#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: 2009-05-10

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Lasaro released but still under investigation

Coupfourpointfive has been told the former leader of the Methodist Church, the Reverend Manasa Lasaro, was released last night.

However interim Government spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel, Neumi Leweni, says he is still under investigation for a proposal made to the church hierarchy.

“The proposal appears to be against the rule of law and against Government,” says Lieutenant Colonel Leweni.

“We appeal especially to members of the Methodist Church who are preparing for their annual conference not to be misled by the few people who are trying to cause instability.

“Government fully understands and appreciates the importance of the annual conference to the church. However, Government will not hesitate to defer the conference indefinitely if the security forces suspect any motive to cause instability,” he said.

Lt-Col Leweni said the public must remember that many people including members of the Methodist Church were misled by political opportunists in 2000.

“People turned up in numbers at the Parliamentary Complex in 2000 on the misguided notion that they were fighting for indigenous rights. The Military, led by Commodore Bainimarama, had to rescue the nation in that year.

“We have been down this path before, but this time around Government and the security forces are more alert and will be pro-active in its collective efforts to keep the peace throughout the nation."

He said the attempts by individuals to go against Government and the rule of law are highly irresponsible because they will only delay the nation’s re-building process, and put people’s lives at risk.

“We have laws in the form of the decrees passed by His Excellency the President. This includes the public emergency regulations.

“We appeal to the public to respect the rule of law and don’t be easily misled by the antics of a few people who are trying to cause instability,” says Lieutenant Colonel Leweni.

Chaudhry's meeting with farmers called off

A planned meeting this morning by Mahendra Chaudhry, the leader of the Labour Party and general secretary of the National Farmers Union, was called off by the police before it started.

The meeting was due to be held at Tilak High School in Lautoka but had to be stopped after a directive from the interim prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

The National Farmers Union had obtained a permit from the authorities for the meeting but the police went to the venue before 9am today and told Chaudhry they wanted to listen in on the meeting.

Chaudhry is believed to have told police he had a permit for the meeting and had submitted the agenda to authorities well in advance.

He reiterated the meeting would discuss issues affecting just the sugar industry.

These would be issues like fertilizer price increase, industry reforms and a road levy of $75 per tonne for heavy goods vehicles that would have implications for cane lorry operators and farmers and mill performance.

He said these were common issues affecting farmers and that the police would be wasting their time in listening to the meeting.

The officers informed their headquarters in Suva when Chaudhry rejected repeated requests from police to be part of the meeting.

Soon afterwards, a directive to stop the meeting arrived from the interim PM's office.

Sources say police warned Chaudhry and another senior NFU official not to make any statements, or they would be detained.

At least 150 farmers had already arrived for the meeting but were told that the meeting would be delayed because farmers from Tavua and Rakiraki had still not arrived.

Sources say Chaudhry then left the meeting venue while others plus the farmers stayed on.

He then went to the Sugar Cane Growers Council office with SCGC Chairman, Jain Kumar, and later returned to Suva.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Police officers pray with Lasaro in cell

The former General Secretary and President of the Methodist Church, the Reverend Manasa Lasaro, is tonight spending his second night in detention at the Central Police Station in Suva.

Reverend Lasaro was taken in to the Police Criminal Investigation Department headquarters at Toorak, yesterday and grilled over a planned spiritual march by the leaders, preachers and congregation next week. Sources have told us he was questioned again today by CID officers.

Coupfourpointfive understands the military asked police to detain the church leader after tracing a leaflet asking the church superintendents to mobilize the congregation for a march in Suva.

Source close to the Methodist Church say the march was a spiritual expression of the reality on the ground.

But the security forces believe Reverend Lasaro has the potential to instigate something because he is on the Think Tank and a member of the Standing Committee of the Church.

Sources also say that last night some police officers prayed with Lasaro in his CPS cell.

Members of the Police Force are being indoctrinated with the New Methodist faith practiced by Police Commissioner, Esala Teleni, whose brother, Atu Vulaono, is the new head of the New Methodist Church.

Chaudhry to meet with farmers

Fiji Labour Party (FLP) Leader and National Farmers Union (NFU) general secretary, Mahendra Chaudhry, will be in Lautoka tomorrow to meet with farmers.

Chaudhry was supposed to hold a meeting in Labasa last Saturday(9th May) but it was dferred because of the death of his younger brother, Ravindra.

It's not known whether Chaudhry will take a resolution at tommorrow's meeting asking farmers to boycott harvesting.

Sources say this is what he had planned to do at last Saturday’s Labasa meeting.

The 2009 harvesting and crushing season will kick off at the Penang mill on 19th May with harvesting a day earlier.

The NFU meeting comes 2 days after the resignation of Sugar Cane Growers Council Chief Executive Surendra Sharma was reported by the media.

Sharma had quit on 4th May and this was reported by Coupfourpointfive that evening.

Media blamed for abrogation of Constitution

A senior police officer has blamed the media for forcing the interim regime to abolish the 1997 Constitution.

Sources say that while interviewing one of the two Fijilive journalists detained for two days, Police Director of Operations, Waisea Tabakau, said the media were to blame.

Shelvin Chand and Dionisia Turagabeci were arrested and detained for reporting and posting a story on Fijilive online last Saturday about the release of eight soldiers and a police officer convicted of manslaughter for the brutal killing of Nadi teenager Sakiusa Rabaka, in February 2007.

Tabakau told the Fijilive journalist the abrogation of the Constitution must be borne by the media because it (the media) placed too much emphasis on the rule of law and the regime’s adherence to the Constitution, either by way of comment from anti-coup critics or media commentaries.

The interim prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, and the attornye general, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, blamed the Court of Appeal ruling of April the 9th for crucifying the Constitution on Good Friday.

But sources say it is becoming clear with the prolonged delay in the new appointments to the judiciary, that the media is being made the scapegoat.

Since the coup of 5th December 2006 media bashing has included:

- The deportation of three newspaper publishers(2 from Fiji Times and 1 from Fiji Sun)

- The Fiji Times was convicted by the High Court of contempt in January 2009 and fined $100,000 with Rex Gardner, publisher deported after the case, as well as Editor Netani Rika placed on good behaviour bond and warned not to re-offend. The newspaper had allowed the publication of a Letter to the Editor that was critical of the judiciary following the ruling by three High Court judges led by the then CJ Anthony Gates legitimising the overthrow of Laisenia Qarase’s government and appointment of the interim regime headed by Frank Bainimarama. Ironically, the judge who handed down the ruling, Thomas Hickie, is now back in Australia and is highly critical of the regime.

- The unprecedented level of censorship imposed on the media since April the 10th following the abrogation of the Constitution

- Arrest and detention of five journalists under Public Emergency Regulations from April the 13th to May the 14th

Farmers worried with CEO leaving

Surendra Sharma is leaving as Sugar Cane Growers Council Chief Executive at a critical time for cane farmers.

According to our sources with the 2009 harvesting and crushing season to start in a few days, the farmers are shocked that their CEO has decided to call it quits.

While we first broke the news about Sharma’s resignation on 4th May, the mainstream media like Fiji Television and Fiji Times were unable to report on it immediately due to censorship.

Fiji TV reported Sharma’s resignation on May 14 during their 6pm news while Fiji Times carried a story a day later.

Sharma was appointed by the NFU controlled Growers Council Board of which 9 of the 11 Members are from NFU/Labour.

Since the coup, when the then SCGC CEO Jagannath Sami was forcibly removed from office, firstly by coup leader Bainimarama on 27th December 2006 and later through Decree No. 1 of 2007 promulgated by President Josefa Iloilo, the NFU, which took control of the Council from the Fiji Cane Growers Association in an act of usurpation, has appointed two CEOs who have been dismal failures in protecting the interests of farmers, according to sources.

Jaishree Gawander, a former FLP MP was appointed to succeed Sami. He resigned from the position less than a year later to head the Sugar Research Institute of Fiji.

Sharma assumed office in November 2008 and he was appointed despite being a New Zealand citizen and in contravention of a standing SCGC resolution disallowing permanent residency holders and citizens from occupying the position.

Jagannath Sami was prevented from re-claiming his job in January 2007 despite the Lautoka High Court granting a stay order preventing the regime from removing him from office.

Leweni: it's up to media outlets

The Fiji government’s censorship of news content carried by local media outlets could continue indefinitely if media organisations do not learn to comply with directives from the Ministry of Information, says permanent secretary for Information, Lieutenant Colonel Neumi Leweni.

Leweni has made it clear that local media should not expect to go back to reporting the way they did prior to April 10 when the Public Emergency Regulations (PER) were enacted, placing strict government controls over news content.

“If you say, to report sensibly, and the way things are happening now, than that would be an answer to that. But if you say it’s to report the way it used to happen, than that’s not going to happen because that’s exactly why this (PER) has come about,” he said.

