#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: 2010-03-21

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Departing Methodist officials: Lasaro and Kanailagi to blame for rift with government

More information has surfaced about the fallout between the two most senior officials of the Methodist Church and the elders who asked them to step down.

The Fiji Broadcasting Corporation is reporting the rift between the church and the Bainimarama government was started by former church presidents, Reverend Manasa Lasaro (right) and Reverend Tomasi Kanailagi (below), according to the church executives who've been asked to step down.

Reverend Ame Tugaue and Tuikilakila Waqairatu were asked to vacate their positions at a meeting of the heads of the 54 divisions of the Methodist Church in Fiji.

But FBC says Tugaue and Waiqairatu told church elders at the meeting on Wednesday night that the real cause of the rift with government was a statement put out by former president, Lasaro, and the content of a sermon by another former church president, Kanailagi in 2009.

The meeting was told that Government did not like the statements being put out by the two former heads and called Tugaue and Waqairatu to a meeting with the Military Council last year.

FBC says in this meeting, Tugaue and Waqairatu were told to remove the two former presidents.

Instead of doing so, they told the Military Council that according to the church constitution they had no powers to oust the former presidents.

Meanwhile the Fiji Village says the acting general secretary of the Methodist Church, Reverend Tevita Nawadra, says while some Ministers and divisions wanted the president and the general secretary to step down, others wanted them to stay.

The Fiji Village quotes Nawadra as saying there were theological issues over the Church appearing to support the current government.

Some ministers and divisions want the church to remove itself from political issues and focus on the spiritual wellbeing of their members, as they were encouraged to by Bainimarama at their Wednesday meeting.

Fiji Village says about ten percent of the 130 church ministers and stewards attending the Methodist Church meeting called for Tugaue and Waqairatu to relinquish their authority.

Nawadra said while this was done there were other church ministers who wanted the executives to stay on.

The question now being asked is whether a motion of no confidence can be moved against Tugaue and Waqairatu.

According to the Methodist Church constitution, the executives elected in the Church's Annual Conference can only be replaced or removed during the Annual Conference.

But signs are now emerging that some church ministers and stewards from the different circuits in the country want a change.

Nawadra said there were clearly two sides when the issue emerged after Bainimarama's departure from the meeting on Wednesday.

Friday, March 26, 2010

McCully unlikely to meet Nailatikau

New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister, Murray McCully, is in Hong Kong but won't be meeting with any Fiji representative.

McCully and Fiji's interim prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, were supposed to meet but Bainimarama cancelled his trip after cyclone Tomas devastated Fiji.

Bainimarama said he needed to be at home to co-ordinate releif efforts.

Fiji's President Epeli Nailatikau (right) has been sent instead, but Coupfourpointfive has learned that Murray McCully has not indicated he wants to meet with him.

The Hong Kong Sevens was supposed to have been a neutral meeting ground for New Zealand and Fiji as they continue to try to engage after strained relations over the travel bans and Fiji's decision to expel senior diplomats from Suva.

Military govt spokesman says 'so be it' to Methodist Church decision to ask top two officials to resign

The spokesman for the Fiji military government has responded with a "so be it" to the deicison by Methodist  Church elders to ask its president, Ame Tugaue, and his general secretary, Tuikilakila Waqairatu, to vacate their positions.

Neumi Leweni has told the Fiji Sun “now that they have made the decision to ask the top two leaders to step aside, surely we will support it."

The Sun quotes Leweni saying: “It is their decision and they know that the Prime Minister had asked them to find a way out and if this is their decision, so be it.”

Tugaue and Waqairatu were asked to step down yesterday, less than 12 hours after 130 Methodist Church elders met with Voreqe Bainimarama and his aides.

At the meeting, elders were told the church had no place getting involved in politics and needed to change direction. A statement from government later had Leweni saying : “Prime Minister Bainimarama said the Government’s concern has always been with the few leaders of the church who have been and continue to be fully engrossed with politics."

The Fiji Sun has the assistant general secretary, Reverend Tevita Nawadra, today saying that after the meeting with Bainimarama, senior ministers had no option but to ask Tugaue and Waqairatu to vacate their office.

Nawadra told the paper Methodist Church leaders gathered at the Centenary Church after meeting with Bainimarama and it was there that it was suggested they support the Government by working with it.

He said most of the discussions were based on the future of the church and the need to move forward.

Nawadra said church ministers agreed they could only move forward if the church agreed with the Government. "This is the only solution the church has at this point in time because most of the senior ministers have agreed to work with the State,” he said.

Nawadra said some ministers asked Tugaue and Waqairatu to step down, saying it was in the best interests of the church. “The only option for the church now is for them to willingly resign from their position. They have asked for time to think about it and will come back to us."

Democracy Movement sends second caution to Fiji government

The Fiji Democracy Movement in Australia has fired another salvo at the interim government.
The group recently sent a petition to the interim government saying it had 600,000 supporters calling for a return to democracy.
It has now sent the following letter to the military government of Frank Bainimarama, again urging it to do right by the people.
Suli Daunitutu, one of the organisers of the letter and the petition, told Coupfourpointfive the movement intends to keep the pressure of Bainimarama.
He says their recent petition was very effective, despite efforts by Bainimarama to dismiss it and downplay the number of signatures it had and the wide support it represented.

Canberra, ACT
15th March 2010

This letter serves as a reminder of your untenable position in this illegal regime. As such it is also a request for you to reconsider your position by taking into account the ramifications of your contribution to our Nation. It has been three years and two months since the Regime took over the democratically elected SDL government. In that time, a lot of things have happened with most bearing negative results.

As you might be aware, a petition was handed over to the Interim Prime Minister by the Nadaku family, demanding a return to the polls this year. That petition was accompanied by a letter with representation of more than 600,000 citizens and friends of Fiji who endorsed the idea.

The recent UN Human Rights Council in Geneva was also of the idea that Fiji’s human rights violations has to stop, and that a democratically elected government was in the best interest of the people and the economy of the country. There was unanimous vote from the council that Fiji lacked basic human rights and the need for the restoration of democracy was extensive.

The Commonwealth, PIF, EU, Australia, NZ have isolated themselves from Fiji as a result of the takeover and will only fully commit to Fiji’s recovery if the requested election took place this year.

This letter serves as a follow up to the petition, and the peoples’ voice has been heard. If you ignore this request than it could be used against you later in a court of law, as you have been advised and forewarned about the illegal administration you are serving.

I am requesting that you forfeit your position in this administration and refrain from taking part in further activities proposed by this interim government. Your participation does not assist our country in any way but rather confirms your position as a coup apologist.

The state of the country’s economy, the world’s concern, increasing isolation from our Pacific Island neighbours, the sugar industry and EU funding are but just a few of these reasons for an election that the Regime is ignoring, choosing to upgrade infrastructure which has seen them go on a borrowing spree. Their request for a $1billion loan from the IMF compounds this.

