#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: 2010-09-12

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Fiji Times Saga: Remember ‘Mac’ Patel and his “The Caroll Report” to Ratu Mara’s 1982 general election campaign?

SNAPPED:Sir Vijay Singh showing a copy of the Carroll
Report, with NFP leader Jai Ram Reddy
VICTOR LAL takes up part two of his story about the new owner of the Fiji Time's involvement in a report to deny the Indo-Fijian dominated, National Federation Party, victory.

 



WHATEVER THE underlying motive Mahendra ‘Mac’ Patel had, the Carroll/MMPatel/Ratu Mara meeting of 17 December 1980 led to the recruitment of Allen Carroll, Geoff Allen, Rosemarie Gillespie (Australians)  and Dr Jeffrey Race (American) to form the so-called Carroll Team.

As Carroll’s telexed statement to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the 1982 general elections, admitted: “A professional report was provided by me to Mahendra Patel, chairman of Motibhai and Co, at his request in April 1992. The Report took a detailed look at the political economy of Fiji, but in the context of the business strategy options of Mr Patel’s company.



RIDING TO POWER IN 1982: Mac Patel on Mara's right hand side.
 "Given the company’s structure and base of operations being centralised in Fiji, it was obviously important to explore a risk assessment profile of the political/economic environment of that country. I then enlisted the aid of Dr Jeffrey Race as an Asian expert and political consultant based in Thailand to assist with that assessment.”

The enlistment of Race, an expert on Malaysian politics, and head of the Asian Strategies Company, added a new dimension to the survey of Fiji’s political scene. It quickly became clear both to Race and Carroll that there some striking similarities to the Malaysian political environment of the 1960s and they devised an analytical structure to enable them to demonstrate alternative possibilities should the Alliance Party approach the 1982 elections under differing assumptions.

According to Gillespie, following the recruitment of Race, Carroll telephoned her at her Melbourne office in late April/May 1981 to say that he and Race were “developing a political strategy for Fiji”, and would she be willing to undertake the research component; she agreed to do this.


After their preliminary surveys and assessments, and with the overall view of the 1981 political climate as, according to Gillespie, Race perceived it: “The ruling party is like the ruling party in Malaysia [it is] falling apart at the elite level [there is] squabbling in the Cabinet. At the mass level [the Alliance Party] is losing popular support. Everyone says the PM is becoming very isolated. Nobody there dares tell him he is becoming very isolated from everybody including his own Cabinet….things are falling part…if nothing is done, the Alliance Party will be out on its arse.”

On 17 September, the ‘outsiders’ – Carroll, Race, Allen  - who had run three Liberal Party campaigns in Australia met Mara and a few selected senior Alliance members and informed them of the results of the economic survey and the public opinion polls. 


There was also a draft report with a segment by Carroll entitled “Outlook and Outlook and Implications”, and a set of three scenarios by Race. What transpired at this meeting has since been disputed with varied and controversial interpretations put upon it.

The scenarios that dominated the election campaign are reproduced below, as contained in The Carroll Report:
SCENARIO ONE – “ALLIANCE WINS”
Aspect: Fijian support intact. Biggest problem and first priority is consolidating Fijian support – point made by both friends and opponents of PM (Mara); feudal allegiances crumbling

Risk: Dictation by leader won’t work. Must use carrots
Strategy:  Widen range of contacts and advice in elites of Pm’s own camp – press, Cabinet, opinion leaders, business
Means: Organised ‘stroke’ kitchen cabinet. New carrots for support – honours, stroke, other payoffs
Recognise that NFP despite pretence is businessmen’s party and push economic growth (see economic section). PM shows decisive leadership. Split in the Alliance (Autocracy), Stroking/appointments. Good start already made 8/81. Must be handled right.

Boundary redistribution slightly favours NFP: ‘Throw of the dice’ but probably more than slightly favours NFP. Must handle carefully. Carefully analyse likely constituency-by-constituency campaign strategy
Poor economic conditions in 1982, increasing urban unemployment; Election polices: economic policies – sugar, television, housing, fiscal stance, medical, education

 
NFP pushes ‘issue’ (class politics). Timing is crucial. NFP has but irresponsible; Alliance needs, Possible cost/benefit, Seen as pro-Fijian, Too Conservative. Think ahead, have in readiness. Release in studied succession to further support image of movement.
Image: Get credit for pro-Fijian stance currently without jeopardizing expansion of Indian support. Risk: [Jai Ram] Reddy will hit here. Difficult. ‘Fine Line’. Need Professional expertise

 
Renewed direction – vigour versus perception of present stagnation. Need firm support from top. Danger of split in Alliance. Refer Malaysian precedents/success. New stocks – ‘Toc-cutter to plan and implement might be useful
Gain 1 Fijian communal seat. In fact shaky, need major effort – difficult. Marginal deterioration of Federation unity – marginal at best – Muslim leakage to Alliance. Koya/Reddy battle smoulders. Improve quality of Alliance candidates
Expand Indian Support while Splitting NFP Base: Seconary priority but still essential – (1) Gain Muslim support. Many observers say it can be done and will affect marginal seats – Can’t be blatant – Means: appointments, oral commitment to Muslim representation in Alliance government (not change constitution), improve business.

 
Make it respectable for Indians to support Alliance and build on that – Must handle very carefully or will undercut Fijian Strategy (this election): Strategy: Malaysian method – articulated program (NEP), hard-charging ethnic parties as coalition constituents (segment marked), pitch – ‘responsible leaders’ v ranting madmen, Get more/better Indian candidates (Incentive needed).
After election: Total re-think of strategy for next five years; possible restructure of voting system-preference voting, single electorates
Image/Communications Aspects

 
Nature of campaign two levels:
Emotional: Most observers agree will be mostly emotional and not rational. Get ready for it – hit back quickly or hit first. Segment the market (Malaysian method)
NFP Strategy: Build Fijian support, ‘fear in the pubs’, get coalition, wait for chance to take over. Some issues: racial component of civil service, diplomatic service, military service, policy, and statutory bodies
The Pitch: Responsible, have a program, fresh blood/new ideas, equity/fairness. Rational: well-thought out, have answer for everything
Timing: Don’t fire all your guns at once
What about Scenario Two – ‘Malaysian Replay’ and Scenario Three –‘Alliance Loses’

MORE TO COME 

New trial ordered for Takiveikata after it was found one of the assessors was a soldier


A new trial will start on Monday for the  Naitasiri chief, Ratu Inoke Takiveikata, after it was found one of the assessors was a soldier.

