#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: 2010-06-27

Saturday, July 3, 2010

More of Fiji's elite families caught up in NBF losses

The abuse of affirmative action for poor Fijians:

Ganilau family’s Qeleni Holdings Ltd owed $716,748 to collapsed NBF

Ratu Epeli Ganilau owed $631,594 to the bank

Part Twelve of a Special Report by VICTOR LAL

The demand by the present illegal regime that directors and 90 per cent of the beneficial shareholders of the media organizations are Fiji citizens permanently residing in Fiji should be thoroughly discouraged, and vehemently opposed, if we are to avoid a repeat performance of the collapsed National Bank of Fiji which saw the taxpayers losing over $327 million.

In the guise of affirmative action for the poor i-taukei, the “elite” Fijians, the Rotumans, the Part-Europeans and Indo-Fijians with political connections or capital, saw the NBF as a ‘milking cash machine’, including the Ganilau family whose Qeleni Holdings borrowed heavily from the collapsed NBF.

What is surprising, or unsurprising, is that while Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau, as Sitiveni Rabuka’s paramount chief in Cakaudrove, and a beneficiary of the 1987 coups, and possibly a coup conspirator, was chiding non-Fijians for economically holding down his i-taukei subjects, he and his family were up there with the non-Fijians obtaining loans from the NBF coffers without any restraint, moral guilt or checks and balances from bank watchdogs.

Who could stop them? Nobody! After all, the mantra at the time was that ‘Fijian locals’ took control or formed companies owned and managed by themselves – in the case of the i-taukei, the elite Fijians and paramount chiefs.

Moreover, Ratu Penaia was company director of Qeleni Holdings while holding the position of President of Fiji under the overtly racist 1990 Constitution. His counterpart paramount chief and Rabuka’s Prime Minister, Ratu Mara, whose daughter is married to Epeli Ganilau, the present Minister for Defence, National Security and Immigration was up there with the Ganilau family, running his own companies.

As to the Mara family’s secret business empire, we will write on them on another day.

The Articles of Association with the Registrar of Companies in Fiji indicate that Qeleni Holdings was formed on 30 November 1981. On 4 March 1988, second year into the Rabuka coup, the Ganilau family are cited as involved in Qeleni Holdings Ltd; Qeleni being the homestead of the family.

Particulars of Directors and Secretaries state as follows:

(1) Ratu Sir Penaia Kanatabatu Ganilau, Fiji citizen, c/- Govt. House, Suva, President of Fiji;

(2) Estate of Asilini Davila Ganilau, c/- Govt. House, Suva, Deceased;

(3) Ratu Epeli Gavidi Ganilau, Fiji citizen, c/- Govt. House, Suva, Army Officer;

(4) Ratu Tomasi Korovakaturaga, Fiji citizen, c/- FBC, Programmer;

(5) Ratu Jone Daunivavava Ganilau, Fiji citizen, c/- Govt. House, Suva, Civil Servant;

(6) Adi Sivokidaveta Lusiana Ganilau, Fiji citizen, Govt. House, Suva, Student;

(7) Ratu Fugawai Isoa Ganilau, Fiji citizen, c/- Govt. House, Suva, Sailor;

(8) Ratu Joseva Lalabalavu Sukuna Vanayaliyali Ganilau, c/- Govt. House, Army Officer;

(9) Ratu Antonio Jone Rabici Rabaraba Ganilau, Fiji citizen; c/-Govt. House, Clerk; and

(10) Ratu Meli Vunivalu, Fiji citizen, Bank Officer;

(11) Adi Mei Vikatoria Kainona Gauna.

The secretary of the company was stated as one Semesa Sautu. The form of particulars was signed off by Epeli Ganilau in his capacity as director.

It is worth noting that most of them gave their postal address as Government House, which Ratu Penaia Ganilau was enjoying as illegal President under the protection of Rabuka’s guns, whom he had not only granted immunity but had promoted as Major-General of the Royal Fiji Military Forces (Royal – even though Ganilau and Mara had treasonously dumped Her Majesty the Queen (despite the objections of Ratu George Cakobua, the Vunivalu of Bau) as head of Fiji after declaring Fiji a republic in order to achieve their racist vision of ‘Fiji for Fijians’ – shorthand for ‘Fiji for the Ganilau-Mara family’).

On 23 April 1991 a new revised list was sent to the Registrar of Companies which now included Adi Mei Vikatoria Kainona Gauna, Fiji citizen, c/- FBC, Programmer; and James Michael Ah Koy, Fiji citizen, c/- Govt. House, Company director. Ah Koy served as Minister for Commerce, Industry, Trade, and Public Enterprises in the government of Prime Minister Rabuka from 1994 to 1997, when he became Minister for Finance, a position he held till his SVT Party lost the 1999 general election to Mahendra Chaudhry, ousted in the 2000 coup but who after the 2006 coup became Bainimarama’s short-lived Finance Minister.

Ah Koy (Sir) is presently Bainimarama’s ambassador to China. On 18 April, according to the company records, Ah Koy had resigned from Qeleni Holdings, even though the ‘Particulars’ was signed 23 April 1991.

In its ‘Form of Annual Return of a company Having a Share Capital’, Qeleni Holdings stated on 16 March 1993 as follows: Share Capital and Debentures – (a) Nominal Share Capital - $50,000 divided into 50,000 Ordinary shares of $1 each. (b) Issued Share Capital and Debentures: Number of shares of each class taken up to the date of this return (11 Ordinary) shares; Number of shares of each class issued subject to payment wholly in cash (11 Ordinary) shares; Number of shares of each class issued as fully paid up for a consideration other than cash: Nil.

