#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: 2010-05-23

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Deloitte Auditors, FNFP and Natadola Resort: A Conflict of Interest

A team of forensic accountants from the Australian branch of international firm Deloitte are in Fiji investigating the controversial past Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF) deals. According to Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, the Deloitte team have been brought in by the current FNFP Board to investigate without fear or favour.

How can the team investigate without fear or favour when, in fact, Coup Fourpointfive has found out, that Deloitte (Fiji) was  auditors for APRIL, NLH, NBRL and YBRL (All companies involved in Natadola) at the commencement of the project?

Deloittes was part of the APRIL team that sold the idea to FNPF to invest in Natadola. In 2007, when the new FNFP Board came into the scene, Deloittes for some reason handed over all accounts and documents in their custody to APRIL.

The Board had to institute legal action to recover the documents which was partly recovered when the appointees themselves were removed from the Board. As a result, the 2007, 2008 FNPF accounts were qualified. The mess took place when Deloittes were in charge. 

Now they are supposed to tell us what is wrong.

Coup Fourpointfive has been told that the same goes for FNFP legal advisor, Suruj Sharma. He was supposed to advise FNPF on all major agreements it entered into for the project. All these agreements were a total mess for FNPF and did not adequately protect FNPF interest. Now he is brought back to advise FNPF. A full circle!

Sayed Khaiyum had told a news conference that the current board had written down the FNPF’s assets to reflect the true value. Anyone found responsible, he said,  for breaching any law would be prosecuted. He revealed the write off included $301 million from the Natadola Bay project and $18 million from the Momi Bay project. 

Frank Bainimarama had also pledged recently that those found responsible for the loss will be taken to task. He said the loss of FNPF members’ money due to any unscrupulous dealings was a very serious matter and those responsible should answer for it. 

We ask: How can Deloittes be neutral investigators: it is like asking the fox to guard the hen house. How much are Deloittes paid for a second bite of the FNFP “cherry” – presumably thousands of Fiji taxpayers’ dollars?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Ganilau borrowed more than $630,000 from collapsed National Bank of Fiji

Epeli Ganilau borrowed $631,594 from collapsed National Bank of Fiji.

But who had signed documents to obtain $635,207 for RFMF Officers Mess from NBF?

Part Three of a Special Report by VICTOR LAL

Whether by design or sheer co-incidence, the by-word “national” has followed Epeli Ganilau, presently a Cabinet Minister in the military strongman Frank Bainimarama’s post-coup interim government. Ganilau headed the ‘National’ Alliance Party of Fiji. He is now Minister for Defence, Immigration and ‘National’ Security. 

But there is one “National” that he would prefer not be associated with, and that is the collapsed ‘National’ Bank of Fiji, from which he borrowed $220,000, a figure which is never brought up to remind FICAC of the need to re-open an investigation into the loans scandal with the same zeal and propaganda that the Bainimarama regime is pursuing regarding the Fiji National Provident Fund loans, notably that towards the Natadola project.
Ganilau was brigadier-general of the RFMF, chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs and, in January 2007, he was sworn in as Minister for Fijian Affairs in the interim Cabinet that was formed after Qarase was deposed in the 5 December 2006 military coup. It was in July 1991 that Ganilau was appointed commander of the Fijian armed forces, replacing the Father of Coups, Sitiveni Rabuka, who had self-promoted himself as brigadier following the 1987 coups.

Ganilau held his military command until 1999, when he retired to enter national politics. It seems his fate has been inextricably linked to Rabuka’s own career. In May 2001, Ganilau was elected chairman of the GCC after his predecessor Rabuka stepped down amid accusations that he may have been involved in the failed George Speight coup of 2000. 

As chairman of the GCC, Ganilau vigorously supported the prosecution of all those who were implicated in the 2000 coup. 
He supported Bainimarama’s threatening criticisms of some of the Qarase government’s policies. He insisted that the law should not be allowed to blur culture and tradition when it came to dealing with chiefs who were suspected of being behind Speight’s coup. 
But in July 2004 he lost the chairmanship of the GCC to Ratu Ovini Bokini after the Qarase government did not renew his membership on the GCC. By the way, an inspection of debtors list reveals that Ratu Bokini (who is on the list) was given a clean bill – he owed nothing to NBF.
Naturally, like others before him, Ganilau entered politics by forming, in January 2005, the National Alliance Party of Fiji, which was welcomed by a wide section of the population. He, however, pointed to the importance of the chiefly institutions, and hoped the chiefs would unite the different races in Fiji. Ganilau however opposed the proposed Reconciliation, Tolerance and Unity Bill, for he saw it as an unwarranted interference in the judicial system, and was also opposed to the amnesty provision in the proposed Bill. 
His views on other matters are well known, and they do not require repetition. He failed to win a seat in the 2006 election but after the 2006 coup entered Cabinet, and is now Minister for Defence and National Security.
In the context of the NBF loans scandal, his criticism of affirmative action is noteworthy; in November 2005, while launching the Lautoka branch of his party, he claimed that affirmative action in favour of indigenous Fijians had not benefitted ordinary Fijians, but had served to help the survival of the SDL government in power and acted as a cover up for lack of effective policies.
What he did not disclose to his attentive and cheering audience at Lautoka was that he was once a beneficiary of post 1987 coup affirmative action policies of the National Bank of Fiji, from which he borrowed a staggering $631,594, as revealed in the 1996 Debtors List? He borrowed from the bank’s Suva branch $220,000 and from its Government Buildings branch $411,594.
Like Teleni, has Ganilau re-paid that loan, and whether he would push his Attorney-General Aiyaz Khaiyum to draft a retrospective decree to seize all properties and monies from those who benefitted from the NBF’s affirmative action, including himself? 

