#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: 2009-07-05

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bainimarama wins over Melanesian countries

By Sean Dorney in Port Vila

The leaders of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu have given their full backing to an attempt to have Fiji's suspension from the Pacific Islands Forum lifted.

Fiji's military leader Frank Bainimarama secured their support at a meeting in Port Vila.

At a news conference the chairman of the group, Vanuatu's Prime Minister Edward Natapei, said the leaders praised Commodore Bainimarama's strategic framework for change for Fiji as reflecting a clear vision to achieve sustainable democracy.

That strategic framework would see Commodore Bainimarama stay in power for at least another five years without elections.

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare (pictured above), said he had been convinced that some of Commodore Bainimarama's plans were good for Fiji.

The Melanesian countries say they will take Fiji's case for withdrawing its suspension from the Pacific Islands Forum to next month's leaders' meeting in Cairns.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Fugitive Thai leader seeks Pacific haven

There's been no reported sightings yet of the fugitive Thai leader, Thaksin Shinawatra, who is said to have headed to Port Vila, where the Melanesian leaders have been meeting.

Shinawatra was this week in Fiji and Tonga, amid speculation he's seeking safety in a country with no extradition treaty with Thailand.

Thaksin, whose Thai passport has been cancelled, is wanted in Bangkok on corruption charges.

He flew into Suva in his Learjet for a secret meeting with prime minister and military commander Frank Bainimarama on Monday.

The meeting - held in Bainimarama's office - was confirmed by Major Neumi Leweni, who said a business prosposal was discussed at lunch.

It's understood the Thai leader wants to invest $300million in Fiji.

In return, it's expected he'd be assured safety from extradition - authorities in Thailand are trying to get him back to Bangkok, where he faces two years in jail for abuse of power.

The newspaper, The Australian, reported this week that Thaksin used an assumed name to get into Fiji, although his true identity was known to the authorities, and that his visit was approved in advance.

The paper says he is using a passportissued by Montenegro.

An official in Tonga also confirmed Thaksin visited Nukualofa last week.

On leaving, he was said to be heading to Vanuatu, where the annual meeting of the heads of the Melanesian Spearhead Group of countries is being held in Port Vila.

Qarase and Chaudhry meet again

Deposed Prime Minister and SDL leader, Laisenia Qarase, and Fiji Labour Party leader and former interim Finance Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, met for the second time on Wednesday.

Sources have confirmed that the two - bitter political rivals until their first meeting a few weeks ago - met once again in the law office of Rajendra Chaudhry in Suva at 6pm on Wednesday.

Sources say Mahendra Chaudhry was picked up from his Suva Point home by Rajendra and driven to the law office.

Qarase came in his own private vehicle.

Both leaders have told close associates they are happy with the outcome of the preliminary talks held so far.

Qarase has reportedly said he has forgotten about the past and is optimistic he and Chaudhry can build a coalition.

This statement is coming from a leader, who for five years between 2001 and May 2006, said he could not work with Chaudhry because their policies were diametricaly opposed to each other.

Likewise, Chaudhry refused to join his FLP MPs in the Multi-Party Cabinet as the Deputy Prime Minister after the May 2006 elections saying he was not hungry about a Cabinet portfolio as he had already served as Prime Minister.

We will have more on this in the next few days.

Forum urged to increase pressure

The Fiji Democracy and Freedom Movement has urged Pacific Islands Forum Leaders to increase pressure and impose more sanctions agaisnst Fiji's interim regime, in a bid to force it to hold early elections.

The Australian based organisation, in its reaction to Frank Bainimarama's address on Fiji's roadmap to democracy, says the 1997 Constitution can never be abrogated.

President Usaia Waqatairewa also shot down Bainimarama's claim of the existence of a new legal order saying a "new order can only exist if the people have accepted it".

He said it was futile for the regime to be proclaiming acceptance of the new legal order to the international community because the world is fully aware of suppression of dissent and anti-regime statements because of censorship and Public Emergency Regulations.

Waqatairewa reminded regional leaders that if they engage in dialogue with Bainimarama, then they are "doing business with a common criminal who has raped democracy of his country and pilfered the national assets of his people."

He says the fact that the regime has delayed the start of constitutonal reforms to September 2012 is an excuse to prolong their self imposed stay in power beyond 2014.

FHL inquiry similar to Chaudhry tax probe

The speed with which the interim regime carried out an investigation into Fijian Holdings Limited, is similar to the rapidity with which a team was secretly formed to carry out an inquiry to clear Mahendra Chaudhry, after the media revealed in February last year information about his $2 million stash in an Australian bank.

