Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Dangerous Liaisons? - Copenhagen Leak & Trans-Tasman Double Dealings In The Pacific. (Updated)

In a follow up to the November issue of Island Business (I.B), featured in a SIFM post; the article in question irked an official (Johnson Honimae)in the Forum Secretariat, who penned a response letter accusing the Island Business of misrepresenting the facts.

The excerpt of the response letter published by (I.B):

Letter misrepresentation

I refer to your “Letter from Suva” titled “Officials Make a Strong Stand,” which appeared in the November issue of your magazine.

Your LETTER FROM SUVA affirmed that Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat officials present at the recent Forum Trade Officials Meeting (Brisbane, October 2009) were asked to leave by islands officials in an “unprecedented” manner.

Your editorial is a complete misrepresentation of the facts. The Forum Secretariat takes its responsibilities to all Forum Members very seriously. As part of providing its services professionally, Forum Secretariat Officials at the meeting in question sought to excuse themselves from deliberations in order to avoid a potential conflict of interest.

At the time, island officials were discussing Forum Islands Countries’ position on appointing a Chief Trade Adviser and the framework for PACER Plus negotiations as a lead-up to the meeting with Australia and New Zealand. Because the Forum’s membership consists of both parties involved in negotiations (ANZ and Forum Islands Countries), it was only appropriate for our officials to excuse themselves from the proceedings.

A similar request was made by the Forum Secretariat at the subsequent Forum Islands Countries’ Trade Ministers Meeting (Brisbane, October 2009). After discussion, this request was not accepted by Ministers. Forum Secretariat Officials therefore remained in the room for the duration of that meeting.

Your failure to report accurately, act professionally and uphold expected standards of journalism is unacceptable. The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat remains accessible to you and your reporters should you wish to seek facts and clarifications on the work of the Forum Secretariat.

Johnson Honimae
Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat


The Forum Secretariat is entitled to its views. We are, as always, happy to publish them. As an experienced former journalist, Mr Honimae would know LETTER FROM SUVA is a viewpoint, or opinion, column, not a news report.

It is clearly designed as such. However, the views in this LETTER FROM SUVA column were based on information supplied by trusted senior Pacific Islands officials, These officials are well aware of what actually happened and briefed LETTER FROM SUVA.

Island Business continues to unravel the layers of manipulation, coercion within the confines of the Forum Secretariat, by those who take their marching orders directly from Canberra and Wellington.


Laisa Taga
Islands Business

The two biggest Pacific Islands countries have come out firing. Fiji and Papua New Guinea have criticised the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat for including the Office of the Chief Trade Adviser (OCTA) for funding under EDF (European Development Fund) 10.

Twelve programmes have been proposed by the Forum Secretariat for funding under the Aid for Trade for EDF-10 RIP funding which was circulated to all Forum member countries.

Twenty six million Euros (approximately A$36 million) is available to the Forum member countries of the ACP (African, Caribbean, Pacific) group. The Pacific ACP countries were required to submit their five priority areas.

The establishment of the OCTA for PACER Plus Related Activities is priority number eight and the Forum Secretariat is seeking 7 million Euros (A$11,402,443) for this.

OCTA was established to assist Forum Islands Countries (FICs) in their negotiations with the Australia and New Zealand under the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER Plus) Agreement.

Fiji is opposing the use of such funds to fund the Office of the Trade Adviser and Pacer Plus Negotiations.

A source within the Fiji Government told LETTER FROM SUVA: “Why should EDF funding fund OCTA and PACER Plus negotiations when that has got nothing to do with EPA? The Europeans are giving money in relation to the EPAs, so Australia and New Zealand should cough up for the PACER negotiations.”

Fiji’s opposition was made known to the Forum Secretary-General Tuiloma Neroni Slade, in a letter dated November 18, 2009.

The letter signed by Fiji’s Roving Ambassador Ratu Tui Cavuilati said: “Fiji wishes to register our concern that the EDF facility should not be used to fund OCTA and PACER Plus negotiations, rather, funding for those activities should be separate and should not divert the much needed resources away from EPA related activities.” Fiji is not alone. Papua New Guinea has also written to the Forum Secretariat expressing its concern.

Acting Foreign Secretary Lucy Bogari said in her letter to Mr Tuiloma: “Papua New
Guinea is very concerned that PACER Plus related activities especially in the form of assistance to OCTA featured prominently in the proposed allocations.

“Papua New Guinea’s position is that the great portion of the assistance towards PACER Plus activities for the deepening of trade and economic relations between FICs and Australia and New Zealand should be committed from a more neutral source other than ANZ but not necessarily through EDF sources.

“As such the Government of PNG does not support the proposed allocation for OCTA and requests the revision of the proposed allocation in EDF 10 to match the financial commitment by ANZ, which should be an equivalent of 1.5 million Australian dollars only,” Ms Bogari also used the opportunity to rebuke the Forum Secretariat on the state of play regarding OCTA.

“The OCTA should have been an issue strictly discussed by the FICs themselves without consulting ANZ. After all, it is odd that the FICs discussed with ANZ the OCTA which is a FIC negotiation strategy.

“It is therefore PNG’s view that once the initial three years of ANZ support to OCTA lapses, FICs need to bite the bullet and take exclusive ownership of the subsequent requirements for OCTA and resolve any related issues internally,” Ms Bogari wrote in her November 19, letter.

Both Australia and New Zealand have jointly committed A$1.5 million (US$1.3 million) to help fund the setting up of the office in Vanuatu.

Meanwhile, LETTER FROM SUVA has been told that the Head of the Pacific Plan Unit at the Forum Secretariat, Ed Vrikic, has lodged an application for a new work permit through the Fiji foreign ministry. His current work permit expires this year. But the new one he is applying for is for the position of Executive Officer.

