#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: 2011-02-06

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ben Padarath beaten by military

The former politician caught up in the $400,000 fraud involving the Ghanian businessman and lawyer, Renee Lal, is in Suva's Colonial War Memorial Hospital after a beating by military.

Ben Padarath was admitted with burns caused by hot water used by military during his interrogation at the Queen Elizabeth barracks earlier this week.

Padarath was taken in on Wednesday, along with two other people - one of them named to Coupfourpointfive as the former deputy leader of the Fiji Labour Party, Poseci Bune.

Coupfourpointfive has confirmed with key sources that Padarath is recovering in CWMH, but we're not sure yet why he was interrogated.

Padarath has in recent weeks been exposed of using Frank Bainimarama's name to fleece tousands of dollars from a Ghanian businessman.

However, it's being suggested he and the other two me were hauled in for discussing the 'toppling' of Bainimarama and the illegal attorney general, Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, when rumours were flying last year.

Padarath is believed to have been at the heart of the rumours because of his closeness to the deposed land commander, Pita Driti, who has, of course, been sidelined by the regime.

Coupfourpointfive has also been told the military searched Padarath's Suva home this week for certain documents.

A reader writes to Frank

MESSAGE IGNORED: Written by a local a couple of days before Bainimarama went ahead with his 2006 coup.

Dear Commodore,

I'm sure you have been following with interest the protests in Tunisia and Egypt, which has led to the downfall of two dictators.

Many years ago, no one would have thought this possible. But times have now changed.

It all began in Tunisia with the ousting of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali after 23 years in power.

Ben Ali became President in 1987 in a bloodless coup and since then has been re-elected with enormous majorities at every election. During the 2009 elections, the US sent international observers there who indicated that Tunisia had not permitted the monitoring of the election.

In December and January, riots and protests against his government escalated, causing him to finally flee.

Take note.

Inspired by Tunisia, Egyptians too began protests 18 days ago demanding the resignation of their dictator President for 30 years, Hosni Mubarak.

At the start of the protests, Social media like Facebook and Twitter were used to get people together to protest.

Bloggers were intimidated and beaten up for uploading videos and information about the protests but this did not stop them.

The army stood by their President - in the process many people were killed and many more were injured.

Following this the army changed their tune and said they would not hurt any protesters.

Last week Mubarak addressed the protesters saying he would not seek re-election in the presidential elections in September.

The people said Get Out.

As the protests continued, Mubarak gave another address yesterday, saying he would transfer some power to his deputy but would not step down until September.

The people did not buy the bullshit. They said Get Out.

The military council  had meetings without Mubarak, discussing what they should do.

Overnight Mubarak suddenly resigned and fled to his vacation home in the Red Sea with his family.

Rumours are he was given an ultimatum by the military. Yes, it was sort of a military coup against the dictator.

Take note.

Commodore, please remember this quote by the former US attorney general Robert Francis Kennedy:
"Each time a man stands for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

Just like Tunisia and Egypt, the people of Fiji too will stand up and fight.

The time may not be right at the moment, but it will happen one day.

Then you, like Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak, will go down in history as a dictator who was booted out by the people.

Take note.

I only pray that you do right by the people  and give Fiji the democratic civilian government it deserves, free of soldiers, before it is too late.

Yours sincerely,
M (since I certainly will probably be beaten up for this letter, you will only know me as M)

In the ongoing debate about where to for Fiji, Coupfourpointfive asks:

1. Are there similarities between Fiji and the Middle Eastern countries (Tunisia, Yemen and Egypt) that have rallied against dictatorships in recent weeks?

2. What are those similarities and can the people of Fiji benefit from the experience of Egypt?

Dictator Mubarak bows to the will of the people

CELEBRATIONS: Jubiliant Egyptians in Tahrir Square. Reuters pic

"We have brought down the regime,  we have brought down the regime! We held our ground ... we did it."

When it finally came, the end was swift. After 18 days of mass protest, it took just over 30 seconds for Egypt's vice-president, Omar Suleiman, to announce that President Hosni Mubarak was standing down and handing power to the military.

"In the name of Allah the most gracious the most merciful," Suleiman read. "My fellow citizens, in the difficult circumstances our country is experiencing, President Muhammad Hosni Mubarak has decided to give up the office of the president of the republic and instructed the supreme council of the armed forces to manage the affairs of the country. May God guide our steps."

Moments later a deafening roar swept central Cairo and protesters fell to their knees and prayed, wept and let loose victory chants. Hundreds of thousands of people packed in to Tahrir Square, the centre of the demonstrations, waved flags, held up hastily written signs declaring victory and embraced soldiers.

"We have brought down the regime, we have brought down the regime," chanted the crowd.

Among those in the square was Mohammed Abdul Ghedi, a lifeguard in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, where the former president and his family flew on Friday. Abdul Ghedi held up a sign in English that said: "Mubarak you are nothing, you are heartless, without mind, just youkel, worthless, fuck off."

