#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: 2010-01-24

Saturday, January 30, 2010

New Criminal decree brings worry

Fiji's new Criminal Procedure Decree which comes into effect on Monday is more serious than it looks according to sources.

One part of the decree limits what the Fiji media can report on a criminal case when it is transferred to the High Court.

Under Section 201 0f the Decree,  the Fiji media can only report on the name of magistrate hearing the case, identity of the court, the name, age and occupation of the accused, the accused person’s lawyer and where the accused has been remanded or bailed.

Media reports can also include a summary of the offence with which the accused has been charged with.

The maximum fine for any media organization or journalist not abiding by the decree is $10,000.

Of more serious concern is under Chapter Three - Part 10 Criminal Offences.

Under subsection 65 Part 2 individuals and NGO's criticising Frank Bainimarama's regime are deemed to have committed treason and this is punishable by  imprisonment for 10 years.

Under the decree, an individual will also be arrested at Nadi airport if they make criticisms against the interim government overseas.

The decree also states that any individual sending or communicating any negativity from overseas to Fiji or vice-versa or  within Fiji is guilty of sedition.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

NZ Gov't remain quite on Leweni's nomination

The NZ Government is maintaining its position of not commenting on a proposed Fijian appointment to its high commission in Wellington after the regime admitted today it was testing New Zealand by putting up a provocative candidate.

The proposed appointment of Permanent Secretary for Information and Military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Neumi Leweni as a counsellor at the high commission is seen as a slap in the face for New Zealand.

It is provocative given the New Zealand Government's travel ban on members of the military-led regime, which was installed following a bloodless coup in 2006 led by Commodore Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama, who is now prime minister.

Lt Col Leweni played a central role in the country's 2006 coup and is responsible for censoring local media, deporting journalists and curbing free speech, all moves that have met with criticism from the Australian and New Zealand governments.

Fiji's land force commander, Brigadier Pita Driti, said his government had put forward the name for counsellor at the High Commission as a "test" for the New Zealand government.

"We are just testing New Zealand's genuity you know, in having to arrange certain names to see how far they can accommodate what we want and if they accept Leweni, it's a great move," he told Auckland's Radio Tarana.

A spokesman for Foreign Minister Murray McCully said the Government's position on not commenting on diplomatic appointments while they were under consideration was still in place.

Last week when the candidate was proposed Prime Minister John Key also declined to get into a public debate about the candidate.

Relations between New Zealand and Fiji have been rocky and further deteriorated last year with the tit-for-tat expulsion of senior diplomats, which followed Cdre Bainimarama's repeated rejection of international deadlines for elections and measures against the media.

However, New Zealand and Fiji agreed earlier this month to improve diplomatic relations after Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully talked to his Fijian counterpart, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, in Nadi about appointments in Suva and Wellington of additional counsellors.

They also agreed, in principle, to appoint deputy heads of mission in both capitals - NZPA

Inoke Kubuabola talks

Fergus Hanson, a journalist with The Interpreter, interviewed Fiji's Foreign Minister Inoke Kubuabola via email. This wa before Fiji announced the Neumi Leweni is it's nominee to New Zealand.
What do you see as the key to getting Australia-Fiji relations back on track? What do both Australia and Fiji have to do to make this happen?

The key to getting Australia-Fiji relations back on track is via the tried and tested national and international mechanism of dialogue. Dialogue or negotiation is the first mechanism cited in the Charter of the United Nations for the pacific settlement of disputes. I cannot speak for the Government of Australia but I stand ready to enter into dialogue with my counterpart in Australia aimed at improving relations between our two countries.
The ties that bind us together — geography, history, economic relations our peoples — are more and stronger than the disagreements between us. Also many Fiji nationals are citizens of Australia, as in New Zealand. Our Fijian way of life over the years has been based on friendship instead of conflict.
Are you able to discuss how your recent meeting with your New Zealand counterpart went? What does the meeting mean for Fiji-New Zealand relations?