LETTER FROM SUVA had revealed a few months ago, that he had been appointed Chief of Staff following the Cairns Leaders meeting, although the job title has now changed to Executive Officer. And he will take up that position once his Pacific Plan contract expires this year. The new job is a one-year contract and he will be on secondment from the Australian Government.

This is going to be a very powerful position and a strategic one too, as one Forum observer had told LETTER FROM SUVA.

“This person will vet everything the SG [Secretary General] will see—what comes to his table and what goes out from his table,” this Forum observer said. “He will also have access to all the vital and top secret information the Forum Secretariat might have in relation to trade negotiations for instance and so forth, which could find itself turning up at the Australia’s Pacific desk in Canberra—preempting our every move.”

It will be interesting to see how the Fiji foreign ministry will handle the issue. Would it be another case like Chakriya Bowman, another Australian, who is now understood to be working from the Forum trade office in Sydney?

Unfortunately, there are some parallels between the Forum Secretariat's adopted stance on Climate Change, and the unfolding crisis in Copenhagen.

First and foremost the Pacific Forum final communique on Climate Change, as it appears on Forum website:

The excerpt of Forum Communique On Climate Change:

6 August 2009

For Pacific Island states, climate change is the great challenge of our time. It threatens not only our livelihoods and living standards, but the very viability of some of our communities.

Though the role of Pacific Island states in the causes of climate change is small, the impact on them is great. Many Pacific people face new challenges in access to water. The security of our communities and the health of populations are placed in greater jeopardy. And some habitats and island States face obliteration.

Mindful of the Niue Declaration, we therefore address this Call to Action to all leaders in the global community, and urgently seek their support to address this grave threat.

Many actions are needed, but a strong global agreement is vital. We therefore seek redoubled efforts from all states to secure a successful agreement at Copenhagen in December.
With 122 days to go, the international community is not on track to achieve the outcome we need unless we see a renewed mandate across all participating nations.
We call upon world Leaders to urgently increase their level of ambition and to give their negotiators fresh mandates to secure a truly effective global agreement.

We call for a post-2012 outcome that sets the world on a path to limit the increase in global average temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius or less.

We call on states to reduce global emissions by at least 50 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050.

We call on states to ensure that global emissions peak no later than 2020.

We call on developed economies to take the lead by setting ambitious and robust mid-term emissions reduction targets – consistent with the agreed science and the directions embraced by the Major Economies Forum Meeting in July 2009.

We also call on developed economies to strengthen the seriousness and credibility of their claims at Copenhagen by putting in place domestic policies and legislation now to achieve emission reductions targets.

And we call on major developing economies to commit to slow and then reduce emissions growth over time, to nominate a peaking year for their emissions, and to ensure a substantial collective reduction below business-as-usual levels by 2020.

We call upon each major emitter to show leadership – to demonstrate by their words and deeds that they are willing to make the tough decisions necessary to secure the agreement that we need; and not to wait for others to show the way forward.

We understand that just as deforestation is part of the problem, so reducing deforestation and providing incentives to preserve forests should be part of the solution.

To defeat deforestation and forest degradation, we acknowledge that finance, technology and capacity development are necessary to underpin a step-wise process necessary to increase emissions reductions and carbon sequestration. Global carbon markets will play an important role, requiring robust methodological standards for measurable, reportable and verifiable actions.

For our part, we know that we will need to adapt to the changes in our climate that are already inevitable. We stand ready to lead our peoples in this adaptation process. But developing countries cannot do this alone. We call for increased support, prioritised to those developing countries most vulnerable and least able to respond.

We call for increased financing through carbon markets and other channels for climate change adaptation and mitigation action in developing countries, including through technology development and diffusion, and we welcome initiatives by G20 Leaders to develop financing options.

We call upon world leaders to recognise and act upon the threat climate change poses to our marine environment, particularly its effect on coral reefs, fisheries and food security.

We also call upon world leaders to include in a post-2012 arrangement practical and concrete solutions for those whose future existence is under threat.

In view of the situation of Small Island States and their future survival action by the major emitters, both developed and developing countries, should embrace the possibility of going beyond the 2050 targets contained within this Call to Action.

The world has shown, in responding to the global financial crisis, that it is prepared to act swiftly and decisively to address tough challenges. There will be no tougher challenge than addressing climate change, and no greater imperative for the peoples of the Pacific.

We, the Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum, commit ourselves to working intensively with Leaders of all states to achieve an effective agreement at Copenhagen. We stand ready to play our part in securing an outcome that can safeguard our people, their prosperity and the planet.

Secondly, the position taken by the Pacific Forum was basically to have Australia voicing their collective environmental concerns at Copenhagen.
That stance was disputed by Fiji; who subsequently aligned itself with the Association Of Small Island States (AOSIS) according to a Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (FBCL)article.

The excerpt of FBCL article:

Fiji opposes Forum climate change policy
Thursday, December 03, 2009

Fiji is opposing the climate change stance adopted by the Pacific Island Forum that is going to be taken to the Copenhagen meet in Denmark next week.

Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama says Fiji has aligned itself with the Association Of Small Island States (AOSIS) for the Copenhagen meet and it opposes the stance taken by the Forum at the recent meeting in Australia.

“We certainly have differences with the stance of the Forum. It is in Fiji’s interests to be leading the region on climate change that have the backing of other pacific island countries. As for Copenhagen, yes negotiations will be held with the developed countries concerning emission levels…”

The climate change policy agreed to by the Forum is to allow Australia to be the voice of their climate change concerns at Copenhagen.

This is something many environmental and NGOs in the Pacific oppose, saying it will only dilute the Pacific’s concerns.
Sadly, the hens have come home to roost for the Pacific Forum; after the recent revelation of a Final Draft agreement, which was leaked to the Guardian Newspaper.

One particular brow raising revelation was that the Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd had a central role in the draft compilation, according to an article published in The Age.

