#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: 2009-05-03

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Chaudhry admits Ravindra was his brother

Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Pal Chaudhry has publicly admitted that Ravindra Pal Chaudhry was his younger brother.

Ravindra was cremated on Saturday at the Vatuwaqa crematorium. His final journey started from M P Chaudhry’s home at Hutson Street in Suva Point.

His admission comes 15 months after Ravindra told the Lautoka Magistrates Court that Mahendra Chaudhry was his elder brother.

Mahendra Chaudhry who was then the interim Finance and Sugar Minister, described by Frank Bainimarama as Robin Hood who would help the poor, vehemently denied he knew anyone by the name of Ravindra Pal Chaudhry and accused both Ravindra and the media of trying to tarnish his reputation and image.

At that time he also claimed this was a smear campaign against him by his detractors.

However, on Friday, three days after Ravindra died, a death announcement was made by the Hindi Radio stations for the first time.

On Tuesday Coupfourpointfive exclusively reported the tragedy after he drank paraquat at the home of former Nasinu mayor Rajeshwar Kumar.

Coupfourpointfive has been inaundated with comments since the story was published. However, given the nature of some of the comments against Mahendra Chaudhry, the team decided not to publish them.

Sources close to the tragedy say following our exclusive report, Mahendra Chaudhry received calls from his relatives to admit Ravindra was his brother and give him proper funeral rites.

The announcement on Friday morning on Radio Sargam (translated into English) was:

“It is with deep sadness that we announce that a son of late Ram Gopal Chaudhry of Tavua and brother of Fiji Labour Party leader and former (interim) Minister Mahendra Pal Chaudhry, former resident of California USA, Ravindra Pal Chaudhry died at CWM Hospital on Tuesday. The funeral cortege will depart Mahendra Chaudhry’s residence at Hutson Street for Ravindra’s cremation at 1pm at Vatuwaqa crematorium on Saturday."

Friday, May 8, 2009

New Methodist Church taking hold in Fiji Police Force

More evidence is emerging of Christianity as espoused by the New Methodist Church being enforced among ordinary policemen and policewomen in the Fiji Police Force.

Sources have confirmed that just after 7am on Wednesday the 6th of May, all those based at the Central Police Station in Suva were called to parade in the CPS car park. What was supposed to be a normal weekly parade turned into a religious sermon of 10 minutes by a preacher of the New Methodist Church, a non-police officer. The sermon was done in the Fijian language, so Indians and others who have little understanding of the language were confused.

In his opening remarks, the preacher told 300 officers and ordinary policemen and policewomen that Jesus Christ is the “only way and only truth”. The preacher added that Christianity is the only true religion and that other religions are untrue.

Sources say ordinary policemen and policewomen, as well as most officers, were aghast at what they just heard from a preacher of the New Methodist Church - a church that was established by Police Commissioner Esala Teleni’s brother, former Air Pacific employee, Atu Vulaono. Teleni is a staunch member of the new Church and also preaches.

Our sources say they were shocked the preacher denigrated other religions by describing them as untrue. Policemen, police women and police officers of diverse religious, cultural and social backgrounds were at the parade and those following Christianity belong to Methodist Church of Fiji as well as other denominations.

Teleni was not present at the parade but the apparent imposition of Christianity practiced by the New Methodist Church on ordinary policemen and policemen is gaining momentum. While the cry from the Methodist Church after the 1987 coups was to declare Fiji a Christian State and ensure that the then Sunday ban on all activities except essential work like harvesting and crushing of sugar mills and public transportation continue, the New Methodist Church is imposing its teachings on those responsible for peace and security of Fiji’s citizens.

The sermon of the preacher at the police parade contradicts Teleni’s initial claim this year when he racially abused senior police officers of Indian ethnicity on 17th February as reported by the media. While threatening to terminate them and accusing them of disloyalty, Teleni called them Liumuri, lamu-lamu and lamu-sona. This is after the Fiji Sun quoted an anonymous police source complaining about the Police Crusade.

Teleni told the Indian officers, “ “No one is going to deter me and my Jesus. I never talk about your religions. I never discuss your religions because I respect it. But at the same time you just respect my religion. You do not go to the press.” – Transcribed from Fiji TV online news archive.

Fiji TV also reported Teleni as warning Indian officers, “You've never seen my...my other side.”

Our sources now wonder if Teleni has reneged on his words to Indian officers when he said he never talked about their religion(s) because he respected it”.

Because at the CPS parade on Wednesday, the New Methodist Preacher asked all those present to ask the policeman or policewoman standing next to him or her to ask what they possessed. According to sources the preacher wanted them to say "Jesus".

Our sources say the indoctrination of New Methodist Church’s version of Christianity on members of the Fiji Police Force contradicts the ideals of the People’s Charter that is being touted as the new Constitution.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Neglect believed to have led to Chaudhry's suicide

More information has emerged about the suicidal death of the younger brother of Labour Party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry.

Ravindra Pal Chaudhry (pictured right) committed suicide on Tuesday.

Sources say Mahendra Chaudhry wants his brother's death kept a secret and that a funeral announcement has not been made on the usual list of deaths on the radio, even though he died three days ago.

Coupfourpointfive has been told Ravindra Pal Chaudhry committed suicide because he was heartbroken.

Sources also say Mahendra Chaudhry has told Nasinu mayor, Rajeshwar Kumar, to make the funeral arrangements very quietly and to cremate his brother as soon as possible.

Yesterday, an employee of Nasinu Town Council called a well-known Hindu priest asking him to conduct the final rites for R P Chaudhry by Friday if possible.

The employee told the Pundit that all post-cremation prayers must be completed in three days, instead of the 13 days as practiced by Hindus.

According to sources, the Pundit refused saying he could not short-cut the funeral.

Coupfourpointfive has been told close allies of Mahendra Chaudhry were stunned when their leader told Rajeshwar Kumar to conduct Ravindra Pal Chaudhry’s final journey from his Nasinu home - and not at his Suva Point home.

Sources say Mahendra Chaudhry also told Kumar not to build a shed for mourners at his Nasinu home because it would attract attention.


Ravindra Pal Chaudhry returned to Fiji in 1999 from the United States to congratulate his elder brother after he became Prime Minister.

Sources say he took a bottle of rum to his famous brother's office to have a celebratory drink.

It's said Mahendra Chaudhry didn't want to know about the celebratory gesture and disowned his younger brother (who sources say had a mental disorder) and instead arranged for him to stay at the home of the Nasinu mayor, Rajeshwar Kumar.

According to well-placed sources, Mahendra Chaudhry didn't want to spend money on the welfare of his younger brother but Rajeshwar Kumar was given a small amount of money to provide for R P Chaudhry.

Coupfourpointfive has been told Kumar subsidised the expenses with allowances from the Council, paid to him via expenses incurred in executing mayoral duties, along with payments for trips to attend meetings, workshops and conferences overseas.

Sources say Mahendra Chaudhry stopped providing money for his brother three to four months ago, which led to Kumar complaining to Rajendra Chaudhry, his close friend.

Rajendra Chaudhry is understood to have told Kumar not to complain to him but to his father. “Tum daddy se baat karo”, (Talk to my father) was the response to the repeated complaints by Kumar.

