who have been appointed or promoted since the coup have heard cases
that relate to the constitutionality of their own appointments, the report says.

It says the regime has tried to silence critical news and comment, has deported
expatriate publishers, has misused proceedings for contempt of court and
altered the membership of the body that nominates judges to the bench -- the
Judicial Service Commission.

One of the judges who has been singled out for criticism in the IBAHRI report is Melbourne barrister Jocelynne Scutt (see accompanying report). The IBAHRI also says the appointment of Fiji's new Chief Justice, Anthony Gates, an Australian citizen, needs to be reviewed to determine if it breaches the Fiji constitution. Justice Gates, who is British born and Cambridge-educated, was a magistrate at the time of the 1987 coup that had been led by military strongman Sitiveni Rabuka.

After he refused to swear an oath of allegiance to Colonel Rabuka, he and other judicial officers were dismissed and he spent almost five years in Brisbane as a public prosecutor. Chief Justice Gates has held his current position since December. He was previously acting chief justice, a title he had held since chief justice Daniel Fatiaki was suspended soon after the coup.
Charges were laid against Chief Justice Fatiaki that were dropped late last year as part of a "settlement" in which he agreed to resign as chief justice and was given $F275,000 by the military-backed Government.

"The suspension by chief justice Fatiaki by the military regime should be condemned by all supporters of the rule of law, particularly given that all charges were eventually dropped and a large settlement payment was made by the regime," the IBAHRI says. The report has found that it is "questionable" whether the appointment of Justice Gates as the new Chief Justice is constitutional. "The IBAHRI also considers that there are doubts about the validity of appointments made to the bench since January 2007," the report says.

It says those doubts are likely to continue because of changes the military-backed Government has made to the Judicial Service Commission.

The report says a number of vacancies are due to arise on the Fiji Supreme Court but
says it appears there is no way "unquestioningly legitimate" appointments can be
made to those vacancies because "a nomination will be perceived as compromised
by the method of appointment". The IBAHRI recommended that no more judges
should be appointed by the regime in Suva until democratic elections are held.
It says there are sufficient concerns about the Fiji judiciary "to
constitute a reasonable doubt about a lack of judicial independence within the
current Fiji judiciary".

It recommends that the Fiji judiciary respect freedom of expression among the media and the legal profession. Mr Bathurst endorsed the IBAHRI's report and said very senior members of the judiciary in Australia and New Zealand had "quite rightly" either declined to serve on the Fiji bench or had allowed their commissions to lapse.



Bloomberg article excerpt:


Australia Presses Fiji to Hold Elections After Court Ruling


By Michael Heath

April 9 (Bloomberg) -- Australia pressed Fiji’s military government to hold elections after the Pacific island nation’s Court of Appeal ruled a 2006 coup was illegal.

Acting Foreign Minister Simon Crean welcomed the ruling, which also called on the president to appoint an interim leader to oversee a ballot, and said the government must respect the court’s decision.”

Fiji’s Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum said a dangerous vacuum would be created if the government relinquished power and signaled it would appeal the decision, the Associated Press reported.

Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama deposed Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase with the support of his 3,500-strong army in December 2006, accusing the government of corruption.

The takeover was Fiji’s fourth coup in 21 years. It damaged the country’s tourism and sugar industries and spurred Australia and New Zealand to impose travel bans and sanctions. A corruption commission set up by Bainimarama also charged Qarase with abuse of office, an allegation he has denied.

Bainimarama, who is interim prime minister, is under pressure from Australia, New Zealand and other Pacific nations to hold elections by the end of the year.

Crean said today’s ruling “underlines that the dismissal of Prime Minister Qarase was invalid.” The government should restore democracy through elections as early as possible, Crean said, adding Australia would be ready to provide “considerable assistance” to ensure the ballot is successful.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael Heath in Sydney at mheath1@bloomberg.net.