“It depends on the media outlets. If they’re willing to comply and go the way things are going now, you’ll see an end to this. If they don’t, then I can tell you that this PER will be there for a long while,” he told FijiLive.

Leweni reiterated government’s stance that Fiji’s news media had an “irresponsible” bent by constantly focusing on the negative and carrying one-sided and sensationalised stories in its coverage of politics, crime and most other events, apart from carrying political agendas.

He said in a statement earlier this week, the government had seen it “highly necessary” to extend the PER until June 10 “following its assessment of the media landscape prior to and after the introduction of the emergency regulations”.

“At the moment you can say it is censorship,” he told FijiLive.

“We’re actually setting the standards on what goes and what cannot go. The government’s position is you feed the public with bad things and it registers. In some instances it could lead to people doing whatever’s being published. You’d be surprised if you asked the police for statistics on people breaking the law. They’ll tell you it’s dropped tremendously in the past month.”

“It’s to do partly with the media. You feed the public good things and shape public perception with positive things, they will react accordingly. When you dish out negative issues and a lot of other things like crime, etc, it gets to people and in the end they produce those sorts of activities themselves.”

Leweni said the government had seen “good” results since the controls were enforced over the media and wanted to continue to drive news coverage in that direction by keeping the controls in place.

“If I was given the choice, I’d leave it (controls) there for the next five years,” he said.

“From my discussions with people on the streets, they actually appreciate the news more now with a lot of positive issues being addressed,” he said.

“It was a well known statement before by the news media that bad news sells. But you can see now that it doesn’t work that way always. The media is still selling their newspapers, they still have their news on the radio, television, online and there are a lot more positive issues being addressed in the media now. And it’s also come from government departments that they’re now getting calls from reporters on positive stories whereas before, a lot of them were reluctant to answer questions because it was based mostly on negative issues.”

Leweni said the only way the controls would be lifted would be if media organisations agreed to willingly follow the direction that was being set by his ministry.

“But unfortunately, even now with our people sitting there (in newsrooms) and trying to determine the direction that should be taken, some people decide not to. That has resulted in some people being taken in for questioning by police. So if we already have people there and they (newsrooms) still cannot comply, we really don’t need to say what it would be like without anyone being there.”


Nazhat Shameem gives speech at book launch

Former High Court judge Nazhat Shameem today gave her first public speech, since her sacking on April 10, when the Constitution was abrogated and the judiciary sacked.

Her speech was at the book launch of Professor Satendra Nandan's book, Between the Lines.

Below is the text of her speech.

I read Professor Nandan’s collection and selected prose in “Between the Lines’ with fascination, not only because each piece reflects a piece of Fiji, our country, but also because each reflects facets of a writer deeply committed to the essential goodness in each human soul. But here is no glorification of the weaknesses, the greed, and the opportunism of human nature. He lays bare the racism, the humbug of religious fundamentalism, the lack of commitment to the truth and the lack of commitment to principle 2 or ideology, all of which has featured in our nation – development since 1987. He writes about corruption-that the “cholesterol of corruption…… is “politically and morally a most damaging aspect of a developing nation” and about the relationship between corruption and the fear of the absence of power.”

He links this same fear to the most shameful parts of colonialism, to racist ideologies and to fundamentalist religion. He says in his essay on “Corruption and Society”, that what corrupts in Fiji is this fear of the absence of power.

“What will I do afterwards? Out of power, who ‘ll garland me. Who will offer me a bribe? Once you fall from power there is no cushioning effect”. And, referring to V.S. Naipaul’s ‘The Mimic Man” he says that the book is “about colonial shame and fantasy, about how the powerless lie about themselves, since it is their only resource. It is about colonial men mimicking the conditions of manhood; men who had grown to distrust everything about themselves, including themselves.”

And he links corruption to politics, to culture, and to racism, saying that corruption is more, much more than the World Bank definition of it as the abuse of power for public gain. In Fiji with its complex social “matrix” it encompasses the falsification of history, in the use of language in the laws and statutes and in the
institutionalized racism that is such an entrenched part of Fiji.

These selections of Professor Nandan’s writings show us the link between the fear of the loss of power, the coups of 1987 and 2000, the use of racism and political dishonesty by religious leaders and the deliberate manipulation of religion. And these are the reflections of a former government Minister, an academic, a politician who has lived these experiences. A lover of the country of his birth, an exile from the country of his birth, a critic of the country of his birth and a son of the girmitiyas. How appropriate then, that this collection of prose should be launched on the 15th of May on Girmit Day, a day set aside to celebrate the girmit dream. Professor Nandan ’s background and qualifications themselves represent the girmit dream, not only because he has achieved respect, recognition and dignity in a world which does not lightly honour dreamers, writers and revolutionaries, but also
because he shows a willingness to confront the unimagined, the unrecognized, the unseen. After all , there is no real point in being descended from the girmitiya if one is unable to understand the ideology of the girmit.

Professor Nandan who is Foundation Professor and Dean of the School of Humanities and Arts at the University of Fiji is also Director of the Gandhi-Tappoo Centre for writing, Ethics and Peace Studies. Before joining the University of Fiji in February 2005, he was Professor of English and Commonwealth Studies and Director of University Centre for writing media and culture studies at the University of Canberra. He was also Adjunct Professor at the Commonwealth Special Centre for Professional Ethics and Applied Philosophy at the ANU and the University of Melbourne and the Research school of Humanities at the Australian National University. He holds positions in Associations for writers, for language studies and in December 2005 was awarded Professor Emeritus at the University of Canberra the first ever Professor Emeritus from Fiji.

Yet his writing, his speeches, his prose in this collection launched today reflect his eminent academic history, only in the beauty of the language and the use of literature in explaining his insights of events in Fiji. His love, his concerns, his heart reflects only his Nadi childhood, his school at Sri Vivekanandha and the Natabua High School and his time as a student in India. Ultimately, Professor Nandan’s writing has its soul in Fiji’s earth. He writes as a son of Fiji, sometimes with anguish, often with humour always without pretension, ultimately with hope and compassion. His reflections, if read and properly understood would help us all to
rebuild on the relics of the shattered past.

Of the Girmit he says:
Whatever our perspective on the Girmit experience, there is no doubt in my mind that the Girmit people gave us our history and heritage, our culture and community; indeed by sailing in a new direction they discovered and created a whole new world for us….

Girmit now has an immortal meaning. And a new definition to an old undefinable experience – only the word Girmit conveys the resonance of lives that could not be destroyed: Girmit – the fallen cannot be obliterated from the soil beneath their feet.

And the earth beneath the soles of their feet became part of our souls.”
Of democracy he writes: “Democracy is not the art of the possible; it is the science of possibilities. That is why politics is sometimes called the master science – it makes the practice of other sciences both desirable and practicable. Its unique virtue is that it gives every person one value, one vote and through this process governments fall and are formed.”

And of course with his unerring ethical accuracy he strikes the nail on the head, as to the true meaning of democracy. The concept rests on a belief in equality. Any electoral system, which gives greater weight to the vote of one or more people is not a democracy. He says ‘But Fiji has never had that electoral equality
of one person, one vote, one value.

That of course leads him to a discussion of race and racism. He talks of a history in Fiji which is either silent or dismissive of the realities of the lives of whole ethnic communities. He writes of an image created of Fiji on tourist brochures, in documentaries and travel books which fail to show a single face of European, Indian or Chinese origin. He writes of a silence about the language, culture and dreams of whole communities in Fiji. And he writes of the unleashing of racial hatred, religious intolerance and ethnic violence in the aftermath of the 1987 coup de’etat, a coup which of course affected him in the most direct way. He links racism to
the fear of the loss of power, and does not spare the cynical politicians who seek to justify racism by saying “race is a fact of life in Fiji” Race is not a fact of life in Fiji . That people are genetically different from each other is a scientific “truth” but race is only a fact if one chooses to make it relevant. And Fiji has experienced such an outpouring of ethnic hatred and religious intolerance in the past 20 years that as Professor Nandan writes, it is time to see diversity as “our world’s deepest unity”

What an enlightened and compassionate belief. That diversity unites. To say that “race is a fact of life” without condemning racism and religious intolerance, is to perpetuate that racism.

Ironically, it is often those who claim to fight for democracy who are the most racially intolerant. Indeed, since 2000 and 2006, racism and religious intolerance have been propagated in the media in the name of democracy.

Professor Nandan has no time for such hypocrisy. He writes in his piece “The Role of Religion:“Religious communities, I feel which involve themselves in the political life of a nation, should then accept the constraints of democratic society. You cannot use democracy’s structures and processes to gain power and then undermine those very institutions. You cannot claim to be the prophets of the lands and
depend on the profits of your political masters. In short, how long can a democracy tolerate intolerance?”