The excerpt of the Age article:
Anger at 'secret' climate change deal

December 10, 2009

PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd had a central role in the creation of a "secret" draft climate agreement that has sparked angry accusations that wealthy nations are trying to railroad the developing world into an unfair deal at the climate summit in Copenhagen.

The G77 bloc of developing nations said the draft deal would abandon a long-held agreement that rich nations were responsible for lowering emissions and condemn 80 per cent of the world's population to suffering and injustice.

The proposal would for the first time require developing countries to put forward climate policies as part of a binding international treaty and split the developing bloc into two groups.

Although this has been widely expected, it drew a furious response from G77 head Lumumba Stanislaus-Kaw Di-Aping of Sudan.

He accused wealthy leaders of trying to shore up their economies by demanding action from developing nations before committing to deep emissions cuts themselves and saying what they would pay towards a green fund to help vulnerable communities.

The proposal was prepared by the Danish Government with members of its "circle of commitment", including Mr Rudd.

"Perhaps it is the Danish idea that maybe developing countries are not competent enough, not knowledgeable enough, to articulate their own views and their own solutions," Mr Di-Aping said.

"This is a very serious development, a very unfortunate development, a major violation that threatens the success of the Copenhagen negotiations."

Late last night Mr Di-Aping stepped up his rhetoric, comparing the rich nations with nations that appeased Nazi Germany before World War II. ''Many of them were willing to appease gross violations of human rights, but at the end of the day humanity prevailed,'' he said

Developed nations quickly played down the draft, saying it was just one of several working papers being put forward before world leaders arrive next week.

It is believed an updated version has been distributed, but work on it has been put on hold while the negotiations continue this week.

Australian climate change ambassador Louise Hand said the Danes had consulted with several delegations, including Australia's, on what a climate agreement might look like but had not prepared a final draft.

Denmark's Ministry of Climate and Energy issued a statement denying the existence of a ''secret Danish draft''.

Speaking in Cairns, Mr Rudd said Denmark had been taking ''inputs'' from other countries. But he would not comment on the draft document, which was leaked to The Guardian in Britain.

He said the world needed a ''strong, levelled political agreement … but more broadly, the right approach is to get the right outcome for the developed and the developing world, because we live on one planet''.

As part of the Danes' ''circle of commitment'', Mr Rudd has had weekly video links with Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, Mexican President Felipe Calderon and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a bid to find an approach to satisfy both the US and developing nations while giving a chance of limiting global warming to 2 degrees.

It is understood the Governments of all members of the circle have consulted on text that could form part of a political deal at Copenhagen.

Proposals in the leaked draft reflect the ''schedules'' approach proposed by Australia this year. This would require industrialised countries to take on emissions targets, as under the Kyoto Protocol, and developing countries to put forward measurable climate policies of their choice, such as targets for renewable energy.

The draft proposes a global 50 per cent cut in emissions by 2050, a figure opposed by China and other developing countries because it is understood to demand an overall cut of 20 per cent by the poor.

Wealthy nations would be expected to make an 80 per cent cut by 2050 - more than Australia's current target of 60 per cent. But the Government has pledged to take an 80 per cent policy to the next election if a climate deal is struck.

Erwin Jackson of the Climate Institute said parts of the draft proposal could be the basis for an ambitious climate deal. But he criticised the absence of 2020 targets and commitments on a green fund. ''There is no doubt the Prime Minister and the Government are playing a role in attempting to avoid the negotiations spiralling towards a low ambitious outcome,'' he said.

"However, all countries have to lift their game."

It seems those Pacific Island States, which voted for Australia speaking on behalf of the Pacific region were in for a rude awakening. This whole climate change fiasco has become a diplomatic metaphor for "bait and switch".

More so, when the current Chair of the Pacific Forum (Australia) is covertly advocating a position (that basically contradicts their stance adopted by the Pacific Forum). According to a NZ Herald article, The Government of New Zealand was also involved in the draft agreement.

Australia and New Zealand's two timing position on Climate Change is now undisputed and vilified as, Tiger Wood's transgressions, wrapped in the controversial Downing Street Memos.

This climate scandal already labeled "Carbon Colonialism" by an article from the Times of London; has serious implications on the final agreement in Copenhagen and its acceptance or abeyance by the least developed nations on this planet (many of whom are seething with anger) pivots on the knife edge of history.

The leaked Danish text (posted below) courtesy of Doom Daily.

Copenhagen Climate Change Agreement

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Australian Broadcast Corp (ABC) News Filtering, Climate Gate And The Pacific Region.

Interesting story of Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) filtering out search results on their website.

This embarrassing incident comes in the wake of the narrowing defeat of a Climate Change Bill (aka Emission Trade Laws) in the Australian Senate.

Although, Australia is the current chair of the Pacific Forum, their arbitrary insistence of speaking for the Pacific Forum raising these environmental issues at Copenhagen-is a bull headed imposition, currently challenged by Fiji's Foreign Affairs according to a FBC article.

Undeniably, it is highly questionable for the regions greatest polluter to represent the concerns of their least polluting Pacific island neighbors. An outrageous premise rudely abusing the founding values of the forum and tarnishing the very ideals of the presently Trans-Tasman dominated and funded institution.

More at The Real News

Real News Network (video above) explores the Climate Gate Email Leaks, undoubtedly a catalyst for this blow back of dissent. Notwithstanding, Climate Gate issue has raised the specter of artificially induced lethargy in main stream news reportage, as UK Telegraph journalist outlines in a blog.

This deceit in scientific research raises many questions about the green veneer adopted by some major news organizations, a trend adopted by News Corp as reported by a NPR article.

Green It. Mean It. 2009

Shira | MySpace Video

Fox TV Network (video above)also supported similar activities of climate awareness, derived from the grand News Corp vision.

Such potential economic bubbles in carbon trading, raised inadvertently by the Climate Gate email fiasco; prompted many to question the agenda of this vast media network of basically playing both sides of a controversy global issue- or was it just simply mis-communication between their News and Entertainment divisions ?