Mubarak the liar
"This is my first day here and he is gone. Mubarak is a liar. When he promised to leave in three or six months we don't believe him. We only believe him when he is gone," he said. "Now Egyptians are free. All of Egypt is liberated. Now we will choose our leaders and if we don't like them, they will go."

Another protester with tears in his eyes, Karim Medhat Ennarah, said: "For 18 days we have withstood teargas, rubber bullets, live ammunition, Molotov cocktails, thugs on horseback, the scepticism and fear of our loved ones, and the worst sort of ambivalence from an international community that claims to care about democracy. But we held our ground. We did it."

There were similar celebrations across the country, from Alexandria to Suez, among protesters who were often too young to have known any other leader than Mubarak.

Implications of military rule
But the demonstrators were giving little immediate thought to what military rule will mean, and there were few indications from the army as to if and when it intends to meet other demands – including the dissolving of a discredited parliament elected in tainted elections, the lifting of the oppressive 30-year state of emergency, and the installation of a civilian-dominated interim administration.

For now, Egypt will be governed by a military council led by the defence minister, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who is not a known reformer. But some of the protest organisers said that the dramatic success of the street demonstrations meant that any future administration would be held to account.

Mohammed ElBaradei, who on Thursday called for a military takeover, described the change as the liberation of the Egyptian people.

"We have a lot of daunting tasks ahead of us. Our priority to make sure the country is restored; socially cohesive, economically vibrant, politically democratic," he said. "My message to the Egyptian people is you have gained your liberty, the right to catch up with the rest of the world. Make the best use of it."

Push for stable administration
In the US the Obama administration had schemed to try to keep Mubarak in power until a stable transitional administration was in place. In recent days, however, the Egyptian regime's failure to make any substantial reforms and defiance of American pressure had become a deepening problem for Washington.

The US defence secretary, Robert Gates, has been in regular contact with Tantawi and spoke to him just hours before the military takeover.

In Britain, David Cameron called on the new Egyptian administration to ensure a move to civilian and democratic rule. The EU foreign policy chief, Lady Ashton, welcomed Mubarak's resignation. "It is important now that the dialogue is accelerated leading to a broad-based government which will respect the aspirations of, and deliver stability for, the Egyptian people," she said.

Switzerland immediately froze the assets of the former president.

Last ditch play for power
Mubarak's resignation came after a turbulent 24 hours in which a televised address to the nation that was intended to defuse the crisis only further infuriated the protesters and prompted the largest demonstrations to date.

On Thursday evening, after a day in which members of the president's party and cabinet said they expected him to resign, Mubarak (pictured top right) announced that he was handing his powers to Suleiman. That in effect left Mubarak as president in name only, a move he appears to have believed would be enough to satisfy the protesters' demands for his resignation.

But on the streets of Cairo the announcement was interpreted as the regime's leaders shuffling authority among themselves. Instead of easing the crisis, Mubarak's statement deepened it.

The army appears to have expected more from him, possibly including his complete resignation or the transfer of powers to the military, not Suleiman. Clearly alarmed at the popular reaction it sought to reassure the protesters on Friday morning with a declaration that the promise of free elections would be fulfilled.

But that too failed to ease the demonstrations as many in the opposition saw the statement as backing the status quo, although it could also be read as offering an assurance to Egyptians that the military was prepared to ensure Mubarak stood by his commitments.
As the protests built up during the day, a determined crowd marched on the state television building, a target of particular ire because of its stream of propaganda and false accusations against the protesters.

The station all but went off air as it had to cancel live programmes because it could not get guests into the building. Several hours later it was conducting interviews again – with protesters and victims of the regime.

The protesters fanned out to other parts of the city and began a march on Mubarak's presidential palace. Meanwhile the military's supreme council held an emergency session to decide how to clearly confront the crisis and concluded that Mubarak had to go once and for all.

By lunchtime he was on a plane with his family to Sharm el-Sheikh, where he also has a palace which he periodically lends to Tony Blair.

A few hours later came the announcement that had Egypt celebrating in to the night. (The Guardian newspaper)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Egypt's dictator makes another power play

Egypt's beleaguered president today failed to step down as people were told he would do but demonstrators say they'll escalate the protests.

Hosni Mubarak was expected to use his state of the nation address to resign this morning, but instead said he will stay in office and transfer all power only after September's presidential election. 

The army had earlier told anti-government demonstrators Mubarak was resigning. 

The president of the United States had also indicated America had managed to persuade Mubarak to go.

More marches are expected tomorrow and are set to escalate. It's the 17th day of protest with demonstrators pledging 'revolution til we die.'

Observers say Mubarak is in his last days and knows the people want him out but is making a last play for power.

They say he is:

a) trying to appeal to the popular masses with his talk of sovereignty and love of the land and Egypt
b) trying to cosy up to the youth, who are driving the demonstrations
c) trying to turn the people on 'foreign dictators' ie America, who is urging him to stand down
d) making false promises about the September general elections
e) scaremongering about the economy collapsing because of the demonstrations
f) giving too little too late and his offers of sweeteners will not be enough.

