#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: 2010-03-28

Friday, April 2, 2010

Stakeholders to get two and half hours to read media decree before submissions

The attorney general Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum yesterday told the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation that media industry stakeholders will have enough time to look through the Media Decree before they make their submissions.

He said stakeholders will be given the draft media decree at least two and a half hours before they are to make their submissions.

FBC quotes him as saying: “We believe so. In fact what’s actually being put into the draft decree is the many various codes the media need to adhere to or have been adhering to that were in existence, for example through the media council. These are actually now being put as proposed law.”

Sayed-Khaiyum says there won't be any surprises in the media decree, as much of it has already been revealed.

“The bulk of the decree has been set out in the advertisement. The Code of Conduct and also for example when you advertise sexual offences whose names you put out, whose names you don’t. How do you portray people who have been charged?"

"There’s various areas that cover that, its actually quite clear cut. So everybody knows what it is. As the advertisement also says, it has to do with cross media ownership, as you know there was a policy previously, now its being put into law," he said.

"Media Ownership is also addressed in the decree which we looked at jurisdictions like the USA, we have also looked at countries like Singapore where they have a media development authority, which the decree also establishes.”

The Media Decree has been brought in to provide laws that the media should abide by.-Fiji Broadcasting Corporation.

IFJ welcomes Fiji media decision

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes reports that Fiji’s interim government has said it will permit the Fiji Times and Fiji Television to participate in consultations on a government-devised Media Decree, after initially barring the two media outlets from the process.

The move, announced by interim attorney-general Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum during a press conference on March 30, follows the administration extending its emergency regulations by one month to the end of April.

The regime of Commodore Frank Bainimarama is reported to have said it will lift the regulations once the Media Industry Development Decree 2010 is finalised.

The regulations, enforced almost a year ago on April 10, 2009 as a “temporary” measure, have imposed sweeping censorship in Fiji, with official censors and police placed in newsrooms. 

The Fiji Times and Fiji Television, among other organisations, said they would appreciate seeing copies of the draft decree in order to inform their response.

“The IFJ remains concerned about the administration’s intentions regarding the role of the Media Decree in relation to independent media, in view of statements that the government would only repeal the emergency regulations after the Media Decree is finalised,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

“The IFJ therefore strongly encourages the administration to ensure all relevant stakeholders are able to participate in consultation on the decree, without fear or favour, and that the environment for discussion allows for the airing of open and constructive feedback, whether positive or negative.

“A reasonable amount of time must be permitted for this important community process.”

In a statement on March 16, the IFJ called on the interim government to ensure all stakeholders are given the opportunity and adequate time to provide input on the decree. The public consultation had been scheduled to begin that day but was postponed as Fiji contended with a cyclone.

Latest reports are that interested parties must register to participate in the consultations on the decree by April 6, with the consultations to be held in different locations on April 7, 8 and 10.-Anubhuti Singh, Media Newsline

Editor's Note: The Fiji Sun reported yesterday the Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum as saying all interesed stakeholders would be able to attend the media decree talks.

He said consultations would focus on issues like advertising and media ethics and they had opened the consultations to all the media outlets in the country.

“The draft Media Industry Development Decree is now ready and the government is expected to have consultations with the stakeholders next week, on April 7 it will be in Suva, on April 8 it will be in Labasa and in Lautoka on April 10.”

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the draft decree established a Media Industry Development Authority, “which is, to among other things, monitor compliance with the media codes of standard.

“This establishes an Independent Media Tribunal which is to hear complaints against media organisations and individuals.”

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the tribunal would have powers to hand down rulings and that the draft decree emphasises fair, accurate and responsible reporting.

He said it established a media code of standards including a Code of Ethics and Practice, General Code of Practice for Advertisements.

The decree will be provided to interested stakeholders on the day of consultations. 

Lakhan not sure why appeal was lost

THE Court of Arbitration for Sport has reinforced Fiji's ban from the 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth Games in October after dismissing its appeal.

The CAS ruling against the Fiji Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee was announced on Thursday. The Commonwealth Games Federation banned Fiji when its membership in the Common-wealth was suspended.

