#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: 2011-08-21

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Unhappy officers: Bring back Teleni!

Corrupt codes in Fiji Police keep surfacing.

Sources say the manager CID major crime, SP Luke, was transferred to the Central Police Station (now Tatago Police Station) over missing $200,000 instead of being charged.

Sources say the cash was confiscated by a task force from CID last month, who had raided a prominent restaurant in Suva where five Chinese businessmen were arrested for gambling.

Insiders say instead of putting the money in the safe to be used as an exhibit to the crime, SP Luke took the money home for his personal use. The behaviour is apparently well-known and supported by ACP Henry Brown, who was to get a share.
The story is that when the report reached the Compol, Ioane Naivalurura, he got pissed because he wasn't briefed earlier. Sources close to him say he was also ticked off because he was not given a cut and that he and Brown saved SP Luke by tranferring him instead of charging him.

SP Luke was terminated in 2009 by former Police Commissioner, EsalaTeleni, when he was crime officer valelevu as under his leadership a crime suspect was beaten to death by his team.  He was brought back by Brown and team after Teleni resigned.
Critics say Naivalurua is meanwhile using budget money to travel Fiji and to Commissioners' forum in Vanuatu, almost every week.

The daily operations is being left to the deputy commissioner who sources say is looking to quit the force due to pressure and deteriorating working conditions. 

There is also confirmation from HRM that at least five police officers are resigning a month beause of the  conditions created by the current commissioner.   
Forty five per cent of police officers reported sick this week.
Other police officers are also actively looking at greener pastures and at grog bowl conversations last week, a senior officer was heard to say they miss Teleni; he at least gave them job security.
Police officers are also questioning the knowledge of this Compol as all police portfolios have reverted back to Divisional Police Commanders from Regional Police Commanders. 

Readers might recall that the Regional Police Commanders was set up by Teleni in line with the UN deployment setup – as a learning curve for all police officers who will get a chance to serve in UN – hence they will be familiar with the UN setup.  Insiders say this Compol has taken the force back to colonial times.

Editor's Note: Coming up more damaging pics from VRF.

Wikileaks Cables: Former US ambassador labels Bainimarama 'psychiatric patient'

Hughes, Dinger & Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi
The former US ambassador to Fiji, Larry Dinger, described the illegal dictator Frank Bainimarama as someone 'a psychiatrist would have a field day' with, in the latest secret US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks.

The cables, sent
from the US Embassy in Suva to Washington, was provided exclusively to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The leaks say violence and intimidation have been at the heart of Bainimarama's military rule.

The cables also confirm what Coupfourpointfive and other blogs have been saying: that beatings and intimidation have taken place with the knowledge of military commanders and included the direct participation of Bainimarama himself.

Here is part of the Sydney Morning Herald article
by Philip Dorling:

One US embassy report records witness testimony that Bainimarama joined in an assault on a senior public servant detained at the military's headquarters immediately after the coup. According to the embassy cables, he ''kicked [the man's] legs out from under him and beat him around the head, telling him: 'Don't f--- with the military.'''

Bainimarama publicly deplored violence by soldiers following his coup and said he would ensure that any excesses ceased.

In March 2007, he announced that the military would be responsive to public views on abuse of human rights and the army would ''do its utmost to ensure people can live normal lives''.

He declared Fiji's military does not ''condone violence or the use of force'' and that henceforth would only engage in ''manning checkpoints, community work and public relations''.

However, at the same time the US embassy reported to Washington that Bainimarama privately told European Union diplomats that if anyone insulted the army ''of course we must have them taken to the barracks and have them beaten up''.

The picture that emerges of Bainimarama from the US diplomatic reports is that of an erratic, sometimes violent leader, thin-skinned, often defensive and insecure, and prone to be ''wildly excessive'' in his reactions to criticism.

In one cable sent to Washington shortly before the coup, the US ambassador Larry Dinger observed that ''a psychiatrist would have a field day with Bainimarama''.