Fox News Interviews US Scientist(video below).

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Island Business: Officials Make Strong Stand.


Laisa Taga,
Islands Business
Group Editor in Chief
Mon, 9
Nov 2009

Are the islands government officials now finally waking up to the fact that they have been for so long dancing to the tune of Australia and New Zealand?

That Australia particularly has been dictating the shots? That the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (ForumSec), which was set up to serve islands interests, is serving not their interests but that of Australia and New Zealand?

If last month’s Special Forum Trade Officials meeting in Brisbane and the SOPAC 38th annual session in Vanuatu are anything to go by, we can expect interesting times ahead.

Interesting times

For the first time, islands officials are making a stand and making it loud and clear. They are standing up to Australia and New Zealand.

Take for example the Brisbane Forum Trade Officials meeting. Sources at the meeting said the islanders took an unprecedented move by telling Forum Secretariat
officials that they didn’t want them in their meeting.

That meeting was to discuss their position before they met with Australia and New Zealand to talk about the appointment of the Chief Trade Adviser and the establishment of this office. Plus the framework for the regional PACER Plus trade negotiations, including timelines for negotiations, identification of issues and issues the adviser could negotiate.

One well connected regional political observer told LETTER FROM SUVA: “That move by the islanders is unprecedented and it shows the level of mistrust and suspicion they have of ForumSec.

The meeting was to have been attended by the new trade adviser who is the Director of Economic Governance, Dr Chakriya Bowman of Australia. But islands officials decided against it because they feared that if she and her ForumSec team were to be part of that meeting, their position could be compromised with the Australians getting a whiff of it and devising strategies to counter the Pacific move even before they met.

“This is not new…it has been the problem over the years that even before the islands met with Australia and New Zealand their positions were already known by them.”

LETTER FROM SUVA was also told that in the past some senior ForumSec officials were forced to keep close to their chest their trade negotiation strategies. This included not even disclosing it to fellow senior officials.

And that’s not all. In Vanuatu, late month, there were similar developments at the Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC).

Heated debate

A reliable source within SOPAC told LETTER FROM SUVA that Australia and New Zealand reps at the SOPAC annual session were told in no uncertain terms: “If they don’t want to play ball with the islands, then they are not welcomed. We can find alternative funders who can take your place within SOPAC”.

The heated debate was over whether SOPAC could be able to be rationalised come January 1, 2010, as was earlier decided. The meeting was told the regional organisation needed more time before this could be done.

Under the new structure, SOPAC is to come under the Secretariat of the Pacific Commission (SPC), and this was to become effective from January 1, 2010.

During the discussions, the Australian delegate insisted the rationalisation process should proceed as planned. She threatened to pull out Australian funding totalling 4% of SOPAC’s budget, if the rationalisation process did not go ahead.

This led to one island delegate telling the Australians: “If you want to walk, walk, if you want to run, run, SOPAC will survive with or without your funding.”

This drew overwhelming support from the rest of the islands nations. It saw the status quo remaining at SOPAC for at least another year before a review is done and a report submitted before the leaders when they meet in October next year.

Need not be bullied

It is this kind of unity that has been missing from the islands for a long time. The small islands are starting to say what they mean. This is important. We are sovereign countries. We need to hold our heads high and be counted. We can’t be bulldozed and we need to break the culture of silence.

Leaders need to take heed of this. They need not be bullied and run for cover every time Australia and New Zealand open their mouths! Perhaps, other islands leaders could learn a thing or two from Fiji’s Voreqe “Frank” Bainimarama. He is taking no nonsense from Canberra and Wellington and is not intimidated by them.

Maybe that’s why Australia and New Zealand are so anxious to make sure Fiji is excluded from the Pacific Islands Forum and the PACER Plus negotiations…..Article from Islands Business Magazine, November Issue, website: [http://www.islandsbusiness.com/]

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Dr. Katerina Teaiwa : Our Real Fiji.


Fiji Sun

The latest drama surrounding Fiji is starting to conjure up images for me of the Bermuda Triangle.

There is a mysterious dead zone of understanding between Fiji, Australia and New Zealand despite over a century of trade, and political and cultural exchanges.

In this abyss history begins again and again in 2006, 2000 and 1987 and the future of the island nation constantly hinges on a string of negative political and economic sound bites.

I often discuss popular perceptions of Fiji and the Pacific with many of my students.


One postgraduate made a short documentary of Australian and Pacific relations for her final research project in 2008. She interviewed several young people in Canberra about their views of the island region.

The majority had close to no opinion or were'nt sure what part of the world she was talking about.

The rest had perspectives that revolved around two sets of images: coconuts and cocktails on one side, and coups and crises on the other.

The two views of Oceania have been around since before Captain Cook and continue to be invoked by many a journalist who begins their South Pacific news story with the ominous words: “Beneath the exotic facade lies...”


The dominance of the “paradise in crisis” paradigm is a reflection of the lack of in-depth understanding of the region within the Australian public.

There is next to no Pacific content in Australian education at all levels, for example. In a recent discussion at the Australian National University (ANU) with foreign affairs cadets from across Asia and the Pacific, we compared the two regions.

The economic and political influence of many Asian countries was a clear attraction for young people wanting to further their studies and international careers. One young woman then asked me what the “gain” was in engaging the Pacific.


The popular perception is that countries such as Australia and New Zealand guide, advise, fund and support Pacific Island governments and communities but have nothing to gain or learn from them.

But the majority of people who do spend quality time in the islands, many of them government funded development volunteers, do come away with some major life changing experiences. They are often moved and inspired by the culturally vibrant communities they work with.

Clearly, if one is open to learning, an important “gain” is always cultural.

In August, at the Fiji Update held at Parliament House in Canberra, I called for a diversity of views on the current situation highlighting the wealth of activity and promise within the culture sector.

