#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: 2009-06-28

Friday, July 3, 2009

Top brass at Fijian Holdings sent on leave

Fijian Holdings Limited has seen a boardroom coup during its board of directors meeting today.

FHL Chairman Isoa Kaloumaira, deputy chairman and deputy army commander Colonel Mohammed Aziz and managing director, Sereana Qoro, have been sent on leave for five days to make way for an audit on corporate governance.

It is not clear who will carry out the audit.

In a statement issued at 4pm today, acting FHL Chairman, accountant Iowane Naiveli confirmed the board of directors took the decision but claimed it would not affect FHL group operations.

More than a year ago, FHL managing director, Sitiveni Weleilakeba, was sacked in what can only be described as a boardroom coup or hostile takeover. Onto the Board came Colonel Aziz and Padam Lala, who was later appointed as chairman of Land Transport Authority as well. Sereana Qoro was appointed managing director to succeed Weleilakeba.

Throughout the week, there have been persistent rumours FHL would be given a shake-up because of its recent decisions. In December last year, FHL announced it was going to buy BP Oil Fiji operations for $190 million.

The deal has encountered numerous hurdles after FHL failed to secure a loan from a financier. Till last week, FHL has insisted the deal will go ahead and it had already paid a $20 million non-refundable deposit to BP Oil.

Sources say this has riled the interim regime, especially military commander and interim prime minister, Frank Bainimarama. The sacked FNPF Board also declined to find the transaction and FHL as looking for offshore funding. Sources say BP Oil's Fiji operations are valued at about $100 million and they don't understand why FHL would be willing to pay $90 million more than the maximum value.

In May, FHL sold its shares in Fosters Group Pacific Ltd for $40 million to Fosters. Sources say the only reason why anyone would sell what is regarded as blue chip shares is to secure funds for another deal or if the company is in financial problem.

At the beginning of this week, FHL announced that it wold build a $20 million complex known as Twin Towers for the headquarters of Fiji Police Force.

According to sources, it is ironical that those who engineered the boardroom coup and hostile takeover a year ago have become victims of the same action.

Fiji broadcaster gagged on NZ Pacific station

CF Blogspot/Pacific Media Watch: A wide-ranging interview about Fiji has led to the suspension of veteran broadcaster Bulou Amalaini Ligalevu from her popular Pacific Radio Network programme.

Bulou Amalaini, a highly regarded former Radio Fiji journalist who started her 531pi Fiji-language Voqa Kei Viti (Voice of Fiji) in 1980, fell out with her bosses over a 20-minute interview with Fiji's human rights advocacy group, Citizens' Constitutional Forum (CCF) executive director Rev Akuila Yabaki.

The programme included insightful views about media censorship and current developments in Fiji.

But while the programme drew some 25 comments complimenting Bulou Amalaini over the interview, three people phoned the the 531pi and NiuFM radio station complaining about a section discussing the recent Methodist Church controversy. Regime leader Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama banned this year's annual conference of the 200,000-strong church.

The commander also demanded that the church sack two former presidents who were involved in previous coups, Rev Manasa Lasaro and Rev Tomasi Kanailagi, and are being blamed for incitement.

Acting chief executive Tom Etuata, of Niue, reportedly suspended Bulou Amalaini in response to the complaints - even before discussing the programme with her. Bulou has now been told the suspension has been lifted, but she has not actually been scheduled for her regular five-hour Saturday evening slot since her June 6 broadcast.

In this current post-Easter climate of media censorship in Fiji and the dearth of quality comment about the political situation, Bulou Amalaini's programme has been a gem. It has been marked by quality and in-depth research and credible commentators. But a lot of people dont like Rev Yabaki for his forthright and independent views - and for the same reason, some dont like me, she told Café Pacific.

Among views expressed in the Yabaki interview were:

On censorship:

>> It's difficult to get national news broadcast out of Fiji without it being censored by the regime. We have to find an alternative way of transmitting this information to the outside world, particularly when we are depending on the international community to help out.