The retrial was into its second day in the High Court in Suva when his defence lawyer told the court a member of  the Military Forces reserve force was one of the five assessors.
Justice Goundar ordered a mistrial and a new trial date was set.

Takiveikata was charged in 2001 for his alleged involvement in the mutiny at the army barracks on November 2, 2000 in which four soldiers were killed.

He was jailed for life in 2004 but an appeal in 2005 saw the Fiji Court of Appeal order the retrial that began on Thursday.

FNPF’s former property investment manager had been retained for ‘$10,000 month’ to act as consultant for Tappoocity

We are yet to see the Ernst and Young Report of 2007 titled "FNFP Special Investigation - Internal Report".
Now, Coupfourpointfive has been informed the Report has not been made public by Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum because a section of it is highly critical of the Tappoos, to whom Khaiyum, through his private company Latifa Investments Ltd, had sold his Berry Road property at a grossly obscene price. Our regular contributor, VICTOR LAL, has been examining the Report and has filed Part Five of his investigation. 

 
THE CONFIDENTIAL Ernst and Young Report expressed disquiet that FNFP’s former Property Investment manager, Carl Mar, on resigning from his position, had been retained by Tappoos and FNPF subsidiaries to act as a client representative of Penina Ltd and Grand Pacific Holdings Ltd. After all, Mar had negotiated contract terms with Tappoos on behalf on FNPF’s investment arm FIL.

A file note regarding the Tappoocity Project indicated that general agreement regarding the terms of the agreement was reached on 29 July 2003 between Kanti Tappoo and Mar, including that the value attributed to Tappoos land would be its market value sum of $3,250,000 and the lease term to be 25 + 25 with first rent set at 8& of the Project cost fixed for 15 years (Document: Memorandum titled  ‘FNPF/Tappoo Project – General Agreement Reached on Tuesday 29th July 2003 between Kanti Tappoo (Tappoo Group of Cos and Carl Mar (FNPF) undated).

Mar resigned from FNPF on 31 October 2006 to open his own consultancy company. He had been retained by Penina Ltd to act as a client representative and/0r project manager and described his position as Client Rep/Project Manager of Penina Ltd (and GPHL).

The negotiation of the terms of Mar’s contract with Penina was delegated to Vinod Tappoo (Document: Penina Ltd Board Minutes dated 20 October 2006). E & Y understood that Mar was paid $10,000 per month for his position. Mar had also allegedly been retained by Tappoos in relation to its Lautoka project with FNPF but E & Y could not confirm it in its Report.

In the circumstances, E & Y concluded that it may have been ill-considered for FNPF to delegate or rely upon Mar to act as Project Manager and negotiate contractual terms for the Tappocity Project with Tappoos. This highlighted the need to have a better spread of commercial skills to be able to consider investment opportunities of this nature.

Appointment of Neo Fiji Ltd as construction contractor

It was stated in Clause 9 of the Joint Venture Agreement that Tappoos or a Joint Venture Company shall be eligible to tender for the construction contract of the Project, notwithstanding its role as a Joint Venture partner.

On 20 August 2003, Kanti Tappoo wrote to FNPF outlining why they should be given the construction contract without it going out to tender, which acknowledged was the normal practice by which FNPF awarded contracts for construction work. In November 2003, Tappoos expressed their interest in their subsidiary company Neo Fiji Ltd undertaking the construction of Tappoocity (Document: FNPF/Tappoo Project – Meeting with Tappoo Directors’ dated 29 &30 November 2003).

In early 2005, Neo Fiji Ltd became a fully-owned subsidiary of Tappoos for the purposes of bidding for the construction contract. Neo was awarded the contract on 25 November 2005 and commenced on site in late March 2006.

There was concern in the marketplace about this appointment, given that Neo was a fully-owned subsidiary of Tappoos. Minutes of the FNPF Investment Committee dated 30 November 2005 noted that: “Committee also was informed of the concern by some contractors in the market who regarded the tender process as a mere formality due to Tappoo Holdings association with NeoCorp, who they believe were earmarked for the project before the tender process was called. Management however assured Committee that all processes with regard to the tender were transparent and that NeoCorp was given the tender on the basis that it was the lowest.”

Tappoos resist tender process to build Tappoocity

It appeared to E & Y that any attempt to keep the process transparent and free of bias was met with resistance by Tappoo, based upon an analysis of the email exchange below.

Mar sent an email to Kanti Tappoo and Vinod Tappoo titled “Tappoos City project” on 3 October 2005 in which he noted: “I just wanted to briefly update you on the project and say that the project consultants meetings are progressing very well…The meetings so far have been held in the absence of a Tappoos rep as we want to show transparency during this stage of tendering process.”

On 5 October 2005 Vinod Tappoo replied to Mar’s e-mail in which he stated: “You will appreciate that Tappoos cannot be left out in these crucial decision making process for “transparency reasons” in view of the fact that the real conflict of interest lies not with Tappoos but with FNPF because, as you well know, the rent paid by Tappoos will be based on final total cost of the project. A cost increase, therefore, means increased rental for Tappoos and direct gain to FNPF through the JV. You may want to refer to the minutes of the last Board Meeting. Under these circumstances we trust that you will jointly make all decisions on the clear appreciation of those issues.”

Mar in turn responded by email on 5 October 2005 to Vinod Tappoo, stating: “Totally agree Vinod. It is just the Tender Phase that requires me to police carefully but I truly respect the importance of the bottom line i.e. project cost and this will naturally require Tappoos input.”

 
TO BE CONTINUED

Friday, September 17, 2010

Will sale of the Fiji Times bring the promised nirvana?

Khaiyum has won a pyrrhic victory with his Media Decree but will ‘Mac’ Patel’s Fiji Times deliver nirvana to Indo-Fijians?
Remember Patel and his “The Caroll Report” to Ratu Mara’s 1982 general election campaign?

By VICTOR LAL

The forced sale of the Fiji Times means different things to different individuals and institutions. To many Indo-Fijians living abroad it means “payback” time against the paper’s courageous editor, Netani Rika, who refused to kiss the blood-stained boots of dictator Frank Bainimarama, and the backside of the dictator’s master henchman, the illegal Attorney-General Aiyaz  Sayed Khaiyum - the initiator of the Media Decree which demands 90 per cent local ownership of Fiji’s media.

At last, according to many Indo-Fijians abroad, they found in Khaiyum their very own Indo-Fijian Goebbel who took on the mighty Rupert Murdoch’s Fiji Times and won. Joseph Goebbel was the blood-thirsty German dictator Adolf Hitler’s chief propaganda minister and a rabid anti-Jew, who exercised totalitarian control over the German media. Khaiyum, on the other hand, is the author of that infamous sunset clause on the emasculation of i-taukei cultural autonomy in their own God-given land.