Professor Nandan writes of the consequences, moral, social, and economic of the exodus after the coups of 1987 and 2000, of the exile of whole communities and of the sense of betrayal suffered. But he writes also of the growth of the Fiji Indian Diaspora, of the free societies these exiles are now a part of, and of the
achievements of these migrant people, acquired through energy, intelligence and material possessions. Evil then can produce good. While the results can never exonerate those who do evil, the message is one of hope. And that after all is the Girmit message. Survival and hope, with the dream of dignity, equality, and peace. It is that message that is expressed most poignantly in this collection of essays. Professor Nandan acknowledges that even as he writes about writing in ‘Writing Fiji in Asia – Pacific:‘Writing then is your inner home: a struggle, a journey into the self.

It is a clarification of the convulsions and confusions of history. It is also an art of hope even when one is writing about despair sometimes so deep that you could simply die.”

And of the impact of coups on the Fiji Indian writer: “We know we were a banished people even from Mother India but home was where one’s heart was, where one was born and bred and had broken bread with people who later betrayed with such casual brutality. The coups, I think became the defining moments for the Fiji – Indian writer.

We had not realized that the innocence and evil were so closely intertwined in our paradise……… There is nothing like a bloodless coup. How much blood do you see in the breaking of a heart? Or in the inward death of a country?”

And yet he does not let the Fiji Indians off the hook either. He writes of the complicity of many Fiji Indians in the institutionalization of racist dogma, and of their indifference to the plight not only of other Fiji Indians, but also to the dreams, culture and thoughts of those of other races in Fiji.

And so, the writer writes of love, of pain, of exile, of betrayal and of hope. These are stories of Fiji, of loss, of building and of the memories of a home lost by banishment. The writer talks of collecting sea-shells in his memories – “And the sound of the surf beating against the reef. “My soul, my soul, is another country.”
These writings the beauty of their language and the poignancy of the subjects will inevitably move the reader.

They moved me. It gives me great pleasure to launch this publication today.

PJR targets Fiji censorhip and cross-cultural reporting

Censorship and the assault on human rights and freedom of expression in Fiji are featured in the latest edition of Pacific Journalism Review.

The AUT Pacific Media Centre-based publication, New Zealand's only
peer-reviewed international media research journal, publishes this week
a special article by an "insider" on the military regime's political
and social "reforms".

The 246-page edition, themed around "Diversity, identity and the media"
issues, analyses the junta that has dealt an unprecedented "mortal blow" to
press freedom in the South Pacific's most crucial country for regional

The insider article, "Fragments from a Fiji coup diary", concludes that
the New Zealand government needs to have "secret contacts" with the
Suva regime to help investigate corruption and to help restore the
country on the road towards democracy.

In other commentaries, Dr Murray Masterton analyses "culture clash"
problems facing foreign correspondents and warns against "arrogance" by
Western journalists when reporting the region. Television New Zealand's
Sandra Kailahi examines the Pasifika media and Scoop co-editor Selwyn
Manning looks at strategic directions in Asia-Pacific geopolitical

Malcolm Evans contributes a frothy profile of global political

Research articles include demographics and independent cross-cultural
reporting, media diversity and a NZ Human Rights Commission seminar,
the "Asian Angst" controversy and xenophobia over Chinese migration, a
Lake Taupo air space media case study, the Clydesdale report
deconstructed and New Zealand women's magazines and gossip.

Bill Rosenberg provides the second of two annual New Zealand media
ownership and trends surveys compiled for PJR.

"This edition provides some challenging and fresh insights into
diversity reporting in New Zealand, from Fiji to Asian stereotypes,"
says managing editor Associate Professor David Robie.

"But it also celebrates some important achievements."

A strong reviews section includes books about the dark side of the
pro-independence movement and media in Tonga, terrorism and e-policies
in the Asia-Pacific region, conflict reporting, the making of a US
president, editing and design in New Zealand and an extraordinary
dissident Burmese political cartoonist.

PMC Online and Pacific Media Watch

Editors told to email scripts

Radio and online editors in Fiji have been ordered to email their news scripts to the Ministry of Information, before it goes to air.

In a memo, the Ministry of Information reminded editors the Permanent Secretary of Information had through the powers of the Public Emergency Regulations, the responsibility to veto or vet any articles or news items it considered inflammatory and in need of editing.

"Editors for radio and online media are now required to send all news scripts to the Ministry of Information email well before every major news bulletin in addition to the officers who will be assigned to your newsroom during news hour," the Memo said.

Sources say this is being done because censors can't be present, especially during the early morning bulletins on radio, because they're exhausted.

Interim regime confirms government channel

The Fiji interim government has confirmed to Radio New Zealand the exclusive story reported by Coupfourpointfive regarding a deal with two media organisations for it to access air time and editorial space.

Lieutenant Colonel Neumi Leweni has confirmed the regime plans to launch a Fiji government channel next week.

He said the channel will be a paid one, but it will be made available at no cost to everyone when it airs the interim regime's broadcasts on initiatives and development programmes.

Leweni said the government is still discussing with the newspaper, the Fiji Sun, a similar deal which would allow it to access to 12 - or more pages - every week to update the nation on the work it was doing.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lest we forget - Coup anniversary and arrival of Indians to Fiji

May 14 is an important date in Fiji’s history. It marks the 130th anniversary of the arrival of Indian Indentured labourers to Fiji from the Indian sub-continent. At that time both India and Fiji were British colonies.

On May 14 1879, the first batch of Girmityas or Indentured labourers arrived from India on board the ship Leonidas. They were the first of a total of 60,553 Indians brought from the sub-continent between 1879 and 1916 when the Indenture period ended. They were brought to Fiji by the British Colonial government to turn the sugar industry into the backbone of Fiji’s economy.

Most of the labourers did not take the option of returning to India upon completion of their five year indenture period and decided to make Fiji their home, to start their livelihood and primarily to continue strengthening the industry into Fiji’s largest foreign exchange earner, a reputation it enjoyed until 10-12 years ago when tourism overtook the industry as the largest foreign exchange earner.

But nothing can change history and the plight of the Girmityas, is well-documented.

In 1979, the State celebrated the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the indentured labourers. At that time the Indian population had overtaken the indigenous Fijian population. But currently the Indian population is around 37 percent and declining due to migration and low birth rate. The Fijian population is more than 57 percent, according to the 2007 Population Census.

Coupfourpointfive pays tribute to the Indo-Fijian population and the sacrifice of their forefathers. The ship Leonidas departed India with 478 passengers bound for Fiji. 463 passengers survived the long journey while 15 died. The 463 passengers arrived in Fiji waters on the 14th of May 1879 but were offloaded the following day. They have gone into history as the first Girmityas of Fiji.

The first military coup of May 14, 1987: 22nd anniversary

“At 10 o’clock this morning, members of the Royal Fiji Military Forces took over the Government of Fiji. They have neutralised Parliament and by the same process have suspended the Constitution of Fiji”. – Lieutenant-Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka announcing the takeover of Dr Timoci Bavadra’s democratically elected National Federation Party/Fiji Labour Party Coalition Government 22 yeas ago.

This was the news that shocked Fiji and the rest of the world on Thursday 14th May 1987. A thick mustached Lieutenant-Colonel Rabuka, the 3rd highest ranking officer in the military at that time, basically usurped the powers of his Commander Brigadier Ratu Epeli Nailatikau and Chief of Staff Colonel Jim Sanday to overthrow Dr Bavadra’s NFP/FLP Coalition government that had been in power for only five weeks. Dressed in a grey suit and wearing a military tie, Rabuka told a packed media conference that the army and he were now in charge of Fiji.

At the time Nailatikau was in Australia and his only statement in the hours after the coup was to discourage the armed forces of Australia and New Zealand from taking military action to end the coup.

At 10am Rabuka led a team of elite and well trained group of fully armed soldiers to topple the government by the barrel of the gun. At that time Rabuka would not have known that he had basically uncorked the bottle and let the coup genie out. Since May 14, 1987, Fiji has had four and a half coups - 25th September 1987 again by Rabuka; 19th May 2000, 5th December 2006, and April 10, 2009.

The coups of 25th September 1987 and 10th April 2009 are very similar. In carrying out his coup, Rabuka overthrew the Deuba Accord, a political accord between NFP/FLP Coalition and Ratu Mara’s Alliance Party. The Deuba Accord was an agreement of compromise by the ousted government for it to participate in a Council of the State headed by the then Governor-General Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau. The Accord was struck in Deuba on 23rd September.

The primary function of that Council was to return Fiji to democracy as soon as possible. But as history shows Fiji was expelled from the Commonwealth despite Ratu Mara’s return as Interim Prime Minister and Ratu Penaia becoming the President after the country was declared a republic.

The event of 10th April 2009 is exactly the same as the 2nd coup. A day after the Fiji Court of Appeal ruling overturned an earlier High Court decision legitimising the coup of 5th December, the Appeals Court comprising of three expatriate judges ruled that the dismissal of Laisenia Qarase as PM and other subsequent events were illegal. The Court ruled that a caretaker PM apart from Laisenia Qarase or Frank Bainimarama be appointed to take Fiji to elections.