FASANOC president, Vidya Lakhan, says he has only been told that the appeal has been turned down, not the reasons why.

"We can't seem to understand how the decision could have gone against us because the Commonwealth Games Federation constitution says if your country is in the Commonwealth, then your athletes can take part," Lakhan told Radio New Zealand.

"That was the basis of our appeal, to CAS. We're very much interested in finding out the grounds on which our appeal has been dismissed."

Fiji first entered the Commonwealth in 1970 and were re-admitted in 1997 after a ten-year lapse.

After making a surprise debut at the 1938 Empire Games in London, Fiji returned in 1950 to win 1 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze medals.

Missing only in the 1990 Games Fiji continues to provide tough competitors and proudly lifted silver in the inaugural Rugby 7s in 1998, again in 2002 and the bronze in Melbourne in 2006.

FASANOC is responsible for organising Fiji's participation in the South Pacific Games, Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games.

They successfully hosted the 2003 South Pacific Games in Suva with 20 nations taking part in 34 sports.

Fiji has always surprised the world of sport with its population of outstanding athletic talent and enthusiasm for sport. In the early days it was athletics but more recently with gold and bronze in Manchester, its Judo athletes have surprised many while its rugby sevens team continues to entertain and amaze.

Fiji was honoured to be one of two Pacific Island nations to host the 2002 Queen's Baton Relay.-Fiji Times

Fiji bewildered by Games ban

Fiji's National Olympic Committee said it could not understand the basis of a Court of Arbitration for Sport decision upholding its ban from October's Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.

Fiji appealed the ban to the CAS in Lausanne, Switzerland and urged its athletes to stay in training for the games, but the court Thursday rejected its appeal.

"We can't seem to understand how the decision could have gone against us because the Commonwealth Games Federation constitution says if your country is in the Commonwealth, then your athletes can take part," Fiji Amateur Sports and National Olympic Committee president Vidya Lakhan told Radio New Zealand.

"That was the basis of our appeal to CAS. We're very much interested in finding out the grounds on which our appeal has been dismissed."

Fiji was suspended from the Commonwealth last September when military ruler Commodore Frank Bainimarama, who seized power in a 2006 coup, refused to bow to demands to hold elections next year.-Taiwan News and Associated Press

Picture: Fiji's Mere Rabuka defends New Zealand's Irene van Dyke at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006.

Fiji out of the Commonwealth Games

CHENNAI: Fiji will not be able to compete at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi after the Court of Arbitration for Sport dismissed an appeal against their exclusion, the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) said on Thursday.

Athletes from the Pacific Island nation had been banned from competing at the Games after the Commonwealth suspended Fiji last September for failing to meet a deadline on holding general elections in the country.

"The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has dismissed the case... seeking the right for Fiji to participate at the Delhi Commonwealth Games in October this year," the CGF said on Thursday.

The Fiji Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee lodged an appeal with CAS in January.

Fiji has been run by a military regime since self-appointed Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama seized power in a coup in 2006.

Bainimarama's critics have called on him to hold fresh elections but he has ruled out a vote until 2014. -The Times of India

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Peceli Rinakama to answer to charges

The case of the former Fiji Association MP, Peceli Rinakama, is supposed to be heard in court today, after he was charged with violating the public emergency regulations.

Rinakama was taken into custody on March the 5th because he was overheard making emotive comments, following the sentencing of his cousin and the high chief of Naitisiri, Ratu Inoke Takiveikata, to seven years for plotting to kill interim prime minister, Frank Bainimarama.

Coupfourpointfive was first to reveal the arrest of Rinakama, along with other officials from the SDL Party, including the director Peceli Kinuvuwai, who was later released.

We also managed to obtain the disclosure sheets for Rinakama, which revealed the police took four statements in its case against Rinakama - three of them from military soldiers.

The statements claim Rinakama uttered threats on several occassions after the sentencing of Takiveikata.
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 shows Rinakama was charged on March the 9th at 1800 hours and released on March the 10th, but there were major concerns about his whereabouts for some time.

