#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: 2009-07-26

Saturday, August 1, 2009

CMAG gives regime ultimatum: elections or full suspension

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group has told the interim regime it has until September the first to commit to holding free and fair parliamentary elections and return Fiji to democracy by October 2010.

The CMAG says failure to follow through with this directive will result in Fiji facing full suspension from the Commonwealth next month.

The group held an extraordinary meeting in London last night. The meeting was chaired by Malaysia's Foreign Affairs Minister, Datuk Anifah Aman (pictured above), and was held in accordance with the principles of the Harare Declaration, the Millbrook Action Programme and the CMAG's own earlier resolutions on Fiji.

The meeting was consistent with the CMAG's previous meeting in early March just before the regime abrogated the 1997 Constitution and derailed the President's Political Dialogue Forum - a process that had the support of the Commonwealth Secretariat and the United Nations as a legitimate means of finding a way forward from the December 2006 military coup.

The meeting noted that the Pacific Islands Forum had suspended Fiji on May the second. As a result, Fiji will not participate in Forum for the first time in its history when Forum Leaders meet in Cairns, Australia, next week. The meeting will also be attended by Commonwealth Secretary-General, Kamlesh Sharma, who has been invited by Australia's Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd.

The key decisions that came out of last night's CMAG meeting are as follows:

1) Should the regime fail to make sufficient progress to return Fiji to democracy, Fiji would be fully be suspended from the Commonwealth at the CMAG's next scheduled meeting in September 2009.
2) The CMAG noted Fiji's worsening situation with regard to the serious deterioration of fundamental Commonwealth values and deplored the abrogation of the Constitution, further entrenchment of authoritarian rule outside of the Constitution and the rule of law, on-going violation of human rights including freedom of speech and assembly, arbitrary detention of opponents to the military regime, and undermining of the judiciary and legal system.
3) The CMAG noted the regime's withdrawal of cooperation with the Commonwealth and the United Nations on the proposed President's Political Dialogue Process (PPDF) and the effective abandonment of that pocess.
4)The CMAG urged the regime to immediately re-activate the PPDF to be facilitated by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the UN and stressed that such Dialogue must be independent, inclusive, time-bound and without any pre-determined outcome, and lead to credibile elections in the countrey no later than October 2010.
5) The CMAG urged the regime to state its firm commitment to reactivating the PPDF as indicated in its terms above by no later than September 1, 2009, in writing to the Commonwealth Secretary-General.
6) In the absence of sch confirmation, Fiji will be fully suspended by that date. But should a positive response be received from the regime, the CMAG has authorised its Chair (Datuk Anifaf Aman) and Secretary-General (Kamlesh Sharma) to consult on engagement with the regime and furnish a report to its next meeting in New York on September the 26th, 2009.

Last night's CMAG meeting also took note of a joint statement from ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase and former interim Finance Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, as well as a letter from the ousted Opposition Leader, Mick Beddoes.

Editor's Note: See below for the CMAG's statement on the meeting.

Breaking News: Commonwealth Ministerial Group threatens full suspension of Fiji

The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), which held an extraordinary meeting in London yesterday, has released a statement on Fiji.

The Action Group addresses serious or persistent violations of the Commonwealth's fundamental political values and has, again, urged Fiji to return to democracy as quickly as possible - saying it faces further sanctions if it doesn't.

1. The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group on the Harare Declaration (CMAG) held an extraordinary meeting in London on 31 July 2009. The Meeting was chaired by Hon Datuk Anifah Aman, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia. It was also attended by H.E. Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ghana; Hon Marco Hausiku, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Namibia; Hon Murray McCully, Minister of Foreign Affairs of New Zealand; Hon Samuel T. Abal, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Immigration of Papua New Guinea; Hon Rohitha Bogollagama, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka; Hon Rufus George Bousquet, Minister of External Affairs of St Lucia; Hon Sam Kutesa, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uganda; and Mr Ivan Lewis, Minister of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, United Kingdom.

2. CMAG received a written communication from the Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, Hon Toke Talagi, Premier of Niue.

3. The Group also received with appreciation a briefing from the High Commissioner of Fiji to the United Kingdom, H E Mr Pio Bosco Tikoisuva.

4. CMAG further received and took note of a Joint Statement dated 24 July 2009 made by two former Prime Ministers of Fiji, Mr Laisenia Qarase and Mr Mahendra Chaudhry, as well as a letter from Mr Mick Beddoes, Leader of the Opposition in the last parliament of Fiji.

5. CMAG recalled that, at its previous meeting on 4 March 2009, it had deplored the fact that Fiji remained in contravention of Commonwealth values and principles; that CMAG’s call for the Interim Government to adhere to its March 2009 deadline for holding elections had not been heeded; and that the Interim Government had not indicated an alternative date for elections. It further recalled that, at that meeting, CMAG had reaffirmed that the engagement of the Commonwealth in Fiji should continue to be directed at protecting and promoting the fundamental values and principles of the Commonwealth, in the interests of the people of Fiji.

6. The Group further recalled its decision in March that, should sufficient progress not be made by Fiji towards a return to democracy, Fiji would be fully suspended from the Commonwealth at the Group’s next regularly scheduled meeting in September 2009.

7. The Group noted that Fiji’s situation with regard to fundamental Commonwealth values had deteriorated strikingly since March. It deplored the President’s purported abrogation of the Constitution on 10 April 2009, the further entrenchment of authoritarian rule in Fiji outside the Constitution and the rule of law, the ongoing violation of human rights including freedom of speech and assembly, arbitrary detention of opponents of the military regime, and the undermining of the independence of the judiciary and legal system. CMAG also deplored the intention of the Fiji regime to further delay the return to democracy by more than five years.

8. In relation to Commonwealth engagement with Fiji, CMAG expressed its deep regret at the Fiji regime’s withdrawal of cooperation with the Commonwealth and UN on the proposed President’s Political Dialogue Forum (PPDF) and the effective abandonment of that process.