The Nation cannot afford to be like this any longer. The longer we have this Regime running the government the longer the people will suffer and our state of affairs deteriorate

Suliasi Daunitutu

Fiji's military government rolls top Methodist Church leaders

The ugly strongarm tactics of the military government of Fiji has surfaced again.

Less than 12 hours after meeting with Voreqe Bainimarama, senior ministers in the Methodist Church have asked their president, Reverend Ame Tugaue, and his general secretary, the Reverend Tuikilakila Waqairatu, to step down.

The call for the Tugaue and Waqairatu to relinquish their positions follows yesterday's meeting between Methodist Church leaders and Bainimarama, where it was made clear the church had no place in politics and had to change its ways.

In sweetly-packaged niceties, the government spokesman, Neumi Leweni, yesterday urged church leaders in a statement after the meeting to "review the leadership and refocus on their core role and responsibilities."

He said: “The church needs to improve the management of its affairs from its overall vision, its day-to-day activities, and importantly its leadership style and how it is leading the flock. The church members deserve better.”

Leweni said Bainimarama and the government were not anti-church but the church needed to focus on the spiritual development of its members, instead of politics.

The threat seems to have worked judging from the move to get rid of Tugaue (pictured above) and Waiqairatu (right), although it might get a little bit messy to pull off.

FBC says acting general secretary Reverend Tevita Nawadra says the two reverends can't be constitutionally removed because they haven’t done anything wrong. The only option is for them to willingly resign.

Nawadra is quoted as saying: "I think they will be posted elsewhere. There’s nothing to charge them for misconduct. If you are removed from the church it means you’ve done something wrong as per the constitution of the church but as I am saying there is nothing as such like that. What the church would do is  relocate them elsewhere, that’s my understanding of it.”

There was a hint of what was to come today, though, at yesterday's meeting. In photos, the church elders looked put in their place and Bainimarama all omnipotent.

And there was a steer in Leweni's comment: “Prime Minister Bainimarama said the Government’s concern has always been with the few leaders of the church who have been and continue to be fully engrossed with politics."

But it may not end with Tugaue and Tuikilakila. It’s highly likely church ministers deemed ‘politically tainted’ such as Reverend Manasa Lasaro and Reverend Tomasi Kanailagi could also go.

FBC quotes Nawadra as saying Tugaue and Wanqairau have been asked to step down for the sake of the church.

“The only option for the church now is for them to willingly resign from their position. They were told of this last night and they requested that we give them time. They will go and pray about it, think about the consequences, and they will come back to the church and tell of their stand.”

Reverend Tugaue was elected president in 2008 after taking the most votes ahead of Rev Manasa Lasaro and Tuikilakila Waqairatu, to succeed Reverend Laisiasa Ratabacaca.

Editor's Note: Bainimarama pictures from Fiji Village (top) and Fiji Sun (bottom). The Atu Rasea picture under Tugaue shows Waqairatu (far left) in happier times - the swearing in of President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau last year. An earlier picture was not that of Waqairatu.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Rinakama 'in good health'

Coupfourpointfive has been told Peceli Rinakama is well and in good health. An SDL source told us a few minutes ago, that the former MP is okay.

Rinakama was taken into custody after he was overheard making emotive comments following the sentencing of his cousin and Naitasiri chief, Ratu Inoke Takiveikata. Ratu Inoke was jailed for seven years after being found guilty of plotting to kill interim prime minister Frank Bainimarma.

Many questions have been asked about Rinakama's whereabouts and safety in recent week's, thanks understandably to conflicting information from government and sources close to him.

In light of previous incidents at Queen Elizabeth barracks, the concern was justified, and the unaswered questions around his arrest is a result of some of the well-documented ugly practices at the barracks.

Editor's Note at 3.30pm: According to his charge sheet, Rinakama was released on March the 10th, and is no longer in custody.

Rinakama's disclosure sheet reveals lengthy police interview

Some information has surfaced about Peceli Rinakama, the former Fiji MP who was taken in to custody and whom it was feared might be hurt after several days in the hands of police.

Coupfourpointfive has obtained the disclosure certificate, which details the nature of Rinakama's charge and the army officers (Eperama Bulewa, Savenaga Rabuka and  Mikaele Wong) who gave statements to police.

The 27-page document, obtained via Suli Daunitutu from the Fiji Democracy Movement in Australia, includes a copy of Rinakama's interview with Detective Sergeant Apimeleki Digitaki and Kalusi Seru at the Major Crime Unit at CID Headquarters.

The document shows that Rinakama was arrested for inciting violence and disobedience of the law on March the 5th. His charge sheet says that without lawful excuse, Rinakama uttered in Fijian words calculated to bring death or physical injury to any person or to the lawful authority of the Government of Fiji.

The four statements say Rinakama was overheard on separate occassions to utter threats after the sentencing of his cousin and Naitasiri high chief, Ratu Inoke Takiveikata, to seven years jail after he was convicted of plotting to kill Frank Bainimarama.

One of the people who gave a statement to police says he made a comment in Fijian - "Isa, vakaloma sara ga na Qaranivalu" meaning "Oh, I feel sorry for the Qaranivalu" to which Rinakama replied "E sega ni Vakaloloma o Naitasiri" which means "the Naitasiri Province is not in a sorry state."

The sheet says Rinakama was charged on March the 9th at 1800 hours and released on March the 10th.

Bainimarama silences Methodist elders

Fiji  Methodist Church leaders met with interim prime minister Frank Bainimarama today but it was less of a discussion than it was an opportunity for the military government to hammer home its gospel: Churches in Fiji have no place in politics.

In a statement, Bainimarama and his government painted a picture of friendly, open and agreeable discussions saying church elders were advised to "review the leadership and refocus on their core role and responsibilities."

The government's spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Neumi Leweni, said: “The church needs to improve the management of its affairs from its overall vision, its day-to-day activities, and importantly its leadership style and how it is leading the flock. The church members deserve better.”

He said the Fiji Government remains firm that the church should focus on the spiritual development of its members, and not be involved in politics.

Fiji Live says the government delegation at today's meeting included the Police Commissioner Commodore Esala Teleni, the Navy Commander, Francis Kean, and senior military officers in Lieutenant Colonel, Roko Uluilakeba Mara, Lieutenant Colonel Sitiveni Qiliho and Lieutenant Colonel Leweni.

The Methodist Church delegation was led by president Reverend Ame Tugaue, Rev Laisiasa Ratabacaca and all the divisional heads of the church.

Also sppotted among the Methodist church delegation were Rev. Manasa Lasaro, Rev. Tuikilakila Waqairatu and Rev. Tomasi Kanailagi.

Leweni says Bainimarama re-assured the elders that Government supports the church and would like to see it flourish and take on its true role of developing the spiritual foundation of its members.

He said this allayed the misconception that Government is against the church.  “Prime Minister Bainimarama said the Government’s concern has always been with the few leaders of the church who have been and continue to be fully engrossed with politics."