Our intelligence network has established that on Monday 5th May, Rajeshwar Kumar told Ravindra Pal Chaudhry he wanted to increase the rent because of devaluation but this would be of no use to him because he wasn’t being paid anything by his brother.

Sources say Kumar told R P Chaudhry that he was left no choice but to ask him to move out because he was already struggling to support his defacto wife and young child.

R P Chaudhry is said to have replied, “Theek hai, hum bhyaan dekh lega konchi kare sakeh” (All right, I will tomorrow try to see what can be done).

That "tomorrow" was the day he committed suicide.

Editor's Note: After this story was published, Radio Sargam announced R P Chaudhry's death and called him Mahendra Chaudhry's younger brother.

Former Fiji Sun Publisher - Truth the first casualty

Russel Hunter's speech at the Pacific Freedom Forum regional workshop in Apia.

It’s almost a cliché now that truth is the first casualty in any conflict.

But it’s as true today as ever it was.

Dictators, usurpers and self appointed juntas around the world fear the truth often above all else. Our region of the planet’s surface is no different.

Today our colleagues in Fiji are working under impossible conditions. The regime has censors in each newsroom whose job it is to ensure that nothing “inciteful” is published or broadcast. There is no arguing with these people. Their decisions are final. They even banned all mention in Fiji of my appointment here at the Samoa Observer. Of course, I’m flattered by the attention but I’m even more awed by the lengths these people will go to ensure that the news that is published is the news they want published.

And from deciding what the public can’t be told, it’s a short step to deciding what it will be told. In other words the media may be told not only what cannot be published but what MUST be published. I am told it has already happened.

Why have editors?

It’s that ages old attitude among even elected governments: If we can only get the media to say everything is fine, then it will be. Absurd, isn’t it? But there won’t be a journalist in this room that hasn’t come across it at least once.

To that extent at least the Fiji junta is no different from many other governments. But there are many important – and dangerous – differences between Fiji’s illegal military regime and governments that exist under the rule of law.

The Fiji junta has the power to make all its dreams of control come true at least as far as the media is concerned. We see it happening today.

And they really do believe that media consumers in Fiji are taken in. Because it’s in the newspaper it will be read and believed, because it’s on the radio news it will have credibility and because it’s on TV it will be accepted.

For heaven’s sake don’t tell the commander, but he’d have a much better chance of being believed if he left the media alone.

But the lights are going out in Fiji. What was the region’s most vibrant media industry is now a stilled voice and it’s the people of Fiji – not just the journalists and all media workers – who are the poorer for it. They know exactly what is happening but feel powerless to resist people with guns.

But this disaster in the making has to be resisted if our region is to have lasting stability. Don’t imagine for one moment that other governments are watching without at least a tinge of envy for the Fiji junta’s absolute control of the media.

They might use something more subtle than assault rifles and boots to achieve it but they’d take control if they thought they could get away with it.

And that’s precisely why Fiji’s military cannot be allowed to get away with it.

For now at least, the people of Fiji can do little. But we in the region can continue to report and debate. More than that, we can continue to isolate this illegal regime which continues to live in denial of the fact that it is not welcome.

PINA and PACNEWS, for example, must get out of Fiji. I personally find it appalling that a body that has consistently stood up for media freedom for a quarter of a century or more should have maintained its operations in a censored environment one minute longer than it needed to.

They must pull out and by doing so tell the junta that its previous pious promises to maintain media freedom while threatening, deporting, and even assaulting journalists, are now seen for what they were – a smokescreen to hide the true intent which was to grab power and keep it.

Every pledge this junta has given to the people of Fiji and region has been broken. That is, every single one bar none. Can anybody seriously believe that a free and fair election will take place in 2014? How can there be a fair election with a censored media?

There can be no appeasing this bunch. All they understand is power and all they respect is resolve. It is shocked that the Pacific Islands Forum showed both. Again it had been living in the denial that it would never be suspended. It’s vital now that the resolve be strengthened and the power judiciously applied.

There is, most people agree, a need for electoral reform in Fiji. But the junta has the power to impose it tomorrow. Why will it not do so? Why will it not remove media censorship? These are questions the appeasement lobby has to answer if it is to retain any credibility.

And, more importantly, these are among the questions that the free media has to ask of this regime. The answers, if any, will be no more than poor attempts at platitudes and the people of the Pacific will see straight through them.

And that’s ultimately our best hope for media freedom. For the people of these island nations large and small have many times demonstrated that the more the truth is denied them the more suspicious they become.

A free media that reports without fear or favour should be their best friend - Russel Hunter

Courage under Fire

Here is a speech given by Fiji Times editor, Netani Rika, at the Pacific Freedom Forum regional workshop in Apia this morning.

Thank you for the introduction and the invitation to be here.

It is difficult to put thoughts into words when you know that everything you say has the potential to be a threat to the very existence of 180 people with whom you work and close to 1000 who depend on them for a living.

Last month the Appeals Court in Fiji ruled that the removal of Laisenia Qarase’s government by the army and its shadowy group of supporters was illegal.

The three judges declared not only that the takeover was illegal but that the President appoint a caretaker prime minister to lead Fiji to democratic elections within a suitable time frame.

Hours after the judgment was handed down, the interim Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, agreed on national television to abide by the ruling and uphold the law.

The next day he was reappointed by the President – this time to head an interim government of the same people who had lead Fiji prior to the declarations of the court.

Immediately, a Public Emergency Regulation was put in place to ensure that there would be no opposition to Bainimarama’s regime.

In a nutshell the regulation prohibits public gatherings for the purpose of political meetings and – under Section 16 – stops the media from broadcasting or printing material which may incite the people.

This rule gives the Permanent Secretary wide-ranging and arbitrary powers to decide what may cause incitement. There is no requirement for this public servant to declare why the decision has been made to prevent a particular news item from being made public.

On the afternoon of Bainimarama’s return to power, the Permanent Secretary for Information told news editors that as part of the regulation, each media organization would be allocated a censor and that each censor would be accompanied by a police officer in plain clothes.

The police officer – we were told – was to protect the censor.

We were not told from whom the censor would need protection.

In Fiji it is often the case that rules can change from day to day without warning or explanation.

As days and weeks have passed, the number of censors has increased, as has the number of police officers.

These enforcers of the law are no longer in plain clothes and sometimes take on the duty of the censors, deciding what we are permitted to print.

What, you may ask, are we permitted to print?

Basically any story on government must put the interim regime in a positive light or it will not be permitted.

No views contrary to those of the interim government are permitted – even if balance is provided in the form of a comment from a minister of state or a senior public servant.

Censors did not allow the publication of the reactions of the Commonwealth and the United Nations to the reappointment of Bainimarama as interim prime minister by our – and at this point I shall go off the record – aged, ill and decrepit – and I shall go back on record – president.

We were not allowed to publish news of street protests in Thailand or the assassination attempt on US President Barak Obama.

Censors entered our newsroom on the evening of the day that the President ordered Bainimarama’s reinstatement.

Of course we had dozens of stories from all across the political spectrum showing reactions to this event.

We were not allowed to publish any of these stories.