Again, who signed the documents which saw the RFMF Officers Mess listed among the debtors, to a tune of over $600,000 in 1996? What about the Thorpe Report (prepared by Brigadier Thorpe who recently had “tea” in the Officers Mess with Ganilau, Epeli Nailatikau and Sitiveni Rabuka) which detailed damaging evidence of Corruption, Nepotism and Abuse by senior military officers, including the still unaudited Regimental Funds etc.
As I noted in the first instalment on Nazhat Shameem’s uphill fight against the ‘Corruptodiles’, police investigations into the NBF scandal revealed fraud, corruption, and gross abuse of office, obtaining money by false pretences and obtaining credit by fraud. 
Will Ganilau inform us if he ever paid back to the public his loan of $631,594? 
There cannot be one law for Qarase and another for Banimarama’s Cabinet Ministers – one law for Fiji National Provident Fund loan saga and another for the collapsed National Bank of Fiji loan scandal! Only recently we were informed that travel bans will be implemented on FNFP cheats once all means of recovering outstanding contributions are exhausted. 
The FNPF chief executive officer Aisake Taito, who is married into the Mara household (to Adi Elenoa Mara, the  sister of the RFMF’3rd infantry regiment commanding officer Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara) said more than 100 employers owe $7.65million to the FNPF for outstanding contributions. 
Presumably Ganilau, as Minister responsible for Immigration, will be signing the travel ban orders against the FNPF defaulters.
The NBF was ordered by the then Rabuka government to grant “soft loans” to the “downtrodden” taukei population. In Ganilau’s case he was not ‘downtrodden’ but hailed from the chiefly Mara-Ganilau dynasty, some of whom also prominently feature on the NBF ‘Debtors List’.

To be continued:
Editor’s Note: We will continue to reveal debtors names, which include those of high chiefs, politicians, Indo-Fijians, business houses, including individual supporters of the present illegal junta in Fiji.

Psalms 37:21: “The wicked borrow and do not repay.”

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Teleni and wife borrowed more than $60,000 from collapsed NBF

Psalms 37:21: “The wicked borrow and do not repay.” 

Part Two of a Special Report by VICTOR LAL

The National Bank of Fiji was raided for personal and business loans by the high and the low that in the end it spectacularly collapsed with more than $200 million in the red.

It is nearly 15 years and yet the public of Fiji is still in the dark whether those doubtful debtors ever paid the loans that they borrowed from the NBF.

In July 1996, the Fiji Times published the list of doubtful debtors who had obtained loans from the NBF’s various branches. Among them were Esala and Mere Teleni, who had borrowed $60,844.67.

The question that Teleni needs to answer is this: did he ever pay back that loan, and if so, when? If he did not repay, what was his justification for not repaying that loan. Does he consider the loan, if it is still outstanding, an outright theft of public money – shorthand for corruption?

As we know, Teleni, along with Frank Bainimarama, was one of the ring leaders in executing the 2006 coup, claiming that the Qarase government was corrupt to the core. In 2007, Teleni became the deputy commissioner of the then newly established Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC).

He informed the media that some of the main organisations under investigation were the Fiji Sports Council, the Native Lands Trust Board, the Fiji Institute of Technology and Airports Fiji Limited. He said the commission has received over 600 complaints ranging from complex to simple cases of corruption and other offences. He later became Commissioner of Police.

Religion is an important part of the Bible-bashing police commissioner’s outlook and outreach, who claims, like Sitiveni Rabuka before him, that it was a calling of God that he led Fiji’s police force. In that position, he also controversially called on senior Indo-Fijian police officers to either support his Christian crusade against corruption or leave the police force.

We would want to know if he re-paid that $60,844.47 which he borrowed in 1996 on the bandwagon of that Holy Grail: affirmative action for poor indigenous Fijians?

Does he think FICAC and his Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, who has a penchant for drafting decrees, should re-open investigations into the collapsed National Bank of Fiji’s Debtors List from 1996?

After all, the former Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, whom Teleni and his boss Bainimarama, in complicity with others, deposed in 2006 coup, has been charged by FICAC with abuse of office between 1992 and 1995 while being the chairman of the Fijian Holdings Limited. So has been the former managing director of FHL, Sitiveni Weleilakeba, who is charged with three counts of forgery, conspiracy to commit an unlawful act and uttering false documents.

Why should Teleni be above the law? The two senior police officers charged with allegedly trying to remove him from office have been further remanded in custody by Suva Magistrates court.

Isn’t it time Teleni voluntarily removed himself from office and called for the introduction of a decree to get to the bottom of the National Bank of Fiji scandal. He has the recent Fiji National Provident Decree as a precedent.

It is only right to ask this so-called and self-proclaimed Methodist messenger of God on earth and police commissioner if he is aware that God has a distaste for debts that are not paid in a timely manner, to quote Psalms 37:21: ‘The wicked borrow and do not repay”. Has he re-paid the $60,844.67 that he and his wife borrowed from the collapsed National Bank of Fiji?

Editor’s note: Watch this space as we will name more debtors

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Lau tour nets apology

The Fiji Broadcasting Corporation says the people of Ono-I-Lau today asked Voreqe Bainimarama to forgive them for not supporting his takeover of the Laisenia Qarase.

Bainimarama overthrew the Qarase government in December 2006.

The self-appointed leader is touring the Lau Group and this morning told a group of representatives of the Ono-I-Lau group he had accepted their request for forgiveness hence his visit.

He said past Governments were usually racially biased and only brought hatred to people.  

