#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: 2009-11-01

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Brij Lal punched by soldiers?

Prominent academic and Fiji historian Dr Brij Lal will be leaving Nadi at 9 o'clock for Sydney after the military regime deported him for his comments on ABC yesterday.

Dr Lal was asked for his opinion on Fiji's decision to kick out the High Commissioners of Australia and New Zealand.

He was taken by soldiers from his Suva home to the army barracks and interrogated for four hours.

Reliable sources have told Coupfourpointfive that soldiers broke his glasses and he was punched on the mouth.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Lal told to be out of Fiji asap

Dr Brij Lal has been told he must leave Fiji tomorrow, Wednesday November the 5th.

Lal was released a short time ago after civilian dressed soldiers escorted him to the Queen Elizabeth barracks for questioning, as a result of an interview with ABC.

(see previous post for that interview)

Coupfourpointifve has been told the prominent historian is to leave Fiji tomorrow.

Dr Lal is an Australian citizen and teaches at the Australian National University but is a regular visitor to Fiji, where he still has a home.

The ABC interview that led to Lal being taken in

A leading Fiji academic says the expulsion of Australia and New Zealand High Commissioners is sending a message that the military government is solidifying the nation's sovereignty, and will stand up to the "big bullies" implementing the travel bans.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts
Speaker: Dr Brij Lal, Fiji citizen and expert on Fiji politics from Australian National University

LAL: This doesn't come as a surprise at all. I think Fiji was looking for an opportunity to, in quotes, 'teach Australia a lesson' for the position it has taken against the military regime here. I mean what the Australian consular officials did in Colombo was simply to reiterate Australia's longstanding policy which was that bans will be imposed on those who choose to serve in the interim administration. So two things are happening here. One, the message being sent to the Fiji people, the people of Fiji is this military government is standing up for the sovereignty of the country, defending its honour and reputation. And secondly, in the South Pacific region, this sends that Fiji is standing up to the two big bullies, Australia and New Zealand. So there is a domestic gallery to which the interim government is playing.

COUTTS: Is there an argument, the recently appointed Chief Justice Anthony Gates, claims that Australia and New Zealand are actually hostile in their interference in the judiciary. Transparency International recently says they do have an argument that their bans are perhaps interfering in the judiciary, not allowing the judges and the legal staff to travel backwards and forwards freely. Is there an argument there?

LAL: Well, I think the whole question of who is hostile to whom can be debated. What the interim administration is saying that they want to place good people on the bench and that the policy of Australia and New Zealand banning these people, in the event that they take up these positions is hindering the effective performance of the judiciary. It is not only our foreign judges who are not taking up positions on the bench, even local judges. Quite a few of them were sacked, summarily after the abrogation of the Constitution. Even they are not going back to the bench. So I think there is a larger question here about peoples confidence in the impartiality and integrity of the judiciary.

COUTTS: Now Stephen Smith, Australia's Foreign Minister, says that they will consider and may announce a proportional response to the expulsion of Australia's High Commissioner to Fiji. What could a proportionate response be?

LAL: I really have no idea, because here we have no news of what's happening. The blog sites are all blocked, the newspapers are censored, radio and television news censored, so we don't have any sense of what the international reaction is going to be. Certainly Fiji's High Commissioner, acting High Commissioner to Australia, is returning home. Who knows what else might follow. For example, the Consular General in Sydney. Fiji has a number of important trading links with Australia. I just hope that commonsense will prevail. I mean this is a kind of a knee jerk reaction really. One gets a sense that they shoot first and think later. I just hope that when cooler heads prevail, that commonsense will return and that Fiji will restart its dialogues with these countries, with the Pacific Forum, because really there is no other way - Radio Australia

Breaking news: Brij Lal to be deported

Coupfourpointfive has been tipped off that prominent Fiji historian and academic, Dr Brij Lal, is to be deported from Fiji in the next 24 hours.

Dr Lal, an Australian citizen who teaches at Australia National Universtiy, was taken in for questioning at Queen Elizabeth Barracks just after 5 o'clock today.

He was escorted from his home to the barracks by about 10 to 15 soldiers dressed in civilian clothes.

Dr Lal was one of the architects of the Constitution that was abrograted earlier this year by Commodore Frank Bainimarama and his regime.