He was described as being ''surrounded by a compliant officer corps that is feeding the commander's sense of righteous grievance against the Qarase government … he does not care about international reaction, including the possible loss of aid money from Australia, the United States and New Zealand.''

In other US diplomatic reports Bainimarama's propensity for ''sabre-rattling'' and threats of violence, including against diplomats, caused the US embassy in Suva to ''wonder more than ever about the rationality of [the commodore's] judgment''.

The leaked cables contain numerous reports of human rights abuses following the military takeover, including the arbitrary detention of human rights activists, senior police and civil servants, trade unionists, lawyers, and journalists.

While some cases of detention and intimidation are well known, including the repeated detention of the editor of the Fiji Post, the US cables report many previously unreported cases of violence by the military, including beatings, torture and death threats ''with a pistol to the head''.

A prominent trade union official was ''abused and threatened with death'' while one senior police officer detained by the military at Queen Victoria Barracks described how he saw ''several ambulances depart the camp transporting people beaten by military interrogators''.

Other cases reported by the US embassy included deaths in military custody with one victim's body - ''marked by visible bruises'' - dumped by soldiers at a police station. In another case a police investigation into the death of a young man who had died of a brain haemorrhage following a beating was stymied when army officers denied access to five implicated soldiers.

In other reported cases a group of villagers, including a senior police officer, were ''subjected … to beatings over a three-hour period''; Hindu taxi drivers were assaulted and suffered humiliation directed at their religious beliefs; and Muslim youths were compelled by soldiers to wallow in a pigsty next to a military barracks.

The US embassy reports also document cases of rape and sexual assault by military personnel, including at least one instance of a group of detainees forced to engage in group sexual acts. In another case a prominent human rights activist was ''felt up'' by a senior military officer and was ''warned she would receive worse treatment unless she stopped her activities''.

Telephoned threats of rape have been regularly used by the military to intimidate political activists.

In discussing the interim Prime Minister's motivations, US diplomats highlighted underlying insecurity in Bainimarama's personality. The embassy reports quote a former senior Fijian military officer and close colleague of Bainimarama together with the then chief of the Fiji police, former Australian Federal Police officer Andrew Hughes, who was removed from office as part of the coup, as suggesting Bainimarama suffers from post-traumatic stress arising from the army mutiny of November 2000, when he was shot at and nearly killed by his own soldiers.

''Bainimarama had never been in a combat situation,'' the senior military source told US diplomats. ''Unlike senior army officers who had seen action in Lebanon and other hot spots, Bainimarama's only [peacekeeping] experience was with [the Multinational Force and Observers in the] Sinai during a peaceful period.

''Thus, when he was fired at in 2000, the experience had a significant psychological effect that Bainimarama still carries.''

However, the US embassy cables also document Bainimarama's considerable political abilities, especially his ability to exploit the weakness of Fiji's democratic institutions.

Although Fiji's elderly and ailing president Josefa Iloilo initially rejected Bainimarama's coup and called for respect for the rule of law, later he swore in Bainimarama as interim Prime Minister, thereby giving the regime what the US embassy described as a ''a patina of legality''.

However, the US embassy subsequently reported to Washington: ''We spoke with President Iloilo's personal physician … [who] said Iloilo is at this point so 'senile' that he will read out whatever is put in front of him … now Iloilo hears advice only from Bainimarama.''

Iloilo remained in office while his health and mental faculties continued to deteriorate until his resignation in July 2009. He died in February this year, aged 90.

Although the US embassy in Suva has reported that Bainimarama has been ''feeling the strain of governing a country that doesn't salute like an army'', the leaked cables leave little doubt about the military's determination to only relinquish power on their terms and to never allow their democratic opponents to regain power.

Bainimarama is reported as describing himself as ''the Ataturk of Fiji, the military man who has the vision to right the nation's wrongs and build a bright future''.

According to him Fiji's ''coup culture'' is ''far from over'' and ''hurried elections'' will not solve Fiji's unique political problems.

