#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: 2009-10-11

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Bainimarama thanks Fiji's Indian community on Diwali

The interim prime minister Frank Bainimarama has thanked the country's Indian community for their contribution to the nation.

In a message to mark Diwali, Bainimarama thanked Indians for the "colour, excitement and joy" they brought to Fiji's communities.

"You have made our nation culturally vibrant and rich in its diversity. And for that we shall be forever grateful," he said.

Bainimarama said his government would remain steadfast in its vision for the nation.

"The trials of darkness that the few in the local and international community seek to subject our nation to, will be challenged and overcome," he said.

Bainimarama said the people of Fiji must accept and respect that there is a reason and purpose for their being together as “a people of one nation and with one destiny”.

Chaudhry blames media gag for Diwali message not getting through

The Labour Party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, is blaming a gag on the media by the interim government for being unable to convey a Diwali message to Indians in Fiji.

In a statement posted on the Labour Party website, Chaudhry says he was unable to deliver a Diwali message last year as well because "of a hostile and biased print media".

In his Diwali message Chaudhry warns of difficult times ahead with little sign of economic recovery.

"The key sectors of our economy continue to under perform. Further job losses are imminent as businesses initiate cost cutting measures to maintain their bottom lines."

He says it will be years before investor confidence picks up because of Fiji’s reputation as a “coup-centric nation”.

"Against such a backdrop, commonsense dictates that some 80% of our people, men and women with ordinary means, will need to observe strict austerity in their daily lives in order to survive."

"Tragically, more than half of this 80% are those who live in poverty-theirs is even a more daunting challenge. But let not the misfortunes of today, prevent us from hoping for a better future," he said.

PNG leader calls for lenience towards Fiji

The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Sir Michael Somare, has called on Pacific Islands Forum countries – particularly Australia and New Zealand – to treat Fiji more leniently.

Sir Michael, speaking to the media in the Solomon Islands at the conclusion of a three-day visit, said Fiji needed time to get out of its political mayhem.

He said the meaning of military dictatorship In the Pacific was different from the definition of military dictatorship in the Western world.

Sir Michael felt that although Fiji had been expelled from the Forum and Commonwealth, it was heartening that Australia said it was prepared to welcome back the Fiji high commissioner in Australia.

He noted that even the United States President, Barack Obama congratulated Fiji’s interim Prime Minister, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, during Fiji’s independence anniversary last week.

Sir Michael said the United Nations, European Union and International Monetary Fund would be visiting Fiji in the coming weeks to reestablish their ties with Fiji, while Chinese and Japanese aid assistance was continuing as normal.

He claimed everything in Fiji was slowly returning to normal with the economy picking up again and foreign reserves up dramatically, but Fiji still faced pressure to return to democracy
- Radio NZ International/Pacific Media Watch

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Parmesh Chand loses sugar portfolio

One of Frank Bainimarama's most trusted civil servant after the military coup of December 2006 looks to be losing his power and influence in the regime.

Parmesh Chand was transferred in April from the interim Prime Minister's Office to become the Permanent Secretary for Public Service Commission and look after the sugar industy, but he's now lost his sugar duties.

Bainimarama is the interim sugar minister.

Fiji Television has reported that the decision to relieve Chand of the sugar portfolio was made to allow him to concentrate on PSC.

But Coupfourpointfive has been told the decision is a slap on the face for Chand, and comes close on the heel of rejections of recent proposals to revive the suar industry.

We've been told the decision to shift the sugar portfolio back to Bainimarama's office was decided when the PM, Reserve Bank Governor Sada Reddy and Permanent Secretary for Finance, John Prasad, were away in Istanbul, Turkey attending the International Monetary Fund meeting.

Sources say Bainimarama was convinced by Prasad and Reddy to relieve Chand of the sugar responsibility.

Chand's contract as Permanent Secretary ends in six months and it will be interesting to see if it's renewed since it appears his services are no longer in demand.

Army violations in cane belts

The Fiji Sugar Corporation is using soldiers from the Fiji Military Forces to threaten cane farmers, cane cutters and farm labourers.

Coupfourpointfive has been told already farm labourers suspected of burning sugarcane are being made to run barefoot in cane fields. There have been reports of some cane cutters assaulted by soldiers in Lautoka.

It's been confirmed to us that FSC is accompanying soldiers to meet farmers in each farming sector. Farmers are then being warned there should be no burning of any cane.

Farmers are also being told by the military ot's their duty to harvest and deliver their crop to the mill, contrary to what is stated in the Sugar Master Award.

Like labourers and cane cutters, farmers are also warned of physical punishment if they disobey the soldiers and FSC.

Coupfourpointfive has been told this is a case of serious human rights violation going un-checked in Fiji.

The farmers have been left without representation following the dissolution of the Sugar Cane Growers Council.


