#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: 2009-08-16

Friday, August 21, 2009

Book reveals hostile past of 'allies' Qarase and Chaudry

Laisenia Qarase and Mahendra Chaudry may have joined forces for political expediency recently but there's no mistaking their hostile past.

In a book published by the Australian National University, the ousted Qarase zeroes in on the role of his nemesis, Chaudhry, both before and after the December 2006 coup of military dictator Frank Bainimarama.

"The 2006 Military Takeover – A Coup To End All Coups”, was printed in March and edited by academics Jon Fraenkel, Stewart Firth and Dr Brij Lal.

Qarase, who has now formed an alliance with Chaudhry - the pair sent a joint submission to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group; criticises Chaudhry and the handling of an inquiry clearing him of wrong-doing following the discovery of his $2 million stash in Australia.

In Qarase's article “From Fear And Turmoil To The Possibilities Of Hope And Renewal Once Again”, he accuses Chaudhry of calling for the licensing of the media after it revealed his offhsore account early last year. The revelations resulted in the deportation of two expatriate publishers.

Qarase also accuses both Chaudhry and interim prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, of falsehoods and deception in trying to justify the overthrow of his SDL/Labour Multi-Party government.

He also alleges Chaudhry tried to prevent 9 FLP Members of Parliament from joining the Multi-Party Cabinet after 2006 elections but says Chaudhry had to bow to pressure from his own caucus and the public.

Qarase says after the 2006 elections, the nation had a genuine Multi-Party Cabinet comprising of Fijians and Indians with clear mandates from their respective communities.

He views with suspicion Chaudhry’s decision not to be personally part of the Cabinet and alludes to the fact that the FLP leader was quick to support Bainimarama’s coup and joined his interim Cabinet.

The 472 page book has been published by Australia National University E-Press.

Chaudhry's counter claims

The 472 page book also features, the disgraced Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry, who has revealed he is a deceptive politician prepared to jump into bed with anyone for his personal survival.

Chaudhry’s article is in Chapter 20 and titled “Democracy versus good governance”.

In his story, Chaudhry repeats the allegations he leveled atQarase as the interim finance minister in Frank Bainimarama’s regime for 18 months until August last year.

Chaudhry describes the Multi-Party Cabinet as a farce. He accuses pro-democracy activists of being part of what he describes as Qarase’s gravy train. He accuses them of being beneficiaries of misrule, corruption and exploitation of ordinary people. But Chaudhry fails to name the personalities that he accused.

Mataitoga eyed for diplomatic posting

The former High Court judge, Isikeli Mataitoga, is being eyed by the interim regime as the new ambassador to Japan.

Mataitoga is currently at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - the new posting is expected to be available in two months time.

The Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs, as well as Fiji’s Ambassador in Brussels before becoming a High Court judge, Mataitoga was not appointed to the Bench after losing his job following the abrogation of the Constitution.

Mataitoga become Fiji’s Director of Public Prosecutions after Sitiveni Rabuka’s 1987 coups.

Meanwhile, the Permanent Secretary for Agriculture, Dr Richard Bayer, has resigned. According to Public Service Commission, cChairman Josefa Serulagilagi, Bayer resigned because “he wanted to make way for someone else”.

But sources say Bayer was asked to step down to make way for another military officer to join the civil service.

Colonel Mason Smith, recalled from the Fiji mission in New York, has now been confirmed as the new Permanent Secretary for Agriculture.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

SCC administrator lying

Suva City Council’s Administrator, Vijendra Prakash, is lying by trying to describe employment of his close relatives as false allegations and warning of disciplinary action against the "whistleblowers".

If the former interim local government minister, Filipe Bole, who appointed Prakash and other Administrators for Fiji’s towns and two cities did indeed give approval to Prakash to employ family members provided the jobs were first advertised, then Bole is equally guilty of nepotism and cronyism.

