#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: 2011-07-17

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Latest to be taken in: Suva travel agent related by marriage to Roko Ului's cousin

The illegal regime is again going after people connected to Roko Ului Mara, who is currently in New Zealand trying to raise awareness about the deteriorating situation in Fiji.

Desmond Slatter, the owner of the Suva-based JAD travel agency, has now been taken in for questioning.

Slatter is married to a cousin of Tony Fulman (pictured above), a friend of Mara.

His crime? Mara's ticket from Australia to New Zealand was organised by JAD Travel and the ticket was bought by Fulman by credit card.

Slatter was picked up on Friday afternoon and is still in custody.

The lesson in learning? It is now illegal to conduct your normal business in Fiji if you are related to the wrong people.
Mara's wife and family members were interviewed several times after he fled Fiji for Tonga.

More unseen information from FTUC

FTUC has made available exculsively to Coupfourpointfive more details about the efforts of Fiji's illegal regime to rob trade unions of the right to represent workers. 

It has also responsed to a decree aimed at annihilating union activity and ultimately workers.

And Felix Anthony and Daniel Urai have reiterated their defence against regime claims about the handsome allowances they were getting when they were members of FNPF and other boards.

Maori Party co-leader promises to relay Fiji woes to NZ Govt

The Maori Party co-leader, Tariana Turia, says she will pass on to the New Zealand government information she has been given about Fiji's political woes by the former 3FIR army officer, Roko Ului Mara.

Roko Ului met with Turia yesterday in a bid to raise awareness of the deteriorating political crisis in Fiji.

In an interview with Te Karere, Turia said the changes and the major overhaul Fiji's illegal attorney general, Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, had carried out in Fiji was tantamount to the colonising of Maori by the British settlers.

Mara returns from Wellington to Auckland for a rally tonight at the Papatoetoe Town Hall at 5pm. Also speaking tonight are: Jone Baledrokadroka, Felix Anthony, Josai Rasiga with messages to be read from former deposed prime minister Laisenia Qarase and former PM and Fiji Labour Party leader, Mahendra Chaundhry.

View the interview with Tariana Turia and Roko Ului Mara

Friday, July 22, 2011

Brother of Fiji's dictator rejected by the United Kingdom as high commissioner

Bainimarama's brother doesn't pass muster as a diplomat

Reliable sources say Meli Bainimarama has been rejected by the United Kingdom as Fiji's High Commissioner designate.

REJECTED: Meli Bainimarama (top). Fiji HIgh Commission Office in Hyde Park, London.

Coupfourpointfive has been told that Fiji's Ministry of Foreign Affairs seems to be in disarray because he was asked to come in and start work, put on his contractual salary, but now that he has been rejected they don't know what to do with him.

And neither can they send him back home for fear of the illegal leader, Frank Bainimarama, going into a tailspin.

The joke among civil servants is that the orders to engage brother Meli immediately were issued by former army goon Sila Balawa, now Deputy Permanent Secretary while the more substantive Permanent Secretary, Solo Mara, was kept in the dark. 

Now that Balawa's attempt to masi polo has back-fired, the question up and down Victoria Parade and Albert Park is, who will get fired?

Many have meanwhile asked, so what does he do all day?
The regime's solution is to keep everyone on salary, after all what is another Bainimarama feeding off the taxpayers?

Readers will recall that only recently the Bainimarama clan, including all four of the children, went on the controversial taxpayer funded trip to Singapore. Included in the excursion was Frances and Ateca, who are in the United Kingdom married to British Army boys.

Insiders say the world cup netball entourage was made up of Frank and Mary Bainimarama, Rubyann, Litiana, Meli, Frances, Ateca and Bernie, and Litiana's husband Eremasi and that trip cost more than $40,000.

We wonder how much it is the costing the Fiji taxpayer to have Uncle Meli cool his heels while the regime tries to sort this mess out?

Fiji Transport Workers Union responds to Dave Pflieger's Media statements

This is in response to the various media articles whereby the Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer of Air Pacific has made unfounded and untrue claims on the several issues relating to their dealings with Transport Workers Union (TWU). Let me clear the air on many of these issues.

Airline offers way out (Fiji Times 16th July 2011)
We have many a times informed the employer of our commitment to help the airline in whatever way possible. We remain committed to a review of the existing collective agreements. There are three collective agreements that exist between the company and TWU. The parties have chosen to review the collective agreement affecting flight attendants as this is the more complex one of the three. The review process will convene on the other two collective agreements affecting the ground staff as soon as the collective agreement affecting flight attendants is completed.

In the Fiji times front page article Mr. Pflieger lied that the complete contract proposals were given to the Union some two months ago. The truth is that the company's complete proposals were given to TWU on Tuesday 19th July 2011 during a meeting held at the Air Pacific Training Centre at 3pm.

This meeting was attended by the company's Human Resource Consultant (an American), their staff attorney, TWU Vice-President and myself. The proposals that the company claims were given some two months ago were incomplete and those who have the slightest knowledge of negotiations would agree with me that negotiations cannot be held on piece meal basis based on incomplete proposals. If the company's claim that they have been trying to negotiate for five months is anything to go by then it has taken the company five months to give to TWU their complete proposals. So why blame us.

The company's proposal contains clauses clawing back on existing conditions of employment. It includes massive reductions and withdrawal of the many benefits contained in the existing collective agreement that our members currently work with and were negotiated over many years.

Some of these are:
• Removal of several definitions from the collective agreement and including them in their own manuals. This will enable the company to make changes as they wish without having to deal with the Union.
• Removal of overtime pay
• Removal of long service leave
• Reduction of annual leave entitlements • Reduction of sick leave entitlements
• Removal of cosmetics allowances )=. Removal of winter clothing allowances • Removal of the right of appeal and right of representation in disciplinary cases.
• Restrictions on right of entry at work places.

