#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: 2009-04-19

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Congressman Hunkin's meeting with Bainimarama deplored

A visit to Fiji by the American Samoan Congressman Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin continues to raise questions.

Critics say the meeting was not announced as previous visits have been, especially those of overseas government oficials, who've gone to Fiji on fact-finding visits.

Critics also say Mr Hunkin was in Suva for a little over 24 hours but only met with interim prime minister Frank Bainimarama then with Fiji Labour Party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry for an hour.

Mr Hunkin did not meet with any other political leader or the trade unionist movement - or talk to pro-democrats.

His failure to canvass wider opinion in Fiji has rankled with a number of stalwarts, who say, that at the private meeting, Bainimarama and Chaudhry lobbied for support for electoral reforms - on their terms.

At a congressional hearing in Washington last week, Mr Hunkin defended Fiji's interim government to America's Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

He told Ms Clinton New Zealand and Australia have been painting an inaccurate picture of Fiji's political scene.

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."

The last US State Department official to go to Fiji was Glyn Davies, in February last year. Unlike Mr Hunkin, Davies tried to meet with all sides and held a press confrence after his meetings. He also appeared on Fiji TV's Close Up programme.

The visit coincided with the deportation of Fiji Sun publisher, Russel Hunter.

It's been pointed out that Mr Hunkin was also a chief guest and keynote speaker at a PINA convention in Apia in 1994. In his speech, he talked of the importance of democracy and media freedom. He told delegates at the time that democracy and media freedom are closely linked.

He said democracy and media freedom are for the weakest and the strongest in any nation and that the media is the only watchdog left for the citizens to rely on as the last defenders of democracy when all else fails.

Critics now say it is puzzling that with the heavy media censorship in Fiji, Mr Hunkin would still think the Bainimarama regime is correct to delay elections until 2014.

Amnesty warns Fiji heading towards unrest

by Phil Mercer

Amnesty International is predicting civil unrest and conflict with Fiji's military government, as army commanders continue to tighten their grip. The international human rights organization claims conditions in the troubled South Pacific nation are getting worse by the day.

Army chief Commodore Frank Bainimarama was reinstated as interim prime minister, earlier this month, following the president's decision to abrogate the constitution.

Amnesty International is painting a serious picture of life in Fiji, as the military continues to increase its authority.

The group's Pacific analyst, Apolosi Bose, says, as Fiji's fragile economy continues to crumble, the prospects of a public backlash against the military government will increase.

"The crime rate will definitely increase and there is a possibility of a greater law-and-order situation in Fiji," Bose said. "There are also soldiers who are going to be losing their jobs because of the decree to lay off people who've reached 55. So, couple that with the fact that people are not generally happy with the way things are happening, you could have a situation where there could be civil conflict."

Fiji Courts won't register cases against Constitution

Fiji's High Court says it won't register any legal proceedings, against the abrogation of the 1997 constitution.

The Acting Chief Register, Ana Rokomokoti states, in this public notice, that prusuant to section 5 of the Administration of Justice Decree 2009, no cases will be registered.

This notice was posted on Tuesday.

The public notice posted at the entrance of the courts reads:
“Pursuant to section 5 of the Administration of Justice Decree 2009, we have
been hereby directed that we are not to receive any civil action
(Constitutional, Judicial Review or Miscellaneous) regarding or relating to
the Constitution Amendment Act 1997 Revocation Decree 2009, Decree 1.”

The cases include those which purport:

"- to challenge the validity of legality of any Promulgations, Decrees and
Declarations made between December 5, 2006 and April 9, 2009;

"- to challenge any decision of the President and the Head of State, made
between December 5, 2006 and April 9, 2009;

"- to challenge any decision of a Minister made between December 5, 2006 and
April 9, 2009;

"- to challenge any decision made by the Minister responsible for
Immigration, the Permanent Secretary for Immigration, Director of
Immigration & employees of the Immigration Department from December 5, 2006
to April 9, 2009, to remove a person from Fiji;

"- to challenge any decision of the President, or the Executive or the
Government or employees of the Government to terminate any employment
(whether in a public office or not) between December 5, 2006 and January 7,

"- to challenge any decision of the Judicial Services Commission made
between January 7, 2007 and April 9, 2009 (including any challenge as to the
composition of the JSC) on any ground whatsoever, or any decision made by a
judicial officer made in administrative capacity, including the making of
Rules of any Court or any directions;

"- to challenge any decision of the Executive or of the Government or of the
employees of the Government made between December 5, 2006 and April 9, 2009,
on the grounds of being inconsistent with or contrary to the Constitution
Amendment Act 1997.

Earlier this week, Rokomokoti denied international media reports that certain court documents were being shredded.

In a statement she said - “Under the Administration of Justice Decree 2009, certain proceedings named in the Decree that had been filed in court are being discontinued and certificates stating such are being sent to all affected litigants. Those files are then withdrawn from the active file list and archived. They are not being shredded and there is absolutely no intention of destroying any court documents”.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Shameem sisters said to be outraged

The former director of the Human Rights Commission, Shaista Shameem, and former High Court judge, Nazhat Shameem, are said to be outraged at Attorney General's Aiyaz Sayed Kaiyum's decision to abrogate the Constitution.

The two lost their jobs when the Constitution was thrown out the window on April the 10th.

Coupfourpointfive has been told both had advised Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum and interim prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, to appoint a caretaker prime minister instead of abrogating the Constitution.