Now, these Indo-Fijians should be happy that at last the Fiji Times is not only in the hands of a local, but in the hands of an Indo-Fijian – Mahendra Motibhai Patel. Like those Sikhs on hearing the assassination of Mrs Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India by her own bodyguards, took to the streets worldwide in celebration (even distributing sweets), the Indo-Fijians cannot hide their own jubilations on blog sites, and in phone calls to Fiji on the sale of the Fiji Times and the unpredictable future of their bête noire Rika.

They claim that with the change of Fiji Times ownership they can at long last no longer be seized with nausea when reading allegedly anti-Indo-Fijian and pro SDL articles in that newspaper, articles which they claim resulted in the overthrow of their beloved Chaudhry government in the 2000 coup.

These Indo-Fijians choose to ignore the claims of Chaudhry that rich and powerful Indo-Fijian businessman were behind his downfall which, frankly speaking, he brought upon himself, like Khaiyum now, by presuming that the i-taukei was not only different but dumb, and would stand by and watch his land stolen through dubious and illegal land decrees. 

When the illiterate Indian indentured labourers arrived in Fiji on that fateful day, 14 May 1874, the Fiji Times was in existence for only five years; it was set up in Levuka on 4 September 1869. During its 141 year history, the Fiji Times also had an Indo-Fijian editor in the person of Vijendra Kumar, but its editorial loyalty remained close to the Mara-Ganilau dynasty, especially in support of the Alliance government policies of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.

Will ‘Mac’ Patel’s new Fiji Times make any difference to Indo-Fijians, who are hoping for a new nirvana in Bainimarama’s Fiji?

 
Machiavelli remarked that “Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who ever have been, and ever shall be, animated by the same passions, and thus they necessarily have the same results”. In other words, past history is the key to understanding the future.


A Motibhai Group statement declared after it was revealed that the Group had bought the Fiji Times: “We understand the importance of history. The Fiji Times is 141 years old and Motibhai has been operating for 80 years. Together we will take the Fiji Times to new levels of success as we have done with our other major investments.”
 
History, yes, history! In the euphoria and excitement following the revelation, my thoughts however drifted to another previous era, and to ‘Mac’ Patel. How would the new owner of Fiji Times have reacted in 1982 if it had been revealed that he was a party to a controversial report dubbed “The Carroll Report” for the Alliance Party? A Report on how to deny the Indo-Fijian dominated National Federation Party and a splinter Ratu Osea Gavidi led Fijian Western United Party Coalition victory in the 1982 general elections. 

 
I had grown up in the shadow of ‘Mac’ and Mara, for my father was with the Indo-Fijian arm of the Alliance Party. In 1982, however, I was a journalist not with the Fiji Times, but on the old and original Fiji Sun. 

 
One crispy morning my eye caught a Report lying on our kitchen table – a copy had been passed onto my old man for his consumption. A son in me said leave it untouched for the diehard Indo-Fijian political puppet of Mara; the investigative journalist in me said that it could be “a journalistic scoop”. The latter won me over, and I hurriedly took it to a photocopy shop before returning the original to the kitchen table. Later in the afternoon I went to work – for I was sub-editing the paper which required staying on in the office until the wee hours of the morning.

 
How to make use of the materials? There were many hurdles to cross, not to mention by-passing the editor who was not only a crony of Mara but was related to him by marriage. As a sub-editor I was acutely aware of the stories he normally “spiked”, and they normally happened to be anti-Mara or Alliance Party ones. I had been collecting a few of them for the rainy day. State of the art technology had not been around in 1982, and hallelujah that it was not. Crumpled pieces of white papers edited, crossed over and crumpled - pieces of history.

 
The best and safest bet was to approach that great and guiding news editor of our generation, Nemani Delaibatiki, who had cut his journalistic teeth on the rival Fiji Times. He was also a political columnist for Fiji SUN, and later became Editor until Sitiveni Rabuka’s 1987 coups. That night, as luck would have it, the publisher “Jim” and one of the owners “Philip”, both Kiwis, had arrived in the newsroom for a meeting next day. Nemani and I approached them, and showed the so-called “The Carroll Report” and other materials. “Have you shown it to the Editor,” was the obvious question. “No,” I replied, and went on to explain why he MUST not be involved. 

 
Lo, and behold, “Philip” was in Fiji to decide the fate of the Editor over a totally unrelated media issue; to our great relief the Editor was going on leave until further notice. That night I hid huge amounts of highly sensitive materials passed onto me in the publisher’s metal safe and later, in collaboration with local politicians and the foreign media, we exposed the Carroll Report on the eve of the 1982 general elections. One of the key Australian authors of the Report, one Rosemarie Gilliespie, was my key source. She was disgusted with the final outcome suggested in the Carroll Report in a racially divided Fiji.

 
The Carroll Report and Mac Patel

But who commissioned the Carroll Report? How did it all begin? In November 1980, an Indo-Fijian Gujerati businessman and member of the Alliance Party Management Board, Mahendra Motibhai Patel (MMPatel) needed someone to advise his Motibhai and Company, on the future planning of their company.  Discussions with Adam Dickson, a partner of the Fiji branch of the multinational firm, Coopers and Lybrand, auditors and advisers of Motibhai since 1961, led to further talks with Dickson’s counterpart in Sydney, Australia, John Goddard, who subsequently recommended one Alan Carroll of Business International (BI) as the best choice for the project. 

 
BI had described itself as a global research and advisory corporation “serving corporations doing business across borders and those who support and govern them, including bankers, attorneys, accountants, consultants, colleges and universities and government officials”.

 
In December 1980 Carroll visited Fiji at Mac Patel’s invitation and, following negotiations, tentatively agreed to provide an economic and business survey for Motibhai, at a cost of $20,000. It was also agreed that the survey would not be conducted under the auspices of BI because the company “would charge twice as much for it”. On 17 December 1980 Carroll also gave a talk at Motibhai’s Administration Office about “economics and how politics in America has affected the politics of many countries in the world”. He also raised questions relating to Fiji government policies.

 
Carroll’s high-powered presentation impressed Mac Patel who, thinking that Ratu Mara “could derive some benefit”, introduced the two men to each other. Carroll’s suggestion to Ratu Mara that it would be useful for the Alliance Party to have a professionally conducted opinion poll in Fiji was accepted. It was further agreed that Mac Patel should arrange for Carroll to return to Fiji in March 1981 to explain to Ratu Mara in greater detail his views on the world economy and its likely impact on Pacific nations.