''The international community has been rather naive in pressuring Fiji to return to parliamentary democracy … without allowing the people of Fiji to comprehensively address the root causes of conflict and dissension,'' the US embassy quotes him as saying.

Click this to read the full article

Friday, August 26, 2011

Regime trying to gag Fiji media even more and specualtion over Pryde tenure

NEW DEADLINES: Used to be at least a couple of hours, not it's half an hour and they have to be sent beyond the newsroom goons.
In case there is doubt out there about the censorship of Fiji media, this was sent to media outlets this morning.
Dear Publishers

You are hereby requested to send in all news headlines to mediamonitor@info.gov.fj at least half an hour before it is aired.

This will enable us to effectively monitor the coverage for each day.

Your cooperation will be appreciated.


Kalpana Prasad and Qilioani Ravunibola
Media Monitor/Censor
Ministry of Information
Ph: 990 4956 and 990 8885

Obviously a ploy to control the media, especially radio (who some say had it easy) even more.

The new protocol comes as the dictatorship  tries to break the Methodist Church.

Not satisfied with cancelling the three-day conference, the regime has tried to sow the seeds of discontent between leaders by playing up 'divisions', despite them trying to keep them in perspective.

It fanned the 'reconcialiation' story and has fed info to the church that Indian members are acting as secret squirrels for the regime.

The stewards got the better of them, though, when they managed to 'meet' and endorse Ame Tugaue and Tuikilakila Waqaraitu. 

Bloggers following the Fiji media coverage (and that of some of the naive international news teams), will have been reading between the lines to get the real story.

GETTING HIS COAT: And returning to Fiji?
Talking about real stories, a  second headline  annoucement today: 

Dated today, it says the Fiji Court Judge, Justice Daniel Goundar has been appointed the acting chief justice from August 22 to September 14, 2011.

To be expected, the announcement was made by Frank Bainimarama's handler, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, who was quoted as saying "Chief Justice Anthony Gates is taking his annual leave."

Scpetics have already contacted Coupfourpointfive to say they have been told Gates has left permanently.  We can't verify that but as they say in the news business 'truth will out' eventually.

Editor's Note: It looks like MINFO censors backed off the new rules. We've been advised it sent the following email retracting AND apologising for the earlier email at about 4.55pm this evening.

Please ignore previous email regarding the emailing of all news  headlines to mediamonitor@info.gov.fj  half an hour before it is aired.  Any inconvenience caused is regretted.
Thanking you in advance,

Revolution group calling for bus and taxi drivers to stay off the road on Monday

The Viti Revolutionary Forces (VRF) is stepping up its campaign against the regime. It's now calling on bus and taxi operators in Fiji to stop work on Monday and join the movement in acts of civil disobedience as a protest against the rule of the unelected government.

VRF has dubbed next Monday (August the 29th), as "NO WORK, NO SERVICE DAY."

The group is timing the action for the court hearing of trade unionist, Daniel Urai of FTUC.

VRF has adopted a more aggressive tone and is warning its request will become demands if not met, saying it will carry out the necessary steps to make sure it achieves its goal.

"VRF has demonstrated their capabilities on the buses with a small operations (as pictured) and if they do not adhere to the kind request by the VRF, unfortunately and sadly, they will face the consequences.

"Same goes with the taxi operators, and ignorance of VRF request will be dealt severely.

"We do not intend to harm any civilian or their property. We do understand this is your bread and butter. But sacrifices have to be made and it has to be done NOW."

The Group says it will do everything it can to destabilise the regime and it needs the help of Fiji.

It is also calling on the unions and other political and non-political organisations to get their workers to declare Monday a "NO WORK, NO SERVICE DAY".

It says: "We are watching. Your co-operation will be greatly appreciated, otherwise will be dealt accordingly."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Methodist Church insider: steward's endorsement of leaders a moral victory

The illegal regime has banned the Methodist Church from having any meetings but an insider says all is not lost.