It's claimed they wanted someone they could control, and that it was planned to ask him to declare - after a few months - that he could not handle the job.

The job would then be handed back to Bainimarama who would then use the excuse that no one wanted to be caretaker PM while Fiji fixed its electoral problems and headed back to elections.

Sources also say former chief justice, Anthony Gates, has also decided not to join the bench, because he, too, is unhappy with the abrogation of the Constitution.

The interim government has yet to announce a Chief Justice - a role some have wanted Nazhat Shameem to assume.

Plan to devalue Fiji dollar revealed

A well-placed source in Fiji claims the interim government decided to devalue the dollar by 20 per cent - a month before it actually did.

The source says he has it on good record that the regime had planned in advance to take the dollar down.

He also claims the inner sanctum in the regime stocked up on US dollars for their own use before the announcement was made on April the 15th.

The devaluing of the dollar by 20 percent was controversial, coming in the first few days of the new order.

It followed the removal of the governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji, Savenaca Narube, and the appointment of Sada Reddy.

Some economists have praised the decision to devalue the dollar, saying it was well overdue, while others have criticised it as yet another policy that is hurting ordinary Fijians.

Narube farewelled

The former governor of the Fiji Reserve Bank is expected to be farewelled today.

Savenaca Narube was removed as governor by the interim government, as part of a series of reforms, following the abrogation of the Constitution by the president, Josefa Iloilo.

Mr Narube became governor in 2000 and Coupfourpointifve has been told he is being farewelled by staff today, at the Reserve Bank, in Suva.

The new governor of the Fiji Reserve Bank is the former deputy governor, Sada Reddy.

He was installed by the regime the same time it devalued the Fiji dollar by 20 per cent.

Reddy says no to imported items

The new Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji, Sada Reddy, says Fiji citizens will be affected by the 20 percent devaluation, but they can be spared if they move away from consuming a lot of imported items.

Mr Reddy who owns tourist villas at the idyllic location of Volivoli, Rakiraki near Wananavu Resort says locally produced items are the way to go.

But critics say families in Fiji need flour, rice, onions, garlic and potatoes, most of which are imported. They say it doesn't make sense for Mr Reddy to say they can go without.

3FIR refuse to guard Bainimarama

Fiji's interim prime minister and army commander, Frank Bainimarama is no longer being guarded by the military's best soldiers, belonging to the Third Infantry Regiment Unit.

The Commodore used to be guarded by the 3FIR but sources say they've been pulled out since Monday.

Coupfourpointfive has been told that the commanding officer for the 3FIR, Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara, also known as Roko Ului, pulled his men out, because they're not happy over the new retirement age.

The Landforce commander for the 3FIR is Pita Driti.

Commodore Bainimarama is instead being guarded by the ordinary Military Police.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story said Roko Lui, when it should've been Roko Ului.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

ANZ caught napping?

The ANZ is apparently finding it hard to come over to the new directive given by the interim government for new interest spread and to set up a micro- finance section in all of its branches.

Our source says that’s because it fully knows that this will impact on its bottom line. He says the ANZ management tried every possible means to move closer to the regime, even inviting him to open the newly-refurbished ANZ Lautoka Prime. At the last minute, the honours were done by the new vice president, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau.

It's said the bank even organised business lunches and other small getherings to entertain the ministers of this regime. They were assisted by Athil Narayan - the acting Chief of Staff to ANZ – and a permanent resident holder of New Zealand.

He is also the brother in law of Parmesh Chand, the former private secretary to the prime minister.

Our source says it has also been confirmed that in early February, two high profile ANZ executives - Alex Thursby and Craig Sims - came down for a day to meet the interim prime minister and others.

But it seems the ANZ has been caught napping over the new financial directive and is paying for silently supporting the regime.

Fiji: Behind the Headlines

By Father Kevin Barr for the Pacific Media Centre

Many believe that coup leader Voreqe Bainimarama’s intentions are good and are in opposition to the aims of the previous indigenous supremacy coups. Some think he is power-hungry but others say that he needs time to carry out the necessary reforms and set in place a new non-racial vision for Fiji.

In order to understand the current situation in Fiji we need to go back a little.

In 2000 the democratically elected People’s Coalition Government of Mahendra Chaudhry was ousted by George Speight in a coup involving civilians and some elements of the army. The proclaimed aim of the coup was to protect indigenous Fijian rights. Political hostages were taken, parliament was trashed and orgies held for almost a month. Finally Commodore Frank Bainimarama (newly appointed head of the army) tricked Speight and put down the rebellion and released the hostages.

He took over the reins of government temporarily until he was able to appoint a civilian interim government led by Laisenia Qarase (a banker). The deal he struck was that Qarase and his interim government were not to seek election but be a caretaker government until elections were held. However, Qarase and his team used their position to fight the election. They won and proceeded to introduce very racist or pro-Fijian legislation which discriminated against Indo-Fijians and other races. They even took back into their government a number of people associated with the 2000 coup. Bainimarama objected and by 2006 friction between Qarase and Bainimarama was high and Bainimarama threatened to take over the reins of government if Qarase did not back down on his pro-Fijian legislation. He was very stubborn and refused. Finally on 6 December Bainimarama took over in a bloodless coup.

Bainimarama in charge
Unlike the 1987 and 2000 coups, which were carried out in the name of “indigenous Fijian rights”, this coup was in the name of multiculturalism. Moreover, while the 1987 and 2000 coups sought to protect the economic interests of certain business and traditional elites, this coup aimed to address corruption and economic mismanagement and see that the economy works in the interest of all Fiji’s people (35- 40 percent of whom live below the poverty line).

