#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: 2009-06-21

Friday, June 26, 2009

Army commander continues with the lies

The interim prime minister and army commander, Frank Bainimarama, is lying to the people of Fiji about the status of laws under the New Legal Order.

On Tuesday this week, Radio Legend FM news reported that Bainimarama, while speaking to Dawasami villagers in the province of Tailevu, stated that "not much has changed" since the abrogation of the Constitution on the 10th of April.

While telling villagers the regime will appoint a review team to start work on a new Constitution, Bainimarama said most of the laws under the Constitution have been brought back via the decrees.

But Coupfourpointfive can establish that Bainimarama has lied to the Dawasamu villagers.

Here are just a few examples:

a) The Administrative of Justice Decree has removed the Fiji Law Society as a member of the Judicial Service Commission responsible for appointing judges and magistrates. The Decree doesn't allow cases challenging coup-related activities or the abrogation of the Constitution to be brought before the judiciary
b) The State Services Decree has removed the Constitutional Offices Commission as the appointing authority for indepedent officers like the DPP, the Commissioner of Police, the Supervisor of Elections, the Reserve Bank Governor, the Ombudsman and the Auditor-General etc
c) The State services Decree has stipulated the retirement age of 55 in the civil service yet a number of interim regime officers are still in the job despite being over the limit, including the army commander, the police commissioner and the prisons commissioner
d) The Legal Practitioners Decree has reduced Fiji Law Society to a voluntary organisation, strpping it of all of its regulatory powers, including its authority over lawyers
e) The regime is also interfering in the private sector by decreeing a retirement age of 60 for the 12 municipal councils in Fiji.

The interim regime has also amended laws, like that allowing dual citizenship, which was previously disallowed under the Constitution.

Growers Council to be dissolved

The Sugar Cane Growers Council (SCGC), the umbrella body representing Fiji's cane farmers is likely to be dissolved soon.

The Permanent Secretary for Sugar, Parmesh Chand, has confirmed to Fiji Television that one of the options is to reduce the size of the SCGC from 38 to 11.

The SCGC was created under the Sugar Industry Act in 1985. It comprised of 111 members until the 1992 SCGC election when it was reduced to 38 electd councllors (one per sector) and 8 nominated councillors.

Following the 2006 coup, Frank Bainimarama removed the 8 nominated councillors and sacked SCGC Chief Executive Jagannath Sami, who was prevented from reclaiming his job despite a High Court restraining order.

The Fiji Labour Party through is political arm the National Farmers Union took control of the Council since January 2007. Mahendra Chaudhry is the boss of both FLP and NFU and at that time was the interim finance and sugar minister.

Sources have told us the size of SCGC will be reduced to 11 - one per every 8 of the cane districts plus three ohers to share workload in lage districts - and that this will form the board of directors.

Currently the Council has a 11-member Board, 8 of whom are District Directors.

Ben Padarath touted for FNPF board

Another name has surfaced for the FNPF board - Ben Padarath, the son of the Fiji Labour Party stalwart, Lavenia Padarath.

Coupfourpointfive yesterday named Village Six Cinemas director, Div Damodar, as the other contender for the new board.

Five of the six FNPF board members were axed by the interim regime on Wednesday.

The acting permanent Secretary for Finance, John Prasad, has already been named chairman with the chief financial officer for CJ Patel Group of Companies, Ajith Kodagoda, and Fosters Group Limited's marketing manager, Joe Rodan, named board members.

Prasad and Kodagoda are expatriates - Prasad a New Zealand citizen and Kodagoda a Sri Lankan National. Both are friends of the interim attorney general, Aiyay Sayed-Khaiyum.

Padarath is a failed businessman and was convicted of causing death by dangerous driving after the car he was driving was involved in an accident in Suva, more than three years ago.

The accident resulted in the death of a passenger, Julia Stark.

Padarath was jailed and disqualified from driving.

During the 2006 general election, Padarath contested the Lami Open Constituency for the National Alliance Party, led by Ratu Epeli Ganilau, an interim minister since January 2007. Sayed-Khaiyum was legal advisor to National Alliance.

For almost a year now, Padarath has been a close friend of Pita Driti, the Land Force Commander of Fiji Military Forces.

Sources also told us the newly-constituted board was to meet for the first time today (Friday) after 4pm.

The announcement of Damodar and Padarath as board members will rob workers of a representative, for the first time since 1966, when the fund was established.