Coupfourpointfive can reveal today that police spent most of the five days interviewing Rinakama about his political affiliations, starting with his involvement in the Fijian Association Party, before moving to the Matanitu Vanua Party, which later amalgamated with Laisenia Qarase's SDL Party.

The interview records show that police officers, Apimeleki Digitaki and Kalusi Seru, spent most of the interview trying to establish who were behind the poltical parties and whether they were still active, politically.

The interview details also show Rinakama served three years in prison for taking part in an illegal swearing in of the George Speight government in 2000.

Media talks to go the same way as Methodist meeting

In a week where the world has looked at Fiji and wondered how much further the military leadership will go to rob its citizens of their freedom and rights, the interim government is trying to ‘empower’ women.

It’s promoting a study tour of cottage industries to help upskill women, telling everyone the initiative is in line with its Womens' Plan of Action (2010-2019), which, of course, is one of the pillars of its Roadmap 2009-2014.

The tour is being organized by the Ministry of Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation, and according to the government, will be an opportunity for women leaders to have first-hand experience of successful cottage industry projects like vanilla, bee keeping, poultry farming, and bakery.

Many can laugh at the Study Tour to Empower Women and the irony of the Bainimarama government giving power to its citizens. Because in the past week, this government has shown again that people are right to distrust it and to be scornful of its efforts.

Last week, Bainimarama and Co put the fear of God in Methodist Church leaders at a special meeting where it was spelled out the church could no longer criticize the government. It was also made clear the church had no authority to gather, even for AGMs, and that the government wanted people it could work with, not the troublesome old guard.

We’ve also now learned that the military is running Fiji rugby with the appointment of Navy Commander, Francis Kean (Bainimarama’s rellie), as Chairman of the Suva Rugby Union. The role of president, secretary and treasurer went to fellow military cohorts.

So that’s the church and rugby taken care of. What of media? It’s a similar story with the military regime preparing to put the final nail in the media coffin.

The Fiji Broadcasting Corporation reported today that the ‘public consultations’ for the new Media Decree will take place next Wednesday in Suva and Lautoka.

Advocates for the new decree insist it will be fair, but the more realistic in our midst say it will be the death of the media.

Like the Methodist meeting, the media talks will see Bainimarama laying down the law and the media forced to obey. And as was done with the Church, the military junta will try to get rid of  ‘problematic’ media. The likes of the Fiji Times and Fiji TV could become casualties like Ame Tugaue and Tuikilakila Waqairatu.

The people of Fiji are right to keep asking the world for help, and the world must not take its eyes off Fiji and the shifty Bainimarama.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

International news teams follow EU sanctions on Fiji

The EU's decision to extend sanctions on Fiji was picked up as a story by several international newspapers and news agencies yesterday and today.

The South African newspaper, Business Day, was one of them and another was the global financial newswires, RTT News. The first story is from Business Day, the second from RTT News.

Sapa-AFP) EU nations have extended sanctions against post-coup Fiji for 6 more months, over its failure to respect human rights and the rule of law.
“This decision follows the delay in implementing commitments the Fiji authorities made to the EU,” notably on the constitution, human rights and the postponement of parliamentary elections, the 27 EU nations said in an agreed statement.
The measures, originally introduced in 2007 following a coup, largely involve stopping EU development funding for the Fijian government.
Aid to the country’s key sugar sector is also hit.
The December 5, 2006, bloodless coup in the southern Pacific island chain was greeted by outrage in the international community and a number of countries including Australia, New Zealand and the US have imposed sanctions.
Humanitarian aid and direct support to civil society can continue.
Last month Fiji’s military junta dismissed pressure for elections to be held before those scheduled for 2014 as futile, amid a barrage of western calls for a swift return to democracy.
The European Union statement said that “a credible and inclusive process which would result in progress in the interim government’s reform programme and early restoration of democracy would prepare the ground for new consultations,” on the sanctions.
The EU sanctions will now apply at least until October 1.