Bainimarama said it was unfortunate that those Governments were using the Chiefly system and the Church as their power base.

He said his Government wants to hand over a political Government after the 2014 General Elections that will stand for a good country and one people.

Village bylaws an example of the military regime stepping outside the box

By Dr Mere Samisoni

Village By-Laws will see the communal ownership of each village, Deputy Permanent Secretary for Indigenous Affairs, Colonel Apakuki Kurusiga, revealed this week.

The new by-laws allegedly tie in with the building of a non-racial Fiji wherein now all Fijians can live in a village and be part of its ownership through communal decision-making. This initiative is the stepchild of the John Samy/Military Junta Charter Mission.

“The opinions of 10000 people are of no value if none of them know anything about the subject.” — Marcus Aurelius.

"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. (But) the lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State." — Joseph Goebbels

The above quotes speak to two of the most salient and repeatedly demonstrated faults of the present Bainimarama Regime, namely 

1. Lack of Understanding/Intelligence and
2. Stubborn, self-serving and dishonest manipulativeness. Any initiative they broach or sponsor then, must therefore be viewed in that context.

Having not yet sighted the text of the relevant “Village By-Law Decree”, I cannot comment authoritatively on the details of the initiative at this point. What I can do though is make some general comments in light of the aforementioned well-known and oft-demonstrated regime traits.

1. Manipulative Regime
The regime’s rationale for its 2006 coup has already morphed through a fairly well documented transformation based on the demands of propaganda. It started off in 2003/4 as “national security” for the purpose of securing support in the military. Then it morphed in 2006 into “Clean Up” in an effort to gain popular support. Then it changed again in 2007 to “Non Racial Society” to shore up Indo-Fijian support after failing to find significant Government corruption and/or win significant Fijian support. Then it changed once again to “Electoral Reform” in a bid to win international support after the regime failed to emerge from the isolation that automatically followed its 2006 coup.

We can see from this that power and manipulation is more inherently important to the regime than the bald truth. And I believe that with the forthcoming Village By-Law (VBL) Decree, what we are seeing is merely the latest iteration of this incorrigible Regime addiction to reinventing itself via propaganda manipulation. This time though, the main difference is that we will be seeing two-faced propaganda, as opposed to the erstwhile fluid version.

That is because, I believe, the VBL Decree appears to be part of the Regime’s preparation for the 2014 elections. With that in mind, they have simply had to face political reality, with the inevitable result being yet more regime hypocrisy. Having roundly lambasted the SDL in bygone years for what it referred to as “racist” policies and campaigning, the regime appears now to be succumbing to the political reality of having to play to an audience. It is not surprising to find the regime has acknowledged that audience is the same one from which it draw 95% of its own troop complement. 

We are already seeing this phenomenon with the regime increasingly catering to indigenous-centric issues like the protection of qoliqoli, or the promise of good lease rents, or the taking-up of mining concerns. The FLP – much to its unease and apprehension I expect – is beginning to see yet another metamorphosis of its erstwhile champion. Croz Walsh must be having similar misgivings on occasion. But to those of us who know the military leadership, its ways, and its real goals, none of this is a surprise.

The VBL Decree appears – superficially, at least – to be a thinly disguised, ballot-minded, play to indigenous sensibilities via a special, native-centric, policy.

To be fair to the regime though, this initiative also appears to be the very first example of their much-ballyhooed post-coup catch-cry the Fiji needs to think “outside the box” to progress. Finally - after almost four years of telling others to do this, we see one example of it from the regime itself.      
The communal decision-making thrust of the law appears to leave this open to all-comers, with the obvious benefit of allowing “other races” to take part. Kudos to them for that!

But of course, I will naturally point out that it does not require a coup to think of this idea, or to implement it, or to maintain it. In fact, it is the very dangers of coup making and authoritarianism, which demonstrate the potential weaknesses of this kind of system. Allow me to elaborate.

The VBL communal system appears to allow open participation under the assumption that the best ideas can come from anyone, and the best ideas will deliver the best results, and so work in everybody’s best interests. But the very rule of the interim regime today demonstrates why this assumption cannot be relied upon. The regime itself is proof positive that power, and not good ideas or wide participation, is the bottom line in any authority structure. So if those in village authority are not interested in submitting themselves to good ideas, then that is the end of the story if they ever decide to dig their heels in, like the regime is currently doing. The same goes for genuine participation. The regime cannot expect village councils to do what they themselves are unwilling to do. They should therefore realize from their own example how tenuous their plans are. Moreover, the possibility of wildly different laws, implementations and interpretations is simply huge. Not to mention the possibility of self-serving abuse by the constant stream of religious nuts and con-men with big budgets and even bigger promises that Fiji never seems to have much trouble attracting. The typical banes of democracy could also easily upset the VBL applecart too, namely: factionalism, seat warming, votes buying, special interests, proxy national politics and weak democratic institutions etc. It could even end up being Fiji’s jump-off point into the scourge of Melanesian democracy – the infamous “big man” politics (although that could happen easily enough without VBL, as well).

2. Unintelligent Regime
The point is that this exercise in social engineering is too complicated to predict. Especially for the amateurs running Government today!

In 2008, the military began enrolling a significant number of its senior officers in university courses in preparation for what they then knew was the forthcoming “militarization” of the civil service. By the end of that year though, many had dropped out. Some because of fulltime workload considerations, but others simply because they couldn’t make the grade! In so doing, these dropouts raised the specter that the patent unintelligence seen so often at the very top of the military hierarchy, may run deeper down into its ranks than is good for anybody.