The meeting between the New Zealand Foreign Minister, Murray McCully and myself at Nadi on January 8 and 9, was classified and I am therefore not in a position to comment on any substantive matter discussed. What I can say however is that the meeting was the first at Foreign Minister level between our two countries and that the atmosphere was cordial. The objective of the meeting was to improve bilateral relations between our two countries.

The New Zealand Foreign Minister and I spoke on issues of interest to our two countries. The dialogue was constructive. A positive development of the meeting was that we agreed to restore a Fiji Counsellor in Wellington and a New Zealand Counsellor in Suva as a first step towards the re-establishment of full High Commissions in our capitals. Both parties agreed to further meetings in the future.

My analysis of the meeting was that it laid the foundation for improving relations between our two South Pacific nations which have had a prior history of close and friendly relations. Geography, history, economic relations and close ties between our peoples dictate a return to the status quo ante.
Was progress made with re-engaging the EU after the Prime Minister’s recent visit? I noticed the Prime Minister made mention of possibly re-introducing parts of the constitution in a press release during the visit. What are the government’s plans in this regard?

Discussions between Fiji and the European Union on matters of interest to both parties are on-going and I cannot comment on them. As far as the comment made by our Prime Minister, Commodore Bainimarama, concerning re-introducing parts of the abrogated 1997 Constitution, it is a matter that falls under the portfolio of the Attorney- General and you should consequently direct your question to him.
On a similar front I understand there are plans to lift the Public Emergency Regulations soon – is that still planned?

The lifting of the Public Emergency Regulations will be done soon when the Media Decree is put in place.
On a different issue, I notice the Prime Minister has suggested non-MSG members might be invited along to the next MSG meeting. Is that still the case and how do you see this impacting on the Forum?

I cannot perceive that it will have a negative impact on the Forum. There is among our South Pacific Island countries, a Pacific Way of doing things, based on our culture, custom and tradition. Division and disunity are not part of our culture, tradition and custom.

We must seek and find ways to unite our Melanesian, Micronesia and Polynesian countries for we have a common destiny in this part of the world where we have lived for some 3,000 years, long, long before the advent of European explorers. Together we aspire, together Melanesians, Micronesians and Polynesians shall achieve.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Driti tells Baleidrokadroka to stop being childish

The Fiji Military Force Land Force Commander, Brigadier General Pita Driti has accused former Fijian commander Jone Baleidrokadroka of making childish statements.

Driti  was responding to Baleidrokadroka’s comments on Radio NZ that Permanent Secretary for Information Col Neumi Leweni was being deployed as Counsel to Fiji’s High Commission in Wellington as a spy.

"The idea or the allegation that we are sending a spy is very much childish. I would also like to stress that Col Baleidrokadroka is speaking in favor of the 2 countries only because he has no where else to go but needs to establish his position either in NZ or Australia to get favor from them," he told Radio Fiji.

"I think it is not appropriate of him to speak of such a thing especially as a former military officer and a former land force commander but then again I would like to stress the fact that Fiji is sending Leweni as a Commissioner- to test out that what we are doing with NZ and their approach to us is genuine and things will be done in a proper way with transparency."

Former diplomat urges NZ to keep calm

Former New Zealand diplomat Terence O'Brien says New Zealand should not overreact to an inappropriate proposed Fijian appointment to its high commission in Wellington.
The NZ Government has not been commenting on reports that Fiji wants to send a ranking officer to serve at its high commission in Wellington.

Late last year New Zealand and Fiji agreed to improve diplomatic relations after Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully talked to his Fijian counterpart, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, in Nadi about appointments in Suva and Wellington of additional counsellors.
They also agreed, in principle, to appoint deputy heads of mission in both capitals, although that will take longer.

The proposed appointment of Permanent Secretary for Information and Military spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Neumi Leweni as a counsellor at the high commission is seen as a slap in the face for New Zealand.

Terence O'Brien said New Zealand should not get into a public and destructive spat with Fiji over the proposed appointment.