Still earlier on and shortly after the inception of Qeleni Holdings, the company had informed the Registrar of Companies: Total number of shares of each class forfeited? Nil. Total amount paid (if any) on shares forfeited: Nil. Total amount of indebtedness of the Company in respect of all mortgages and charges which are required to be registered with the Registrar of Companies under the Companies Act: $735,115.

As required under the Companies Act, Qeleni Holdings had also stated that “We certify that the company has not since the date of* the last annual return issued any invitation to the public to subscribe for any shares of debentures of the company, and that “We certify that to the best of our knowledge and belief none of the shares of the company is held by a company which is not a private company and that which is a subsidiary of a company which is not a private company and that this has been the position at all times since the date of (the incorporation of the company/the last annual return).

On 4 October 1993 the Registrar of Companies certified the following particulars relating to a ‘Mortgage, securing the sum of $250,000 dated the 26th day of February, 1993 given by QELENI HOLDINGS LIMITED and registered in accordance with the provisions of Part IV of the Companies Act has been varied to secure the sum of $763,000.00’.

National Bank of Fiji

Earlier, on 14 September 1993, Qeleni Holdings had provided the following ‘Particulars of Mortgage or Charge Created By A Company Registered in Fiji’.

Date and description of the instrument creating or evidencing the Mortgage or Charge:

26th day of February 1993

Amount secured by the Mortgage or Charge:

Umpstamped by $513,000 to cover advances totalling $763,000

Short particulars of the property mortgaged or charged:

Certificates of Title Nos. 15723, 15724 & 15725

Names, address and description of the mortgagee:

National Bank of Fiji, a body corporate having its head office at Suva, Fiji.

Note: A search of the Certificates of Titles on which Qeleni Holdings obtained $250,000 from the NBF reveals the following: No 15723 – Lot 30 on DP 3974, Serua, Viti Levu; No 1574 – Lot 30 DP 3974, Serua, Viti Levu and 15725 – Lot 32 on DP 3974, Serua, Viti Levu.

Basically, as Qeleni Holdings records reveal, on 26 February 1993, the company informed the Registrar of Companies: ‘We hereby certify that at a duly constituted meeting of the directors held on the 1st day of February 1993, the Company is hereby authorised to borrow and obtain further financial assistance and banking accommodation from the National Bank of Fiji of up to $250,000’.

It provided the three Certificates of Titles as guarantee for the loan.

Similarly, at another board meeting on 14 September 1993, it was resolved that ‘That the mortgage dated 26th day of February 1993 containing a first charge in favour of National Bank of Fiji over Certificates of Title Nos. 15723, 15724 & 15725 be upstamped by a sum of $513,000 to cover advances totalling $763,000’.

Both these letters were signed off by Epeli Ganilau as one of the directors of Qeleni Holdings.

Messers Esesimarm & Co., Solicitors of Suva were authorised and engaged to carry out all necessary legal formalities in connection with the security for the NBF in accordance with the requirements of law and to ensure that the security ‘constitutes good and valid legal security to secure the Bank’s advances and accommodation to the Company’.

On 13 February 1998 Qeleni Holdings, under the Companies Act of 1983, gave notice that the Registered Office of the Company was situated at Natasa estate, Saqani, Cakuadrove.

Like many other companies and individuals, on Friday 6 June 2003, Justice Davendra Pathik (In the High Court of Fiji at Suva, Civil Jurisdiction – Winding Up Action HBE 85/2001) declared: ‘This Court Doth Order that the said Qeleni Holdings Limited be wound up by this court under the provision of the Companies Act, 1983 and that Official Receiver be constituted Liquidator of the affairs of the Company.’

In a cruel twist of irony, it was none other than in the Fiji Times, now told to have 90 per cent local shareholders, in which the petition for wounding up was published. In Justice Pathik’s words: ‘UPON READING the said Petition, the Affidavit of Trevor William Seeto, Manager Legal of Suva in Fiji, Verifying the said Petition filed on the 1st day of August 2001 and the Memorandum filed on the 11th day of October 2001 containing the advertisements of the said Petition with the Fiji Times newspaper dated 28th day of September 2001 and the Fiji Republic Gazette on the 25th day of September 2001.’

The unsuspecting readers of the Fiji Times, especially the so-called i-taukei population, in whose name the soft loans were set up by the NBF, had no idea that Qeleni Holdings Limited was a Ganilau family dynasty business outfit.

Nor were they aware that the Ganilaus were associated with Qeleni Holdings Ltd when the Fiji Times published that Doubtful Debtors for 1995/1996 as at June 19, 1996 under the headline ‘National Bank of Fiji’s Bad Loans’. Qeleni Holdings, according to that Debtors List, owed the collapsed bank’s Suva branch $716,748 and Ratu Epeli Ganilau owed $631,594.

Now, the very Fiji Times has been given three months to abide by the obnoxious media decree to open its ownership to locals when it took over a decade to bring to a close the financial dealings of Qeleni Holdings Ltd. We are yet to know if the Ganilaus’ ever settled those massive debts, over a million dollars which belonged to the taxpayers of Fiji Islands.

There has never been a public inquiry into allegations in 1992 that Qeleni Holdings had sold the new residence for Rabuka as Prime Minister for an inflated price of over $650,000 when it was valued by a Government valuer for merely $450,000.