There are media reports that the winter and cosmetics allowances are outdated and should be replaced with profit share. The company flies to and expects the flight attendants to stay for a few days in places where there is winter with extremely cool temperatures. Because of extreme coolness in these places appropriate winter clothing protection are required. The company's own policy stipulates that flight attendants should appear to be in a presentable manner, be good looking and for which appropriate cosmetics are required to be worn. To replace these with profit share is ill conceived. Infact the profit share that the company has proposed will be approved by the Board of Directors. Neither the employees nor the Union will have any say in this. Where is the rationale.

The company proposal contains a clause on double occupancy for flight attendants at layover ports.

This is not found in any collective agreements in the world and has been proposed with no regard to family and social consequences. The company's proposal contains many clauses that will significantly reduce the role of the Unions. These can not be allowed as workers have rights, a right to belong to the Union and rights to collectively bargain.

The employer is saying for us to agree to their entire proposal and in return there will not be job losses. This is just irrationale and sounds more like a demand. Dictatorship has no place in civil society.

The company has also said that they are looking at substantial cost savings through the review process. Despite our repeated requests the amount of cost savings is not being provided to us. Why?

Recruitment of Expatriates
Again in the Fiji Times of 16th July 2011 page 22 Mr. Pflieger lies about the number of expatriates the company currently has. He claims there is only one. The truth is apart from that one expatriate, the several consultants and lawyers the company has an expatriate as Airport Manager Nadi who replaced a local, Manager E-Commerce, Chief Commercial Officer who has taken over from a local General Manager Sales and Marketing and an Executive General Manager Operations and Services.
He replaces another expatriate who replaced a local. So you can see there is more than one expatriate and they together with the consultants stay in up market accommodations at Denarau and drive around in posh vehicles. They all enjoy a posh life here.

The Voluntary Separation Programme
The company notified us that it was overstaffed. We suggested that the way to handle this was through natural attrition, freeze on recruitment and a voluntary separation programme. The voluntary separation programme was introduced and a good number of employees applied. While the company approved for these employees to leave are now in the process of recruiting replacements for most of the positions. We do not see the rationale in reducing employees on one hand and replacing them on the other. This has come at a cost. The company is yet to respond to our request on how many employees it wants to lay off and by which departments. Our information is that they do not have such a number.

We have advised the company that job losses affects people, their families, the community they live in and the country at large. It affects the fabrics of the Fijian society as how will they be able to provide for food, shelter, education, etc to our people. We just can't compare ourselves with countries like America. America has a huge job market and social security for the unemployed.

We have raised several concerns on the level of expenditure incurred by Mr. Pflieger himself, the expatriates and consultants. These can be avoided.

This Union has offered several ways in which there could be cost savings. We rejected the offer by the company to meet at hotel venues and insisted in meetings in the company's premises to save costs. We agreed to a 3 months 10% pay reduction in 2009. Similar offers have been rejected by the current management. In early 1980's workers gave away one week pay. Since August 2006 workers have not received any pay increases. Workers are prepared to make more sacrifices to help a company we claim as ours. We can not give away our terms, conditions of employment and benefits for good.

We ask for Dave Pflieger and Samisoni Pareti to come clean on issues and not hide behind lies. We further ask for good faith to prevail as we embark on rescuing our company. We are not interested in their personal lives.

Kamlesh Kumar General Secretary
21st July 2011

Roko Ului to meet with with tangata whenua

CONNECTIONS: Maori Party co-leaders Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples (right) with PM John Key. Below: King Tuheitia and Mara arriving in New Zealand. (Mara pic Pacific Scoop)
The democracy campaigning Roko Ului Mara will have more photo opportunities today and, more importantly, the chance to get the support of Maori.

Mara (now in his his third day in New Zealand) is due to meet the co-leader of the Maori Party, Tariana Turia, at Parliament this morning and later today the Maori King, Tuheitia.

The meetings with well-connected tangata whenua leaders were organised by the Wellington Fiji community in a bid to lift the controversial Mara's profile and to counter some of the negative publicity over his visit.

The planned meeting with the Maori King will help Mara but some Kingitanga supporters worry it will hurt the King movement, which has traditionally been apolitical.

Yesterday, Mara met Foreign Affairs officials and both they and the former army officer are refusing to detail their discussions, other than to acknowledge the obvious - the situation in Fiji is deteriorating. Chances are any of the sensitive information Mara had to share with the New Zealand government have already passed hands and that yesterday's meeting was a mere formality.

It has been hard to gauge the turnout for the Mara forums because of lack of information from organisers and conflicting reports although sources say there were about 40 people at the community forum in Wellington last night and that media were not allowed in. Not surprising. 

It's believed Mara had been cagey about the community forum and had even thought of pulling out altogether. Organisers had to persuade him to attend, especially as it had already been advertised.

Roko Ului's reception has been markedly different to that of coup leader, Sitiveni Rabuka, in 1991 when he was invited to Auckland by PINA. Rabuka was confronted by protesters who broke through a cordon of tight security while about 100 others burnt a copy of the republican constitution in front of police protecting him.

Newspapers also condemned PINA for inviting him with protesters carrying slogans reading "Rabuka butchered Fijian democracy", "Rabuka army thug", "Get out of New Zealand fascist Rabuka", "Down with apartheid in Fiji" and "Coup Klux Klan".

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Khaiyum continues to pump out the lies

Messages of support have come in from intel and police officers as the illegal regime continues to try to scare off unions in New Zealand Australia from taking action in support of Fiji workers and trade unionists who've been targeted by the military government.