 
The public opinion poll suggestion was carried further when, shortly afterwards, Ratu Mara, on his way to London for a Privy Council meeting, again met Carroll in Sydney. It was later claimed that the Alliance Party was not involved in that agreement between Carroll and Ratu Mara.

 
The two men also agreed, according to the Alliance Party, that the proposed survey would be grafted onto the Motibhai economic review at “no extra cost” which Ratu Mara felt was a personal gift to him from a staunch Alliance supporter.
Given the close political and business links between Ratu Mara and Mac Patel, however this explanation would be unacceptable to the country’s political observers. Three years later, another Patel, Bhupendra, the Lautoka lawyer for the NFP/WUP Coalition at the Royal Commission of Inquiry was to question Mac Patel introducing Carroll to Ratu Mara.

 
Bhupendra Patel’s view to the Commission of Inquiry was that: “M. M. Patel was and still is a very close personal friend of the PM of Fiji. And that friendship has assisted MMP and his family to amass a large fortune in a relatively short span of time, in fact, Motibhais have built a little empire. Being the astute businessman he is, MMP’s foresight told him that his empire could be in danger if the PM lost power in the 1982 elections.”

 
In 1985, during the Commission of Inquiry into the 1982 general election, Fiji Times was not part of that “Little Empire”. What were the contents of the Carroll Report?
MORE TO COME

Three Big Losers in forced sale of Fiji Times

Fiji Sun: From Watchdog to Lapdog
By RUSSELL HUNTER and VICTOR  LAL

There are three big losers in the forced sale of the Fiji Times to Motibhai Ltd – the Fiji Sun, the people of Fiji and Fiji journalism.

In March last year the Fiji Sun executed a dramatic turnaround in policy by exchanging its duty as watchdog of the regime for that of lapdog. It became, almost overnight, a mouthpiece for the criminals who now run Fiji.

Why would the Sun do that? The answer is: money. In return for trumpeting the illegal junta as the saviour of Fiji, the Sun has been given all government and government-related advertising, which is why it is able to crow that its Saturday paper is now substantially “bigger” in terms of the number of pages it has, than its rival.

That, however, is about to change. Mahendra “Mac” Patel has already stated that his Fiji Times will work with the regime. Why wouldn’t it, he asked?

Why, indeed. In order to claw back some of that lucrative revenue, the Times will now be forced to engage in a “how low can you go” competition with the Sun and that “how low” will extend to price and journalistic standards.

It will be interesting to see, however, how this will play out post-dictatorship (which might be sooner than many imagine). Will the deal even stand, given that it was carried out coercively (at least by the seller) on the order of a criminal regime?

Meanwhile, both papers face the ravages of tumbling circulations as a result of junta control of their content. There are all kinds of accounting contortions and clever marketing going on but the underlying fact is that paid sales are falling for the simple reason that readers no longer believe they are buying reliable content – which of course they are not.

And this is where the people of Fiji lose out. The Fiji Times (Motibhai) The Fiji Sun (C.J. Patel) and Communications Fiji Ltd (Hari Punja) are now all majority controlled by Gujeratis. Mr Punja is also on the board of Fiji TV and would buy more shares if he could find sellers.

Too much is often read into the Gujerati so-called alliance. They’re as competitive as anyone else but the perception remains that they all work together.

The daily newspapers are vital to an informed public in Fiji. Radio and TV are primarily entertainment media that cover news as an extra service. The dailies are devoted to news. So it’s a serious concern that both are now owned by conglomerates that regard them as useful sidelines. These are not media people. They have no compunction about using their media properties to promote and benefit their core interests.

The result is that the people of Fiji are left without credible daily newspapers – a serious loss.

The third casualty, journalism, should come as no surprise. All illegal dictatorships fear the truth above all things and this one is no different. Yet, the region and the world are still watching. When media freedom returns to Fiji, some searching questions are going to be asked.

Editor's Note: Russell Hunter is a former editor-in-chief and publisher of the Fiji Sun and Victor Lal was the paper’s regular columnist until both fell foul of the dictator’s regime for disclosing his former interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chauhdry’s tax records.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Has Fiji's military reached its Culminating Point?

By Jone Baledrokadroka

Is the military regime, with the latest weekly bizarre resignations and suspensions, about to implode? The regime spin doctors would have us believe that everything is on track and that it is business as usual with the promised political reforms before the 2014 election. 
 
But as George Büchner, the German revolutionary, once dramatically said “Revolution is like Saturn, it devours its own children.” Saturn, of course, ate his own offspring in order to prevent one from killing him, as had been prophesised.
 
Robespierre, the man most responsible for chopping off the heads of many French nobles and then those of accused counter-revolutionaries, is said to have uttered the same words just before he was beheaded at the behest of someone else.  In essence: revolutionists usually end up victims of their own revolution.
 
It was the same in Russia during and after the Communist Revolution. Here, on our own shores the father of the Fiji coups, Major General Sitiveni Rabuka, suffered a similar, though less bloody, fate.
 
Former Police Commissioner Esala Teleni, and now the suspended Third Battalion commander, Lt Colonel Tevita Mara, are the latest to be devoured to ensure Commodore Bainimarama’s weekly survival. 

The adage “keep my friends close and my enemies closer” must be a constant on the mind of Bainimarama. For some four years after the 2006 coup, the list of those devoured for the sake of the ‘incorruptible’ dictator is now as long as  Fiji’s present climatic drought.
 
Bainimarama’s ship of state is looking more and more less seaworthy by the day as he tosses another of his coup lieutenants overboard. Lt Colonel Tevita Mara, through his chiefly ties, ‘business dealings’ and most likely political ambition, had become a major threat to Bainimarama’s very survival. 


So had Police Commissioner Esala Teleni, Bainimarama’s close Navy buddy. Both these officers’ blind military loyalty were crucial in the execution of Bainimarama’s cleanup coup, the two men providing the much-needed hard influential edge.
 
So, who are the soft influential edges? Apart from the phantom military council and known local citizens, Bainimarama is also being advised by former Fiji residents and academics, all close confidents in metropolitan Australia and New Zealand.

 
These armchair do-gooders backed the 2006 coup with high hopes of reforms dictatorship style. They also monitor international opinion for the regime.  


These coup apologists (some of them victims of former coups), whilst they enjoy the fruits of democracy in these countries are happy to let the poor natives taste some of their ‘own coup medicine’ and help Bainimarama transform Fiji into the paradise of the Pacific.  Some of these consultants and advisors have now run back to Australia and New Zealand, their pockets loaded with absolutely nothing to show for their efforts.