Bainimarama buries FHL fraud investigation

More proof today of the illegal regime's prediliction for ignoring corrupt and fraudulent behaviour when it suits it.

Frank Bainimarama is quoted by FijiLive as saying the investigation at Fijian Holdings Ltd is over and that's where it ends.

FijiLive says Bainimarama confirmed to it the investigation has been done and that they 'have dealt with the culprits.'

Bainimarama is quoted as saying: “It’s done and let’s leave it at that,” refusing to say any more.

The FHL chair, Isoa Kaloumaira, and managing director Sereana Qoro 'resigned' last week after being busted for fraud.

But the irregularities went beyond them - the deputy chair, Brigadier General Aziz Mohammed, had resigned in January under the guise of 'personal reasons.'

Bainimarama's handling of the FHL fraud is typical modus operandi - bury all questionable and illegal behaviour and  relocate perpetrators to save face: Qoro and Kaloumaira have been allowed to 'resign' and Aziz has been brought in to where they can keep an eye on him until an 'appropriate' spot can be found for him.

Pictures: The culprits that Bainimarama says they've dealt with but who look as though they got away scot free: Mohammed Aziz (top), Aiyza Muza (second), Sereana Qoro (third) and Isoa Kaloumaira (right in bottom picture). 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Fiji workers shafted by new Wages Council

10 Wages Councils into One: Going Backwards. Or, how Bainimarama solves a problem of his own creation. By Professor Wadan Narsey

Fiji’s 10 Wages Councils have developed over 40 years of experience at trying to improve the wages of tens of thousands of workers who are not represented by unions, by annually adjusting minimum wages separately for each industry.

Since the 2006 coup, employers have managed to get these adjustments postponed, because the economy was not growing.  But now, supposedly to save taxpayers’ funds,  the Bainimarama Government has made a unilateral decision to merge all the 10 Wages Councils into one, which will set one national Minimum Wage.

Here’s yet another unilateral Military Government decision which is going to hurt the poorest workers of Fiji. 

There have been many such decrees and commands, as in price control (medicines and hardware) and education policy (school zoning, limits to fees, end of examinations).  Most measures appear sensible on the surface, but result in serious unintended negative consequences, which far outweigh any benefits.

Taito Waqa
The problem is that most of these Bainimarama measures try to treat symptoms, when the fundamental cause is the economic stagnation caused by the Military coup itself.

Some measures may be easily reversed when Fiji once more has an elected and accountable government in place.  But some policy changes, like those in education and Minimum Wages, may take the country years to recover.

Meanwhile, the current vicious media censorship stops any public discussion of these policy changes  being promulgated by an illegal Military Government and its arrogant functionaries, all experimenting with our people’s lives, without any accountability.

Bainimarama, Khaiyum, Bole and others, are now behaving like “normal” Ministers of Government, except that they are totally unaccountable and totally out of control.

The Origins of the 10 Wages Councils
Over the last forty years, Fiji slowly evolved towards setting different minimum wages for workers who are not protected by unions (some thirty thousand workers), in different industries, through 10 different Wages Councils. 

There is now one Chairman (Father Kevin Barr) who has been encouraged to make consistent decisions for each industry following the same methodology, supported by the Ministry of Labour Secretariat.

But, a few days ago, the Permanent Secretary of Labour, Taito Waqa, announced that all the 10 Wages Councils will be merged,  in order to save money, he claimed.

There will now be only one National Minimum Wage, which will supposedly take into account Fiji’s Gross Development Product and productivity of the workers, by some formula to be determined by economists, employers and other stakeholders.

Saving tax-payers’ money by having only one Wages Council Board and fewer meetings sounds so reasonable, don’t it?

But Taito Waqa totally ignores the historical and very sensible reason for the 10 different Wages Councils: which was to allow different minimum wages for different industries, given that they not all perform the same way in the Fiji economy at any point in time.

Some sectors can be doing very well (as the tourism industry is currently) and can afford moderate wage increases, while others can be under great pressures from international forces (such as the garments industry) and may not be able to afford even small wage increases (despite the increase in cost of living).

Having different Wages Councils has enabled different boards, drawn from expertise in the related industries, determine wage increases tailored for each industry.  Each Board has been able to take expert account of the health of the industry, the capacity of the employers to pay, the productivity of workers in that industry, the basic needs poverty line, and the changes to the cost of living.

Should any employers not be able to pay the increases ruled by the Wages Council, all they had to do was show their audited accounts to the Chairman of the Wages Council and obtain the appropriate concession.

But not a single employer has done that over the last two years.

No audited accounts but secret pressure
Instead, influential employers applied secret pressure on Bainimarama,  Khaiyum and Filipe Bole, to ensure that Wages Council Orders were postponed month after month.

And now they have succeeded in getting all the Wages Councils to be merged into one, with one minimum wage for the whole country.  We know what will be the likely results. 