We wonder whether Fiji Times is being punished for its past revelations or whether the provisions in the Media Decree requiring 90 per cent local ownership is another ruse by another military coupist regime to form a Qeleni-type holdings to buy out the Fiji Times, and in the process make a raid on taxpayers savings in the name of ‘local ownership’.

Cakaudrove Provincial Holdings Limited (CPHL)

Qeleni Holdings was not the only outfit of the Ganilaus’; Ratu Penaia Ganilau’s own Cakaudrove Provincial Council made a raid on the National Bank of Fiji, with debts totalling thousands of dollars. That is another story, and for another day.

Briefly, according to the records, CPHL was formed on 5 October 1995. The two directors named were as follows: Ratu Epeli Ganilau, FMF Commander, Director of Cakaudrove Provincial Holdings Ltd, and Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, Cabinet Minister, Director of CPHL. Sitiveni Weleilakeba was listed as secretary to the company. Ganilau had formed CPHL while simultaneously holding down the position commander of the Royal Fiji Military Forces.

As I have already previously disclosed, Epeli Ganilau was listed as owing $631,594 and Kubuabola had borrowed $194,000. CPHL was listed as owing thousands of dollars to the NBF in 1996. In 2007, Fiji Development Bank is listed as mortagee and CPHL as mortgagor and the particulars of directors are as follows: Sitiveni Rabuka, Consultant; Pasikali Bale, Retired Director of Customs; Viliame Cegumalua, Managing Director- Global Amen Ltd; Suliano Ramanu, Accountant and Jonati Torocake, Manager.

Aiyaz Khaiyum, Media Decree and NBF Debt Decree?

In his press conference Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, himself holding cross-Cabinet positions, ordered the media, especially the Fiji Times: “All media organisations have three months from today, to ensure that their directors and 90 per cent of the beneficial shareholders of the media organisation are Fiji citizens permanently residing in Fiji. I wish to make it clear that any media organisation which fails to comply with this requirement shall cease to operate as a media organisation, and shall also be liable for an offence under the Decree. At this stage, Fiji Times is the media organisation that needs to comply with the ownership requirements.’

It was Fiji citizens, and not ‘Foreigners’ who ripped the bottom out of the National Bank of Fiji. In the words of former High Court judge Nazhat Shameem, the affirmative action programme was a slush fund for the privileged.

We issue a challenge to Khaiyum to draft a retrospective National Bank of Fiji Decree and order the Ganilaus’ to pay up their debt, if they have not paid up yet, in the next three months.

Their paid up shares was $11 with 11 family members at $1 each. Qeleni Holdings, like Vakatora Holdings Ltd, was another $2 ($11) company in the making, walking away with over $700,000 in loan from the NBF.

As records in the Companies House in Suva on Qeleni Holdings reveal, all its directors (the Ganilaus) gave their nationalities as FIJI CITIZENS, and worst, their addresses were c/- GOVERNMENT HOUSE, Suva, Fiji.

It is time, yes, time, Khaiyum read Lord of the Flies, ‘Maybe there is a beast, I mean may be the beast is just us’.

Indeed, the financial and corrupt beasts are in his own ranks and not in the Fiji Times office in Gordon Street in Suva or in its headquarters in Sydney, Australia.

The 90 per cent local ownership decree is a secret charter for ‘corruptodiles’ swarming around or hiding under the sulu of Bainimarama and his military in Fiji.

Police investigations into the NBF scandal revealed fraud, corruption, and gross abuse of office, obtaining money by false pretences and obtaining credit by fraud.

And the debtors remain scot-free, many supporting or benefitting from the 2006 coup, including Epeli Ganilau, who is charged with the national security of the nation.

Last month Frank Bainimarama ordered that the Fijian Affairs Board and Fijian Holdings Ltd pay back the $20 million that was given to them by government 21 years ago. The Mara-Ganilau government gave the $20 million interest free loan to the Fijian Affairs Board in 1989 to help accelerate and broaden the participation of i-taukei Fijians in commerce and business (In practice the elite and chiefly Fijian families). The FAB injected the $20 million loan into Fijian Holdings Ltd to enhance Fijian business.

In 2001, a Laisenia Qarase-led government agreed to convert the loan to a grant and the relevant amendment to the loan agreement was agreed to. However on 30 June, Bainimarama’s Cabinet agreed to convert the grant to the FAB back into a loan. Bainimarama argued that given the need to instil prudent and transparent financial practices in the use of government revenue, it was imperative that the loan, which was converted to a grant in 2001, be recovered and repaid to government coffers. He said the FAB will remain liable for this loan.

If so, the same should apply to the Ganilau family, who must be forced to pay back the millions they borrowed from the collapsed National Bank of Fiji – the loans were written off 15 years ago because the powers to be were the ones who were responsible for the demise of the country’s national bank – all citizens of Fiji.

The Ganilau Family must be brought to book over the biggest loan scandal in Fiji’s history – and others.

Editor’s Note: We will continue to reveal debtors names, which includes those of high chiefs, politicians, Indo-Fijians, business houses, including individual supporters of the present illegal junta in Fiji. If you or your family has paid back the NBF loans, please provide Victor Lal with evidence. He can be reached at vloxford@gmail.

New media decree chairman Nandan is ‘Australian citizen’

Coupfourpointfive's sources in Canberra say the newly- appointed media decree chairman Satendra Nandan is an Australian citizen.

The Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum had told the press conference (June 28, 2010) that he has appointed Nandan as the Chairperson of the New Media Development Authority.

‘Dr Nandan is a person that is well known and would be the best person suitable for the job. Dr Nandan will head the six member, authority and he is someone who comes with a lot of experience,’ said Khaiyum.