Kurusiga himself was one such drop-out, and while in class one evening, let slip as to the quality of research (or rather, lack thereof) that might be behind pending regime initiatives. While classmates questioned the lecturer as to why nobody could find any over-riding justification for the 2006 coup two years after it, Kurusiga spoke up. He warned the class against that line of questioning, and claimed the military had “done their research” showing an “imminent” danger to Fiji from ethno-nationalist politics.

Well the first thing that Kurusiga and his fellow closet researchers need to do if they want to be taken seriously by academics and policy-makers, is to publish their research for peer-review. Then we will at least be able to see what is the basis for such a drastic move which by some calculations has now cost Fiji over $2 billion since 2006. But if university dropouts under the oversight of high-school dropouts based the 2006 coup decision on hidden “research”, then this does not inspire an awful lot of confidence or credibility.
And that’s just the academic arena. But listen to what John F Kennedy said in terms of the public arena - “A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth in an open market is a Nation afraid of its people”.

This picture only gets worse when you hear the cases cited by Kurusiga as the basis for the military’s ethno-nationalist “research”, namely: Bosnia and Rwanda.

Although these provide a warning as to the depths to which some ethnic conflicts could deteriorate, a quick browse through Wikipedia is all you need to uproot them as valid or useful candidates for comparative study with Fiji’s situation. Bosnia and the Balkans have a long, long history of bloody inter-ethnic grievance, injustice and violence. They have been playing ethnic payback for hundreds of years at the cost of thousands of lives. Many there have long and bitter memories of their own communal grievances, and sense of injustice, from that. There is simply no sensible comparison between that situation and Fiji’s.

Meanwhile the main message of the Rwanda situation is not a warning against SDL-style politics in the fostering of ethno-nationalist entitlement and resentment. Because in fact, the experience of Rwanda/Burundi actually provides a classic example of why “non racial” artificiality like the regime’s Charter and reform program, won’t actually accomplish anything in assuaging ethno-nationalist sentiment.

If you read about Burundi on the Net, you will come across a gentleman named Pierre Buyoya. Interestingly for Fiji, Buyoya came to power in a bloodless 1987 coup, but on a platform of solving the inter-ethnic Hutu-Tutsi conflict that had taken more than 100,000 lives during the preceding decades. He sounded progressive, but ruled with an iron-fist against any dissent. His eventual “solution” to his country’s ethnic woes was a new Constitution in 1992 that essayed to establish a “non racial” society that de-emphasized, or even glossed over, ethnic tags and distinctions. This promulgation was followed in quick order by elections, the installation of the new PM, his assassination, and then the worst inter-ethnic violence and slaughter in Burundi’s history.

In 2005, as part of a UN-brokered peace deal, Buyoya and Burundi faced facts and abandoned their failed “non ethnic” model for a return to quota-based ethnic policies as a model that could at least be seen (and checked) to be fair.*

A quote by William S. Esposo is as good a way as any to end this section. “Worse than being ill equipped in war materiel, it is most detrimental if the policy makers and officers of a country’s national armed forces are ill equipped, up there, in the head. Not having enough bullets or bombs is not as deadly as not having enough natural brain ability, to know the real enemy and conceive a winning strategy. The Biblical David was less equipped in physical build and arms than Goliath. But David was smarter and we all know what happened in that famous one-on-one. In many major battles that the ancient Romans fought and won, they were grossly outnumbered. Discipline, morale and superior tactics won Roman victories.”

In his rant, Esposo also raised the example of the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade. That disaster was the result of mindless obedience to a mistaken interpretation of poorly worded battle orders from a bumbling British High Command. Fiji is likewise charging headlong into the valley of economic desolation, driven by the mindless obedience of soldiers under illegal orders from a bumbling Fiji High Command.

3. Final Analysis
In the end, it will also take more than just legal tinkering to affect any social engineering program. Leadership and motivation, for example, are just as important, if not more so. These clearly represent the regime’s Achilles heel. Wracked as it has been by hypocrisy, petulance, manipulativeness, treachery, thuggishness, violence, self-interest, sense of entitlement, scorn, arrogance and lack of intelligence/understanding, the regime lacks the moral capital and authority to inspire anyone to change, let alone do better. The main motivations left for it to appeal to, for its VBL initiative then, are fear, bribery and opportunism. Not a recipe for building anything that might last on its own strength or merit, I would have thought.

Even though all culture is a living, evolving phenomenon, it is still not something that should be lightly or cheaply trifled with. Fijians are a collectivist community with the “checks and balances” of over 3500 years of tradition that are unique in the world. I for one certainly don’t feel safe with that storehouse of cultural treasure being put at risk by the make-it-up-as-you-go guesswork of this regime and its lumbering battalion of bullyboys-in-china-shops.

As I said before though, it is still too early to pass final judgment on VBL just yet! And the regime does at least appear to have delivered its very first instance of out-of-box-thinking with this initiative.

However I suspect that in the final analysis, VBL will be just another invisible suit in an ever-burgeoning wardrobe of non-existent clothes foisted onto a long-dead Emperor in front of a now catatonic public, in an unbroken line of Regime-initiated “con jobs” just like it, that stretch all the way back to 2006.

Dr. Mere Tuisalalo Samisoni elected member for Lami Open Constituency (deposed 2006).

* Note: Since Wikipedia is open to editing by anyone (including regime media cell ghost-writers), Wiki entries for Burundi and Buyoya may or may not reflect what has been written here in future. But as at April/May 2010, this is effectively what they said.