 “Theses leaders tried to politicise the church and in the process made it appear that Government is against the entire church.”

 Leweni was quick to make out church leaders accepted the edict of his government, saying "the meeting this morning ended cordially with more church elders and members having a better appreciation of why the annual conference, divisional and quarterly meetings have been banned."

The government statement ended on this statement that revealed how well it thought it had wrapped everything up, chapter and verse: "The Prime Minister said that the Methodist Church meeting held today will be the last one allowed by Government."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Narsey on Fiji's Charter and media censorship

For more than three years, the Bainimarama regime has been in effective control of the governance of Fiji, and even recognized as such by international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and Asian Development Band.

Bainimarama says that he will not hold elections until 2014, by which time he thinks the principles of his “People’s Charter” will have been fully entrenched in all processes of government.

But the current media censorship not only takes away our citizens’ basic human right to freedom of expression, it totally undermines the values, commitments and pledges made in the Military Government’s own Charter.

Since this Military Regime will, by 2014, have been the effective government for eight years (longer than any elected government), why does it not follow the good governance principles laid down in its own Charter- the need for every government to be open, transparent and accountable to the public, which, in the absence of a democratically elected parliament,  can only be through full media freedom.

Full media freedom is even more vital for public service efficiency, given that the civil service is being gradually militarized in key positions, posing serious problems for the Public Service Commission and the use of tax-payers funds:  how ensure that these military personnel behave as fully professional civil servants and not as army personnel, uncritically taking orders from their superiors?

How will the Military Government be judged by history, if the public service and the economy fail to perform, cocooned by the media censorship?

Surely, both the Military Government (however long it stays in power) and Fiji have everything to gain and little to lose, if the Public Emergency Decree and the media censorship are removed.

The continuing media censorship
For several months now, the Military Government has totally censored the media- television, newspapers and radio, removing any news item deemed to be critical of government, their policies and their performance.

At a personal level, Fiji TV or the radio stations no longer bother to interview me for comments on economic issues; while most of my newspaper articles are censored.

Most recently, the military’s censors stopped the publication of an article pointing out the pervasive economic implications of Fiji’s long term demographic changes relating to our ethnic mix: the effects on our education system, the composition of our labour force, future entrepreneurship, dependency ratios (a key demographic factor in wealth accumulation), and ethnic patterns of consumption, of great relevance to the businesses world. There was nothing overtly political in this article. You can read it here

But this Military Government’s censors decided that the Fiji public will not be allowed to read this article.

The irony is that while they keep repeating that their Charter will guide this country for the foreseeable future, their media censorship contradicts their Charter at every turn.

Do not forget that the Charter started off (page 2) that “We the People of Fiji Affirm that our Constitution represents the supreme law of our country, that it provides the framework for the conduct of government and the people”.  

But any protection that the 1997 Constitution may have provided against unfair media censorship, went out the window, when Bainimarama abrogated the Constitution in 2009.

But the rest of the Military Government’s Charter is still a great supporter of our fundamental right to freedom of expression, even if the Military Censors are not.
The Charter Values
Amongst the values that the Charter espouses (page 4) is “respect for the diverse cultural, religious and philosophical beliefs”. The section on “Moving Forward Together” says “our nation is in urgent need of genuine, trust-based dialogue and peace building for which qualities of humility, compassion, honesty and openness to other views and interests are essential”.

But some people’s views and philosophical beliefs are not respected by the Military Censors, and will not be allowed to be aired in public, however genuine, constructive and peace building.

Then the Charter states (page 6) “our nation must have a freely and fairly elected Parliament...” and “we believe in an executive government answerable to the Parliament, an independent judiciary, and Security Forces that ... are answerable to the government and Parliament in accordance with our Constitution”.  But given that Bainimarama will not give the people of Fiji an elected Parliament until 2014, only media freedom can ensure accountability to the public.

The Charter states (page 7) “we believe in a strong and free civil society as vital to democracy, good and just governance....”.  But for the Military Government refuses freedom of speech or assembly.

Then again that Charter states “we aspire for Fiji to be an educated, knowledge-based society where all our people have access to education and continuous learning...”.   But the Military Government decides what knowledge the people have access to, through their censorship of the media.

While the Charter says “we must use our individual and collective knowledge and skills to develop our country”, the Military Censors are deciding that the skills and knowledge of some individuals (anyone who disagrees with the Military Government) will not be made available to the public.

The Charter goes on (page 8) “We reaffirm our recognition of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all individuals and groups, safeguarded by adherence to the rule of law”.

But Military Decrees, including the Public Emergency Decree which implements the media censorship, now define the law- when there is no emergency at all in the country.

The Charter’s Key Pillars
Pillar 1 of the Charter talks about “sustainable democracy and good and just governance”.  It states (page 11) “The government must be fully accountable to the people of Fiji through Parliament and its procedures”.

The Charter says that to oversee Governments, there must be independent and well resourced offices of the Ombudsman, Human Rights Commission, Auditor General, and FICAC.   And “The Government must publish timely public reports with adequate details so that the people of Fiji are aware of what is being done in their name and with their taxes”.

But the current Military Government does not abide by this Pillar: it will not make public the Auditor General’s Reports for 2007 or 2008.  And it is unlikely that there will be any Auditor General’s Report on government expenditure and revenues for 2009.

The Charter’s Pillar 3 on “ensuring effective, enlightened and accountable leadership” points out that a critical problem in the past has been that “our leaders in most cases have failed to involve us in making the major decisions that affect our well-being and our daily lives”.  But this criticism applies equally to our current leaders.

The Military Government does not consult any of our people’s chosen leaders on major decisions on taxation, government expenditure, sales of government assets, control of public companies and assets through board appointments, and hiring and firing of civil servants.  Even the workers’ pension fund is in the control of the current Military Government, without any accountability to the workers or the pensioners, or the public.

While the Pillar identifies amongst the ideal qualities necessary for any future leaders of Fiji to include “openness”  and “accountability”, the media censorship will not allow it.

Militarisation of the civil service
It is clear that the Military Government is steadily appointing military personnel to key civil service positions, perhaps in the hope that there will be increased efficiency.

But this poses a major problem for the Public Service Commission.  Civil servants are required to give their professional advice to their superiors, disagreeing if necessary with their superiors, a vital mechanism to protect tax-payers’ interests from wrong political decisions.

But professional military personnel have been drilled all their lives to blindly obey orders coming from their superiors, without question, even if they think that the orders or decisions are wrong.  So how can the PSC and Jo Serulagilagi convert these military appointees into professional civil servants?

The PSC has another problem.  Military personnel are trained for military duties, not complex public service.  Some may be good, some may be unsuitable.  How can the PSC, which has little role in the appointment of these military civil servants, remove any for non-performance?

Pillar 4 of the Charter on “enhancing public sector efficiency” wants a public service which is “accountable”.    But how can the public sector be accountable to the Fiji public, when the media is not allowed to publish many stories highlighting problems in the public sector?