It's believed that Dr Brij was taken in for questioning over comments made to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation regarding Commodore Bainimarama's decision to expel the High Commissioners of New Zealand and Australia.

Dr Lal told the ABC there was no rule of law in Fiji and that the country was being ruled through decrees.

NZ Fijians worried about stoush

The tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions have left Fiji citizens in Australia and New Zealand concerned over what the practical effects might be.

A Fijian community leader in New Zealand, Sai Lealea, tells Radio Australia's Bruce Hill that indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians are worried about travel arrangements and visa processing times, especially with the busy holiday season coming up.

SAI LEALEA: In my case, I have got a nephew who is waiting in a couple of weeks time and efforts to try and get some relatives over. With what has happened, impacts on kind of services provided by the High Commission in Fiji, it is going to make life a bit difficult for those wanting to organise travel. There is going to be a protracted period, other requirements, administrative requirements, lodging applications and these are people who have to travel from afar to come to Suva, make arrangements to book their travel as well as meet the requirements for the High Commission to enable them to travel, in terms of police check, medical examination and what have you. So at the practical level, these are the things that could easily happen and now people are worried about those things. And, of course, with the festive season, coming up to Christmas, that's going to be greatly felt.

BRUCE HILL: Who do New Zealand-Fijians blame mainly for this situation, Commodore Bainimarama or the New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key and the Australian Government?

LEALEA: The question one has to ask and I know a lot of people are asking, what has Fiji got to gain by this kind of tactic by Bainimarama? I mean Australia and New Zealand are long term friends of Fiji, no question about that and they have never had any problem with Fiji before. It is the government, not the people, it's the government of this illegal regime in Fiji that is having trouble, because it cannot be trusted. New Zealand and Australia have only the best motives and try to assist the people of Fiji and as I just said, we have a government in Fiji that is illegally, that is just being led by somebody who just doesn't want to listen, who thinks he can intimidate and brag about dealing to New Zealand and Australia.

HILL: Is the Fijian community fairly united in this or is this just perhaps your opinion?

LEALEA: Well, it is no question it is my opinion, but I know it is widely shared. We're having trouble during this instant, during this period of illegal government in Fiji. I mean if you take Fiji's development over the years, you know you can trace back Australia and New Zealand's involvement. So there is no question about overall support for Australia and New Zealand having been good friends of Fiji. What we are having trouble with is illegal regimes who have come into power in Fiji through the point of guns, so there is something widely shared and the people have long memories about those.

HILL: I understand that you have actually launched a campaign within the New Zealand-Fijian community to get that community to publicly support the New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, in his approach to Fiji?

LEALEA: Yes, it is really just promoting, publicising the avenue which people could voice their opinion and their support to the New Zealand Government in its effort to maintain its course and direction on Fiji and that direction is mainly about tightening up on those sanctions. So the effort really is to showing people how to email the prime minister of New Zealand directly and just suggesting, just a couple of paragraphs or three stating their points of view, because it is important for New Zealand, certainly the prime minister to know that the people from Fiji here who endorse, who love Fiji, would like to see Fiji return to its rightful place as a democratic country in the Pacific.

Sir Paul Reeves: Don't shut Fiji out

Sir Paul Reeves, the Commonwealth's special envoy to Fiji is calling on NZ and Australia not to give up on Fiji despite the tit for tat explusions.

Sir Paul was sent to Fiji in September to try and persuade it's military leaders to have elections before 2014.

He told Radio NZ, Australia and New Zealand should talk to the leaders of Pacific nations and ask them to help sort out the debacle instead of shutting Fiji out completely.

He said the people of Fiji are already suffering and this latest debacle doesn't help.

Dorsami Naidu: Fiji claims against NZ and Aust rubbish

Fiji Law Society president Dorsami Naidu says Commodore Bainimarama's claim that New Zealand and Australia have been harrassing and interfering with the country's judiciary is rubbish.

Mr Naidu says his nation's latest diplomatic dispute with Australia and New Zealand will further delay any reconciliation, and it is his nation that will suffer most as a result of the tit for tat developments.

He says another strain on the already strained relationship will further delay the advice and assistance Fiji's people need from other countries - Radio NZ

Soldiers take Brij Lal to army barracks

Australia National University academic Dr Brij Lal was taken in by soldiers this afternoon.

