#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: 2009-11-22

Friday, November 27, 2009

Education sector gets most in 2010 budget

Fiji's interim prime minister Frank Bainimarama today tabled his 2010 budget.

Under the budget, the education sector has been allocated the most money at $312.7 million.

The Ministry of Works and Transport has been allocated $141.7m while the Tourism Industry maintains its $23.5m budget.

The Police has been boosted with a $78.4m allocation while the Military budget drops to $92.5m.

From February, departing tourists will get a refund of the 12.5 percent value added on purchases above 260 US dollars.

While delivering the budget Bainimarama announced shopping and liquor trading hours will be extended in some centres of Fiji.

He also announced a monthly food voucher programme for those who register under a new assistance programme.

New Administrator for Suva

A former Colonial National Bank and Home Finance employee has been appointed the Special Administrator for Suva City Council.

She is Marica Hallacy. Mrs Hallacy is the wife of Fiji National Provident Fund expatriate employee Steve Hallacy. She was amongst 27 applicants short-listed for interview to replace Vijendra Prakash who was sacked for nepotism and cronyism.

Mrs Hallacy is said to have property management skills.

She will also be responsible for Suva's neighbouring Lami Town Council.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Streamcom and Naidu on Spectrum Decree

Citizens of democratic countries should think twice before doing anything which helps the coup-installed interim government of Fiji. That's according to Nick Naidu, from the Coalition for Democracy in Fiji, who is based in New Zealand.

He says news that a New Zealand company called Streamcom, who wrote a report on the broadcasting spectrum in Fiji which led the interim government to revoke all of the country's broadcasting licenses, is deeply disappointing.

Mr Naidu says while there could be a completely innocent explanation for the move, he's suspicious about the interim government's motives.

Presenter: Bruce Hill Radio Australia
Speaker: Simon Jackson, head of Streamcon; Nick Naidu, New Zealand-based Coalition for Democracy in Fiji

NAIDU: It sort of tend towards the sinister argument for the reason that the timing is quite interesting, it's a time when shortly after the media has been censored and it appears that the censorship hasn't worked as well as the regime most probably wanted it. So could this be a way to further control or muzzle those organisations or media outlets that were not playing ball with the regime.

HILL: The report that these moves were actually based on was conducted by a New Zealand company based in Auckland, Streamcom. Do you have any concerns about companies from outside Fiji being involved in this kind of thing which results in such a political decision?

NAIDU: It's very sad that while the people of Fiji the average person is suffering, and poverty is getting out of control, unemployment at its highest level, the economy is suffering. While all that is going on we have New Zealand and Australia as governments are standing up and imposing sanctions but at the same time a lot in the private and education sector, professional areas have decided to go and support this illegal regime with no concern ethically for what they're doing and the harm that they're doing to Fiji as a nation and its people by indirectly giving the regime a stamp of approval.

HILL: It's not just one company doing this; they're a number of companies and individuals that are actually helping out the Fiji government from countries like Australia and New Zealand aren't there?

NAIDU: Of course I mean that's always been the case but I think this time around there should have been some people who should have actually stood on principle and not gone and supported it. We have many people in the current regime, very close advisors, people who work in the civil service and the judiciary, the Chief Justice is an example, the Director of Public Prosecutions, all have taken oath under an illegal regime that has abrogated the constitution and compromised the judiciary, they've all been happy to serve and are continuing to serve what basically amounts to a government that's working against the people of Fiji.

HILL: But Simon Jackson, head of the company which wrote the report on the use of Fiji's broadcast frequency spectrum says such criticisms are wide of the mark. He says Fiji's interim government is simply trying to clean up the allocation of frequencies after years of neglect, and there were no political motivations involved.

JACKSON: I agree that there should be an ethical basis to the work you do for anyone, whether it's a government or another company. And the fact is we would not have undertaken this work if we believed that there was any ill intent. In actual fact what we believe is happening is that the Fijian government currently is trying to address years of neglect and mismanagement and actually corruption, we've found evidence of that in the way that the radio spectrum has been managed in Fiji. So we a tender to do some work to actually come up with a strategy for reorganising their broadcast band and I think you can see from the reaction of people like CSL, who have over 60 per cent of the market in Fiji radio, commercial radio, and people like My Television; these are the ones who if the government actually had some nefarious intent, these are the ones who would be concerned. And they're not saying that, what they're saying is look, this is good, there's been a problem here that needs to be sorted out. Also the fact that the Fijian government is involving the ITU, which is the International Telecommunications Union, they're actually an arm of the UN. So it's not like this is something where somebody has decided let's find a cunning way to take frequencies away from people, because to be honest if indeed they were acting as an evil dictatorship they could do that without having to go to this extreme couldn't they? They're doing a lot of work and doing it in the right way for somebody who's trying to do something underhand.

