#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Ratu Isoa Tokoca referred to Privileges Committee after Bainimarama complaint

Opposition Whip Ratu Isoa Tikoca has  today been referred
to the Privileges Committee for his comments during the debate on the 2016-2017 Budget.

The Speaker has left it to the Committee to decide whether he breached parliamentary privilege. 

The complaint was made by Frank Bainimarama yesterday.

Tikoca's referral to the Privileges Committee is despite a letter from the Speaker on August 9 saying the matter was dealt with by the
Deputy Speaker, who was presiding over the debate at that time. 

It is likely that Ratu Isoa faces suspension from Parliament, just like Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu and NFP President Tupou Draunidalo. 

The Committee is expected to meet this evening.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Fiji’s democracy cracks again

Last weekend Fiji's police force arrested six prominent opponents of the ruling party. Their alleged crime was breaching the Public Order Act by making remarks about the constitution at a conference convened by Pacific Dialogue, an NGO, on Fiji's Constitution Day. The arrests were nothing short of a government-sponsored assault on its own democracy, and yet another worrying sign that the Fijian Government is uncommitted to the full restoration of democracy.

The six arrested were the leader of the National Federation Party, Biman Prasad; the party (but not parliamentary) leader of the Social Democratic Liberal Party and former prime minister, Sitiveni Rabuka; the general secretary of the Fiji Council of Trade Unions, Attar Singh; academic and former politician, Tupeni Baba; Jone Dakuvula, from Pacific Dialogue; and Labour Party leader and former prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry. They were not charged while in police custody for 48 hours but their cases have been referred to the director of public prosecutions, so their eventual fate is not yet clear.

The arrests were made under a 2012 decree that amended the Public Order Act to allow charges to be laid against anyone who takes part in a public meeting for which a government permit has not been obtained. Pacific Dialogue had not applied for a government permit to convene the conference but that's not unusual for a civil society event.

The arrests have exposed a key flaw of the constitution, and ironically one that Prasad (one of the arrested) has previously identified. In an opinion piece for the Fiji Times in June, Prasad wrote that the Fiji had a 'parliamentary democracy established under a Constitution that basically plays the role of bridesmaid to decrees and promulgations'. While the 2013 constitution (meant to be the supreme law of the nation) enshrines human rights such as the right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, it also provides for those rights to be restricted using laws that were decreed by an unelected dictatorship rather than passed by a parliament. Just what threat was posed to public order by remarks made about the constitution at a NGO conference held on Constitution Day is not clear to anyone.

Like President Erdogan in Turkey, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama appears to believe that the only way to govern successfully in a democracy is to eliminate all opposition (including by jailing dissenting voices). But Fiji has no Gulenist equivalent with access to the nation's military assets that can threaten Bainimarama. His party, Fiji First, has a significant majority in the parliament and he enjoys favourable coverage in the nation's media. A recent opinion poll gave him an 82% approval rating, with 51% saying he was doing a very good job and 31% saying he was doing a good job. If the Prime Minister spent more time governing the country and less time worrying about how to shut down a small number of public dissenters, he could be even more popular.

Since the September 2014 elections, opposition parties have played their part in rebuilding the nation's democracy by participating in parliament. Despite strenuous efforts by the government to discredit individual opposition MPs, these parties are still trying to debate legislation and contribute to public debate by engaging with civil society organisations. These arrests will make it more difficult for MPs and for some elements of civil society to persevere in their efforts.

It is hard to see what Fiji's international partners can do about this situation. Bainimarama proved prior to the 2014 elections and reiterated this week that he has no patience for international scrutiny of his government's actions. Further, his removal late last week of Ratu Inoke Kubuabola from the foreign affairs portfolio has cut off a valuable conduit for Fiji's international partners. The popular Kubuabola had established good relations with his Australian and New Zealand counterparts and played an important role in the gradual warming of Australia-Fiji relations. Bainimarama himself has assumed responsibility for foreign affairs. His well-known antipathy for Canberra and Wellington will make it very difficult for the Australian and New Zealand governments to continue improving their relations with Fiji and to express concerns to Fiji counterparts. New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key has already raised the ire of Bainimarama by remarking that the Fijian Government has the support of their people and 'don't need to do anything particularly silly'.