Two cars with up to 15 soldiers dressed in civilian clothes, arrived at Dr Lal's Suva home after 5pm and escorted him to the Queen Elizabeth Barracks, the army's headquarters.

It's believed that Dr Brij was taken in for questioning over comments he made to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation regarding Frank Bainimarama's decision to boot out the High Commissioners of New Zealand and Australia.

Dr Lal told the ABC there was no rule of law in Fiji and that the country was being ruled through decrees.

Brij Lal is an Australian citizen.

NZ and Aust retaliate - Savou and Arya sent packing

Fiji's high commissioner to Australia has been expelled and its envoy to New Zealand is now persona non grata.

The expulsion and demotion come as the diplomats of the both countries prepare to leave Suva on the orders of interim prime minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

Commodore Bainimarama issued the 24 hour notices last night.

Canberra based Kamlesh Kumar Arya was given notice late this afternoon. The announcement was made by Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, who said Arya has been ordered to return to Suva.

The prime minister, Kevin Rudd, had earlier reitereated that Australia would maintain its hardline on Fiji.

Wellington based Kuliniasi Seru Savou has been declared persona non grata, which means he must leave New Zealand.

It's believed that more time is being sought for New Zealand's envoy, Todd Cleaver, to make his departure.

New Zealand's Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, has told media that under the Vienna Convention, "reasonable time"' must be given to diplomats to leave a country under these circumstances.

The New Zealand mission in Fiji has been closed to the public and could stay shut for several days.

NZ considering expelling Fiji diplomat

New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says Fiji's judiciary is not independent as claimed by Fiji's interim leader Frank Bainimarama.

Bainimarama says he's expelling the High Commissioners of New Zealand and Australia because of their government's interference with Fiji's independent judiciary.

But Murray McCully told Radio New Zealand they don't consider Fiji's judiciary independent because they were chosen by the military regime.

McCully says the New Zealand government is now considering whether to expel Fiji diplomats.

Bainimarama : NZ and Aust claim to be our friends

Fiji's interim prime minister Frank Bainimarama says he decided that the Australian and New Zealand High Commissioners need to be recalled from Fiji because of their government's interference with the judiciary.

"It is a matter of great shame that Madame Justice Anjala Wati a respected member of our High Court bench was harassed and humiliated by the New Zealand High Commission in Fiji when she applied for a visa on medical grounds to take her baby son to New Zealand."

"In addition to this shameful incident the Sri Lankan judges who have been appointed to serve in the Fijian judiciary were told that they would not be able to travel through and to Australia because they had taken these positions," Bainimarama said.

He said the culimination of these incidents "displays a consolidated effort to attack Fiji's independent judiciary".

"I can accept their ban on me and my senior officers given the personalization of matters. But why punish those individuals both Fijians and non-Fijians who join the Judiciary?"

"Those Fijians from the private sector who want to contribute to a better, progressive and modern Fiji by way of joining Boards of Statutory Organizations - even the Fiji National Provident Fund is targeted."

"They claim to be our friends yet on the other hand they fail to recognize the efforts that we are making in being a good international citizen; they fail to understand that we are creating a country that will be based on equal and common citizenry, a country of modern laws, a country which will have true democracy," he said.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bainimarama sends NZ and Aust reps packing

Fiji's interim prime minister Frank Bainimarama says he is booting the New Zealand and Australian High Commissioners out of Fiji.

He announced the decision at a press conference this evening.

Bainimarama says he's been forced to take the step due to the continued interference in Fiji's judiciary, which he termed as a well-planned policy to sabotage his government's efforts to build strong institutions in the country.

Todd Cleaver is NZ's acting High Commissioner to Fiji and James Batley, who is believed to be on leave in Australia, is the Australian High Commissioner.

Bainimarama has given NZ and Australia 24 hours to remove their representatives.

He said Fiji will also be recalling its High Commissioners from Australia and New Zealand.

Two weeks ago interim Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum accused NZ of interfering with the jucidiciary, claiming officialis had denied Fiji judge Anjala Wati entry to take her child for medical treatment to New Zealand.

More accusations of interference surfaced yesterday by Fiji's Chief Justice Anthony Gates.