Intel officers and people in the government security division are rightfully outraged at the current efforts and the barefaced lies of the illegal attorney general, Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, to derail the FTUC campaign for  Kiwi and Oz support.

They are particularly scathing of the puppeteer's call for trade unionist Felix Anthony, who was beaten by the army, to return and report the matter to Fiji police.

A source says recent history will show that from 2007, after the appointment of Esala Teleni as commissioner and now with Ioane Naivalurua, the Fiji Police's foremost task is to deny and protect all military illegal activities and to uphold the illegal decrees that gives army officers who beat up people under the PER, immunity.

Intel and government security workers say Fiji police cannot register any complaint against the beatings by the army and the PM's taskforce, and that Khaiyum well knows this. Yet, he continues to threaten union members saying they will be sacked, with intimidating army visiting their homes, terrorising their families.

A source told Coupfourpointfive: "As we have reported earlier, these people will be charged when they return home. The current legal action by Air Pacific in Australia to stop unions has ceded.

"We want to plead to the Australian unions not to bow down to legal pressure by an illegal enterprise. Go on and strike. We the people of Fiji will suffer if you walk away now and these union leaders might be never be able to return to Fiji or loose their lives back home, their families will be terrorised and raped by the illegal army.

"We plead with the Australia and New Zealand governments to silently support the unions in their country to support our cause. This illegal regime can only succeed in a legal democracy in your country where law and order exists - to fight evil, sometimes we have to overlook our sincerity.

"The strike, which can last just two weeks, will see this regime fall instantly and the new government will withdraw any charges against the Australian and New Zealand unions. How much more can we lose when Air Pacific is already making a 90 million loss, like it did last year? A few weeks break will instead see a savings!"

The illegal AG and MINFO have in the past two days tried to counter the FTUC and Australian Transport Workers Union campaign for planned strike action against Qantas and Air Pacific by revealing 'damaging' information about Felix Anthony, Danie Urai and Rajeshwar Singh.

Suddenly, the regime can access and make public the salaries and gratuities paid to the unionists while refusing to stump up its own pay slips for the exorbitant monies it's paying itself, not to mention the other excesses it is indulging in or the many kickbacks and backhanders the hierarchy are benefiting from.

Khaiyum has also continued with the lies to media that the current illegal government of Frank Bainimarama has not introduced measures that have harmed Fiji workers. Really?

The New Zealand Council of Trade Union seems to have been rattled by Air Pacific's threat of legal action but it's hoped the Australian unions can see through the propaganda and stand up to the threats and support the people of Fiji as they deserve to be supported.

Global unions condemn regime as regime owned station reveals unionists pay

The Fiji Trades Union Congress has today made public two letters sent to the illegal Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama from two global umbrella unions.

The letters, from the International Transport Workers Federation and the Council of Global Unions, condemn the deterioration of civil and trade union rights in Fiji. 

Both urge the regime to stop it's attack of trade unionists and workers rights in Fiji and ensure that Fiji's labour legislation is in full compliance with International Labour Conventions. 

One of the letter also details the ugly attack on trade unionist by military. Mohammed Khalil was stomped on and dragged around in full view of his colleagues by two soldiers who then made him write a letter of resignation from the Fiji Sugar and General Workers Union.

Read the Council of Global Unions Letter

Meanwhile, the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation has revealed that union leaders like Felix Anthony, Daniel Urai and James Raman, were paid over $100,000 in Director's Fees when they sat on the FNPF Board and its subsidiaries from 2007 to 2009.

FBC claims that according to audited documents by KPMG it has obtained, Anthony was paid $185,034, Daniel Urai was paid $156,287 and James Raman was paid $150,576.

Anthony sat on the board of FNPF and its subsidiaries Home Finance Ltd, Amalgamated Telecom Holdings, FNPF Investments Ltd, Natadola Bay Resort Ltd, Telecom Fiji Ltd, Yatule Beach Resort Ltd, and Vodafone Fiji Ltd – and was paid directors fees for all of these.

Urai sat on the FNPF Board, Home Finance Company, ATH, FNPF Investments Ltd, Natadola Bay Resorts Ltd, Grand Pacific Hotel Ltd, FNPF Hotel Resorts Ltd, Yatule Beach Resort Ltd, Vodafone Fiji Ltd, and Fiji Directories Ltd and received directors fees for all them.

And Singh received over $47,000 for being on the Home Finance Company Ltd board from 2007 to 2009.

Singh and Anthony hit back at claims Fiji's PSA want them out

The trade unionists who've been trying to get Australian and New Zealand unions to intervene in Fiji are standing their ground.

The illegal regime yesterday released a statement claiming FPSA members wanted the General Secretary of the Fiji Public Service Association, Rajeshwar Singh, to step down.
Singh has today told Fiji Village that if some FPSA members want him out then they should follow the procedures under the Association’s constitution to take that step.

MINFO spokesperson Sharon Smith Johns claims "some civil servants in Fiji’s largest trade union visited her and raised concern about Singh meeting with the Australian unions."

Smith Johns says FPSA members say Singh had no mandate to speak on behalf of them with the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Transport Workers Union.

Fijivillage says Singh has denied any knowledge of any sanctions and has also
agreed to driving a BMW X5 but says the purchase price is less than half the figure claimed and that members had approved the purchase of the car.

Singh's apparent $200,000 has also been revealed by the regime. 
The FTUC has also released the following statement: 


We, the Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC) are appalled by the statement issued by the Fiji Commerce & Employers Federation (FCEF) calling on FTUC to refrain from protecting the very existence of Trade Unions in Fiji.