RTTNews) Fiji's continued failure to respect human rights and the rule of law has prompted European Union to extend trade and aid sanctions against the government of that South Pacific island nation for six more months.
The 27-nation bloc said in a statement that it decided to extend the punitive measure due to "the delay in implementing commitments the Fiji authorities made to the EU," notably on the constitution, human rights and the postponement of parliamentary elections.
The measure means the suspension of EU's development aid to Fiji worth about 30 million euros ($44 million) and the payment of subsidies to sugar farmers in that country amounting to 115 million euros ($169) will remain in force until the end of September this year. Last year, the Commonwealth suspended Fiji from its membership after the military government defied calls to hold elections. All Commonwealth aid were cut off and Fiji will not be allowed to participate in the Commonwealth Games due in 2010. Commodore Frank Bainimarama, the country's armed forces chief, seized power in a 2006 coup. He insists that elections can only be reinstated in 2014, as part of his "road-map."

Fiji Methodist leaders refuse to quit

Radio Australia's Pacific Beat says the president and the general secretary of the Fiji Methodist Church are refusing to step down.

Reverend Ame Tugaue and Reverend Tuikilakila Waqairatu were asked by some church officials to resign from their positions following an emergency meeting at the church's headquarters in Suva last week.

Acting general secreatry, Reverend Tevita Nawadra, said after a meeting with interim Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama that the church leadership needed to be changed because the government wants people it can work with.

But Reverend Waqairatu says he and the President are staying.

Presenter: Bruce Hill. Speaker: Reverend Tuikilakila Waqairatu, Fiji Methodist Church General Secretary

Listen: Windows Media
play audio

Recession bites but Fiji stays calm

By Rajendra Prasad for the Indian News Link: During my recent visit to Fiji, I was amazed at the widespread normalcy powerfully evident, in most urban centers, depicting the social, political and economic pulse of the nation.

Fiji has not escaped the impact of the global recession, and is additionally suffering the sanctions imposed by Australia and New Zealand against the Interim Government led by Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama.

The Reserve Bank of Fiji devalued the Fijian Dollar to sustain liquidity.

Fiji is struggling but not panicking. As Australia and New Zealand ease their sanctions and as tourism picks up, the country’s economic performance may be better this year.

Further, the expected high price for sugar may assist in restoring stability, notwithstanding the decline in sugar output.

The promise of 99-year farm leases to farmers could reinvigorate the agricultural sector, which was savaged when Indo-Fijian farmers suffered massive eviction, leaving the rich and productive farmland fallow.

After a decade, most farmlands are now covered by bush. Many villages are silent and somnolent, as those who once gave it life were herded out because they were Indo-Fijians.

There is hope that the Interim Government may restore these farms to productive use, securing the interests of landowners and tenants for mutual benefit.

Improved race relations
Race relations have improved remarkably. The previous governments used racism to retain their dominance. The Bainimarama Government has doused the flames and if it continues on its path, the small embers would extinguish by itself, as sanity, reason and understanding nourish the hearts and minds of the people.

I traveled to Suva from Ba twice and met many people and none of them spoke against Commodore Bainimarama or his government. The radio talkback shows praised him and talk around the proverbial kava bowel was appreciation. But this is not to claim that there are no critics. Clearly, they are a minority and comprise supporters of deposed Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase or his SDL Party.

Few things were obvious, to which the public has responded positively. Civil service is being purged of corrupt officials. In the last two years, 50 officers from Works and Transport Ministry lost their jobs for abuse of authority, nepotism, fraud, corruption and bribery. Eleven other departments are under investigation. Those who indulged in corruption in the past have realigned with the dictates of the Interim Government, aware of the dire consequences.

The civil service has been reinvigorated and officials have awakened from their slumber, responding to the new era with pace and urgency.

Mr Bainimarama visited Raki Raki and Ba rural areas to connect with the farming communities. Anyone can send him a text on 01 and raise their concerns. We complained about the bad condition of road that served our village and found roadwork undertaken in about two days.

The crime scene
Most people felt that crime was on the decline. For the first time in the history of our village, arsonists who habitually carried out the annual ritual of burning sugarcane plantations were restrained. Those village thugs, engaged in extortion, using strong-arm tactics or glib tongue, have largely been disabled.

The legal profession is being regulated by the Government, sending a strong message to practitioners that they cannot now dodge or evade, after dispensing their services recklessly.