By diversity I don’t mean illuminating life and politics in Fiji from the perspectives of more “big men” whether they are of the Melanesian, Australian or New Zealand variety. I mean, find out what else is going on, what other extraordinary and meaningful things Fiji Islanders are doing.

What are women’s groups doing? What are artists doing, painting, weaving, or singing? What other creative strategies do people use to express themselves?

With all respect to ABC’s In the Loop, do such stories reach the general Australian public?

These questions probably would not result in enough sensational or scandalous answers to merit mainstream media attention but they would illuminate life on the ground and help assuage the panic that seems to rise every time Australia and Fiji’s relationship gets extra rocky.


Australians might learn, for example, about why the French funded Domo ni Karmen, “Carmen’s Voice” in Fijian, Fiji’s first Pacific opera and an adaptation of Georges Bizet’s Carmen, performed to sold-out theatres in Suva.

We might contemplate the rise of slam poetry and hip hop and its direct connection with youth empowerment.

In some parts of the world we would turn to the musicians, poets and other literary figures for social and political insight. There is no shortage of such voices in the Pacific but rarely are they called upon for such wisdom.

One of the most cherished poems of the post coup era, “My Fiji,” was written by the late Adi Kuini Vuikaba Speed, wife of the late Dr. Timoci Bavadra who was ousted from government in the first Fiji coup.

Her words are worth remembering again, and again, and again.

. . . It was the budget

That brought them down.

But my country is:

singing competitions, old clothes bazaars,

food and mat sales for the church fund.

Noisy volleyball games and the boredom of children,

too small to enjoy the events, hot and bothered

by the things bigger people do.

That same government is back again,

old faces, old games.

But my country is:

The bumpy ride on Singh’s valley bus,

and driver Pratap greeting Fijians

in fluent Sigatoka dialect.

The Hindu tobacco grower who

helps the poor Fijian family

with the adopted Chinese son

- Adi Kuini Vuikaba Speed, 1997


Savusavu-born Dr Katerina Teaiwa is from Fiji and is Pacific Studies Convener at the Australian National University’s’s College of Asia and the Pacific in Canberra, running the teaching programme.

She went to Yat-Sen Primary School and St. Joseph’s Secondary School in Suva. She has a Bachelors of Science from Santa Clara University, an MA in Pacific Islands Studies from the University of Hawai’i, and a PhD in Anthropology from the Australian National University.

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Bad Boys?

Only bad boy we can afford to heavy

Greg Sheridan,
Foreign editor

The Australian

November 05, 2009 12:00AM

THE Rudd government has mishandled the Fiji situation from the start. This is a classic case of moral grandiloquence producing absolutely rotten outcomes.

We live in a very nasty world. The Taliban murders people by the hundreds in Afghanistan and Pakistan and boasts about how many girls' schools it blows up.

Most of the nations in our large aid budget are mired in corruption and governance crises.

A good part of Africa is struggling to avoid being failed states. In our own neighbourhood, the Melanesian world, you cannot find an unequivocal success story.

There's not much we can do about all this. But there's one thing we can do. We can beat up on Frank Bainimarama in Suva.

This is the true rule of international relations. The strong do what they will, the weak give what they must.

China can beat up on us because it's big and we're small. And we hear very little of jailed Australian executive Stern Hu these days. We can beat up on Fiji because in this case we're big and it's small.

Of course, the morality of our actions is different.

Bainimarama came to power in a coup. His political plans, which once had a touch of coherence, have totally unravelled.

This, too, is partly because of external pressure. By some accounts Bainimarama is now determined not to give up power because he fears that, out of power, he would be prosecuted, either by a future Fijian government or by some expression of that fatuous construct, the international community.

This might almost be a textbook case of how international law retards the resolution of real world problems, if in fact it's impossible now to negotiate Bainimarama out of office.

But perhaps the most important aspect of Bainimarama's rule is that he hasn't killed anybody since he came to office. That doesn't make him a good dictator. His determination not to restore democracy is wholly objectionable. But it does make him an almost unique dictator.

Undoubtedly, Australia can crush Fiji. There are not many countries about which you can say that.

If we want to we can isolate Fiji, destroy its economy, impoverish its people, radicalise its Melanesian militants, set the army on a violent path, expose the Indian population to who knows what in the chaos that might follow. We sure can do that if we want to.

Surely the Sri Lankan judges thinking of taking on Fiji government appointments could have been left to work out all for themselves that they might come under our (ill-advised) travel bans, without our telling them so before they took up their appointments.

Now we don't have a high commissioner in Fiji and they don't have one here. Congratulations, Canberra, a brilliant result.

We are in grave danger of making a very bad situation much worse. We can certainly isolate and punish Fiji with unique effectiveness, if we want to.

God knows why anyone in Canberra thinks it's a good idea.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Judging The Regional Hegemony In The Pacific & The Diplomatic Expulsions In Fiji.

The expulsion of Australia and New Zealand senior diplomats from Suva, is rather an unfortunate turn of events. Albeit, an endgame to the diplomatic stumbling blocks placed in Fiji's progressive path, by the Trans-Tasman bullies.

What exactly did bring the inter-Pacific relationship to such a teetering edge?

The expulsion itself did not occur within a vacuum, but was the culmination of protracted and unbridled interference from the neighborhood punks.

For those who suggest that the Trans-Tasman justifications are solely based on their superior understanding of Fiji's situation, are simply myopic reductionists.

It appears that these independent judges from Sri Lanka would not dance to the tune of harassment and arm twisting, played by Australia and New Zealand. The transcripts regarding the recorded "courtesy call" from Australia's High Commission in Colombo, Sri Lanka to the judicial incumbents, prior to their travel to Fiji were revealed in a Radio Fiji article.

The excerpt of the Radio Fiji article:
Calls not courtesy but discouragement
Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Australian Government’s courtesy call to the Sri Lankan judges and magistrates bound for Fiji is tantamount to harassment, and also an indication that their transit visa applications won’t be approved.