Gates said Australia had denied Fiji's newly appointed Sri Lankan judges to transit through the country, but Australia denied the claim saying the judges withdrew their applications.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Fiji PM says Pacific grouping to strengthen

Pacific Beat, Radio Australia: Fiji's interim Prime Minister says he is being encouraged by some Pacific Island Forum nations to include them in next year's Melanasian Spearhead Group meeting. It is Fiji 's turn to chair the MSG next year, and it is considering giving observer status to some island nations outside the group to enable them to attend the meeting.

Traditionally MSG membership is restricted to Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea . But since Fiji 's suspension from the Pacific Islands Forum and the Commonwealth, Fiji is barred from meetings such as PACER Plus.

Interim Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama says Fiji's needs a forum to discuss issues of common interest to the whole region.

BAINIMARAMA: What is happened is a couple of leaders of the rest of the Pacific Island nations have come to see me, saying that there is now no forum for us to talk bilaterally and multilaterally, so they thought it would be a good idea if we they can talk to us in a forum such as that. Fiji will be chairing the MSG next year, so there has been some suggestion that in that MSG, I could also invite the rest of the Pacific Island nations to come as observers, not only as observers, but also be an opportunity for us to discuss issues that affects us.

COUTTS: So that you would conduct your own Pacific Island Forum without Australia and New Zealand ?

BAINIMARAMA: No, no, I would be conducting the MSG Grouping meeting, but we will be inviting the rest of the Pacific Island nations, because that is what they want me to do.

COUTTS: Who wants you do to that?

BAINIMARAMA: I'm sorry, I am not at liberty to let you know, but the fact of the matter is that I have been approached by a couple of them to say that it would be a good idea for me to call them as observers, so that we can have a forum to talk on issues affecting a whole lot of us, including Fiji. As you know, we have been removed from the forum, so there is no forum that we can all talk.

COUTTS: It does seem that you want to get everybody together, the Pacific Island nations, including the MSG and hold talks of your own that would be similar to that of the forum?


COUTTS: Who approached you? I know you cannot talk?

BAINIMARAMA: I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I am not at liberty to tell you

COUTTS: Yeah, I understand that, but I was just wondering because you met with a lot of the MSG leaders for a golf tournament recently, was this what was discussed then?

BAINIMARAMA: Yes, but remember I also met a lot of Pacific Island nation leaders in New York a month back.

COUTTS: So will Australia and New Zealand be invited to the forum meeting when you host or chair the MSG next year?

BAINIMARAMA: No, no, this is MSG meeting, it is not a forum meeting. It is not a Pacific Island Forum meeting. It's a MSG meeting which Fiji will be chairing next year and so there has been a suggestion which I take very seriously in inviting the rest of the Pacific Island nation, countries to come and be observers, that way it would be an opportunity for us to talk as a group on matters affecting Fiji and the rest of the Pacific Island nations, because there is no forum such as that now.

COUTTS; That includes Fiji ?

BAINIMARAMA: That's includes Fiji .

COUTTS: So have you sent out the invitations yet for this meeting?

BAINIMARAMA: No, no, no, no, no, no, no. I need to talk further on that with the rest of the MSG group.

COUTTS: And so will you restrict it, when you send out the invitations, will it include countries other than Forum island countries, like the northern Pacific, would you invite them as well?

BAINIMARAMA: I really don't know what we're going to do in the next 12 months, before we have this meeting. But if the meeting ever comes up, then of course it will be made public.

COUTTS: So what kinds of issues would you like to discuss, that you feel that you haven't been able to discuss?

BAINIMARAMA: Well issues, issues that also includes Fiji , but which we don't have a forum to talk in right now.

COUTTS: So because Fiji is suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum and the Commonwealth. You have tried to find another outlet so you can have discussions, so you can proceed. Is this is the first step for you actually saying you don't want to be part of those organisations again?

BAINIMARAMA: Well no, we just want to continue talking with the rest of the Pacific Island nations and I guess with the rest of the Commonwealth countries. If we are suspended from Australia and New Zealand forum, I am sure there are other ways we can move forward without getting too involved in what Australia and New Zealand wants.