The next day our Sunday paper – which is now a collectors’ item – was published with white space in place of the stories which the censors – both trained journalists and one of whom had worked in the mainstream media - had culled.

We carried bold notices in those spaces declaring that the newspaper had been prevented from publishing the stories under the Public Emergency Regulations.

It was a sensation and drove home to the people of Fiji the point that we were powerless to tell the truth, powerless to tell the country what it needed to know, powerless to carry out our duty to the nation and provide free speech.

And it brought home to them the fact that media freedom is intrinsically linked to their right to know and their freedom of expression.

Unfortunately the interim government was not amused and the Fiji Times management was summoned before the Permanent Secretary for Information to be told that white space was not allowed under the Public Emergency Regulation.

What, then, do we do next?

We have decided to go about our daily assignments in the normal manner.

Our journalists and photographers cover every possible assignment attempting to get as many sides of the story as possible.

Yes, we continue to cover stories which do not portray the interim government in a good light.

Those stories are assigned to pages and go to the censors each day. More often than not these stories are declared unfit for consumption by the people and are knocked back by the censors.

The next day we cover every assignment again – including the stories which the interim government does not want – and inundate the censors with copy.

Sometimes the stories get through, at other times they are spiked.

It is an extremely frustrating exercise.

Last week a domestic airline was forced to close because of financial difficulties which are not linked to the current regime.

Our business writer prepared comprehensive coverage, covering all angles of the story, providing fact files, historical background – a masterpiece from a young journalist.

The censor on duty did not allow our reports to run unless we carried a quote from a specific minister.

We refused and pulled the story.

The following day we placed the same stories in front of a different censor – No worries, the issue was covered, albeit a day late.

It is safe to say that the greatest challenge we face with censorship is inconsistency.

What we may or may not cover is at the discretion or more often the whim of the censor on duty.

Last week the Public Emergency Regulation was extended for a further 30 days.

The Permanent Secretary for Information declared this week that the media was now reporting responsibly.

In my view, Fiji’s media has always tried to report responsibly.

Unfortunately, all of our country’s rulers since independence in 1970 believe that responsibility means no anti-government stories.

The people know of our inability to provide a truly independent view of what is happening in our home.

Those who can use shortwave radio to find a link to the outside world and news broadcast on Radio Australia or Radio New Zealand.

A plethora of blog sites has sprung up spewing Fiji stories, rumour, gossip and speculation into cyber-space.

Most of this news is accessible only to the small portion of the community which has access to the Internet.

Unable to halt the onward march of the bloggers, Fiji’s rulers have resorted to ordering the closure of Internet cafes from 6pm each evening in an attempt to stem the tide.

But how does it stop the coconut wireless which for generations has provided steady – if not entirely factual – news in countries around the region?

But we gather this week to discuss courage under fire.

To say that Fiji’s media has been under fire since December 2006 is no exaggeration.

We have been threatened, bullied and intimidated. Our cars have been smashed, our homes firebombed.

Despite this, our staff have remained committed to the ideals of a free media, telling the stories that must be told, exposing the weaknesses in State policies and also covering human interest assignments.

It is because of their commitment and refusal to detract from the cause that the interim government has been forced to gag the media.

It is important in these trying circumstances for senior journalists and managers to maintain a brave face and communicate constantly with their staff, offering support and protection.

It is also imperative that we offer guidance and direction and stress the importance of the role of a vibrant, free press in a democracy.

Training, upskilling and mentoring are also important.

At the Fiji Times we have found that our people – and many of them are young – understand the complexities of the situation we face.

How do we build their courage?

Simply, by not backing down.

We continue to cover the issues which are important to people – water, roads, food prices, housing, superannuation, health services, governance, accountability, transparency.

Every story is covered in detail as if we were working in a truly democratic country without the current restrictions.

Each day we challenge the censors by putting every possible news item before them.

Sometimes we are lucky and the occasional story slips through the net.

On those days we celebrate quietly.

The danger is that under the current circumstances, journalists may start to censor their own stories.

We must not allow that to happen.

It is vital – indeed it is our duty – to ensure that journalists continue to make every attempt to cover the issues that matter to the people, even if the stories we write do not portray our rulers in a good light.

Our leaders must learn to deal with criticism form the electorate.

For journalists it is frustrating to spend the day covering issues and then writing reports which cannot be printed.

To their credit, however, our team at the Fiji Times continues to cover the issues, continues to test the censors, continues to push the boundaries of the regime’s regulations.

That takes true immense courage.

In our a situation it would be easy to roll over and practice self-censorship or get out of journalism because it’s just too hard.

To their credit, however, our journalists have risen to the challenge, continued to report without fear or favors and remained objective.

They have bravely stood up to intimidation, rejected censorship and recognized that when a nation is controlled by usurpers it is imperative that the public’s right to know is protected at all costs.

And they are determined to break the culture of silence which so often surrounds our leaders – elected or otherwise.

I am proud of the journalists with whom I work and their colleagues in Fiji’s media industry. They are a tribute to the profession we all love so much - Netani Rika

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sayed-Khaiyum to decide which lawyers can practice

The interim government is to strip the powers of the Fiji Law Society.

Sources say the interim attorney general and acting prime minister, Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, who is also the minister of justice, will also become the licensing authority for lawyers.

The Fiji Law Society issues licenses to lawyers under the Legal Practitioners Act but sources say a decree will be promulgated to limit their authority.

Coupfourpointfive has been told Sayed-Khaiyum intends to punish the Law Society, because its President, Dorsami Naidu, has been a vocal critic in the recent dramas.

Naidu was last month detained for a little over 24 hours after speaking out against the regime, following the sacking of the judiciary on April the 10th.

Our legal sources say that if the interim attorney general becomes the licensing authority then well known lawyers like Dorsami Naidu, Tupou Draunidalo, former vice president Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi, Graham Leung (both lawyers with the firm of Howards), Richard Naidu, Florence Fenton, Jon Apted (all of Munro Leys), Niko Nawaikula, Akuila Naco, to name a few, are likely to be discriminated against and may not be issued practicing licenses.

These lawyers have criticised the military regime.

At the moment, the Law Society issues annual licenses for between $500-$700, depending on their experience.

To obtain a license, lawyers have to accumulate 10 hours of continuing legal education every year, mostly by participating in legal conferences organised by the Society.

And every year the lawyers who are mostly in private practice need to have their trust accounts audited then submitted to the Law Society and the attorney general.

This is similar to the policy adopted by the Fiji College of General Practitioners, the regulating authority for GPs.(doctors in private practice and public service).

The Health Ministry has no say in this regard except to ask the Public Service Commission to conduct disciplinary proceedings against doctors accused of medical malpractice, like the widely-reported case of five year old Shavneet Kumar, who died in September 2007.

The powers of the Fiji Law Society have already been curtailed with its exclusion from the Judicial Service Commission, constituted under the Administration of Justice Decree.

Under the decree, the Society has no say in the appointment of judges of the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Courts.

Under the 1970, 1990 and the recently abrogated 1997 Constitutions, the Fiji Law Society was a member of the Judicial (Legal) Service Commission.

The Society has more than 350 lawyers - more than half of them are indigenous Fijians.