Four years down the track this utopian mirage seems to have evaporated in the harsh reality of international and regional non-acceptance and national economic ruin. The development dividend promised as a result of an ordered coup society  despite all the regimes spin doctoring is a myth. Why?
 
Postcolonial coup legacies have left a swathe of human despair and despondency among developing nations after much-promised military parade ground precision politics. 


For example in Nigeria when Army general and former President of Nigeria, Olusẹgun Obasanjo, came to power in a second tenure of military rule in 1999, the pathologies of militarized politics stemming from decades of corrupt military rule were extremely hard to root out. Similarly, in Ghana the militarization of politics and the politicization of the military had degrading effects on both military and political institutions.
 
On the other hand, in Latin America no military government per se remains today in stark contrast to the 1960’s and 1970’s. In Asia, half of the region’s 16 regimes were military or military backed in 1980. Now, only two are military controlled.

 
Will the ditching of Bainimarama’s rogue lieutenants finally bring the nation an improvement in social development, national security and international legitimacy? No. And according to Dr Kayode Fayemi, an expert on Nigeria’s ethnic military coups, what is required is:


  • Depoliticization and subordination of the military to civilian authority
  • Reorientation and reprofessionalizing the military, including redefining its roles and mission
  • Demilitarization of public order, policing and police reform, including reorientation of the police towards civil crime fighting
  • Balancing the demands of national defence with those of development
  •  Engage the international community in the security sector reform programme
 
With the ‘resignation’ of Esala Teleni and the ‘suspension’ of Tevita Mara the security sector is in dire need of reform as recommended  above. Otherwise, what will continue  to unfold is  another disastrous military misadventure  into politics.

 
The present politicized military has gone way past the culminating point. The culminating point in military strategy is the point at which a military force is no longer able to perform its operations. 

 
Naval Commander Joeli Cawaki, the Comissioner Western, understands  this point in regards to the present  state of the Sugar Industry, quote:  "The mill upgrade - for me - is a failure. It's supposed to be a success but it's a failure. We are not getting the TCTS that is supposed to improve it but on the other hand the performance is poor." ( FBC Radio News 13 Sep 2010). The recent unsolved and suspicious heist of a million dollars fuels rumours that may reinforce the point made. 

 
As all despots know, at the pinnacle of despotic power there is only room for one - the el Supremo. Even if it means devouring your once close lieutenants, because the truth is there will always be eager opportunist replacements. Sadly, for the nation the present military elite has taken the RFMF into deep political quagmire by the week.  

 
With former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in the new Labour government’s Foreign Affairs seat for the next three years, it may well be further diplomatic check-mate for Bainimarama.

 
The only option is national dialogue and immediate democratic elections with the military back in barracks, otherwise the peoples' suffering continues ... water shortages, droughts, huge sugar industry loses and all.


Pictures: Esala Teleni caricature and Tevita Mara.


Jone Baledrokadroka (right) is a former acting land former commander and a former member of the Great Council of Chiefs, who is now a PhD in politics candidate at ANU, Canberra.

Motibhai the winner but what of the free press? Cafe Pacific take on sale of Fiji Times


SO the word is out after the smokescreen for the past few days has finally lifted: Motibhai is buying out the Fiji Times group.
 
This is an astute business coup by Mahendra Motibhai Patel, who heads the Motibhai and Company Ltd group. It will give him a powerful weapon to fight arch rival C. J. Patel, who owns the controlling interest in the Fiji Sun.

 
But in spite of the positive spin put on the deal by both the Rupert Murdoch camp’s News Ltd and Motibhai, it isn’t a good thing for Fiji journalism.

 
Both the C. J. Patel-owned Fiji Sun, which already cosies up to the military backed regime, and the Motibhai-dominated “new order” Fiji Times will too busy concentrating on getting a good business edge than worrying about quality journalism in an ailing post-coup economy.

 
A free press in Fiji is still at the end of a long dark tunnel.

Since censorship was imposed after the April 2009 abrogation of the Fiji constitution and then the imposition of the Fiji Media Industry Development Decree, Fiji Times advertising revenue has slumped.

But from the News Ltd perspective, at least Motibhai has a good understanding of the ethos of the 141-year-old Fiji Times. He has previously served on the board of the Fiji Times as a non-executive director.

It is a mystery why the Fiji Times did not divest a significant slice of its shareholding to local ownership some years ago, as News Ltd did with its Papua New Guinea newspaper company, South Pacific Post Ltd. It might have headed off this crunch time with the Bainimarama regime had it done so.

Instead it is now forced to sell up 90 percent of its shareholding to the Motibhai group to ensure that it complies with the 10 percent foreign shareholding limit under the terms of the decree.

News Ltd confirmed it is selling Pacific Publications (Fiji) Limited, parent company of the publisher of the Fiji Times, for an undisclosed sum in a statement. The sale is subject to final regulatory approval by the Fiji Commerce Commission with the expected wrap-up date for the sale due on September 22 – six days before the final decree deadline.

News Limited's chairman and chief executive John Hartigan was quoted as saying: "The sale to Motibhai represents the best possible outcome for the staff, advertisers and readers of the Fiji Times …

"Motibhai will be very good custodians of the newspaper and as shareholders they will be committed to the future of the Fiji Times.

Hartigan also thanked the directors and staff of the Fiji Times for their "hard work and loyalty" and for their "personal as well as professional commitment to the organisation".

A Motibhai Group statement said: "We understand the importance of history. The Fiji Times is 141 years old and Motibhai has been operating for 80 years.

"Together we will take the Fiji Times to new levels of success as we have done with our other major investments.

New team

Mahendra Patel told the Fiji Sun that a new management team would be named on September 22.

It is not immediately clear whether the Fiji Times real estate is part of the sale. The News Ltd statement did not give any indication but a Fiji Sun report today said it was believed the sale would “exclude the valuable property” in downtown Suva.

Fiji Times publisher Anne Fussell, who is expected to return to Australia soon, was reported to have told senior staff that “real estate is not included in the sale”.

“The sprawling Fiji Times headquarters in Suva fronts on to Victoria Pde, Butt St and Gordon St,” said the Sun. This area also includes the Fiji Times press.

But few staff had any idea about the fate of the newspaper. Just today, hours before the News Ltd announcement, popular Fiji Times columnist Seona Smiles made a plea for the survival of the newspaper at a global creativity and climate change conference at the University of the South Pacific.