Khaiyum did not mention the Fiji born Nandan’s citizenship status. Nandan spent years in Canberra before returning to Fiji after the 2006 coup.

He called the coup ‘lesser of the two evils’ and joined in the formulation of the Peoples Charter.

Nandan’s appointment is another example of rank hypocrisy practised by the present regime – on the one hand Khaiyum is demanding that the Australian owned Fiji Times must be 90 per cent locally owned, and in the next breath, if we are to believe our reliable sources, he has appointed an ‘Australian citizen’ to become the new media policeman.

It appears the military junta has begun appointing people with dual citizenship (Sharon Smith-John) in senior positions to escape the travel bans.

Satendra Nandan could not be reached for comment.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cross Media Ownership and Cross Cabinet Positions: Spot the Hypocrites

Under the illegal and obnoxious Media Decree, Cross Media Ownership is where a person of a certain medium is limited in the amount of shares they can hold in other mediums or of the same medium.

Section 39 sub-section 4 of the decree states that no person may act as a director in more than one media organisation and they have been given 12 months to comply with the cross ownership requirements in the Media Decree.

And yet see below the cross-Cabinet positions the coupists are holding since the 2006 coup:

Frank Bainimarama:
Prime Minister and Minister for Public Service; People's Charter for Change; Minister for Information and Archives; Minister for Finance and National Planning and Sugar; Minister for Provincial Development, Indigenous and Multi-Ethnic Affairs. The dictator is also the Commander of the RFMF.

Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum:
Attorney-General, Minister for Justice, Electoral Reform, Public Enterprises and Anti-Corruption, Industry, Tourism, Trade and Communication.

Filipe Bole

Minister for Education, National Heritage, Culture and Arts, Youth and Sports, Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment.

Epeli Ganilau
Minister for Defence, National Security and Immigration, and occasionally the un-elected acting Prime Minister

Inoke Kubuabola
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Civil Aviation and International Cooperation

Colonel Samuela Saumatua:

Minister for Local Government, Urban Development, Housing and Environment

Ms Sharon Smith-Johns:
In defending the media degree, the regime’s media propagandist pointed out similar legislations etc abroad. The difference is most legislations have come from governments who were given the democratic mandate to act and not through the barrel of the gun.

In any case, while Sharon-Smith Johns was busy defending the section on cross-media ownership in the decree, she herself was running around to other assignments, in her capacity as Acting Permanent Secretary for Information, National Archives and Library Services of Fiji.

What difference is there in her holding the various portfolios, which is closely related, and by those who equally have vested interests in cross-businesses?

Take the case of Mai Life Magazine, whose owners are now contemplating the future of their investment as the restrictions on cross media ownership in the new Media Industry Development Decree will have serious implications on the monthly magazine.

Richard Broadbridge said they have to study the decree before deciding their next step. However he said it would be a shame if Mai Life magazine is forced to close down. The Magazine is owned and operated by Richard Boardbridge and his wife Judith Ragg as Broadbridge is also the founder and the director of MaiTv.

Section 39 sub section 4 of the media decree states that no person may act as a director in more than one media organisation and they have been given 12 months to comply with the cross ownership requirements in the Media Decree.

We say to the Broadbriges; do not feel shameful, for it is those in the regime, especially Khaiyum and his un-elected Solicitor-General Christopher Pryde who should be shameful, and who should be fined and jailed for introducing the treasonous decree.

The difference between those having cross-ownerships is that they rightly deserve it whereas those holding cross-Cabinet positions have forcibly imposed themselves on the people of Fiji through the barrel of the gun.

Fong case reveals 'childish wants' of Sayed-Khaiyum

‘My neighbour’s house should be mine’: Illegal A-G Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum to Justice Roger Coventry before the coup
The once obscure, mediocre and bumbling lawyer Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, has become an intense object of psychological study. The psychologists are trying to understand his insatiable greed for power, his ruthlessness, cruelty and utter lack-of feeling, his contempt for established institutions and his lack of moral restraints.

 What is driving this bumbling and blundering lawyer to committing treason every second day and increasing the odds for his deliverance into the clutches of the International Criminal Court in the Hague sooner than post 2014?

The answer, to put it simply, is his childish wants, as revealed in the High Court documents (CIVIL ACTION NO. 0411 OF 2005 Between AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM s/o Sayed Abdul Khaiyum (Plaintiff) FONG YOOK KIN aka KINA FONG LIU JUN aka LANA FONG and WILEON FONG (Defendants).
In his ruling of 26 August 2005, Justice Roger Coventry had stated that Khaiyum claimed that he had a binding agreement with the Fongs to purchase a house and its land. Khaiyumsaid the the Fongs had reneged on that agreement and he now sought specific performance thereof.
 A caveat was lodged on the title of this property by Khaiyum. He sought continuance of that caveat until the determination of his case. The power to extend is found at section 110(3) Land Transfer Act, Cap. 131.

The Fongs opposed this interim order. In essence they say there was no binding agreement concluded. The plaintiff’s evidence on the affidavits, taken at its highest, does not show such a binding agreement. They cite section 59(d) of the Indemnity, Guarantee and Bailment Act, Cap. 232.

It is pertinent to note that other persons had lodged a caveat on the title to this property.

Coventry had before him the affidavits of Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum dated 10th of August 2005 and 22nd of August 2005 to support the application. There were no other affidavits before the High Court judge.

Khaiyum stated in his affidavits that there was an agreement to sell to him 23 Lovoni Road Suva by the three Fongs. A sale and purchase agreement was drawn up, although not as yet signed and dated. He received a letter from Prestige Real Estate dated the 8th February 2005  from the estate agents talking about a deposit. He said the delay was because two of the defendants were in China and a Power of Attorney had to be notarised.