Mahendra Chaudhry's brother commits suicide

The younger brother of the Fiji Labour Party Leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, has committed suicide.

Sources say Ravindra Pal (RP Chaudhry) drank the weedkiller, paraquat, at the home of former Nasinu Mayor, Rajeshwar Kumar, today.

RP Chaudhry hit the headlines last year when he appeared in court for assault and was granted bail after being remanded in custody.

According to sources, he was deported from America where he had been living for a number of years. While applying for bail, he told the court he was the brother of Mahendra Chaudhry, Fiji's interim Finance and Sugar minister at the time.

But despite this claim and similar facial features, the Labour Leader has publicly disowned RP, denying the family link.

After being released on bail, RP Chaudhry stayed with Mahendra Chaudhry's cousin in Drasa/Vitogo, Lautoka. Sources claim the move was arranged by Mahendra Chaudhry.

RP was staying at the home of former Nasinu mayor Rajeshwar Kumar, at the time of his suicide. It's understood he was paying rent and that the accomodation was arranged by Mahendra Chaudhry’s eldest son, the Suva lawyer, Rajendra Chaudhry.

Sources claim Kumar told RP Chaudhry that he was going to increase the rent for the room and that he was upset.

Coupfourpointfive has been told Mahendra Chaudhry’s family, especially his uncles, are angry the Labour Leader failed to support his brother, even though he is understood to have two million dollars tucked away in Australian bank accounts.

The offshore accounts were revealed by the Fiji Times and Fiji Sun in February last year.

It's widely believed the revelation of Chaudhry's secret stash led to the deportation of firstly Fiji Sun publisher, Russell Hunter in February and then Evan Hannah of the Fiji Times at the beginning of May 2008.

Both publishers were accused of undermining the interim government with biased coverage.

Regime continues control of information

Internet cafes in Suva and grog parlours in the West are being forced to close their businesses at 5pm every day.

Police have warned business owners to comply with the curfe or risk being arrested and detained under the Public Emergency Regulations.

The internet cafes and grog parlours used to be able to open until late - the earliest closing time was 8pm.

Business owners say they make most of their money after 5pm.

According to sources, the early closure allows authorities to stop people accessing blogsites and overseas media websites.

Since April 10, many in Fiji have turneed to blogsites and overseas media sites for their news because of the censorship of the local media.

Sources say under the emergency regulations, local news teams have also been banned from reporting anything that criticises or points to the lack of service being povided by the interim government such as water cuts, pot holes on the roads and highways, lack of medical care in public hospitals, problems faced by cane farmers and plight of those forced into retirement.

Rabaka killers released

Eight soldiers and a police officer convicted of killing a teenager in Fiji have been released after being sentenced in March to four years and four months in prison for his manslaughter and assault.

In January 2007, Sakiusa Rabaka and two other youths were taken to the Black Rock military site on the outskirts of Nadi where they were detained for eight hours, tortured, stripped and assaulted.

The nineteen-year old died about a month after his detention.

The Public Prosecutions Office in Lautoka says it is not common for people to be released so quickly after being sentenced for such serious crimes.

But the lawyer for the men, Haroon Ali Shah, says they have been released under a community service order, which is not unusual.

"They’re back in the community you know, they go about. I don’t know if they have been absorbed into the service, that I’m not aware of."

But obviously apart from the restrictions, as per the warrant, its a special warrant it would have the conditions under which they are released, reporting, monitoring, reporting to perhaps a police station or a probation officer, or something to that effect," Mr Shah said - RNZI

BREAKING - FTA's Tevita Koroi terminated

Fijian Teachers Association President Tevita Koroi has been terminated as Principal of Nasinu Secondary School.

A letter was delivered to him last night informing him of the decision by the Public Service Commission.

The decision to sack Koroi comes at the end of the first day of the Annual Conference of Fijian teachers being held at the Suva Civic Centre.

Members attending the conference were this morning told of the decision.

Koroi was suspended in December 2008, after his comments at the launch of Movement for Democracy in Fiji (MD Fiji).

He was officiating at the launch as Master of Ceremonies in his capacity as FTA President, which is affiliated to the Fiji Islands Council of Trade Unions, and made a comment that angered the interim government.

In his comments he said it was two years since the December coup and it was time that Fiji returned to democracy and parliamentary rule. He also said that the interim government must take the country to free and fair elections as soon as possible.

Koroi was suspended following this and disciplinary proceedings were instituted against him.

During the disciplinary hearing, Koroi told PSC that he made his comments in accordance with the provisions of Freedom of expression enshrined in the Bill of Rights of the 1997 Constitution and also the Labour laws of Employment Relations Promulgation of April last April.

But the PSC found him guilty of misconduct.

According to PSC Koroi being a civil servant is restricted from making political comments and therefore breached PSC regulations governing the conduct of civil servants.

Koroi's position as FTA President is unclear because of termination of his employment.

But sources say he has two more years left of his current term and members want him to stay on because they believe their President has been victimised by the interim government.

Civilians bashed by army

Reports of at least two civilians being bashed up by soldiers on Sunday have been verified to be correct.

The incident happened on the Kings Road near Nasinu.

Sources have confirmed an Indian man working for a company providing consultancy services for procurement of passports, visitors visa and migration was driving a car with friends when an army vehicle tried to overtake.

However because the highway was busy, the soldiers couldn't but finally did when the road became clear.

Sources say the soldiers then overtook the car, went ahead and stopped it.

Coupfourpointfive has been told the soldiers bashed up the employee of the consultancy firm and at least one other passenger in the vehicle, for failing to let them overtake despite the fact that the road was busy.

The victims went to Central Police Station in Suva to lodge a report but were told to go to Valelevu Police Station as the incident happened within that police station’s jurisdiction.

We have confirmed that a report was lodged by the victims but the fate of any investigation is yet to be seen.

Under the Public Emergency Regulations Decree all members of the security forces (police and army) are immune from being charged for any offence or from prosecution for any force they exert on civilians in the execution of their duties.

They cannot be liable for prosecution or any criminal charge even if they seriously injure or kill a civilian in the execution of their duty.

Rumours of other lawyers detained false

No other lawyer of the Fiji Law Society who signed a petition, requiring Law Society President Dorsami Naidu to convene a special meeting, have been detained by the military at Queen Elizabeth Barracks.

As reported by Raw Fiji News, the only lawyer to be detained on Monday was former army lawyer, Amani Bale.

Bale was one of the 15 signatories of the petition.

He was at QEB for less than an hour where army officers asked him the motive of the petition.

Coupfourpointfive has also been told that rumours of Suva lawyers Akuila Naco and Niko Nawaikula being detained yesterday by the military are not true.

Maori party co-leaders not going to Fiji

The Maori Party says it will respect a decision by Prime Minister John Key to stop any Government ministers going to Fiji.

But co-leader Tariana Turia says backbench MP Hone Harawira may still join a Maori delegation to Suva.

Mr Key says it's important the Government speaks with one voice on the situation in Fiji and it would be unacceptable for a minister to visit there.

Mrs Turia says it is the Prime Minister's prerogative to approve or decline applications by ministers to travel overseas.

But she says his directive is "probably not" mana enhancing for the Maori Party.