He says the bigger victory is that church stewards have today endorsed the current president and general secretary, Reverend Ame Tugaue (above) and Reverend Tuikilakila Waqairatu (right).

"That's the bombshell, the turning point this week. It's a victory, a moral victory for the church."

The regime has banned the Church from holding any monthly, quarterly, Standing Committee, financial and divisional meetings.

The ban follows its decision on Tuesday to cancel the church's annual conference because Tugaue and Waqairaitu would not step down and allow it to nominate someone else to run the conference.

An insider spoken to by Coupfourpointfive says the church stewards for the 57 divisions have levelled that now by endorsing Tugaue and Waiqairatu.

"Even if there is no church conference for ten years they will still be the president and general secretary. It's a victory, a moral victory."

He says members come together every day to fellowship and worship and would still be able to function without meeting formally.

"The Church has been persecuted throughout history and has survived. When the Church is under persecution it grows."

The group Viti Revolution Forces has meanwhile tonight released new pictures of what it says are attacks on the illegal PM and AG in the west.

Samoa's PM scotches suggestions 'corrupt Fiji regime' be allowed back into the Forum

PACIFIC ISLAND FORUM 2010: Fiji continues to be locked out because of the illegal regime.

By Tupuola Terry Tavita

Samoa's prime minister says the embattled coup-installed military regime in Fiji should not be a focus in next month’s leaders meeting in Auckland.

Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi was this week asked if there is any chance Fiji could join in powerful regional leaders gathering of the  Pacific Island Forum in Auckland next month.

“What for?" asked Tuilaepa. "The regime there is getting worse.”

How is this, he was asked. He replied: “Well, there are reports that Bainimarama is paying himself five different ministerial salaries from the five different ministerial portfolios he’s overseeing. That’s on top of his salary as Prime Minister. The Attorney General is reportedly also doing the same.

“And they are both being paid through an accounting firm owned by the AG’s aunt - from cash paid directly from the different ministries. That system ensures that no one else knows the totality of the fortnightly salaries of the PM and his AG.

"In our democratic system where transparency and accountability prevail, the prime minister or a minister can only draw one salary regardless of that minister’s many responsibilities. All the payments are in black and white.

"There are no grey areas. Elsewhere where good governance policies and best practices iare absent, dictators help themselves to public moneys and feel no urge to go back to democracy.

“He (Bainimarama) and his Attorney General are both into this little scam that’s costing Fijian taxpayers millions of dollars. They’re both looking after themselves. Why then should the Forum allow Fiji back in when the regime there is not demonstrating any genuine effort to return the county to democracy, to good governance principles - in all its forms and manifestations the Forum upholds?”

It has been reported that the University of the South Pacific’s Professor Wadan Narsey – who has presented critical but objective, views of the military regime - has been forced to resign from pressure exerted by the Fiji government, through Vice Chancellor Rajesh Chandra.

Tuilaepa says the reports are a cause for concern. “It is extremely worrying when politics starts to interfere with academic independence. You then start to question the standard of education at USP and the teaching environment there.

"Especially, as USP is collectively-owned by Forum countries and not just Fiji. The irony is that the pressure is coming from an uneducated military dictator who has never studied at a university.”

This week, trade unions in Fiji issued a joint statement asking media outlets in the country to publish and broadcast balanced news item, instead of the one way anti-union pro-regime propaganda that people in Fiji have been receiving.

Tuilaepa says the bias is not unexpected given the fact Fiji has not had an elected government since Laisenia Qarase was removed by Bainimarama in 2006.

“That’s the reality of military dictatorships. There is no freedom of expression, no media independence and any critical views are hushed up, silenced. It’s all shotgun news now in Fiji.”

The planned three-day Methodist annual conference which was supposed to start on Tuesday, has again been cancelled by the military regime with reports some senior church leaders have been pressured to step down from their positions.