Despite some opposition from various political parties and other groups, Bainimarama took over and appointed an Interim Government. There was strong opposition from the SDL party (Qarase’s Party) and the Methodist Church (which took a very strong pro-Fijian nationalistic stance in the 1987 and 2000 coups).

Bainimarama tried to unite people by inviting everyone to come together and draw up a People’s Charter – a way forward for Fiji. The Catholic Archbishop (who had firmly stated his opposition to the coup) agreed to be co-chair of the People’s Charter Committee with Bainimarama. Unfortunately the SDL Party and the Methodist Church refused to be part of the Charter and stood in opposition. After 6–8 months of work, the People’s Charter was promulgated by the President. It is a very good document and tries to address Fiji’s problems and show a way forward.

Since December 2006 life in Fiji has been very calm and relatively peaceful. There were three unfortunate incidents of men being taken into police or army custody and dying because of the severe treatment they received. (Courts have since brought the perpetrators of two of the incidents to justice.) Some women’s NGO groups have taken a strong stand in opposition to the Interim Government and the army and have spoken up against any appearance of human rights violations. However, they have a very narrow interpretation of human rights. Other prominent NGOs (such as the Citizen’s Constitutional Forum and ECREA) while condemning the unlawful take-over of government and occasionally voicing opposition to some decisions, have tried to work with the Interim Government in helping to find a way forward.

One constant problem has been the holding of elections. Australia, New Zealand and the countries of the Pacific Forum have been pushing for elections as soon as possible in order to return Fiji to democratic rule. Early on Bainimarama (under pressure) said elections would be held in April-May 2009 but he withdrew this promise. In fact he does not want to have elections until some of the big problems underlying previous coups have been addressed. These are ethno-nationalism (often mixed with religious fundamentalism), the position and authority of the Great Council of Chiefs, economic mismanagement, and most of all the biased electoral process enshrined in the Constitution. Many agree on the need for electoral reform but it was difficult to undertake this because it was part of the Constitution. Unfortunately Australia, New Zealand, the US and the EU have been obsessed with pushing Fiji to have immediate elections. If this happened we would almost surely have another racist government followed by another coup. Elections alone will not ensure democracy.

The media (newspapers and Fiji TV) have taken a very negative approach to Bainimarama and the Interim Government and have often been very unbalanced in their reporting of the news. Despite many calls for a better reporting of the news from within the country the media have taken a very negative stance. The Government expelled the expatriate publishers of two of the newspapers.

Court cases
Qarase took out a court case to challenge the authority of the President to appoint Bainimarama as Prime Minister after the 2006 coup. The three local judges of the High Court unanimously (and without any pressure) declared the President did have the power to do so and that the Bainimarama Interim Government was legal. The case then went to the Court of Appeal. The three judges were from Sydney and they declared Bainimarama’s regime illegal. They said he must resign and that the President should appoint a new caretaker Prime Minister (not Qarase) to be in charge until elections were held as soon as possible. Bainimarama resigned but the President then abrogated the Constitution and said he would rule by decree. He appointed Bainimarama as Prime Minister and basically reinstated the Interim Government. Bainimarama said elections would not be held until 2014. A state of emergency for one month has been declared, foreign journalists expelled and a curb placed the local media. Constitutional appointments are being re-negotiated. The currency has been devalued by 20 percent

To all intents and purposes the country goes on as usual. There is the usual peace but everyone knows that temporary controls have been set in place. No public protests and gatherings are allowed. But day to day life goes on without interruption. Kids go to school, workers go to work, tourists arrive (in slightly less numbers maybe) and no-one is harmed.

With the Constitution abrogated the way is open for electoral reforms to be carried out so that a more free and fair non-racial election can be held. Almost surely the People’s Charter will provide a road-map for the way forward.

After the Supreme Court decision of the Sydney judges (which hopefully was not biased but which nevertheless upheld Australia’s position) I think the rest was inevitable – abrogating the Constitution, the President ruling by decree, clamping down on the media, the appointment of Bainimarama as Prime Minister and the re-appointment of the Interim Government.

Many believe that Bainimarama’s intentions are good and are in opposition to the aims of previous coups. Some think he is power-hungry but others say that he needs time to carry out the necessary reforms and set in place a new non-racial vision for Fiji. Maybe he does not always get the best advice and certainly some mistakes have been made. There is division in the political parties, the judiciary, the churches and the NGO community. Your position depends on the perspective you take.

There has been some religious mirth surrounding the coup. Some called it a “Catholic coup” because many of the army officers involved were Marist Brothers Old Boys (and then the Archbishop became co-chair of the People’s Charter and two catholic priests had non-political positions on the electoral and other boards). Some called it a “Muslim coup” because a number of Muslims took up positions of authority under the Interim government. Again, others called it a “Hindu coup” because it received support from a number of Hindu organizations.

Very recently New Zealand seems to have taken a different stance towards Fiji. The Foreign Minister says perhaps they should not criticise Fiji and harp on about elections. Perhaps they need to offer their assistance and leave Fiji decide what is best for itself. They recognise that Fiji needs to be allowed to solve its own problems in its own way. This has been a dramatic change and a very welcome one. Hopefully Australia and the US will take a similar approach. Because of the strong opposition from Australia and New Zealand, Fiji has been turning for help to India and China and receiving it. This “look north” policy may in effect be a good balance to the previous strong influence of Australia and New Zealand.