To satisfy all the employers, the National Minimum Wage will be set at the lowest possible that can enable the worst paying industries, like the garments industry, to survive.

Of course, some struggling industries may be helped in the disastrous times that the economy is going through. But there will be some employers, whose industries are doing reasonably well (like tourism), who will now be able to get away with lower wage increases, and make larger profits.

The net result will be worsening standards of living the more than thirty thousand of workers, of whom more than 70% are earning below Fiji’s Basic Needs Poverty Line.

If the Military Government had been genuine about saving money, they could still have had one Wages Council, BUT still determine different minimum wages for all the different industries.  But, the real objective of the employers was to do away with the higher minimum wages being set for different industries.

Note that some tourist resorts who have been making good profits still lay off the allegedly “casual workers” who have been kept as “casual” despite years of employment.

Father Kevin Barr in tears
Why was Father Barr, the Chairman of the 10 Wages Councils, seen to be in tears on Fiji TV, while responding to this draconian decision by the Military Junta?  

Father Barr sadly related on TV that he had not even been consulted on the decision, despite his being the Chairman of all the 10 Wages Councils.

Hopefully, Father Barr now knows that Bainimarama, Khaiyum, and Bole, all care more about the views of employers than they do about the thousands of poorest families who depend on the Wages Councils to protect their standards of living, or the Charter principles that they hypocritically claim adherence to.

Barr and all the other “do-gooders” who joined the coup bandwagon in 2006 also need to rethink their support for the 2006 treasonous coup.

Because it was the 2006 coup which has resulted in employers pressurizing Bainimarama to remove the 10 Wages Councils.

Bainimarama’s coup and minimum wages
Had the economy been growing healthily, the employers federation would not have bothered to put any pressure on the Military Government, as many good employers pay better wages than that required by the Wages Councils.

But the Fiji economy has now stagnated for four years after Bainimarama’s coup, largely because investments (both foreign and local) have dried up, following Bainimarama’s military decrees seizing private company’s assets and military decrees stopping certain cases from being taken to court.

Without economic growth, incomes have not risen in nominal terms, and fallen seriously in real terms because of inflation,  worsened by the devaluation and increase in VAT this year (to counter falling Government revenues).

Many employers’ profits have been reduced and would be reduced further were they to pay the minimum wages ruled by Kevin Barr’s 10 Wages Councils Orders.

But instead of showing their audited books to the Wages Council Chairman to justify why they cannot pay the wage increases, they have simply taken advantage of the current slump to convince Bainimarama to throw away the 10 different Wages Councils altogether- effectively “throwing out the baby with the bathwater”.  As employers have done many times in the previous forty years (see my study for ECREA Just Wages in Fiji.).

Civil servants collaborating with coup
One sad result of this Military coup is that our civil servants are now all too ready to justify to the public what are essentially political decisions made by illegal Military Ministers.

Why did Taito Waqa (PS Labour) make the spurious claim that the Wages Councils were being merged in order to save tax-payers money?

This Military Government has wasted hundreds of millions of dollars of tax-payers’ money and continues to do so.  Merging the 10 Wages Councils may save a hundred thousand dollars, but effectively reduce the incomes of the poorest workers by millions of dollars (and increase the profits of employers by that amount).

As Barr has often stated, it has been employer pressure that drove Bainimarama’s decision on Wages Councils, not the saving  of a hundred thousand dollars for tax-payers.

The PSC Chairman, Jo Serulagilagi, should explain to Fiji tax-payers why civil servants like Taito Waqa are callously justifying political decisions by the Military Ministers. When will he tell civil servants to go to go on record and state that a particular decision is a political one by the Minister, and let the Minister take responsibility?

Similar charades are also going on at FNPF, with Aisake Taito (CEO) refusing to make public the recent studies that show the non-sustainability of the Fiji National Provident Fund.  Taito also continues his spurious claims in every Annual Report about FNPF’s adherence to transparency and accountability to FNPF members.

Now a “Normal” Government!
Keep reminding ourselves that this Military Government has totally departed from its original coup justification- establishing electoral fraud, weeding out corruption, ensuring an honest and accountable government, with no military person ever profiting from the coup.  We can see now that these claims are blatant lies.

Now it is “Government” business as usual. Except that unlike elected Ministers previously, Bainimarama, Khaiyum and Bole have multiple portfolios and apparently multiple salaries paid through a private company (not denied). 

The only facts being made public, usually by Khaiyum, is any fragment of data that can put a spin on Government performance, such as tourism arrivals, presumably also the result of Khaiyum’s leadership on tourism drives up North (does he not trust Tourism Fiji and Jo Tuamoto?).

Bainimarama and Khaiyum embark on a phenomenal number of costly international trips (all Business and First Class, of course) - far more than ever done by any previous legal Ministers - except that the Bainimarama Government is totally unaccountable for the costs, or the activities being engaged in, allegedly on tax-payers’ behalf.