If Bole’s advice is taken on face value, then the jobs that have been filled by Prakash’s sister, brother and relatives of dairy farmers – Prakash is the Secretary of Dairy Farmers Association- were not advertised, our sources say.

In the case of his sister, sources say she was employed as a temporary worker to relieve an employee who had gone on leave. But she is still at the SCC Civic Centre where she is employed.

Prakash’s brother is employed as a health assistant, according to sources. And both vacancies were not advertised.

Last week we highlighted that the Council’s Human Resources Manager, Joe Hewson Turagasau, is awaiting sentencing in the magistrates court for fraud while employed as a Education Officer in the Northern Division.

He was employed at Prakash’s insistence despite the Council management opposing Hewson’s employment. Prakash’s cousin, Permanent Secretary for Local Government Ram Chandar, had given Hewson a favourable character reference.

Hewson is still employed at SCC and the regime has failed to act on documentary evidence that we have shown.

Ministerial approval to employ relatives

In what can only be described as one of the worst cases of nepotism and cronyism, the Administrator of Suva City Council (SCC), Vijendra Prakash, has officially stated he has the approval of the interim regime’s Local Government Minister to employ his family members in SCC.

Prakash made the revelation during a meeting of the SCC Audit Committee on the 24th July, 2009. The minutes of the meeting were part of the document known as the full minutes normally tabled and passed during full council meetings at the end of each month – during the era of democratically elected town and city councillors.

The minutes, once adopted at the end of each month, are public documents and can be accessed by ratepayers and citizens.

Page 57 of the minutes under Corporate Governance contains the revelations by Vijendra Prakash. The minutes reveal the meeting, attended by Prakash and management of the Council, discussed a report from the SCC Internal Auditor on “allegations made by whistleblowers”.

This means that Prakash ordered an investigation following our revelation of the fact that Prakash’s sister (and lately his brother), as well as relatives of dairy farmers, are employed at the SCC. The minutes show that Prakash wanted to know who had revealed information to us.

Following the Auditor’s report that is not revealed, Prakash stated the interim Local Government Minister had stated “employing family members in the Council organization was not a problem but positions must be first advertised”.

In a warning to the un-identified whistleblower, the meeting resolved that the SCC Legal Section warn the whistleblower that false allegations could lead to disciplinary action.

The Council Solicitor and Human Resources Manager were tasked with ensuring a healthy working environment.

The Local Government interim minister that Prakash referred to is Filipe Bole. From today the new Local Government interim minister is Colonel Samuela Saumatua who was sworn into the interim regime’s Cabinet by Acting President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau.

Read extract of the SCC Minutes of 24th July 2009 - http://www.mediafire.com/?jnmotnttnhm

Disparity in terms of President & VP

There is a disparity in the term of President and Vice President under the interim regime’s New Legal Order, giving credibility to reports that the position is tailor made for military dictator Frank Bainimarama.

The Office of the Vice President And Succession Decree (Decree 8) states the President appoints a Vice President for a term of five years, and shall be eligible for re-appointment.

The Executive Authority of Fiji (Amendment) Decree (Decree 28) sates the President is appointed by the Chief Justice on the advice of the interim Cabinet.

The President’s term of office is for three years and the successful candidate is eligible for re-appointment.

The current Vice President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau’s five year term will end in April 2014 if he remains VP. The President’s term, if appointed this year, will end in 2012 – two years before the VP.

Sources say Bainimarama’s comment that there is no rush to appoint a President after Ratu Josefa Iloilo was retired at the end of last month, and the fact that the terms of President and Vice-President are different, means the military dictator has eyed Government House.

If he becomes President, Bainimarama will become Head of State and Commander in Chief of the army. To neutralize his potential challengers in the army, Bainimarama could appoint another senior officer as army commander to succeed him and a new in interim PM, knowing he would be fully in control from Government House.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Retired Army Officer new interim Minister

Samuela Saumatua, the former Deputy Commander of Republic of Fiji Military Forces, will be sworn in as the Local Government and Housing Interim Minister tomorrow.