Rabuka happy again government pension restored but says he'll criticise if he has to

Sitiveni Rabuka has told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat that the past few months without his government pension have been tough and he has only survived with the help of family and friends.
He says the news the decree has been dropped and his pension will be paid again is welcome news.

Bainimarama announced at the weekend the Regulation of Pensions and Retirement Allowances Decree 2009 was being revoked. The decree had allowed the government to strip its critics of the pension.

"I was not going to ask for it because I felt it was their right to take it away," says Rabuka. "I felt that they had that right, because they might have been thinking the way I was thinking, regarding to that popularity wagon through the coup in 1987 and held the ground for our support until the elections in 1992.

"In a way, I got that support in an unfair way or illegal, if you want, yeah, well it was an illegal coup, it was illegal. When they decided to take it away I accepted it. I told them that what they thought I was guilty of, I wasn't because I had not been working against the government unless they saw some of my writings in the Sunday paper as being anti-government, but at that time we had the Constitution operating where we enjoyed the rights, the freedom of expression etc."
Rabuka says while he would like to work with Fiji's current leaders, he'll speak out again if he has to.

"I would still, I would still, at the moment I would rather work with them and with anybody else and get us out of the situation we're in, get our credibility back again and get Fiji back on track. I don't know what they have in mind."-Radio Australia.

The FNPF saga and the ghost of the collapsed National Bank of Fiji scandal

Part One of a Special Report by VICTOR LAL

The National Bank of Fiji scandal is a shameful indictment of the failure of all of our institutions after the 1987 coup d’├ętat that was executed by Sitiveni Rabuka in the name of chiefly and indigenous rights.  The NBF scandal was much more; it was about the facade of democratic accountability and the rule of law in the country. 

The genesis of that shameful scandal can be traced to that much vaunted and flaunted Holy Grail of indigenous rights – affirmative action, which was sanctioned by the barrel of a gun, and a predominantly taukei civilian cum military government. The bullet that was chosen to fire up the taukei’s economic upliftment was the National Bank of Fiji that, at least on paper, belonged to all the citizens of the country.
The NBF was ordered by the then Rabuka government to grant “soft loans” to the “downtrodden” taukei population. The rationale was that the taukei created instability in the country because they were economically disadvantaged, and the way to prevent future instability was to narrow the gap between their economic position and others by introducing affirmative action policies. 

Flawed though this reasoning was, and based on no reputable statistics, the program was immensely popular among the ordinary taukei, and who can blame them.  

Since the principle of handouts was based only on ethnicity, it provided the basis of a bank policy of soft loans with few questions asked.  Between 1987 and 1994, more than $200 million was lent to prominent individuals and businesses on the basis of no or inadequate securities.  No one noticed what was happening. The borrowers did not pay the loans back.  
When that loans scandal broke there was an investigation into the NBF, firstly by the Reserve Bank, secondly by the Ministry of Finance, and thirdly by the police. The findings were shocking to our senses: $200 million in unsecured or under-secured loans. The beneficiaries were not the disadvantaged taukei.  And no loan was likely to be repaid.  Police investigations revealed fraud, corruption, and gross abuse of office, obtaining money by false pretences and obtaining credit by fraud.
Of course the first question asked was where were the watchdogs? How could this happen with a strong parliamentary opposition, an Auditor-General, a free media, a banker’s bank (The Reserve Bank) and a watchdog - the Ministry of Finance?  It became painfully apparent, as those who made a study of it have pointed out, that none of these “good governance” institutions had the capacity to stop the stinking rot. 

The jury is still out on whether they all knew what was going on, and failed to intervene in a politically supported hot ‘lovo’. But the institutions failed to detect or expose the fraud, until it was too late.
And so the taxpayers turned to the criminal justice system to demonstrate accountability.  Police investigations took almost three years to complete.  The Fiji Police Force was under-trained and under resourced, and fraud laws antiquated. The investigations were compounded because DPP’s Office, which was destroyed in the 1987 coup, was staffed with under-qualified and inexperienced lawyers. The National Bank prosecutions, led by the then Director of Public Prosecutions, later Justice Nazhat Shameem, were a test of the ability of Fiji’s criminal justice system to try the rich and the powerful.  She had already held that office for some three years.
Those of us who eagerly and closely followed the whole saga soon noticed a sinister pattern emerging, prevalent in many other corruption riddled Third World countries. The first was the hostility of the magistracy. State prosecutors were daily maligned, abused, and on one occasion detained in custody for alleged contempt of court.  In one absurd case the accused, who was a Cabinet Minister and a high chief, had been permitted to sit at the bar table instead of the dock.  

His counsel, in the course of the preliminary inquiry abused the prosecutor on the basis of his skin color.  He was an Australian and the Deputy DPP. The Fijian magistrate reprimanded the prosecutor for insulting Fijian culture when he (the prosecutor) led evidence that the accused had received large sums of money “for his people” in exchange for fishing licenses. When the prosecutor tried to present his side of the story, he was detained in the police cell for “contempt of court”, raising the question:  when does a cultural gift become a corruptly received gift?

We might recall that the DPP Shameem had to appear to secure his release, and to request the magistrate to disqualify himself.  He refused to do so. Shameem moved the High Court to order him to disqualify himself.  The High Court did so order, but the defence appealed that decision to the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.  So much delay ensued, that the trial of the Minister never proceeded.  The DPP, who took office after Shameem left, entered a nolle prosequi. The prosecutor won the battle, but the war was lost.
In the midst of the judicial battles, came the interlocutory challenges.  The prosecution tried to ground all the accused by seizing their passports.  Their lawyers and the magistrates were outraged.  These were important people: Cabinet Ministers, lawyers, and businessmen.  In vain the prosecution argued that all suspects should be treated in the same way, and their travelling curtailed.  When the prosecution failed, it appealed the bail rulings to the higher courts.  Again, the delay worked to its detriment.  The prosecution got so caught up in interlocutory hearings that the substantive matters were never aired.