9. CMAG noted the decision by leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum to suspend Fiji from participation in the Forum as of 2 May 2009.

10. CMAG urged the Fiji regime to immediately reactivate the President’s Political Dialogue Forum process, facilitated by the Commonwealth and the United Nations. CMAG stressed that such a Dialogue must be independent, inclusive, time-bound and without any pre-determined outcome, and lead to credible elections in the country no later than October 2010.

11. CMAG urged the Fiji regime to state its firm commitment to reactivating the PPDF as indicated in the terms outlined in paragraph 10 above, by no later than 1 September 2009, in writing to the Commonwealth Secretary-General. In the absence of such confirmation, Fiji will be fully suspended on that date. CMAG authorised the Chair and the Secretary-General to consult on engagement with the Fiji regime should a positive response be received, and to furnish a report to CMAG’s next meeting in New York on 26 September 2009.

12. Consistent with the provisions of the Millbrook Action Programme and CMAG’s own earlier statements, the Group reaffirmed the importance of continued engagement by the Commonwealth with Fiji, in pursuit of its entrusted responsibility to support the restoration of constitutional democracy in that country and protecting and promoting human rights and the welfare of the people of Fiji.

ommonwealth Secretary-General and comprises the Foreign Ministers of nine Commonwealth member countries – currently Ghana, Malaysia (Chair), Namibia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, St Lucia, Sri Lanka, Uganda (Deputy Chair) and the United Kingdom.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Regime releases two new decrees as Iloilo prepares to depart

As predicted by Coupfourpointfive, two days ago, retiring President Ratu Josefa Iloilo, who appointed himself as Head of State and Commander of Republic of Fiji Military Forces after abrogating the Constitution, has been used by the interim regime to promulgate amendments to two critical decrees.

These decrees are 2 and 8 - Executive Authority of Fiji Drecree and the Office of the Vice President and Succession Decree.

In doing so under the New Legal Order, the regime continues to violate with impunity and blatancy, its own illegal laws - albeit laws made through earlier Decrees.

The latest Decrees - Executive Authority of Fiji (Amendment) Decree, Decree 28, and Office of the Vice President Succession (Amendment) Decree, Decree 29, were posted today on the regime's online website.

Decrees 2 and 8 were amended to allow Vice-President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau to act as President and for the regime's interim Cabinet to instruct Chief Justice Anthony Gates who to appoint President.

Decrees 2 and 8 - promulated under Iloilo's name on the 10th and the 16th - did not carry any provisions for retirement, resignation, removal or replacement of the Tui Vuda as President because he appointed himself to the role, effectively shutting the door on anyone else taking up office.

Decrees 28 and 29 are dated Thursday 30th July - the day Iloilo announced he was retiring and would take leave immediately.

The new Decree 29 - Office of the Vice President and Succession Decree - states the "Vice President performs functions of the President if the President is absent from duty or from Fiji or is for any other reason unable to perform the functions of his or her office or if the Office of the President becomes vacant for any reason".

No such provision existed in Decree 8.

Decree 28 - Executive Authority of Fiji (Amendment) Decree now has a new section (3A) and states:

a) If the Office of the President becomes vacant, the Chief Justice acting on the advice of the interim Cabinet, shall appoint another person to become President.

The criteria for nomination and appointment requires the person to be a Fiji tizen with a distinguished career in any aspect of national or international life, whether in the public or private sector.

The term has been reduced from 5 years to 3 year but allows him or her to be eligible for re-appointment.

Under the Constitution, both the President and Vice-President could serve a maximum of two 5-year terms in their respective Offices but were not eligible for re-appointment after that.

Editor's Note: See right of the blog for the new Decrees 28 and 29.

Has the Methodist Church buckled?

There is uncertainty and confusion tonight regarding the status of the Methodist Church conference planned for Lomanikoro in Rewa, in a month's time.

In their major news bulletin late this afternoon, the pro-regime station Radio Legend FM said the Standing Committee of the Methodist Church decided at its meeting in Suva today that the Conference won't be held this year.

Legend FM quotes Church Assistant General Secretary, Reverend Tevita Nawadra, as saying (his voice was not aired), that members of the Standing Comittee are expected to go to Rewa tomorrow to inform iparamount chief, Marama Roko Tui Dreketi Ro Teimumu Kepa, as is the tradition, the conference has been cancelled.

The radio station says the delegation would be led by former Church President and head of the Methodist Nadi Circuit, Reverend Laisiasa Ratabacaca.

Nawadra is reported as saying that earlier in the week they met with interim Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, and the Military Council to assure them the Standing Committee would discuss options to replace the format of the Conference.

Nawadra is furhter quoted as saying they assured Bainimarama and the Military Council of their support for the regime's effort to move the country "forward".

Meanwhile, during its six o'clock news this evening, Fiji Television reported that members of the Standing Committee declined to comment on the outcomes of today's meeting.

Sources: Aziz out of Fijian Holdings Ltd

The deputy commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces is reportedly no longer a director and the deputy chhairman of Fijian Holdings Limited.

Sources close to the military have told us that Colonel Mohammed Aziz is reported to have resigned yesterday.

While neither the interim regime, nor FHL or South Pacific Stock Exchange (SPSE) have made a public announcement, our sources have confirmed that Aziz, who was also odered to go on leave with FHL Chairman, Isoa Kaloumaira, and Managing Director Sereana Qoro to make way for a corporate governance audit (both were re-instated after three days), was implicated in the investigation report compiled by the regime.

Sources say Aziz, who spearheaded a boardroom coup constituting a hostile takeover of FHL Board more than a year ago, was implicated in financial abuse. It's believed the regime ordered the media not to reveal Aziz was also ordered to take leave.