On the abrogation of the 1997 Constitution:

>> Yes, it's true that our Constitution has been abrogated. However, basic human rights still exist globally - and this includes the right of freedom of speech. Every human being has the right to freedom of speech and although the Public Emergency Regulation is in force … we have to try and work a way around this censorship.

On the chilling of free speech:

>> People are not so forthcoming for fear of victimisation, whereby they could lose their jobs and all interviews are being screened as directed by the regime. This does not augur well for a solution. Instead we need to keep the dialogue open. And, as I have mentioned before, there were some discriminatory overtones in the last Parliament but that does not mean that freedom of expression should be curtailed altogether.

On arbitrary arrests and detentions:

>>> We are concerned at the arrest and detention of people by the police and military. Following the abrogation of the Constitution on April 10, the Public Emergency Regulation (PER) was promulgated for 30 days [and Bainimarama says it will now be in force until the end of the year] ... This PER [was] embedded in our Constitution and can be executed by Parliament as a security measure if there is civil unrest or disturbance in the country. It had never been used before until the coup was staged in December 2006 and more recently after 10 April 2009.

On the cancellation of the Methodist Church annual conference:

>>> The Methodist Church chose not to be a member of the National Council for Building a Better Fiji (NCBBF) ... The Methodist Church is very much in disarray. If you look at the history of the stand that the Methodist Church has taken in the past 20 years, you will note that it supported the first coup of 1987 and also George Speights coup in the year 2000. But it opposed the coup of 2006 because it believes that Fiji should be governed by Fijians, who are their members, as if it were their divine right. This was the case when Dr Timoci Bavadra and Mahendra Chaudhry's Labour Party won the general elections of 1987 and 1999.

Café Pacific publisher David Robie concluded: How ironical that those objecting to the Bainimarama regime's censorship in Fiji should seek to gag a prominent Fiji broadcaster in New Zealand for trying to open up debate.

Pacific Radio defends suspension: http://pacificmediacentre.blogspot.com/2009/07/pacific-radio-defends-action-over.html

PFF urges lifting of PER restrictions

PFF Blogspot/Pacific Media Watch: The reported extension of the so-called Public Emergency Regulations in Fiji merely confirms the PER has nothing to do with a national emergency, says Pacific media watchdog Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF).

The new December deadline won't be the last one for this outrageous and sad state of affairs. For as long as the sham continues, the PFF will likewise continue to let the military regime in Fiji know that mapping a political and land tenure for lasting peace is impossible without a free media and the right to assembly, says PFF chair Susuve Laumaea of Papua New Guinea.

"There's no alleged 'public emergency' in Fiji requiring the imposition of any kind of draconian 'regulations' save only what the Fiji military created during Easter, 2009, when it shredded the country's constitution and escalated its assaults on almost all aspects of a genuinely free and democratic society," Laumaea says.

"Incompetent censors backed by police continue to harass and interfere with the work of journalists in all Fiji's newsrooms, and reputable outlets such as Fiji TV and the Fiji Sun have been coerced into publishing the regime's propaganda deliberately disguised as news reports," he says.

PFF co-chair, Monica Miller, of American Samoa says the onus remains on Pacific leadership and organisations, to call on the Fiji regime to reinstate the constitution and restore the country to democratic rule as soon as practicable, explicitly offer any needed assistance for this to occur, and, most importantly, demand the removal of the so-called Public Emergency Regulations.

"Pacific leaders must also explicitly reaffirm their repeated commitment to freedom of expression and the media, and not succumb to any temptations the Fiji situation offers to consider gagging, harassing, and intimidating their own local media," Miller says.