Picture: Squatters in Suva - up to 40 percent of people in Fiji live in poverty. Photo: Fiji government.

Father Kevin Barr is economic and social justice coordinator of the Ecumenical Centre for Research, Education and Advocacy (ECREA). He is an outspoken advocate on the issue of poverty and squatters in Fiji.


A response to Bainimarama’s coup

By Graham Leung

Graham Davis’ article published in The Australian of 16 April, 2009 presenting Commodore Bainimarama as a visionary democrat is an interesting but flawed perspective.

The argument is centered on the Commodore’s purported intention to reform the electoral system to make it more equitable.

He claims these noble ideals justify the illegitimate seizure of power and disregard for the Constitution, the rule of law, democracy and human rights. Two years after the 5 December 2006 coup, there has been little if any progress on electoral reform beyond platitudes. On 10 April 2009, the Commander was afforded another opportunity to do so. He effected a fifth coup by abrogating the Constitution and received a further ‘mandate’ of five years from the head of State whom he reappointed on 4 January 2007.

It was also suggested that the ethnically divisive policies of the Qarase Government prompted the Commander to intervene as he did. Some of the actions of the ousted Prime Minister Qarase were indeed egregious and questionable. Yet at the time of the 5 December coup, the Multi Party Cabinet had been governing successfully for some months. Prime Minister Qarase had agreed to shelve some of the controversial legislation after the most open and protracted public debate in recent times. The Fiji Labour Party ministers were participating fitfully in cabinet and there was real hope of creating a new paradigm in our governance.

Commodore Bainimarama terminated this promising experiment in political co-operation after a sustained media campaign to undermine the Qarase Government. This significant aspect, a genuine example of rare bi-partisanship, is lost in the polemic over the alleged racism of the Qarase Government. The elections it won in 2001 and 2006 were subsequently dismissed as fraudulent by apologists for the 5 December coup in concerted efforts to legitimize the Commander’s actions. Interestingly, none of these concerns were either raised or pursued at the relevant time. The 2006 election was later the subject of a partisan inquiry established by the Director of the Fiji Human Rights Commission in 2007. Its findings were a foregone conclusion.

Much has been made of the flawed democracy Fiji has in the form of our electoral system as well as the nature of the appointment of the head of State. Such criticisms do not take account of the context. It is the direct result of our history and the compromises reached by our leaders. It is far from perfect. But it was always understood that it was an evolving process. The reservation of the presidency for Fijians of chiefly rank was recognition of the indigenous Fijian population and their social structure. Such arrangements are not inconsistent with democratic ideals if they are underpinned by widespread acceptance.

The first coup occurred when one of the assumptions underpinning the system, ie Fijian unity, collapsed and allowed the Opposition to gain power. Then as now, the head of the military arrogated to himself the right to determine what was best for Fiji: different agenda, same modus operandi rendered possible by the machinations of disaffected politicians, parties and other groups.

The appeal of Commodore Bainimarama’s 5 December 2006 coup lies in his stated claim to create a ‘non racial Fiji’. Significant sections of our society have ignored or overlooked his treasonous act and lionised his takeover of government. It is perceived by some as redressing the balance and restoring some semblance of a level playing field to our political structure. Part of the rationale involves the view that the complexities of our situation, in which indigenous rights and Fijian nationalism have been exploited for ulterior ends, requires a more sympathetic appraisal of the Commodore’s approach. These issues cloud a basic proposition: a coup carried out albeit with the best of intentions is still a coup.

It also conveniently glosses over the fact that the key plank in the Commodore’s seizure of power was good governance and the alleged corruption of the previous government. There is little of the former and the latter is largely unsubstantiated. Now we are promised a new electoral system that will herald the dawn of a new era. However, it is unlikely to change the ethnic nature of our politics. The demographics suggest a decisive shift in numbers towards the indigenous Fijian population. The social engineering in attitudes the Commodore hopes for, will take at least a generation. It will not occur merely because he wishes to frogmarch us in that direction.

And how genuine is the Commodore about a multicultural tolerant society where there is equal opportunity for all? It is difficult to say with any certainty despite the rhetoric. In the decade he has led the military, it remains overwhelmingly Fijian. As is the cabinet. The militarization of the public service has seen many senior Fijian military officers occupy executive positions in government. The appointment of Indo-Fijians to a number of senior public service and corporate positions camouflages the comparative disadvantage of the Indo-Fijian community in receiving government largesse. The Commander’s condonation of the Commissioner of Police’s recent Christian crusades within the police force without regard for the beliefs of others raises further questions in this regard.

But the Commodore continues to attract significant support from the Indo-Fijian community because he validates and affirms them in his public utterances and actions. He also has a measure of indigenous-Fijian support because they respond to strong leadership.

Notwithstanding these considerations, the Commodore and those who support him have dealt our body politic a severe blow. No previous coup has received such sustained support from academia, professionals and trade unions, united in acclaiming the indefensible. In the elaborate reasoning to sanction the events of 5 December, 2006 truth is the casualty of casuistry. The five coups we have had have been used by different groups under some pretext or other to legitimize their usurpation of power. It is an indictment on all those who would substitute the barrel of the gun for the electoral and democratic process.