Tuilaepa says the situation is a far cry from what has happened in other countries like the  Phillipines where people have fought for democracy: “If 200,000 Christian women marched for their freedom as the Filipino women did against their own dictator Ferdinand Marcos, the Christian soldiers of the Christian army will just fold their arms and let them through. They will not dare touch their Christian mothers, aunts, nieces, cousins and sisters.”

Preparing environmentally for the Namosi Copper Mine: is a desperate regime forging ahead without thought?

THE ROAD TO GOLD? Namosi Mine.

By independent economist Dr Wadan Narsey

Many wrong doings of this Military Regime can be reversed when an elected, accountable and transparent government returns to Fiji.  But a wrecked environment is not one of them.

It may not happen.  Or the rare event may happen at great cost, as Japan sadly found with the unexpectedly huge tsunami and resulting nuclear disasters.

Plans are under way for a mining company - Namosi Joint Venture (NJV) (made up of Newcrest (Fiji) Ltd, Mitsubishi Materials Corporation and Nittetsu Mining Co. Ltd.) to begin a mining venture based on “open cast mines” in Namosi, known to have large reserves of copper, but also gold.

The Military Regime has started “community consultations” which will allegedly feed into Terms of Reference (ToR) which will be given to the mining company to allegedly “guide what should be done as part of the EIA”. Why to the mining company?

How useful are these consultations for determining a Terms of Reference for an EIA? How independent will be the IEA?  How thorough will be the EIA?  How will the EIA be used? If the results of the EIA are negative enough, will that be end of the project? 

Or will this Regime go ahead anyway, with or without environment safeguards, because they are desperate for economic growth and increased government revenues to continue to finance their bloated military budget?

Soon this unelected, unaccountable, non-transparent, illegal Military Regime will be making critical decisions on the mining venture. Why are they?

If wrong decisions are made there may be immense risk posed to the Namosi environment, and the reefs and oceans into which the spill-off from the mine will inevitably flow. Also likely to be affected is the tourism industry on the south west coast of Viti Levu.

All indications are that environmentalists and concerned people face an uphill battle to preserve a valuable part of Fiji’s natural environment, for the future generations.

Why now? Copper and gold price bonanza
A Namosi copper mine has been talked about for more than thirty years.  Why this sudden burst of activity now?

This graph (from Infomine.com) explains it all: the price of copper having hovered around US 50 cents between 1997 and 2003, shot up to US$3.50 in 2006, fell to about $1.50 around 2008 and has been rising since then.

It is now above $4 per kg - or eight times higher than 15 years ago.  Even if it falls to half this level in the long term, this has the potential to be a very profitable mine.

There are also reasonable quantities of gold associated with the mineral deposits in Namosi, and gold prices have also had a miraculous rise.  From being below US$500 an ounce up till 2003, it has steadily shot up to more than US$1500 per ounce.

There is every indication that the rise in gold prices will not be reversed.  There is increasing political uncertainty in the world, the US dollar has declined as a reserve currency for the rest of the world, stock markets are increasingly fragile after the Global Financial Crisis, and there are other fascinating reasons such as the century old love of China and India for gold, boosted by their recent meteoric rise in global international power.  Not only has the Vatukoula Gold Mine became a bonanza, but the gold portion may be the icing on the cake for the Namosi Joint Venture copper mine.

In short, the dramatic rise in copper and gold prices have made the mineral resources in Namosi well worth investing in.

The huge investment required will be even more profitable if the mining companies do not have to spend too much to ensure environmental safety.

And a good EIA may require expensive safeguards which would reduce the profits of the mining companies

Good EIAs are immensely difficult
A good Environment Impact Assessment tries to examine all the impacts (environmental, economic, and social) that the mine will have, including the impacts on all the people, the current and future generations and all the natural species, known and unknown.

To do a good EIA even in a developed country is an incredibly difficult exercise full of fundamental disagreements between environmentalists and economists, between environmentalists themselves, and between economists themselves.