Mrs Turia says the delegation being discussed is based on whakapapa relationships, and would promote dialogue and understanding, not conflict - Radio NZ

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Plan continues for Maori visit

The Maori Party caucus today heard there is ongoing support from Maori and Pacific peoples for a Maori delegation to go to Fiji.

Following the meeting, Maori Party President Whatarangi Winiata, said they were getting a clear message that a Maori group should go and visit.

"Our kaupapa is to support the people of Fiji. Very senior Maori people have indicated a desire to help if the Fijian people would like that."

"This is not an official government visit – this would be a kanohi-ki-te-kanohi visit – and it has been under discussion for many months," he said.

Mr Winiata said more discussions will take place, especially with the Fijian community.

“We will keep the public, the government and other parties fully informed of our plans.”

Proof of Frank Bainimarama's salary

Coupfourpointfive has in its possession proof of Fiji's Interim prime minister, Frank Bainimarama's salary and leave entitlement(see right of blog).

As you will see, Bainimarama is earning $96,000 annually or $263.77 a day.

His leave payment record is $184,740.29.

Bainimarama's new salary was approved by the former interim Finance Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry.

After adding his FNPF contribution and his nett salary, the Commander will accumulate up to $739,200 over 10 years.

Sources say Bainimarama and those close to him in the interim regime, are making sure they benefit greatly while they're in power, while retired civil servants and the rest of Fiji suffers.

Coupfourpointfive has been also told the top brass of the interim regime knew of the devaluation of the Fiji dollar a week before it happened and used their personal money to buy American dollars.


Chaudhry plans sabotage

Reports are surfacing of a plan to sabotage the 2009 cane harvesting and crushing season, which starts on May 19.

Sources say the Fiji Labour Party and National Farmers Union leader, Mahendra Chaudhry is behind the conspiracy.

Coupfourpointfive sources say Chaudhry has been visiting cane farmers and telling them to oppose the road user levy imposed by the interim Government.

Under the road user levy every commercial truck or lorry will have to pay $75 per tonne of cargo. This means that if cane lorries cart 10 tonnes of cane then lorry owners will have to pay $750 as levy per year during the crushing season.

This cost will be passed on to the farmers.

Sources say Chaudhry is telling farmers to sign their Memorandum of Gang Agreement (MOGA) but not to hand it over to FSC.

MOGA is the authorization by farmers for their cane to be harvested.

Meanwhile, in Labasa notices have been put up in the town asking farmers and members of the public to attend a meeting to discuss the issue of road levy.

Under the Public Emergency Regulations, political meetings and anti-government statements are prohibited.

Mahendra Chaudhry has not been detained or questioned despite calling Frank Bainimarama a dictator in The Australian on April 27, as reported by this blogsite.

BREAKING - Sugar council CEO resigns

The Sugar Cane Growers Council Chief Executive, Surendra Sharma has resigned.

Sources say Sharma gave his resignation letter to the Chairman of the SCGC Board of Directors, Jain Kumar.

The Board is the appointing authority of the CEO but so far neither Kumar nor Sharma have made the resignation public.

Surendra Sharma, now a New Zealand citizen, was appointed CEO at the end of October last year by the National Farmers Union (NFU) dominated SCGC Board.

His appointment contravened the resolution of the SCGC, adopted during the early days of ousted CEO Jagannath Sami’s tenure, which prevented those holding permanent residency of an overseas country from appointment to this very important job.

Of the 11-member Board, 9 Directors are from the National Farmers Union, whose General Secretary since its inception in 1978 is Fiji Labour Party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry.

The Board became heavily weighted in favour of NFU after Sami was dismissed firstly by Frank Bainimarama after Christmas of 2006 and later through Decree Number 1 promulgated by President Ratu Josefa Iloilo in mid-January 2007.

Sami was prevented from returning to office in January 2007 despite the High Court granting an injunction to stay his dismissal.

In March 2007, Jai Shree Gawander, a deposed Labour Party MP, was appointed as SCGC CEO. He quit about a year later to take up an appointment as head of the Sugar Research Institute.

Sharma was appointed and took up office in November 2008. He resigned two months later in February, but withdrew his resignation saying he did this in the sole interest of working farmers.

At the end of March he resigned as Chairman of the South Pacific Fertilizers (SPF) Board claiming heavy handed attitude of Fiji Sugar Corporation.

SPF is technically insolvent with more than 15 million dollars of debt to the Sugar Cane Growers Fund.

Our sources say Sharma’s resignation is hardly surprising given his failure to resolve basic problems facing farmers since taking up office in November 2008.

The sources add at a time when there is growing uncertainty for cane farmers, Sharma is now deserting them.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Aussie lawyer to leave Fiji

The Australian lawyer, Jocelyn Scutt, who was appointed judge in 2007 by the interim government, is leaving Fiji after her position was terminated following the abrogation of the Constitution.

Scutt was appointed judge for the Employment Court but sources say she did not hear a single case for almost a year. She also acted as relieving High Court judge.

According to sources, Scutt went to the Employment Court - located at the Ministry of Labour - to have morning tea with staff last Friday, where she told them that she had to leave because her position no longer existed.

Scutt was widely regarded as a sympathiser of the interim government.

Sources say in February last year duing a seminar organised by Transparency International at USP, Scutt sat beside her friend Nazhat Shameem, and criticised the International Observers scrutinising the 2006 general elections and commended the Fiji Human Rights Commission report of 2007.

The FHRC report ssaid the elections were rigged by the Laisenia Qarase government.

Sources say Scutt's departure is another sign all is not well between the Shameem sisters (Nazhat and Shaista) and Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum.

Fiji left out of major Pacific talks

Fiji will not take part in talks to set up a Pacific free trade area while it is suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum, a spokeswoman for Trade Minister Tim Groser confirmed today.

Fiji has not been invited to informal talks in Auckland this weekend called to discuss ways to progress a Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (Pacer).

Trade ministers from the forum's 15 other member states were invited to the Auckland meeting, although not all of them will be able to attend.

Pacer has been on the agenda for more than a decade, with the aim of helping island nations develop their economies.

New Zealand and Australia are keen to set it up but they are looking for an arrangement which benefits the small economies rather than their own.

"The general thinking is that the final product needs to be tilted in favour of the Pacific, one source said.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully spoke on Friday about the trade imbalance between New Zealand and the islands.

"Our billion-dollar export trade into the Pacific has been reciprocated by imports from Pacific nations so miserly that they should be a source of national embarrassment," he said.

New Zealand research and education network Arena yesterday suggested the Pacer talks be put on ice.

"If Fiji is excluded, what purpose do the negotiations have when one of the two largest economies in the Pacific, alongside Papua New Guinea, is not at the table," said Arena spokeswoman Jane Kelsey.

The region's major powers wanted to announce the start of a formal process of consultations leading to negotiations at the forum summit meeting in Cairns in August, she said - NZPA

Key rules out taxpayer funds for Maori trip

Taxpayers won't foot the bill if the Maori Party sends a delegation to Fiji, Prime Minister John Key says.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia has shown some sympathy to Fiji's military government and said yesterday there had been "misunderstandings" about what it was trying to achieve.

She suggested a small Maori delegation visit Fiji and said her fellow co-leader, Pita Sharples, had mentioned it to Maori King Tuheitia Paki.