Sources say Aziz's exit from FHL is linked to the growing tension within the Military Council and senior army officers who are now demanding their Commander and the interim Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, remove those who are guilty of financial abuse - the main reason cited by Bainimarama for removing Laisenia Qarase's government in December 2006 in the fourth military coup.

Bainimarama justified the coup descriving it as a clean-up campaign.

According to our sources the departure of Aziz confirms divison in the military - especially among the middle ranks and top brass who don't agree with the way Bainimarama is running his regime.

Sources: AG hiding truth over Prasad salary and perks

Interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum continues to breach financial regulations by favouring his friend John Prasad.

Prasad, a New Zaland citizen and a very close family friend of the Khaiyums, is currently Acting Permanent Secretary for Finance and has elevated himself as the Group Chairman of Fiji National Provident Fund. He is also the Chairman of Fji Water Corporation and when he initially came to Fiji, was appointed Chairman of Fiji Development Bank - a position he still holds.

Fijilive yesterday reported Sayed-Khaiyum as saying Prasad is not getting paid for being on the Boards of the statutory organisations. He said, as a civil servant Prasad is only receiving his salary for the Finance permanent secretary's job.

But according to Coupfourpointfive sources Sayed-Khaiyum is hiding the truth. Sources say that when Prasad became FDB Chairman, he was employed as a Financial Consultant to Frank Bainimarama at an annual salary of $120,000.

Under financial regulations, an expatriate has to pay a provisional tax of 15%. But Sayed-Khaiyum ordered the Finance Ministry to refund the entire 15% tax to Prasad. He also directed the money be repaid from FIRCA's operational budget. The Finance Ministry complied with Sayed-Khaiyum's directive, despite the fact that it was unlawful, even if the approval had come from interim Finance Minister, Bainimarama.

Sources say as acting Finance Permanent Secretary, Prasad is being paid $80,000 annually. The figure is more than the previous post holder received and $7,000 more than the minimum of $73,000 set by the regime in early 2007 when the post of chief executive officer was downbgraded to permanent secretary. Sources say it is likely that Prasad is also enjoying tax exemption at 31%, being in the higher bracket of salary earners.

Prasad has also enjoyed plush accommodation at the expense of taxpayers. As FDB Chairman and financial consultant, he was occupying the posh Quest apartments, located in Suva Central comlex, in the heart of Suva next to Central Police Station.

Sources say Prasad is currently living in the newly-built upmarket Victoria Apartments opposite the Victoria Tennis Courts in Suva.

The Victoria Apartments is owned by milionaire Labasa businessman, Charan Jeath Singh. Singh is a close friend of Ratu Epeli Ganilau and contested the 2006 elections under the banner of Ganilau National Alliance Party of Fiji (NAPF)

Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum was the legal advisor to NAPF. His father, Sayed Khaiyum, is employed by Singh as his properties manager. The interim AG's friendship with Prasad and him staying at an apartment managed by Sayed Khaiyum senior is nepotism and corruption conveniently being ignored by Bainimarama.

In past cases of former Fiji citizens turned expatriates plundering the Treasurery: Two months ago, another New Zaland citizen Francis Narayan was kicked out from FNPF after he was pocketing $160,000 a year for acting as a investment consultant.

Their colleague, John Samy, also from New Zealand, pocketed a minimum of $120,000 in salary for a 10-month contract to draw up the Peoples Charter.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Rika saluted for 'moral' bravery

PINA says Fiji Times editor Netani Rika deserved this year's Media Freedom Award because of the constant threats he's been forced to live under since the 2006 coup.

Rika has been threatened repeatedly, his house has been firebombed, his car stoned and his family put at risk over the past two years.

"In spite of these cowardly attacks on him, and the censorship imposed on his newspaper by the military and the deportation of two of his publishers, he has demonstrated - both at a public and private level - a strong resolve to uphold journalistic principles," PINA said a statement.

"PINA salutes Netani Rika for his professional and moral integrity and the courage he displayed in being prepared to stand up publicly on his principles, knowing that his words were placing him at risk."

"PINA takes the opportunity to reiterate its condemnation of the extreme situation of media censorship now prevailing in Fiji. It calls on the provisional military government to lift immediately the emergency regulations under which journalists are prevented from doing their job and the Fiji public is kept informed."

Fiji grabs PINA awards

Journalists from Fiji grabbed most of the Pacific Islands News Association awards for 2009. The winners are listed below and were announced in Port Vila, Vanuatu, where this year's annual conference was held.

1. Online (website) Award - Fiji Times

2. Young Print Journalist - Dana from the Cook Islands

3. Print Journalist - Stanley Simpson Mai Life

4. Young TV Journalist - Rachna Nath Fiji TV

5. TV Journalist - Stanley Simpson Mai TV

6. Young Radio Journalist - no recipient

7. Radio Journalist - Vijay Narain Communications Fiji Limited

8. Pacific Journalist of the Year - Samisoni Pareti
Robert Keith Reid Award

9. Tavake Fusimalohi Award for Media Freedom - Netani Rika

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Rika gets PINA Freedom Award

Fiji Times editor Netani Rika was tonight awarded the Pacific Islands News Association Freedom Award.

On Monday Rika walked out of the PINA conference in Vanuatu because a censor from Fiji's Ministry of Information was present.

In May he gave a speech titled "Courage under Fire" at the Pacific Freedom Forum regional workshop in Apia.

In his speech, Rika detailed how hard it was for the media in Fiji to work under strict censorship and how censors from the Ministry of Information came to the newsroom everyday to monitor what was being published.

He said in protest, the Fiji Times published blank pages in its Sunday Paper and the Fiji Times management was summoned and told that blank pages were not allowed under the Public Emergency Regulations.

He said the censors not only didn't allow stories that were deemed anti-regime but the Fiji Times was also not allowed to publish stories on the protests in Thailand and the assasination attempt on Barrack Obama.