Colonial bank to be sold

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia says it's in discussions with the Bank of South Pacific regarding the potential sale of the Commonwealth Bank’s banking and
insurance businesses in Fiji.

The Bank has confirmed that BSP has approached them regarding its interest in acquiring National Bank of Fiji Limited (trading as Colonial National Bank) and Colonial Fiji Life Limited.

"A consequence of these discussions is that BSP has made an indicative non-binding offer and requested a period of exclusive due diligence," a statement from the Commonwealth Bank said.

"The Commonwealth Bank Board of Directors in Sydney has considered the terms of the offer and agreed to further discussions and the commencement of due diligence."

The Bank says any decision made will take into consideration the interests of employees, customers and shareholders.

BSP has a 52 year history and is Papua New Guinea’s largest retail and commercial bank with 35 branches.

It also has regional representation in Niue, Solomon Islands and operates two branches in Fiji under a full banking licence.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Narayan reported to have headed home

The Chairman of Fiji Islands Trade & Invesment Bureau, New Zealand citizen Francis Naayan, is understood to have returned to Auckland.

Narayan is believed to have flown out of Nadi on Wednesday after writing to his friend, interim prime minister and army commander, Frank Bainimarama, setting out conditions that will see him either continue his role as FTIB chairman or quit.

Sources have confirmed to us that in the letter to Bainimarama, Narayan stated that he was returning to New Zealand for two weeks, where he would await the regime's response.

We reported last week that Narayan had lost his $160,000 annual salary as investment cosultant for Fiji National Provident Fund and was having problems with FTIB chief executive, Annie Rodgers.

Narayan has told Bainimarama he can no loger work with Rodgers, saying that if the regme wants him to continue as FTIB Chairman, then it has to get rid of Rodgers.

The FTIB falls under the interim ministerial portfolio of Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

Div Damodar tipped for FNPF

Workers' representatives are likely to be excluded from the newly constituted board of Fiji National Provident Fund.

The board that was appointed by army commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, soon after his military coup in 2006 was dissolved by the regime on Wednesday as predicted by Coupfourpointfive earlier this week.

Five out of the six board members have been booted out less than two weeks after it hosted Bainimarama for FNPF re-branding and the launch of new uniforms.

Coming into the job is the acting permanent secretary for finance and a very close friend of interim attorney general Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, New Zealand citizen John Prasad.

Fosters group marketing manager, Joe Rodan, and the chief financial officer of CJ Patel Group of Companies, Sri Lankan national Ajith Kodagoda, have been appointed, presumably as employer representaivs.

According to our sources, the Fiji Employers Federation was not consulted on the removal of its two nominees nor asked to recommend new nominees.

Sources say the FTUC, of which Urai and Anthony are President and General Secretary respectively, will adopt a position of not allowing any leaders of its affiliate unions to accept FNPF Board appointments.

They say if any FTUC affiliate leader goes ahead and accepts appointment, it would be regarded as backstabbing Anthony and Urai - something both are guilty of when the two pre-coup workers' reps were axed by Bainimarama.

We have also been told the other national trade union afiliate, Fiji Islands Council of Trade Unions, which was victimised by Bainimarama when he axed FICTU President Maika Namudu, one of the worker reps from the Board, is likely to be ignored by the regime.

FICTU general secretary, Attar Singh, is the chairman of Fiji's Movement for Democracy and one of the strongest critics of the regime.

Given this scenario, our sources say it is more than likely the regime will change the criteria of membership to the Board of the largest financial institution in Fiji. Instead of two each nominees of the State, Employers and Workers, the regime is likely to pick personalities who sympathise with them.

This scenario is corrobarated by a post on the pro-regime blog Real Fiji News, which predicts Village Cinemas director and fellow Sayed-Khaiyum friend, Div Damodar, as a likely new FNPF board member.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

FNPF Board Members replaced

As predicted by Coupfourpointfive on Tuesday the 23rd June, all with the exception of one interim regime member on the Fiji National Provident Fund Board have been replaced.

FNPF Chairman and permanent secretary for Public Service Commission, Parmesh Chand, has also been given the boot.

All Board members were given the option of resigning or being sacked.

Others who have been replaced are Employer representativs James Datta, Howard Politini and Fiji Trades Union President Daniel Urai. The General Secretary for Labour, Taito Waqa, is the sole survivor on the Board.

In his capacity as FNPF Board Member, Felix Anthony, was also Chairman of Telecom Fiji Ltd and Natadola Bay Resorts Ltd.