At 4pm on Friday 3rd July FHL issued a statement saying Board Chairman Isoa Kaloumaira, Deputy Chairman and deputy army commander Colonel Mohammed Aziz and Managing Director Sereana Qoro were told to proceed on leave for 5 days for the audit on corporate governance.

A few hours laterthe same day, Permanent Secretary for Information Lieutenant-Colonel Neumi Leweni in a statement said the regime had started proceedings to investigate FHL.

Leweni said Kaloumaira and Qoro were asked to step aside and deliberately failed to mention Aziz’s name.

Three days later on Monday 6th July, the FHL issued a statement that the audit had been completed and the three directors re-instated.

In early March 2008, Chaudhry was also sent on leave for a week pending an investigation into the $2 million stash.

Interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum told the nation through the media that an inquiry was underway.

The team comprising of two expatriates and former deputy Prime Minister Taufa Vakatale completed their inquiry in three days.

A day later, Sayed Khaiyum told the nation through the media that Mahendra Chaudhry was cleared of tax evasion allegations and that the $2 million discovered in Australian bank was money given to him privately by people in Haryana, India after the 2000 coup.

The tax inquiry stated that Chaudhry was not familiar with Fiji’s tax laws and cleared him for declaring false income for four years in a bid to avoid paying tax.

The inquiry team ignored the fact that Chaudhry was a Finance Minister twice in 1987 and 1999-2000, interim Finance Minister at the time of the inquiry and Prime Minister between May 1999-May 2000.

And therefore should have been fully conversant with all tax laws.

Based on the last inquiry, the FHL probe would have definitely swept matters under the carpet.

Bainimarama's sugar cane stunt

Unknown to cane farmers and the rest of Fiji because of media censorship, the initiation of crushing for the 2009 season at Rarawai mill last Friday, by interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, was a hoax and publicity stunt.

Sources have established that the load of sugarcane that Bainimarama tipped to signal the start of crushing was not crushed, along with about 3000 tonnes of cane harvested by farmers in the mill area from the Ba and Tavua districts.

While the media reported that the Rarawai mill had started crushing after Bainimarama launched it, they have not been able to report that it was a cheap publicity stunt to signal normality in the sugar industry.

Just like Penang, Labasa and Lautoka mills failed to start on the due date due to mechanical failures, Rarawai mill also did not crush any cane for more than four days since last Friday – including the load of cane tipped by Bainimarama.

The mill started crushing at 3pm on Monday but is likely to experience continuous breakdowns like Lautoka mill.

During the publicity stunt ceremony, Fiji Sugar Corporation Chairman Gautam Ramswarup castigated critics for complaining about mill performance and claimed only 15% of mill upgrade works that were worth $86 million are pending for completion this year.

However, Ramswarup’s claim is also a lie given the mill breakdowns and the stage managed drama to show that the Rarawai mill had started crushing.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Chaudhry courts Qarase

The Fiji Labour Party leader and ousted former interim Finance & Sugar Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, is reported to have recently met the deposed Prime Minister and SDL Leader, Laisenia Qarase.

Fiji Television news reported on Monday night the two leaders spoke during the opening of the law office of lawyer, Rajendra Chaudhry, in Suva recently. Rajendra is MP Chaudhry’s eldest son.

RP Chaudhry confirmed to Fiji TV news the two leaders met in his office but claimed he was not privy to their discussions.

Our sources say that for at least six months now, Mahendra Chaudhry has been trying to meet Qarase. Sources say while such a meeting between two leaders who are diametrically opposed to each other would seem far fetched, Chaudhry has a history of jumping into bed with any leader who has been willing to rescue his dwindling political fortunes or offer him prestige and power.

Our sources point out that:
a)After the May 1992 elections, Chaudhry’s support enabled 1987 coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka to become Prime Minister
b)Chaudhry obtained nationalist leader Sakeasi Butadroka’s support to try and become Leader of the Opposition in 1992
c)Chaudhry refused to join Qarase’s multi-party Cabinet after the 2006 elections with nine Labour MPs who became Ministers. He even refused Qarase’s offer of Deputy Prime Minister
d)Chaudhry joined Frank Bainimarama’s interim regime in January 2007 with two other FLP Members, despite being a victim of three previous coups.

Our sources point out that Chaudhry endorsed Bainimarama’s military coup by repeatedly saying the army commander as justified in overthrowing a corrupt leader like Qarase who was “going to bankrupt Fiji”.

Chaudhry even urged Bainimarama to delay elections and return to parliamentary democracy saying “election is not the answer to Fiji’s problems”.