COUTTS: Now funding is always an issue and a lot of the funding comes from Australia and New Zealand and also from the EU. There is a story that is going around at the moment that the EU has offered Fiji a parcel of money, in excess of 200 million dollars, but Fiji has turned that down?

BAINIMARAMA: Eh I really don't know that at this stage. No-one has offered Fiji any of that kind of amount in the last two, three months.

COUTTS: But money that has been offered, and Fiji turned it down because of the conditions attached?

BAINIMARAMA: No, as I said, I don't know any of that type of offer. I have never been offered any of that kind of funds in the last, or Fiji has not been offered any kind of that funds in the last six months.

COUTTS: And is Fiji looking to the association of small island states for more support, because it seems after the climate change meetings, a round of the that some of the Pacific Island nations are adopted positions that more closely align those of the small island states, than it does the forum nations statements on climate change?

BAINIMARAMA: Well, you must understand that we share the same problems in climate change. Fiji and the rest of the Pacific Island nations, small island nations like Fiji .

COUTTS: So are they getting together on a formal basis then to make a presentation in Copenhagen with the Association of small island states

BAINIMARAMA: We are going to go to Copenhagen , with our own agenda, the agenda that has been endorsed by the small island nation forum in New York .

COUTTS: And s o what will you be putting to Copenhagen when you go?

BAINIMARAMA: Well, what we discussed in New York and that was what was discussed by the small island nations. But you must understand that we come from the same area. Geraldine, I have got something coming up very soon, so can we finish this off now?

COUTTS: Certainly, may I ask you one more question? You have appointed now Ratu Epeli Nailatikau as your president. When will that happen and for how long will he remain president?

BAINIMARAMA: Initially for three years, so the cabinet people will be coming up in the next cabinet meeting on Tuesday and we will finalise all those issues.

COUTTS: So can we expect to see a vice president appointed shortly?

BAINIMARAMA: Eh no, there will be no vice-president.

Australia High Commission Suva: applicants withdrew visas

The Australian High Commission wishes to clarify comments made in a public statement concerning the handling by the Australian Government of applications by Sri Lankan nationals to travel via Australia to take up judicial positions in Fiji. It is not otherwise our practice to comment on individual immigration cases.

It is not the case that visas were refused to individuals travelling from Sri Lanka to take up judicial positions in Fiji. In fact, a decision had been made to issue visas to enable them to transit Australia. They did not travel through Australia, however, as they withdrew their visa applications, having decided instead to travel to Fiji via Korea.

As a courtesy, the Australian High Commission in Colombo advised these individuals that once they took up their positions in Fiji, they would be subject to Australia’s travel restrictions policy. These individuals were not told that they would not be allowed into Australia for medical treatment for themselves or their families.

Since December 2006, Australia has imposed travel restrictions on those responsible for the coup and on senior appointees of Fiji’s interim government.

The Australian Government has allowed these restrictions to be relaxed on a case-by-case basis, including on compassionate grounds. Although it would be inappropriate for privacy reasons to give more details, exemptions have been granted including for travel to Australia for funerals and treatment for serious medical conditions. Under this policy, travel restrictions are not applied to individuals whose appointments have only been foreshadowed.

Gates attacks NZ and Aust travel bans

Fiji's chief justice Anthony gates has accused the New Zealand and Australian governments of interfering with the judiciary by imposing travel restrictions.

His comments come as Fiji prepares to welcome it's new judges from Sri Lanka who Gates says were not allowed to transit through Australia to take up their appointments.

Gates says New Zealand interfered with the judiciary when it denied entry to judge Anjala Wati who wanted to bring her son for medical treatment.

He says Wati was only given a visa when her case was highlighted in the media.

Gates claims the Australian and New Zealand High Commissioners have written to him saying their travel ban policy now applies to those appointed to the judiciary.

He says Australia and New Zealand need to acknowledge that all judiciary appointments are made by the President not by the Fiji Government.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Epeli Nailatikau confirmed President

Fiji's acting vice-president, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, has been confirmed as the new President of Fiji.

Nailatikau came into the position in April, after the former President Ratu Josefa Iloilo retired on July 30.

His term in office as president has been sent down at three years.

Fiji's interim prime minister Frank Bainimarama says no vice-president will be appointed.

Bainimarama says Chief Justice Anthony Gates will act on Nailatikau's behalf when he is absent.