However, organised crime including raiding service stations, business places and homes of business owners are of concern. The authorities continue to target the perpetrators of such crimes but with measured success.

Politicians are in forced hibernation. Many may never return to the pasture that they relished, as the El Nino effect on Fiji’s political landscape may continue until 2014. The Great Council of Chiefs was dissolved over three years ago and may never meet again.

The Methodist Church has been forced to retreat to the pulpit and its role restricted to the spiritual realm. It cannot hold its annual fĂȘte, collecting millions of dollars from its members and using the forum to indoctrinate them with the political ideology of the nationalists.

The Interim Government has taken some bold initiatives that no elected government would have had the courage to undertake. Hopefully, it would be able to restore the desires, dreams and aspirations of the people of Fiji – a country where all its peoples’ will look at each other as equal citizens, and not with the racial tag.

Convicted killer heads Suva Rugby

A New Zealand media team is reporting that Fiji military strongman, Voreqe Bainimarama, has installed his brother-in-law, a man convicted of manslaughter, as the head of the Suva Rugby Union.

Stuff says the move marks the increasing militarisation of Fiji life.

Bainimarama's brother-in-law, Commander Francis Kean, head of the Fiji Navy, will be the union chair while the head of the 3rd Infantry Regiment, Lt-Commander Tevita Rokouluilakeba Mara, will become president.

Two commanders and a major are on the board.

Bainimarama seized power in December 2006.

A month later his daughter Ateca Bainimarama married Samuel Whippy. At the reception Francis Kean took exception to a comment by Whippy's uncle, John Whippy, and punched him, fatally.

He was charged with murder but eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 18 months jail.

He served less than a third of the sentence and was freed to take over the navy again.

Kean told state controlled radio that he had given an ultimatum to the former Suva Rugby Union representatives to report to him.

"We need to set the house in order, this is one of the areas we're looking at, there is transparency and that's accountability in the financial affairs of Suva Rugby Union."

In a related development, a fellow coup plotter, Commodore Esala Teleni, has become a director on the Fiji Rugby Union.

He is also the military appointed head of police. Michael Field

Monday, March 29, 2010

Key backs McCully's stand on Fiji ban

The New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, has told media he stood by Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully’s insistence New Zealand had not dropped its travel ban on Fijian officials.

Speaking at the Hong Kong Sevens last Saturday, McCully told the Associated Press New Zealand would not lift the sanctions until Fiji's Commodore Voreque Bainimarama addressed “real issues around the rule of law and human rights.”

"If Fiji wants us to move on the sanctions, then the answer is obvious: They have to move toward the holding of elections and the establishment of democratic institutions."

McCully was due to meet with Bainimarama during the Sevens but rejected the offer when Fiji’s military-appointed President Epeli Nailatikau was sent in the Commodore’s place.

But McCully – who is also Minister for Sport and Recreation – made no mention of Fijian Education and Sports Minister Felipe Bole’s attendance at a soccer conference in Auckland just days before.

Bole attended the Oceania Football Confederation’s ministerial conference in Manukau on Monday along with ten other ministers from across the Pacific region.

The Confederation’s website says the ministers discussed tax exemptions for sports facilities, more support for training sports journalists and waiving visa fees for sports teams and officials visiting Australia and New Zealand.

The Ministers agreed to support further discussion at this year’s Pacific Islands Forum – a regional-wide organisation which suspended Fiji’s membership in May last year.

A spokesperson for McCully said last week the Government reserved the right to waive the restrictions where it felt it was beneficial to the region.

Key reiterated those comments today, adding he did not think the visit sent a mixed message.

“The travel ban applies to those in the regime and the family of those in the regime: that means if they want to travel to New Zealand for a personal or private reason, as a general rule the answer will be no.

“But in the case where we think there might be some regional benefit, we reserve the right to allow them to come in. As a general rule the travel ban remains and we’ve got no intention to change it.”

Key confirmed the meeting could have taken place without Bole but said he felt it was appropriate for the Minister to attend.