In the few cases that did proceed to trial, witnesses refused to testify.  When they gave evidence, they turned hostile. They agreed to everything suggested to them by the defence.  A lawyer who had told the police that the signature on a cheque was that of his partner (the accused) said on evidence that he was mistaken and that in fact the accused had been out of the country at the time. One after another, Ministers, senior bank officials, lawyers and businessmen were acquitted.  The impatient media, having failed to notice the “cat and mouse” legal game, began to unnecessarily criticize the DPP’s Office.

It only rallied to Shameem’s defence when someone leaked to the press the behind the scenes strong-arm tactics that was being deployed against her. In the midst of the hearings, the Public Service Commission had asked her to sign a performance agreement, which would have made her accountable to the Permanent Secretary for Justice.  

She refused to sign.  The Commission complained to the Chief Justice.  She refused to sign. The matter was discussed in the Judicial Services Commission (the appointing body of the DPP).  She refused to sign.  Cabinet ordered her to sign and expressed “concern” at her refusal to co-operate with the authorities. She refused to sign.  When things began to look very ugly, the matter was leaked to the media, which was forced to rally to her support. 
Then personal attacks were rained on her. It later emerged that she received abusive memoranda from senior public servants who refused to accept any correspondence from her without approval from the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General.  One memorandum expressed the view that she was unfit to hold public office. 
The Attorney-General refused to send her requests for mutual assistance from Australia and New Zealand for witnesses to give evidence on video link.  Overnight, the Ministry of Finance cut her department’s budget by 40%. The vote most affected was the witness expense vote.  She could no longer afford to summon witnesses.  It was restored only when she threatened to challenge the decision of the Minister of Finance in court. The end result was that despite the prosecution’s best efforts, no one was convicted. The courts in the NBF scam held no one accountable.
No doubt, many would call that a failure.  In one sense it was a failure.  It was the failure of Fiji’s democratic and judicial institutions to tackle corruption and give effect to the rule of law.  Clearly, the law could not hold the rich and powerful to account for their conduct.
However, that view is too simplistic.  Firstly the police investigations and the prosecutions themselves provided a form of accountability.  Chiefs, who had never before been asked what they did with the money they received for their people, had to explain themselves.  So did Cabinet Ministers, including lawyers.  In order to achieve their acquittals, they had to pay vast sums of money to their lawyers.
Secondly, the prosecutions confronted the inequities in the judicial system.  The Judicial and Legal Services Commission disciplined the magistrate, who detained the prosecutor.  Another, who cited a newspaper reporter and a prosecutor for contempt, was maligned and savagely attacked in the newspapers. The government machinery, which had with ease silenced many independent officers with threats and administrative heavy-handedness, was unable to silence Shameem as head of the prosecution team.  Her office grew in strength.  And it took on a wider public interest role.

The third positive aspect of the story of the National Bank was the role of the media. The media discovered the scandal.  A list of names of people who owed money to the Bank was published in one of the newspapers.  For the first time, the media realized that Shameem’s struggle was one to preserve the rule of law in an ailing democracy.  

Their stories became much more discerning and informed. The government failed to “shoot the messenger” – in this case Nazhat Shameem, who tried to bring to justice the nations “corruptodiles”.
It is therefore important that the present anti-corruption hunters must not be allowed to suffer the same trials and tribulations experienced by Shameem and her legal team, for corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. The National Bank of Fiji story showed the inability of Fiji’s institutions to deal with a gross abuse of public office for private gain. 
There is no doubt that any investigations in the NBF saga would have been conducted if it had not been for the public outcry.  There was an outcry as a result of the strength, perseverance and integrity of Fiji’s media. And the investigation process followed because the political process made it too difficult not to show some signs of accountability.

The investigation of the National Bank of Fiji was hampered by witness reluctance, police resource limitations, missing files and documents and archaic criminal laws. 
The views expressed are those of Victor Lal and not that of the Fiji Sun. E-mail: vloxford@gmail.com

To be continued
Editor’s Note: We will name them in the next instalment

Pictures: Top left Rabuka in the early days and Nazhat Shameem.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Fiji's 'best prime minister' debate hails Qarase as No 1

He may have dipped out on the government pension but he can certainly bank on support, if debate is to be believed.

The SDL leader and former prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, and his time in government is under discussion on the Matavuvale blog tonight and he's emerging as a respected leader, perhaps even Fiji's best prime minister, according to some comments.

The discussion "PM Laisenia Qarase - Fiji's Best Prime Minister Yet?" was initiated by Tui Savu, who posted the following comments.

"There has been much said about the Qoliqoli and Reconciliation Bill and claims of it being racist and immoral, yet these (2006) coup perpetrators commit and continue to commit the very same act and even worse without any lawful authorisation.

"Some I’ve spoken to who’s been involved in Fiji’s political situation since 1970 said that certain segments of the community feared PM Qarase because they could not buy him.

"I remember asking him during the Brisbane Meeting in 2009, why he didn’t follow former PM Rabuka’s stance during the State Funeral for the late Tui Cakau and defer to the President of the Senate to speak on behalf of the nation because Rabuka saw himself as a commoner and not as PM of Fiji an he answered he ‘didn’t know, but thought it the right thing to do.’