While the Charter aims (page 21) to “remove political interference in the public sector”, what the public continues to see is the Military Government’s frequent hiring and firing of civil servants and board members.

It is well known that most civil servants and board members, for fear of losing their positions, are afraid to disagree with the decisions made by the Military Government.

Over the last three years, some of this Military Government’s policy mistakes which have wasted taxpayers’ valuable funds (remember the initial school bus-fares fiasco?), may not have occurred if civil servants’ advice had been followed from the beginning, and the public had been freely allowed to express their views through the media.

With the pervasive media censorship, the public currently has little knowledge of any other bad policy decisions which might also be wasting tax-payers’ funds. But by the time the public finds out the facts, it will be too late- like the NBF disaster or all our Agricultural Scams which have cost tax-payers hundreds of millions of dollars.

It should be obvious to the public that Bainimarama is now performing like all the previous elected or unelected Prime Ministers we have had (Mara, Rabuka, Chaudhry, and Qarase): regularly getting in touch with people throughout the country, promising tax-payers’ funds for roads, bridges, water, disaster assistance and advocating development initiatives in general.  He is also (unilaterally) tackling long-standing problems like the reform of land tenure and national identity.

But if he ever stands for elections down the line (he would only be following in the footsteps of Rabuka and Qarase!) he will be judged not just on the goodies he hands out today, but also by his performance in managing the economy and tax-payers’ funds.

Note that despite Rabuka’s absolute and populist rule  in his first few years in power after 1987 (Fiji oldies, remember that period?), eventually he was voted out.   And just read today what indigenous Fijians themselves are writing (albeit anonymously) about Rabuka on the blog sites.

It will be in Bainimarama’s long term political interest or his personal historical record,  that his Military Government does not waste taxpayers’ funds.

For that, an important safety mechanism is accountability to the public through full media freedom, especially when there is no elected parliament which can hold government to account as is so powerfully advocated by the Charter.

The Charter’s commitments and pledges
On pages 37 and 38 of the Charter document, there is a long list of what we, the people of Fiji agree to “Commit to”.

We can agree with every single one of them- even where it says we “support the Constitution and the People’s Charter” as the foundation for building a better Fiji.

We can also agree with the Charter where it requires that “we hereby pledge, as citizens of Fiji”, to uphold and be guided by all these commitments through “our own individual conduct and conscience”  while “holding responsible and accountable those who hold positions of leadership and responsibility” (i.e. including the current Military Government).

I believe that my media contributions are fully  in keeping with what the Charter requires us to Commit to and Pledge as responsible Fiji citizens.

So why do the Military Censors ban my articles from the Fiji media, even the recent innocuous one on the economic implications of Fiji’s long term demographic changes?

Where do we draw the line?

Friends tell me- “why get distressed over this little issue. Accept that you are living under a military dictatorship.  Just do your work and enjoy your life”.

But, a decent life, even according to this Military Government’s Charter, requires freedom of expression and freedom of the media.

And it distresses me deeply and daily, that these basic human rights have been removed from my life, while there are other erosions of freedoms, some subtly, some openly.

At my workplace, where we should expect an uncompromising defense of academic freedom, one can find oneself unreasonably excluded from politically sensitive situations, such as a University meeting with an international mediator on Fiji’s political crisis, or the University’s participation in an international meeting (where the Fiji Government representatives may be present)  to discuss the impact of the global  financial crisis on the Pacific.

A few weeks ago, an anonymous telephone caller from the army (“Jack”- no surname) warned me that somewhere (he mentioned the Fiji Golf Club) I had been overheard  saying negative things against the “Government of the Day”.

Jack told me to remember what had happened to relatives of mine who had been deported back to Australia.  I said, “sorry, I am a Fiji citizen, without any PR elsewhere. And in any case, if I disagree with the Government of the Day, it is on policies and principles”.  But Jack called again the next day and repeated the same message.

It is distressing that we do not even have the freedom to speak amongst friends at public places, in case someone overhears and conveys some garbled version to the military intelligence who can then threaten you, for no reason at all.

What does this powerful Military Government have to fear from elderly academics like me?

And why are military personnel being encouraged by their superiors into this kind of unethical and unprofessional behavior? Once entrenched, such disregard for basic human rights will be difficult to eradicate.  Who doubts today that had it not been for the successful 1987 coup by Rabuka, those of 2000 and 2006 would have been far less likely.

The Fiji public placidly accepts the media censorship’s erosion of our freedom of speech- a fundamental human right.  Surely this is not some “minor issue”.

We forget that just as small waves can slowly erode a solid shore, grain by grain, until the mighty coconut tree falls over, so also can a good society deteriorate into misery and a climate of fear, if we fail to defend every single one of our precious basic human rights.

I am happy to follow this Military Government’s Charter, but all of it, not just the bits that this Military Government chooses to follow.

It is a sad indictment of all those people who formulated and supported the Charter, that they remain totally uncritical of this Military Government’s media censorship, which contradicts their Charter at every turn.

Surely this Military Government (and the FTIB) know that investors cannot have full confidence about investing in an economy where there is pervasive media censorship?

And without this investment, our economy will stagnate (as currently), leaving this Military Government with an uphill task of dealing with our increasing problems of unemployment and poverty, while undermining the Military Government’s record as an efficient manager of the economy.

Surely, both this Military Government (however long it stays in power) and Fiji, have everything to gain and little to lose, if the Public Emergency Decree and the media censorship are removed.  And there is an end to personal intimidation - Professor Wadan Narsey

Employers told: hire on merit not diversification

Fiji Live is reporting that companies in Fiji have been told to hire people based on merit and not diversification, by the Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

Speaking at a corporate governance workshop in Suva yesterday, Sayed-Khaiyum said when the best candidates are selected, the rest of the requirements will fall into place.

He is quoted as saying: “Diversification is mostly assumed to be based on ethnicity and unfortunately in Fiji, there is an obsession with ethnicity."

Sayed-Khaiyum, who also holds the Public Enterprise portfolio, said there was a need to be firm in implementing policies so that once the best candidates are chosen based on merit, other factors like their minority group and gender can be considered.

“We cannot base our decision on mere reasons so that we have a gender balance in the Board.  Choosing on merit will eventually result in gender balance.”

Former High Court judge Nazhat Shameem, who facilitated the workshop organised by the Ministry of Trades and Industry for statutory bodies, said it is the ethically-run businesses that prosper.

“Reports have supported that an ethical business is more beneficial and has a sustained profit,” Shameem said.

Editor's Note: Participants from the workshop. Government website pic, Fiji Live story

Sayed-Khaiyum cites examples of half-truths in US report

Fiji's attorney general, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, has taken another stab at the US 2009 Report on Fiji.

He maintains the report has anomalies and half-truths and cites as an example, the decision by the Government to revoke broadcasting licenses last year.

Says Sayed-Khaiyum: “What we did was that the spectrum license issued would be reviewed and all licenses issued in respect to the spectrum, not your ability to broadcast but your ability in respect to that spectrum would be reviewed,” he explained.