We remind FCEF of the recent agreement between the Government, the FCEF AND FTUC on the Decent Work Country Programme wherein the parties agreed to the promotion and respect of the ILO Core Labour Conventions. Recent decrees namely the Administration of Justice Decrees 2009 and subsequent Amendment Decree and Decree Number 21 of 2011 blatantly violate the Core Conventions and attempt to decimate the Trade Unions in the Public Sector and Government owned entities.

We cannot have two sets of laws, one for the Public Sector and another for the Private Sector. We expect that when agreements are entered into, they are fully respected.

The FCEF should remind Government of their obligations and ask that Government respect their side of the deal instead of lecturing FTUC. The impact of any action by Unions is a direct result of the breach and violations of workers’ fundamental rights which the FCEF recognizes. We urge the FCEF not to attempt to play politics now and put the blame where it rightfully belongs.

We, the FTUC, condemn the direct interference of the Government in the affairs of our affiliate, the Fiji Public Service Association (FPSA) through the media release by the Ministry of Information and the comments of the Attorney General. Government has no business in the internal affairs of any Union.

We remind the Government that Officials of the affiliates of FTUC are elected and therefore have full legitimacy unlike this Government. Unions have a mandate to speak on behalf of the workers they represent and are governed by rules and a Constitution. If any member is aggrieved by any decision of the Union, the Constitution of the Unions provide for process to address these concerns. It does not require Government to try and intervene in the internal affairs of the unions.

The FTUC clearly sees such intervention by Government as an attempt to weaken the solidarity of Unions and their members and to politically weaken Unions. This will not work. The FTUC urges Government to respect the rights of workers and their Freedom of Association. Such actions are also in breach of ILO Core Conventions which the Government has ratified and is obligated to respect and promote. It is our sincere hope that Fiji is not judged as a rouge state in the ILO.

The FTUC is also concerned at the comments attributed to the Attorney General which appear to be petty in nature where personal attacks are being made on various elected leaders of the Unions. We remind the Attorney General that these Unions and their Leaders are legitimate and legal and that the Attorney General has no standing in questioning the actions or decisions of these Unions for obvious reasons.

We ask, what consultations and mandate the Attorney General has to produce Decrees and impose them on the citizens. If the Attorney General wants accountability from Unions, he needs to start with himself. Can he tell the Nation what he is costing the taxpayers and why the taxpayers who did not choose him to lead, should pay.


Air Pacific threatens NZ and Australian unions: statement

The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions has received a letter from lawyers acting for Air Pacific threatening damages if workers take any action in support of human rights for Fijian workers.

Peter Conway, CTU Secretary, said “it is hypocritical for Air Pacific to rely on employment law in New Zealand to try to prevent any support for restoration of fundamental employment law in Fiji.”

“This will also make people think twice before using an airline that won’t stand up for the most basic human rights.”

“The CTU has stated from the outset that any action is a decision of members and that we would consult with employers and the NZ Government before this took place.”

“This heavy-handed and threatening response from Air Pacific is unwarranted and is designed to intimidate New Zealand workers before they even have an opportunity to discuss the crisis in Fiji, including decrees removing worker rights and beatings of union officials”. 

The CTU is calling on Air Pacific to support the people of Fiji against the military Government and work with organisations in New Zealand to demand labour laws be restored.

Peter Conway said that the CTU will instruct it’s lawyer to respond to the Simpson Grierson letter.

Editor's Note: Dave Pflieger needs to be asked: Why is Air Pacific competing with budget carriers when it is not a budget carrier itself? Like Qantas did with Jetstar, perhaps it is time Air Pacific rebranded and becomes a budget carrier or turn Pacific Sun into a budget carrier by repainting one of it's 737 aircraft. Then we will be on a level playing field. Pflieger can then ask passengers to pay for meals, drinks and entertainment and no-one will complain. There has also been a lot of back tracking from Pflieger in recent times. No word on voluntary retirement packages. And his recent comment in the Fiji Times about "not having a girlfriend" is classic case of foot in the mouth. Why mention it at all unless his conscience is not clear.

NZ MP reflects on Mara visit

My conversation with Tevita Mara
by Keith Locke
This morning I had a good talk with Tevita Mara, the Fijian colonel who split from Bainimarama, about how to speed up the return to democracy to Fiji.

Tevita Mara supports stronger action against the regime. We agreed that one effective measure would be to stop Fijian troops participating in UN peacekeeping operations. These missions only put money into the army coffers, and enlarge the military beyond what is required in the island nation. Mr Mara also favours more effective sanctions on the regime.

He is trying to get Pacific leaders to work for change, particularly in the Pacific Island Forum. Hopefully his meetings with New Zealand officials this week advance this prospect.

He didn’t overrate his individual role, and said he had no political ambitions himself – which is not something you can always take as gospel.

There is something of a division in the pro-democracy movement in New Zealand around his visit. The Coalition for Democracy in Fiji doesn’t think he should have been given a temporary visa, and and now wants the New Zealand Police to investigate him under the Crimes of Torture Act. Mr Mara’s response to me was that he was willing to front up to the people of Fiji for whatever he has done in the past, when the time comes. 
To see the video of Roko Ului Mara's latest speech from the Sydney rally click on the following link:
 Part 2:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

End FNPF subsidy to Fiji governments: linking the many battles

By Professor Wadan Narsey  
Editor's Note: These are the personal views of Professor Wadan Narsey, not those of USP where he is employed as Professor of Economics, but is currently on leave in Japan

There are many battles going on over the FNPF pensions.

From The Fiji Times of July 15, it seems that the FNPF Board and management are pushing ahead with their plans to reduce the pension rates of current high income pensioners (Battle 1 by current FNPF pensioners through Burness/Shameem Law) and future pensioners (Battle 2 by FICTU etc).