Lau council meets with Methodist conference backdrop

The Lau Provincial Council meeting and bazaar is underway in Suva.

So far there has been no fireworks, unlike last year when Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara, a son of the late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara and the Commanding Officer of Third Infantry Regiment (3FIR), locked out those seeking leadership of the Council, namely former Public Service Commission Chairman, Anare Jale, and his supporters.

Ratu Tevita or Roko Lui became Chairman of the Council and endorsed the People's Charter initiative. So far there is a display of unity as people of Lau residing in Suva and surrounding districts have converged on the city to support the bazaar.

Sources have told us that there are strong traditional links between Lau and Marama Roko Tui Dreketi Ro Teimumu Kepa. Her elder sister the late Ro Lady Lala Mara and Ratu Mara's wife was Ro Teimumu's predecessor.

Roko Lui is the high profile nephew of Ro Teimimu, the paramount chief who was locked up for two days at Central Police Station and the military hadquarters Queen Elizabeth Barracks last week after her statement was posted on a blogsite confirming that Rewa intended to hold the Methodist Church Conference in Lomanikoro.

We have been reliably told that Ro Teimumu had already sent out an invitation to Lau in the traditional manner to attend the conference. But with the interim regime head Frank Bainimarama insisting that police and the military have cancelled the conference, it is likely that the issue will be raised at the Lau meeting.

Does the chief justice have the power to appoint a new president?

The interim regime has cornered itself with the retirement and appointment of a new president.

With the abrogation of the Constitution, there are no decrees under the new Legal Oder to make an acting or a new appointment to the Office of the President. Yet this afternoon interim Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, told Radio Legend FM the new President will be appointed by the Chief Justice on the advice of Cabinet.

In essence, a bunch of unelected personalities in charge of ruling Fiji through the point of the gun will appoint an unelected and unconstitutional President. This is remarkably different from the processes laid down in the 1997 Constitution the regime abrogated on April the 10th. Under the Constitution the President was appointed by the 52 member Great Council of Chiefs and symbolised the unity of the State.

With the forced retirement of President Ratu Josefa Iloilo, it means that the regime has to wriggle itself out of the provisions of the Executive Authority of Fiji Decree (Decree No. 2) The Decree promulgated by Iloilo, saw the ailing chief of Vuda appoint himself as President and Commander-in-Chief of Republic of Fiji Military Forces.

Iloilo promulgated that until Parliament is elected in accordance with a Constitution yet to be adopted by the people of Fiji, he as President possessed the powers to appoint the interim Prime Minister, interim Ministers, make laws and exercise executive authority.

The Decree does not contain any provisions for the resignation, retirement, replacement or the appointment of a President.

The Office of Vice-President and Succession Decree (Decree No. 8) dated April the 16th, also does not lay out provisions for the appointment of a President. It basically states the Vice-President is appointed for a term of 5 years.

Our sources say it is likely a new Decree or amendments to Decrees 2 and 8 will be made in Iloilo's name while he is still on leave before proceeding to retirement.

It's yet another example of poor judgment of the law by the interim Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiym. He's been known to have given the wrong advice to Iloilo at least three times, regarding the provisions of the 1997 Constitution.

A new Decree or amendments to the previous decrees are likely to contain procedures for the Presidential appointment to be made by Chief Justice Anthony Gates on advice from the interim Cabinet.

It's also taylor made criteria for regime sympathisers, including the current Vice President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, and even Frank Bainimarama to become the next President.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Analysis: Bainimarama planned Iloilo's retirement

Contrary to the announcement this afternoon by the interim regime’s head, Frank Bainimarama, that President Ratu Josefa Iloilo has announced his retirement, sources have told us that Iloilo was forced into early retirement by the regime.

We have confirmation that the Tui Vuda’s retirement as President and Commander in Chief of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces was planned by the regime soon after the appointment of Ratu Epeli Nailatikau as vice president in late April after the abrogation of the Constitution on April the 10th.

Sources have told us that the regime has been discussing a retirement package for Iloilo for more than two months.

And with the civil service reshuffle announced this week, in which Secretary to the President, Rupeni Nacewa was listed as retiring, our sources were on the verge of confirming that Government House will have a new occupant as President.

Commissioner Western Joeli Rokovada was announced as the new Secretary to the President.

Rokovada was replaced by Permanent Secretary for Justice Pio Tikoduadua - in what is seen as a demotion for the army officer. But he is now being seconded to the Office of the interim prime minister.

Bainimarama also told the media he visited Iloilo today. The ageing President who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, was visited by chiefs of the Western Division almost two months ago and the regime had then stated the chiefs were happy with Iloilo and wanted him to continue as President.

Nailatikau will now act as President. Bainimarama said the interim cabinet will advice the Chief Justice Anthony Gates about the new appointment.

Under the 1997 Constitution, the President was appointed by the Great Council of Chiefs to serve a term of 5 years and a maximum 2 terms totaling 10 years.

Iloilo was re-appointed towards the end of 2005 by the GCC together with Roko Tui Bau Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi as Vice President. He had initially publicly announced that he would not accept re-appointment but changed his mind a few weeks later, apparently on Bainimarama’s advice.

Following the abrogation of the Constitution, Iloilo re-appointed himself as President under the Executive Authority of Fiji Decree of 10th April.

More Methodist officials charged

A former vice president of the Methodist Church and the current treasurer were among five Church ministers and officials charged today with participating in a meeting in contravention of the Public Emergency Regulations.

Ratu Inoke Seniloli, who led a delegation that visited Marama Roko Tui Dreketi Ro Teimumu Kepa on July the 19th prompting her to issue a statement confirming the hosting of the Church conference, Treasurer Livai Tuisagavere, Sakaraia Koli, Reverend Apete Toko and Reverend Kalivati Ravoka appeared in the Suva Maistrates Court before magistrate Eparama Rokoika.