"I commended him because it was a courageous and bold move and said that protocol dictated the PM speaks on behalf of the Nation and his speech was so moving and touched the depths of our emotions. I then said to PM Qarase, ‘that’s when you eclipsed Rabuka.’

"I stand to be corrected, but it is my belief that history will place PM Qarase possibly one, if not the best, PM Fiji’s had in the past 30 years since Independence. What do you say?"

It's a pretty big call but some of the replies so far have supported the suggestion:

If the coup did not took place in 2006, all indigenous will be millionaires in their own country.

Usaia Pita Waqatairewa:
After Hurricane Tomas hit, the government visited Vanuabalavu and gave each family ration packs consisting of 2 kg flour, 2 tin fish, 1 kg dhal and 1 packet tea. Nothing has been forth coming ever since.
It has to take the effort of philanthropist Mere Samisoni to fly in regularly to her relos in Lomaloma arranging tarpaulin and rations for those villages.
Qarase has been doing the same for his people of Mavana and what has kept them going was the reserve funds he had kept for them through the Mavana Holdings two co-op shops in Mavana and Lomaloma.
Now that is the kind of Prime Minister that we want who still toils for his people free of charge!

Joe Bardy: Based on achievements I rated Rt Mara ahead of Mr Qarase. On popularity amongst the indigenous Fijian I would agree with you TSavu Mr Qarase is No. 1.

Unise Vuniwai: I would lift my hands up for this man if ever he was to be Fiji's PM again.-Matavuvale

Pictures: Qarase and his nemesis, Bainimarama and the moment of truth in 2006.

Qarase out of running for pension and the latest IMF report on Fiji

Toppled prime minister and SDL Party leader, Laisenia Qarase, will not be receiving the government pension after all.

The office of Voreqe Bainimarama has told Fiji Village that Qarase was not entitled to the pension in the first place, so will not be getting the reinstated payment.

Bainimarama announced yesterday that the Regulation of Pensions and Retirement Allowances Decree 2009 was being revoked.

The decree had allowed it to strip its critics of the pension.

Fiji Village says the Permanent secretary, Colonel Pio Tikoduadua, has told it the junta will only reassume the payment of pensions to former SDL Ministers and Parliamentarians who were paid pensions before.

Tikoduadua is reported as saying the interim government is currently looking into other benefits given to former Prime Ministers.

Meanwhile, the latest International Monetary Fund Staff Report on Fiji says spending on wages and salaries for civil servants is high in Fiji.

The report says the central government wage bill is more than 10 percent of GDP but the total spending on wages and salaries, which is nearly 40 percent, is relatively high.

The IMF says this reflects both high pay rates and the sizable civil service and that although steps have been taken to reduce the number of civil servants, the ratio is still high compared to its population and other countries.

In its story on the IMF report, the Fiji Village says Fiji's water, procurement and printing services are being corporatized and that 1,000 staff will be made redundant.

Fiji Village says the aim is to reduce the wage bill and increase the efficiency of government services by focusing on core functions including health and education.
The IMF Staff Report stated that international experience suggested that these reforms should be comprehensive, with a well-designed redundancy package and retraining provided to laid-off workers.

It also suggested that the performance based pay system for civil servants should be a key component.   

Meanwhile, the Fiji authorities expressed interest in the IMF program to support structural reform and help fill a financing gap of more than $US500 million projected for 2010 to 2012.

Discussions are expected to be held on this issue when an IMF delegation visits Fiji in the next few weeks.

Read full IMF Report

Rabuka, Qarase and Chaudry - 'forgiven' and back in the money

Three former prime ministers are back in favour - and in the money.
Sitiveni Rabuka, Laisenia Qarase and Mahendra Chaudry were stripped off their government pensions as a result of the Regulation of Pensions and Retirement Allowances Decree 2009.
But the self appointed leader, Sitiveni Banimarama, has now decided to revoke the decree and reinstate the pensions.
He told the Fiji Sun: "We had meetings and we decided that this will be lifted. They will receive their pension payments as of tomorrow. We have made our point and we want to also make our point to people who are against us. We hope that these people think about this and learn from it.”
Baonimarmama told the paper the State had not forgotten about these people.“We know they are human beings and we have made our point and we understand that they need to provide for their livelihood.”
The former Prime Minister and the instigator of the 1987 coup, Sitiveni Rabuka, had this to say. “I am very glad. It is this prerogative for ministers and prime ministers to stop any payment of non -participatory pension payment.”
The Regulation of Pensions and Retirement Allowances Decree 2010 stated that people would have their payments ceased if the person in any way went against Government of the Republic of Fiji or any institution or authority of the Government.
The decree was specifically promulgated to stop pension payments to people regarded as working against the Government. This included members of the former Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua-led government and its head Laisenia Qarase.-main source Fiji Sun.

Pictures: Top to bottom Qarase, Rabuka (left) and Chaudry.

Monday, May 24, 2010

'Demons' from 1987 coup helping to make Fiji a nation afraid to let its people judge the truth

Opinion piece by Dr Mere Samisoni
Victor Lal's investigative journalism should lead, eventually, to a Truth Commission on coups for Fiji.

I support Lal's investigative journalism because what I see now is the "demons" from the 1987 coup are deeply embedded in the events of December 5th 2006 with all the benefits of holding high office being given to them. The motives are clear, and they are settled in there for the long haul beyond 2014. 

To this extent, the Judiciary, which should be independent and remember they are NOT elected - are dictating terms from a legal perspective. How is this possible when the basis for their existence the 1997/1998 Amendment Fiji Constitution, for the separation of powers, has been abrogated and they exist at the whim and fancy (biased bigotry) of those past elite "demons". 

