#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: 2009-09-13

Friday, September 18, 2009

Politics not part of dictator's agenda

While opening the pre-2010 Budget public and private sector consultative forum in Suva, the regime's interim prime minister Frank Bainimarama proclaimed politics, political parties and politicians will not be part of his regime's agenda for the next three years.

Bainimaama told the gathering that the agenda until the start of the consultations on a new Constitution in September 2012, will be bringing in dynamism to the economy and the commercial sector.

He expects to achieve dynamism and modernisation by asking employers to work with his regime by taking a holistic approach.

Bainimarama failed to state the possible areas that his regime will be targeting to achieve economic growth.

There was no mention of how fundamentals like infrastructure and increasing investor confidence would be achieved by his dictatorship in the absence of democracy.

It was obvious Bainimarama and his policy advisors were clueless on how to rejuvenate the economy and increase the confidence of the people already struggling to cope with rising inflation.

Sada Reddy back on ground zero

Just days after forecasting a modest economic growth of 2% next year for Fiji, the Reserve Bank Governor Sada Reddy had to retract his words.

Addressing civil servants and the business community at the public and private sectors consultative forum on the 2010 Budget to be announced in November, Reddy painted a gloomy picture of the economy unless the private sector increases productivity.

Reddy told the forum the economy is going nowhere unless in the next three years:
- Tourist numbers reach 1.5 million per year
- Sugar production increases to 300,000 tonnes per annum
- Reliance on imports of agricultural commodities like rice, milk, potatoes and meet is substantially reduced

Critics say Reddy should stop misleading the people of Fiji and should take
a leaf from the book of his predecessor Savenaca Narube who at the end of February this year told a Rotaract Club of Suva seminar the only growth industry in Fiji was committees being set up to study and review policies, like the pre-2010 consultative forum.

While making tall orders for tourism and sugar as well as lecturing the business community to reduce imports, Reddy failed to suggest how the tourist industry can increase visitor arrivals,and how the financially stricken sugar industry already lamenting the loss of $172 million in valuable European Union grant to farmers can increase sugarcane crop to produce 300,000 tonnes of sugar.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Reddy's rosy outlook misleading

The interim regime appointed Reserve Bank of Fiji Governor Sada Reddy has told Radio Fiji that the nation will enjoy a modest economic recovery of 2% in 2010 as global economies come out of recession.

Reddy also says foreign reserves worth $980 million is sufficient to cover three months of imports.

But what Reddy does not say is that reserves have been boosted by a loan from the Asian Development Bank for improving water and sewarage in the Suva-Nausori corridor in the Central Division.

$980 million Fiji dollars is equivalent to $490 million US Dollars - the global trading currency.

Sources say Reddy's claim that the economy will enjoy modest recovery is probably nonsense given a decline in exports and the tourist industry.

The agricultural sector has been the hardest hit with sugar on the decline since the coup of December 2006.

The regime has previously stated that inflation in December will be 9.5% - the highest in many years.

Coupfourpointfive has been told that with rising inflation, low consumer spending, decline in exports, reduction in tourist numbers and deterioration of the sugar industry, Reddy is painting a false picture when all signs point towards a gloomy 2010 and beyond.

Links between Lotus Garments and the RFMF

Coupfourpointfive has been told the owners of Lotus Garments and the top brass of the military enjoy a close relationship.

Lotus Garments was recently awarded a $9.5 million order to supply uniforms to the army in 2006 by a senior military officer in serious violation of financial regulations.

Tenders for such an amount should be referred to the Major Tenders Board but this was not the case in this tender.

We have been told the senior military officer who approved the purchase is Timoci Lesi Natuva, the interim Transport Minister in the regime.

The managing director of Lotus Garments is Padam Lala, who spends most of his time in Sydney.

Lala was appointed the Chairman of Land Transport Authority after Natuva became the interim Transport Minister.