He says another anomaly concerned the media and how the Fiji Times Editor was given a suspended prison sentence and the company ordered to pay a fine.

Of that, he says:  “The reality is they pleaded guilty. In fact the reality is we did not have a hearing per say because they did not challenge the charges that were laid against them. They obviously had a right of appeal which they choose not to exercise. This report does not say that. So it’s ofiscating the truth, ofiscating the reality on the ground."

Sayed-Khaiyum says a number of issues continue to concern him about the report. 

“I think what’s unfortunate is that this report probably cannot keep pace with the changes made by the Bainimarama Government. I say that because the new Crimes Decree has been put into place, the Criminal Procedure Decree has been put into place, the Sentencing and Penalties Decree has been put into place.”

He says the Crimes Decree made Fiji compliant with international standards such as the Rome Statutes, the Rights of the Child and CEDAW.

“It’s a very, I would say, a light-weight report because it does not take account of the ground realties in Fiji, its not very forward looking and like I said, perhaps it cannot keep pace with the changes that are being brought about by the Bainimarama Government.”

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sayed-Khaiyum talks transparency

Fiji's attorney general, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, has had another defining moment.

Sayed-Khaiyum told the Corporate Governance workshop in Suva today that he's concerned about the ways decisions are being made in some corporations, because those decisions do not illustrate transparency.

He said: “I have seen in the past six months in organisations funded by Government where decisions are made before being advertised, where decisions are made even before the expression of interest are called for providing a particular service. This is very worrying."

Highlighting the high number of anomalies in the Auditor General reports over the past years, Sayed-Khaiyum said it means that basic accounting processes and procedure were not followed, which is not good governance. 

He went on to say in a release on the government website that although people talked about good governance, the fact remains - "many of us do not understand the real meaning of the word."

“What is important for us to know is how well we can apply transparency and good governance in our lives.”

Sayed-Khaiyum's comments are outrageous, considering his government's abysmal record for transparency. It is after all, the self-appointed government that introduced permanent emergency regulations without justification, the same regime that censored the Fiji media and which continues to raise delaying tactics every time democratic elections are mentioned.

Just a day ago, Sayed-Khaiyum rubbished the US State Department's human rights report, released earlier this month, as pedestrian and biased. The report highlighted widespread human rights abuse in Fiji.

Editor's Note: Sayed-Khaiyum at the Holiday Inn workshop today. Interim government picture.

Threats over population stats

The economics professor, Wadan Narsey, has a told a New Zealand media team that he's been threatened over his demographics paper, which shows the Indo-Fijian population is dropping dramaticlly.

Narsey is quoted in the Michael Field interview as saying "It is big news because it sharply reduces the ethnicity factor in Fijian elections."

The USP professor says his paper (see the Coupfourpointfive story on the Narsey population statistics in older posts) has been banned in Fiji but has been circulated elsewhere.

"The censors won't allow it," he told Field from Suva. "I hope I don't get taken in, they have rung me and threatened me."

He insisted on his right to discuss data of major significance. "If you want to live life like a human being, you have to live it. If we cannot do the things that are our responsibility then we are not fulfilling our responsibilities as teachers and elders."

In the paper, Dr Narsey said Fiji is going through a "population revolution".

Data now available from the 2007 Census indicated that by 2027 Indo-Fijians will make up just 26 percent of the population, while indigenous Fijians will count for around 70 percent.

The data showed that while higher emigration was a factor, there was also a dramatic fall in Indo-Fijian fertility.

Dr Narsey said for more than 50 years the racial balance has been Fiji's "politically explosive issue".

The issue was behind all four of Fiji's coups between 1987 and 2006.

Commodore Bainimarama was trying by decree to create a multi-racial electoral system, but Dr Narsey said the numbers show that indigenous government is inevitable.

The birth rate among the Indo-Fijian population is now around two children per woman, while the Fijian rate is three.

Dr Narsey speculated that indigenous leaders have been pressing on village communities to have big families for electoral advantage, while Indo-Fijians have gone the other way because of flexibility when trying to emigrate.

In education the population change was "remarkable and potentially revolutionary" with a mjaority of indigenous Fijian in Hindu schools.

"It's a remarkable change, and they are fundamental changes taking place out in the country... it is going to have some marvellous impact on multi racialism in the country, much more so than these silly military decrees."

Emigration had affected the Indo.Fijian population. "We are losing all of our intelligentsia ... anybody who is bright and had get-up-and-go, has gone. What we have left is pretty much intellectually rudderless."

He said it was sad for people like him who had seen virtually everyone of his generation leave. "You find you are in a social vacuum."

But, he said, he did not plan on leaving: "this is where I belong... fortunately my wife agrees with me."

The community's core value remained in distant cities. "It is an astonishing thing to me; they are recreating little Fijis wherever they go. However much people may classify us as Indians, we are as far apart from them as Martians. They are becoming even more Indo-Fijian than here." -Stuff

Gone are the days of polishing statues in Fiji

The interim government's decision to scrap two public holidays from Fiji's calendar has hit a snag. The controversial decision has citizens confused about which holidays have been done away with and which ones are still in place.

That's led to the government this morning issuing a statement to "clarify' its decision to discontinue the National Youth Day and Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna Day as public holidays.

In a statement it says "As per advertisement on page 4 of the Fiji Sun (Monday 22nd March 2010), the Ministry of Information wishes to clarify to members of the public that the only two public holidays that have been removed from Fiji's list of public holidays are the National Youth Day and Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna Day.

"Official breaks for Christmas, Boxing Day, New Years Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Queen's Birthday, Diwali, Prophet Mohammed's Birthday, and Fiji Day continue as is."

The statement goes on to say that Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama has noted that the Ratu Sukuna and National Youth days are significant, but Fiji does not require specific public holidays to commemorate these two occasions.

"He said Fiji already has a high number of public holidays. By reducing the number of public holidays, the Prime Minister says that "we as a nation will be, among other things, more focussed on productivity and increased output. These are essential if we are to modernise and grow our economy and improve our living standards."

The confusion is to be expected as the government has, typically, issued the holiday directive without debate or public consultation.

The demise of the National Youth Day was signposted when Fiji Employers Federation President, Digby Bosley, said that Fiji loses millions every year due to the 12 public holidays celebrated in Fiji and that the National Youth Day could easily be done away with.

On the surface of it, Fiji does have a lot of public holidays, more than New Zealand and Australia, but it's not surprising that Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna Day is the other holiday that's been dropped.

Honouring the national father of modern Fiji who died on May 30, Ratu Sukuna Day in 2000 was marred by the George Speight coup on May 19, which led to the dismissal of the elected government on May the 27.

In 2005, there was a reclaiming of the day with 19 centers around Fiji, including Rotuma, turning out for it.  May 24 saw the beginning of a week of celebrations that culminated on 30 May with then prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, launching the festivities under the theme of Unity in Diversity.