As for Australia and New Zealand, there is reason to suggest that they engage the regime. The lack of communication and dialogue limits their capacity to exercise some influence. But this is a mutual exercise and the regime has not helped its cause by dissembling and intemperate action. What is required is breathing space for both sides to reflect on the way forward. Our relationship with our two significant neighbours is far too important to be left in abeyance.

The purported vision the Commodore has for Fiji is a worthy one. Many of us share it. But if it is to be sustainable, it has to be achieved within a framework that respects the rule of law, democracy and human rights. The Commodore and his cohorts are either unwilling or unable to appreciate that simple proposition. His arbitrary methods merely ensure our country remains hostage to the messianic visions of military commanders in future, fed by opportunists and other ne’er-do-wells. The world is replete with such examples.

Graham Leung is a former president of the Fiji Law Society and council member of the Commonwealth Lawyers Association. He practices law in the Fijian capital Suva

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Job loss at Fiji Water counted as anti-government

The heavy media censorship of Fiji's media continued today.

Yesterday news of 98 workers being made redundant by Fiji Water was not aired on the normal news service, it was only aired wherever Sky Pacific transmission was available .

Sources have told Coupfourpointfive that the item was on the news list as the first story, but it was pulled out after it went to air. Apparently the head of the Information unit, Major Neumi Leweni, was watching the news from his office at the ground floor of Government Buildings. He immediately called the national broadcaster and ordered it to be pulled out.

According to well placed sources, news about termination of workers is not anti-government, and it seems the military are not sure of what's anti-government and what's not.

Another media unit under the eyes of the military at the moment is Pacnews. Since the arrest of its journalist, the military have been closely monitoring the news being put out.

Cecil Brown rumoured to be finance minister

The director of ANZ's failed subsidiary, Quest, is tipped to be given the Finance portfolio in Frank Bainimarama's interim regime.

Sources say Brown was forced to resign after a loan blunder. He gave loans to his close associates and some turned sour. He also employed friends for his company. As a result, the ANZ management kept a close eye on him, waiting for him to make a wrong move.

Those who worked with Brown have described him as racist and corrupt.

Brown was present at the swearing in of Vice-President Epeli Nailatikau

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pryde reppointed Solicitor-General

Fiji's sacked Solicitor-General Christopher Pryde, has been reappointed.

The Kiwi lawyer has accepted the position and rejects criticism from the New Zealand Law Society that lawyers should not accept office in a regime found to be unlawful.

Eight magistrates and a chief magistrate were sworn in yesterday, most of them bar one was reappointed.

Mr Pryde says it's important for Fiji that there is minimum disruption to government services and that people help the country to get back on its feet and restore the rule of law.

A chief justice and judges are yet to be appointed.

Briefing to the UN on Fiji

The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe, briefed the Security Council this morning in consultations on the developments that have occurred in Fiji since April 9-10, including the abrogation of the constitution, the dismissal of the judiciary, the imposition of state of emergency measures, and moves against both the judiciary and the press.

Under-Secretary Pascoe called these measures “brazen actions” that will further polarize Fijian society and increase the potential for instability and violence. He recalled that the Secretary-General strongly deplored these measures and called for the restoration of a legitimate government and the constitutional order in Fiji. He said that perpetuating illegitimate
military rule in Fiji has only added to the country’s woes and exacerbated tensions and divisions.

In addition, USG Pascoe told the Council that as a result of the latest developments, preparations that had been previously underway for the United Nations and the Commonwealth to jointly mediate a process of political dialogue in Fiji faced suspension. "Our attempt to encourage an inclusive dialogue between all parties as a means of finding a peaceful solution to the crisis unfortunately cannot continue at this time unless there is a change in the current state of affairs," he told Council members.

He concluded by reiterating the willingness of the United Nations to assist the return to the rule of law and full respect for human rights in Fiji.

Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum in hospital

The right hand man of Fiji military chief, Frank Bainimarama, has been admitted to hospital.

Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum is suffering from dehydration and is vomitting blood, according to Coupfourpointfive sources in Fiji.
He is in Suva Private Hospital.

The attorney general has been pivotal in the reforms Commodore Bainimarama has been instigating in recent times.

Mr Sayed-Kaiyum has been a key force in the Good Friday overhaul - the abrogating of the Constitution, the new decrees and the Public Emergency Regulations.

Top level appointments to the judiciary were expected this week, after yesterday's announcement of magistrates - Mr Sayed-Kaiyum was handling those appointments.

He had said last week that he hoped to move on the appointments of the judges this week and to have the courts up and running.

BREAKING: Fiji AG in hospital

Fiji's interim Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed Kaiyum, has been admitted to Suva Private Hospital.

Sources say he's suffering from dehydration and is vomitting blood.

It now appears the appointment of rest of the judiciary will be delayed.

More to come.

Fiji Water laying off workers

Sources in Fiji say Fiji Water has started to lay off workers.

The first lot of employees were today given their redundancy letters.

Natural Waters of Fiji Limited is Fiji's second largest export, and brings millions of dollars into the Fiji economy.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Major Development: UN to discuss Fiji today (Tuesday, NZ time)

The United Nations Security Council is expected to be briefed on the situation in Fiji by B. Lynn Pascoe, the Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs, today New Zealand time.

The briefing is likely to focus on the April 10 decision by Fiji’s interim government to scrap its constitution - a response to the April 9 ruling by Fiji’s Court of Appeal that the removal of the elected government in 2006 was unlawful and that the appointment of the interim government unconstitutional.

Coupfourpointfive has been tipped off that UN Council members are also likely to discuss the future of the organisation's role in brokering political dialogue in Fiji.