He exhibited an e-mail dated 28th February to support this and the Fong’s willingness to enter into the agreement. There were then some delays in setting up the Power of Attorney. It was then on the 12th of May 2005 Khaiyum received what appeared to be a fax from Wileon Fong stating the agreement was invalid as the Fongs had been waiting for the last four weeks for documents.

The receipt for the deposit of $5,000.00 was exhibited at Annexure H. There was then exhibited documents in Chinese and English concerning the power of attorney and e-mail correspondence concerning the problems that had arisen. Annexure A showed the lodging of the caveat on the 24th of May. There was also another caveat lodged on the 2nd of June by apparently a Mr. & Mrs. Prasad.

It was agreed that the principles set out in American Cyanamid Company v. Ethicon Limited [1975] AC 396 as approved by the Fiji Court of Appeal in Roxy Motorparts Limited and Raman Prasad Charan v. Habib Bank Limited in Civil Appeal Case No. 60 of 2004. Those principles are that the court, before it makes this kind of Order must be satisfied that:
1. The plaintiff has established a good arguable claim to the right he is seeking to protect,
2. That there is a serious question to be tried and
3. That on the balance of convenience the relief should be granted.

Khaiyum was seeking specific performance of what he alleged was a binding contract for the sale of land. When asked by the court what was so particular about this piece of land as opposed to any other which could not be compensated for in damages Khaiyum responded that it was adjacent to property he already owns and it was being acquired for his own family’s accommodation. This was not stated in the affidavits.
Khaiyum conceded there was no specific signed and written agreement of this contract. At the end of the hearing Coventry granted Khaiyum the relief he had sought from the High Court.
That was in 2005. In 2006, he not only chased Coventry out of Fiji because he did not like some of the learned judge’s anti-regime rulings, he also went and forcibly occupied the A-G’s chambers with the support of the barrel of the gun.

 As for the Fong family, God Help Them, that at least in 2005 they could put their case before the High Court – not today with a illegal psychopath making illegal laws, the most recent being the Media Decree.

Fiji Media Decree Entrenches Regime’s Control

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned the new media decree imposed by the military regime as erasing the right of journalists to report freely and fairly.

The Media Industry Development Decree 2010, which the administration announced yesterday had been gazetted on June 25, permanently installs the sweeping censorship that has been in force in Fiji since “temporary” emergency regulations were imposed in April 2009.

The decree is little changed from a draft that met with international condemnation when it was announced in April.

“The Bainimarama regime claims it has revised many elements of its draft decree after a sham public consultation. But the decree now made law erases the rights of journalists’ and the media to report in the public interest,” IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said.

“Fiji’s power-holders need to step back from this coercive and ultimately destructive law, and initiate moves to a cooperative independent regulatory system that is supported by local media and recognised by the international community.”

The law provides for two government-appointed bodies. A Media Tribunal will comprise one member appointed by the President. A Media Industry Development Authority will have six members appointed by the Minister for Information.

Under the law, the regime and its authorities will decide what is fair, balanced and quality journalism. They will “ensure that nothing is included in the content of any media service which is against public interest or order, or national interest, or which offends against good taste or decency and creates communal discord”.

The IFJ fears for journalists and media organisations, which can be fined and jailed if the tribunal rules that news reports breach the regime’s media codes, including its Media Code of Ethics and Practice.

Media organisations face fines of $100,000 Fiji dollars (about USD 50,600), publishers or editors $25,000 (about USD 12,600) and journalists or other employees of media organisations $1000 (about USD 500).

The tribunal may also order compensation of up to $100,000 Fiji dollars (about USD 50,600) be paid by media organisations to “any person aggrieved or adversely affected” by media reports.

The tribunal can order media organisations and their employees to disclose sources. If they do not, they can be fined $10,000 (about USD 5060) or jailed for up to two years, or both.

The law retrospectively requires that all media organisations be registered with the authority and 90 per cent owned by citizens of Fiji.

"This action clearly targets the Fiji Times, which is owned by News Ltd.The paper, which has a staff of about 200, is the only local media outlet to try to maintain critical independence despite attacks, threats, intimidation and more than a year of strict censorship."

The right of appeal against tribunal decisions is only available where a penalty or compensation payment of $50,000 Fiji dollars (about USD 25,300) has been ordered.

“Journalists and other media workers could lose their jobs as a result, but it is the people of Fiji who will suffer the most from the blackout on independent critical voices,” White said.

Amnesty International denounces Decree

Amnesty International says the new media decree will further restrict media freedom in Fiji and perpetuate violations of people’s right to freedom of expression.

It says despite the Government’s amendment of the draconian draft decree, journalists can still be imprisoned for being critical of the Government.

“The past actions of the Fijian Government have shown that it does not have any real commitment to upholding media freedom.

“Amnesty International fears that the decree’s vaguely worded provisions will be used to punish peaceful critics of the Government. The decree allows the Government to exert greater control of media content and ownership through a powerful new media authority."

A Media Tribunal will decide complaints referred by the Authority, but Amnesty says that despite these highly punitive powers, it will not be bound by formal rules of evidence.

Another aspect of the decree is a local ownership requirement that 90% of beneficial shareholders be Fijian citizens permanently residing in Fiji. Media outlets that do not comply with this requirement are expected to be shut down within three months from the decree’s enactment.

"This provision will likely result in the closure of the Fiji Times, an independent newspaper which has been critical of the military and Government."