FBC News has obtained and authenticated a recording of a phone conversation between a staff from the Australian High Commission in Colombo and one of the Sri Lankan judicial officers bound for Fiji, and it alleges against the Australian denial that they were offered visas.

The phone conversation, which was recorded on the 29th of last month was clearly discouraging the Sri Lankans from taking up judicial appointments in Fiji, even though as the Australians allege, merely a courtesy call.

“Individuals appointed to the Fiji judiciary regardless of citizenship, become subject to these travel sanctions and that obviously include yourself and individuals affected by travel sanctions cannot be allowed to travel to or through Australia although the travel sanctions policy is applied (inaudible) and visa application is considered on a case by case basis. We also understand that New Zealand sanctions apply definitely to people (inaudible) to the Fiji judiciary. As I said this is just a courtesy call just to let you know of the Australian policy towards Fiji in terms of travel sanctions.”

According to Fiji’s chief justice Anthony Gates, applying for an Australian transit visas usually only takes 48 hours, but the Sri Lankan officers had to wait eight full days before they receive the courtesy call.

And the from the phone call, it clearly indicates the Australian government’s position against members and potential members of the Fiji judiciary.

“Australia (inaudible) is that, you know, there are (inaudible) concern in the state of the Fiji’s judiciary. (Inaudible) of accepting judicial appointments, including the International Bar Association is chance that accepting a judicial appointment would be perceived that you’re condoning and supporting the military regime’s action. As I said, this is a decision for yourself as a person but as I have said, this is an advance warning of Australia’s travel sanctions.”
The Sri Lankan judicial officers have been appalled by this treatment.

Apparently, this Fijian episode is not entirely different from the situation in nearby Solomon Islands, where similar meddling by the Australian Government, demanded the removal of its Attorney General, Julian Moti.

Micro-excerpt of the article:

Moti has been targeted both as a means of undermining the Sogavare government, and to avoid any scrutiny of the Australian-dominated Regional Assistance to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI).

Australian forces were dispatched to the Solomons in 2003 after the Howard government declared the Solomons a “failed state” and a potential haven for terrorists. RAMSI took over the country’s key economic, judicial, and security institutions.

The present trial of Julian Moti had unfolded in a court room in Queensland, according to a Sololmon Star(SSN) news article, in which there were contradictory witness statements to the prosecution 's case.

The micro excerpt of SSN article:

THE Queensland Supreme Court resumed hearings Wednesday on the application by former Solomon Islands’ attorney general Julian Moti for a permanent stay of proceedings in the attempt by Australian prosecuting authorities to try him on charges relating to statutory rape allegations that were discharged by a Vanuatu magistrate in 1998.

Moti’s counsel is seeking to have the charges thrown out on the grounds that the investigation and prosecution represents a politically motivated abuse of judicial process.

During Wednesday’s proceedings, glaring contradictions emerged between the testimony of defence and prosecution witnesses.

These related to the events that led up to Moti’s extraction from the Solomon Islands and arrest in Australia in December 2007. At issue was the irregular nature of the deportation process, in which Australian police and officials played an important and, according to Moti’s counsel, unlawful role.

Right from the outset of Fiji's expulsion from the Pacific Islands Forum, the Trans-Tasman grandstanding policy was to stymie Fiji's progress and in every single arena as possible. Both Australia and New Zealand have incessantly lobbied to the U.N to remove Fiji's lauded and re known contributions to Peacekeeping duties in war torn areas of the world.

The juvenile antics from the Trans-Tasman colonial cousins, even infected the process of trade negotiations in the Pacific, by virtue of the much despised Pacer PLUS free trade deals; that are viewed by many smaller island states as an economic threat to their very livelihood.

Undoubtedly, the Pacer PLUS trade negotiations were being forced upon them without significant discussions and research from their own people. Fiji, was blocked from entering negotiations regarding Pacer PLUS and the Trans-Tasman bullies conveniently wined and dined the other island Trade Ministers, to acquiesce to this controversial free trade deal.

Fiji formally withdrew its participation to the Pacer PLUS negotiations, effectively placing the entire framework in an untenable situation.

This chapter of undermining the judiciary of Fiji has reached a water shed moment.

The Sri Lankan judges were given a detour in their transit arrangements, en route to Fiji. This was first denied by the Australian officials then, the redacted statement back pedaled and acknowledged that the judges were indeed warned and cajoled not to accept these judicial appointments in Fiji; as if the Australian and New Zealand Governments had sole veto authority over employment decisions within the judiciary.

Undeniably, the expulsion of the diplomats will have their own repercussions in terms of bi-lateral and multi-lateral ties. However, the decision to expel the Trans-Tasman diplomats were perhaps a last ditch effort by the Interim Government to assert their offensive realism and maintain sovereignty of the nation of Fiji.

It has become nothing short of scandalous to have these long train of abuses of international law, continuously violated by the regional hegemony; for their own gain, at the expense of the island states.

The expulsion of the Australian and New Zealand diplomats, is nothing more than a declaration of independence by Fiji and is a clear indication that the neo-colonial exploitations and interference in terms of trade, diplomatic relations will not be tolerated.

Perhaps it is high time the other Pacific island states realize that, the only way to confront the neighborhood miscreants, is to stand up and say enough is enough.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fiji Rugby Union- A Rising Cloud of Suspicion?

In a follow up to an earlier SiFM post regarding the affairs with Fiji Rugby (FRU) and surrounding the tainted past of its current acting CEO, the ever recalcitrant Keni Dakuidreketi.

The current Fiji Rugby Union President, Filipe Tuisawau has issued a seven day ultimatum to the FRU board, as a Fiji Times (FT) article outlines.

The excerpt of the FT article:

One week for FRU board

Indra Singh
Wednesday, October 21, 2009

FIJI Rugby Union president Ro Filipe Tuisawau has given his board until the end of the week to change its mind before formally asking for the Prime Minister's office to intervene.