The director of Public Prosecutions, John Rabuku, said the Church leaders have not demonstrated good faith in their meetings saying they needed to apply for a permit for every meeting until they show god faith to police and the military.

All have been bailed to re-appear in Court on Friday when it is expected their charges will be amalgamated with those charged last week.

Those already charged include Ro Teimumu, Church President Reverend Ame Tugaue, General Secretary Rev Tuikilakila Waqairatu and former leaders, Rev Manasa Lasaro and Rev Tomasi Kanailagi.

Editor explains why he walked out of PINA conference

The editor in chief of the Fiji Times, Netani Rika, says he walked out of the PINA conference in Port Vila because an interim regime appointed information officer was present.

Rika refused to participate in a panel discussion involving an information officer from the regime’s Information Ministry during the PINA convention in Vanuatu on Monday.

The Information Officer he was referring to was former journalist, Talei Tora, an army officer, who has been seconded to the information ministry as one of its main censors.

The censors have been stationed in Fiji newsrooms monitoring news on a daily basis since the abrogation of the Constitution in April.

The Information Ministry is a member of PINA.

Before he left the meeting, Rika spoke of how journalists, including women, were detained by the regime for doing their job. He said the same authorities from the regime were represented in the panel and were accepted at the forum and given a voice as a member of PINA despite restricting the work of journalists in Fiji.

Rika noted that the regime’s representative - Tora - had been treated with decency, respect and dignity at PINA, a courtesty which the regime has failed to extend to journalists in Fiji.

He said he had to leave because he was not feeling comfortable in the presence of people “who will not treat us with courtesy at home (Fiji) but expect to be treated with respect off-shore (Port Vila)”.

Editor's Note: See right of blog for Rika’s comments at the PINA Forum

Australia's high commissioner: No policy change

Australia will not impose any new sanctions on the interim regime but at the same time it will not change or relax its current policies and stand, according to its high commissioner to Fiji, James Batley.

In opening the Fiji Economic Update 2009 conference at the University of the South Pacific today, Batley said while the Pacific has been affected by the global financial crisis, in Fiji’s case the impact of the crisis has been magnified by the effects of political developments and by imposition of rule by decree.

Batley notes that the Pacific Forum Island Leaders will meet in Cairns, next week and one of the topics for discussion is Fiji’s participation and the new regional trade and economic integration agreement, PACER Plus.

Fiji was suspended in May from Forum events, meetings and from participating in regional cooperative initiatives spearheaded by the Forum.

Batley says Australia will welcome Fiji back as a full participant in PANCER Plus negotiations but only when concrete steps are taken to return Fiji to democracy and the rule of law.

He says Australia and Fiji have strong economic ties and as a neighbour with a significant stake in Fiji’s economy, Australia wants Fiji to fulfil its economic potential.

But Batley stated that while Australia was also interested in the Economic Update, at a time when freedom of speech is heavily restricted, it is imperative that USP fulfils its traditional role of providing a space for the free and respectful exchange of ideas and opinions, free from coercion or intimidation.

Fiji president retiring

Statement by Fiji's interim prime minister Frank Bainimarama

This afternoon I visited His Excellency, our President Ratu Josefa Iloilovatu Uluivuda at Government House. He informed me that he would be retiring as President of the Republic of Fiji after taking leave, which he will take from Thursday, 30 July 2009.

This is a truly significant event, the symbolic passing of the torch from a statesman who has made a tremendous contribution to the Nation and to the lives of all Fijians.

Under His Excellency Ratu Josefa Iloilovatu Uluivuda’s passionate and persistent leadership, the people of Fiji have come together to fully participate and contribute constructively to the People’s Charter initiative. His Excellency has served Fiji with fortitude and strength.

The People’s Charter initiative originated from and is an integral part of His Excellency’s mandate given to the Government to move the country forward. Were it not for His Excellency’s undying fervor and commitment to correct the injustices of the past, it is unlikely that there would have been such a groundswell of compassion and enthusiasm to implement major reforms.

The people of Fiji have tremendous respect for His Excellency Ratu Josefa Iloilovatu Uluivuda. They know him as a compassionate leader and a true Chief. His Excellency has reached out to Government, businesses and individuals to build strong partnerships between all different sectional interests in Fiji, partnerships that make a real difference to the lives of us all.

His Excellency is retiring from his role as President of the Republic of Fiji, but we will all continue to benefit from his lifetime of dedication to service and demonstrated strong leadership of the country throughout difficult and challenging times.

We are confident His Excellency will continue to be actively involved in important issues for our country, and we thank His Excellency for his invaluable contribution to Fiji.

The Vice President shall perform the functions of the President until a substantive appointment is made by the Chief Justice upon the advice and nomination of the Cabinet.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bainimarama's interview on SBS

REPORTER: Mark Davis
Commodore Voreqe Frank Bainimarama is fast becoming the pariah of the Pacific, damned and feared as a dictator by many. Increasingly isolated in the region, he is on a mission to transform the racial politics and the constitution of his country - no matter what anyone thinks, in or outside of Fiji. But in classic Pacific style, today's task is far more prosaic - he's picking up the fruit and vegies.

BAINIMARAMA: The international community think we are a failed state, we are a failed African state. Do you see me driving around in a tank? Everything is working well. It's not a failed state. A lot of people don't want to understand the situation here - especially Australia and New Zealand. Is it because I'm a military man?

REPORTER: Yes, of course, you've seized power. You're a military man in a nice shirt, but you're still a military man.

BAINIMARAMA: I keep telling everyone a radical change needs to be brought in. And radical change cannot be brought in by some weak organisation.

REPORTER: Can you run a country like an army camp? And can you do that for another five years?

BAINIMARAMA: I can't run a country like an army camp.

REPORTER: Well, you're doing it now.


REPORTER: Well, you're demanding…


REPORTER: Well, you're demanding changes and you're demanding obedience.