Last Updated: April 9, 2009
03:06 EDT
Fiji Times (F.T) article, quotes from the Interim Prime Minster. The excerpt of F.T article:

Fiji's without a government: Bainimarama
Thursday, April 09, 2009
Update: 7:24PM

FIJI has no government in place as it awaits the President's decision on
his next course of action, said Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama in a televised
address to the nation moments ago.
He said the Fiji Court of Appeal's declarations meant that "we effectively do not now have a prime minister or any ministers of the State; in other words we do not have
government in place".

The former interim prime minister said the country now had to wait for the President to decide on his next course of action.
"I want to assure you all that I, as Commander of the RFMF, together with all the security forces, shall ensure that there will be no disruption to law and order," he said. "His Excelllency shall inform us of his decision soon."




One legally trained poster "Real Jack" outlined what the judgement means, and the legal avenues available and the course of actions, derived from such a decision.
Other reactions to the Appeals Judgement was varied. One such thread regarding the judgement was from Fiji Exiles Board forum
The excerpt of the posting:


Well crafted Declarations by Court of Appeal


just heard the Declarations over the TV - the Court of Appeal has set down a very well crafted set of declarations. they say
  • (a) the events of December 2006 are invalid; BUT
  • (b) the laws and work done since then by the regime are valid, subject to
    any determination being made othewise (i.e through the courts on a case by case basis) OR as and when parliament reconvenes and determines the laws and actions
  • (c) they recomend that the President appoint a caretaker Prime Minister OTHER THAN the parties to the case to dissolve parliament - and this is the beuty part - they haven't stated that Rt Epeli Ganilau or Nailatikau or Filipe Bole or any of the other current members can't be appointed caretaker PM - lol - nor have they advised that Chaudary can't be caretaker PM to dissolve parliament -so the President can appoint anybody he chooses from inside the 2006 parliament to give that advice and sign the dissolution of parliament -


this is exactly what the Tui Nayau did in 2000 - appointed Rt Tevita Momoedonu as PM for 15 minutes just to sign the dissolution. then that interim PM appoints a caretaker government to go to elections - and the Court has not said that FB can't be part of that interim government AFTER that dissolution has been properly effected. they may have done it illegally in 2006 - but after doing a proper dissolution now as per the Declarations of the Court, they will be kosher and legal. this is a smoothly crafted judgement - very slick.

its so wide open and flexible it allows for structuring of outcomes WITHIN the legislative and constitutional framework to go forward. the President should follow the Declarations (even if it doesn't name him as a party to the proceedings) - appoint an interim Prime Minister for 15 minutes i.e Chaudary or someone else to declare a dissolution of parliament - and then constitute a caretaker government and have FB & Co resworn to take the country to elections - and implement the reforms in the process - these laws are not invalidated by today's Declarations - the Court has made that very clear - which essentially means the reforms can proceed. and there is no timeframe on when elections should proceed - thats a prcatical and political decision - the Writs can be issued, but whether the country is ready for elections is a practical
issue which then follows. its a very good flexible Judgement.

too good - they realise the possibility of a coup d'etat to abrogate the 1997 Constitution AND SO they have basically presented the way forward flexible enough to take on board everybody's concerns and manouver a legal way through.

i don't know what Pryde is trying to do with an appeal - these Judges of the Court of Appeal have presented to him the whole thing on the plate - he can refit the jigsaw as he likes now - its his playground - get on down and play - start structuring - they have set down the parameters so that when he refits the jigsaw, its kosher - legal. these Judges are good - too good.

Real Jack continues in another post, in the same thread about how Qarase is misrepresenting the ruling, as seen in a Fiji Times article.
The excerpt of Real Jack's posting:

Regime should publish the judgement in the Dailies in all languages


Qarase is now back to his old game - he is now misrepresenting the judgement - just heard him on Fijian radio saying that the Court of Appeal has determined that the events of 5th December are illegal. full stop. what the regime should do is publish the judgement in all the Dailies in Fijian, Hindustani and English showing CLEARLY and UNAMBIGUOUSLY what the Court of appeal actually said IN ITS TOTALITY.