Developed countries usually have some understanding of what species there are in the particular environment, from birds to butterflies, to all kinds of species of plants and living organisms, which the average person has no idea of.

But they also have huge vacuums of knowledge and base data about species they know to exist, and knowledge nightmares about species they have yet to discover, but which they know are there, simply because of the past history of discovering new species in such areas.

The difficulties are even more immense in developed country coastal regions, reefs and oceans where there is an absolute dearth of scientific knowledge.

Nevertheless, fool-hardy economists (usually for a nice consultancy fee) take the little bits of knowledge that they do have about the environment they know, and use all kinds of debatable methods to put a monetary value on the likely environmental damage that the prospective mine may cause.

Many of these methods depend on putting market values on costs: such as the value of lost crops, timber, medicines, marine resources, etc. Or they hopefully ask “what would you pay to enjoy this environment benefit?”

Of course, the market value is high if those being asked are rich.  But most often, those being asked are too poor to even feed, clothe and educate themselves, as in Namosi.  What would they offer to pay for a clean environment?

Economists are also known for quite amorally concluding that for a project to go ahead it only has to have “net positive benefits”- ie benefits are higher than losses:  losers don’t have to be actually compensated to have a “an improvement in the economy”.  (Bad luck, losers!)

Of course, no EIA can ever estimate the value of the potential costs to future generations who cannot be asked anything at all.

Forget also about the good environment things that exist which scientists know they know next to nothing about.  And don’t even think about the potential loss of good things which scientists don’t even know the existence of,  but  can put a high probability on them existing!
EIAs in Fiji even more difficult
As with most developing countries in the world, Pacific countries like Fiji, PNG, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, have very little documented scientific knowledge of what exists in our land environments.

There is even less known about what exists in our marine environments, except that for drug companies the world over, the tropical marine resources (including Fiji) have been one of the last frontiers for exciting new drugs and medicines waiting to be discovered and patented.

Just down the Namosi coast is the Great Astrolabe Reef- one of the world’s largest barrier reefs, and one of the world’s best diving locations. It has an incredibly varied topography (including the shallow and deep), goodness knows what marine species, and considered to be ideal for declaration as a marine park and a World Heritage Site.

How many other reefs are there which are not current tourism locations, and which may be affected by the proposed Namosi copper mine?  Does the Tourism industry care enough to taken more than a token interest?

Who will do the Namosi EIA?
According to media reports, the EIA study would be conducted by international consultancy firm Golder and Associates, and the Institute of Applied Science from the University of the South Pacific.

The Institute of Applied Studies can be expected to do the best they can.  But they will be hampered by the lack of most basic information about what exists in that Namosi environment, and all the areas in the surrounding oceans likely to be affected by leaching chemicals.

Local consultations are not going to be much help or any surprise.  They will give a little information about crops, fisheries and bush medicine they are going to lose. (Villages will be busy planting new crops already to maximise their claims- as villagers have done everywhere in Fiji where roads have been built!) .

But local villagers will know very little about the potential biodiversity damage to the environment.  Despite all their good intentions and efforts, there is no way that USP’s Institute of Applied Studies,  will be able to conduct the thorough environmental studies that are needed.  Such studies would take years, not the six months or a year that the NJV is currently expecting.

The chosen company, Golder and Associates are known to do EIAs.  But their website also makes clear that they do far more than EIAs for the mining companies.
Golder’s advertised services include “Surface and underground mine design and production optimisation, including geology, geostatistics, block modelling, grade control, pit slope design and stope design, ground control, backfill design and ventilation; Hydrogeology, geochemistry and water management;  Design, planning and implementation of all types of tailings and waste rock management systems; thickened-tailings and paste-tailings deposition and plant design & construction; Preparation and implementation of closure plans that meet the needs of local stakeholders and regulatory agencies.”

Clearly, the EIA may be only the beginning of the money making for Golder and Associates, out of the Namosi Joint Venture project.