Key did not expect Fijian attendance at other regional conferences such as trade talks but he could not rule it out, he said.-Rory McKinnon

NZ PM confirms Bole's Auckland visit

The New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, has confirmed a Fijian government minister attended a conference in Auckland last week but says it didn't breach travel sanctions.

Fiji's Education and Sports Minister Felipe Bole (right) was reported to have been in Manukau with 10 others from the Pacific region for the Oceania Football Confederation's conference.

"It was a region-wide meeting and we decided that it was appropriate for the minister to attend," Mr Key said today at his post-cabinet press conference.

"The travel ban applies to those in the regime, and the families of those in the regime, if they want to travel to New Zealand for personal or private reasons.

"But in cases where we think there might be some regional benefit, then we reserve the right to allow them to come in."-NZPA

Bainimarama: Church has failed Fiji

The work of reconciliation, fighting poverty and removing racism from Fiji has been taken up by the government, as the church has failed in doing this work, Methodist church leaders have been told.

Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama made the statement to church leaders when he met with them last week.

Bainimarama said the military had to step in to do what they did, as they saw that the church was failing to do its part, but concentrating more on politics.

He however promised church leaders that he would not intervene with the administration of the church as he did with the Great Council of chiefs – but the church must now look at how it can get back on track.

Bainimarama also told church ministers that some within their ranks, together with a number of chiefs in the country were acting as if they were God – expecting to be served by the people.

He said it was government, not the church or the chiefs, that would develop the country, but everyone could play a part in building the nation.

Meanwhile, the Methodist Church Assistant General Secretary Reverend Tevita Nawadra has called on the government to provide proof of their current involvement in politics, saying government was talking about the past.

“The proof should be shown. There are so many allegations. We have been asking them to show us the proof that we are involved in that. If they are bringing old issues from a few years ago, that has passed.”-Fiji Broadasting Corporation.

Editor's Note: Below is Bainimarama talking to church leaders at the meeting where they were told the Church must stop getting involved in politics and change its direction.
Click here to listen to the address Bainimarama made to church leaders.
(Note: After clicking link, click on Proceed to File Download Page then go right to the bottom of the avs4 ad on left and click on download file)  

And Fiji Methodist Church leaders are to meet with the interim government for a second time.
The church leaders are expected to meet this week with the Police Commissioner, Commodore Esala Teleni, with the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation saying the meeting has been confirmed by the church's acting general secretary, the Reverend Tevita Nawadra.
FBC says the meeting may be over the Church's request to hold public meetings, which is subject to police approval under the Public Emergency Regulations.
Fiji Live is today reporting that Nawadra has said there had been no word from the two ministers since they were asked to step down last week.
Fiji Live has tried to get in touch with them and says Tugaue has been out of reach while Waqairatu has told it he is thinking about the matter and will comment later.
Nawadra is also reported as saying there was reluctance among some members of the leadership for a change, the decision to do so was later agreed to unanimously.

In praise of media freedom

By Jenny Hayward-Jones, of the Lowy Institute: Fiji's interim government has just extended its Public Emergency Regulations (PER) until the end of April. The PER has been implemented on a month-to-month basis and this latest extension will mean that it has been in place for more than a year.
The most prominent feature of the PER is Article 16, which authorises the Permanent Secretary for Information to censor the media to ensure that no broadcast or publication can give rise to disorder. That the PER is due to be lifted after Fiji introduces a new media decree (originally planned to be issued this month) demonstrates that control of the media has been the central motivation of the PER.

It does seem a little incongruous that, in the absence of evidence of armed insurrection or public rioting, a popular and peaceful tourist destination like Fiji needs emergency regulations.

Fiji's media restrictions have meant that Fiji's media outlets have refrained or been prevented from offering much critical commentary about any issue concerning politics or government. There has also been a noticeable decline in the number of Fiji citizens willing to speak to foreign media outlets.

They have instead turned to blogs to publish their views. This is good for foreign access to news about Fiji and for the approximately 9.7 percent read here (Source: International Stats) of people in Fiji who reportedly have access to the internet. But what about the other 90 percent?