And now, who will be the new Fiji Times editor?-Posted by Cafe Pacific at 1.48am


Picture: Fiji Times vendor Salesh Chand outside the newspaper office in Suva today. Photo: David Robie

Tappoos got more equity in Penina Ltd yet it contributed less of the land to build Tappoocity

 We are yet to see the Ernst and Young Report of 2007 titled "FNFP Special Investigation - Internal Report". Now, Coupfourpointfive has been informed the Report has not been made public by Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum because a section of it is highly critical of the Tappoos, to whom Khaiyum, through his private company Latifa Investments Ltd, had sold his Berry Road property at a grossly obscene price. Our regular contributor, VICTOR LAL, has been examining the Report and has filed Part Four of his investigation.

A number of issues arose in regards to the decision to invest in the Tappoocity Project, as described in the confidential Ernst and Young Report of 2007. 

There appeared to have been a lack of due diligence on the part of Fiji National Provident Fund prior to its decision to invest in the Project, resulting in the following issues: increased construction cost, increased overall Project cost, design changes to the Project and delays to the Project.

The construction cost estimated had risen from an initial estimate of $14million to approximately $35million. Given this significant variance, and the fact that the proposed design of the structure had not changed significantly, E & Y questioned how this initial construction forecast was produced, and how much due diligence was conducted by FNFP in this regard.

No documentation on files produced to E & Y indicated that any external engineering or other relevant consultant was engaged for the purpose of providing the initial cost of the Project.

The initial construction cost estimate was significantly altered upon receipt of a Report by the Quality Surveyor for the Project in August 2005. It would appear that this Quality Surveyor’s Report should have been commissioned prior to the decision to invest in the Project, which was made in or around late 2003.

The effect of the increased construction cost was that the project was now expected to cost approximately $44million to complete, a significant increase on the initial estimate of $20miilion, and $30million when the decision was made to invest. Generally, in relation to these cost estimate increases, E & Y emphasised that the Project cost estimates had significantly increased the risk and return profile of the Project for FNPF/FIL. E & Y also noted that in 2007 that the expected completion of the project was approximately two and a half years later than initial estimates.

Valuation of the sites
On 31 March 2003 David Ragg of Property Valuation & Consultancy Services provided a market value of $3,250,000 for the NFPF site. An agreement that the market value of the Tappoos site was $3,250,000 was reached by Carl Mar and Kanti Tappoo on 29 July 2003. 

A ‘kerbside’ valuation of the site for this amount appeared to have been obtained by Tappoos from Property Valuation & Consultancy Services on a date unknown, and in turn was the price Management recommended FNPF should pay for the site (when that was a component of the development plan).

FIL Board Paper No 1707 dated 19 June 2003 stated that the purchase price paid by FNPF for Tappoos property being CT Number 24623 would be its “current market valuation” of $3,250,000. On 21 July 2003, Rolle Associates provided a document describing a valuation of $3,800,000 for the Tappoo site, comprising a land value of $1,400,000 and buildings value of $2,400,000.

The sites were valued at a combined $6,500,000 for the purpose of the initial equity distribution in Penina Ltd. However, E & Y noted correspondence from Himmat Lodhia, a director of FNPF and president of the Fiji Retailers Association, to Olata Rokovunisei, then general manager of FNPF, dated 6 October 2003, in which Lodhia stated that the valuation of the land to be used for the Tappoocity Project appeared to be “biased”, based upon the fact that the properties of Tappoos and FNPF were attributed as nearly equal in value, however Tappoos' portion of land comprised 27.45% of its aggregate size (762 sq metres compared to FNPF’s 2,014 sq.metres).

On this issue, advice was received from Ragg of Property Valuation & Consultancy Services on 9 March 2003. Ragg concluded that if the equity issue in Penina Ltd was based upon the respective size and value of the land being contributed to the Joint Venture by the Joint Venture Partners, FNPF’s proportionate interest in the Joint Venture should be 65% and Tappoos 35%. 

It was noted in this advice that if it was determined that equity in the Joint Venture company should be issued according to the market value of the sites, then a 50/50 equity split would be appropriate.

If this was the case, noting that no documentation had been produced to E & Y which would allow any detailed analysis or comment on the respective properties in terms of size, one issue that arose was that Tappoos received 49% of the equity of Penina Ltd, yet contributed only 27.45 of the land to build Tappoocity in Suva.

In his letter to Rokovunisei dated 6 October 2003, Lodhia had also expressed concern at some of the terms of the Joint Venture Agreement. He stated: “I have listed some of the factors that we should consider for such a project, or else we could end up in serious breach of our guidelines. As stated earlier, this could be a subject of ridicule and incompetency on our behalf as Board Members, in the public eye as well as the parliament.”

The factors listed by Lodhia that contributed to his perception that the contract terms of the Joint Venture may have favoured Tappoos included: the value attributed to the respective properties, rent payable by Tappoos as Tenant should not have been fixed at 8% of total construction cost for 15 years, outgoings should be paid by Tappoos, a proposed loan on terms of 6-8% interest was too low (the loan was in fact advanced at 6%).

Based upon interviews conducted by E & Y, it was considered by FNFP staff in 2007 that the terms of the contract entered into with Tappoos was an area of concern. Principally, a concern was expressed that fixing the rent at 8% for the Tenant for a period of 15 years was less attractive to FNPF than calculating the rent payable by the Tenant according to the current market value of the property at the date of completion.
TO BE CONTINUED

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Just four church ministers now face court for breaching the PER

The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has withdrawn the charges against all but four of the 27 Methodist church ministers and officials accused of breaching the Public Emergency Regulation.

The four still facing charges are Reverend Ame Tugaue and Reverend Tuikilakila Waqairatu for organizing a meeting in contravention of the PER and Reverend Tomasi Kanailagi and Reverend Manasa Lasaro for participating in a meeting in contravention of the PER.
Today's decision follows that of last week by prosecutors to drop the charges against Ro Teimumu Kepa, who was also accused of trying to organize the Methodist Church Conference in Rewa last year.

Mahendra Patel: new managing director on the way

The Chairman and CEO of the Motibhai Group, Mahendra Patel, says the purchase of the Fiji Times is a show of confidence in the future of Fiji. 

Patel told Radio Australia a new managing director and publisher is being appointed and that he'll be named on September the 22 when the sale is finalised.

Presenter: Bruce Hill
Speaker: Chairman and CEO of Fiji's Motibhai Group, Mahendra Patel

No figure disclosed in Fiji Times Sale to Motibhai

By The Associated Press for the Canadian Press
SYDNEY — Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd. is selling Fiji's leading newspaper to meet foreign ownership rules imposed by the military government as part of a crackdown on media freedoms.