Bainimarama and Khaiyum are enjoying themselves thoroughly, dishing out our tax-payers’ funds (for roads, bridges, water, housing, etc), buying and selling tax-payers’ assets, or borrowing hundreds of millions adding to our Public Debt- as all legitimate elected Government Ministers have done in Fiji for decades.

And this is now the fifth year of their manipulation of hundreds of millions of tax-payers’ money, without a single Auditor General’s Report being made public.

And now the Bainimarama/Khaiyum Military Government will convert the 10 Wages Councils into one, and set one Minimum Wage, hurting the tens of thousands of the poorest workers in Fiji.

Who gave Bainimarama, Khaiyum and Bole, the right to change Fiji’s Minimum Wages legislation? Themselves, of course, armed with the guns we tax-payers gave them, for our protection.

Democracy advocates focus on Bainimarama and Khaiyum as the coup leading lights.  But there are others whose critical support enables  the Bainimarama Government to continue destroying our country: the senior military officers, the former military commanders, the many powerful businessmen, the principals of the accounting, auditing, and legal firms who are making tons of money from this Military Government, and those citizens and residents who have accepted board positions and provide public legitimacy to this military government. Let us not forget them.

Our meek Fiji citizens can expect many more years of costly illegal manipulation of the Fiji economy and taxpayers’ funds, according to the personal agenda of Bainimarama and Khaiyum, and their business mates and other coup supporters.

Nabua for some, Brazil for another and Never Never for others

Happier times: Aziz and Rokomokoti
Fiji's law profession has taken another battering with the fiasco involving Renee Lal, Amani Bole and Jamnadas Associates but plenty more are heading into the job.

Twenty one law graduates were admitted to the bar on February the 4th, among them the former senator, Dr Atu Amberson Bain.

Doing the honours was the illegal Chief Justice, Anthony Gates, who urged the newbies to use their skills to help the community and to avoid controversies.

That speech is far too late for the likes of Ana Rokomokoti, the former Iron Lady of the Fiji Military who is trying to salvage her career by opening her own law firm in Nabua, Suva.

Rokomokoti was given the push at the end of last year by the illegal regime, losing her job first as the Chief Registrar of Fiji's tainted judiciary (she was replaced by a Sri Lankan expatriate) and then finally shuffled out of the army altogether.
One of her mates had been Pita Driti but the deposed  Land Force Commander was unable to save her, let alone himself. 

Close buddy Brigadier General Mohammed Aziz was once a protector, too, but he's also been brought to heel.

In fact, we hear thanks to having a finger (or is it gorging?) in several lucrative pies, Aziz is about to be sent to far away lands - Brazil where he'll be Fiji's new ambassador.

The appointment is being described as a 'face saving' exercise for the hierarchy.

Talking about departures, the former publisher of the Fiji Times, Dallas Winstead, seems to have a story to tell, though whether he coughs remains to be seen.

He's posted the following open letter on the blog, Café Pacific, and it makes for interesting reading, though some of what he says, and hints at, is known to us. Note the tone of disenchantment in his letter towards the end.

People keep telling me I’m getting the occasional mention on blogs (which I don’t read). Anyway, it would be a good idea to share with anyone who is interested why I left The Fiji Times.

1. Motibhai, the new local owners of the paper, could not organise insurance nor medical evacuation for me, a requirement of our contract.

2. This became an issue for both them and I and they agreed to pay out the remainder of the work permit, four or five weeks.

3. I am tremendously proud, in fact exhilarated, by what I achieved with the full-blooded co-operation of some 160 The Fiji Times employees, as they embraced the job of resuscitating the newspaper the government intended to close.

4. The newspaper published its editorial charter on October 9 in which we stated that we supported the Prime Minister’s dreams of One Nation One People. We made it clear we would not be kissing arses but nor would we be instinctively kicking them. Like every decent paper in the world, we have kept that promise.

5. The government continues to subsidise the opposition newspaper, the Fiji Sun, with about 3000 pages of advertising a year. In return it publishes verbatim, mostly, all government releases. It is a shameless, even dangerous, publication.

6. Depending on what happens in Fiji in the weeks ahead, I may, or may not, fill in the details of that journey other than to take this opportunity to thank those dozens of the business, academic, legal, diplomatic and public servicemen and women who shared frank and revealing conversations with me about the way Fiji works.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

State funeral details announced for Ratu Josefa

STATELY TIMES: Ratu Josefa as president with H.E. Milagros Ortiz Bosch, the vice-president of the Dominican Republic (year unknown).
Former Fiji President to lie in state at Government House from Monday

A delegation from the Vanua o Vuda visited His Excellency the President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau at Government House this morning to traditionally inform him of the passing of the late Turaga na Tui Vuda and former President Ratu Josefa Iloilovatu Uluivuda.

Later, at about 9am the delegation called upon the Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama at his residence.

The delegation, told both His Excellency the President and the Prime Minister that the late Turaga na Tui Vuda will be laid to rest next Thursday, February 17, 2011.