Tuisawau wants acting chief executive Keni Dakuidreketi, who is facing corruption charges, removed from office. The Rewa chief has hit out at the board for refusing to accept the resignation of Dakuidreketi.

Tuisawau has been a vocal critic of Dakuidreketi since earlier this year.

"I understand that the board will meet again this week and I am hopeful that they will reconsider Keni's case given the concerns," Tuisawau said. "Failing that I will formally ask the Prime Ministers office to intervene.

"After that, I will envisage a joint meeting with the board, convened by the Government to agree on a way forward. " I am sure that the outcome will be positive for all. We will then progress from there."

Dakuidreketi refused to be drawn into the debate but said Tuisawau should follow the right channel.

"It is obvious from the start that Ro Filipe does not want me here and wants me removed," Dakuidreketi said. "He must have his reasons but if he has some issues, than he should come to the board and talk about the issues at hand."

Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama has also called for the resignation of Dakuidreketi, who faces charges lodged by the Fiji Independent Commission against Corruption.

Dakuidreketi said he was upset by calls for his resignation. "I'm saddened that I've been found guilty by the highest law of the land even before the trial," he said.

It is still unclear if Dakuidreketi will travel on the end-of-the-year tour.

Dakuidreketi's defenders including the Chairman and some of the board, reacted to the negative potrayal, claiming that any interference will incur the wrath of the International Rugby Board (IRB) as described in a Fiji Village (FV) article.

The excerpt of F.V article:

Govt interference could threaten IRB membership
Publish date/time: 21/10/2009 [16:57]

The Fiji Rugby Union said that if government is brought in to interfere in their decision that Acting CEO Keni Dakuidreketi remain in his post, it could threaten its membership of the International Rugby Board (IRB).

This is in reply to FRU President Ro Filipe Tuisawau giving the Board an ultimatum to change their decision on keeping Dakuidreketi or he would call on government intervention to resolve the issue.

There is an audio file attached to this story. Please login to listen.

However, the FRU Chairman Bill Gavoka said the rugby house has its links with the IRB and there will be serious implications if government intervenes on the affairs of the Rugby House.

There is an audio file attached to this story. Please login to listen.

Bye-Law 10 of the IRB Constitution, subsection C states, that a union may be suspended pursuant to the IRB Bye-Laws and regulations if state authorities interfere in its affairs.

Gavoka hopes that Ro Filipe will think things through before seeking government intervention especially since Fiji rugby is under the IRB Body, which provides assistance and organizes tournaments which we participate in.

The pointed posturing and predictable belligerence from FRU, only raises many eyebrows, with respect to ethical standards and begs the question: why is Dakuidreketi so hard to replace? Are there any other discrepancies within Rugby house that may warrant FICAC's attention?

Before this mess with FRU was even being close to being resolved, the latest news from SMH of the upcoming Fiji tour of Europe, highlighted the super extravagant number of officials touring with the 30 man squad and simply goes to show the lack of sensitivity or judgement, from FRU's head honcho.

The excerpt of SMH article:

Officials swell Fiji rugby tour party
October 21, 2009 - 2:24PM .

Cash-strapped Fiji will send 15 officials to accompany 30 players on its three-match end of year rugby tour to Europe.

The official contingent in the 45-strong tour party will include two physiotherapists, a media officer, administrative officer, a trainer and video analyst, the Fiji Times newspaper reported.

The Fiji Rugby Union has been struggling for some time to find a major sponsor for its national team but its chief executive, Keni Dakuidreketi, denied the tour party was extravagant.

"Under the IRB Tier One Test rules, each union is allowed 30 players and a management team of up to 15," Dakuidreketi told the Times.

"For the costs, FRU will pay for the airfares and the allowances while the host unions will cater for all other costs from the time we land in the respective country.

"This will be for the 45 tour squad but as for any extra, FRU will have to fork out itself."

Dakuidreketi said Fiji was a top-10 rugby nation - ranked eighth in the
world on IRB listings - and had to act accordingly.

"Everyone we are taking is for a reason and those like a video analyst, who we want to learn and get used to the new technology," he said. "At the same time we will have trainer Naca Cawanibuka who will work with experts there."

Fiji will play Scotland on November 15, Ireland on November 22 and Romania on November 29.

© 2009 AP

It is rather incredulous to see Dakuidreketi justifying the need for 15 member official entourage, based on the fact of that the tour is operating under "IRB's tier 1 test match rules".

Irregardless of the tier 1 test rules, the sad fact of the matter is that; Fiji Rugby 15s team is not a tier 1 rugby entity. The apparent lack of financial resources does not seem to dissuade the FRU board's deliberate and obnoxious manner of "living beyond their means".
Added to that, is a seemingly two tiered system of natural justice, where the celebrated 15's coach of Fiji, Ilivasi Tabua was dismissed on mere allegations of drinking alcohol while on tour and the unceremonious removal of sevens icon Waisale Serevi from duties as IRB 7s circuit coach.

Fiji Times Sports Columnist, Percy Kean calls for an Governemnt intervention in his opinion piece. Kean's opinion highlights the urgent need for a honest broker to navigate FRU out of stagnancy and undertaking the major task of draining the cesspool of politicization and corruption within its ranks.
The excerpt of Kean's opinion article:

Children's money

Percy Kean
Wednesday, October 21, 2009

IT'S crucial the International Rugby Board and the Government of the day step in to again steer Fiji rugby out of the trouble waters it has found itself in.

No, not to clean up the Fiji Rugby Union, dismiss its Board the FRU president Ro Filipe Tuisawau labelled as practising double standards, or even help board chairman Viliame Gavoka shame the devil and tell the truth why all of a sudden acting chief executive Keni Dakuidreketi is indispensable to rugby.

We'll highlight more on that tomorrow plus how the vanua politics used its connections to vote for the FRU board members. So make sure you get a copy unless you want tomorrow's news today.