The briefing will take place under “Other Matters” following Mr Pascoe’s briefing to the Council on the Middle East during consultations in the afternoon.

Issues expected to be discussed include:
* encouraging the Secretary-General to work closely with organisations such as the Pacific Island Forum and the Commonwealth;
* highlighting the possible threat to peace and security as a result of actions that undermine the rule of law; and
* requesting the Secretary-General to suggest ways in which he could use his good offices to help resolve the situation.
* discussing the future of Fiji in UN Peacekeeping duties
* and discussing the deterioration of human rights in Fiji

Editor's Note: This item first appeared on this site on Tuesday night under the heading "UN to discuss Fiji situation tomorrow (Wednesday).

Judicial appointments made without Judicial Commission

The new Adminstration of Justice Decree states that all judicial appointments must be made by the Judicial Services Commission. Section 18(1) of the Decree gazetted last Thursday states the Judicial Service Commission, apart from appointing judges, also appoints, a Magistrate, Central Agricultural Tribunal and makes appointments to all judicial offices under the Decree.

But Fiji’s new legal today appointed magistrates without a Judicial Service Commission. The Magistrate would normally have taken their oath of office before the Chief Justice. But without a Chief Justice, the oath was taken before the President.

Meanwhile sources have told Coupfourpointfive that all court officers, including court clerks of the High Court of Fiji at Suva, Lautoka and Labasa, have just been terminated.

Sources say all High Court files containing cases against the interim regime have been taken to the office of the newly appointed Chief Registrar Ana Rokokomoti for shredding.

Who is magistrate Faizal Koya?

Nadi lawyer Faizal Koya, the son of Fiji’s second Leader of the Opposition Siddiq Koya, was appointed a magistrate today. He took his oath under Fiji’s new legal order before self appointed President Ratu Josefa Iloilo at Government House.

Coupfourpointfive has been told that in early March, Koya told his close friends that he was going to become a magistrate. The argument then was that the best and trusted lawyers should take up appointments on the bench to uphold the rule of law and do redress to those subjected to human rights violations.

Faizal Koya and his elder brother Faiyaz have been operating the law firm of Koyas in Nadi. Mr Siddiq Koya was one of the finest leaders of Fiji and together with A D Patel led the struggle for Fiji’s Independence. He helped A D Patel establish the National Federation Party in 1963.

After Patel died in October 1969, he succeeded him as NFP leader and was the first Leader of the Opposition after Independence in 1970. He was also one of the architects of the 1970 Constitution. In April 1977 he led the NFP to victory over Ratu Mara’s ruling Alliance Party with a slim majority of two seats in the 52 member House of Representatives but was prevented from becoming the first Indian Prime Minister by the then Governor-General Ratu Sir George Cakobau, who appointed Ratu Mara as minority PM.

Siddiq Koya also served in Parliament under the leadership of Jai Ram Reddy from 1982 to December 1983 when Mr Reddy walked out of Parliament and never returned following his bitter verbal war with the then Speaker Tomasi Vakatora.

In 1992 he advised the NFP to fight the elections under the 1990 Constitution so as to enter Parliament and seek changes to the unjust document, and was critical of the Labour Party’s boycott strategy. He was one of the voters who signed the nomination for the candidacy of Reddy and put to end all speculation of the two having major differences.

Mr Koya died in April 1993 aged 69 and at the time his sons Faiyaz and Faizal were studying law in London.

Siddiq Koya was known as a principled man, who did not support the two Rabuka coups of 1987.

Faizal Koya is the Speaker of the Fiji Muslim League, a position his father previously held. In April last year, as a guest of Fiji Television’s Close-Up programme, Faizal Koya was critical of the regime and said he did not recognise the People’s Charter. He said his Charter was the Constitution. But that has now obviously changed with him taking up a position with the interim government. Sources have told Coupfourpointfive that the Koya brothers are close friends of interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

His acceptance of appointment is in contrast to the non-appointment of Shafiullah Khan as magistrate. Mr Khan was transferred to Suva from Lautoka late last year. He is a son of the late Mohamed Taiyab Khan (M T Khan), who was a close friend of A D Patel and Siddiq Koya. M T Khan served as a NFP Member of the Legislative Council with Patel and Koya in the 1960’s and was also a Minister in Ratu Mara’s Alliance Government in 1970’s.

The full list of sitting magistrates who were reappointed are:

Ajmal Gulab Khan (back as Chief Magistrate)
Salesi Temo (a former Chief Magistrate)
Maika Nakaora
Anare Tuilevuka
Alofa Seruvatu
John Rabuku
Muhammad Nazeem Sahu-Khan (brother of Fiji Football Association President Sashu Din Sahu Khan and the late Muhammad Kamalu Din Sahu Kan – Electoral Commission Chairman who died in February this year)
Angela Wati
Faizal Koya

Shafiullah Khan
Naomi Matanitobua
Vani Ravono
Laisa Laveti
Josaia Waqavolavola

Two other magistrates resigned more than a year ago. Makareta Waqavonovono resigned to take up a magistrate’s post in the Solomon Islands. Salote Kaimacuata (younger sister of Salesi Temo) resigned to join the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Fiji Law Society which promised to suspend any lawyer taking up judicial appointments is yet to say what step it will take.

Sacked Fiji magistrates reappointed

Fiji has reappointed most of its sacked magistrates today.