Mr Key said today it would not represent the Government and would not be paid for by taxpayers.

"We're not sending them on a trip," he said on TV One's Breakfast programme.

"If people want to get on a plane and go overseas they're free to do so as individuals...they can go as members of the Maori Party, but not as members of the Government."

Mrs Turia said yesterday Fiji's military leader and self-appointed prime minister Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama was trying to remove racism from Fiji's voting system.

"We're a Pacific people ourselves, we are tied together by the waters of the Pacific, and we should be trying to work this issue out," she said.

"That's why we think somebody should go." - Otago Daily Times

Sanctions may sour sugar aid

Fiji faces economic sanctions from international bodies such as the European Union, which provides $70 million a year in sugar subsidies, after it was suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum.

The suspension, imposed after Fiji failed to schedule elections for this year, is the strongest action the Pacific forum has taken in its 38 years.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said he expected other bodies, including the 53-nation British Commonwealth, the EU and the UN to follow the forum's lead and isolate Fiji further.

European commissioner Louis Michel said after Frank Bainimarama abrogated Fiji's constitution last month that if the Fiji Government honoured a pledge to hold elections this year, the EU would continue to provide financial support to rescue the sugar sector and help restore the national economy "at a time when global economic prospects are becoming increasingly difficult".

But Mr Michel said recent developments in Fiji were unacceptable. "Commitments must be respected," he said.

The British Commonwealth has formed a ministerial action group on Fiji, which in March gave the Pacific nation a six-month deadline to restore democracy or face full suspension of its membership. This appears certain to be triggered at the group's next meeting, in London in September.

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, the Acting Prime Minister, responded to the suspension by stressing Fiji's bilateral relations, saying Sri Lanka's high commissioner to Canberra had recently flown to Suva to present his credentials there.

Mr Sayed-Khiayum - who is also Minister for Justice, Electoral Reform, Public Enterprises, Anti-Corruption, Tourism, Trade and Communications - said at the weekend "no suspension can sever" Fiji's "ties with our brothers and sisters in the Pacific".

The Fiji regime, which is extending its emergency regulations, hopes China will put a floor under its sinking economy - The Australian

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Fiji and Tonga ranked low in media report

By Josephine Latu - Pacific Media Watch

Fiji and Tonga have the least free media among Pacific Island states, according to Freedom House’s just released 2009 annual report on global press freedom.

Fiji was ranked 85th out of a total of 195 countries - dropping from 80th last year, while Tonga maintained its rank at 73rd.

Along with East Timor (78), they were the only countries in the region to be categorised as only “partly free”. The rest were free.

New Zealand and Palau enjoyed top status in the region, tying at 11th spot worldwide. Last year New Zealand ranked 8th and Palau at 12.

Both were rated to have higher press freedom than Britain (27) and Australia (38).

The Freedom House ratings were calculated based on three criteria - the legal environment in which the media operates, the political influences on reporting, and the economic pressures of distributing news.

The rankings are based on information gathered about 2008.

Fourteen Pacific Island nations were included in the report and were ranked out of a total 195 countries: New Zealand (11), Palau (11), Marshall Islands (21), Federated States of Micronesia (33), Australia (38), Vanuatu (43), Papua New Guinea (53), Tuvalu (53), Kiribati (59), Nauru (60), Samoa (63), Solomon Islands (66), Tonga (75), and Fiji (84).

The report also stated that after two decades of progress, press freedom is now in decline in almost every part of the world.

Only 17 percent of the world’s population enjoy free media in their countries, although key trends showed that threats to media freedom are evident even in established democracies.

The report stated that media freedom remained “fragile” in emerging democracies, and that authoritative governments were increasing their control over media. Also, restrictive laws and physical attacks continued to hinder press freedom around the world.

However, Freedom House reported that compared to the rest of the world, the Asia-Pacific region as a whole boasted a relatively high level of press freedom.

At the same time, it underlined that Fiji media suffered from “official pressure”, which caused its decline in ranking, and cited the deportation of two foreign national publishers and the Fiji Times held in contempt for publishing “unflattering letters about three judges”.

The recent media censorship crackdown under Fiji’s military regime is expected to pull the nation’s ranking down even further in future.

Shaista Shameem to open own law firm

The former chair of the Fiji Human Rights Commission, Shaista Shameem, is opening her own private practice, according to sources.

Coupfourpointfive has been told Shameem has written to the Fiji Law Society, seeking approval to set up her own law firm.

It's being said that Shameem and her sister, former High Court judge Nazhat Shameem, are miffed with Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, and don't want to join the new legal order.

It's not clear whether Nazhat Shameem, who was earlier rumoured to take up the position of chief justice, will join her sister's practice.

Worker commits suicide after losing job

A 28 year old Fijian man committed suicide yesterday, after losing his job at the Nabua based British American Tobacco Limited.

The father of four was told on Friday he was being made redundant, along with other workers.

Sources say he didn't tell his family he'd lost his job.

Before midday on Saturday, he wrote a note saying he was unemployed and was ashamed because he couldn't pay for his children's education and provide them with the necessities of life, anymore.

He then hung himself on a nearby breadfruit tree in broad daylight.

Coupfourpointfive has been told British American Tobacco was the largest taxpaying business in Fiji, paying between 50 to 60 million dollars annually.

Fosters Group, formerly Carlton Brewery Fiji Limited, is believed to be the second highest taxpaying business.

Turia wants Maori delegation to visit Fiji

The Maori Party co-leader, Tariana Turia, says she wants a team of prominent Maori to go to Fiji to try to sort out the current crisis.

Under the self imposed leadership of Commodore Frank Bainimarama, Fiji is becoming increasingly isolated and has now been suspended from the Pacific Island Forum.

But Mrs Turia says New Zealand's harsh approach is wrong.

"We've talked about this and we believe that there is a way forward and we should talking with Fiji rather than adopting the stance that we have," she says.

She believes the way forward is sending a high-powered Maori delegation to engage in dialogue with Fiji.

Mrs Turia has singled out the Ngati Tuwharetoa leader Tumu Te Heuheu, the Maori King, Tuheitia Paki to make up the small delegation that would visit Fiji.

The regime has recently sacked judges, suspended the constitution, muzzled the media and refused to hold elections, prompting New Zealand's Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, to label Bainimarama a dictator.

But Mrs Turia told the TV One current affairs programme, Q and A, the Commodore has been misunderstood.

"He is saying he is attempting to combat racism and certain things that have been going on in Fiji for some time...we think we should find exactly what is happening there."

Mrs Turia says the Maori Party co-leader, Pita Sharples, would go with any delegation but it will be up to the Prime Minister, John Key, to approve the trip.

Mr Key has told ONE News the delegation could only go in a private capacity.

"As long as they go in their capacity as leaders of the Maori Party and as New Zealanders but not representing the government," he says.

"The government is going to continue to negotiate for democracy in Fiji through the Pacific Forum leaders and through the Commonwealth."

Mr Key says he would be surprised if a Maori negotiating team succeeded where others have failed.

One Network News

Teleni leads new Church

A breakaway group from Fiji's Methodist Church, have formed their own church.