The newly completed Great Council of Chiefs complex was opened the same day, with Qarase officially launching a website about Ratu Sukuna.

But Ratu Sir Lala's heroics as a "master of reconciliation" and someone the nation could depend on came to be challenged by Meli Bogileka, the general secretary of the People's National Party and a former minister in the Chaudhry government (1999-2000), who said Sukuna's achievements had been overstated.

Bogileka said people had overlooked the way his policies had confined native Fijians to pocket settlements and villages, which he said had impeded their progress. Bogilkea maintained that Sukuna should have used his chiefly position to encourage indigenous Fijians to work rather than remain in their villages in the name of culture.

He said: "I stand wholeheartedly by the comments I made because it is the truth and the poverty that indigenous Fijians are now facing is largely because we rely too much on our families for our survival and cannot really fend for ourselves like other races do."

In any campaign to cleanse and purge, sacred cows from the past are usually the first to go, so it's not surprising that there will be less polishing of statues from now on in Fij.

Sayed-Khaiyum dismisses US state report as pedestrian

The Fiji Government has predictably lashed out at the US State Department’s report on the state of human rights, with attorney general Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum dismissing the report as pedestrian and biased.

The report was released earlier this month and condemned the human rights situation in Fiji.

In an interview with the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation, Sayed-Khaiyum says the report lacks depth and real understanding of what Fiji citizens need right now.

“That some of the issue that the report seems to highlight seems rather pedestrian in terms of their approach. Because some of the things they’re alluding to for example the ethnic composition of those in Cabinet. Those sorts of supposed problems they’re pointing out now existed prior to the 5th of December 06. So they’re making it a bit deal now when they obviously didn’t make a big deal of it previously.”

Sayed-Khaiyum goes on to say the report is biased because the authors or those that provided the information are politicians and those who don’t like the current government.

He told FBC: “Indeed, one has to question the integrity of the report itself and those who’ve actually written the report and their sources of information. Are the people in Fiji, perhaps the US embassy people or other sources of information objective, or in fact tainted by their own political views? Those are some things that have to be considered.”

Sayed-Khaiyum said the Bainimarama Government would push ahead with their planned reforms, as it would build a better Fiji for the future.

Qarase village devastated

The leader of the SDL Party, Laisenia Qarase, says the entire coconut crop in his village, Mavana, has been destroyed by Cyclone Tomas.

He told Radio New Zealand the Category Four cyclone was the worst in living memory and that as many as 50 houses have been destroyed on Vanua Balavu, which is in the Lau group.

He says food supplies have had to be brought in to help feed people and that locals will have to rely on supplies for a while yet.

Meanwhile, on the northern island of Koro, seven of the 14 villages have been badly damaged.

On the tiny Cikobia Island, north of Vanua Levu, home to about 400 people, three days of pounding by Cyclone Tomas left houses smashed, trees uprooted and boats washed away.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Unicef official fears typhoid and cholera outbreak

A United Nations disaster official has expressed fears of a typhoid and cholera outbreak in Fiji following a cyclone last week that killed three people and destroyed more than 370 homes.

Hamish Weatherly, the Pacific emergency coordinator for the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef), said there was a risk of the potentially deadly waterborne disease typhoid spreading rapidly after the major storm.

There had already been a typhoid outbreak before the category four Cyclone Tomas hit the north and east of Fiji on Monday and Tuesday last week with winds averaging 175 kilometres an hour.

'Unicef Pacific office is responding to the emergency with specific attention to water, sanitation and hygiene, given that cases of typhoid and cholera are likely to rise in the coming days,' Mr Weatherly said.

Fiji's health authorities reported three cases of diarrhoea with blood, a possible sign of typhoid, on a northern island. The Ministry of Health warned people to boil water or use purification tablets before drinking it.

National Disaster Management Office operations officer Anthony Blake said according to early assessments, 376 homes had been destroyed in the cyclone and another 423 were damaged.-AFP

Radio appeal raises $132,000 plus

The Auckland radio station, Apna 990, has raised more than $132,000 for the victims of Cyclone Tomas.

The Indian Weekender quotes the station's general manager, Shaiyaz Mohammed, as saying the money would be given to the Punjas Ltd to help buy basic food items for the cyclone victims..

Supplies are expected to be distributed this week on Thursday and  more than 2000 people are expected to get items such as flour, rice, dhal, milk powder, biscuits, onions, potatoes, salt, canned fish, noodles, tea leaves, washing and bathing soap .

The station raised about $200,000 last year for the Fiji Flood victims.

Groser on impasse with Fiji

Television New Zealand's current affairs programme, Q and A, tackled Associate Foreign Affairs Minister, Tim Groser, about New Zealand's relationship with Fiji, during an interview on trade, on Sunday. The exchange was short but message was clear.

Guyon Espiner: Just before we leave it, you are Associate Foreign Minister also, and we should touch on Fiji because the Foreign Minister is possible going to hold talks with Commodore Bainimarama in the coming days. Now he said in parliament recently that there could be changes to the sanction regime at some point in the future if progress is made on other issues. Under what grounds would we consider, what does Fiji need to do, for New Zealand to lift the travel sanctions on that country.

Tim Groser: Well I leave the talking on this to Mr McCully basically, but that statement has got a lot of conditionality to it. Clearly we want in the long term to be in the right space with Fiji, we don't want this impasse to go on, but fundamentally it's a question of them committing to full restoration of democratic process and that's what the object of our government is.

Guyon Espiner: Would it require that before sanctions were lifted?

Tim Groser: I'm not going to speculate on the precise process. That's the general statement of intent.

Guyon Espiner: Alright we'll leavon it there, thank you very much for joining us this morning Minister, we appreciate your time.

Bole presence at NZ meeting hailed

Fiji Football Association president, Dr Mohammed Shamshu-Din Sahu Khan, hailed the presence of Sports minister Filipe Bole at the Pacific Youth and Sports Conference (PYASC) in Auckland, New Zealand.

Dr Sahu Khan said the presence of Bole (right) at the PYASC over the weekend should be a huge lesson to other countries that politics has no place in sports.

The conference was sponsored by world soccer governing body, FIFA.

The Fiji FA boss thanked the New Zealand government for allowing Bole to attend the conference despite the travel ban imposed in 2006.

“We are very proud to have Filipe Bole invited to attend the conference in Manukau, New Zealand,” Sahu Khan said.

“I believe the minister’s presence in New Zealand is a very good sign as sports bridge division.

“I think not only soccer but the all the sporting bodies should be proud of Bole’s participation in New Zealand.

“Bole’s visit has built a new bridge of hope in sports, youths and community service.

“It shows other countries that Fiji is still a paradise and we as Fiji citizens should be proud of our country,” said Sahu Khan.

The icing on the cake was when Fiji was ranked number one out of the 17 participating countries during their winning proposal titled “RED CARD! OUR FIGHT AGAINST HIV/AIDS” and was one of the four countries that received a $20,000USD grant.