How will the EIA be used? 
An EIA can be used in any number of ways, which I simplify to three:

1.   The most genuine and thorough EIA is used to help in the actual decision-making.  If it is found that the costs may be so great as to totally outweigh all the other benefits to the country, the difficult decision may have to be made to not approve the mine.

2.  If the EIA finds that the benefits will far outweigh the likely costs, AND the costs can be minimised, AND “losers compensated”, then the mine may be approved PROVIDED that the mine puts in place the required safety mechanisms.

3.  The EIA may be done (whether well or poorly) and be used to just “rubber-stamp” the mine, regardless of whether safety mechanisms are put into place or not, or adequate independent policing mechanisms established.

The NJV Country Manager is reported to have said, the studies “will gather specific environmental and social data along with other information to identify potential impacts on the environment and provide options on how they could be managed”.

Has the Military Regime already agreed before the EIA has even been done, that the mine will go ahead, and the EIA will merely provide options on how damage “could be managed”?

You can decide at the end of this article, which is the likely  outcome in Fiji today.

What’s in it for the Military Regime?
The mining companies will be rubbing their hands with glee because they love unelected Military Regimes, unaccountable to the people.

They know that with the Fiji economy in the doldrums, with the sugar industry collapsing, with no major new investments on the horizon, the Military Regime is over a barrel, desperate to get the economy going.

The Regime will not particularly care for a proper thorough independent EIA which may delay the mine for a few years, and so they will not demand stringent environmental precautions.

The Military Regime may even be pressured to give generous tax breaks to get something going.

The current judiciary may be expected to reinforce the Military Regime’s decisions, and their Military Decrees which state that the Regime may not be challenged on anything. So forget about legal injunctions in Fiji.

International courts will also legitimize agreements made even with illegal regimes, as long as they have demonstrated full effective control, with no obvious challenge to their rule. Yes- that’s Fiji now.  Anonymous bloggers don’t count.

Having closely watched events in Fiji for the last five years, the mining companies will also know that they need to please just two key Military Regime persons - I forget their names- to ensure that their mining interests are safeguarded.

The collaborating local interests
The mining companies are well aware of successful strategies used internationally (and in Fiji) by which local interests are pacified and the support of key movers and shakers guaranteed.

The local villagers will be given their rolls of bank-notes to compensate them for their “lost” incomes from crops and environmental resources, and many may be given labouring jobs associated with the mines.

A few key chiefs and local leaders will be appointed in Public Relations or labour management roles.

There will be a few hundred thousand dollars spent on schools, health centers, water tanks, play-grounds, and sports teams.

The local business community (building materials suppliers, the banks, the insurance companies) will be rubbing their hands with glee as they face the prospect of some improvement in the economy, and their bank balances.  They and their families will not be retiring in Fiji’s environment.

Key civil servants (and the Military Regime leading lights) will be taken on “all expenses paid” tours (like the recent bond selling road show orchestrated by ANZ) of mining sites throughout out the world (not Ok Tedi, of course) where model mining techniques and safeguards may be “demonstrated”.

Multinational corporations know quite well that with hundreds of millions of dollars of profits at stake,  a few millions spent on social lubricants applied to these key persons, would be money well spent in ensuring their ready co-operation.  Fiji abounds with examples of eager politicians and top civil servants willing to engage “privately” with business corporations, international or local.

Expect no civil servant to stick their necks out for the Fiji environment against this ruthless Military Regime, especially as they can expect no protection from the pliant Public Service Commission, if their heads are chopped off.

If environment disaster hits?
Fiji environmentalists well know what has happened to the interests of the local people and the environment in major mining disasters overseas.

Probably the most useful for Fiji to learn from is the massive Ok Tedi Mine disaster in Papua New Guinea, also an “open cast” mine involving extraction of copper and gold.

There the “tailings dam”, which was supposed to hold all the poisonous wastes from the mining , collapsed, yet the mine was allowed by officials to continue, despite the known widespread damage to the environment.