The Fiji Times, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited, has been accused by the interim government recently of being biased and unprofessional.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

New media decree chairman to do the dirty on paper that helped promote his work

Will Satendra Nandan make a ‘mango chutney’ of Fiji media?

Coup Four Point And A Half says: ‘Leave Fiji Times Alone’

The appointment of Satendra Nandan as the new chairman of the Media Development Authority following the promulgation of the obnoxious media decree comes as no great surprise, for he is merely following in the long line of Indo-Fijians who had or have sold their twisted karmic souls to the gorging devils running our emerald isle of Fiji. 

The irony of ironies is that the first paper which will take a direct illegal punch in the face will be the Fiji Times, the very paper which had introduced Nandan to the people of Fiji in the late 1980s when it published in full his address to the National Federation Party conference.

It also only recently provided him the outlet to publish his most recent work: ‘The days of the Girmit era in Fiji’; story from Nandan’s forthcoming collection, Seashells on the Seashore.

The collection titled ‘Mangoes’ reads as follows: ‘The sharpening of the knife was unmistakable. It had acquired a deadly rhythm. And the cold, shining edge of the dark steel had a dreadful reputation: a murder weapon for slitting throats and chopping off goats' heads. The old man was used to it: he heard it every morning during the cane harvesting season. The grating sound had become a song to his old but sharpened ears’.

Like the old man in Nandan’s ‘Mangoes’, since the 2006 coup, we have heard nothing but filth pouring out of the mouth of Nandan’s overlord, that pugnacious finger-jabbing treasonist Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum (caught on mobile phone cameras by the dictator’s own military bodyguards going in and out of Berkeley Crescent (the dictator’s home) before the 2006 coup, presumably begging him to appoint him as Fiji’s A-G after the coup) against the Fiji Times.

Khaiyum and his New Zealander Solicitor-General had been sharpening their knives against the Fiji media, scheming behind the scenes on how best to settle scores with the un-obliging media (especially the Fiji Times) until they came up with the provisional media decree, and now the Hitlerian diktat (The Media Industry Development Decree) from Khaiyum to the Fiji Times, that the paper must comply in the next three months:
“Under the Decree, all the directors and at least 90 per cent of beneficial shareholders of any media organisation must be Fijian citizens permanently residing in Fiji.

“The residency requirement has been relaxed, and permanently residing now means any person residing in Fiji for three out of the seven years prior to registration and thereafter residing in Fiji for at least six out of 12 months of a year.

“All media organisations have three months from today, to ensure that their directors and 90 per cent of the beneficial shareholders of the media organisation are Fiji citizens permanently residing in Fiji.

“I wish to make it clear that any media organisation which fails to comply with this requirement shall cease to operate as a media organisation, and shall also be liable for an offence under the Decree. At this stage, Fiji Times is the media organisation that needs to comply with the ownership requirements.”

We hope the ‘Devil’s Devil’, as he is known in the media world, will introduce another decree, stating that only Fijian citizens can become Solicitor-General of Fiji – for under the present decree, with Nandan on the Committee will sit the New Zealander, Christopher Pryde – i.e. the Solicitor-General or his nominee.

At least, the Fiji Times, Nai Lalakai and Shanti Dutt (despite belonging to the Murdoch Empire) are providing jobs to hundreds of Fijian citizens, directly or indirectly; what has Pryde done for Fiji; nothing but living off the proceeds, blood, toil and tears of the 2006 coup victims.

As for Nandan, we hope he will not, on the instruction of his masters, make  ‘mango chutney’ of the Fiji media, smashing it, like a crushed mango, into oblivion.

And retort later to us: ‘It’s lesser of the two evils” – like his famous words that Bainimarama’s 2006 coup was ‘the lesser of two evils”.

Those of us who value press freedom, and have first-hand experience of the operations of the media world; we must take our conch shells and scream aloud into Nandan’s ear and into the ear of his overlord, Khaiyum, that pugnacious Goebbels of Fiji:

‘Leave Fiji Times, ALONE!’

Nandan, hopefully, still remembers the word KARMA! He is, after his retirement from the safety of Canberra, now back in Fiji as Director, Transparency International, Fiji; Director, Gandhi-Tappoo Ashram for Peace & Ethics, Writing & Dialogue at the University of Fiji.

We wonder if he told his masters to advertise his job as the chairman of the new Media Development Authority.

His appointment is neither Gandhian nor Transparent. He has been imposed or volunteered to become the illegal regime’s media policeman.

Smith joins condemnation of media decree

Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith has condemned a decision by Fiji's military-backed government to ban foreign ownership of the media.

News Limited has owned and operated the Fiji Times for 23 years, but the military government has now ruled that media organisations must be 90 per cent locally owned.

Mr Smith (pictured right) says it is another example of Commodore Frank Bainimarama's interim government attacking free speech and democracy.

"We worry very much that this arbitrary move sends a very bad signal as far as future investment in Fiji is concerned, let alone the very bad signal it sends in terms of freedom of expression, freedom of speech, and democratic rights."

News Limited has expressed outrage at the decree, which was gazetted on Monday by the military-backed interim regime.

On its website, the Fiji Times quoted the head of the attorney-general's office, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, as saying that all directors and at least 90 per cent of shareholders of media organisations in Fiji must be citizens of the nation.

"I wish to make it clear that any media organisation which fails to comply with this requirement shall cease to operate as a media organisation, and shall also be liable for an offence under the decree," the Fiji Times quoted Mr Sayed-Khaiyum as saying.