The Fiji proposal was presented by Fiji youth delegate and sports ambassador Rosa Dalituicama who highlighted the need to integrate sports into promotional awareness campaigns in trying to bring about behavioral change to people living with HIV & AIDS.

Earlier last week, Oceania Federation Committee Tai Nicholas said he was delighted Bole was allowed to attend, considering the travel restrictions in place since the military coup.

“Sport can be used as a tool to bring unity and we are seeing that in practice with this youth and sports conference and sports ministers meeting.

“We would like to thank the New Zealand Government for their role in allowing Bole to attend,” said Nicholas.

The meeting involved 10 ministers from across the Pacific hosted by OFC as part of the inaugural Pacific Youth and Sports Conference which saw around 800 young people from 17 countries taking part.-Fiji Sun

Outbreak being investigated

Authorities are trying to establish if the outbreak in Fiji is typhoid, shigellosis or cholera.

A health worker notified authorities today that 16 people in Labassa, on the island of Vanua Levu, had  bloody diarrhoea.

The outbreak is being investigated but aid agencies say Fiji had more than 100 cases of typhoid before the Category Four cyclone, Tomas, tore through the islands last week.

Authorities have also noted eight cases of serious illness in the Northern Division, but say they're not believed to be typhoid.

Unicef says it's sent water purification and first aid kits to Labassa to help treat the sick residents.

Fiji cabinet minister in New Zealand

A top cabinet minister in Fiji's military regime has been allowed into New Zealand to attend a football meeting in Auckland.

Military-appointed Education minister Filipe Bole is attending an Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) ministerial meeting in Manukau today.

OFC general secretary Tai Nicholas says they are delighted that Bole could come "considering the travel restrictions that have been in place since the 2006 military coup.

"Sport can be used as a tool to bring unity and we are seeing that in practice with this youth and sports conference and sports ministers' meeting.

"We would like to thank the New Zealand Government for their role in allowing the Hon. Filipe Bole to attend," said Nicholas.

A spokesman for Foreign Minister Murray McCully said it is a regional meeting of sports ministers.

"Our policy on travel sanctions has always been that we consider applications on a case by case basis, and in situations where we feel it is beneficial to the region as a whole to allow Fiji to participate in a regional meeting being held in New Zealand, we reserve the right to waive the restrictions in place," the spokesman said.

The behind-closed-doors meeting which involves at least 10 ministers from across the Pacific will be hosted by OFC as part of the inaugural Pacific Youth and Sports Conference.

The conference has seen 800 young people from 17 countries take part this week.
Fiji's Football Association has hailed the meeting.

"We are very proud to have Filipe Bole invited to attend the conference in Manukau, New Zealand," Fiji FA head Sahu Khan said.

"I believe the minister's presence in New Zealand is a very good sign as sports bridge division.

"I think not only soccer but the all the sporting bodies should be proud of Bole's participation in New Zealand."

Michale Field, Stuff

Where is Peceli Rinakama?

The Fiji Democracy Movement in Australia is trying to mobilise interest in the disappearance of former parliamentarian Peceli Rinakama.

Rinakama (pictured in the red shirt) hasn't been seen since March 5, when he was taken in with a member of the SDL party.

Fiji authorities have made conflicting comments about his whereabouts with police commissioner, Esala Teleni, claiming Rinakama was released after being in police custody.

But Rinakama's family insist they haven't seen him and his whereabouts is a mystery even to them.

Coupfourpointfive was the first to reveal Rinakama was missing and has been trying in recent weeks to establish his whereabouts and verify his safety, without success.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Your best side please, sir

It was a week of inspecting the worst hit areas, pressing the flesh, inspired speeches and delivering sweet biscuits to children in the North.

With the National Youth celebrations day now cancelled and a tally of the damage expected, what will this week bring for Fiji's self-appointed prime minister, Frank Bainimarama?

In a media statement last week, he said he wanted things to return to normal as quickly as possible.

The fear, of course, is that the hard won public emergency regulations may be derailed, thanks to any disorder Cyclone Tomas might've created. It's all about control, after all, and keeping a tight hand on the reins.

Bainimarama was quick to try to reassure people and to praise the nation for its resilience in bouncing back.
"I wish to acknowledge the discipline and understanding you have shown in our preparations for the cyclone. We must always be positive; we must always stick together as Fijians, as common citizens of this wonderful country of ours. We have been blessed in that our main regions and sectors have not been affected by Tomas."

But there was also the reminder that this was no time for slacking or rebellion. He said: "We must take advantage of this situation. We must work harder and increase our productivity to position ourselves better for such situations and for the improvement of our livelihoods. We must all now go back to our normal lives and contribute to building our nation as a strong one."

Many eyes will still be on Fiji this week, despite the fact Cyclone Tomas has moved offshore. We wonder what photo opportunities will surface to allow the military leader to show his best side and whether anyone, apart from the well-heeled, that is, buys it.

Schools back tomorrow

Schools are expected to re-open in the Northern and Eastern divisions tomorrow.

Tents are being provided to schools that have been damaged to help school's get classes going again.

About 21 schools have been damaged in the Eastern Division and about nine of them were at the start of the weekend were still housing between them, about 450 evacuees.

Meanwhile, Fiji Live says DISMAC has told it 799 homes have been either partly damaged or completely destroyed as a result of Cyclone Tomas:
In Qamea and Taveuni, 89 structures were destroyed, 240 were damaged including two schools
In Koro, 7 structures destroyed, 26 were damaged including one school
In Gau, 3 structures destroyed, 23 were damaged including a health centre and community hall
In Nairai, 3 structures destroyed, 17 were damaged including one school
In Batiki, no buildings destroyed but 3 were damaged
In Vanuabalavu, 205 destroyed, 4 were damaged
In Matuku, 5 destroyed, none were damaged
In Totoya,14 destroyed, 11 damaged including one school
In Cicia, 8 destroyed, 9 were damaged plus one school
In Ono, 6 destroyed, 3 were damaged plus one school
In Mago, 2 damaged including a jetty
In Lakeba, 1 destroyed
In Moala, 10 destroyed, 22 were damaged
In Yacata, 2 destroyed, 16 damaged plus one school
In Vanua Levu,  23 destroyed, 40 were damaged including 3 churches.

Machinery and three million for North

According to the Fiji Sun the Works Ministry says at least three million dollars will be needed to repair infrastructure damaged in the Northern division in the wake of Hurricane Tomas.

Ministry spokesperson Sainiana Waqainabete is quoted as saying that machinery is also ready to be delivered to the North for restoration works.

“We’ve got machinery ready that is on standby to travel up to the North on Monday. This is 3 diggers and additional graders that will be sent up to compliment the current fleet that is operating in the North.”

Some machinery is also ready to go to Lau.

“We also like to assure you – the islands in the Lau Group namely – Vanuabalavu, Cicia and Lakeba - that were affected will also have a fleet of machinery sent to their various places on board the Vatulawa – this evening if all goes to plan – if not – the vessel leaves tomorrow. The full operation that we’ve earmarked is two weeks exactly after Tomas."