BAINIMARAMA: Yes, yes for a reason, because we want to bring about changes and you can't bring about changes if you wait 20 years for that to come about. You need to have it done - today.

Mark Davies: When he seized power in 2006, Bainimarama promised that elections would be held this year. That expectation was dashed three months ago when he suspended the constitution, sacked the judiciary and announced he'd be ruling for another five years.

Now banned from entering Australia, Bainimarama has agreed to an extended and rare interview to clear up what he believes are misunderstandings about his ambitions - a message he would have liked to have delivered to the leaders at the Pacific Islands Forum.

REPORTER: What went wrong?

BAINIMARAMA: What went wrong? I say there's a lot of misunderstanding by the international community of what transpired here - Australia and New Zealand, being big brothers, wanted to stamp their mark as big brothers and hence the isolation of Fiji from the forum.

REPORTER: Well, they've done a good job, I mean…

BAINIMARAMA: They have certainly done a good job.

REPORTER: Australia's Foreign Minister says that he did warn you that unless you declared that there would be an election these consequences would follow.

BAINIMARAMA: Why should he be warning me? Why is he warning me? Is he the forum? He's not the forum. The forum is a group of island nations in the Pacific - it's not Australia, it's not New Zealand. But do you see what's happening? They are using bulldozing tactics to have their way with the forum. But why do you think they are doing it?

REPORTER: Because they don't like to see a military dictatorship in the region.

BAINIMARAMA: Dictatorship? Dictatorship as in what? What am I doing?

REPORTER: You suspended the constitution, you sacked the judges, you have seized power.

BAINIMARAMA: I sacked the judges? Where did you get the brief that I sacked the judges?

REPORTER: Probably every media report on the planet.

BAINIMARAMA: The judges went out when His Excellency abrogated the constitution.

REPORTER: Yes, but the judges declared your government, or your rule, illegal.

BAINIMARAMA: No, no, the judges were removed when the constitution was abrogated.

REPORTER: So, the constitution was removed and then the judges are then removed with it?


REPORTER: Let's get real here.

BAINIMARAMA: Let's get one thing right, they were not the only thing that was removed.

REPORTER: Everything removed except your power.

BAINIMARAMA: No, that was removed. I was reinstated as prime minister the day after. Let's just get things in perspective. There may not be a constitution, but the laws are back. So, if you walk down the street right now, and you break a law, you'll be taken to the police station and investigated and charged and taken up to the judiciary, which is now been sworn back.

REPORTER: There's a pretty good chance I could break a law on the streets of Fiji - I'd just have to bring my camera out and try and speak to an opponent of yours and I'd be breaking a law.

BAINIMARAMA: Well, yes, but that's law by decree. There's a decree in place for that - the Public Emergency Regulation. So there is a law.

Mark Davies: Today Bainimarama is opening a convention. They're big business in Fiji and as prime minister, he is often happy to oblige with his presence. Until recent months, the regional response to Bainimarama has been a relatively tolerant one with tourism and trade continuing to bubble along. But now Australia and New Zealand are now becoming far more damning of Bainimarama, and more threatening - clearly determined to isolate him and his regime.

REPORTER: I mean there's now talk of economic sanctions, for instance, which would be a disaster for you.

BAINIMARAMA: So what's the answer? Are you saying we should go to an election? Is that the answer?

REPORTER: That would certainly be an answer. All your problems would disappear tomorrow.

BAINIMARAMA: So all these friendly nations want us to go to an election and then they stop all this hassling?

REPORTER: Absolutely, I think that's quite clear.

Mark Davies: For now, Bainimarama's biggest headache doesn't come from foreign nations. The real power he is challenging doesn't lie in Canberra or Wellington - it lies in a thousand traditional villages across Fiji. While all the correct indigenous protocols are being followed today, it is those same protocols and the associated privileges that Bainimarama is directly challenging. In essence, he's proposing sweeping constitutional changes to eliminate electoral, employment and other advantages given to indigenous Fijians over their ethnically Indian compatriots.

REPORTER: Why can't you take those reforms to an election and say "This is what I want to do"?

BAINIMARAMA: How long would that take?

REPORTER: It would take six months.

BAINIMARAMA: Do you think the reforms are going to be made?

REPORTER: Reforms wouldn't, but you could put them to the people. I mean, it's up to the people to decide whether they want those reforms.

BAINIMARAMA: If there were going to be any changes to the electoral reform, why didn't we make the changes in the last 30 years?

REPORTER: Do you need five years to do that?


REPORTER: You've had three already and you haven't done it.

BAINIMARAMA: It's not exactly an easy thing to do, you must admit.

Mark Davies: Ironically perhaps, today's convention is one for the international media. The Asian Pacific Institute for Broadcast Development has pushed ahead with holding its annual meeting in Fiji despite Bainimarama having recently turned off the lights on the local media.

BAINIMARAMA: Allow me to take the opportunity to thank the AIBD members for remaining firm in your decision to bring the AIBD general conference to Fiji. I am aware that there have been pressures….

Mark Davies: With police now in attendance in all newsrooms in Fiji local reporting amounts to little more than rugby news, factory openings and car accidents.

BAINIMARAMA: Ladies and gentlemen, my government believes in media freedom. However, the media must ensure that their work does not impact negatively on the right of others or the stability and wellbeing of a nation.

But it's not a military dictatorship where we abuse our authority.

REPORTER: Well it depends what you call abuse your authority, sir. I mean, you've got censorship that would do North Korea proud.

BAINIMARAMA: You're kidding me? You're joking?

REPORTER: I'm not joking. You've got intelligence officers sitting in the TV station there as the journalists edit their stories.

BAINIMARAMA: What do you think they're sitting down there? Tell me.

REPORTER: To make sure that there is nothing that criticises you or upsets you.