Appropriately called the New Methodist Church, it was founded by former Air Pacific employee, Atu Vulaono. He is the brother of Police Commissioner, Esala Teleni.

Sources say Teleni is a staunch and leading member of the Church and gives regular sermons.

Since last December, Teleni has ordered non-Christian police men and police women to attend church with their families. A month ago, the Crusade was held at Nasova grounds for residents of the Nasova Police Barracks. It's said families were told to attend the Crusade for more than three hours.

Sources also say last Friday, the New Methodist Church, which is based in Nasese, was filled with non-Christian police officers. At the service, Teleni moved around preaching and blessing officers, many of them Indians. Sources who were present, say he touched their foreheads with such force, they nearly lost their balance.

Coupfourpointfive has been told there are fears that non-Christians in the police force, will have to convert to Christianity, in order to keep their jobs.

Emergency Regulations extended

The Public Emergency Regulations in Fiji has been extended for another month.

The PER came into effect on April 10, following the abrogation of the Constitution and the reappointment of Frank Bainimarama as interim prime minister.

The media has been under heavy censorship since the emergency regulations came into effect. Media Censors from the Ministry of Information visit the different media everyday, to remove stories they deem anti-government.

Two Fiji journalists have been jailed without charge for writing anti-government stories.

The PER will now expire on June 10.

Naupoto gets new job

The recently appointed Permanent Secretary in the interim Prime Minister's Office Viliame Naupoto, has a new job.

He will from Monday become the new Permanent Secretary for Fisheries and Forests.

The former navy Commander, replaced Parmesh Chand as Permanent Secretary to the PM, a week before the Constitution was abrogated on April 10. He was first appointed Director of Immigration following the 2006 coup.

It's not known who will replace him but there is strong indication it may be another military officer.

Naupoto has just returned from Tonga after attending the regional conference on security sector governance, hosted by UNDP Pacific Centre and Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

Sources say he was still at the conference when he was informed of the decision.

Duvuloco still under investigation

The leader of the Nationalist Vanua Tako Lavo Party Leader, Iliesa Duvuloco, was released earlier today.

Duvuloco was taken into police custody over a week ago for allegedly distributing inciteful pamplets.

Police have told Fiji media that Duvuloco is still under investigation, even though he has been released.

Academic replies to Graham Davis article

In an interview with Fiji’s coup leader in The Australian ((‘Dictators Plea to Kevin Rudd’, The Australian, 1/5), Graham Davis reports that Commodore Bainimarama said an election this year would restore the "racist" government of former prime minister Laisenia Qarase.

Was this an acknowledgement by Bainimarama that the real reason he has suspended elections until 2014 is because he does not have political support? If so, he has undermined the core argument of the very person who was interviewing him: Graham Davis

Until now, the coup leader’s sympathisers – like Graham Davis – have argued that Australian and New Zealand pressure on Fiji to hold elections was unwarranted because it was necessary to change the electoral system first (‘Dealing with the Dictator’, The Australian 16/4).

Like Bainimarama, Davis claimed that Fiji’s communally-based voting system was itself responsible for perpetuating racial polarization. ‘Qarase and his ilk’, Davis wrote (quite wrongly) ‘can only be kept at bay if the electoral system is changed from one that favours indigenous Fijians to one that gives every vote equal weight’.

This was also given by Davis as a reason for opposing international pressure on Fiji to return to the polls: ‘Why is Australia and the rest of the international community insisting on an immediate expression of the public will when Fiji’s electoral playing field is yet to be levelled?’

Those of us who oppose the coup never believed this justification. Many of us support changes to the electoral system, but not under the barrel of a gun (see also Firth, letter 17/4, Robertson, letter 18/4).

Now that Mr. Bainimarama has abrogated his country’s constitution, he cannot use the excuse of seeking political consensus around his reforms to the voting system to explain long delays before an election.

While the constitution was still in force, it was at least conceivable that the regime needed time for political dialogue, which would then enable a constitutional amendment within the law. Now nothing prevents a decree to immediately introduce a new voting regime.

So why the delay before elections? It is because the 57% indigenous Fijians would, as the Commodore told Mr Davis, support the government he ousted 29 months ago. What of the 37% Fiji Indian population? At the last elections in May 2006, four out of every five of the Fiji Indians backed the Labour Party, whose leader this week told The Australian that Bainimarama’s government is ‘autocratic and dictatorial’ (27/4).

In other words, we are now at a very dangerous point in Fiji’s history – where a military coup leader has shed his claims to be spearheading systemic reform, and acknowledged that his seizure of power is nothing but a naked power grab.

Jon Fraenkel
Senior Research Fellow
Australian National University

Effects of retirement taking its toll

The reality of being unemployed all of a sudden is starting to take a serious effect on the civil servants who had to retire on April 30.

Over 2000 government workers had to retire as part of Frank Bainimarama's new legal order.

These included, teacher, road construction and maintenance workers, health building maintenance workers, hospital cooks and kitchen hands, ward assistants in hospitals, those who have tirelessly worked in the laundry and boiler rooms of hospitals to ensure clean laundry for patients, and water and sewerage department workers.

Sources have told Coupfourpointfive that while being handed retirement letters(click link on right of blog to see letter), the workers pleaded for their children to be employed in their place to bring in income.

A Director signing and handing out the letters, who also had to retire, broke down in tears after hearing the pleas.

Sources say that since retiring, one person has died from shock and another who could not bear the stress of being made jobless, has suffered a massive stroke.

Two teachers fainted while receiving their letters and had to be rushed to hospital, one of them died.

Coupfourpointfive has been told that more retirees are expected to die, as they find it hard to re-adjust to life doing nothing, after 30 plus years of working - See Retirement Letter on right of blog under Leaked Documents

Beijing gives Frank Bainimarama cold comfort

China is indicating it is not prepared to place its crucial relationship with Australia at risk by filling Fiji's international relations vacuum.

Fiji was due to be the first country suspended from the 16-nation Pacific Islands Forum from this morning because of its failure to schedule elections by May 1 for later this year. The military-installed Government says it will not hold elections until September 2014.

The country's military chief and Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, told The Australian this week: "We have a wonderful relationship with China, and we're trying to build on that. They're very sympathetic and understand what's happening here, that we need to do things in our own way."

However, indications are emerging that Beijing, while maintaining a strong relationship with Fiji as an element of the global projection of its "soft power", does not wish to be perceived as Suva's new international protector, or to write blank cheques to underpin the country's collapsing revenues.

Revelations of Beijing's stance came as Kevin Rudd yesterday rebuffed overtures from Commodore Bainimarama for a summit including his New Zealand counterpart, John Key, to try to resolve the impasse over his refusal to hold elections until 2014.

"The people of Fiji deserve better," the Prime Minister said, attacking the country's interim administration. "This military Government has taken a fundamental assault on the institutions of democracy, including the freedom of the press.

"I don't regard that as a basis for business as usual."

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said yesterday that given Fiji had shown no intention of a return to democracy, the threat to suspend it from the Pacific Islands Forum would be instigated.

"The effect of the resolution passed unanimously ... is effective tomorrow, the first day after May 1," Mr Smith said.