Less than 24 hours later, the President abrogated the Constitution and re-instated Frank Bainimarama’s interim regime.

The NFP/FLP Coalition

For the 1987 general elections held in April, the Fiji Labour Party, founded in July 1985, formed a coalition with the National Federation Party – a party fragmented with in-fighting but still commanding majority Indian support. The fragmentation of NFP started upon the departure of its leader Jai Ram Reddy from Parliament in December 1983. In May 1984, he lost his seat after refusing to return to Parliament under the rule of the then Speaker Tomasi Vakatora and deliberately missed two sessions. But he still commanded respect and widespread support amongst the Indian community.

However, when Labour formed a coalition with NFP, they turned to Reddy for assistance in getting NFP stalwarts and supporters to agree to a coalition. During the 1987 election campaign, Reddy was the keynote coalition speaker with Dr Bavadra. But he did not contest the 1987 elections. In a tightly contested race, the Alliance Party, whose leader Ratu Mara had described the coalition “like oil and water which cannot mix” won 24 seats while the coalition won 28 seats in the 52 Member House of Representatives. Both coalition partners won 14 seats each.

In 1977, the Alliance Party had lost to Siddiq Koya’s NFP by 24-26 seats with Sakeasi Butadroka splitting the Fijian votes but Ratu Mara was returned as PM by the then Governor-General Ratu Sir George Cakobau.

In April 1987 when the Alliance Party finally lost its grip on power after a 17-year rule since Independence in 1970, the Fijian community was angry at Jai Ram Reddy. Their anger increased when Dr Bavadra appointed Reddy as a Senator and his Attorney-General and Minister for Justice. The Deputy PM was NFP leader Harish Sharma while the Finance Minister was Mahendra Chaudhry.

Protest marches started around the country with the first march and roadblocks in Tavua. The placards read; “Bavadra the boat Reddy the Captain”. Reddy’s law firm Stuart Reddy & Co at Lautoka was firebombed by arsonists and destroyed. His home in Lautoka was also fire-bombed. But these were no reasons for the coup. In the days after the coup, Fijian nationalism raised is ugly head and Rabuka led the cries of “Noqu Kalou noqu vanua” – My God my country.

Newspapers shut down briefly

When Sitiveni Rabuka executed the coup, he locked up all the Coalition MPs (except one or two) at the Prime Minister’s residence in Veiuto (library and research facility of new Parliament after 1992). Initially they were taken to Queen Elizabeth Barracks in Nabua.

The army tried to segregate them and Indian MPs were forcibly removed to Borron House. Dr Bavadra and all his MPs were released after six days by which time Rabuka had installed a military government.

The two daily newspapers at that time were The Fiji Times and Fiji Sun (which closed down after the 2nd coup for refusing to buckle to censorship). Both published the story about the coup on its front pages on 15th May and condemned the military action. The Fiji Sun went a step further and posed a question whether Ratu Epeli Nailatikau was conveniently missing from Fiji and who were behind Rabuka. The editorial written by two directors described Fiji as being turned into a banana republic.

Both newspapers were ordered to shut down for 6 days and resumed publishing 6 days later reporting on the release of the hostages. They were allowed to print uncensored until the 2nd coup happened. The other news channel at that time belonged to Radio Fiji and it was censored because it was and is government owned. The newest entrant in the media market was Communications Fiji Ltd – then broadcaster of FM 96 radio station. It defied censorship in 1987 and built a reputation as an independent news organization. However, that reputation is being tarnished by the Radio Stations’ newsroom both before and after 5th December 2006.

On Friday 3rd November 1989, Dr Timoci Uluivuda Bavadra died at the Lautoka Hospital having returned from New Zealand just three days earlier. He had succumbed to terminal cancer. Dr Bavadra was only 54 when he died. In a funeral not seen before and close to 60,000 people passed through Viseisei village to pay their last respects as well as attend his funeral on two days(November 7 & 8)- Coupfourpointfive Opinion

See right of blog for the front page of the Fiji Times and Fiji Sun on May 15, 1987.

Fiji Times journalist released

Fiji Times journalist Theresa Ralogaivau was released from police custody at 4.45pm this afternoon.

She was taken in for questioning at the Labasa Police Station at 10am this morning without being charged.

Sources say the interim regime weren't happy with her story headlined "Drug Terror," which appeared in the Fiji Times on Monday May 11.

Her story was about how the police were close to arresting four men who terrorised families at Baulevu outside Labasa over the weekend.

Her story was confirmed by police spokesman Atunaisa Sokomuri and he was quoted in the story.

Since her arrest, Sokomuri has denied he spoke to the journalist.

Ralogaivau is the fifth local reporter to be detained.

Police confirm detainment of Lasaro

As predicted by Coupfourpointfive, the former head of the Methodist Church in Fiji has been detained.

There were conflicting reports earlier this week that he had been taken in, but in an interview with Radio New Zealand International, Reverend Manasa Lasaro said he wasn't detained yet, but was expecting to be.

Fiji police have now confirmed to Radio Australia he was detained this morning for questioning in Suva.

Senior Superintendant Waisea Tavakau says Lasaro was engaged in suspicious activity but no charges have been laid yet.

Last week, the Methodist Church issued a statement opposing the military regime and flyers were distributed to church members to prepare for a spiritual march.

Reverend Lasaro had predicted he would be detained and said he was not worried.

Journalist still in custody

Fiji Times journalist Theresa Ralogaivau is still in police custody in Labasa.

She was taken in this morning after her story headlined "Drug Terror" appeared in the Fiji Times on Monday May 11.

Her story was about how police were close to arresting four men who terrorised families at Baulevu outside Labasa over the weekend.

Her story was confirmed by police spokesman Atunaisa Sokomuri and she quoted him in it.

However since her arrest, Sokomuri has denied he spoke to the journalist.

Ralogaivau is the fifth local journalist to be detained by police.

Minutes of censors' meeting sent to Coupfourpointfive

Here are the minutes of a meeting between censors that was leaked to Coupfurpointfive.

It was chaired by the Ministry of Information's Neumi Leweni. As our story (Military regime to push propaganda through media)shows yesterday, the military regime plan to not only continue holding the media under its thumb, but also plan to introduce a Media law, after the emergency regulations run out, to control the media.

It's believed the briefing below, was sent to Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum.


Brief on the Media Liaison Officer’s meeting-Parliament Complex on Friday 24 April 2009 at 3.00pm

The meeting of the Media Liaison Officers was chaired by the Permanent Secretary for Information, Mr. Neumi Leweni and the following officers were part of his briefing team.

1. Mr. Setareki Tale, Acting Deputy Secretary for Information
2. Mr. Filimoni Kau, Deputy Secretary for National Planning
3. Mr. Nonu Pene, PAS, Ministry of Information

The main agenda of the meeting is the Public Emergency Regulation currently in place and will expire on 10 May 2009.

The following matters were discussed and deliberated during the meeting.

1. The Public Emergency Regulation is government’s initiative and to be followed by every Ministries so that the government can fulfill its purpose and goals.

2. How each Ministries MLO could assist the joint operation currently undertaken by the Police/Military/Ministry of information to censor the media outlets every day

3. MLO are to collectively report positively and be leading examples to the media organizations. News disseminated must be structured positively.

4. Ministry of Information and Fiji TV is to sign an agreement soon for a government channel for 2-7 hours per week to broadcast government’s development programs

5. Ministry of information will also be signing and agreement with Fiji Sun to include a 12 pages Report in their newspapers weekly about all the initiatives and programs undertaken by the government

6. All Ministries MLO’s are to at least make contributions to the 12 pages Report on the initiatives and programs taken by their Ministries

7. “Way Forward after 10th May”- Extension of the Public Emergency Regulation or Promulgation of Media Law to be decree

8. Emphasis to be made to all Permanent Secretaries to appoint a Media Liaison Officer in all Ministries to network with all MLO’s and Ministry of Information for a Way Forward. This will also be made to a briefing to be made to all Permanent Secretary soon by the Ministry of Information.

The meeting ends at 4.20pm.

Respectfully submitted; for your information.

Editors Note: See right of blog for a Memo from the Information Ministry to online editors and radio news directors.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

BREAKING - Military regime to push propaganda through media

There's revelations tonight that Fiji's interim regime plans to use the Fiji media to push its propaganda.

Coupfourpoinfive has received a leaked document containing minutes of a meeting held at the Parliamentary complex in Veiuto.

The meeting was chaired by the Permanent Secretary of Information Lieutenant-Colonel Neumi Leweni and attended by Acting Deputy Secretary for Information Setareki Tale, the Deputy Secretary for National Planning and a former long serving information officer Filimoni Kau and the Principal Administrative Officer in the Information Ministry, Pene Nonu.