"We would hope that the plans to hold a special MSG summit on Fiji come to fruition and that the France-Pacific and Pacific Forum Leaders meetings will also be able to effectively address this issue. Within the spirit of the Pacific Plan, Fiji's solution must include a decision to immediately abolish the PER and remove the blanket of fear and restrictions smothering free speech, open debate and honest criticism on the issues involved in creating the conditions for a better Fiji."

The Pacific Freedom Forum has set up an electronic petition, with an introduction reading:

Information is power. Gagging, censorship and detention of the Fiji news media by the interim regime in Fiji robs all citizens of feedback surrounding debate on national futures; and leaves the leadership itself uninformed about how to best achieve its goals of ending racist laws and corruption.

There are already almost 200 signatories to this petition:
www.gopetition.com/online/26992.html

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Telecom forges ahead with redundancies

Telecom Fiji Limited issued redundancy notices to 177 employees today.

It's believed most of the workers affected are in the Western Division.

TFL is going ahead with redundancy despite the Fiji Posts & Telecommunication Employees Association taking the matter to the Employment Tribunal about two weeks ago.

The company claimed it was cutting costs and was making workers redundant based on performance despite employment laws disallowing such a move.

Sources say TFL was today offering packages of three months pay upfront, plus two weeks pay for each year of service. This is up from its initial offer of two months upfront plus one week for each year of service. Under the latest package, an employee who has worked for 20 years will receive a year’s pay.

According to sources, the Union was not consulted by TFL before it contravened its assurance to the Tribunal it wouldn't enforce redundancy until the Tribunal ruled.

According to sources the Union was also not consulted on the redundancy package or the number of employees to be dismissed.

The workers who've been made redundant have been told not to report to work from tomorrow.

The union is understood to be exploring what course of action it can take.

Just Wednesday, the interim Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, in his national address - supposedly outlining a strategic framework for change - stated a new focus would be building sound relations with workers and trade unions.

Naupoto replaces Narayan as FTIB chair

The former Fiji navy commander, Viliame Naupoto, has been appointed the new chairman of Fiji Islands Trade & Investment Board (FTIB), replacing New Zealand Francis Narayan who quit.

Naupoto is also the Permanent Secretary for Fisheries and Forests. He was briefly the Permanent Secretary in the interim Prime Minister’s office after the abrogation of the Constitution on April the 10th. Naupoto was the Director of Immigration from December 2006 to April.

Under his directorship, three expatriate publishers – two from Fiji Times and one from Fiji Sun were deported between February 2008 and January 2009. Like many other military personnel seconded to the civil service and statutory organizations, Naupoto has no experience in the field of investment and business.

Francis Narayan was dismissed as investment consultant from the Fiji National Provident Fund last month by what is now the sacked FNPF Board.

Former attorney general sacked as Natadola lawyer

The lawyer, Anand Singh - the former Attorney-General in Mahendra Chaudhry’s Fiji Labour Party led coalition government between May 1999 and May 2000 - has been sacked as the lawyer for Natadola Bay Resorts Limited (NBRL).

NBRL is a subsidiary of Fiji National Provident Fund. The NBRL chairman, Felix Anthony, lost his position last week after the FNPF board was axed by the interim regime.

Sources say the decision to terminate Singh was made by the new FNPF chairman, John Prasad. Singh was hired by NBRL more than a year ago. His legal consultancy was believed to be worth more than a quarter million dollars a year.

Coupfourpointfive has been told Singh was even given prime office space in the FNPF headquarters, Downtown Boulevard, to run his legal consultancy. He hired Anit Singh as his office manager. Anit Singh is the brother-in-law of Shameem sisters, Shaista and Nazhat, having married their younger sister.

After the May 2000 coup, he assisted Shaista in her capacity as director of Fiji Human Rights Commission to set up a refugee camp at Girmit Centre in Lautoka city, that housed farmers from Muaniweni and Dawasamu terrorised during the 2006 coup.

Between 2001 and until the 2006 elections, Anand Singh was a Labour Party senator and legal advisor to FLP.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Analysis of Bainimarama's roadmap

Frank Bainimarama tried to fool Fiji and the world when he delivered his strategic framework for change national address today.