The Works ministry says it will take at least month for permanent restoration to the cyclone devastated areas.

Narsey : Just 30% of voters will be Indo Fijians by 2027

The following is from the paper, Fiji’s far-reaching population revolution, by Professor Wadan Narsey

My population projections are based on the 2007 Census numbers and they indicate that by 2027, Indo-Fijians will comprise only 30% of all voters (assumed to be 18 years and over).
The ethnic conflicts over political leadership or domination will be well and truly history by then.
And with the incidence of poverty roughly the same for Fijians and Indo-Fijians (a third) if poverty alleviation resources are allocated to the poor only on the basis of need, the Indo-Fijian share will reduce from the current 36% down to mere 26% by 2027. “Affirmative action policies” will be a total non-issue.
So also should be ethnic shares of public sector jobs sought by school leavers, another hot political potato in the past.
So what is drastically changing the ethnic composition of Fiji’s population?

The fertility revolution
Of course, Indo-Fijians have emigrated far more (roughly 5000 per year) than Fijians (now roughly 1000 per year).
But behind the massive decline in the Indo-Fijian population is an equally massive historical decline in the Total Fertility Rates of Indo-Fijian women- from above 6 forty years ago, to probably below replacement value currently (below 2). For the last forty years, Indo-Fijian couples have been having far fewer children than indigenous Fijians.
The Fijian fertility rate has also declined, but nowhere as rapidly, and is still quite high, probably still above 3. This is what has led to higher child dependency ratios for Fijians (see below).
But a puzzling question remains: while there has been a Government-sponsored Family Planning Programme for the last four decades, why is it that the Fijian total fertility rate has not shown the same decline as the Indo-Fijian one?
Was it due to pressure for more children (ie more voters) from Fijian political leaders? Or from Fijian community leaders who are worried about the Fijian depopulation in rural areas?
Or is it that Fijian couples just choose to have more children regardless of the economic impact on their households or whoever else ends up looking after them?
Or were the Indo-Fijian couples far more aware of the resourcing implications and would rarely be able to pass children on to relatives?
Surely there is a great PhD thesis topic here.
And for Fijian leaders, who is going to stand up and tell young couples- please limit the number of children to 2 or 3. Not 5 or 6. It will be good for your households savings and standards of living, and it will be good for your country down the line.
But on the contrary, the Fiji public have seen Provincial Council leaders pleading with their people to have MORE children (and drink less kava) because villages are becoming depopulated.
Note the sad reality that even if young couples did make the decision today to limit the number of children to 2, the benefits will take decades to work through.
But learn from China with its “one child” policy thirty years ago. Today, China has far fewer primary school children to support and far less poverty than India, whose economy is smaller than China and has weaker economic growth.

The Education Revolution
But it is in the field of education, that the population changes are remarkable and potentially revolutionary.
Not too long ago, Indo-Fijians had roughly a half of all school enrolments, in primary and secondary schools managed by their own committees and religious groups and subgroups- Hindus and Muslim.
Today Indo-Fijians are just 33% of secondary age children, and just 27% of primary age children. By 2027, Indo-Fijians will be only 20% of secondary age children, and 17% of primary age groups.
By then, most Indo-Fijians schools will have been forced, out of necessity to become not just multiracial but will end up having large Fijian majorities. Already, “Indian College” and many other “Indian” schools, urgently need name changes. Indo-Fijian Percentage Shares of TotalPopulation, voters, and primary enrolments152025303540200720082009201020112012201320142015201620172018201920202021202220232024202520262027YearPerc.VotersPopulationPrimary
Hopefully, this this ethnic intermingling at the primary and secondary school levels, will become the most powerful factor fostering a genuine multiracial society in Fiji, far more powerful than decrees from governments.
Governments which have historically allocated grants and subsidies on an ethnic basis to “Fijians only” schools will urgently need to set aside all such racist considerations as an even larger proportion of Fijian students will be attending “Indian” schools.
School amalgamations and rationalisation will an increasingly important agenda item for government and education authorities. Many Indian education authorities- Sanatan Dharm, Arya Samaj, Sangam, Muslim – will need to painfully rethink their focus on religious identities.
Clearly, the Ministry of Education must get precise projections of school age populations at all levels by ethnicity, level (preschool, primary, secondary and tertiary) and by rural and urban areas.
Not only is the large absolute decline in Indo-Fijian numbers going to play some interesting tricks on the national aggregate numbers at all levels (some bad news, but some goods news as well) but the massive rural:urban drift of both Fijians and Indo-Fijians will be depopulating rural schools even more.

The household wealth revolution
While ethnically focused politicians love to compare the apparent wealth of Indo-Fijian families to the poorer Fijian ones, they rarely talk about “dependency ratios”. An important one is the child dependency ratio- the proportion of children aged 0 to 14, to those aged 15 to 64- the supposedly productive age groups in most societies. A low child dependency ratio would imply a low burden on the economically productive. And conversely.
For Indo-Fijians, the child dependency ratio has dramatically fallen from over 100% at the 1966 Census, to around 32% currently, and will fall to an incredibly low 20% by 2027. But the Fijian child dependency ratio has fallen far more slowly- to only 52% currently, and expected to be a still high 45% in 2027.
So, while the Fijian child dependency ratio was only 4% higher than the Indo-Fijian ratio in 1976, the extra burden climbed rapidly to 29% higher in 1996 and same income per working adult, have had to support far more children than Indo-Fijian households, leading to lower savings ratios, lower wealth accumulation, higher proportions of children dropping out of school, and lower education expenditures per child.
Conversely, the far lower child dependency ratios of Indo-Fijians has enabled their households to save and accumulate more wealth (houses, cars, household goods etc) and have a generally more affluent life-style.
It is no wonder that Fijian households have not been able to accumulate wealth in the last four decades as have the Indo-Fijian households. A lot was to do with dependency ratios, not how hard they worked.
But there is another twist in the tail. When it comes to the elderly dependency ratio (the over 64 group relative to those 15 to 64), that for Indo-Fijians is going to rise astronomically to reach over 20% by 2027, compared to just around 10% for indigenous Fijians.
Are Indo-Fijian communities and households preparing for the day when looking after seniors will be more of a burden than looking after the children?

The Expensive 2007 Census
In 2007, Fiji tax-payers paid for a massively expensive national census exercise, the results of which are currently being processed by the Fiji Islands Bureau of Statistics staff. When the tables are available, basic analytical reports will be written.
These reports will throw much light on the kinds of issues we have discussed above, including the demographic parameters which will enable more accurate population projections into the future.
We have not even discussed the strange declines in life expectancies for Fijians and Indo-Fijians, males and females, over the last three decades- another bomb waiting to be examined using the 2007 data.
Is Fiji even interested in the detailed results from the 2007 Census?
Note, it is now 2010.

Read Warden Narsey's full paper