The resident magistrates are Salesi Temo, Anare Tuilevuka, Alofa Seruvatu, Mohammed Nazeem ud-Dean Sahu Khan, John Rabuku and Anjala Wati.

Ajmal Khan has been reappointed Chief Magistrate.

Only one new magistrate appears in the line-up.He is Nadi lawyer Faizal Koya.

There's no word on when the judges and Chief Justice will be appointed but it's understood the interim government is finding it difficult to fill the positions, because lawyers are nervous about ruining their careers by taking up positions in the interim government.

Kiwi soldiers may be sent to Fiji

New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key says troops will be sent to Fiji if the need arises.

He told TVNZ's Breakfast programme that the Government was not planning to, but would send if things got worse in coup coup land.

Under the Public Emergency Regulations, Fiji's military and police have the authority to use lethal force and power with immunity from prosecution.

New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully told Radio New Zealand it's not a priority at the moment but the idea hasn't been ruled out.

NZ foreign policy "undermining" Fiji's progress

A senior Waikato University lecturer says the New Zealand government's foreign policy towards Fiji may be undermining that country's progress towards democracy.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully has described the situation in Fiji as unpredictable and volatile. Fiji 's president revoked the constitution and sacked the judiciary after the Court of Appeal ruled the regime in power since a military coup in 2006 was illegal.

However, David Neilson, a member of the Commission of Inquiry into Fiji 's 2006 election, says New Zealand could be doing more to create a robust electoral system for Fiji .

On the Sunday Group, Neilson said there were many technical issues to overcome in order for Fiji to remove "bias and corruption" in its electoral system.

He said New Zealand had a huge amount of expertise which could help Fiji create a robust electoral system.

Radio New Zealand National

Sacked magistrates reappointed

Fiji has reappointed most of its sacked magistrates today.

The resident magistrates are Salesi Temo, Anare Tuilevuka, Alofa Seruvatu, Mohammed Nazeem ud-Dean Sahu Khan and Anjala Wati.

Ajmal Khan has been reappointed Chief Magistrate.

Only two new magistrates appear in the line-up. They are John Rabuku and Nadi lawyer Faizal Khan.

There's no word on when the judges and Chief Justice will be appointed but it's understood the interim government is finding it difficult to fill the positions, because lawyers are nervous about ruining their careers by taking up positions in the interim government.

Australia and NZ policies have "backfired"

Australian and New Zealand policies over Fiji have backfired and both countries will need to tread carefully from now on, says Pacific Media Centre director David Robie.

Condemning the crackdown on media and dissent and the purge of the civil service since the Easter putsch, he told n Shine TV a wrong move by Fiji’s neighbours could plunge the Pacific country into a deeper crisis and isolate it from the region.

“China is waiting in the wings”, said Associate Professor Robie, adding Australia and NZ had too much to lose if they played their cards wrongly.

He criticised the lack of Pacific affairs coverage in New Zealand media, saying there was not enough contextual reporting.

“New Zealand expects Fiji to fit into a tidy little Westminster democratic box, or model, that we are familiar with,” he said.

But Fiji was now moving into a fundamental power shift that would have far-reaching consequences for the region.

While there was potential for vital electoral and other reforms in the long run, there was also a risk of a Suharto-style military dynasty emerging.

He praised Fiji journalists for a “creative and courageous” response to the state of emergency.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Columnists affected by heavy censorship

The heavy media censorhip in Fiji is now taking its toll on columnists.

The column of Kamal Iyer was noticably missing from the Fiji Times on Saturday, April the 18th.

Mr Iyer has been one of the strongest critics of Mahendra Chaudhry, Frank Bainimarama and the interim regime.

His last column appeared on page 12 of the Fiji Times on April the 11th, titled "At the crossroads".

The item looked at Sangam and Sanatan Conventions and the stern test the leadership of both organisations would face in future, in unifying not only their respective membership but all communites.

It's believed the opinion was not political and conformed to the Emergency Regulations.

Coupfourpointfive understands the Fiji Times has adopted a policy of not entertaining any political stories from all sides while the Regulations are in place.

A long-time reader of Mr Iyer's column says he was disappointed not to see it and wondered if Mr Aiyer had lost his appetite for writing or like Thakur Ranjit Singh, could not think of a topical issue of interest that affects people's lives.

The reader referred to an article on Thursday April the 16th, where the New Zealand based columnist wrote about withcraft.

In an email to Coupfourpontfive, the reader asked if Mr Iyer, like Mr Singh, possesses a one track mind and is unable to write about anything except Bainimarama, Chaudhry and the interim regime.

The reader went on to say Mr Singh could have written on any topic like sugar industry (quote: he is from Ba as he says) but chose not to and suggested it was because he clearly could not shift gears from singing the praises of the Bainimarama regime.

Editor's note: Coupfourpontfive is not sure of the background to the placing of the witchcraft article by Thakur Ranjit Singh and has been unable to reach Kamal Iyer.

Analysis of State Services Decree

The State Services Decree (Decree Number 8) was promulgated via an extra-ordinary gazette on Tuesday, 10th April, 2009.

The first part of a series of analysis looks at the Retirement Age provisions.

Section 15(1) of the Decree states the retirement age in the public service will be 55 years. As a result all civil servants aged 55 or 55-60 as legislated ten years ago will have to retire on 30th April.

The Fiji Times reported on Saturday 18th April that 1614 civil servants would have to retire by 30th April. This was confirmed to the newspaper by Permanent Secretary of Public Service Commission Parmesh Chand.