His claim that work on a new Constitution will start in September 2012 reveals that the regime will not relinquish power in September 2014 as he claimed today.

We draw your attention to his interview with Australian journalist Graham Davies in early May.

During the interview Bainimarama said he had the shortest time of five years to carry out economic and constitutional reforms and this was a very hard task.

If five years is a short time, then Bainimarama’s announcement of work on a new Constitution starting in September 2012 – 2 years from the projected elections in September 2014 is nonsensical.

Coupfourpointfive believes it is basically to pull wool over people's eyes.

Two days ago, when we reported about the announcement of a road map, we stated that the regime had not only violated its commitments to the international community to hold elections by March 2009, but also its own timetable for elections to be held in 2010.

In February 2007, two months before the regime gave its commitment of a Mach 2009 election to the EU and later to the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders, Bainimarama through an interim Cabinet statement said they had adopted a road map for return to parliamentary democracy.

He said under the road map, Fiji would be ready for a general election and full restoration of parliamentary democracy as early as 2010.

At that time he stated that sustained economic growth, sugar industry restructure, land use planning, revival of tourist sector and improvement of the precarious state of national finances would have to be completed before elections.

In his address today, Bainimarama, while stating that work on a new Constitution would start in September 2012, said economic revival and strengthening, sugar industry restructure, improving living conditions and wages, improving infrastructure or in other words socio-economic conditions – were prerequisites to the start of work on a new Constitution.

This confirms that elections are the last thing on the mind's of Bainimarama's, the military council and the coup leader’s closest ally and adviser, interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

Watch this space for more analysis throughout the week.

New constitution by 2013

Frank Bainimarama has announced that work on a new Constitution will start in September 2012 – almost 3 years from now.

Outlining the regime’s strategic framework for change, Bainimarama told Fiji today that the regime’s current focus or priority is to strengthen the economy, bring in land reforms and improve infrastructure.

He said essentially, the next 3 years will be devoted to socio-economic and infrastructure conditions, followed by the formulation of what he described as a modern day Constitution.

He says the new Constitution will be based on the Peoples Charter.

Bainimarama re-iterated the new Constitution will entrench common and equal citizenry, eradicate ethnic voting - or in other words remove guaranteed communal seats for Fijians, Indians and General Electors - reduce the voting age to 18, and have systems to hold an administration accountable with more checks and balances.

The interim prime minister said the new Constitution would be in place by September 2013, claiming it will give time for all citizens and candidates for the September 2014 elections to familiarize themselves with its provisions.

He says the new Constitution will be translated into the vernacular languages and pocket sized copies will be made available to all people.

Bainimarama said political parties, civil society groups and all citizens will be consulted before a Constitution is finalised.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Public Emergency to remain till December

Photo:Frank Bainimarama's son during 2006 coup

Interim Prime Minister and army commander Frank Bainimarama has for the first time publicly announced that the Public Emergency Regulations in force in Fiji since 10th April, will remain for the rest of the year.

Bainimarama told the regime owned Radio Fiji news today that some people with "dirty political motives" are awaiting the removal of the regulations to organise a protest march against the regime.

The army commander who has the backing of more than 6000 regular police and military personnel says they will give no room to any one or any institution to cause incitement.

Bainimarama claimed he has only five people against him but he does not count them as a threat.

But sources say he is obviously worried because he keeps extending the emergency regulations.

Referring to the Methodist church protest march that he had cancelled, he told Radio Fiji he had heard the church planned to use students from church run schools to participate in the march.

On Legend FM news, he claimed some church members and executives were misleading members during sermons by saying the conference will go ahead in August.

He reiterated that unless the Methodist Church divorced iself from politics, the Church would be denied permission to hold its conference in 2010 as well.

It's been almost three months since the regime severely curtailed the free flow of information by imposing total censorship on the media.