Totally ignoring the sanctity of the legal contracts FNPF itself offered the retirees, they continue to focus on alleged unsustainable cross-subsidization of current pensioners by current contributors.

They refuse to call on Government statutory guarantees to finance any future shortfalls in revenue for FNPF pensions.

They also conveniently ignore that FNPF has been giving large subsidies (amounting to hundreds of millions over the last forty years) to successive Fiji governments through easily available loans, at interest rates much lower than that charged by commercial banks.

These huge subsidies by FNPF to successive Fiji governments represent a powerful moral justification for Fiji Government to fulfill their legal responsibilities to current pensioners, whatever is their pension rate.

Equally important for both Battle 1 and Battle 2, these interest rate subsidies to Government must now be ended by the FNPF Board and management.

For that to occur, both pensioners and current contributors need to fight Battle 3, which is to have an FNPF Board completely accountable to its members.

Finally, for real long term sustainability of FNPF pensions, all need to fight Battle 4, which is to have an elected and accountable government which respects the sanctity of all legal contracts, and constitutional law and order if there is to a restoration of investor confidence and economic growth, which is the ultimate guarantee for FNPF sustainability.

But Battle 4 requires a “Road to Damascus” enlightenment for many coup supporters, including some current litigants against FNPF, to recognize that all these battles are inherently linked: justice for one group requires justice for all.

FNPF battles linked to FNPF subsidy for Government
There are several battles going on, over the FNPF crisis, seemingly separate but inherently linked.

FNPF members should note that every Fiji government has wanted to borrow for their budgets (for capital or recurrent expenditure, or to pay for their scams), whenever they wanted to, whatever funds were available at FNPF, and at interest rates significantly lower than that charged by the commercial banks, locally and abroad. No commercial bank can ever match this cash cow.

Every government has therefore maintained total control over the FNPF Board (the main borrower controlling the bank), which could not be allowed to be accountable to the FNPF members.

Fiji governments have also used the Reserve Bank of Fiji to force FNPF to bring back its interest earning overseas investments, which FNPF is then forced to lend to the Fiji Government at low interest rates, or leave the funds idle, earning no interest.

The difference between the average weighted interest rates charged by FNPF to government, and the average weighted commercial bank lending rates has usually been more than 1 percentage point, and often more than 2 percentage points.

Ask the FNPF Board and Management for this information (but don’t hold your breath waiting for an answer).

With more than 2 billions lent to Government, the subsidy from FNPF to Government annually amounts to more than $20 millions for every 1 percent difference in the interest rates between FNPF and the commercial banks.

Roughly, over the last forty years, this subsidy from FNPF to Government may have amounted to as much as $800 millions in today’s currency (give or take a few millions).

Government therefore not only has a legal obligation under the FNPF Act to cover any shortfalls for payment to existing pensioners, but it also has a moral obligation because it has enjoyed these massive subsidies in the past, and continues to enjoy now!

Common Solution to Battles 1 and 2:

If the FNPF Board were to end the ongoing subsidy to the Fiji Government and charge the same interest rates as charged by the commercial banks, this will immediately improve the revenues for FNPF, and enable the FNPF to

(a) maintain the payments to current pensioners and
(b) enable the FNPF to continue to pay the current 15% (or somewhere near it) to future pensioners, not the paltry 9% they are offering by military decree.
(c) end the huge distortion of Fiji’s financial markets, and also removing the incentive for Fiij’s fiscal irresponsibility.

It is the fiduciary and ethical duty of the FNPF Board and management to increase the interest rates charged for loans to Government, towards the commercial banks rates.

Will the FNPF Board and Management do so? Not a hope (as the correspondence between the Chairman of the FNPF Board and the CEO of Credit Corp clearly shows.

Indeed, the FNPF Board and management, despite their clear fiduciary duty of “full disclosure” where FNPF members’ interests are adversely affected by any Board decision, continue their shameless refusal to disclose all the relevant reports to the FNPF Members.

The fact that these FNPF Board members won’t resign either, speaks volumes for their lack of ethics and moral fiber or “balls” as Ross McDonald suggested to the Chairman of FNPF Board.
The personal interests of the management and board members (and for some, the interests of their companies or employers) too obviously depend on pleasing the Military Regime.

Will the legal case succeed?
The legal case by some pensioners may be given favorable hearing by the judiciary for two interesting reasons.

First, there are many prominent persons in the Military Regime’s hierarchy (it is a long list- you can draw it up) who personally stand to lose a lot, if the existing pension rates are reduced.

Second, allowing the pensioners’ case to succeed, could be good propaganda for the Military Regime, to show the world it respects “law and the judiciary”.

But the planned pension rate reduction for future pensioners is still likely to go ahead, simply because this Military Regime desperately needs the cheap cash to keep financing their irresponsible deficits.
And of course, the FNPF Board and management (i.e. the Military Regime) may go ahead with the illegal reduction of the current high pensions.

FNPF pensioners may protest that this is a denial of natural justice.
But this Military Regime has denied its citizens natural justice on a whole raft of cases, from the day it did the military coup in 2006. So what’s new?

How ironic that some FNPF pensioners are now appealing to an illegal President to have a Commission of Inquiry into the FNPF, when none of them ever asked for an inquiry into the coups of 1987, 2000 and 2006, which have done far more damage to the ordinary people of this country.

Common Battle 3
The interests of both current pensioners and current contributors could be better served if they, as the legitimate owners, could control the FNPF Board.

Will it happen? Not under this current Military Regime.