FSC responsible for sugar loss

The Fji Cane Growers Association says cane farmers have lost more than $46 million as their share of sugar earnings this year, due to the Fiji Sugar Corporation's pathetic milling performance.

In a statement responding to Permanent Secretary for Sugar Parmesh Chand's comment made a week ago that the sugar industry has lost $66 million due to low production, the Association's general secretary, Bala Dass, says the farmers' share from the minimum $66 million loss is $46.2 million based on the 70/30 sharing of proceeds formula in the industry.

Dass says figures obtained by the Association reveal that the FSC used an average of 12.4 tonnes of cane to make one tonne of sugar in the first three months of crushing this year. He said until September the third, four mills crushed a total of 861,734 tonnes of cane producing 69,950 tonnes of sugar.

Dass said even if the tonnes of cane required to produce a tonne of sugar was 9, sugar production would be more than 96,000 tonnes.

He said with the $86 million mill upgrade program nearing completion, farmers expected a vast improvement in FSC's performance, but it has declined even further.

"This is the painful price farmers are paying for the actions of FSC management laced with Coloniasl era hangers on and cronies who seemingly are invincible in the eyes of the interim regime", Dass concluded.

Link to Bainimarama interview on Maori TV

Watch it here - http://www.maoritelevision.com/Default.aspx?tabid=349&pid=212&epid=4854

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Francis Narayan backstabs Bainimarama

In what is a typical case of "No Honour amonst Thieves", New Zealand citizen Francis Narayan who was forced out of his lucrative $160,000 a year consultancy for Fiji National Provident Fund has been extremely critical of his former friend Frank Bainimarama.

Sources say on 29th August, the Auckland based Friends of Fiji Heart Foundation held a fundraising function at Lynfield Recreation Hall in Auckland.

Amongst the 250 people present were Reserve Bank of Fiji Governor Sada Reddy who tried to make his presence discreet, Francis Narayan and the Peoples Charter architect John Samy.

Sources have told us Narayan, upon seeing Reddy, started venting his anger at Bainimarama, describing the army commander as an idiot.

He told other guests around him Bainimarama knew nothing abount finance and that the country was being run by Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and John Prasad.

Sayed-Khaiyum is the interim Attorney-General while Prasad is the Finance Permanent Secretary, Chairman of Fiji National Provident Fund, Chairman of Fiji Development Bank and sits on other statutory boards. He is a very close friend of the interim A-G.

Sources say Narayan told guests that Fiji is going down the drain and that FNPF will lose $100 million from the now failed Momi Bay development.

Narayan continued that both he and John Samy were much better than Reddy and Prasad and accused Bainimarama of comparing Reddy and Prasad highly over them.

Sources say Narayan cannot digest the fact that others are now profiteering illegally instead of him.

He was praiseworthy of Bainimarama when part of the regime.

Narayan was also booted out of his position as the executive chairman of the Fiji Trade and Investment Bureau.

A marriage of convenience

Coupfourpointfive has been told Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry has jumped into bed with his political enemy Laisenia Qarase for his personal interest.

In an article written by Chaudhry in July, he blamed Qarase for bringing upon himself and the nation the military coup of December 2006.

The article titled "Dealing with Perceptions and Prejudices" is posted on the website of Australian National University's State Society and Governance in Melanesia.

In the article Chaudhry hits out at University of the South Pacific academic and one time Chaudhry and FLP supporter Dr Vijay Naidu. Naidu had written about the consequences of the coup for the FLP.

Chaudhry accuses Qarase of not consulting the FLP leadership during the shortlived reign of the multi-party Cabinet after the 2006 elections.

He writes the FLP was not in the multi-party cabinet to rubber-stamp Qarase's etho-nationalistic and anti-people policies.

Chaudhry also says he never said the 2006 coup was warranted and says the FLP instead had denounced the 2006 coup.