My doctoral dissertation statistically proved that race/ethnicity (plus 185 others) is a success factor and is strategy for good governance in the 21st century market information economy for Fiji, the Region and the World. This will align our human values and sacred aspirations to cultural literacy so our diversity is managed as value chains to trade in Services. 

In complete contrast, however, without mixed methods research and statistical analysis, the present regime wants to have a race free society. The important question is why??? They do not define the difference between race the market differentiator and race the stereotype. Why? In this confusion and ambiguity, who benefits from this ignorance??? 

When all we need is good role models to understand each other’s differences and show respect for those differences and spaces through cultural literacy. We need to get to know each other more and respect our strengths NOT fear our weaknesses. 

So, unless these "demons" are exposed to tell stories in public Court or Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Fiji will be "to and fro" in coup culture, since 1987 with the same main players as mentioned by Lal. Moreover, Fiji will not be able to come to terms with the wrongs committed to all victims since. This stunted growth is allowing the people who have no right to be in power call the "shots".

The "worms" and their "demonic forces" will drive the market inefficiencies, down deeper and further into the woodwork, so our diverse cultures and multi ethnic society cannot innovate out of this terrible wrong against the people of Fiji in order to evolve out of the deep mistrust that behooves us. 

Fiji's "hearts and minds" is out of balance and right over wrong needs to be spirituality 
entered NOW, so that the wisdom of the majority can call the shots, away from the "infected demonic elite few" through the majesty of democratic elections in 2010. 

The vision of the legal Multi-Party Cabinet should be allowed to continue its important role of nation building through education NOT rape, NOT force, NOT lies and certainly NOT bigotry. Even Sitiveni Rabuka realizes this know with his public apologies.  

May I summarise by quoting J F Kennedy 35th President of USA 'A Nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth in an open market is a Nation afraid of its people'.

Dr. Mere Tuisalalo Samisoni legally elected SDL member for Lami Open Constituency (deposed 2006)”.

Regime revokes pension decree

Fiji's illegal government has done a u-turn and revoked the decree that allowed it to stop pensions paid to its critics.

The Fiji Sun is reporting that the regime has lifted the Regulation of Pensions and Retirement Allowances Decree, which was introduced last December.

The newspaper is reporting that Frank Bainimarama has pomised to reinstate the pensions tomorrow.

The first coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka was one of those affected by the decree.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tonga's PM treads in Bainimarama's Vatican footsteps

Fiji and Tonga are starting to have too much in common: unhappy citizens, feudal systems, oppressive policies and leaders who've had the ear of the Pope.

Junta leader Voreqe Bainimarama did it in 2008 - Dr Feleti Sevele last week.

Sevele had his 15 minutes of fame at the Vatican in Rome on Thursday. According to the Vatican Information Service, Tonga's prime minister met Pope Benedict and had 'cordial discussions focusing on the process of institutional reform in Tonga and its social and economic life.

Discussions also touched on the important contribution the Catholic Church makes in various fields of human promotion.

The Service says there was particular reference to the political, commercial and environmental problems the Pacific Islands are facing in a spirit of close collaboration.

The Pope probably has enough on his hands with the priest sex scandal but one hopes he didn't buy the propaganda about the Kingdom of Tonga being a paradise.

Tonga has similar problems to Fiji - the riots of 2006 and the subsequent public emergency regulations, and the call for democratic elections.

And like Fiji, the Kingdom is struggling to quell discontent and stay solvent. Sevele, like Bainimarama, is revered by some but considered corrupt by many others. Sevele was hugely unpopular after the Tongan Riots and again, after the Princess Ashika tragedy. The pro-democracy movement wanted him to step down over the riots and ferry disaster.

Pictures: Sevele and the Pope this week. Smaller pic shows his wife,  'Ainise Sevele. The Bainimarama's in 2008.

Illegal government has a handle on Peoples Charter but not the Media Decree

As money woes grow for Fiji's illegal government, the interim regime is hanging on for dear life to one of its core policies, the Peoples Charter.

Self-appointed leader, Voreqe Bainimarama, has told the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation the Charter is here to stay and that it will be incorporated into the new Constitution in 2014.

Bainimarama told FBC, the Peoples Charter has survived despite being shoved around by the majority of the people since its inception.

Less certain is the much trumpeted Media Decree, of which there is no sign of after its highly-publicised outing last month.

The regime insists the decree will lift the professional standards of the Fiji media but observers say the plan has fizzled because there's no buyer for the Fiji Times.

It's believed the junta rushed into the decree so bravely because it thought it had a local buyer lined up for the Australian-owned paper.

It's now thought the junta's plan is gazumped because it's one and only buyer has fallen through and it doesn't want to admit it doesn't have a back-up. The environment for business in Fiji is unlikely to bring foreign business rushing to Suva or Nadi.

Putting on a brave face, Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, last week told Radio New Zealand last week the decree was still on track.

“There’ll be some changes to the draft just like we’ve said right from day one. There was a lot of hysteria whipped up in New Zealand and Australia and a couple of other places, primarily in those two countries, about well you know this is the end of media freedom etc.”

Meanwhile, the news director of Fiji’s government-owned broadcaster says after a year of the public emergency regulations, the country’s media largely censors itself, even though military censors are still in the newsrooms.

FBC's news director, Stanley Simpson, says news organisations have been forced to ignore everyone who oppose the regime.

“We cannot interview them, or we cannot use their comments, as the Government has said it has a plan for the country and wants no disturbance to that. That’s the law, as it is now and we follow that. We try to be accurate, we try to be fair, but there is no balance at the moment. When it comes to politics, government issues, we are running what the government is putting out.”