News Ltd., the Australian branch of Murdoch's global media empire, announced Wednesday it had struck a deal to sell the Fiji Times to Fijian businessman Mahendra Motibhai Patel. 
Details were not disclosed.

Fiji's military-installed government introduced new regulations in June that required the newspaper company to make 90 per cent of its shareholders Fijian citizens within three months or face closure.

The measures were part of a media crackdown by Commodore Frank Bainimarama, who seized power in a 2006 coup and has installed censors in major television, newspaper and radio outlets to limit criticism of his rule.

Foreign reporters and media managers have been expelled, and dozens of local journalists arrested and interrogated.

"We are reluctant sellers of the Fiji Times, but I am delighted that we have been able to find a buyer who will take over the business as a going concern, respect its heritage and invest in its future," News Ltd. CEO John Hartigan said in a statement.

The sale of Pacific Publications (Fiji) Ltd. to Motibhai & Co. Ltd. is subject to regulatory approval in Fiji and was expected to be finalized on Sept. 22, the statement said.

Patel was a non-executive director of the Fiji Times. He is a co-founder of the Motibhai Group, a diversified business with interests in importation, retailing and commercial real estate among other things, according to its website.

Motibhai said the Fiji Times would operate as an independent unit of the group, and that the new owners would try to ensure the paper remained the one preferred by most Fijians.

Bainimarama last year accused the Times and Fiji TV, the country's largest broadcaster, of being "perverse" and biased for not recognizing his government.

News Ltd. and Motibhai did not mention the government in their joint statement Wednesday.

Motibhai Group buys Fiji Times

Sold: The Suva-based Motibhai group has agreed to buy the Fiji Times for an undisclosed sum. [Reuters] 

By the Australian  Network

Rupert Murdoch's News Limited has reached an agreement to sell the Fiji Times newspaper to the Suva-based Motibhai group for an undisclosed sum.

The sale has been forced on News Limited by a media decree issued in June, requiring that all media be locally-owned by September 28.

News Limited Chief Executive, John Hartigan, admitted his company is a reluctant seller but said the sale represented the best possible outcome for the staff, advertisers and readers of the Fiji Times.

Moitbhai's Chief Executive, Mahendra Motibhai Patel, is a prominent Fiji businessman and a former Director of the Fiji Times.

Mr Hartigan said he is delighted to have been able to find a buyer who would respect the newspaper's 142 year old heritage and invest in its future.

Mr Patel said the Fiji Times will operate as an independent unit within the Motibhai group.

He told Pacific Beat that under Motibhai's ownership, the Fiji Times' editorial content will be decided by the new managing director and publisher together with a new editorial team.

But Mr Patel said his company would work with the government.

"We will work with the government that is the government of the day, there is no why we wouldn't work with the government of the day."

Despite Fiji's current censorship laws, Mr Patel said there were opportunities for the newspaper.

"Out of difficulties there are opportunities, opportunities of prompting our country, of prompting good thoughts to the people of the Fiji."

The sale is subject to final regulatory approval in Fiji and is expected to be completed by September 22.

The Fiji Times has been sold to the Motibhai Group of Companies

By Vijay Narayan for FijiVillage

The announcement has just been made by News Limited after it reached an agreement to sell Pacific Publications Fiji Limited, the parent company of the publisher of the Fiji Times.

News Limited said the sale is subject to final regulatory approval in Fiji with the expected closing date for the sale on 22nd September.

The Australian company said the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Motibhai and Company is Mahendra Patel, who has previously served on the board of the Fiji Times as a non-executive director.

News Limited's Chairman and Chief Executive John Hartigan (pictured above at left) said the sale to Motibhai represents the best possible outcome for the staff, advertisers and readers.

Hartigan said they are reluctant sellers of the Fiji Times but he is delighted that they have been able to find a buyer who will take over the business as a going concern, respect its heritage and invest in its future.

Meanwhile Mahendra Patel said this purchase expresses their confidence in the future of Fiji. Patel said they will ensure that Fiji Times will operate as an independent unit within the Motibhai Group.

He said Fiji Times will be taken to a new level as they progress.

Patel also said that over the recent past the Fiji Times Group has had ownership changes from Wilke Group to Herald Sun and then to News Limited. He said it is now in the hands of Motibhai Group.

Patel said in each instance the change has been seamless and they will ensure the same happens this time.

He said Motibhai Group always recognizes that people are its greatest asset, and they believe that if you look after your people, they will look after the customers and the company.


The lies continue as Dictator Bainimarama pretends key aides are squeaky clean

Coupfourpointfive says: “Don’t provide any evidence of corruption to the dictator, because the habitual liar will just use it to protect other corrupt liars. He should be sent to Naboro Prison as an accessory and harbourer of corruption.”

Our readers will recall that Coupfourpointfive recently zeroed in on Dictator Bainimarama trying to bluff his way out of the growing stink over the corrupt behaviour of his sidekick, the illegal Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum.

Our story was a result of him using pro-regime news outlets to try and douse growing disquiet over the corrupt behaviour of Sayed Khaiyum, by saying that anyone with evidence of corruption or nepotism should forward them to his office or “the appropriate authorities."

As we said then - and say again here - that's clearly a case of the corrupt investigating the corrupt!

Bainimarama's offer to investigate was just lip service, all aimed at quelling media interest and calming people who now smell blood on the military floor.


This dictator has had 'evidence' presented to him before, and has ignored it.

In  2008 our regular contributor, Victor Lal, sent to him and the much vaunted anti-corruption unit  FICAC, evidence of alleged tax evasion on the part of the dictator’s then interim Finance Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry.

The material included proof of other tax scams taking place inside FIRCA, but the dictator not only buried it but proceeded to condemn Lal on 24 February 2008 at a specially convened press conference at Government Buildings in Suva.

With the help of egoist Sayed Khaiyum, the regime later also organised the abduction and deportation of Fiji Sun editor-in-chief and publisher, Russell Hunter.

FIRCA, acting on the illegal AG's instructions, and in an effort to intimidate Lal and Hunter - and stop further revelations - also initiated a series of court actions against the two men, turning to secrecy clauses in the Income Tax Act to legalise its actions.

Coupfourpointfive publishes here the letter Victor Lal sent to Bainimarama on 4 February 2008, alerting the dictator to he allegations of tax evasion and corruption against the dictator’s then interim Finance Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, and others inside FIRCA:

Re: IN RESPONSE TO “FIRCA’S RESPONSE TO FIJI SUN ARTICLE”, 4/2/08
Further to my previous communication in which I insisted that an analysis of the tax records of Mr Mahendra Chaudhry clearly establishes tax evasion, I want to re-iterate that I have no political agenda against anyone, as FIRCA continues to assert, regarding my stories in the Fiji SUN of tax evaders, and whom FIRCA is protecting.