But two weeks after the coup Chaudhry had legitimised the overthrow of democracy by pointing out many reasons why the coup was justified. And a month later three senior FLP members Chaudhry, Poseci Bune and Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi became interim ministers in Frank Bainimarama's regime.

Sources say if Chaudhry is now genuine about working towards returning Fiji to democracy as soon as possible by working with Qarase, his latest article after the formation of the alliance confirms that he is using Qarase to further his own political interest.

It also confirms that his anti-regime comments are hollow and full of hot air.

Bainimarama's take on things

Thanks to Pacific Media Watch and Pacific Scoop for a transcription of the Frank Bainimarama interview with Native Affairs' journalist Julian Wilcox:

Re the coups: "I'm trying to do what is good for Fiji, not what's good for Australia and New Zealand. This is our one and only chance to right the wrongs. We have had four coups. We don't want any more coups.”

Re nepotism:
"It was no secret that what we wanted to do was get rid of corrupt practices [under the previous elected government of Laisenia Qarase], get rid of the racial policies that were around us - especially the racial policies that were going to take our country down.

"It boiled down to the public service not doing their thing, their bit. We have removed just about all the people for abuse of authority, abuse of office and abuse of funds. These people were part of the elite group. It was nepotism throughout and we could see that. So we wanted to get rid of it."

Re failed states: "People see this nation as a failed state. The European Union sees it as a failed state. The Commonwealth, the whole reason why they have suspended us is that they see this nation as a failed state.

"The [Pacific Islands] Forum, Australia and New Zealand see this nation as a failed African state. You have a preconceived idea of what is happening [in Fiji] when you don't understand what is happening here and people don't want to understand because you want to interfere in the way we do business.

"In fact, right now Australia is trying to get us out of the United Nations peacekeeping [role]. What benefit will there be for the Australians? Would it benefit the Maori, for instance; would it benefit the Aborigines if we were removed from the UN peacekeepers?”

Re being bullied by New Zealand and Australia:
"Yes, because you don't understand what is happening here, what we're trying to do. All you see is the military removing an elected government and it wants to remain in power for the next five years. Yes, we removed an elected government - for good reason. We wanted to bring about development in this country. We wanted to bring this country forward instead of keeping us in the old cannibalistic days."

Re democracy: "In Fiji, you don't come up with your own vote. Your vote is dictated by the chiefs, it is dictated by the Great Council of Chiefs, it is dictated by the provincial councils, and it is dictated by the [Methodist] Church. So it's not your vote. So don't tell me that it's democracy."

Re censorship:
"The press is still churning out newspapers. The TV station is still on, the radio is still on. What we have censored is irresponsible reports, that's what we have censored. The media are free to express what they want - just say the right things, don't say rubbish."

Click to read - http://pacific.scoop.co.nz/2009/09/bainimarama-vows-not-to-be-bullied-by-australia-nz/

Monday, September 14, 2009

Indigenous understanding missing in Native Affairs interview

The Native Affairs interview with Frank Bainimarama, more than any other TV interview, should've revealed an understanding of the issues - tangata whenua of Aotearoa getting a good grip on the supposed self-development aspirations of the military government.

Unfortunately, that was not the case. The Maori current affairs programme was out of its depth and did not have the information to deflect the Commodore's glib answers.

If they did, then it's possible Julian Wilcox chose not to use it, for fear of the military leader walking off and giving the New Zealand journos a taste of what the local journos have been enduring for some months, gagging.

A pity because the Maori team could've put the Commodore on the spot about a number of things that palagi reporters would not have been able to get away with - for example: Commodore, is this really the way ahead for the people of Fiji? Is this the best way ahead for people development? Is this the only way to shed the colon ial trappings of the past?

It might have been better, too, for Native Affairs to have stuck to a few key areas rather than trying to get definitive answers to everything.

The recent suspension from the Commonwealth, the stinging remarks of the premier of Niue Toke Talagi, the censorship of the media, the failed elections, NZ and Australia's refusal to buckle, and the ill-conceived alliance between Mahendra Chaudry and Laisenia Qarase would've been a big enough feast for this occassion.