Following the meeting with the Vanua of Vuda yesterday afternoon, the Organising Committee for the State funeral met again this morning and confirmed the following:
  •  The body of the late Ratu Iloilo will leave the Suva Private Hospital at 10am next Monday, February 14 for Government House where he will lie in state in the State Room
  •   The late Turaga na Tui Vuda’s casket will travel through Waimanu Road, Mark Street, Thompson Street, link up to Victoria Parade and pass through Queen Elizabeth drive and up to Government House through the main gate
  • These roads will be closed to all traffic
  •  However, members of the public who may wish to observe their final respects are invited to stand along the sidewalks with respectful silence as the casket passes through on its way to Government House
  • The diplomatic corp. civil society organisations or groups can pay their final respects to the late Turaga na Tui Vuda while he lies in state
  • All traditional presentations of i-reguregu are encouraged to be made to the Vanua o Vuda at Viseisei
  •  Nevertheless, those that cannot make it to Vuda can also present their ireguregu at Government House while the former President lies in State
  •  Government will convey the body of the late Tui Vuda to the Vanua o Vuda on Tuesday, February 15
  •  The funeral cortege will depart Government House at 10am
  •  The procession will march along the main street of the city
  •  The march will extend through to the old Government Supplies building at Walu Bay before the chiefly hearse, escorted by the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, continues the final phase of the journey to Viseisei.
The late Tui Vuda will lie at his chiefly residence in Vunisei for two nights before he is laid to rest.

The funeral will be preceded by a Church Service at 10.00am. (ex Ministry of Information)

Footnote: The traditional itaukei practice of mat  presentation or reguregu will not be allowed at Government House while Ratu Josefa lies in State next Monday. They'll be restricted to Viseisei.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Fish hooks everywhere in the Renee Lal scam

It's looking quite messy behind the scenes of the  alleged $400,000 scam involving the Suva lawyer, Renee Lal, and former politician Ben Padarath.

Not only are some of the players looking questionable by the day (some of them can't even be verified by the normal channels so sketchy are their details) but they're related or connected to each other in some way.

The man accused of organising Lal's beating for an alleged $10,000 for example, Ben Naliva, is the brother-in-law of Losalini Seruitanoa, the personal secretary to Dilip Jamnadas - the senior partner in Jamnadas and Associates, the law firm that Renee Lal worked for.

Remember we said that Lal was locked out of her office by Jamnandas five days before her arrest and that Lal's husband had to retrieve her files?

Captain Naliva (who is possibly a major now) is from Rewa province and was Frank Bainimarama's main personal staff officer around the 2006 coup.

Naliva was rewarded in 2007 for his treasonous services with a posting as a United Nations observer in Sudan. On his return to Fiji, he resumed his role as henchman to master in crime, a job he remains in today. 

The connections at Jamnadas and Associates are also interesting - the former military lawyer husband of Renee Lal, Amani Bale, apparently does all of Jamnadas' tax returns.

We've also been told the FICAC spokesperson, Erica Lee, (remember the FICAC is supposed to be investigating this fraud) is the fiance of Dilip Jamandas' son, Karl.

No picture yet on Renee Lal but these ones are of Ben Naliva, in tow to Frank Bainimarama.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Bainimarama finally announces death of Ratu Josefa

BAINI: Paying tribute to Ratu Josefa - is it enough?

The illegal leader's announcement comes more than a day after Ratu Josefa died and describes the former president as a great son of Fiji and beacon of hope - is that the best he could say about the man who helped him get to where he is today?

Monday 7th February, 2011 4pm

Fellow citizens of Fiji.

It is with profound sadness that I announce the passing yesterday morning of our former President, Na Turaga Taukei Vunisei, Turaga na Tui Vuda, Ratu Josefa Iloilovatu Uluivuda.

My Cabinet and I and the Government of the Republic of Fiji extend our heartfelt sympathies to Adi Kavunono and family and the Vanua of Vuda on the loss of a great son of Fiji who served our nation with distinction.

Ratu Iloilo’s chiefly qualities and status endowed him with great wisdom and leadership attributes which ensured the stability and progress of our nation through one of its most trying times.  As President, he was our beacon of hope. 

This is Ratu Iloilo’s legacy, which places him amongst the ranks of our great statesmen. 

His strong Christian values guided his unwavering commitment to bringing unity to our nation and all its people.

In this regard, Ratu Iloilo promulgated the People’s Charter for Change, Peace and Progress. 

The Charter guides our way forward as a nation. Government is committed to continue its implementation as a tribute to Ratu Iloilo’s aspirations for a united Fiji.

Government will accord the late Tui Vuda a State funeral. 

A Committee has been set up to work with the Vanua of Vuda to prepare, finalise and implement funeral arrangements, details of which will be announced later.

As a mark of respect, national flags in all Government institutions will fly at half mast from now until after the internment.

My Government and I together with the people of our nation join Adi Kavunono, the family and the people of the Vanua of Vuda in mourning the passing of the late Tui Vuda.