The latest briefing paper from the Foreign Ministry in Beijing on China's relations with Pacific island countries says: "The Chinese Government regards aid as mutual, and not as a kind of unilateral alms. The scale of China's development program in the region is smaller than other donors, and mostly in the form of projects."

The paper stresses support for the Pacific Islands Forum. "As a dialogue partner to the PIF, China attaches great importance to exchanges and co-operation with the Pacific island countries within the forum framework," it says.

"China has maintained good co-ordination with the USA, the European Union, Australia, New Zealand and other development partners in the region in safeguarding regional stability.

"We are willing to work jointly with all relevant parties to promote stability, development and prosperity in the region - The Australian

UN puts a stop to using Fijian soldiers

The United Nations will continue to use Fijian police and soldiers in its current peacekeeping missions but will not increase their numbers in future deployments, said the UN political chief here on Friday.

"There has been an understanding that the number of peacekeepers from Fiji will not increase," said Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe during a conference hosted by the Women's Foreign Policy Group at the UN Headquarters in New York.

Pascoe said that the United Nations has more Fijian police working under its peacekeeping mandate than soldiers -- police, which were "not involved in the coup and tried to oppose" the 2006coup initiated by military leader Frank Bainimarama.

Fiji has approximately 2,000 troops on UN peacekeeping duties in conflict zones such as Sudan and Iraq. Hundreds of Fiji soldiers and police provide security for UN operations in Iraq's capital, Baghdad -- a contract that will not be affected by the latest arrangements, Pascoe said.

Earlier this week, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that his government had successfully lobbied the United Nations to ban future deployments of Fijian troops in UN peacekeeping missions.

"The United Nations now is not going to engage future or new Fijian troops for new operations," Rudd told reporters. "The revenue remittances to Fiji from Fijian forces working with UN operations around the world are important sources of revenue back into the military families, in particular within Fiji."

Foreign exchange remittances sent home by Fijian peacekeepers are worth millions of U.S. dollars a year to the Fiji economy, reports said.

In the past few weeks, the Fijian military has tightened its grip on power, suspending the national constitution, denying press freedom, and undermining the judiciary body's independence, reports said.

The UN peacekeeping department is divided into several sections including police, military, security and disarmament. In March, the United Nations had a total of 10,382 police, 79, 370 soldiers, and 2,498 observers in its military and police forces.

Criteria for selecting peacekeeping forces is virtually non-existent, said Pascoe, simply because "quite frankly it's not all that easy" to enlist the numbers needed for the many peace-building missions around the world.

"But we do need to have protection for our people out there," he said, "and that sometimes, is an agreement that as with all politics is not necessarily ideal."

Fiji's Acting PM responds to suspension

Fiji's Acting prime minister and Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, says Fiji's suspension from the Pacific Islands Forum is "regrettable".

He said the announcement was made via the media without any formal notification and it was only at the prompting of the Fiji Government that a diplomatic note was received later in the day.

"It is apparent that despite our Prime Minister writing to the Chair, highlighting the change in dynamics in Fiji vis a vis the new legal order; the fact that elections cannot and should not be held under a skewered electoral system; and Fiji’s willingness to engage with the Forum taking into account the facts and ground realities; the Forum and its Chair have chosen to ignore the circumstances in Fiji and the willingness of our Government, the willingness of Fiji to engage in a constructive and meaningful manner," Mr Sayed Khaiyum said.

"The statement also falsely refers to so called breaches of basic human rights, democracy and freedom under a military regime. Again such inaccurate statements do not lend credibility to the analysis and conclusions arrived at by the Chair."

Mr Sayed Khaiyum accused the Forum of being misled by New Zealand and Australia.

"Such inaccuracies and holding on to dogma begs the question whether the Forum is holding on to particular ideas, ideas that are factually incorrect. They appear to be based on representations made by only a few with political agendas and are reflective of the positions taken by the metropolitan powers
in Wellington and Canberra."

He said Fiji after the 1987 coups Fiji did not have elections for five years, yet Fiji was not suspended from the Forum.

"The rationale behind the overthrow of the Bavadra government and the subsequent actions of the then new government were most dubious to say the least. Yet there was no suspension."

"The Government and the people of Fiji have very strong ties with our brothers and sisters in the Pacific. No such suspension can sever those ties. Fiji is part of the Pacific and the Pacific is part of Fiji," Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

Economist says Fiji's suspension bad for Pacific

AFP/Google Online/Pacific Media Watch): Fiji was suspended from the 16-nation Pacific Islands Forum Saturday and told there was no place for a regime which displays "such a total disregard for basic human rights".

Suspension from the regional bloc, which represents the common interests of Pacific island nations, came as a forum deadline lapsed for Fiji coup leader Voreqe Bainimarama to set a date for democratic elections this year.

"It is with considerable sorrow and disappointment that I confirm the suspension of the current military regime in the Republic of the Fiji Islands," said forum chairman Toke Talagi.

"This difficult decision, agreed unanimously between all forum leaders at our retreat in Port Moresby on January 27, 2009, responds to Commodore Bainimarama's failure to address constructively by May 1, 2009 the expectations of forum leaders to return Fiji to democratic governance in an acceptable time-frame."

In a response issued nearly 10 hours after the suspension announcement, Fiji described the move as "regrettable" and refused to budge on its reform blueprint which rules out elections for five years.

"It is regrettable for a number of reasons," Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said as Fiji became the first nation suspended in the 39-year history of the forum.

The "untenable proposition that elections should be held at any cost immediately, even under a flawed system, is not only patronising, but demonstrates a lack of commitment to true democracy and sustainable parliamentary representation."

Sayed-Khaiyum said the forum "has chosen to ignore the circumstances in Fiji" and claimed its stand reflected the views of the two regional powers, Australia and New Zealand.

Bainimarama -- who overthrew the elected government in a 2006 coup -- has since tightened his grip on power and last month declared there will not be elections until 2014.

He also tested the resolve of the forum saying Friday he did not believe it would carry out its threat of suspension.

But Talagi said the suspension was particularly timely "given the recent disturbing deterioration of the political, legal and human rights situation in Fiji" since last month when a court ruled Bainimarama's reign was illegal.

The military regime responded by sacking the judiciary, scrapping the constitution, censoring the news media and guaranteeing itself five more years in power.

"A regime which displays such a total disregard for basic human rights, democracy and freedom has no place in the Pacific Islands Forum," Talagi said in a statement, adding the suspension took immediate effect.

Economist Biman Prasad, from the Fiji-based University of the South Pacific, told Radio New Zealand the suspension was likely to be more harmful to the region than to Fiji, given the amount of trade between Fiji and other Pacific islands.

In addition to suspension from the regional forum, Fiji also faces being ostracised by the Commonwealth, which has said it would suspend Fiji by September if no progress is made towards restoring democracy.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has also warned a lack of democratic principles will lead to Fijian soldiers being cut from UN peacekeeping operations, depriving the island nation of an important source of revenue.

Bainimarama, who insists he has broad popular support at home, has consistently shrugged off international criticism and defended his decision to impose emergency rule and keep a lid on any challenges to his authority.

He sees Fiji as beset by divisions between the majority indigenous population and the ethnic Indian minority and has vowed to reform the electoral system before holding elections.