But Fiji's opposition MPs and civil society deserve international support as they strive to rebuild Fiji's democracy. Even if there is nothing practical Australia can do in response to these arrests, it is still important to express concern for dissenting voices in a democracy. Australia's Minister for International Development and the Pacific Concetta Fierravanti-Wells has done that by saying that Australia was 'watching developments' and 'viewing them from the perspective of a government that strongly supports as a matter of principle the universal rights of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly'. Similar sentiments have been forthcoming from New Zealand, the US and EU.

Australia and New Zealand will be loathe to go back down the path of complete estrangement from Fiji, but they will need to be ever more nimble in their approach to Suva if the Fijian Government continues to undermine its own democracy.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Detainment ploy a win for Fiji Opposition leaders

Leaders being processed at police station

Thuggery tendencies and an insecurity that will never go away because it was a never a democratic process. 

Such is the ongoing fate of coup leader turned prime minister Frank Bainimarama, despite the pomp and ceremony of Fiji's Parliament resuming this morning.
Leaders in custody at their families worry about them

And so it will be to the next election and for however long this sham reign survives.

The detainment of opposition party and prominent leaders over the weekend shows what’s always been known – the military regime will never take its foot off the throats of Fiji people because it knows it doesn't have the mandate it believes it has.

The weekend drama reveals, too, that Bainimarama and Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum are fear the combined power of SODELPA, NFP and the Labour Party.

Long uncertain wait for loved ones
Bainimarama and Khaiyum's efforts to quell a forum on the Constitution on the day the country supposedly celebrates the 2013 document, has also trained all eyes again on the so-called democratic government running this country.

Typically, though, for New Zealand and Australia and others, it's a case of looking on and waiting for it to pass because that's the fate they signed up to when they bought into the facade.

And if the persecution was aimed at disrupting the Pacific Leaders Forum, no one has given Bainimarama that satisfaction.

Fiji's political parties should now harness their strength and survive any trumped up onslaught and build on this unity.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Fiji police arrest Opposition leaders who attended Constitution forum

Two in custody - two more being targeted
Fiji police have swooped on political party leaders who
Attar Singh: Former FICTU leader arrested
attended a debate on the Constitution earlier this week.

The public forum was about the controversial 2013 Constitution, which many continue to criticise as being a regime exercise.

Two leaders have been taken in for questioning already this morning -
NFP's Biman Prasad, and former trade unionist, Attar Singh,
Arrested: NFP leader Biman Prasad
was escorted from his Samubula home in Suva by CID officers about an hour ago.

Police picked up NFP leader, Biman Prasad, soon after. 

Two other leaders are being sought - incoming SODELPA Party leader, Sitiveni Rabuka, and Labour Party Mahendra Chaudhry.

The Pacific Dialogue's Forum on the Constitution was apparently held without a permit.

The forum was held on Fiji's Constitution Day, a public
Rabuka: panellist at forum

Chaudhry: panellist at forum
Just ten people are believed to have been at the forum.

Lawyers are on hand to assist Singh and Prasad but they could be in custody until Monday.

Davis email blasts 'cocksucker' Fiji Sun

A leaked email sent to Coupfourpointfive confirms what is the
talanoa around the grog bowls - the Fiji Sun is a puppet of Government and is expected to obey the commands of its master at all times - especially when it receives financial support in the form of exclusive advertising believed to be worth $5 million annually.

It should not be forgotten that this is not Frank Bainimarama or Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum's money, but the dollars of taxpayers.

The email sent to C4.5 reveals Government propagandist Graham Davis acted like he was bleeding profusely when the Fiji Sun did not run on its front page a news story about the Climate Change discussions between Frank Bainimarama and the Commonwealth Secretary-General Baroness, Patricia Scotland,  during a meeting at the United Nations in April.

In an email on 25th April to Fiji Sun publisher Peter Lomas (Government bootlicker since 2009!), Davis laments the fact that the newspaper did not headline the climate change story, unlike other news media. 

Davis snivels that it is a particular shame that a disappointed Bainimarama had returned to Fiji from New York expecting to see the Fiji Sun headline climate change story on its front page. 

In what can only be seen as behaving in an idiotic fashion, Davis whinges about the paper for its coverage of well-known lawyer, Richard Naidu, NFP leader Biman Prasad and SODELPA, albeit 'adverse publicity', in its Coconut Wireless column.