Nonu is widely believed to be the chief censor of all censors assigned to newsrooms since 10th April. He was also the Principal Policy & Analysis Officer in the Office of the Prime Minister under Laisenia Qarase.

The meeting of the four individuals started at 3.00pm and ended at 4.20pm. The four men discussed and agreed upon the following:

- Public Emergency Regulations to be followed by every Ministry so that the regime can fulfill its purposes and goals.

- How each Ministry’s Media Liaison Officer (MLO) could assist the Police, Military and Information Ministry to censor media outlets daily

- Media Liaison Officers to report positively and act as role models for media organizations, and to positively structure all news disseminated to the media

- Information Ministry and regime to sign an agreement with Fiji Television for a pro-regime channel for 2-7 weeks per week to broadcast the State’s development programmes

- Information Ministry to sign an agreement with the Fiji Sun newspaper (that accepted the new legal order via is editorial on 11th April) to publish a weekly 12-page lift-out about regime’s programmes and initiatives

- All Ministries and Media Liaison Officers to contribute towards the 12-page Fiji Sun lift-out

In what the meeting described as “Way forward after 10th May” the four recommended for the extension of Public Emergency Regulations or Promulgation of Media Law to be decreed.

The “Way Forward” as described by the four is obviously to ensure that even if the Public Emergency Regulations are not extended beyond 10th June, the media will be subjected to the same intense censorship and scrutiny practiced by the regime since April 10.

The plan by the regime is to Decree Media Laws via a promulgation.

Kevin Rudd's statement on Fiji

It was with a sense of dismay that Pacific Island Forum leaders agreed in January in Port Moresby that, unless Commodore Bainimarama set a date for elections in 2009 by 1 May, his government must be suspended from participating in Forum meetings and events, and lose access to Forum financial and technical assistance. These measures came into effect on 2 May. In its thirty-eight year history, the Forum has never before had to take such action.

As our senior statesman Prime Minister Somare said last month, regional countries have all bent over backwards to encourage Commodore Bainimarama to do the right thing and restore Fiji to democracy.

It is not the Forum which has walked away from Fiji; sadly, it has been Commodore Bainimarama who has walked away from us. He has not attended the last two Forum Leaders meetings. The Forum’s Ministerial Contact Group has visited Fiji twice, but Commodore Bainimarama has declined to engage constructively with it. The officials-level Fiji/Forum Joint Working Group remains in existence – but Fiji has stopped attending its meetings.

The countries of the Forum are by no means alone in our dismay. The United Nations Security Council has unanimously condemned recent developments in Fiji. The Commonwealth will soon consider the full suspension of Fiji. The United States is limiting links with the Fijian military. With others in the international community, the European Union is also taking a firm stance.

The damage which Commodore Bainimarama has done to Fiji’s international standing, and to the international reputation of Fiji’s military, is bad enough. But the real tragedy is what is occurring on the ground to the good and proud people of Fiji. Rather than fulfil his promise to hold elections by March 2009 and restore the voice of the citizens of Fiji, on 10 April Commodore Bainimarama cast aside Fiji’s Constitution. He has since moved to sack the judiciary, censor the media, prohibit free assembly and step up intimidation of the Fijian people. All the normal checks and balances on government have now been eliminated.

The political crackdown is compounded by the incalculable damage Commodore Bainimarama is doing to Fiji’s economy, which has left it much more vulnerable to the current global economic crisis. Poverty has never been higher, and by some estimates as much as 40 per cent of the population may now live in basic-needs poverty. That hurts women and children especially.

Commodore Bainimarama is ignoring the major political parties in Fiji, all of which support a prompt return to democracy. Having broken his pledge to hold elections, he is now publicly saying that elections won’t be held until 2014. Privately, he is telling his military that it may take up to ten years. This is the behaviour of a military junta.

The people and their representatives must be part of the process of governing Fiji. We don’t think genuine reform can be achieved through threats and force. We don’t think the rule of law can be strengthened by breaking the law. We don’t think accountability can be strengthened by arbitrary rule. But we do think that the longer elections are delayed in Fiji, the worse Fiji’s problems will get.

Do we oppose reforms in Fiji, including electoral reform? Not as a matter of principle, but in the end that is a matter for the people of Fiji themselves. Unfortunately at the present time the people of Fiji are unable to express their views freely either through elected representatives or in the media. (There is no credibility to the interim government’s claim that, of those people who were consulted about the People’s Charter, over 92 per cent approved of it.) In any event it is absurd to suggest that up to five more years are needed to prepare for elections.

Electoral reform was on the agenda of Fiji’s political dialogue process, a process which was cut short on 9 April. Until that time, Australia had been observing the dialogue with some interest and a sense of guarded optimism. We were preparing to provide financial support to the process. Unfortunately, Commodore Bainimarama wanted to hand-pick those who were to participate, and to exclude some of Fiji’s biggest political parties. This is not a viable basis for genuine dialogue and Commodore Bainimarama must bear personal responsibility for the failure of this process.

Australia will continue to seek constructive ways of helping the people of Fiji, and helping Fiji itself return to democracy. We will continue our targeted sanctions against regime leaders and supporters while maintaining significant support to the people of Fiji including in the areas of health, education and humanitarian relief. For instance, Australia responded promptly to the floods in January by providing A$3million in aid. Australia also stands ready to provide significant economic assistance to Fiji to assist it through its current economic problems provided there is a restoration of democracy. This would include support for elections and would also extend well beyond this, to help rebuild Fiji’s broken economy.

When Forum Leaders assemble in Cairns in August this year for our annual gathering, Fiji’s absence will be something we all feel keenly, and indeed regret. But it will also be a sign of our region’s commitment to the core values of democracy, respect for the rule of law and for human rights.

Does the Forum’s door remain open? I hope so. Forum Leaders have made a point of suspending Fiji’s interim government, not Fiji itself, from the Forum. This is an important distinction which underlines our respect for a founding member of the Forum, and also our hope that Fiji can quickly return to its place as a leader of our region. But the onus now is on Commodore Bainimarama to do the right thing. He knows what he must do.

Kevin Rudd
Prime Minister of Australia

Pacnews to move to Brisbane

BREAKING - Sources have told Coupfourpointfive that the Pacific news agency, Pacnews, will be relocated to Brisbane, Australia.

The Pacific Island's News Association, which owns Pacnews, confirmed earlier today it would move the news service out of Fiji immediately, but hadn't named a location.

Since the implementation of emergency regulations, Pacnews has refused to publish any story about Fiji to avoid having a censor placed in its Suva newsroom.

There's been calls to move the Pacific news agency out of Fiji, because of the unstable political climate and heavy media censorship.

Sources say PINA will decide at it's conference in July, whether its Secretariat needs to be relocated outside of Fiji as well.

Air Pacific workers accept 10 percent pay cut

As revealed by Coupfourpointfive on May 1, Air Pacific workers are taking a 10 percent pay cut.

The union representing Air Pacific workers have today agreed to accept a pay cut for a period of three months, effective immediately.

The executive management and contracted staff have also taken a 15 and 10 percent cut respectively.

Air Pacific Managing Director and CEO, John Campbell, says they've experienced significant downturns in overall business and praised staff for being understanding.

"I am very proud and humbled by the willingness of our staff to understand and accomodate the challenging circumstances currently faced."

"This shows a maturity and generosity of spirit that will greatly assist Air Pacific through very troubled times," Mr Campbell said.

Interim regime confirms early release of Rabaka's killers

Pictured - One of Sakiusa Rabaka's killers, Ulaisi Radike

The Fiji Times has today published a confirmation from Fiji's interim regime, about the early release of eight soldiers and one policeman, who were convicted for manslaughter for killing three civilians.

The story appears on Page 4, of today's Fiji Times, with a confirmation from prison authorities that the convicted soldiers and policeman have been released under Compulsory Supervision Orders.

The story was reported by overseas media and blogsites last week but the local media were banned from reporting it.

According to the Fiji Times, Natabua Prison officer-in-charge Jerry Bakeiyasawa confirmed the man who were charged with the death of Nadi youth Sakiusa Rabaka were released on Monday afternoon.

The nine were sentenced in February.

Prisons Commisioner Ioane Naivalurua told the Fiji Times he had sent his response regarding the release to the Information Ministry.

But questions sent to the Information Ministry remained unanswered despite numerous calls from the Fiji Times.

Reverend Akuila Yabaki, from the Citizens' Constitutional Forum, told the Fiji Times, the release of the nine undermined the rule of law.

"The eight soldiers and a police officer were serving sentences of four years and four months for a very serious crime of manslaughter of a teenage boy in early 2007. To release them on Community Supervision Orders two months after their sentencing undermines the authority of the courts to sentence and shows bias and unfair discrimination.

"These early releases are abhorrent to the rule of law," he said,

He said the CCF was concerned there was no opportunity for judicial review of the decision to release the prisoners as there was no High Court.