"I think the New Zealand Government has constructively tried to reopen diplomatic contact with Fiji. This on the face of it (if true) is certainly pretty provocative," Mr O'Brien told Radio New Zealand.

"The problem stems from the context in which all these problems have arisen with Fiji - over our deep objection to the military coup and to the way the administration is developing in that country. You have to see it in that context and New Zealand needs to make its position firmly clear."

Mr O'Brien said New Zealand had tried to be constructive and urged a calm approach.

"I think New Zealand should try to keep its powder dry, no overreaction and quietly if necessary inform the Fijians the appointee is not acceptable to us.

"It has to be done quietly. These sorts of matters are handled better in that way, that of course does not mean the Fijians themselves might not react, that Commodore Bainimarama might not react publicly. But New Zealand should continue as far as it can to adopt the quiet approach."

Sitiveni Rabuka's pension cancelled

Former Fiji prime minister and coup leader, Sitiveni Rabuka, has had his government pension cancelled by the interim government. In early January the interim prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, unveiled a decree stating that Fiji pensioners who criticise his government may have their pensions stopped.

It appears Mr Rabuka, who staged Fiji's first coup in 1987, is the first to be affected by the move. He has had been striped of all benefits, including a government-supplied four-wheel-drive vehicle, which was confiscated from him when he was out picking coconuts an hour from his village.

Presenter: Bruce Hill, Radio Australia
Speaker: Sitiveni Rabuka, Former Prime Minister, Fiji

RABUKA: I was on my farm when a military vehicle came in with four soldiers and I called out to them to come have some coconuts. They took some time getting out of the vehicle. Both came out and saluted one by one and I said 'well, take a break, you must be tired'. They said: 'Sir, we have a letter from the Prime Minister's office', and I said 'Okay. Is it for me?', and they said yes. I took it and read it and 'do I need to acknowledge it?'. They said: 'No sir, we just want you to read it'. It informed me that all my pension and the entitlements and the benefits had been terminated with affect from 18 January, so I acknowledged receipt, handed over the vehicle, the spare tyre and the tool box. Unfortunately, I didn't receive my mobile charger and my post office box key that my driver left it in the glove compartment.

HILL: So they actually took your vehicle back there on the spot?

RABUKA: On the spot, yeah. When they came to me I was surprised, because I knew I had not done anything detrimental to the progress of the government. So I was taken aback but being someone who has been in authority and understanding the chain of command, there is no need, no use arguing with the soldiers. So they were just carrying out orders and so I said 'okay, if you can drop me by the bridge and I will walk back to the village'. So I walked back about an hour.

HILL: Why do you think the government has done this to you and do you know of any others they have done this to?

RABUKA: I do not know of any others. I have heard that there might be some others who were in the immediate past government of Qarase's cabinet, but I have not had any confirmation of anyone else who has had their pensions terminated.

HILL: What are you going to do financially? Do you have your own source of income?

RABUKA: No. I have a small Fiji National Provident Fund pension. When I say small, I mean small, because I drew much of it when it was due to me on my 55th birthday in 2003, and only left a very small portion because I was relying on the office pension as being a lifetime benefit and unfortunately that has been terminated by the power of a decree.

HILL: What do you think of this tactic by the government of cancelling pensions of people whose opinions it does not share?

RABUKA: Well, they have published a decree and they have been ruling by decree. It is up to those that drafted the decree to just make sure that it is not going going against any international conventions, particularly the ILO [International Labour Organisation] convention that we are signatories to and we had ratified the rights of the workplace and I believe the pension would come under the rights of workers.

HILL: Is it going to affect your speaking out about what the government does? Is it actually going to intimidate you into silence?

RABUKA: I am freer now because I am not getting anything from them. But I do not intend to speak out against government. I have my own little projects to cover and I shouldn't really waste my time speaking out against government. At the moment, I am more interested in just looking after my family, my granddaughter is going to university for the first year this year and I would rather concentrate on that - Radio Australia