Saumatua has been the Chairman of Housing Authority following his exit from RFMF.

His inclusion in the regime increases the number of those with military background in the regime and civil service.

Prominent among them are interim Prime Minister and army commander Frank Bainimarama, his secretary and former permanent secretary for justice Pio Tikoduadua, Information permanent secretary and military spokesman Neumi Leweni, Police Commissioner and former Deputy Commander before Saumatua Esala Teleni, former Land Force Commander Iowane Naivalarua, the Prisons Commissioner, and former Navy Commander, Viliame Naupoto, the permanent secretary for Agriculture.

Bainimarama’s predecessor as army commander Ratu Epeli Ganilau is the Defence Minister and oversaw the deportation of three expatriate newspaper publishers – two from Fiji Times and one from Fiji Sun.

Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, who was RFMF Commander when Sitiveni Rabuka executed the 1987 coups, was the interim Minister for Foreign Affairs and since April is the Vice-President under the New Legal Order.

The militarization of the regime and civil service is a clear indication that the military backed regime will hold on to power for as long as it likes and that the 2014 election timeline is a fa├žade like Bainimarama’s previous commitments and promises.

Chaudry shedding crocodile tears

Mahendra Chaudhry, the leader of Fiji Labour Party and National Farmers Union is shedding crocodile tears over the interim regime’s decision to scrap the Sugar Cane Growers Council.

In a statement posted on the Labour Party website and also Raw Fiji News, Chaudhry, through the NFU has expressed shock at the regime’s move, saying it will marginalize farmers.

Coupfourpointfive holds Chaudhry as being largely responsible not only for the demise of the sugar industry but for causing farmers severe hardship in their hour of need.

Chaudhry must remember that when he was interim Sugar Minister in Frank Bainimarama’s regime for 18 months, he ignored the problems faced by farmers. The cane and sugar production started declining drastically under his stewardship of the industry.

In April last year, based on Chaudhry’s recommendation, the Growers Council elections were deferred until 2010.

He instigated the illegal removal of Jagannath Sami as Growers Council CEO and the National Farmers Union took advantage of Frank Bainimarama’s coup to illegally take control of the Council.

Since January 2007, the NFU has been controlling the SCGC and had 9 out of 11 directors on the Council Board. Failed CEO’s like Jaishree Gawander and Surendra Sharma are staunch FLP supporters with Gawander serving as a Member of Parliament after 2006 elections.

Chaudhry’s statement that he is shocked and troubled is therefore a case of him shedding crocodile tears.

Growers Council Scrapped

The Sugar Cane Growers Council, the umbrella group representing cane farmers since 1985, has been abolished by the interim regime.

The SCGC has been given three months to wind up its operations, with the regime not saying what will become of the Council’s headquarters in Lautoka.

In Jun, we predicted the regime would throw out the Growers Council, the last of the democratic institutions in Fiji. The SCGC is a totally independent body, funded purely by cane farmers since its inception.

The regime has also failed to inform farmers who will represent their interests under the Sugar Master Award. In the absence of any reasoning, we can expect the Master Award to be changed or even abolished, taking farmers back to the dark days of CSR – Colonial Sugar Refining Company when farmers were simply helpless and subjected to harsh penalties and given low income for their crop.

If the Master Award is abolished, then farmers will lose 70% of proceeds as stated in the agreement – a formula that was recommended by Lord Denning in 1969 following a mighty struggle by farmers’ leaders at that time.

The scrapping of the Growers Council can be likened to the final nail in the coffin of farmers, they who have already lost $172 million in direct European Union grants since the December 2006 coup.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Vuluano crusade gets permit

While the dictatorship regime has cancelled the solevu of the Methodist Church, the radical denomination, New Methodist Church has been granted a permit to hold its crusade in Suva next week.

The Church is headed by Atu Vulaono, younger brother of Police Commissioner Esala Teleni. Since December 2008, the New Methodist Church has been an integral part of the Fiji Police Force with police officers compelled to attend New Methodist Church service one Sunday in a month.