The nine now free are policeman Patrick Nayacalagilagi, and soldiers Taione Lua, Ulaisi Radike, Etonio Nadura, Ratunaisa Toutou, Joeli Lesavua, Jona Nareki, Ilaisa Kurimavua and Napolioni Naulia.

Church leader detained?

Updated 11.12am - There's conflicting reports over the Methodist Church Leader, Reverend Manasa Lasaro.

Sources told us yesterday that Rev Lasaro was taken in by soldiers to Queen Elizabeth Barracks last night.

Sources said soldiers went to his home in Nawanawa Nasinu, and escorted him to the barracks for planning a spiritual march against the interim regime, next week.

Sources say flyers were sent to senior church ministers around the country informing them of the march.

However other blogs are reporting that Rev Lasaro was not detained, though he had hoped to, to give a reason for the Methodist Church protesting.

Our sources are trying to verify the conflicting reports and this will be updated, once the information comes to hand.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Controversy over administrator's sister working at SCC

It's understood the sister of the admnistrator of the Suva City Council has been employed as a temporary worker for the council.

The sister of Vijendra Prakash is understood to have been brought in to relieve another employee, who took leave.

The revelation that Prakash' sister is working for the council comes as a number of workers are being made to retire early, this Friday.

Sources say Prakash’s sister is employed as a cleaner at the Suva Civic Centre - also known as Old Town Hall - earning close to $4 an hour.

They say she has been recruited as a temporary or relieving worker for three months in contravention of an agreement with the workers’ union – National Union of Municipal Workers which represents un-established workers.

Under the agreement, temporary or relieving workers must be recruited from a data pool of all former temporary workers and those applying for unskilled work.

Sources believe Prakash’s sister will be confirmed as a permanent worker after three months.

The Civic Centre is said to be over-staffed after un-established workers employed at the SCC Olympic Swimming Pool were attached to the Civic Centre cleaning work force after the pool was closed more than 6 months ago, when its entire pump and filtration plant broke down.

It has also been confirmed that about ten workers involved in the Dairy industry – were also hired by Prakash as temporary workers and are likely to be made permanent employees.

It's understood thed moves come as SCC’s entire workforce of about 450 have not received a cost of living adjustment for 2008. The increase is normally negotiated between the two unions and SCC in February/March the following year and backdated to the 1st January of the preceding year and paid before Easter.

Vijendra Prakash is the secretary of the Dairy Farmers Association and the general secretary of the Sanatan Dharam Sabha of Fiji.

Fiji says forum suspension suits Australia, NZ stranglehold

The acting head of Fiji's interim government says Australia and New Zealand wanted the interim regime suspended from the Forum to maintain their political stronghold on the region.

Interim attorney-general Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says they are ready to engage with Forum members as long as they understand that the path forward will be determined by Fiji. He told Geraldine Coutts from Radio Australia the Forum needs to sort out what they should do next.

KHAIYUM: The question now that needs to be asked is what can the forum do now? What does the suspension now do for the forum? What does it mean for Pacific solidarity? It would appear that the forum and the chair has taken this action simply as a means of reflecting the very extreme position that Australia and New Zealand has taken against Fiji. It's a very sort of extremist attitude of taking this punitive type action as opposed to try and sit down and understand. The reality in Fiji is that the Constitution has been abrogated. There is a new legal order and the prime minister has written to the chair essentially sighting all these instances, stating that this is the state of play in Fiji. Let's sit down and discuss about what's happening in Fiji, what should happen in Fiji, and what we have to say about Fiji, where we see ourselves in the Pacific. But unfortunately, none of this was taken on board. So we have always been willing to engage. They have not engaged. We still want to engage. So we will see what the forum says to that.

COUTTS: But there has been a lack of meeting of the minds. Fiji has got its path forward and the forum and its members have another idea of a path forward, is there a middle ground?

KHAIYUM: Well, I think it all depends on how you see it, because we believe that the middle ground means entering into dialogue and talking to us and coming to us with an open mind. As we've said previously, it would appear, and in particular, the main sort of articulated if you like, the people who are conveying this message are Australia and New Zealand who are saying have the elections at any cost, have elections tomorrow, not withstanding the fact that the system of the electoral system is inherently flawed. It does not comply with universally accepted principles of equal suffrage . So why should Fiji have elections under a system that is flawed that will create further political instability in the medium to short term, simply to satisfy a particular foreign policy. So what we are saying is we want to get it right now. Let's fix up the problem so we do not get into these sorts of issues again.

Now we find it very hard to understand as to why the Australians and New Zealanders are not willing to understand that. There seems to be a very dogmatic approach to while what we have said is right, come what may. And it may well be a case. I mean some people have said to me that perhaps it may well be a case where Australia and New Zealand seem to be not now, simply trying to get "democracy" but it has become more of a geopolitical issue in terms of their sphere of influence within the Pacific and I think that may be really the issue here a stake for that. What we are simply saying is that we need to get things right in Fiji, that's what we are concerned about.

You may also recall that in Fiji, for example, post '87, after the two coups of Rabuka, did not have elections for five years.

COUTTS: But the military did return to barracks a couple of months after?

KHAIYUM: But Fiji never suspended. There is no military on the streets here.

COUTTS: But I think that's a difference that the military went back to barracks a couple of months after the '87 coups and that's the significant difference I think?

KHAIYUM: There is no soldiers out in the street in Fiji. So they are in the barracks. There is absolutely no difference. Well there is a lot of difference in terms of the rational and the motivation and the various bridges that took place in 87 compared to now. But the point is that there is no military on the streets.

COUTTS: Fiji is certainly a founding member of the Forum. Does it come with a responsibility to make sure that it finds its way back into the Forum?

KHAIYUM: I think it's the responsibility of everybody in the Pacific to ensure that all forum members are within the forum itself. It's not simply a question of the onus being left to Fiji. Fiji has always been wanting to engage. The other thing you need to question is the suspension apparently says that we will no longer be participating in any new initiatives. There on the other hand, they are also saying that Fiji is not suspended per say, but if in their words the military regime it's leader, the ministries and officials. So the officials cannot participate, the ministers cannot participate and the prime minister. Then who will represent Fiji? Now these things have not been made clear.

We have just found out that New Zealand that is sponsoring the next round of meetings on PACER and PACER Plus in Vanuatu. Fiji has not been invited to that. Now how can you implement PACER and PACER PLUS with without Fiji being part of it?

Pacific Beat, Radio Australia

IFJ applauds release of journalists

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is relieved to learn that two journalists detained without charge in Fiji since May 9 were released.

However, the IFJ once again condemns the draconian censorship being applied by Fiji’s military regime, which has posted Department of Information censors in all news outlets.

Dionisia Turagabeci and Shelvin Chand, journalists with Fijilive, were detained after the independent online news service posted a report about the release under a Compulsory Supervision Order of eight soldiers and one police officer jailed for manslaughter.

Sources report that the news item included comments from a civil society leader who voiced concern at the early release of the nine.

Turagabeci and Chand were detained under emergency regulations brought in by 2006 coup leader Frank Bainimarama after the abrogation of the country’s constitution on April 10. The 30-day regulations were renewed last week until June 10.

The New Zealand-based Coupfourpointfive news blog reported sources as saying that the Fijilive news item was viewed by a censor before being posted. However, an officer at the Police Command Centre – believed to be a member of a team monitoring online news content – called Fijilive and ordered the report be taken down.

Sources say Fijilive removed the report, but the officer failed to refresh the webpage and believed the order had been ignored.

The two journalists were subsequently detained and held at Suva’s Central Police Station. They were reportedly denied visitors and access to a lawyer.

Their detention follows earlier temporary detentions of Fiji Television journalist Edwin Nand and Pacnews journalist Pita Ligaula.

“The military regime’s strict censorship is not only preventing journalists from doing their jobs and reporting in the public interest at a critical time for Fiji,” IFJ general secretary Aidan White said.

“Censors appear to be caught in a guessing game to determine what Bainimarama means when he calls for ‘journalism of hope’, and are making ad hoc decisions that make it impossible for journalists and the media to know the limits to which the regime will go to deny information to the people of Fiji.”

The IFJ again calls on Fiji’s military leaders to recognise the harm that is being done to Fiji, and to act now to restore the rights of journalists to report in the public interest.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide.

International Federation of Journalists - Pacific Media Watch

Bloggers debate media censorhsip

By Michael Hartsell - Global Voices Online/Pacific Media Watch

As reported here last week, Fiji’s government extended for another 30 days its “emergency regulations” that, among other things, controls public gatherings and forbids the media from printing stories that “undermine the Government and the State of Fiji.” These rules allow the Permanent Secretary of Information the ability to place censors in newsrooms, accompanied by plainclothes policeman.