"At this stage, Fiji Times is the media organisation that needs to comply with the ownership requirements."

News Limited chairman John Hartigan says the the jobs of nearly 200 Fiji Times staff and nearly 1,000 others involved in selling the newspaper are now at risk.

The company's corporate affairs director Greg Baxter says the latest move is an an attack on free speech.

But Fiji's interim attorney-general has rejected the criticism, saying it is in Fiji's interests to have have its media owned by Fijians.

News Limited will now explore any options it may have to remain involved in media in Fiji.

The Australian: Fiji Times has three months

By  Michael McKenna of the Australian
FIJIAN dictator Frank Bainimarama has given News Limited three months to sell or close The Fiji Times in a crackdown on press freedom.

The measures include jail terms for journalists whose work is deemed against the "public interest or order".

After ousting the elected government of Laisenia Qarase in 2006, Mr Bainimarama yesterday moved to legally enshrine and even tighten existing controls on local newspapers, radio, TV and internet outlets with "The Media Industry Development Decree 2010".

The law follows intimidation of reporters by soldiers, deportation of foreign-born newspaper executives and, last year, imposition of censors into newsrooms to ban "negative" stories after the constitution and judiciary were scrapped when a court ruled that the military regime was illegal.

Effective immediately, the decree imposes fines and jail terms of two years for journalists and editors and orders that all media outlets must be 90 per cent owned by Fijian citizens who live permanently in the island nation.

The Fiji Times - the oldest, (founded in 1869) and largest of the country's newspapers and one of the oldest newspapers in the Asia-Pacific region - is wholly owned by News Limited, publisher of The Australian, and has three months to comply with the decree or be closed down. The newspaper has its own board, which includes several Fijian nationals as directors.

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, who detailed the laws, has described The Fiji Times as a "purveyor of negativity" after its robust reporting of the coup and failure of Mr Bainimarama to hold democratic elections.

Former prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka, the first coup leader, who was elected in 1992 and held power until 1999, said last night The Fiji Times had been very critical of his own leadership, but that the newspaper had "served Fiji very well" for more than a century. "It has been a pioneering and strong newspaper," he said.

News Limited chief executive and chairman John Hartigan said the decree further eroded the "basic tenets of democracy" in Fiji.

"This illegal government has retrospectively withdrawn permission for foreign media investment in Fiji, which is not only grossly unfair but will inevitably be enormously damaging to Fiji's reputation as an attractive investment opportunity," he said.

Mr Hartigan doubted there would be a prospective buyer for the newspaper, which employs 180 journalists and up to 1000 people indirectly, in the face of the "draconian restrictions". A new "independent" Media Tribunal will police all articles and broadcasts and impose fines or jail terms on material "which is against the public interest or order, is against national interest, offends against good taste or decency or creates communal discord".

"One of two things is likely to result from this: closure of The Fiji Times or a takeover by a compliant new party by the end of September," Mr Hartigan said. "Regardless, either of these scenarios means a voice of democracy that has campaigned tirelessly on behalf of the people may be silenced."
Mr Hartigan also expressed his disappointment at the efforts of the Howard and Rudd governments in pressuring Mr Bainimarama to hold elections.

"For its part, the Australian government has brought little pressure to bear on the military government to hold elections, restore democracy or re-establish the depleted power of Fiji's judiciary, outside of travel bans on regime leaders and their families."

A spokesperson for Foreign Minister Stephen Smith condemned Fiji's new media laws and denied the government had not done enough to pressure Mr Bainimarama to hold elections.

"Australia has taken a leading role in encouraging the interim government to return Fiji to democracy," the spokesperson said. "We have put in place travel restrictions."

Two publishers of The Fiji Times have been expelled from Fiji: Evan Hannah in 2008 and Rex Gardner last year. The present publisher is Anne Fussell. Russell Hunter, publisher of The Fiji Sun, was expelled in 2008.

"Fiji Times facing closure or takeover'

The chief executive and chairman of News Limited, John Hartigan, says the decree further erodes the "basic tenets of democracy" in Fiji.
"This illegal government has retrospectively withdrawn permission for foreign media investment in Fiji, which is not only grossly unfair but will inevitably be enormously damaging to Fiji's reputation as an attractive investment opportunity."
In the face of what he called "draconian restrictions", he doubted whether there would be a prospective buyer for the newspaper, which employs 180 journalists and up to 1,000 people indirectly.

"One of two things is likely to result from this: closure of the Fiji Times or a takeover by a compliant new party by the end of September... either of these scenarios means a voice of democracy that has campaigned tirelessly on behalf of the people may be silenced."

Pictured: Pondering the future - Hartigan and Rupert Murdoch

Monday, June 28, 2010

Satendra Nandan named chair of Fiji's Media Development Authority

The academic, Dr Satendra Nandan, has been appointed as the Chairperson of the New Media Development Authority.

The Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum confirmed this at a press conference today (June 28, 2010).

“Dr Nandan (pictured right) is a person that is well known and would be the best person suitable for the job.

“Dr Nandan will head the six member, authority and he is someone who comes with a lot of experience."

He said the six-member body would include representatives from Fiji’s different groups of people.

“There would be a representative from the consumers, a rep from the children because of the fact that most of our population is young, a representative from the women’s and a final rep who would have experience in all modes of media.

“Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama would be making the appointments soon, for the other members of the Authority."

Sayed-Khaiyum outlines format of new Media Decree

The Media Industry Development Decree 2010 (“the Decree”) was gazetted by the Government on Friday, 25 June 2010. The commencement date for this Decree has also been issued by the Prime Minister and Minister for Information.
The Decree has commenced with effect from today, Monday, 28 June 2010. 