Fiji's Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, said last week that he was concerned about the lack of transparency in government-owned enterprises and believed that few people understood the real meaning of good governance. This information read here from Transparency International and this opinion from University of South Pacific Professor Wadan Narsey offer some advice about the importance of a free media in encouraging good governance and public accountability. read here

I haven't seen the draft Media Decree so cannot comment on specifics. If the Fiji Government thinks seriously about what it has to gain rather than lose by allowing full media freedom, it could address the Attorney-General's concern about the lack of public understanding of good governance. Allowing the entire population of Fiji access to independent information about how they are governed, how business operates and how the economy is performing might be a good start.

NZ Foreign Affairs Minister: Fiji knows what it has to do for sanctions to be lifted

New Zealand's foreign affairs minister has reiterated to media in Hong Kong that his government won't drop travel bans on Fiji's military regime unless its Pacific neighbor moves toward democratic rule, despite a recent easing in tensions between the two countries.

The sanctions were imposed after a military coup in December 2006 ousted Fiji's democratically elected government.

Since then, self-appointed prime minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama has tightened his grip on power, overturning the constitution last April, firing all judges, imposing widespread media censorship, expelling foreign journalists and arresting people that oppose him.

New Zealand's criticism of Bainimarama's rule prompted Fiji to expel three senior New Zealand diplomats over the past two years, including its head of mission. New Zealand expelled the head of Fiji's mission in response.

Recent talks have paved the way for New Zealand to reappoint some diplomats to the Fiji capital, Suva, earlier this year, but Bainimarama said last month he won't approve the appointment of a high commissioner unless Wellington lifts its sanctions.

The government, however, isn't prepared to budge on sanctions barring Fiji officials from entering or traveling through New Zealand until Bainimarama shows his commitment to democracy, New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully said on Friday. Neighboring Australia has a similar ban, making travel from the isolated island state more difficult.

"We want to work to try to improve things, but we can't ignore the fact that there are some real issues around the rule of law and human rights and the makings of democratic institutions that are important to us, that are important to the whole of the Pacific," McCully told the AP in Hong Kong.

"And if Fiji wants us to move on the sanctions, then the answer is obvious: They have to move toward the holding of elections and the establishment of democratic institutions."

Bainimarama initially said he would hold elections in 2009, but later reneged and pushed the date back to 2014, saying the constitution and electoral systems need to be reformed and corruption eliminated.-AP

Nawadra denies Methodist Church is reforming itself because of Bainimarama

The Holy Spirit is being blamed for the decision to dump the two most senior officials in the Fiji Methodist Church.

When asked if the church is being forced to reform itself following a call to change the current leadership, acting general secretary Reverend Epeli Nawadra told Fiji Live:  “Reforms are always part of any church. The Holy Spirit works in different ways. We are not being pushed to reform.”

In another lifetime, a number might’ve swallowed Nawadra’s desperate explanation, but not in 2010 when the people of Fiji are clearly living under a military junta and a self-appointed leader, who this week moved to silence yet another sector of society that has challenged its authority.

Nawadra’s denial the Church is being pressured to get rid of problematic leaders is poor defence for the decision to dump president Reverend Ame Tugaue and his general secretary, Tuikilakila Waqairatu.

Everyone knows it was because of the meeting with the interim prime minister, Voreqe Bainimarama and his aides, just 12 hours before. For the acting general secretary to say it’s the work of the Holy Spirit, sees him breaking two of the Ten Commandments: Thou shall not misuse the name of God and thou shall not lie. He’s trying to save the church's dignity but there’s no concealing the fact, the Methodist Church is bending over for Bainimarama. And that’s breaking another law of God.

Nawadra needs to be asked: Why has the church given in? Who are the elders who called for Tugaue and Waqairatu to step down? What will become of the Methodist Church Constitution? How will the Church work as a religious body without having AGM’s, as it has been told to until 2014? What will the Church do if Tugaue and Waqairatu fight the decision to get rid of them? And why did the Church  lose sight of the fact that one third of the country's population of one million are Methodist and that Bainimarama is scared of the power that represents?

Editor's Note Monday 12.40pm: A technical glitch accidentally killed some of the comments regarding this story, a short time ago. Please resend your message if it was not posted. Vinaka