The Ok Tedi Mine generated massive profits for the Ok Tedi Mining Limited (BHP Billiton), huge taxation revenues for the PNG Government and the Provincial Government, and the leading political parties and politicians.

Eventually some local communities managed to win large development funds as damages from the Ok Tedi Mining Limited.

Other losing groups are still litigating- but it is an uphill losing battle pitting the limited local resources (the Davids) against the massive (Goliath) multinational corporations able to hire large teams of lawyers, scientists and public relations companies.

If you think it won’t happen in Fiji, have a look at the excellent work of Dr Atu Emberson Bain which gives the ongoing Fiji example of what happens when local communities and workers came up against a large gold mining company.

Dr Bain has well documented in books, articles and video documentaries, the disastrous impacts on workers and the environment, caused by an irresponsible profit-focused mining company, supported by equally uncaring governments.

Those who care about the Namosi and Fiji environment will have to fight to ensure that a proper independent EIA is carried out; that the right decisions are made as to whether the mine should go ahead at all; that adequate environment safety precautions will be put in place and policed; and that the local economy and people and affected groups get their proper compensation.  

This is going to be an uphill battle made more difficult by the continuing media censorship.

The local Namosi communities cannot be expected to safeguard the national interest as their immediate financial and economic benefits are likely to be very large indeed, and will take many of them out of poverty.

But the Namosi and the surrounding environment does not belong to the current generation in Namosi or even the current generation in Fiji.

Remember  what Mahatma Gandi said (oft quoted by Greenpeace)

“The earth, the air, the land and the water are not an inheritance from our forefathers but on loan from our children. So we have to handover to them at least as it was handed over to us”.  

Environment NGO activists like Greenpeace, will need all the help that the public and our expert environmentalists can give (probably on the quiet).

The mining company (Namosi Joint Venture) will be making a huge investment, which still has inherent mining risks, but which promises massive bonuses (millions) to the executives, if large profits are made for the shareholders. 

As the Global Financial Crisis showed, morality and the interests of the general public (or the environment), just do not come into the picture when it comes to corporate decision-making with such large pay-offs. 

It is not a matter of labeling them “good” or “evil” corporate executives: that’s just how the corporate capitalist world operates.

But if the current Fiji people fail to protect the environment in such mining projects, they will have failed the future generations, whatever benefits may be enjoyed by the current generation.

Need for government accountability
Ultimately, Fiji people will have to realize that the struggle for the environment (like the struggle for the FNPF pensioners, or for workers and unions’ legitimate rights, or for religious groups to have their gatherings) is part of the bigger battle which will not go away:

            An unelected illegal Military Regime has absolutely no right to be making any decisions on the Namosi Copper Mine which will affect generations to come. They should leave all such decisions to elected governments.

Of course, elected governments have a poor environment record in Fiji as well.

For seventeen years, the Alliance Government was in the pockets of the Emperor Gold Mine, which was even accused of having a role in the 1987 coup which removed the Labour/NFP Government (which unwisely talked about nationalizing the Gold Mine); Rabuka’s SVT Government was sympathetic to the Gold Mine; as was the Qarase Government whose control of Senate resulted in the rejection of Dr Atu Bain’s 2003 motion for an independent inquiry into the Gold Mine.
Our friend, Kini Navuso, leader of the longest strike in history by the Vatukoula gold mine workers, died recently, nationally unappreciated, in life or in death, by successive governments.Our friend, Kini Navuso, leader of the longest strike in history by the Vatukoula gold mine workers, died recently, nationally unappreciated, in life or in death, by successive governments."

It is very important to build up good role models for our people. There aren't too many among the past politicians.  Or are there some who the establishment has always put neglected?

So elected Fiji governments are no guarantee that justice will be done to the environment or to the mine workers.

But at least they may be rejected at the next election, should their failures be bad enough to displease the voters. 

I doubt, however, if this Military Regime is going to be dismissed by votes, any time soon. The Fiji public may soon forget what a vote is. Just as they have forgotten what a free media means.