The Acting Permanent Secretary for Labour and New Zaland citizen, John Prasad, is the new Chairman of the Board.

DPP's Office loses its independence

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, which is traditionally regarded as the second most powerful and independent organ behind the judiciary, has lost all its neutrality following the appointment of John Rabuku as acting DPP.

Rabuku was appointed last week and is a relatively juniour lawyer when compared to other DPP lawyers like Andie Driu, whom he sacked on Monday.

Sources say Rabuku sacked Driu because she didn't want to be a puppet for the regime and said she would be neutral and follow the law.

Assistant DPP booted out by regime

The Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions, Andie Driu, has been sacked by the newly appointed Acting DPP, John Rabuku.

Rabuku, who was appointed a magistrate under the interim regime's New Legal Order, summoned Driu to his office and handed her the termination letter.

Coupfourpointfive has been told Rabuku accused Driu of being disloyal to what he described as the "government of the day".

Driu replied that her role in the office of the DPP required her to be neutral, independent and show loyalty only to the law and to nothing or nobody else.

Sources say on hearing this, Rabuku terminated her instantly.

Two of Driu's friends, who are not employed at the DPP's office, helped the stunned senior lawyer pack her personal belongings.

Rabuku had warned other DPP lawyers not to help Driu pack her stuff or they would suffer the same fate.

Driu was the most qualified lawyer in the DPP's office, having started work in the mid 1990's after graduating following her tertiary education in Australia. She then did her post-graduate studies and acquired a Master's Degree in law in London.

She was one of three Assistant DPP's. Her dismissal leaves William Kurisaqila as the sole Assistant DPP.

The third post holder, Ashisna Prasad, resigned late last year and has gone abroad with her husband.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

New Methodist Church members told to pay tithe

Members of the New Methodist Church have a compulsory obligation to give 10% of their earnings to the Church as tithing.

Those earning $300 and less are currently below the $15,000 tax threshold, which means they don't pay PAYE. They will have to contribute $30 a week towards the Church, apart from the 8% deduction for FNPF.

For those earning more than $15,000 per annum, they have to contribute 10% from their gross salary, apart from 8% FNPF contribution and tax deductions of 15%, 22% and 31% depending on their scale of income.

Sources say those earning incomes below $15,000 are struggling and are already borrowing their pay in advance to meet the basic needs of their families.

FNPF Board likely to be changed

We can confirm the interim regime is seriously looking at changing the composition of the Fiji National Provident Fund Board.

Sources have told us that last week a citizen was approached by the Permanent Secretary in the Office of Interim Prime Minister, Pia Wise, with a proposal to accept appointment to the Board.

It's not clear if the whole Board or some members will be replaced and the exact reason for this exercise has not yet been established.

The FNPF Board is made up of representatives from the Government/Regime, Employers and Workers.

The person approached by Wise is neither a high ranknig officer of the regime, nor a representative of Employers or Workers.

Employers representatives are nominated by the Fiji Employers Federation while those representing workers are nominated by the Trade Union Movement.

Following the 2006 coup Fiji Trades Union Congress President Daniel Urai and general secretary Felix Anthony were nominated to the Board by Frank Bainimarama.

They replaced Fiji Islands Council of Trade Unions President, Maika Namudu, and former FTUC general secretary and the boss of an affiliate of FTUC, James Raman.

Fiji High Comm in NZ to be downgraded

Coupfourpointfive has been told the interim regime will downgrade the Fiji High Commission in Wellington to a Consulate.

The Acting High Commissioner, former senior police officer Ponsami Chetty, has already left the office so he can be replaced.

Chetty was ordered back to Fiji but sources say he and his wife have taken off to Australia.

Chetty took up the position in Wellington after Cama Tuiloma was deported, in a tit-for-tat diplomatic action, after the regime expelled the acting High Commissioner for New Zealand Caroline McDonald last year.

Tuiloma is now a permanent secretary for the regime.

In June 2007, the regime expelled outspoken New Zealand High Commissioner Michael Green, accusing him of meddling in the internal affairs of Fiji.

Since the 4th military coup, the interim regime has also expelled three expatriate publishers - two from Fiji Times and one from Fiji Sun.

The five expulsions and deportations exceed the actions of the interim regime after the 1987 military coups.

In October 1989, the then regime of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara expelled no-nonsense Indian Ambassador Thettalil Sreenivasan after his public comments following the arson attacks on four Indian places of worship in Lautoka. He was given 72 hours to leave Fiji.