Fijians, I-Taukei, Indians and Indo-Fijians: Name changes by military decree

By Professor Wadan Narsey

The Bainimarama Government has passed a Military Decree that all Fiji citizens must now be called “Fijians”, while indigenous Fijians would be called “I-Taukei”.

Anonymous bloggers raged that this was part of Aiyaz Khaiyum’s “sunset clause” strategy on the Fijian race.

An odd few, unaware of the statistical impact, rejoiced that Fiji citizens arriving in, or departing from Fiji, would not be required to declare their ethnicity.

But while a handful of elite educated Indo-Fijians may have welcomed this change, most “Indo-Fijians” could not care less.

More important, without widespread indigenous Fijian consultation and approval, this attempted name change will make little real difference to the social and political realities of Fiji, while it may make racial antagonisms worse.

I doubt if the Commodore asked his older brother for advice on the statistical implications of the name change, which will be a nightmare for statisticians and demographers, while wasting large amounts of tax-payers’ funds.

Fijian” and “I-taukei”

Bainimarama argues, as have many before him, that all Fiji citizens should feel that they belong to Fiji equally, without any ethnic discrimination; that the word “Fijian” is a western creation via Tongan mispronunciation of the word “Viti”; and that the term used by indigenous Fijians to describe themselves has always been “i-taukei”. Of course, there is some truth in all this.

But many indigenous Fijians, especially those who articulate in the English language, feel that the word “Fijian” is now synonymous with the indigenous Fijian people, their language and culture, and its usage should be restricted to them alone. There is also some substance to this view. But will the name change threaten their culture? I doubt it.

Bainimarama did not ask Fijians if they wanted to be called I-Taukei in English.

Nor did he ask Indo-Fijians if they wanted to be called “Fijians”.

Indo-Fijian views?

Historically in Fiji, people of Indian origin have been called, and they also referred to themselves as “Indians”: look at any official statistics on Fiji, including the 2007 Fiji

Census, the Ministry of Health Reports, or the many statements by their political leaders (in English or Hindi).

The 1997 Constitution tried calling them “Fiji Indians”. But “Fiji Indians” who have resettled in Australia, NZ, Canada or US, know all too well how different they are from Indians from India, despite the common DNA, languages and religions; and how “Fijian” they are, in more ways than just supporting the kava industry.

Many Indo-Fijian academics now use the term “Indo-Fijian” to emphasize our Fiji roots (thoroughly confusing the average Fiji Indian).

But even that mild term “Indo-Fijian” used to be objected to before the 2006 coup, often more so by Fiji’s colonial Europeans and “Part-Europeans” who found it politically expedient in relegating Indo-Fijians to being perpetual “vulagi”- the well-known colonial “divide and rule” strategy (read The Fiji Times in the Len Usher era).

But, probably, most Indo-Fijians have no great desire to be called “Fijians” just as they would be reluctant to adopt indigenous Fijian customs, holus bolus.

Bainimarama should know that it is only a handful of educated elite Indo-Fijians who want to be called “Fijian”- and that only because of the racial discrimination they have faced in Fiji over the years.

Why elite Indo-Fijian support?

Fijian bloggers are bitterly critical of the handful of Indo-Fijians who have re-appeared in Fiji (many making money), supporting the Bainimarama coup, and the name change for all citizens to “Fijian”.

While their support of a treasonous coup cannot be justified, it is important to understand their bitterness at being racially marginalized in the land of their birth, for only then can one understand their strange continued blind support of this Military Regime, despite the massive damage it is doing to Fiji.

The case of John Samy, a high flying Permanent Secretary under Ratu Mara, driven out after the 1987 coup is well known, but there are many other similar persons.

Naz Shameem was not supported by the Fiji Government when she was an a very viable candidate for an international position; Parmesh Chand and Thakur Ranjit Singh (gone but still writing Down Under) were rejected for top Civil Service positions, despite being suitable candidates; Sada Reddy (gone) in the Reserve Bank had the frustration of seeing his junior moved to the Ministry of Finance, and then moved back above him as Governor; Rishi Ram (now out of sight) was summarily brought back from being Ambassador in Japan; Surendra Sharma (gone) was not supported by the Fiji Government for his bid for the Deputy Secretary General position at the ACP; and there were many Indo-Fijian executives in statutory organisations who were eliminated from top positions

following the rapid Fijianisation after the 1987 coups (some of course re-appeared in the sugar industry after the 2006 coup, only to depart again after making some money).

Many Indo-Fijian professionals faced invisible barriers at the tax-free CROP organizations such as SPC, Forum Secretariat and others, partly due to the inability of Fiji citizens to network as well as the Samoans and Tongans, but also partly due to the lack of support from successive Fiji Governments.

Even at USP (where most qualified Pacific Islanders don’t want to work, or leave soon after joining), Indo-Fijian academics in the nineteen seventies and eighties faced racist opposition from senior regional academics and expatriates (some of whom later became Fiji citizens).