BAINIMARAMA: No, no, no - they are there to ensure that the press will not come up with any stories that will cause instability. That's it. They can print whatever they want, but irresponsible journalism is not going to be tolerated.

Mark Davies: No Australian or New Zealand media organisations have come to this party but Bainimarama has become used to that.

BAINIMARAMA: Well, there's always resistance, especially from Australia and New Zealand. That's the unbelievable thing about it. Maybe at some stage they'll get over it.

Mark Davies: And if Australia can't get over it, it appears that other nations can. Back at Bainimarama's office, the Russian ambassador waits for an audience. He may be becoming isolated in the Pacific but there is still no shortage of ambassadors knocking at his door. The Chinese, in particular, have become generous donors to Bainimarama in recent years.

BAINIMARAMA: Over the last four weeks, we've had as many as five ambassadors that have turned up here, providing their support.

Mark Davies: According to Bainimarama, other nations have a greater understanding of what he is trying to achieve.

BAINIMARAMA: You see, there's a lot of things that you from Australia and New Zealand don't see. You don't understand the politics in Fiji.

REPORTER: If you an election were held today, I think you'd agree, Mr Qarase would probably win it.

BAINIMARAMA: He would win it and where would that take us?

REPORTER: Representation of the will of the Fijian people. And I guess I ask you, where would it take us?

BAINIMARAMA: It's not going to take us anywhere because as I've said we are trying to change the mindset of the people from the racial issues that were prevalent in the last 10 years to what we want to take Fiji to.

REPORTER: Equal suffrage Multi-ethnic equal rights?

BAINIMARAMA: Exactly. Isn't that what the Australians would want?

Mark Davies: Bainimarama first came to international prominence when racial tension exploded in Fiji, in 2000. Then, George Speight, indigenous activists and a rebel army seized parliament and overthrew the government of Mahendra Chaudhry. They claimed that Indian Fijians were exerting too much power in Fiji. On the street, Indian shopkeepers bore the brunt of the attendant mob.

Out of the chaos came Frank Bainimarama. He tricked Speight into signing an accord and then promptly arrested him and fought down his army. Bainimarama installed Laisenia Qarase as prime minister but they quickly fell out, again on issues of race and indigenous power.

In 2004, under Qarase's government, Indian farmers where forced out of their homes. Set adrift without income at a time when the public service was essentially only employing ethnic Fijians.

BAINIMARAMA: What I did in 2000 was exactly what I did in 2006. We took away executive authority in 2000 because of the chaos and I handed executive authority to the politicians, the political masses, in the understanding that politicians were going to take us forward. They did not. Qarase and his crowd did a turnabout, did a turnaround on the military. Everything, or the direction that we wanted them to take the country to, to include all the races, they didn't do that. So I took it back in 2006. I took it back to prepare the politicians to lead this nation and the only way we can prepare the politicians is by getting a new constitution, getting a new electoral system in place.

One man, one vote, and see what happens? If one man, one vote is good for Australia and New Zealand, why isn't it good for Fiji?

REPORTER: Mr Qarase - he's not able to speak out against you or to organise against you. I believe he's not allowed to leave the country. Is that correct?

BAINIMARAMA: That's his bail condition, I think. The rule of law stays. Whatever the judges decide, I can't go and say 'no' to it.

REPORTER: And one of the reasons given to not allow him out of the country is that he will speak to journalists, specifically he'll speak to journalists in Australia.

BAINIMARAMA: Well, not really. He will go out and make destabilising remarks about what's happening in Fiji.

REPORTER: And he should not be allowed to do that?

BAINIMARAMA: What we want right now is opportunity for us to move forward and make these reforms.

REPORTER: Is he able to speak freely?

BAINIMARAMA: Well, he can speak to his wife and his family. He can go to his pub and drink beer. There's nothing to stop him from doing that. Freely in that sense, yes.

REPORTER: Can I speak to him?

BAINIMARAMA: Do you want to speak to him? What do you want to speak to him about?

REPORTER: Ask him his opinion of you, perhaps.

BAINIMARAMA: No, I don't want you to speak to him because he doesn't make sense. I want Qarase and his politics to be irrelevant. I want him out. I want his politics irrelevant from now on, OK? I don't want any race issue brought back again.

Mark Davies: For Bainimarama a constitution ensuring equal rights for all Fijians, electorally and otherwise, will end the race card that is so often played, and played hard, in Fiji.

BAINIMARAMA: This is the action that will stop all coups, that will stop all the destabilising forces from bringing up race issues from now onwards. That's what we are trying to do.

REPORTER: It's a noble aspiration but every politician on earth believes they have the correct vision.

BAINIMARAMA: Isn't equal suffrage good enough for Australia?

REPORTER: Yes, but it's tested.

BAINIMARAMA: So why isn't it good for us?

REPORTER: It's tested electorally.

BAINIMARAMA: So why isn't it good for us? Why isn't the constitution that will get rid of the race issue good for Australia but not good for us? Why is that?

REPORTER: Could you not achieve that through democratic means?

BAINIMARAMA: No. No, I'm just saying over the years.

REPORTER: Because of the way the electoral laws are structured now?

BAINIMARAMA: Exactly. Because of the way the constitution is done, how the electoral system is made up, that can never change. And why? Because the politicians are happy with that - they are comfortable with that. They want the race issue to remain so that they can win.

REPORTER: Enhance the role of the chiefs.

BAINIMARAMA: Exactly. You as an Australian understand this. Wait, wait, wait, before you carry on. Is it good for Australia to have one man, one vote?

REPORTER: Yes, it is good.

BAINIMARAMA: So what I'm doing here is as good as that. If I have to fight anyone, I will fight anyone, OK?

Mark Davies: The road ahead for Bainimarama is littered with international and local roadblocks which he seems determined to scatter, now including the powerful Fijian Methodist Church, which he suspects of organising politically against him.