In May 1990, Sreenivasan's successor Vidya Soni and his Indian expatriate officers were expelled and given 14 days to leave Fiji after his strong speech at the Sangam convention a few weeks earlier.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Police jazz band renamed to reflect church

The popular Police Jazz Band has been renamed as the Police Worship Band.

Police spokeswoman and former radio reporter, Ema Mua, made the announcement at the end of the New Methodist Church led police crusade at Suva's Sukuna Park, yesterday afternoon.

While making the announcement Mua said the name change conformed with the theme "soul policing" to combat crime.

She says the Police Worship Team will still participate in marches and parades during festivals but would start singing gospel tunes.

Sources say this shows the power the New Methodist Church has over the police force.

Police Commissioner Esala Teleni is an influential member of the Church led by his younger brother Atu Vulaono.

Already police officers residing in the barracks and quarters have been banned from consuming kava in their homes, as the philosophy of the New Methodist Church doesn't allow members to drink kava.

Before the start of the crusade at Sukuna Park, police officers were warned by Mua, on behalf of Teleni, that those who did not support the crusade should resign.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Nazhat Shameem clears office

There are signs former High Court judge Nazhat Shameem is not returning to serve on the judiciary under the interim regime’s New Legal Order.

Sources have told us that Shameem has removed her personal belongings, including law books and journals from her office in Government Buildings two weeks ago.

Coupfourpointfive reported in April that she would not accept a judicial appointment following the abrogation of the Constitution.

Shameem and her eldest sister, ousted Fiji Human Rights Commission Director Shaista Shameem were reportedly outraged at interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum for advising Frank Bainimarama to use President Ratu Josefa Iloilo to abrogate the Constitution on 10th April.

One of the options the Shameem sisters are investigating is to establish a private law practice.

Nazhat Shameem served as Director of Public Prosecutions before being appointed a judge in early 1999. This saw her becoming Fiji’s first Indo-Fijian female judge.

Following the December 5th 2006 coup, she chaired a meeting of the Judicial Service Commission that appointed Anthony Gates as Chief Justice to replace Daniel Fatiaki.

Lies continue over state of sugar mills

The interim regime and Fiji Sugar Corporation are lying that two of the three sugar mills that kicked of its 2009 crushing season are operating normally.

Our sources have established that in a statement issued through the regime’s information ministry last Wednesday, FSC's Chief Executive, Deo Sharan, lied about the status of the Lautoka and Labasa mills.

In the statement, Saran said the Labasa mill “is still in the process of fine tuning and this was expected in the early stages of crushing”.

However, our sources say the Labasa mill, which started crushing on Tuesday 9th June, was shut more than it was opened, because of the electrical and mechanical defects that were not fixed before the start of crushing season.

The frequent breakdowns are frustrating cane farmers in the Northern Division who are incurring additional expenses in trying to look after the needs of their hired cane cutters. Farmers have to hire about 85 per cent of their cutters for the harvesting season.

Our sources have also established that the largest sugar mill at Lautoka has not crushed any cane since Tuesday 16th June when it was supposed to start operations.

Sources have confirmed the mill has been non-operational for the last four days and that more than 2000 tonnes of cane was harvested on Monday 15th June – a day before crushing is drying in the mill yard. A similar tonnage of harvested cane is still lying in the cane fields and on lorries.

Mills like Labasa are not likely to start crushing until early next week.

In the meantime cane cutting gangs in the mill area are also idle.

Australian consultants to review FNPF

The Board of the Fiji National Provident Fund has announced the appointment of Mercer (Australia) Pty Ltd to review its pension scheme.

The chair of the FNPF Board says they will hold nationwide consultations with stakeholders, after Mercer sends it report through.

But he fails to say that the sole stakeholders of FNPF are Fiji's workers.

Mercer’s appointment comes a week after interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama announced the pension scheme was to be reviewed because of what he described as the need for the scheme to be fair and equitable to all pensioners.

Coupfourpointfive was first to report the review would result in a decline in the annual rate of pension, which is currently 15 percent. Parmesh Chand confirmed this to the media this week.

Chand expects Mercer to complete the review within two months.

An investigation by Coupfourpointfive has revealed the review is being done and that retired workers on the pension scheme are being penalised, so that FNPF can recoup money for bad investments, overhead expenses and payment of exorbitant allowances and salaries to personnel recruited after the December 2006 military coup.