HILL: How did your company feel about doing business with the Fiji regime? Are their countries and regimes that you wouldn't do business with and where does Fiji fall in that sort of spectrum as far as you're concerned?

JACKSON: Yes absolutely, we did some research first, I mean one of the first things we did on our own bat is that we did a visit to the site to actually Fiji and we took some time to talk to people in the Fijian community here in New Zealand, and look honestly it was very confusing. I found conversations that we were having with people on the street and people in New Zealand, like the first time that we approached somebody, we said oh look isn't it terrible what's going on in Fiji? And this guy who was an ethnic Fijian came and said no, it was great, and that kind of really confused us. But we have found more people supporting the changes if you like, plenty of people who may not support the regime, actually may not support the people doing the reforms, but it's really hard to find somebody who doesn't actually agree with the intent.

HILL: But Nick Naidu thinks there's a wider principle at stake. He says citizens of democracy should be careful they don't do things which might prop up a regime based on principles they themselves wouldn't like to live under.

NAIDU: Well I think one, the professional organisations that these individuals or companies belong to should speak out. The governments concerned should support their sanctions by also making it clear to the private sector what their views are in terms of doing business as usual with Fiji. And I think it's a sad reflection on society as a whole in New Zealand and Australia where people that are supporting regimes around the world, doing business with them like normal are living normal lives and enjoying democracy in these countries, while they're going out there supporting dictatorships in other countries. It's a really sad indictment on the democracy that we live in.

HILL: You think the people in Australia and New Zealand take their democracy a bit for granted perhaps?

NAIDU: Of course they take it for granted but at the same time they should be aware of the fact that their actions or the actions of their people are also in a way hypocritical because you want democracy to prevail across the world and when you are propping up illegal regimes by giving them financial assistance or indirect technical assistance, then you're actually working against your basic principles and ethics. And that's where the question lies, do people actually have ethics and as countries, as nations, as people, as organisations in this such as the Law Society in Australia and New Zealand, they should reprimand those members for taking part and propping up illegal regimes like in Fiji.

HILL: But that characterisation that Fiji's coup installed interim government is disputed by Simon Jackson from Streamcom. He says corruption is no longer part of doing business in Fiji and that's a positive development.

JACKSON: When we were doing this work we had people coming to us and saying what did it cost you? People who had been doing business in Fiji for a long time, and we were saying what do you mean? And they said well how much did you have to pay to get the contract? And it appears that the normal operating procedure in Fiji has been that if you pay good money for a contract it would be rude to expect you to actually do the work. So we think, we didn't really notice any of that at all, but people we talked to they were sort of disbelieving that that's actually the way that things are happening at the moment.

HILL: On the other hand is that the sort of system that you yourself would feel happy living under, that system they have in Fiji at the moment?

JACKSON: Yeah well no probably not, I have to say I mean the issues of censorship to be honest I think are quite sort of overstated. We have in the course of doing this project spent some time on the ground. The stories about, we never saw a soldier, we never saw any evidence of the kind of behaviour which is described as being sort of everyday activity in Fiji. The one thing I came away from from actually meeting people in government there was that these people are not politicians, they make, they seem to have almost no media nous, they call a spade a spade. But what their intentions are seem to be really I guess noble - Radio Australia

Bainimarama violates liquor laws

The interim regime's prime minister and army commander, Frank Bainimarama, drank for 7 hours at Suva's most popular night spot last weekend and in the process deliberately violated the pub's opening hours.

Sources have told Coupfourpointfive that Bainimarama, who arrived from his trip to Italy and Brussels last Friday morning (21 November), was driven in a private car to Traps Bar at 11pm the same night, accompanied by his wife Mary Bainimarama.

Like all night spots and liquor bars, Traps also closes for business at 1am daily. The interim regime has been strict on the opening and closing hours of night clubs.

However sources say Bainimarama demanded the bar remain open for him and his wife.

Sources have told us that Traps Ba owner, Gary Apted, was also present and couldn't deny Bainimarama's demand. Gary Apted is the brother of well-known lawyer, Jon Apted.

Bainimarama left Traps with his wife at 5am on Saturday in a highly intoxicated state. He was picked up and driven away in the same private car used to drop him off at Traps.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

CCF responds to Spectrum Decree

The Regulation of National Spectrum Decree should be used for a more efficient allocation of frequencies among broadcasters and should not be used to revoke licences of any existing broadcasters, says the Citizens’ Constitutional Forum.

Under the decree, a decision for the cancellation or reallocation of any broadcast license cannot be challenged in a court, tribunal, commission or any other adjudicating body in Fiji.

“The manner of the review under this decree raises concern as there is no room for broadcasters to appeal the decision to revoke or reallocate licences by the Minister,” CCF Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Rev Akuila Yabaki said.