Vulaono has told the media he expects more than 20,000 people to participate in the Crusade. It has not been established if the Police Force will be part of this Crusade.

The last Crusade held in Suva almost three months ago say full participation of the Police Force.

Sources have told us that the 5 day Crusade cost the Force more than $150,000.

We can also confirm that the New Methodist Church, which holds its weekly Sunday service in Suva, has been hiring buses to transport its members to the service.

We can report that 70% of transportation cost is being paid from the Police Force budget.

If the transportation cost for a bus company comes to $2000, $1500 is being paid from the Force budget.

This practice has been prevalent for many months while ordinary men and women of the Police Force are in desperate need of increases to their salaries and allowances.

Regime pulls the plug on Methodist solevu

The interim regime has pulled the plug on the fundraising or solevu for the Methodist Church of Fiji, earmarked for this Saturday.

While the Church has not received any official notification from the regime, the Permanent Secretary for Information, Neumi Leweni, has told the media that the solevu is being cancelled because of politics.

The solevu involves fundraising, choir competitions and divisional conferences, that have been organised after the Church decided to cancel its annual conference that was supposed to hosted by Marama Roko Tui Dreketi Ro Teimumu Kepa at Lomanikoro, Rewa at the end of this month.

According to a disappointed Church Assistant General Secretary, Reverend Tevita Nawadra, the solevu is to be opened by the Fijian Methodist group from California and closed by a similar group from Australia. Members of both groups are believed to be already in Fiji.

The regime has now set its own conditions on the status of the Church Standing Committee saying it can only meet without the likes of Reverends Manasa Lasaro, Rev Tomasi Kanailagi, current President Rev Ame Tugaue, Secretary-General Rev Tuikilakila Waqairatu and others who have been charged with breaching Public Emergency Regulations for allegedly inciting the Church membership to hold the annual conference. Ro Teimumu also faces similar charges.

On the 31st July, the Suva Magistrates Court had relaxed the bail conditions against the Church leaders, allowing them to attend all meetings of the Church including those of Standing Committee.

At that time this was seen as a trade-off by the regime for the cancellation of the annual conference. The message to cancel the conference was relayed to Ro Teimumu on August the 1st.

Whether or not the Church will defy the regime and go ahead with the solevu remains to be seen. Rev Nawadra has told Fiji Television news the solevu has been cancelled but members and groups are welcome to give funds thyhave raised at the Church headquarters in Suva.

Commission endorses regime’s decision

The Commerce Commission of Fiji has endorsed the dictatorship regime’s decision to approve exorbitant increases to electricity bills as requested by the Fiji Electricity Authority.

A fortnight ago the interim Cabinet approved a proposal by FEA to increase power charges by 15% with consumers being burdened with minimum hikes of $9, $12 and $15 to their power bills. This increase was proposed for bills currently between $50 and $100.

Residential customers - especially business houses whose power bill is up to several hundred or a few thousand dollars every month - would pay higher charges, that would naturally be passed onto ordinary people already struggling to cope with rising cost of living and skyrocketing inflation.

At that time Commerce Commission Chairman Dr Mahendra Reddy, formerly a lecturer at University of the South Pacific but currently employed at Fiji Institute of Technology, had stated the final decision on FEA’s proposal rested with the Commission and no one else.

But Reddy has endorsed FEA’s proposal and shown that the Commission has lost its neutrality and impartiality. It has basically become a toothless tiger that will rubber-stamp any decision of the regime, with no regard to the consequences to the ordinary citizens.

Reddy accepted the position of Commission Chairman despite the controversial sacking of his predecessor, Australian citizen, Charles Sweeny, early this year.

Sweeny was sacked as Chairman by he tinterim Attorney-General and the regime’s Public Enterprises Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

The FEA charges come into force from September the first and will remain for the next two years until 31st August 2011.