Common Battle 4
It is abundantly clear that FNPF’s financial problems would have been much smaller, had the Fiji economy been growing solidly, with solid growth of employment and new contributors to the FNPF, and solid growth of incomes and dollar values of all contributions.

This requires the restoration of investor confidence that has been shattered by the military coup of 2006 and military decrees stopping litigants from taking their grievances to court.

How ironic that the lawyers and leading pensioners now appealing to the “rule of law” to protect their pensions, themselves supported the 2006 coup which broke the fundamental laws of the land.

One former High Court judge who is vociferously calling for good corporate governance, conveniently ignores the biggest corporate malpractice in front of her: the FNPF Board and management shamelessly ignoring the wishes of the owners of the FNPF while obeying the illegal Military Regime she helped establish.

One lawyer who is currently fighting the case challenging the legality of the FNPF’s planned slashing of pension rates by appealing to the sanctity of contracts, was the Human Rights Commissioner who passionately justified the 2006 military coup, despite all its hollowness, illegalities, breaking of contracts, and Military Decrees denying basic human rights and natural justice to thousands of Fiji citizens.

There are also many prominent pensioners, currently challenging the legality of FNPF’s actions, who supported the Bainimarama coup and the NCBBF’s Charter Charade (with its first article proclaiming the supremacy of the 1997 Constitution).

All these legal cases against FNPF would not have been necessary if these “good” people had not instigated and justified the 2006 military coup in the first place.

FNPF’s other links
Those fighting to protect their interests in the FNPF need to also understand the linkages to major economic disasters and decisions which have led to excessive government borrowing from FNPF:

(a) the need to cover the National Bank of Fiji disaster (catalyzed by the 19897 coup) and the SVT government’s creation of the disastrous ATH monopolies, with an excessive price paid by FNPF.

(b) the numerous vote buying scams by successive governments resulting in wasteful government expenditure;

(c) the massive budget blow-outs by the military following the 2000 and 2006 coups;

(d) the massive investment losses caused by FNPF board decisions, all kept secret by the Military Regime, the media censorship and the Public Emergency Decree.

(e) the utter waste of large loans by Military Regime appointees, such as at the FSC, while callously rejecting a $300 million EU subsidy for the sugar industry.

(f) the senseless borrowing of $500 millions internationally at 9% interest when IMF was willing to lend at 2%.

There are other misallocations we still do not know about because of the Military Regime’s refusal to release the Auditor General’s Reports.

These are all linked to the FNPF malaise.

If those who are currently litigating against the FNPF, only fight their own narrow battle while turning a blind eye to the other injustices around them, there is little hope for the hundreds of thousands of poor Fiji people, for whom no lawyers are going to bat (for fee, or for free- if that might help save tarnished reputations).

Is FNPF the Road to Damascus?
Reading the above, it is natural for us to feel bitter and get into the “blame game” over FNPF, but that is not going to help FNPF, or Fund members, and the future generations.

Note that the current FNPF crisis is probably the first clear national issue which brings together all of Fiji’s ethnic groups, religious groups, divisions, political parties, genders, age groups, and even the members of the police and military forces.

But our people need to understand that all these battles over FNPF are inherently linked to national ideals of good governance and accountability.

There cannot be legal justice for just one group, and not for others.
Now that every significant political and social group in Fiji have bent or broken the supreme laws of the land (in 1987, 2000 and 2006), we are long overdue for a national “Truth and Reconciliation” process.
That requires all our leaders to have the humility and courage to admit error (as some “movers and shakers” seem to be doing, I hear), and genuinely ask for forgiveness from each other.

FNPF may well provide these erring individuals the opportunity to have their “road to Damascus” enlightenment.

Not taking such an opportunity will mean that our leaders will collectively drive another nail into the national coffin, and it is a long time since Lazarus was raised from the dead.

Roko Ului in New Zealand to brave Fiji community

Roko Ului Mara has arrived in New Zealand and is due to give his first meeting today in Auckland but he's already facing difficulties.

The Auckland and Wellington meetings are being handled by different groups and the planning has had hiccups with conflicting information over basic things like the venue for the Auckland meeting with some people saying Pukekohe and others Papatoetoe.

The organising for the Auckland gatherings have been done by the newly formed Auckland chapter of the Australian Fiji Democracy and Freedom Movement which started out originally as Free Fiji Movement led by former SDL MP Rajesh Singh.

The only information on their website is a flyer promoting a "Free Fiji Rally" at 5pm on Saturday with Roko Ului as keynote and trade unionists Peter Conway and Labour Party MP Rajen Prasad. It also says messages from former deposed PM, Laisenia Qarase, and FLP leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, will be read out - by Rajesh Singh and Satish Chand.

The Wellington meetings are being organised by the Wellington Fiji Community and Wellington Fiji Democracy and Freedom Movement. It would be fair to say not everyone helping with the organising is totally supportive of Mara and are doing it because they've been asked to by the Australian FDFM and because they don't want to let the community down.

More worryingly, the longest running Fiji pro-democracy group last night revealed it has filed a police complaint against the former 3FIR Commander alleging he is guilty of torture and human rights violations and should be arrested.

The complaint by Nik Naidu's Fiji Coalition for Democracy group and the shambles in the planning reveals the divisions in the community over Mara. As previously stated, many people want a return to democracy for Fiji but many have been unable to embrace Mara publicly and buy into the dogma "thine enemy's enemy is my friend."

Despite reassuring people he is willing to be accountable, Mara's own past continues to distract, in spite of his popularity. It has not helped that he has surrounded himself with former politicians, largely considered by many people to be 'tainted.'

Roko Ului's own aunty, the Roko Tui Dreketi, Ro Teimumu Kepa, is currently in Auckland at the invite of a Wellington lawyer to meet tangata whenua and will not be attending any of Mara's meetings. Her people say she is relaxing, sightseeing and shopping and has not planned to participate in any of the Mara forums.