Bainimarama opts out at last minute

The interim prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, withdrew at the last minute from the launch of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara's memoirs hosted by Papua New Guinea Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare in Suva last weekend.

Sources say Bainimarama had accepted an invitation to be at the launch. But upon returning from Turkey from an International Monetary Fund meeting, he told the organisers, he could not attend the launch as there was a death in the family.

It is seen as a rather lame excuse by Bainimarama to opt out at the last hour of the launch of the memoirs of the man whose kin are high profile figures in the regime.

Ratu Mara's son, Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara, is of course the Commanding Officer of the 3rd Infantry Regiment of the military.

Ratu Epeli Ganilau, a son in law of Mara, is the interim Defence Minister. Another Ratu Mara son in law, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, was an interim minister and is now the acting president.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Plea to ban censorship as part of 'new Fiji'

The following speech was made by Professor Biman Prasad at the lanch of the Journal of Fijian Studies (Special Issue Media and Democracy), today in Suva.

Fiji Sun Editor and chief guest, Ladies and Gentlemen. This special edition of the Fijian Studies covers the media and the ongoing struggle for democracy in the last twenty years. Media freedom and democracy cannot be taken for granted. The struggle for such freedoms is ongoing. We have not seen the end to this struggle and it may be some time before we see any light at the end of the tunnel.

I am not going to talk about the contents of the journal today as my colleague Shalendra Singh will do that. I want to use this special occasion to make an appeal to the Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

I think the PM in his public articulation has talked about a new Fiji and many people appreciate and understand his desire to take the country forward. In addition, there have been some good policy changes such as the doing away of the telecom monopoly and an emphasis on agriculture as a major source of economic growth.

My appeal to him, however, is that his government should now lift media restrictions. This would be an important step in creating a conducive environment for dialogue and confidence. The current censorship inhibits the government’s own attempts to articulate its own views and some of its positive achievments.

The government’s attempt to stamp out corruption is laudable. However, without free media, any real and sustainable attempts to do this will be thwarted. Many people who may have information and would like to expose some of the corrupt practices are reluctant to do so. A free media would help the government to have a better handle on the level of corruption.

After the 1987 coup, we saw the collapse of the National Bank of Fiji where the tax payers of this country lost more than $250m. This loss could become insignificant if Fiji’s largest Financial Institution, the Fiji National Provident Fund, collapses due to bad management. I know many people, especially those managing FNPF, have refuted earlier warnings, but this could still become a reality in years to come if it is not managed properly.

There are many unresolved questions relating to the handling of the Natadola project and many other investments by FNPF. The government should take a serious view of this and have a thorough and proper investigation into all the dealings on behalf of FNPF in the last several years. Any one found mismanaging the funds should be taken to task. For this we don’t need outsiders to do this. There are enough people around in Fiji to do this. A free media would help in this.

Because of censorship, people are turning to blogs to get their news. These blogs are not governed by any rules or standards. People are being misled and are being incited. Government will have more legitimacy if it allows the media to operate freely and independently.

This would help restore confidence in the country and we could see a faster level of economic growth. It will also allow government to start the process of political dialogue in an open and transparent manner to achieve the political reforms it wants to bring in the next few years.

Leweni accepts Delhi Games ban

The regime's Permanent Secretary for Information, Lieutenat-Colonel Neumi Leweni, has told Fiji Television they will have to accept the decision to ban Fiji from next year's Commonwealth Games in 2010.

The decision has been made by the Games Federation.

Fiji's non-participation at the Games will affect major sports like rugby sevens and athletics.

Following the military coups of 1987 and Fiji's expulsion from Commonwealth, Fiji missed out on two Games and regained its status as a full member at the Malaysia Games in 1998.

The Games will be held in October in New Delhi but organisers are facing heavy criticism with some people saying it doesn't look as though the venues will be ready on time.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fiji banned but hope for athletes

The Executive Board of the Commonwealth Games Federation has confirmed that, consequent on Fiji’s suspension from the Commonwealth, the Fiji Commonwealth Games Association’s membership of the CGF has also been suspended.

CGF President, Michael Fennell, reported to the CGF General Assembly in Delhi today on the process that lead to the decision.

“Fiji’s Commonwealth status was fully suspended on September 1 by the Commonwealth’s Ministerial Action Group and, therefore, it does not meet our own constitutional requirements for membership.

“However, the CGF Executive Board, and all members of the General Assembly, had great sympathy for the plight of the Fijian athletes who are aspiring to compete in Delhi," Fennell said.

"Hence the General Assembly has endorsed my proposal to lead a delegation to the Commonwealth Secretary General, requesting him to take forward to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting a recommendation from us that sport be removed as part of the sanction imposed upon a nation suspended from the Commonwealth.

“This would provide an opportunity for the athletes of Fiji to participate in the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games.”