These were covered fleetingly in the programme; the team would've got more mileage out of Bainimarama if they had kept it tight. Instead, the show came off with a strong suggestion it was made with the help of the interim government.

Maori TV interview on Fiji disappointing

Frank Bainimarama's interview on Maori TV was predictable and Julian Wilcox's questions disappointing.

After watching Bainimarama's interviews on SBS television and Al Jazeera, the Commodore's answers was to be expected.

And if one was banking on Julian Wilcox to ask the right questions, then that too was disappointing.

Good on Maori TV for scoring an interview with Bainimarama, but because the interviewer did not know enough about Fiji, he could not reply with examples to support his "perceptions".

For example, Wilcox asked Bainimarama if he was harrassing a certain editor of a newspaper. Bainimarama asked Wilcox who it was. Wilcox tried to avoid answering but failed and had to admit was the editor in chief of the Fiji Times editor - Netani Rika as we all know. Bainimarama then asked Wilcox why he should be harrasing him.

Wilcox did not have an answer and moved on.

What he should have asked was who was behind the home visits, the smashing of Rika's car and the threats not to print anti-government stories.

Wilcox also failed to ask why people who spoke out against the interim government were silenced and taken to Queen Elizabeth barracks to be intimidated and warned to keep their mouths shut.

He failed to ask if Bainimarama was so sure about his actions, then why didn't he let people criticise him freely?

He failed to ask about the allegations of innocent people like Sakiusa Rabaka and Nimilote Verebasaga being killed by soldiers and the soldiers being let off the hook.

In the beginning of the interview, Wilcox asked Bainimarama why he carried out the 2006 coup. Bainimarama told him there was a lot of nepotism and corruption going on, which had to be stopped.

If Wilcox knew more - or as much as he should've - he would've come back with the question what of the nepotism of now? And why was there a militarisation of the civil service where military officers were appointed to key positions in the civil service.

He failed to ask about allegations of a mates rates system, where friends of Bainimarama or his interim ministers are appointed to top positions on statutory boards collecting massive allowances in the process.

He failed to ask why the constitution couldn't be ammended to get rid of the racial based voting instead of abrogating it.

And he failed to ask why it would take five years to place electoral reform in place.

The vox pops by Carmen Parahi was also short of what it could've been.

Her question was along the lines of what people thought about the military regime running Fiji.

The first person she asked was a sports reporter at the state run Fiji Broadcasting Corporation, whose CEO is Riyaz Sayed Khaiyum, is the brother of Fiji's interim Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum.

Of course this employee of the state run station will say he and people in Fiji are happy with the military government.

Of course the other people who came on camera, would not criticise the interim government. They all know what's happened to those who talk against the government.

I'm sure there were a lot of people who declined to go on camera to answer that question.

The two member panel discussion at the end of the interview was also disappointing. There was no substance to the five to 10 minute discussion. Nik Naidu spoke well but former senator Ratu Epeli Nailatikau kept talking about God.

Julian Wilcox does a fantastic job interviewing New Zealand politicians about issues affecting Maori, but I don't think he was well-versed enough on Fiji's situation to conduct the interview.

Frank Bainimarama has had three interviews on television now - none of them have asked the hard questions.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Bainimarama interview on Maori TV

It took three years, several reporters and many phone calls and emails to nail our exclusive interview with Josaia Voreqe Frank Bainimarama.

By chance last month, the CEO of Fiji Broadcasting, Riyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, visited Maori Television during a business trip to New Zealand. Fiji Broadcasting is a government-owned radio network planning to expand into television next year.

I interviewed Sayed-Khaiyum for a Pacific Islands Forum reaction story to Fiji. During our interview, he told us Maori Television should travel to Fiji and find out what Fijians really think of Fiji's military regime.