Mahendra Chaudhry: As I stated previously, I still stand by my claims, and I have obtained further details from the Australian authorities that he has monies in Australian banks and had failed to declare the interests he received there to FIRCA. He is yet to account for the thousands of dollars he collected worldwide for the Cyclone Ami funds. I wrote to him in 2006, asking him to open up the books in relation to the funds held in the Bank of Baroda - to date he has not responded.

Fiji Water: Regarding Fiji Water, those involved in the case include the former director of Fiji Water, Mr Kubs, Mr Lyne (who was Mr Kub's expert witness in the case that Mr Kubs lost and FIRCA lawyer Michael Scott (who had given advice to Mr Kubs).

Now, FIRCA is threatening to take legal action against me.  Well, I look forward to the opportunity, for perhaps what they are trying to prevent me from exposing, I will be able to expose in a court of law. On law, FIRCA’s own legal consultant, who is most likely to frame charges against me, has been found to have failed to declare $630,000 in consulting fees from FIRCA and RBF over the period June 2004 and October 2007.

According to FIRCA sources, who are disgusted with the double standard, corruption, and nepotism in their organisation claim that Mr Scott’s assessed bill still stood, with additional penalties for late payments now totalling $154,000.

The Debt Collection Department is too frightened to approach him. While admitting tax liability to the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji, Mr Scott instead launched a vicious attack on the officer who audited him during the recent audit of FIRCA staff, calling him, according to evidence I have on me, incompetent, ignorant and someone who was full of malice against Mr Scott.

Many FIRCA officers are horrified because according to them this was the very officer who was tasked by their CEO Mr Jitoko Tikolevu and Mr Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum to investigate Chief Justice Daniel Fatiaki’s tax records and had concluded that he (Justice Fatiaki) evaded taxes, and should therefore be charged with 26 counts of tax evasion - the matter is now a subject of a public enquiry.

Chief Justice Daniel Fatiaki and Income Tax Act: Well, if Mr Tikolevu, Mr Filipe Bole previously, and now Mr Chaudhry claim that a taxpayer’s records are private and cannot be obtained without the permission of the taxpayer, then why Mr Fatiaki's tax records, to the minutest details, was released by Mr Khaiyum for public consumption?

Did FIRCA or the A-G or Michael Scott seek Justice Fatiaki’s permission before making it public? The truth is that there is a general apprehension that I am inching closer to the big sharks in FIRCA, including Mr Chaudhry, so the best defence is to attack the messenger, discredit me by accusing me of having a political agenda, and then to hide behind the cloth of legalism.

Tax Scam inside FIRCA: The FIRCA Board member is none other then Mr Chaudhry’s relative and appointee Mr Arvind Datt who was the subject of my front page story in the Sunday SUN.  I had nothing to do with the FIRCA tender story - for that is not my area of investigation. Mr Datt has been threatening staff, I am told, and only got caught for falsely claiming rental loss on his property because he was harrying the staff to speed up his returns. I have incontrovertible evidence to support my claims that he evaded tax but was caught out.

I am told that there never was any investigation into Chaudhry’s tax matter and that Mr Bole, as chairman of FIRCA, blatantly lied to you that Mr Chaudhry was in the clear. I call upon you to ask Mr Chaudhry, Mr Datt, Mr Scott and Mr Tikolevu to step down so that a thorough investigation by an independent investigator of our choice can look into their tax records.

I still do not understand what is it that is making you so protective of Mr Chaudhry, who is simply abusing his position, and so are his supporters inside FIRCA, while identifying and pursuing his political opponents, according to those inside FIRCA.

The scale of the scandal and tax fraud committed by FIRCA top brass in fact calls for a Commission of Inquiry, which could even bring down your government if I decide to go public on the Doctrine of Public Interest like you invoked the Doctrine of Necessity to execute your December 5 2006 coup.

Let me put it the other way. It took your illegal coup to finally catch the highest judicial officer in the land, Justice Fatiaki, who now admits to irregularities in his tax returns. A report into his tax files concluded that he could be charged with criminal tax offence because “The offence was wilful as Mr Fatiaki prepared his own tax returns and was not misled into the omission by a tax agent or other person. Mr Fatiaki signed the tax returns personally including the declaration that the returns were “true and complete”. The declaration will be tendered as evidence before the court by the very FIRCA officer, who also audited Mr Scott and Datt and found that they had not honestly declared their tax returns. 

So the nation is entitled to ask you why should Mr Fatiaki be hauled before a public inquiry and those around Mr Chaudhry inside FIRCA, the likes of Mr Datt and Mr Scott should be untouchables, including Mr Chaudhry.

Independent Commission of Inquiry: I am sorry to have been too long but the gravity of the scandal inside FIRCA is so deep that it needs to be highlighted. It’s time you acted against these people, and it is in their own interests to clear their names, for evidence on me, in the form of their tax files, tell a very different story.

We cannot invoke Section 4 of the Tax Act and allow them to hide, for do you really believe that they will grant me permission to analyse their tax records, if it was so, Justice Fatiaki would have been caught out long ago.

I am willing to fully co-operate with any independent investigator provided all those mentioned are suspended from their positions, including Mr Chaudhry, and failing to do so I relish meeting FIRCA in a court of law where I will be able to produce irrefutable evidence of, what appears from their tax files, systematic tax evasion by these individuals!

Editor’s Note: In March 2008, a three-member panel, hand-picked by Sayed Khaiyum, cleared Chaudhry of breaches of the Tax Act. Khaiyum had released the Team’s report saying the inquiry into tax evading allegations against Mr Chaudhry “has been put to rest, and the matter is now closed”. Now, two years after that letter from Victor Lal to the dictator, a raft of charges including money laundering, tax evasion and providing false information to FIRCA, has been laid against Chaudhry, presumably because Khaiyum and the dictator have fallen out with the former FLP leader. It is alleged, among other charges, that Chaudhry kept up to $400,000 in an account in the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and that $50,000 was given to his daughter in Australia without proper Reserve Bank of Fiji stipulated procedures being followed. Among Victor Lal’s series of tax reports included the following headline in the Fiji Sun: “Minister gave $50,000 gift to his daughter”. FIRCA, and its then chairman and now another illegal Cabinet Minister, Filipe Bole, had claimed that Victor Lal was politically motivated against the illegal junta in writing those tax articles. So did Chaudhry.


Picture: Fronting up at last ..... Chaudhry outside the High Court two months ago.