Fiji’s government says the 30-day extension was “highly necessary,” and the censorship will “help the country’s progress towards democracy.” “The people of Fiji are now experiencing a remarkable change from what used to be highly negative and sensationalized news to a more positive, balanced and responsible reporting by the media,” said Government and Military spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Neumi Leweni.

Prime Minister and military commander Frank Bainimarama told a Fiji-born journalist now living and working in Australia, that he hopes to mould Fiji into a smaller version of Singapore, where keeping the peace ranks higher than freedom of expression.

In a post at Raw Fiji News, a writer called fijidemocracynow2009 doubts the government’s claims of reforming the country’s race-based electoral code and moving Fiji to a post-racial society.

The dictator says censorship is necessary for his regime to push ahead with reforms without the
hindrance of media opposition.
That is a big lie. The dictator has no intention of relinquishing power, which is exactly what he would have
to do if there were to be reforms that eventually led to elections.
The truth is that the comprehensive censorship of our media is designed to cover up Frank Bainimarama’s criminality.
The information blackout is supposed to prevent us and the rest of the world from watching the dictator consolidate his one-man rule for the long term.
He doesn’t want journalists reporting the ongoing intimidation of the regime’s critics or questioning actions such as the release of the convicted killers of Sakiusa Rabaka and Nimilote Verebasaga.
No, he wants a clean shot at turning Fiji into Bainimaramaland.
But, thanks to Fiji’s Freedom Bloggers, his movements are being closely monitored and faithfully reported. So censorship is NOT working!

So far, at least two local journalists have been detained for allegedly breaking the emergency regulations. Most recently, Coup Four And A Half reports, two more journalists, this time from the website Fiji Live, were taken into custody 3 PM Saturday, May 9 for allegedly reporting and publishing an article regarding the early release of members of the country’s security forces who were jailed for manslaughter after being convicted of torturing and killing three civilians in early 2007. These alleged detentions have not yet been confirmed. Update: Police have confirmed they are questioning the two reporters.

The government of Fiji has also deported three foreign journalists in the previous two months.

In other news, Netani Rika, editor of the Fiji Times, discussed media freedom at the Pacific Freedom Forum XIX, supposed to take place in Fiji, but the country’s political climate forced organizers to change the venue to Apia, Samoa.

Rika’s speech marked the first time a Fiji-based journalist spoke of working conditions under the new rules. He reported that since the Emergency Rules were introduced April 10, the number of censors have increased in newsrooms. Other than the worries of self-censorship practiced by journalists, Rika said one of the problems facing Fiji’s media is the inconsistency of rules that exist between different censors. The Fiji Times newspaper continues to report on political events, he said, much of those stories are cut from the newspaper. However, some censors are stricter than others. Which stories make the paper remains at the discretion of the censor on duty.

From Rika’s speech at the Pacific Freedom Forum event, published in Coup Four And A Half:

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.

Offering a rebuttal, Real Fiji News, a new pro-government blog, said it was “amazing that [Rika] went all the way to Samoa to tell the audience this piece of useless information.”

Ok, so let's not forget this, Netani, you had been warned several times about biased reporting, no one was stopping you ‘telling the truth’. It is unfortunate that you are blinded by your own self loathing of the IG. If you actually reported correctly you wouldn’t have been censored.

Stuck in Fiji M.U.D. says that journalists are missing the region’s larger story while sticking to story of media freedom in the Pacific.

Ironically, while those journalists were enjoying their well-endorsed junket in Apia, oblivious to the fact that media freedom is not the central story.

It seems that, the diplomatic negotiations to the Pacific Free Trade Plan (PACER Plus) and the detrimental effects of this Trans-Tasman lobbied treaty; has somewhat not registered highly on their list of priorities; despite the notion that those negotiations affect all Pacific Island states.

Is the lack of coverage on those trades negotiations, a clear demonstration that most news published in the Pacific, is viewed through the prism of their Australian or New Zealand Publisher or Editor?

The funny thing about these Pacific media Forums is that these journalists, really don't focus much on Pacific trade negotiations with EU, US or Australia or New Zealand or even in-depth coverage of their own industry and the future trends of their profession based on the current global events like the changing landscape of the news paper business.
It's just that Freedom of the Media is a story that elevates sales and elevated sales mean elevated circulations. SiFM fills in this lack of analytical and balanced coverage.

New Zealand-based journalist and academic David Robie, who attended the meeting, has a similar line of argument. He reports that Fiji’s problems sometimes overshadowed other regional issues at the meeting.

From his Café Pacific:

PACIFIC media freedom advocates meeting in Apia, Samoa, this week did their best to keep the Fiji censorship problem in proportion and give other regional issues a good hearing. But it was tough. The Fiji challenge kept bubbling to the surface, leading to a spirited debate on the future of [Pacific Islands News Association] at one session and feisty calls for the regional news service Pacnews to get out of Suva at others. Fiji dominated all the speeches on the opening day with several of the region's media freedom heavyweights giving the regime a hard time - but they also warned that the young generation coming through into the industry should not be seduced by government freebies.

A bit off topic, but only a bit. Loyal Fijian criticises international media organisations for allowing parachute journalists to briefly land Fiji and report on rumors and hearsay and then wonder why the reporters are asked to leave.

And so, we have a certain so-called journalist who thinks he has a god given right to jet in and out as and when he wishes.

We are a small country sir, but we are a sovereign nation. The citizens of this country expect our authorities to maintain law and order.

If a journalist does their job to report fairly and with balance, that's a different story. But what about someone who is publishing a blog filled with rumour , speculation and innuendo aimed at humiliating senior public figures and even inciting unrest and mutiny.

There is a story being peddled by this NZ based self-proclaimed journalist that the Commander of the FMF had an attachment with the Chilean navy ages ago and then goes on to very mischievously suggest that this somehow has a bearing on what's happening in Fiji now.

I-War 101. The Big Lie Theory! Don't let the truth get in the way of a good story…

whats next? Accuse an FMF officer who has been through the American officer training facility in Hawaii (a highly rewarding experience, we are told) of being complicit in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo?

What hypocrisy and rumour mongering!

That's where this bloke crosses the line. Using bits and pieces of hearsay to try and conjure up an image in order to achieve a political objective.

That's not journalism, that's propaganda.

When the current government of Commodore Frank Bainimarama dissolved Parliament and ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase in December 2006, they instituted roughly six months of similar emergency rules, but with no censors in newsrooms. However, journalists complained of “working in an environment of fear, of persecution and harassment” because of actions by members of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces.

These most recent Emergency Rules began shortly after April 9, 2009 when judges ruled that Bainimarama came into power illegally, forcing him to step down and the country’s president to appoint a caretaker government to lead the country to new elections. The president argued he had no such constitutional powers. Instead, he annulled the 1997 constitution, fired the entire judiciary and eventually reappointed Bainimarama’s government to a five-year mandate, claiming elections would be held in 2014.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Fiji judiciary still in limbo

There is growing concern about Fiji's dysfunctional judiciary.

The High Court remains closed 31 days after the abrogation of the Constitution, with no sign of any judges or a Chief Justice being appointed.

All sitting judges and magistrates were terminated by the Revocation of Judicial Appointments Decree.

Eight of the nine magistrates have been re-appointed with the new appointee being Nadi lawyer Faizal Koya, a speaker of the Fiji Muslim League and son of Former Opposition Leader, the late Siddiq Koya.

Legal sources have told us, that so far the magistrates have only been adjourning cases, allocating dates, granting bail or remanding suspects.

They say all High Court cases have been allocated new dates from mid-June.

The cases were initially deferred from April to May but kept getting shifted by the High Court Registry.

Coupfourpointfive can confirm the following judges have signalled clearly that they will not accept appointments under the New Legal Order:

1. Anthony Gates (former Chief Justice)
2. Nazhat Shameem
3. Jiten Singh
4. Filimoni Jitoko
5. Gwen Philips
6. Thomas Hickie (returned to Australia)
7. Jocelyn Scutt (returning to Australia)

Isikeli Mataitoga and Daniel Gounder haven't indicated yet whether they will take up positions under the new judiciary, but both are likely to take the same stand as their colleagues.

Lautoka lawyer Ikbal Khan’s name has surfaced as a judge and even as Chief Justice.

Our legal sources have told us that Colonel Mohammed Aziz, who acts as army commander in Frank Bainimarama’s absence, travelled to Ba last Thursday to convince constitutional lawyer and Fiji Football Association President, Dr Mohammad Samshu-Din Sahu Khan, to accept appointment of Chief Justice.

We can confirm Dr Sahu Khan declined Aziz’s offer.

Suva City Council to lay off workers

The Suva City Council has given notice to both its staff and un-established workers who have turned 60, to retire this Friday, May the 15th.

Workers who perform skilled work, like operating plant and machinery, come under the Council's unestablished workers category.