His tone indicated he is a cautious supporter of the military-led government.

He said: "Whether anyone agrees with this or not, this is the first time any government is talking a sense of belonging for the people of Fiji."

As he was leaving Maori Television, he told me if we travelled to Fiji to find out the real views of Fijians, he would also seek an interview with interim Prime Minister Bainimarama for us.

Sayed-Khaiyum is the brother of Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Fiji's Attorney-General, Minister for Justice, Electoral Reform, Public Enterprises and Anti-corruption. Within days, we had an email confirming our interview with the commodore.

But the excitement of the interview was tempered with caution. Although we received many reassurances the interview would take place, we had none to say we would leave Fiji with our tapes.

Many foreign journalists have been kicked out of Fiji and their tapes taken from them. Those reporting from the front-line are muzzled by government censors. Journalists who criticise the government have been threatened and detained by police.

Our crew of five left New Zealand last Tuesday, a little nervous. We didn't know what to expect but we were certainly open to all possibilities, both good and bad.

Coincidentally, we travelled to Fiji on the same day as the Commonwealth delegation led by former governor-general and Maori, Sir Paul Reeves, who was meeting with the commodore. Sir Paul endorsed our interview with the commodore.

Interim Prime Minister Bainimarama had chosen to give television interviews to a select media group - Maori Television, Al Jazeera and Australia's SBS, networks which he may view as sympathetic to his cause, and which would probably allow him to have his say.

With this in mind, we had to ensure we were not linked into "Frank's propaganda machine" and we had to maintain our journalistic integrity at all costs. It was a fine balancing act, ensuring we didn't lose the interview, our tapes, get detained and deported because we were talking to opponents of the military regime.

Yet, we needed to balance the government's perspective with those on the ground.

Ultimately, we truly wanted to hear what Frank Bainimarama had to say and what Fijians had to say about him.

Hit road running
On the afternoon we arrived, we hit the road running. We talked to locals in Lami Bay, just outside Suva.

Like many of the other villages we observed, Lami is poor. But people are still having fun, playing sport, walking around freely and were not shy to talk to us about Fiji's politics.

We encountered the same open manner in Suva. Everyone told us they are going about their daily lives without interference. Only those who oppose the government, or have anything to do with politics, have any issues.

One Indo-Fijian man we met in Suva's marketplace, Ramesh Prasad, said: "No problem with the government, as far as I can tell everyone is happy with the government, especially we Indians, we're safe now."

It's a reference to the historical racial tensions between native Fijians and Indo-Fijians.

Everyone we spoke to agreed if they stepped out of line they would be dealt with by the armed forces. The army has been training police and security officers to be more disciplined in their manner, rooting out any corruption. Apparently, bullish enforcement methods in use after the coup are now frowned upon.

We expected to see a military presence on Fiji's streets but we saw no posts or roadblocks. It seems the new government no longer wants an overt military presence on the streets.

But on the morning of our interview with the interim prime minister, we found where the military now are. They're crawling all over the new government wing, the seat of Fiji's power, wearing uniforms and suits.

While we waited for the commodore to arrive, we realised we were being filmed by the Ministry of Information. They told us that they were filming our entire interview for archival purposes.

So we filmed them filming us filming them. While we were setting up and trying to navigate around all the Information Ministry staff and security officers, the commodore had a very frank conversation with interviewer and Native Affairs presenter Julian Wilcox.

Bainimarama asked: "Who owns Maori Television?" Julian Wilcox replied: "It's funded by the government, our raison d'etre is the Maori language."

Bainimarama queried again: "But it's funded by the government?"

Wilcox replied: "Yes."

"Do they censor you?" "No, we're free to do the stories and programmes we want to do, even if the government doesn't agree with it."

Bainimarama quipped: "You better watch out, they may want to censor you."

Bainimarama did not want to talk about his whakapapa, which is an important aspect of being Maori, and an obvious starting point for our questions.