Khaiyum continues to defend 'record' of Bainimarama government from looming Australian union action

Editor's Note: Reports from the ground this morning say FTUC has been given a reprieve and is still operating. Fiji Employers Federation board members are believed to meeting now and we hope to bring you the latest information as we're updated. Meanwhile, the illegal attorney general, Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, is using Fiji media to push the line that the illegal Frank Bainimarama government has not implemented any draconian laws in the country that has violated workers rights.

This story from Fiji Village: Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said trade unionists like Felix Anthony and others have been making these claims in Australia to gather support for the Australian trade union sanctions against Fiji.

Sayed-Khaiyum is calling on the trade unions in Australia and New Zealand to properly assess what is happening in Fiji and not just listen to the trade unionists like Felix Anthony, Daniel Urai and Rajeshwar Singh.

Anthony, Urai and Singh have met with the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Transport Workers Union of Australia and reports have emerged that they have asked the Australian unions to impose trade union sanctions.

Sayed-Khaiyum said the trade unionists need to think of the nation as a whole when the proposed reforms are put on the table.

Anthony, Urai and Singh are still overseas.

Meanwhile, in response to recent comments by the Australian Transport Workers Union to boycott tourism and flights to Fiji, Tourism Fiji CEO Josefa Tuamoto said any industrial action that adversely impacts tourism in Fiji would be devastating to the country and all of its citizens, and not just tourism workers.

Tuamoto said tourism is responsible for employing some 45,000 full-time workers and the benefits derived from visitor arrivals go far beyond the workforce and affect the day to day living of each and every Fijian man, woman and child.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fiji's illegal regime shuts down FTUC over planned Aussie union industrial action

Ripples from the Australian union intervention in Fiji have already started. Several sources gave contacted Coupfourpointfive to say the illegal government have just shut down the FTUC.

The shutdown comes as a result of members of the Fiji Trades Union Congress being in Australia and New Zealand in the past week pushing for peer support.

Australia's Transport Workers Union has already pledged to support the Fiji cause and are believed to be giving Qantas until next Wednesday to support the call otherwise they will take strike action.

Illegal attorney general Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum today tried to turn the table on unionists Felix Anthony, Daniel Urai and Rajeshwar Singh by saying they are feeding lies to the Australian Unions and had earlier tried to make election deals with the current government.

A group of business people today approached Frank Bainimarama and Sayed Khaiyum over the FTUC closure to try and plead with them but the illegal administration wouldn't budge.

Roko Ului replies to Fiji Coalition: I am sorry Nik will not be part of the democracy talks

Roko Ului Mara issued the following statement to  Coupfourpointfive in response to the decision by the Fiji Coalition for Democracy decision to file a claim about the former 3FIR Commander with NZ Police.

I am surprised by this action by Nik. We had been having a very cordial email exchange about meeting in New Zealand. I will quote his last sentence from his last email to me.

“We would like to see all people and organisations with a positive interest in Fiji working together to find an acceptable solution for the future of Fiji.”

I am not sure what has changed with Nik but there have been questions in the past about Nik’s motivations. I think this clearly shows he is attempting to disrupt my trip in New Zealand. The question we have to ask ourselves is why is he trying to disrupt attempts to move Fiji back to democracy? Is it just to give himself some recognition and publicity or is there a more sinister motive behind this attempt to have me investigated by the NZ police. Is he doing this to help Bainimarama? I can’t answer those questions.

One thing we should also bear in mind is that allegedly Nik, along with Khaiyum the Illegal Attorney General, was one of the bomb makers in the 1987 coup. He once worked closely with the Khaiyum the puppet Master. Perhaps he is having his strings pulled and is dancing to his master’s tune once again.

I have got a packed trip to New Zealand; I am expecting to meet a large number of true democracy supporters in the next few days. I am sure we will have many constructive conversations and we will take some major steps towards bringing democracy back to Fiji. I am only sorry that Nik will not be part of those conversations. My aim is to unite all of the Pro Democracy movements and to work together towards our common goal of bringing democracy back to Fiji.

Violence and torture have taken place under the Bainimarama regime. As I have said before, I have not personally taken part in any form of physical abuse.

I am also fully expecting to answer to the people of Fiji when we have restored democracy to the people.

Ratu Tevita Mara

NZ democracy group files police complaint against Roko Ului Mara

The New Zealand based group, the Coalition for Democracy, has released the following statement

Coalition for Democracy in Fiji files a police complaint against Tevita Mara under the Crimes of Torture Act

The New Zealand based Coalition for Democracy in Fiji (CDF) today filed a criminal complaint with the NZ Police against former Lt Colonel Tevita Mara for his alleged role in the torture of hundreds of Fiji citizens.

The CDF is adamant that those like Tevita Mara who are accused of serious allegations of torture on Fiji civilians must be held to account in an independent, impartial and fair justice system.

The New Zealand justice system, under the NZ Crimes of Torture Act (1989), and the UN Convention against Torture, which NZ has ratified, provides for the arrest, investigation and prosecution of crimes against torture committed outside New Zealand by non New Zealand citizens.

The former Lt Colonel, who fled Fiji to Tonga on the 20th May after facing charges of sedition, was recently granted a five day New Zealand entry visa by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, despite strong opposition from pro-democracy and human rights groups in New Zealand and Fiji.

CDF spokesperson Nik Naidu said that they are aware that he is due to arrive in New Zealand, tonight, 19 July 2011.