Media outlets are being forced to refer to the "regime" as "government" and refer to "interim ministers" as "ministers".

No negative news story about health facilities, pot-holed roads or frequent water cuts are allowed to be broadcast or published.

337 lawyers get licence from regime

337 lawyers have been granted practicing certificates by the interim regime, following the rendering of the Fiji Law Society last month.

In a paid advertisement in today's Fiji Times, Acting Chief Registrar Ana Rokomokoti provided the names of the 337 lawyers.

But our sources say there are a total of 375 lawyers who were members of the Law Society.

This mean 48 lawyers are yet to be granted licences, most possibly because they didn't apply.

We can confirm that prominent Suva lawyer Graham Leung did not apply for a practicing certificate.

Other prominent lawyers who were given certificates are Law Society President Dorsami Naidu, Suva lawyers Hemendra Nagin, Richard Naidu, Jon Apted, Ba lawyer Dr Muhammad Samshu Din Sahu Khan, and regime's vocal critics Akuila Naco and Ratu Savenaca Komaisavai.

The Law Society had decided that all lawyers should apply for the certificate because failure to do so would jeopardise the interests of their clients.

Ousted Chairperson of Fiji Human Rights Commission and former Ombudsman Dr Shaista Shameem has also been granted a practicing certificate.

Shameem, a staunch supporter of Frank Bainimarama's regime until the abrogation of the Constitution on 10th April when she lost her job, is likely to enter private practice as reported by Coupfourpointfive two months ago.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Bainimarama fed up of Ganilau

The interim Minister for Defence Ratu Epeli Ganilau is likely to be terminated as an interim minister from the regime's Cabinet, our sources say.

Sources say interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama is unhappy about decisions Ganilau has made as interim minister.

Sources say Bainimarama is not happy with Ganilau's approval to allow a businessman under invesigation for taxation matters to fly out of the country last weekend.

Coupfourpointfive has been told that the businessman was being investigated by Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption, who had initiated a stop departure order aainst the businessman.

But Ganilau pulled some strings and alowed the businessman to fly to New Zealand.

Bainimarama was reportedly angry at Ganilau's actions but the interim minister told him the businessman would return to Fiji in 8 days time.

We have been informed Bainimarama told Ganilau if the businessman does not return then Ganilau's head will roll.

On Monday, Ganilau jointly hosted a media conference with Fijian Holdings Limited and Police Commissioner Esala Teleni about plans to build a new complex to house the police headquarters.

The complex is to be built by Fijian Holdings and rented to the Police Force. The rent is to go towards the purchasing price of the complex known as Twin Towers built in the heart of Suva City.

The Force will own the complex after rent payments accumulate into the total price used to build the complex by FHL.

It is what you call BOOT measure - Build, Own, Operate & Transfer.

Ganilau was Bainimarama's commander in the army for 7 years until 1999 when he resigned to contest the elections.

He reconmended Bainimarama's appointment to succeed him.

Road map on Wednesday

The interim Prime Minister and army commander Frank Bainimarama will announce the regime's road map at 10am on Wednesday.

Bainimarama will deliver his address from Tradewinds Hotel Convention Centre in Lami just outside Suva. A Department of information statement says Bainimarama's address will be on "Fiji's strategic framework for change".

The road map is expected to state plans for formulating a new Constitution and holding elections by September 2014.

Since 5th December 2006, the regime has consistently reneged on commitments it made to the European Union and the Pacific Islands Forum for elections to be held by March 2009.

The commitments given to the EU were by Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, Mahendra Chaudhry and Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. The commitment to the Forum was made at the Forum leaders' meting at Tonga in October 2007 by Bainimarama himself.

In February 2007, the regime announced it would be ready to return Fiji to parliamentary democracy in 2010.

But it broke its own commitment and sources say there that the September 2014 commitment announced after the abrogation of the Constitution is also a lie.