As you are no doubt aware, the Decree was approved by Cabinet earlier this year, and Cabinet also approved for consultations to be held with relevant stakeholders throughout the country. Consultations were held with the media industry and the members of the public in April 2010. 

During the consultations, a number of recommendations were made by a number of persons for changes to certain provisions of the Decree. Government has considered these recommendations and has incorporated most of them into the final gazetted Decree, keeping in mind the need to balance the interests of the media industry with the public interest. 

I would like to highlight some of the important changes that have been incorporated in the Decree after the consultations: 

1.               The definition of media organisation has been refined to exclude internet service providers, telecommunications service providers and any production house engaged in the production of advertisements or other audio-visual materials. The Minister also has the power to exempt any non-profit or charitable organisation. (Section 2)

2.               The composition of the Media Industry Development Authority (“the Authority”) has been expanded from one person to a total of 6 members. The membership of the Authority now comprises:

(a)         A chairperson;

(b)         The Solicitor General or his nominee;

(c)          One person representing the interest of consumers in Fiji;

(d)         One person representing the interest of children;

(e)         One person representing the interest of women; and

(f)           One person with experience in journalism and/or the media industry. 
(Section 4)
3.                The requirement for including a byline has been reviewed, and only the content of any print media which is in excess of 50 words must include a byline. (Section 23)

4.                Previously, the Decree empowered the Authority to require documents or information from any media organisation, and to enter premises under a search warrant. This power has now been limited. The Decree now has express provisions for the protection of identity and particulars of the source of any information published by a media organisation. Thus, if the Authority deems it necessary to require the disclosure of the source of any news item, the Authority must apply to the Media Tribunal for appropriate orders. However, no media organisation is, under the Decree, required to disclose the identity or particulars of the source of any news item, which relates to corruption or abuse of office by a public officer. (Section 28)
5.                The requirement of registration of media organisations remains the same, and all media organisations must be registered in accordance with the provisions of the Decree. (Section 33)

6.                An important amendment made to the Decree is in relation to the special features of media organisations. Under the Decree, all the directors and at least 90% of beneficial shareholders of any media organisation must be Fijian citizens permanently residing in Fiji. The residency requirement has been relaxed, and “permanently residing” now means any person residing in Fiji for 3 out of the 7 years prior to registration and thereafter residing in Fiji for at least 6 out of 12 months of a year. (Section 37)

7.                All media organisations have 3 months from today, to ensure that their directors and 90% of the beneficial shareholders of the media organisation are Fiji citizens permanently residing in Fiji. I wish to make it clear that any media organisation which fails to comply with this requirement shall cease to operate as a media organisation, and shall also be liable for an offence under the Decree. At this stage, Fiji Times is the media organisation that needs to comply with the ownership requirements. (Section 38 and 43)

 8.                The prohibition under the Decree for cross-media ownership has also been revised. Now, if a person owns a beneficial interest in any one media organisation, then that person may own a further interest in only one other media organisation provided that –

(a)          if the business or trade of that other media organisation is in the same medium, then the person may hold up to 25% non-voting interest in the other media organisation;
(b)          if the business or trade of that other media organisation is a different medium, then the person may hold up to 5% of non-voting interest in the other media organisation.

(Section 39)

9.                Any person holding an interest in more than one media organisation contrary to the requirements of the Decree has 12 months from today to dispose of any such interest. [Section 39(5)]

10.             Another important change made to the Decree is the reduction in the financial penalty or monetary compensation which can be ordered by the Tribunal against a media organisation. A journalist or an employee of any media organisation is only liable to a sum not exceeding $1,000, a publisher or editor is now liable to a sum not exceeding $25,000, whereas a media organisation is now liable to a sum not exceeding $100,000. This is a significant reduction from the sums previously provided, and it substantially reduces the sums which a journalist or a reporter may be liable to pay. (Section 65)

11.             Equally important is the introduction of the right of appeal against decisions of the Tribunal. Any complainant or the Authority now has a right of appeal to the Fiji Court of Appeal against any final decision of the Tribunal. Any media organisation also has a right of appeal to the Fiji Court of Appeal against any decision of the Tribunal which involves the payment of a sum in excess of $50,000 by that media organisation. (Section 79)

12.             The penalties for any offence committed under the Decree have also been significantly reduced. The penalty for any person who commits an offence has been reduced to a fine not exceeding $10,000 or imprisonment of up to 2 years, and the penalty for any company which commits an offence has been reduced to a fine not exceeding $100,000.

The Decree marks a substantial progress in the laws relating to media, and now provides for proper accountability and transparency of all media organisations. It introduces responsible reporting on the part of the media organisation, and provides the members of the public with more effective recourse for any complaint against media organisations.

The establishment of an independent Media Tribunal is a substantial development when compared to the Media Council, which was largely made up media organisation personnel.

Government looks forward to a successful implementation of the Decree. Dr. Satendra Nandan has been appointed as chairperson of the Authority. Dr Nandan is an internationally reknown academic and writer. He is also a trained journalist. He has written for numerous publications, has appeared on international media such as the BBC and is also a commentator. Other members of the Authority shall be appointed shortly. The Tribunal shall also be shortly appointed. Government also invites all stakeholders in the media industry to take note of the provisions of the Decree and to organise their business and trade in accordance with the Decree.

Thank you.

Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Anti-Corruption,

Public Enterprises, Industry, Tourism, Trade and Communications

28 June 2010