“It is the legal duty of the of the NZ Police, under the Crimes of Torture Act to investigate Mr Mara as a matter of public interest, as New Zealand guards and safeguards its human rights protections and minimum standards against its neighbours’ flagrant actions against and assaults on human rights of its citizens,” said Mr Naidu.

CDF stated that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr Mara has allegedly committed an act of torture in Fiji, and therefore it is incumbent on the NZ Police to immediately launch an impartial and effective investigation in compliance with the obligations and duties under the Crimes of Torture Act 1989 and Crimes Act”.

Mr Naidu cautions “that the torture and human rights abuse by the military that is arbitrary and prevalent against defenceless Fiji civilians will only stop if governments such as NZ are prepared to honour their commitment and legal obligation under international and domestic human rights laws to prosecute those such as Tevita Mara for alleged crimes of torture”.

CDF states that the filing of the police complaint against Tevita Mara is based on several reasons:

*Regardless of the rank or position of the person (s). If they are alleged to have been involved directly or indirectly in the torture of Fijian civilians, they will be subject to the lodgment of criminal complaints under the relevant NZ laws, once they enter NZ jurisdiction.

 *After the first military coup in 1987, the military coup leader, Sitiveni Rabuka gave himself and his supporters immunity from prosecution. The same applied in the coup of 2000, and prior to the abrogation of the Fiji 1997 constitution in 2009, the former Fijian President passed a decree giving everyone involved in the coup blanket immunity. The military regime is in the process of drafting a new Constitution, which among its key provisions will give those involved in the coup and in the formation of the regime immunity from prosecution. This will irrevocably mean that those such as Tevita Mara and others like him accused of alleged torture will never be held to account in a court of law in Fiji, under the proposed new Constitution.

 It is imperative therefore that a strong message be sent to those in the military regime that in countries such as NZ that has existing laws that allow for the arrest and prosecution for crimes against Torture, there will be no immunity against such crimes, despite giving themselves immunity in Fiji.

Ultimately, the aim of this criminal complaint against former Lt Colonel Tevita Mara is to stop the use of torture by the military regime against Fiji civilians.

Mr Naidu says that on the domestic and international stage, New Zealand, despite its relative size, has a proud and pioneering history of advocating and defending human rights.

Therefore the NZ government in protecting its domestic and importantly international reputation as being a defender of human rights cannot allow political expediency to dictate how it treats the criminal complaint against Tevita Mara.

To allow those like Tevita Mara, allegedly accused of gross human rights abuse and  torture to enter and leave New Zealand with impunity will send a dangerous signal to that the NZ government provides a safe haven for those accused and involved in crimes of torture.

Additional Information
*Copy of formal Police letter of complaint against Tevita Mara
*Information Brief on Tevita Mara and Crimes of Torture Act
*Fiji Torture Victim Statement

Aust TWU intervention in Fiji expected to escalate with detainment of unionists

Planned industrial action by the Australian Transport Workers Union could fire in the next few days if union delegates are detained on their arrival in Fiji.

It's believed one of the three Fiji trade unionists who've been in Australia and New Zealand drumming up support for action against Qantas and Air Pacific, Daniel Urai (pictured), is returning in the next day or two.

He's expected to be be accompanied by an Australian delegate with sources saying the TWU is prepared for both to be detained, triggering strike action.

Inside sources revealed to Coupfourpointfive several days ago the illegal regime has in place a snatch and grab team to take Urai, Felix Anthony and Rajeshwar Singh into custody for breaching the PER.

It's believed the regime will try to charge the trio under the Crimes Decree 2009 for inciting to cause public disobedience under the PER, giving false information to the international media and other organizations in a bid to disrupt essential services, and aiding and abetting a fugitive wanted under the law of Fij. The latter refers to their presence at the Roko Ului Mara Sydney rally over the weekend.

Sources say the Australian TWU has given Qantas until Wednesday next week to agree to international work standards for afiiliate workers in Fiji and strike action will follow if they refuse. Strike action will also be taken if there are more human rights violations against Fiji union officials or workers. 

The Fiji Airline Pilots’ Association (FALPA) has meanwhile today released a statement expressing its concern and disappointment at the recent tactics employed by Air Pacific CEO, David Pflieger during its contractual negotiations.

FALPA President Richard Ali, speaking on behalf of the 80 union members, said “We are very disappointed that Mr Pflieger has approached the media to discuss his views on the on-going negotiations. 

"The negotiations are still a work in progress and airing a clearly one sided view in the media does nothing to help bring the two parties closer together. We are particularly concerned with the ‘scare tactic’ statements he has chosen to release to the media in an attempt to pressure our members into accepting a new contract which would see a major erosion of their working conditions with nothing offered in return.

"Dave has typically made selected and unsubstantiated comments about the comparison of working conditions with other airlines, intentionally trying to mislead the public as he has tried with Air Pacific employees. Air Pacific has not offered profit sharing in its proposal to FALPA; furthermore, pilots were excluded from taking voluntary redundancy as they were considered “critical to the needs of the airline”.

We are not entirely surprised that he would go outside the bounds of what is considered ‘good faith’ within the negotiations arena. It’s in keeping with his steam roller practices and negative attitude towards Air Pacific employees, many of whom are Fiji nationals with many years loyal service to our national airline including during difficult times.”

The Association also stated its disappointment at the on-going use of overseas consultants at the negotiating table. “We believe that more positive progress would be made if Air Pacific management would talk directly with the union representatives and not use third party consultants. At a time when the CEO is crying foul about Air Pacific finances, we’re astounded at the number of overseas consultants employed in the business right now. 

"Progress is also slowed by their lack of knowledge of Fijian labour laws and practices. We continue to be disappointed with their insistence on trying to ‘Americanise’ our contract and working conditions."