He was pushed to reveal his personal side, but refused, point blank.

Open, forthcoming
Wilcox launched into the interview and for the next 40 minutes Bainimarama outlined the reasons he is in control of Fiji. At times, the commodore was open and forthcoming.

Wilcox: "We talked a lot about the New Zealand-Fiji relationship here. If that relationship has been damaged, how do you think that relationship could be repaired, could be rebuilt?"

Bainimarama: "It's easily, well, you know when the former government lost the election last year, we thought that the new government would have different views about that relationship ... apparently not. So it would be a while before the damage is repaired. But the people of New Zealand and Fiji have that relationship which no one can change, it's the politicians that are doing it for us."

Wilcox: "So, as long as John Key is the prime minister of the country, that there will..."

Bainimarama: [interrupts] "I'm not, I'm not saying it, you're saying it, I'm not saying it..."

Wilcox: "Do you think as long as John Key is the prime minister of New Zealand that there will always be a strained relationship between us?"

Bainimarama: "I'm saying if John Key changed his views on Fiji then things might change."

Wilcox: "OK, will an invitation again be put to John Key to come see for himself and to listen to these comments that you're talking of now about government to come see for himself?"

Bainimarama: "Yeah, well, it will be a good thing if New Zealand comes back and has a high commissioner. You don't have a high commissioner. If we start on that note, then maybe things will get better. But you don't have a high commissioner, [that] tells us that there's no recognition from the government of New Zealand."

At other times in the interview Bainimarama was very defensive.

Wilcox asked him about accusations of a struggling economy, falling tourism and investment, intimidation of the media, churches and opposing political parties in Fiji.

Bainimarama's ire started rising. His answers became short, loud and personal, and sometimes he gave us a deathly silence. At this point, I thought we were about to be kicked out of the office, and out of Fiji.

Wilcox: "Does it concern you that there are a number of Fijians who aren't as confident as you are in the future of this great country?"

Bainimarama: "Does it, does it concern who, who?"

Wilcox: "Does it concern you that people aren't as confident?"

Bainimarama: "Well, I'm not as worried about those people that are against us. That's the last thing that is on my mind. If I get worried about those, we will never move forward."

He has a sharp, sarcastic, wit and throws accusations back at Wilcox. An excellent game of one-upmanship.

Wilcox asked Bainimarama if he had a message for Fijians living in New Zealand.

"Well, my message to them would be: nothing has changed in Fiji, it's still Fiji," Bainimarama said. "The way the world should be, that's how we advertise Fiji. But we're doing what we need to bring about the reforms that would make Fiji prosper, that would bring Fiji into a modern state. That's what we're trying to do here, so bear with us."

Bainimarama says the government only censors irresponsible journalism. He got very personal about the Fiji Times editor-in-chief, Netani Rika, who accused Bainimarama of intimidation.

When the cameras were on, Bainimarama denied intimidating Rika. But when the cameras were turned off, he revealed the true extent of it.

He told us: "I did speak to Netani Rika. I rang him and do you want to know why I rang him?"

Wilcox replied: "Yes."

"I rang him because he'd written an article that threatened my family." And then Bainimarama went on to talk about his daughter and son-in-law.

"That's why I rang him."

We went to Fiji's media for their perspective on the military regime. They spoke to us about it, but were very, very cautious about what they said.

Netani Rika told us he would continue to oppose any government interference of his newspaper, the Fiji Times.

Throughout the interview it was evident interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama believes in the reforms he's forcing on Fiji, using military might to achieve it.

Bainimarama never told us why he thinks he has the right to do it and why he is the man for the job. But we left the office and Fiji with our tapes and a broader perspective of the complexities in Fjii -Carmen Parahi of Maori Television/Sunday Star Times

* Carmen Parahi is senior reporter for Native Affairs on Maori Television. The Bainimarama interview will screen on Maori Television's Native Affairs on Monday night at 8pm.