Today we delve on constructive issues to see rugby's progress.

That's reason enough key stakeholders -- the IRB provides more funds and ensures the directors run FRU in accordance with principles of corporate good governance and discipline and the state can flex it's muscles so local authorities can help the national sport come to terms with realities of professionalism.

I know the former FRU president up at Muanikau Road, who also called on the FRU Board and Dakuidreketi to step aside for the honour of rugby, will like this subject.

Let's talk about making money. Some people surely need financial assistance.

Because it is definitely a lack of finance and the Board's inability to secure funds as we have been reading that has seen the FRU fail to appoint a CEO, a marketing man etc.

FRU is a multi-million dollar business venture, as such there needs to be a CEO and experienced qualified financial controller appointed soon as possible to run the affairs of FRU and be held accountable at the end of the day.

There were a number of very prominent names that responded to the advertisement but the lack of finance was the board's defence in delaying the selection. With finance, current hardships can be overcome.

The demand now is far greater than 15 to 20 years ago and these cost money.

In a talanoa session the other week, Bruce told a work mate how money can be evil. I quipped money was not evil but it was the love of money that was the root of all evil.

It is logical and common in people's lives to make money. Economic security is basic to one's opportunity to do much in any other dimension. Other needs are not even activated until that basic need is satisfied at least minimally.

Sometimes there are apparently noble reasons given for making money, such as desire to take care of family. And these things are important. But to focus on money-making as a centre will bring about its own undoing.

Stephen Covey says money-centred people often put aside family or other priorities, assuming everyone will understand economic demands come first.

As Jim, an investor from Brisbane, said it was important that FRU upholds transparency and accountability in conducting its services, especially if and when IRB and the Government lends substantial grants .

"Because that is children's money. To help get our kids off the streets, drugs and idleness, an alternative pathway for those who are not good academically," he said. "It's a shame on educated people if they bend low and deny this to our children."

This is not the first but hopefully the last call for FRU to venture into other income generating activities to supplement grants and sponsorship.

Maybe it's an opportune time to review gambling laws and through casinos in controlled locations rugby will earn a percentage of profits and tourism is lifted to new heights.

A time for the FRU to enhance our sons and daughters marketability to the professional world by building better infrastructure or innovative measures or maybe turn its assets to generate income.

Previously the casino concept was on the table with an aim at benefiting clubs and provincial unions. Not just casinos, but lottery generally.

While holidaying in West Hampstead in London, former rugby great Pio Bosco Tikoisiva told me how in the UK the national lottery contributes generously to charity including sports. "I am told and I have heard about for some time." he said.

Take Tattslotto in Fiji for instance. One of the major reasons it was approved was the fact that Fiji rugby was one of the supposed beneficiary. Unfortunately, this did not materialise, all proceeds went to the Fiji Sports Council (that is building into a bigger story).

So, it proves that yes, it can definitely support sports associations economies. There had been plans for an international size ground, with modern lighting to attract big matches, even Super 14 games.

Discussions on this was well underway in 2006 when FRU had discussions with the current government and FSC regarding Lawaqa Park. The government was supportive but it seems the problem was with FSC agreeing to the terms FRU was negotiating; the terms FSC was offering was not very helpful.

FRU's plan for Lawaqa Park was to upgrade it to international standard with appropriate training facilities, shopping mall and building accommodation and cafeteria close by.

FRU has had discussions with the Sigatoka Town Council and the traditional landowners. There was a company ready to come in if FRU got the nod to dominate sponsorship adverts/signboard.

FRU pays a lot of money during preparations for any Fiji national team -- hotel, meals, laundry. This accommodation plan can save a lot of money and can also offer the same facilities to other touring sides (may be not international teams, but other overseas clubs).

There are teams in Australia, NZ and even Japan that usually go to some other countries during their preparations for the new season. Having them come to Fiji on training camps-cum-holiday can be an attractive proposal.

The choice of Lawaqa Park was because of the location; distance from Nadi and the availability of very good hotels in the area.

The upgrade to international standards will not only attract international matches and Super 14s but it can also allow FRU to bid to host one of the IRB 7s tournaments.

FRU cannot bid because it lacks the proper facilities.

The FSC must seriously think of the benefit this FRU proposal can offer for taking Fiji rugby to another level, it can affect the tourist arrivals in Sigatoka area and of course be good for the business houses in the area.

The benefits it can bring to the country should be reason enough for FSC to approve FRUs proposal and not to burden FRU with its (Sports Council) level of debts on Lawaqa Park.

It's also high time for every union to stop the talk and begin the walk to see Fiji rugby enjoys progress. The upgrade for grounds where major unions play should not be the responsibility of FRU, it should be the responsibility of major unions which together with other sporting bodies, should negotiate with the appropriate city/town councils for the upgrade of grounds.

After all, at the end of the day it is the council that will benefit; ground hire and local businesses from the crowd that follows the team/sport whether it is rugby, soccer.

Take Lautoka for instance, Churchill Park is the best ground in Fiji. Why? because the council has saw it fit to upgrade it. The result, most FRU international matches are been held in Lautoka. Other councils should learn from Lautoka.

Sporting teams within the council boundaries should get local businesses to be part of the game by offering sponsorship. This is where FRU can come in; to assist major unions in the art of negotiation with potential sponsors.

Another source of funds is the plan already with FRU to sell Rugby House.

Even in 2004/05 there was a plan to demolish and build a six story building with one floor to FRU and rent the rest. Talks were held with Vinod Patel who has been involved with similar projects with the Ba Provincial Council.

This approach meant that Vinod Patel builds and over the years FRU pays back and fully owns the place once payments are made. The new board that came in after 2005 had another plan.

FRU should take advantage of the location of the property and build and rent for long tern gain. It's time to talk the talk and walk the walk.

However, there maybe good reasons why these were not pursued. A sponsor (Digicel/Vodafone) may like to be part owner. Never know.

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