“If the purpose of the review is to make the allocation of broadcast frequencies fairer to the public of Fiji, then the decree should focus on that activity only. Existing licenses should not be revoked.”

“We are concerned that the Minister responsible for communications has the sole authority to allocate or reallocate broadcast spectrums. This is a non-transparent process and can personalise the decision-making. An independent statutory body would have been better suited for this role,” Rev Yabaki said.

Gazetted on 13 November 2009, the decree has caused tremendous concern due to the conversion of existing broadcast licenses to a temporary status, until such time as a review of currently allocated frequencies for broadcast is completed, and the broadcast spectrums are reallocated. The frequencies being reviewed include radio broadcast, television broadcast, microwave links, telecommunications or any other radio frequency spectrum between 3Hz to 300GHz.

CCF calls on the interim government to ensure the broadcasters are treated fairly and are not pressured into accepting any deals that may compromise their role as guardians of Freedom of Information and Opinion. “A free media is the cornerstone of a democratic society and should be promoted,” Rev Yabaki said.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sayed Khaiyum and Tappoos strike deal

In what is a clear case of conflict of interest, the interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has sold personal property, including a large residential block of prime land in the heart of Suva city to business tycoon Tappoo Group of Companies.

While the price remains undisclosed, Coupfourpointfive has established that it was sold at an inflated price, in return for concessions and benefits from Sayed-Khaiyum who is also tourism minister.

The property located in Berry Road, Suva, previously housed the office of Fiji Women's Crisis Centre. The Centre moved to its new headquarters built through Australian aid a few days before the December 5, 2006 coup.

The Berry road land and property was registered under a company named Latifa Investment Limited. The forwarding address of the company has been given as BDO Zarin Ali, Level 8, Dominion House, Suva. One of the Managing Partners of BDO Zarin Ali, a chartered accounting firm, is Nur Bano Ali.

Nur Bano Ali is Sayed-Khaiyum's maternal aunt, sister of Sayed-Khaiyum's mother Latifa. The owners of Latifa Investments are Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and Latifa Khaiyum (F/N Bakar Ali). Their residential address is 40, Lovoni Road, Suva (Khaiyums' residence) while postal address is P O Box 555, Suva.

The Berry Road property has a CT Number of 6694 (Lot 2 DP 1280). It has been bought by Bright Star Investment, which is owned by Tappoos.

Fiji military seizes broadcast licences

The Fiji military regime's seizure of broadcast licences is a "very bad signal" for international investment and freedom of speech in the Pacific nation, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith says.

Mr Smith said on Saturday that Fiji's interim Attorney-General and Communications Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum had been given new powers, which he had used to strip the licences of broadcasters "at whim".

The action was carried out by decree, which does not allow any court or other agency to overturn the decision.

"The interim Fiji military government has made changes to its broadcasting and communications arrangements and has effectively seized licences and reallocated those licences without compensation to the original broadcasting licence holders," Mr Smith told reporters in Perth.

"(It has) absolute power to renew or redistribute them without any compensation to those whose licences are stripped."

The Australian newspaper reported TV and radio stations were broadcasting this weekend on a temporary basis while awaiting a directive from Mr Sayed-Khaiyum.

He is regarded as the government's second most powerful figure after military commander and Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama.

Anyone broadcasting in contravention to the minister's directions can be jailed for five years, The Australian reported.

It said the dominant television broadcaster, Fiji TV, was owned by Yasana Holdings, which represents the 14 ethnic Fijian provinces and also owns the monopoly Papua New Guinea TV broadcaster EMTV.

It was now expected at least one frequency would be reallocated to the government-owned Fiji Broadcasting Corporation, which operates a radio service and has expressed an intention to establish a TV network.

The Australian's report said the corporation's chief executive, appointed earlier this year, was Riyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, younger brother of the attorney-general and formerly a TV journalist.

Mr Smith said the move was an escalation of the military regime's efforts to impose itself on its critics.

"The military regime has consistently set out to impose itself on those voices in the media, and those voices in the Fiji community who articulate criticisms of the interim regime," he said.

He said it also sent two bad messages to the international community.

"It sends a very worrying signal so far as sovereign risk is concerned," he said.

"We know that Fiji's economic circumstances have deteriorated significantly since the military regime came to power.

"That's been compounded by the global financial crisis, so we continue to be very worried about Fiji's economic circumstances.

"But the effective seizing and reallocation at the whim of the interim attorney-general and minister for communications will send very bad signs to the international investment community.

"Of course it also sends another bad signal so far as freedom of speech and human rights in Fiji is concerned."

Mr Smith said he would raise the issues surrounding Fiji's military regime with his counterparts at the Commonwealth Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Trinidad and Tobago beginning on Tuesday.

Fiji was suspended from the commonwealth after it refused to commit to holding a general election in 2010 - AAP