Coupfourpointfive has been told 15 un-established workers received a letter from the chief executive, Ratu Ilitomasi Verenakadavu. A similar number of staff also got the letter. The letter informs employees of imminent retirement on May the 15th.

Verenakadavu states he has been directed to implement Section XIV Sub-section 28 (iii) of the Master Agreement between the SCC and the National Union of Municipal Workers, that states un-established workers who are of over 60, shall be retired.

Verenakadavu writes that as a result, he is advising with regret that he has no other recourse but to retire all affected workers.

Our sources say the decision to retire those aged 60 and over is in contravention of a High Court of Fiji ruling November the 17th, 2006.

The decision was given by Judge Roger Coventry after the Fiji Human Rights Commission took up the case of Caroline Tilly Martin.

Judge Coventry had ruled the SCC had no powers to retire anybody above the age of 55 or for that matter at any age.

The judge ruled this contravened the 1997 Constitution and stated the Constitution super-ceded all Collective Agreements.

He ruled the Collective Agreements be re-negotiated in this regard( Fiji Human Rights Commission v Suva City Council [2006] FJHC 44: HBC0073 2004 (17 November 2006).

The SCC had appealed the case before the Court of Appeal but the matter has not been heard by the Fiji Court of Appeal.

Sources therefore say the ruling of Judge Roger Coventry is still binding and the law governing retirement age. It also contravenes the Employment Relations Promulgations(ERP) brought by the interim government in April 2008.

It is believed the Municipal Workers Union and the Staff Association will first try and get the Council and its Administrator Vijendra Prakash to rescind the decision, failing which they are likely to explore the option of invoking the Disputes Machinery under the ERP.

Coupfourpointfive has been able to obtain a copy of the letter. To view see right of the blog, under Leaked Documents then SCC Letter

Opinion - Release of Rabaka killers 'expected'

The release of those imprisoned for killing Nadi teenager, Sakiusa Rabaka, was widely expected following the abrogation of the Constitution, the introduction of the Public Emergency Regulations and the re-appointment of the military installed interim government.

But it has put to shame one of the reasons given by coup leader Frank Bainimarama for the military coup - that Laisenia Qarase’s government was interfering in the judiciary.

In the case of the eight soldiers and one police officer sentenced to a little over four years for the brutal killing of teenager Sakiusa Rabaka, the release from the Natabua prison in Lautoka comes a mere month after their sentencing at the High Court at Lautoka, by Judge Daniel Gounder.

Under Fiji’s Criminal Justice System, one-third of a prisoner's sentence is automatically slashed as soon as he or she enters prison, unless a Court rules that a prisoner serves a term of certain years as witnessed in serious murder cases where life sentences are imposed. Otherwise, life sentence in Fiji means 12-14 years.

Therefore, Rabaka’s killers would have served a minimum of at least two and half years after one-third remittance of their jail term. They would not have been eligible for release until the end of 2011.

Ironically, one of the reasons given by Frank Bainimarama for carrying out a military coup and toppling Laisenia Qarase’s Multi-Party government was that the administration was allegedly abusing the criminal justice system and interfering in the judiciary, with the then Attorney-General Qoriniasi Bale liberating high profile chiefs Tui Cakau Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu and former Vice-President, Ratu Jose Seniloli from prison under the Compulsory Supervison Order (CSO).

The two were jailed for their roles in George Speight’s coup against Mahendra Chaudhry’s government in May 2000.

Qarase was also accused of approving Seniloli’s salary while he was in prison.

In another case similar to Bainimarama’s accusation of Qarase, Bainimarama’s brother-in-law Francis Kean jailed in 2008 for bashing to death a guest at a wedding in December 2006. He was out of prison after an year, serving the required two-thirds of his jail term.

Kean was paid while in remand and has been re-appointed as Commander of the Fiji Navy –the job he lost when imprisoned.

Fijilive journalists released

The two Fijilive journalists arrested and taken into police custody on Saturday afternoon, have been released after 48 hours in custody.

Dionisia Turagabeci and Shelvin Chand were released before 2pm by Police Deputy Director of Operations, Irami Raibe.

Like the previous two cases involving the arrest of Fiji Television journalist Edwin Nand and Pita Ligaula of PACNEWS, Turagabeci and Chand were interviewed but not charged.

The latest lock-up shows the military rulers in Fiji are using strong-arm tactics to harass and intimidate journalists and the media in an effort to get them to be totally obedient to the new legal order.

Coupfourpointfive has now established that at about 9am on Saturday May the 9th, Fijilive posted a news story about the release of eight soldiers and one police officer jailed for more than four years by the High Court in Lautoka, for brutally killing Nadi teenager Sakiusa Rabaka.

The nine have been released early under Compulsory Supervision Order (CSO).

The article was written by Shelvin Cand and posted by the desk editor on duty on that day, Dionisia Turagabeci.

Sources have told us the news item also contained comments from Citizens Constitution Forum executive director, Reverend Akuila Yabaki, who expressed concern at their early exit from Natabua prison where they were serving their sentence.

Coupfourpointfive has also established the story was seen by a Department of Information Censor before being posted online.

However 10 minutes after it went on, Fijilive received a call from a young officer based at the Police Command Centre who directed the story be pulled immediately.

It is believed the officer is part of a team established to monitor online news produced by local media, overseas radio stations and television networks as well as international newspapers.

It is believed this monitoring is carried out 24/7.

While police are powerless to act against overseas based media and blogsites, the local media industry has to comply with the absolute censorship according to the Public Emergency Regulations.

Sources say Fijilive complied with the directive and duly removed the story.

Coupfourpointfive has been told the officer re-checked the Fijilive online service a few hours later and saw the story still posted.

According to sources, the officer had not refreshed the web page on the computer he was using and believing what he saw, informed his superiors.

Chand was arrested around 3pm on Saturday from the Fijilive office at Downtown Boulevard.

Turagabeci, after removing the story, had travelled to cover the opening of the Natadola Bay Resort at 3pm by military commander and interim Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama.

Her assignment was cut short when she was arrested by police at Natadola and escorted by them to Suva.

The journalists were locked up at Central Police Station and were denied visitors, including a lawyer, who was sent yesterday by a friend of the journalists.

Sources say Fijilive management were also clueless about how to deal with the situation and did not provide legal representation.

At about nine o'clock this morning, 42 hours after the detention, a relative managed to see one of the journalists for 10 minutes.

Later in the day, a Fijilive senior journalist was seen at the police station accompanying a relative.

The latest detention means four journalists have now spent time locked up in police cells since April 13, three days after the abrogation of the Constitution and promulgation of Emergency Regulations.

Last week, the Regulations were extended by another 30 days to expire on June the 10th, instead of May the 10th. In an interview with Australian journalist, Graham Davies, Bainimarama said the Regulations were effective in controlling the media and getting them to do what he terms “responsible reporting”.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

BREAKING - Fijilive journalists arrested

Fijilive journalists Dionisia Turagabeci and Shelvin Chand are spending their second night at the Central Police Station in Suva, for allegedly contravening the Public Emergency Regulations.

They were taken into custody at 3pm on Saturday, for their reports on the release of members of the security forces jailed for killing three men (in separate incidents, in early 2007.

The men were Nimilote Verebasaga - killed in January 2007; Nadi teenager Sakiusa Rabaka killed in February 2007 and Tevita Malasebe, in June 2007.

A soldier was convicted for murdering Verebasaga. Eight of nine soldiers were convicted for killing Rabaka and three police officers were found guilty for killing Malasebe at Valelevu Police Station.

All were jailed for manslaughter instead of murder.

Sources have told Coupfourpointfive police arrived at the Fijilive office in Suva, a few hours after a story on the release of the convicted killers appeared.

They ordered the story be pulled immediately and demanded to know who had written the article and authorized its positioning on the website.

Shelvin Chand was the reporter on duty and Dionisa Turagabeci the desk editor.

Chand, a former radio journalist, and Turagabeci - who previously worked for the Daily Post and Islands Business - were arrested and detained in separate cells at Central Police Station.

Coupfourpointfive believes the Fijilive management has not been able to talk with the two journalists.

Concerned relatives have also been prevented from talking to them.

Relatives say they are being given conflicting reports from the police about when the pair will be released.

Coupfourpointfive has been told that an officer told relatives that both journalists have been charged for contravening emergency regulations and will appear in the Suva Magistrates Court tommorrow.

The officer said that legal representation can only be approved by Commissioner Esala Teleni or Director Operations, Waisea Tabakau.

Another officer told relatives detained reporters will be questioned by Tabakau tommorrow.

The families are worried the pair may have been interviewed without legal representation and claim Fijilive is keeping quiet on the issue.

Fijilive's managing director, Yashwant Gounder, is believed to be overseas.

BREAKING - Fijilive journalists detained

Fijilive journalists Shelvin Chand and Dionesia Turagabeci have been taken in for questioning.

Sources have told Coupfourpointfive they're still in police custody.

More details will be published in the next hour.