REPORTER: You've got Australia and New Zealand against you, you're going to have a lot of the chiefs against you. You've now got the Methodist Church against you, and that's the biggest church here. I mean, can you hold this together for five years?

BAINIMARAMA: You must remember I'm a member of the Methodist Church. I'm not against the reforms. There are a hundred thousand more like me. Just because some of the chiefs are against me, it doesn't mean that the rest of the indigenous population are against me. The only reason these people are vocal is because of the stance taken by Australia and New Zealand.

REPORTER: It's encouraged them?

BAINIMARAMA: It's encouraged them. In fact, they are encouraging one another.

REPORTER: But the opposition will come up, though. You've had it fairly quiet…

BAINIMARAMA: The opposition will always be there.

REPORTER: I guess it comes down to how you deal with it.

BAINIMARAMA: Make things exciting for us, huh? It's been dull the last 18 months. We need to talk to these people, we need to get them in and continue the dialogue.

Mark Davies: True to his word, the day after this interview Bainimarama began to bring in a dozen leaders of the church - arrested under the Public Emergency Regulations - presumably to continue dialogue. It seems there'll be no stopping Frank Bainimarama.

REPORTER: You're a military man, a naval man - you're an officer - you're used to orders being obeyed. You're likely to be intolerant of opposition or criticism. Does that make you unsuitable to run a diverse civil society?

BAINIMARAMA: No, what we want right now in Fiji is to bring about radical changes. Strong changes. Make changes to improve the lives of the people of this nation. No-one can bring those changes into being except the military here, now. In Fiji's history, no-one can bring about the changes to the public service. No-one can bring about the changes to the land and bring about land reforms. We can do that. We are not elected. We don't have to please the indigenous community. We don't have to please any chiefs. We don't have to please any members in the Methodist hierarchy. We do what is good for the nation irrespective of your colour, irrespective of your religion, irrespective of your creed.

MARK DAVIS: And it would seem that Frank Bainimarama is not totally without friends in the region - his fellow Melanesian nations of PNG, Vanuatu and the Solomons are now pushing for his re-admission into the forum to be held soon in Cairns. A diplomatic headache could be heading Kevin Rudd's way.

To watch - http://www.sbs.com.au/dateline/story/watch/id/600116/n/Perfectly-Frank

Fijian Holdings suspended from trading

The South Pacific Stock Exchange has released a statement informing investors and the public that trading in Fijian Holdings Limited (FHL) will now be suspended until further notice.

Chief executive Jinita Prasad says the suspension comes in light of continuous delays by FHL in addressing queries raised by the Exchange relating to the recent corporate governance audit report.

"The Exchange’s concern was whether there was any material information that was revealed in this audit particularly concerning any breaches of corporate governance."

"Since the Exchange is concerned that material information in the report that could be used by investors to make informed decisions about FHL may have been withheld from the market and since to date the Exchange has not received a satisfactory response, the Board has decided to take this step to ensure that all shareholders receive timely and accurate information and that an orderly market is maintained," Prasad said.

She says suspension of trading in FHL shares will be uplifted as soon as FHL addresses the queries raised by the Exchange to its satisfaction and fully complies with the continuing listing requirements of the SPSE Listing Rules.

"All licensed members of the Exchange will not be able to execute FHL orders until the suspension is uplifted. Settlement of all trades prior to the suspension will be carried out in accordance with SPSE rules."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Revelation: Ro Teimumu betrayed by Epeli Mataitini

The Vunivalu of Rewa and the chief protector of Marama Roko Tui Dreketi, Ro Epeli V Mataitini, has confirmed that it was him who told the interim regime's security personnel how to arrest his paramount chief, Ro Teimimu Kepa, last Tuesday.

Coupfourpointfive can reveal that Mataitini has issued a statement saying it's time the Methodist Church and political parties stopped using the Vanua to advance their own political agendas.

He said yesterday the events of the past week had brought to bear the perils of over-stepping the evangelistic missionary work of the Church and using the mana of the Vanua to advance the political agendas of a few.

By saying "using the mana of the Vanua to advance the political agendas of a few", Mataitini is accusing the Marama Roko Tui Dreketi of using the Vanua of Rewa to suit her own political agenda.

Ro Teimumu was arrested by 16 police officers at midnight last Tuesday and detained for two days at the Central Police Station and then taken to the military cell at Queen Elizabeth Barracks.

She appeared in the Suva Magistrates Court last Thursday on charges of contravening Public Order Act under the Public Emergency Regulations and inciting her people and the Church members to hold the annual conference in Rewa.

Mataitini has been the Vunivalu of Rewa since Ro Teimumu was installed as Marama Roko Tui Dreketi five years ago after the death of her elder sister, Ro Lady Lala Mara in July 2004.

The chiefly village of Lomanikoro - home of the Roko Tui Dreketi and in this case the residence of Ro Teimumu - is inaccessible by road. The only way to get to Lomanikoro is by punts or small boats.

The way 16 police officers went to Lomanikoro in pitch darkness led many to suspect the regime's security henchmen had inside information.

Coupfourpointive can confirm police officers slipped quietly and unnoticed into Lomanikoro, went directly to Ro Teimimu's chiefly residence and arrested her.

The traditional warriors, or the bati protecting Ro Teimumu, were nowhere to be seen or heard.

As Vunivalu of Rewa, Mataitini is in charge of security arrangements for Ro Teimumu. But it's believed he chose not to organise any protection for the paramount chief that night.

Mataitini has been a supporter of the dictatorship regime. He was a member of the National Council for Building a Better Fiji and praised the regime and interim regime, Frank Bainimarama, during a meeting of more than 100 mostly insignificant chiefly title holders at the military barracks in December last year.

It was a failed public relations exercise in terms of garnering support of Fijian chiefs of substance for the regime.

Click to read the Vunivalu of Rewa's statement http://www.mediafire.com/?kj3zqz5nzno