Recently again, an experienced Indo-Fijian applicant for the Vice Chancellor’s position was denied, while an expatriate with serious financial question marks was appointed, with the support of the Fiji Government.

When that expatriate VC left under strange circumstances (never publicly revealed to the tax payers of the region) the Indo-Fijian candidate was appointed as Vice Chancellor, due to the strong support of the current Military Regime. I suspect that Fiji National University would also not have appointed an Indo-Fijian Vice Chancellor, had it not been for support by the Bainimarama Regime.

It is not surprising therefore that there are many elite and educated Indo-Fijians who support the Bainimarama coup, and his Military Decree calling all Fiji citizens “Fijians”.

But I strongly suspect that the average person of Indian origin in Fiji will still not call himself a “Fijian” while in Fiji.

Different abroad

Most Indo-Fijians, when in Fiji, understand “Fijian” to mean indigenous Fijians.

But abroad, all Fiji citizens are referred to and refer to themselves as “Fijian”, just like Vijay Singh and Colin Philp, who carry Fiji passports.

Those indigenous Fijians who feel that Bainimarama’s name change threatens the viability of Fijian culture, should stop worrying. Calling a rose a mokosoi changes neither the rose nor the mokosoi.

There will merely be a large wastage of tax-payers’ funds changing all Government department names, stationary, regulations, etc from “Fijian” to “I-taukei”.

But more seriously, this name change will cause great confusion in the area of official statistics, such as censuses, surveys, and national indicators, where ethnicity is an important variable to be distinguished for monitoring of development indicators.

Why are statisticians silent?

For many of Fiji’s official statistics and indicators (such as that required for MDGs), it is important to know accurately not just the total number of men, women and children there are in the country by age, but also by ethnicity.

There are significant ethnic differences in fertility rates, infant mortalities, life expectancies, food consumption patterns, school retention rates, business participation, etc. These must be monitored by ethnicity if we are to assess Fiji’s development progress in areas where ethnic groups lag behind.

For instance, to project population numbers between censuses, it is essential to know age specific fertility rates by ethnicity, as well as the net migration numbers by ethnic groups.

If births and deaths, or arrivals and departure cards, don’t record ethnicity, we cannot accurately know the base populations for any ethnic group, in any one inter-censal year.

Indo-Fijians have relatively higher emigration rates than indigenous Fijians, which differences are easily picked up from arrival and departure cards at the airports- if the ethnicity is recorded. Of course, there are ways around these problems, but the solutions will be expensive.

And then, there is the statistical nightmare for the whole world that for any statistics on Fiji published over the last century, the word “Fijian” before 2011 means indigenous Fijians, but from 2011 means all citizens (but perhaps not, depending on the producer of the data).

Note that the Bainimarama Regime has no clue what they are going to call the ever-shrinking numbers of “Indo-Fijians”, in all the forms etc where ethnicity will still need to be filled in- in education, health, household surveys, censuses, etc.

Or what they are going to call all the other minority groups who are also committed Fiji citizens- like the kailomas, Rotumans, Rabi Islanders, Solomoni, the few kaivalagis, or the increasing numbers of itinerant Chinese.

Why are scarce tax-payers’ money being wasted on all these unnecessary name changes which will only cause confusion?

Surely, to make all citizens feel they belong, all that is needed is an end to racial discrimination and racist rhetoric.

And, if any government wants to have national name changes, it needs to be done by widespread consultation and dialogue- currently totally denied by the media censorship.

Doing it through the barrel of the gun will not change people’s minds, even if the objectives are good.

As the Rugby Union lottery saga indicated, the Bainimarama Regime’s actions are making Fiji’s race relations worse, not better, except that the racial tensions are all hidden by the continuing senseless media censorship. But the exploding and under-reported crimes in the country may be indicative.

This short-sighted illegal Bainimarama regime should immediately remove the media censorship within Fiji and let all Fiji people discuss freely what names they would like to be called within Fiji, and what is the most sensible for us, keeping in mind all the requirements for development statistics and convenience for the users world-wide.

And, just like these and national name changes, also let Fiji people freely discuss the even more serious and far more debatable public policy changes that continue to be made by Military Decrees: secret pension “reforms”, secret disposal of FNPF assets, secret privatisation of public assets; secret government borrowings and government expenditure; arbitrary civil service appointments and sackings; arbitrary board appointments and sackings; ineffective orders and backflips on school zoning, silly limits to school fees, ineffectual price controls, and now, the senseless reversals of policy on the Wages Councils hurting the tens of thousands of badly paid, non-unionised workers (more on this soon).

All these draconian orders are clearly having unintended but very predictable negative consequences, while this Military Regime and its arrogant henchmen experiment with tax-payers’ funds, with no accountability, and total media censorship on dissenting views.

The list of their failed experiments is growing longer by the day.

While their cast of performers is shrinking by the day.

Soon they may be down to two stars, with a supporting actor or two from the private sector.

In the meantime, all Fiji watches with fascination, the scenes from Tunisia and Egypt.

Seems worlds apart, doesn’t it?