15(2) and 15(3) of the Decree states that the retirement age of 55 also extends to the Fiji Police Force and Fiji Prisons Service, and all those aged 55 have to retire on 30th April.

15(4) states that upon retirement a civil servant can be appointed on a fixed term contract and shall be eligible for re-appointment. We believe this provision in the Decree is to protect the continued employment of those civil servants over the age of 55 who kow-tow the regime’s line.

Section 21 of the Decree applies to the Fiji Police Force. 21(7) reiterates for the avoidance of doubt, the retirement age in the Police Force would be 55 years but not applicable to the Commissioner of Police. A case of Animal Farm - no prizes for guessing the answer. Police boss Esala Teleni was the Deputy RFMF Commander before taking up this post.

Section 22 of the Decree relates to the Fiji Prisons Service. Again 22(7) re-iterates to erase any doubt, the retirement age in the Service will be 55. But this policy excludes the Commissioner of Prisons. Prisons Commissioner Iowane Naivalarua was the Chief of Staff of RFMF at the time of the coup. Again this is a case of the haves versus the have-nots.

Section 23 of the Decree relates to the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF). 23(4) emphasizes the fact that the retirement age in RFMF shall be 55. But this doesn’t apply to the Army Commander. Current Commander Frank Bainimarama is the interim Prime Minister and the interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum is the chief legal officer or lawmaker of the regime.

Section 25 of the Decree lists the office holders whose retirement age is set at 65. They are:

(a) Supervisor of Elections
(b)Commissioner of Prisons
(c) Auditor-General
(d) Director of Public Prosecutions
(e) Commissioner of Police
(f) Commander of Republic of Fiji Military Forces
(g) Members of the Electoral Commission
(h) Members of the Constituency Boundaries Commission
(i) Members of the Prerogative Mercy Commission
(j) Members of the Public Service Commission

Section 26(1) states the office holders listed from a to f in Section 25 (Elections Supervisor to RFMF Commander) should be appointed for a term of five years and are eligible for re-appointment. 26(2) states office holders listed from g to j in Section 25 (Members of the Electoral Commission to Members of the Public Service Commission) should be appointed for a term of two years and are eligible for re-appointment.

26(3) states the term of appointment of a person from a to f in Section 25 (Supervisor of Elections to RFMF Commander) expires upon his or her reaching the age of 65 and they are not eligible for re-appointment upon reaching the age of 65. No such provision has been made from office holders listed from g to j (Electoral Commission Members to Public Service Commission Members).

This proves that the RFMF Commander (Bainimarama), Police Commissioner (Teleni) and Prisons Commissioner (Naivalarua) will retire at the age of 65 while the men and women under their command should retire at the age of 55. Those already 55 and over (to 60) will have to go home on 30th April.

This Decree proves the following:
* Some are more equal than others – especially Bainimarama and his trusted allies of Teleni and Naivalarua.

* While the psychological trauma on those 1614 public servants told to go home on April 30 will be immense in terms of meeting debt commitments, mortgages, home repayments and education of their children, the privileged few have the luxury of accumulating taxpayers’ hard earned dollars as salary and FNPF contribution for ten more years. No wonder RFMF Land Force Commander Pita Driti and his men are incensed that their boss (Bainimarama) who will turn 55 on April 27 will stay on as Commander for 10 more years while those nearing 55 have to start preparing for their departure in the future and those above 55 will have to go on 30th April.

* For example Bainimarama’s RFMF Commander’s salary is $96,000.00 per annum calculated from his $184,000 leave payout(for 698 days of leave), authorised by his one time trusted ally and the then interim Finance Minister Mahendra Pal Chaudhry. It was based on the current salary of $96,000.00 per annum. If the FNPF contribution remains at 16% for the next 10 years (employee 8% & employer 8%) from the gross salary, Bainimarama will have accrued $153,600 in FNPF contributions alone. If one adds interest (average of 6% paid to members by FNPF) it will be close to a quarter million dollars in 10 years. As for salary he would have earned $58,560 per annum or $585,600 over 10 years if one calculates his net salary (minus 31% tax and 8% FNPF. When one adds the FNPF contribution (excluding interest) and the net salary ($153,600 + $585,600), Bainimarama would accumulate up to $739,200 over 10 years while his officers and men as well as thousands of public servants during this period will be forced to scratch the bottom of the barrel for survival.

* Most importantly, Ratu Josefa Iloilo stated in his national address on 10th April (when he abrogated the Constitution) that elections will be held in September 2014. This timeline has been effectively thrown out the window by the State Services Decree. If Bainimarama can remain army commander for 10 years after reaching 55 on 27th April, what guarantee is there that he will relinquish power in 5 years? From our assessment this regime will stay in power for the next 10 years until 2019. This is the reality facing Fiji. Bainimarama’s past disobedience to commitments made by the regime to the European Union and the Pacific Islands Forum to return Fiji to parliamentary democracy and constitution governance under the 1997 Constitution is a yardstick to measuring the sincerity of the latest announcement of elections in 2014.

The onus is on all Fiji Islanders to wake up and start accepting this painful reality. And this is that the barrel of the gun will prevail over for 10 years over in a nation made up of 322 islands, which was once known as the way the world should be.

That is the way Fiji was since 5 December 2006 and will be till 2019. The choice is on those people who call Fiji their home: whether they want to be enslaved by this regime for 10 excruciating painful years or whether they are prepared to oppose dictatorship and thuggery.