Chaudhry is a strong advocate of the illegitimate Peoples Charter and has repeated in the last years that electoral reforms must be completed before elections.

Pita Driti ordered to take leave

The military’s Land Force Commander, Colonel Pita Driti, has been ordered to take leave.

Well-placed sources have confirmed that Driti was told to take all of his leave after he was seen talking to former Methodist Church head, the Reverend Manasa Lasaro recently. It is not known where the conversation took place.

Lasaro and former church president, Reverend Tomasi Kanailagi, are regarded as anti-regime elements by army commander and interim prime minister, Frank Bainimarama.

Bainimarama used the two powerful leaders of the Church as the main reason why he ordered the cancellation of the annual Methodist Church conference scheduled for next month.

Our sources say Driti was basically stood down as Land Force Commander. The Land Force comprises the largest force of the military, under which is he powerful 3rd Infantry Regiment (3FIR, that is led by a son of the late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara.

Coupfourpointfive has been informed that Driti was asked ordered to relinquish his uniform as well and that leave is a precursor to his inevitable termination as Land Force Commander.

Meanwhile, the standing committee of the Methodist Church was meeting late yesterday afternoon. According to a report posted on teh Fiji Village website last evening, the meeting was supposed to discuss the option of approaching Bainimarama once more to request him to allow the conference to go ahead next month.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Fijian Holdings trio reinstated

In a surprise move, the FHL directors suspended last week have been told to resume their roles.

The trio - Sereana Qoro, Isoa Kaloumaira and Colonel Mohammed Aziz - were asked to take leave as an audit into the holding's corporate governance was being undertaken.

But Fiji TV news has tonight announced that the directors have been given the all clear by the interim regime and can return to work.

Critics believe there was more to Friday's announcement the three directors were going on leave. It's being suggested that corrupt behaviour at the FHL, is at the core of the decision.

Coupfourpointfive sources say the two regime installed directors have also been backstabbing each other and that has a lot to do with the fallout.

Editors note: see earlier Coupfourpointive story - Back stabbing leads to FHL shake-up.

Reserve Bank misleads people

The interim regime controlled Reserve Bank of Fiji is misleading the nation by saying it has tendered to either sell or rent the official residence of the Bank's Governor.

Last Friday, while responding to queries from the media, the Bank issued a statement saying it had avertised through real estate agents, Harcourts, to either sell or rent out the exclusive residence located in the upmarket Namadi Heights area, along Princes Road in Suva.

Our sources say the Bank's media statement is a ploy to mislead potential buyers or tenants because the residence, known as Domodomo House, has already been sold for $1.7 million to a well-known businessman, Asif Razak.

Razak is the owner of Golden Manufacturers and a millionaire businessman.

He is also reportedly a good friend of regime installed Reserve Bank Governor, Sada Reddy. Reddy has decided to stay in his own house but sources say he is getting corporate rent allowance worth thousands of dollars. The minimum corporate rent is about $2000 a month.

The Domodomo house is a relatively new property and immaculately maintained. Its construction began in 2002. The only Governor to have occupied the posh residence, was Savenaca Narube who was sacked by the regime following the abrogation of the Consttution on Good Friday, April the 10th.

Back stabbing leads to FHL shake-up

Coupfourpointive can reveal that back-stabbing by two interim regime installed directors of the beleaguered Fijian Holdings Limited Board, led to three directors having to step aside for an investigation.

We can reveal that the fallout is the direct result of interfence by the regime in the first place, when it engineered a hostile takeover of the FHL Board a year ago via a boardroom coup.

FHL chairman, Isoa Kaloumaira, deputy chairman and deputy army commander, Colonel Mohamed Aziz, and managing director, Sereana Qoro, were told to take leave last Friday to make way for an audit of corporate governance.

While FHL's controversial attempt to buy BP Oil's Fiji operations for a mssive $190 million has been widely touted as the major reason for the shake-up, we've been told the failure to secure the loan to seal the deal in the last 7 months is not the only reason for this development at FHL.

Our sources say Aziz and Qoro, who the regime installed as deputy chairman and managing director respectively a year ago, have complained about each other's professional conduct and have also made allegations about financial abuse to interim prime minister and army commander, Frank Bainimarama.

Sources say Kaloumaira, who in the past has served as chief executive of Fiji Development Bank, may eventually become the fall guy and as chairman, carry the full brunt of the FHL mess.

Sources also say Qoro had a dismal record as general manager of Housing Authority and as boss of Basic Industries - a FHL subsidiary company from where she was thrust into the managing director's position.

According to sources, the post was a reward by the military council after she was replaced as chairman of Fiji Development Bank by the former interim Finance Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry.