#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: 2011-09-04

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Shameem: Decree No 35 a serious erosion of human rights

The Essential National Industries (Employment) Decree: AG’s Media Statement on 10th September is a Mis-use of Human Rights Principles and Law

By Dr Shaista Shameem

Former UN Special Rapporteur and Human Rights Expert; former Director and Chairperson of the Fiji Human Rights Commission.

The enactment of the Essential National Industries (Employment) Decree No 35 of 2011 on 29th July is fundamentally inconsistent with the foundations of the Employment Relations Promulgation 2007 (ERP), and jettisons the comprehensive public consultations and consensus-building that the Employment Relations Bill involved. By so doing Decree No 35 also has the effect of expressing the State of Fiji’s disregard of the International Labour Organization’s Conventions 87 and 98 which it has ratified.

In making a public statement on 10th September 2011 that the Decree upholds fundamental rights of workers to form a union or not to form a union, and other rights contained in the International Labour Organization’s conventions, the Attorney General is mis-using human rights and using its rhetoric to justify, excuse and obfuscate the enormous in-roads that the Decree makes into the State’s human rights responsibilities nationally and obligations internationally.

The most important human rights principle is access to justice and the courts but section 30 of the Decree is intended to prevent a court from considering any application made to review it. If the Decree up-holds fundamental human rights principles, as the AG says, there was no need for section 30 of the Decree. The ultimate arbiter of a human rights challenge to any law is the Court whose jurisdiction is provided in Fiji’s Human Rights Commission Decree 2009 as being available to any person. So why not let the Court exercise its jurisdiction fully and allow people to challenge the Decree in the courts as a breach of the human rights obligations of the State?

Similarly, given the solid human rights provisions in the Employment Relations Promulgation which was drafted after extensive consultations with the people of Fiji, there was no need to enact Decree No 35 if the purpose is merely to uphold the human rights of workers of Fiji.

Decree No 35 represents a serious erosion of human rights previously enjoyed by the workers of Fiji as follows:

First, the human rights principles of ‘generality’, equality’ and ‘certainty’ required in law are violated. Decree No 35 is specific to certain industries deemed ‘essential’ at the discretion of the Minister. This violates the principle of ‘generality’ in legal drafting. Secondly, the Decree infringes the principle of ‘equality’. Some industries are isolated for special treatment without any justifiable reason - for example, why is the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation Ltd. included in the list -  is it not discriminatory to include one media agency and not others? 

Furthermore, is FBCL included under section 2 interpretation of ‘essential industry’ (a) or (b)? Thirdly, the principle of ‘certainty’ is violated because no one knows which other industries will be included- it is done at the whim of the Minister, leaving the workers of Fiji uncertain and insecure about whether their own industries will be targeted next.
These principles of ‘generality, equality and certainty’ are central to human rights international standards for law making. They are particularly pertinent in an environment where avenues for public consultations are limited or non-existent, particularly where media censorship prevails or where there is no parliamentary process in place for public discussion and debate of proposed law.

Secondly,  Decree No 35 establishes two main public policy objectives: (i) that the new Essential National Industries’ Collective Agreements resulting from negotiations, employer’s proposal, or by determination of the Minister (sections 21-24)  can override provisions set down for reaching a Collective Agreement pursuant to the Employment Relations Promulgation 2007; and (ii) that courts, tribunals, commissions or other adjudicating bodies do not have jurisdiction to entertain in any way any proceeding which purports to challenge or question the validity, legality or propriety of Decree No 35 (section 30).

Public policy objective (i) above effectively repeals the ERP 2007 as far as bargaining for Collective Agreements is concerned since it unilaterally imposes a process which is in opposition to the extensive ‘good faith’ foundations of the ERP. Public policy objective (ii), namely, the non-reviewability by the courts clauses, prevents a person’s access to justice. Access to the courts by the public is a common law right protected within the broader (international) right to be heard and to have a matter determined by an impartial and independent court or tribunal. This right is jettisoned in Decree No 35.

Thirdly, Decree No 35 suffers from lack of good form and style in drafting thereby making it difficult for people to understand why certain provisions are placed where they are in the Decree, therefore preventing effective human rights challenge due to utter confusion about what the Decree actually says. Rather than follow a logical sequence of subject matter the Decree’s particular topics are scattered all over. For example, clauses dealing with Collective Agreements appear in section 8 and then again, repetitively, towards the end in Part 4 Collective Bargaining Process. Similarly, section 30 (2) of the Decree seems to be in the wrong place; it should instead have been placed in that Part (Part 6) as subsection (3). In another example, section 29, giving delegated unmitigated ministerial power to the Solicitor General, and which can in any event be regarded as something of an usurpation of prerogative Cabinet power, seems to have been hastily and irrelevantly included in the middle of a Part that deals, not with powers, but with application and reviewability.

Fourthly, Decree No 35 totally conflicts with Fiji’s international obligations as well as domestic law which protect workers’ rights, specifically, freedom of association. Fiji’s obligations as a signatory and therefore as State Party to Conventions 87 and 98 of the International Labour Organization (ILO) seem to have been set aside. Fiji is a member of the United Nations and is committed to comply with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but Decree No 35 directly compromises its obligation to respect and protect human rights, and remedy human rights violations.

In relation to the obligation to remedy violations, Decree No 35 will have an effect on the remedies available pursuant to the Human Rights Commission Decree No 11 of 2009 which is another Decree of the Government. The breach of ILO obligations and contravention of the fundamental principles contained in the Preamble of ERP 2007 represents a face-off between Decree No 11 (Human Rights) and Decree No 35, both of which are products of the same Government. Under the circumstances, Courts can at least consider whether there could be merit in avoiding the seemingly set-in-stone non-reviewability clause in Decree No 35 to examine, as a matter of interpretation, whether Decree No 35 and Decree No 11 are incompatible and, if so, what this will mean for the survival of the only domestic law on human rights remaining in the country.

Click here to read the statement in full

Former senior officers reveal Bainimarama's treasonous plan was hatched in 2003

In the week that Frank Bainimarama was hailed by a controversial Lowy Institute poll as being supported by the majority of people and Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum introduced the widely unpopular Essential Industries Deceree, it has been revealed that Bainimarama was plotting as early as 2003 to remove Laisenia Qarase.

The revelation has been made by the former leader of the 3FIR, Roko Ului Mara, with information from former senior RFM officers, on his website from which the following story has come.

The following statements and documents from former Senior RFMF officers and the CEO for Home Affairs clearly shows the  murderer Bainimarama's premeditated intentions to commit the illegal and treasonous removal of the elected SDL Government for his personal benefit and gain.  

The murderer Bainimarama threatened PM Qarase to renew his contract as Commander RFMF or Government would be  removed. The murderer then ordered his senior RFMF officers to plan for the removal of the Government.  When the Senior officers, except Natuva, advised him against it, because his intentions were illegal and treasonous, Bainimarama had them all re-assigned or sent on leave. Effectively, these Senior Oficers were all booted out of the army for doing their jobs and standing up for the integrity of the RFMF.

See Fiji Times article dated 24 February 2004, titled - Military Advises Officers to Quit.


Col Alfred Tuatoko's  statement clearly outlines Bainimarama's orders on 16 December 2003 for the Senior RFMF officers to plan for the removal of the Government.  The murderer had threatened the SDL PM, Qarase, to renew Bainimarama's contract or his SDL Government would be removed. The Senior, and highly qualified, RFMF officers advised the murderer Bainimarama against removing the Government because his intentions were illegal and treasonous.  So Bainimarama had the Senior Officers removed.....

Read Col Tuatoko's statement
Tarakinikini with Speight
Col G Kadavulevu (05 January 2004) formally advised Bainimarama against removing the SDL Government, and says "There is no malice thought or meanness envisaged in this advice but rather the advice represents a professional, legal and moral stand that the RFMF has been supporting all along".  Bainimarama had Col Kadavulevu removed.....

On 12 January 2004, the CEO, Ministry of  Home Affairs, statement on Bainimarama's conduct clearly states that as the Commander RFMF,  Bainimarama was willing to personally lead the Fiji Military to town to finish what they had started....This is a clear abuse of office by Bainimarama and seditious.   

Lt Col SV Raduva advised (19 January 2004) the CEO, Ministry of Home Affairs about Bainimarama's threat to remove the SDL Goverment,....saying "it is the duty of every officer and solider of the RFMF, in accordance with RFMF Standing Orders Vol 1, Part XXI, para 21.4, to notice and report any negligence or impropriety of conduct on the part of officers and soliders"

Read Lt Col SV Raduva's report
These Senior Officers who stood their professional and moral ground and questioned the murderer Bainimarama's intentions and motives to remove the then Goverment of the day were all removed.

Read the Posting List

So where are these Senior qualified, professional and loyal officers today.  Where are Tarakinikini, Seruvakula, Baledrokadroka and Driti.  These were Senior Officers who stood by their oath of allegiance through the mayhem and confusion of 2000. They were in fact the Senior Officers who saved the country and the RFMF in the chaos of 2000.  Bainimarama did not save the country in 2000. 

So the question to Bainimarama is why did he have them removed after they gave him sound advice. My theory, and given the documentary evidence, is that the murderer Bainimarama wanted a clear and unhindered path to achieving his goal from, instigating the removal of the Labour Govt in 2000, and removing senior professional officers who stood in his way of achieving his mission and goal in life, which is to rule Fiji and to prevent the police from arresting him.  Bainimarama is ruling the the country now and his next step, is to become President of Fiji.

The coup of 2000 and 2006 was never about Politics or about Race.  It was solely for the benefit of Bainimarama and his lust for power and to save himself from being arrested.  Bainimarama used the RFMF to achieve his mission!

Please Note.....more revealing facts to follow:
from the RFMF Board of Inquiry that reveals the murderer Bainimarama's intimate knowledge and contribution to the 2000 coup
a  snapshot of Police investigations into his involvement, including the deaths of the CRW soliders and bainimarama's seditious and treasonous actions leading up to the 2006 coup. http://www.truthforfiji.com/

Friday, September 9, 2011

Khaiyum insists latest Fiji decree 'realistic and balanced'

SMUG OPERATORS: The bomb maker and his Tourism and Air Pacific buddies.

Khaiyum introduces new decree saying sugar industry could be included later if necessary
(Friday 9th September 2011, No:1739/AG) Regulations Name Labour Decree’s “Essential Industries”; Goal to Protect Jobs and Economy

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum today announced the implementation of the Bainimarama Government’s Essential National Industries & Designated Corporations Regulations 2011.   The Regulations declare essential national industries and corporations deemed vital to the economic well-being and security of Fiji.  The terms of the Essential National Industries (Employment) Decree 2011, gazetted in July, will now govern the labour laws of the declared enterprises, ensuring the viability and sustainability of these industries whilst protecting fundamental workers’ rights.  The regulations are scheduled to take effect immediately.

“The Decree and its Regulations set forth realistic and balanced requirements for both employers and labour representatives.  The purpose is to help create growth and long-term viability for companies essential to Fijians and, in doing so, protect jobs and ensure fundamental workers’ rights.  As other developed countries with similar labour laws governing essential industries have demonstrated, these are not mutually exclusive goals,” said Mr Sayed-Khaiyum.

The industry sectors included in the Regulations are limited to those deemed essential to Fiji; therefore, it is in the best interest of Fijians to prevent disruptions to their operations.  Those included are Fiji’s financial, telecommunications, civil aviation and public utilities industries.  With the exception of four foreign-owned banks, the Regulations do not apply to the private sector.  The Attorney-General confirmed that the list of industries covered by Decree will be kept under review and updated as necessary to take into account an objective of the Decree to ensure the viability and sustainability of essential industries.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum noted that the Regulations are deliberately limited in scope and do not pertain to industries such as the garment, mining, retail and other industries.  “Excluding these industries supports Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama’s commitment to improve the wages and working conditions for those workers who may find themselves on the margin of poverty and who are working toward a better life for themselves and their families,” he said.

“The Bainimarama Government takes providing for and protecting workers’ rights very seriously,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.  “So there is no misunderstanding or room for misinterpretation, it is important to emphasise that among the rights protected and extended to workers of industries provided for in the Decree include the right to organise and form unions, the right to vote in secret ballot elections, the right to strike, the right to collectively bargain and the duty of corporations and labour unions to renegotiate bargaining agreements in good faith; the right to a well-defined dispute resolution process; and the right to receive overtime pay.” 

“In support of the great strides Fijian workers have made in recent times, Fiji’s employment laws today provide our people with genuine protections and benefits.  These range from a guaranteed minimum wage to annual, maternity and sick leave to guaranteed holidays to strong and enforceable child labor protection laws.” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum noted.

In relation to this Mr Sayed-Khaiyum noted that the government is constructively engaging with organisations such as the International Labour Organisation.

“As Fijian’s prepare to take the necessary steps to vote in the country’s Parliamentary Elections in 2014, it is our intention that they continue to benefit from the fundamental guarantees to essential human rights and employment protections recognised by principled governments and labour and social organizations the world over.   We are working hard to ensure these rights and look forward to working with our declared industries and their labour representatives to promote them.

“On a related note, we are pleased to have announced this week that our plan to register Fiji’s some 660,000 eligible voters is on track.   A call for expressions of interest for the registration of voters through an electronic voter registration system was issued.  The plan calls for the effort to commence in January and conclude by the end of June next year,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum added.

Whilst issuing today’s announcement, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum stressed that the government recognises that the success of Fiji depends on the need to attract and retain businesses, create jobs and improve the economy.  “Good progress is being made, and there is still more work to be done.  We appreciate the support of the Fijian people as we move forward together,” he observed.

The Industries and Designated Corporations listed in the Essential National Industries & Designated Corporations Regulations 2011 are as follows:


1. FINANCIAL INDUSTRY   (i)Australia & New Zealand                                                    Banking Group
                                          (ii)Bank of Baroda
                                          (iii)Bank of South Pacific
                                          (iv)Westpac Banking Corporation
                                          (v)Fiji Revenue & Customs 


(i) Fiji International
   INDUSTRY                              Telecommunications Limited
                                               (ii) Telecom Fiji Limited
                                               (iii) Fiji Broadcasting                                                            
Corporation Limited

3.     CIVIL AVIATION               (i) Air Pacific Limited

4.     PUBLIC UTILITIES        
(i) Fiji Electricity Authority
        INDUSTRY                    (ii) Water Authority of Fiji
(Friday 9th September 2011, No:1742/AG) Essential National Industries & Designated Corporations Regulations 2011 Announcement

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1:     By definition, the sugar industry in Fiji must qualify as an “essential industry.”  Why has it not been named in the Regulations?

A1:      It is not to say the sugar industry, or any another industry meeting the criteria of the Decree, might be added at a later date.  The Regulation’s list of industries will be kept under review and updated as necessary to take into account a key objective of the Decree to ensure the viability and sustainability of essential industries.   Our sugar industry is currently devoting its full energies to the crushing season.  It would not be productive to possibly interrupt its efforts.

Q2:     Did the declared corporations have input in the Decree and did they lobby to be included in the Regulations?

A2:     Consistent with virtually every other government, we are lobbied for new laws or amendments to existing laws – that is to be expected; it is how the process works.  The government is keen to understand from the international and domestic business communities how it can support creating a climate that fosters economic growth and job creation.    As such, we constantly seek and evaluate input, as we did with the development of this Decree.   It is the responsible thing to do.

On the lobbying question:  Some designated corporations did lobby for inclusion and were so declared only because they met the Decree’s very narrow and well-defined set of national and economic interest criteria.   Others have lobbied to be included and have not been accepted.  (We will not be releasing the names of these enterprises.)

Q3:     Other industries likely will clamour to be included in the Decree.  Are concerns founded that the Government will progressively extend its scope?

A3:     No.  This is not the intention, and it would not be permitted by the Decree itself.  The Decree may only cover companies within industries that are vital to the Fiji economy, or in which the Government has a majority and essential interest.  It will not apply to the vast majority of employers in Fiji.

Q4:     Is it true, as some have alleged, that the Decree will be “extended to cover all unions in all sectors of Fiji’s economy”?

A4:     No.   The Regulations only pertain to those industries deemed vital to Fiji’s economic well-being.  With the exception of three banks included in the financial industry sector, the Regulations do not extend to the private sector.  Moreover, industries such as Fiji’s garment, mining and retail industries, for example, are deliberately not included.   This supports the Bainimarama Government’s commitment to improve the wages and working conditions for those finding themselves on the margin of poverty.

Q5:     Are concerns valid that the Decree effectively abolishes trade unions and bans professional trade unionists in Fiji?

A5:     Absolutely not.  The Decree does not abolish trade unions, but reaffirms their right to exist and to bargain on behalf of workers.  It provides for employees to organize and join a union, if that is what they want.  It establishes ground rules for ensuring that a majority of the relevant workers who want to be represented by a trade union may do so through secret ballot elections.  It also allows professional trade unionists, who may advise their members in negotiations with an employer.  But it allows employers in designated corporations the right to negotiate directly with their own employees rather than with an external third party.

Q6:     Does the Decree run counter to the Government’s People’s Charter, which commits to upholding a just and fair society and social justice?

A6:     The Decree is consistent with the People’s Charter by upholding fundamental rights and at the same time seeking to promote both economic and social justice in the interests of all the people of Fiji.  It upholds such fundamental workers’ rights as the right to organise and form a union, the right to a secret ballot election, the right to collectively bargain, the right to dispute resolution and the right to strike.

Q7:     Is there any foundation to the claim that the Decree bans overtime pay for workers in a 24/7 operation?

A7:     No, the Decree does not ban overtime.   The Decree unequivocally provides for payment of overtime, as mutually agreed to by the parties, for work performed on Saturdays, Sundays or public holidays.  This is the approach to overtime pay in many other countries.

Q8:     Does the Decree take away workers’ rights to collectively bargain through unions?  If so, doesn’t it blatantly violate ILO Conventions?

A8:     The Government does not agree that the Decree breaches ILO Conventions on freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining.  Fiji has ratified those Conventions and upholds them.  The Decree makes the exercise of those rights subject to certain conditions and restrictions, as does the law in virtually every other country.

The Decree plainly states that the principles of good faith as set out in Division 1 of Part 16 of the Employment Relations Promulgation 2007 shall apply to all negotiations and interactions between the employer and the registered representative under the Decree.

A requirement to bargain in good faith is common to many jurisdictions, and it is right that this is included in the Decree.  The principles of “good faith” are set out in detail in the Employment Relations Promulgation 2007, and the Decree applies them to negotiations between employers and worker representatives in designated corporations.  They include for example, timely meetings, consideration of and response to proposals by either party, provision of necessary information, and not undermining the other party.

Q9:     Does the Decree remove workers’ right to strike, as some have claimed?

A9:     No.  The Decree upholds the fundamental principle that workers may strike.  Just as many other countries do, it makes it subject to certain conditions, including providing employees with a vote in favour or against it.   Other countries ban strikes outright in certain essential industries, e.g. the US, UK, Germany and France.

Q10:   Are employers allowed to impose terms and conditions on workers?

A10:   A due process must be followed as set out in the Decree, involving good faith negotiations for at least 60 days in the case of a replacement agreement.  Only after that would an employer have the right to implement new terms and conditions.  Employees would have the right to appeal to the Minister for a review of the new terms.

Q11:  Does the Decree provide for a meaningful dispute resolution process?

A11:  The Decree requires employers and workers or their representatives to exert every reasonable effort to settle disputes, and requires employers to establish a dispute resolution process as part of any collective agreement.  Therefore, the Decree empowers the workers and employers to establish their own distinct rules and procedures for resolution of their specific employment disputes. Given that the process of resolution of disputes will be tailor-made by the workers and the employers themselves, this should facilitate amicable resolution of any employment disputes between the workers and employers. Any unresolved disputes involving an issue of over F$5m may be referred to the Minister for determination.

Q12:  Some have complained that the penalties provided for in the Decree are excessive.  Does the Government believe these concerns have merit?

A12:  The point of having stiff penalties is for them to act as an effective deterrent. Rightly there are significant penalties for individuals or organisations that ignore the provisions of the Decree and attempt to disrupt operations in an essential national industry.  The impact of such illegal action could be devastating to the companies concerned and could affect tens of thousands of Fijians. There needs to be an effective deterrent against actions for personal gain that could have such impact on others and on the Fijian economy.

Q13:  What is your response to the claim that the Government has wiped out decades of advances for its workers?

A13:   In support of the great strides Fijian workers have made in recent time, the Fijian Government’s labour and employment protection benefits are responsible, comprehensive and genuine.  The Fijian Government takes seriously the need to balance the well-being of Fiji’s economy and its ability to provide jobs with the intent to improve the quality of life for all Fijians and, importantly, to uphold justice and promote fundamental workers’ rights.  We do not believe these are mutually exclusive goals.  We continue to strive to ensure our body of employment and labour laws uphold our duty and commitment to the Fijian people.  Meanwhile, trade unions cannot be allowed to hold essential industries ransom by blocking changes to terms and conditions and taking damaging strike action with impunity.

Moreover, this claim is contradictory to the Fijian Government’s demonstrated commitment.  Fiji is a member of the ILO and ratified Convention 98 in April 1974 and Convention 87 in April 2002.

(Friday 9th September 2011, No:1740/AG) Essential National Industries & Designated Corporations Regulations 2011

FACT SHEET Scope of the Decree

The Decree is limited to essential national industries.  Only companies within industries that are vital to the Fiji economy, or in which the Government has a majority and essential interest, may be brought within scope of the Decree.  It will not apply to the vast majority of employers in Fiji.

It is incorrect to claim that the Decree will be “extended to cover all unions in all sectors of Fiji’s economy”.  This is not the intention, and it would not be permitted by the Decree itself.

Right to form and join a trade union 

The Decree upholds the fundamental right of workers in essential national industries to form and to join a trade union of their choice.   It is certainly not the case, as has been claimed, that the Decree “abolishes all existing trade unions in Fiji”.

In companies within essential national industries designated under the Decree, workers can still join a trade union, and have that union recognised for the purpose of collective bargaining if a majority of workers clearly want that.  Where that happens, the employer is obliged to recognize and negotiate in good faith with the union representatives.

Workers who do not want to be represented by a trade union must also have that freedom.  The Decree strikes a balance between the interests of all workers.

The Decree contains the concept of “bargaining unit” which is found in other countries’ laws including the US and UK.  The bargaining unit does not “replace trade unions” as has been claimed – the two are quite different concepts.  Trade unions will continue to exist and can represent workers within a bargaining unit in a designated corporation in accordance with the Decree.

Re-registration of unions
The Decree requires trade unions which represent workers within designated corporations to re-register, having gone through the balloting process set out in the law.  This ensures that such unions continue to enjoy the freely-given support of a majority of workers, and that workers who do not wish to be represented by a trade union have the opportunity to express that view.   The registration process is modeled on US labor laws and requires a secret ballot.

Trade union representatives
The Decree does not “outlaw professional trade unionists” as some have misleadingly claimed.  It requires that those who negotiate directly with the employer in designated corporations are employees of the company concerned, so that an employer may negotiate terms and conditions directly with its own employees who have a direct stake in the outcome, rather than with an external third party who may have a wider agenda of their own.

Trade unions can continue to employ staff.  Those staff can continue to advise workers’ representatives engaged in negotiations with their employers in designated corporations, but would not have the right to conduct those negotiations themselves.

Imposition of terms and conditions

The decree only allows an employer in a designated corporation to impose terms and conditions after it has conducted good faith negotiations for at least 60 days.  Where a new collective agreement is imposed, there is a right of appeal to the Minister for a review of its contents.  This is similar to the position in other countries, such as the UK where an employer may dismiss employees and re-engage them on new terms and conditions.

Overtime pay
Contrary to some misleading reports, the Decree does not “ban overtime” for workers in 24-hour operations.   Overtime pay can continue, as agreed by the employer in a designated corporation.   This is the approach to overtime pay in many other countries.

Check off
The Decree does not ban the system of check off in designated corporations, but allows employers not to operate it.  This is a common approach in many other countries, eg compulsory check off was abolished in the UK in 1993.  Compared with labour laws of other countries there is nothing unusual about it.

Restrictions on industrial action
The Decree upholds the fundamental right of workers to take industrial action in pursuit of their legitimate interests.  But as in many countries, this right is circumscribed in order to avoid damaging disruption to commerce.

·         In the US, airline and railroad employees are prohibited from striking except in narrowly defined circumstances.   More generally, US law allows for a Presidential Review Board to review and intervene in the event of a potential strike that could seriously disrupt national commerce. Some individual States prohibit strikes by public sector employees.

·         In the UK, industrial action in a number of critical sectors is illegal or has been illegal in the past, eg prison officers, police, army, while there is currently debate (and strong public support) for banning strikes in essential services such as public transport.

·         In Germany planned strike action by airline pilots was prohibited by the courts in 2010.

·         In France a 2007 law on continuity of public service in terrestrial transport restricts industrial action by certain categories of public transport workers (eg train and bus drivers).

Dispute resolution
The Decree guarantees employees in designated corporations will have the right to various "dispute resolution" processes concerning disciplinary issues and contract interpretation issues (subject to a specified financial threshold). These are now required as a matter of law, not subject to the power game associated with collective bargaining.

There are significant penalties for individuals or organisations that ignore the provisions of the Decree and attempt to disrupt operations in an essential national industry.  The impact of such illegal action could be devastating to the companies concerned and could affect tens of thousands of Fijians. There needs to be an effective deterrent against actions for personal gain that could have such impact on others and on the Fijian economy.

Other Countries’ Trade Laws

United States
Key elements of the Decree are modeled on US labor law – specifically, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), first drawn up in 1935.  Under the NLRA:
·         A labor union seeking to represent workers in a bargaining unit must obtain support (normally through authorization cards) from a least 30% of employees in the unit
·         The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will then conduct a secret ballot election in which a majority of the workers in the bargaining unit must vote in support of the union
·         The NLRB determines what is the appropriate bargaining unit
·         An election may not be held if a valid election was held in that unit in the previous 12 months
·         Employees represented by a union can petition to decertify the union, where they produce evidence that at least 30% of workers supports decertification.  The employer can also request decertification if he has substantial evidence that the union no longer has the support of a majority of the bargaining unit.

United Kingdom
·         Only in companies with 21+ employees do trade unions have a legal right to be recognised by employers for the purpose of collective bargaining.
·         The union must have the support of 40% of workers in a bargaining unit plus a majority of those who vote in a ballot, in order to be recognised by the employer.
·         A union has no right to recognition if there is already in place a collective agreement between the employer and another union covering the same bargaining unit. 
·         A claim for recognition may not be brought if the same union made a failed attempt for recognition within the past three years.
·         Statutory recognition is limited to bargaining on pay, hours and holidays only.
·         The legal right was introduced in 2000.  Prior to that trade unions had no legal right to recognition for bargaining purposes.
·         The UK is a founding member of the ILO and has ratified Conventions 87 on freedom of association and 98 on collective bargaining.  The UK has robustly defended its union recognition laws as compatible with ILO Conventions, in response to criticism of them by ILO Committees following trade union complaints.

Ireland has no system of statutory trade union recognition.  Recognition of unions for bargaining purposes is a purely voluntary system.

The European Court of Human Rights has held that the European Convention on Human Rights does not impose a requirement for compulsory collective bargaining, and the right to strike is not absolute and may be subject to certain restrictions

The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that right to strike can only be conducted under EU law where it pursues a legitimate aim and is justified by overriding reasons of public interest.  It should not be used to restrict freedom of movement and freedom to provide services across borders in the European Union.

Fiji union says 'unreliable' Lowy poll done when life most grim in the country

Unions says only one poll counts .... the general elections.

The Fiji Islands Council of Trade Unions says the Lowy Institute should be condemned for conducting a survey about the regime in an environment where people's rights are  restricted.

FICTU says that people in Fiji are trying very hard not to get on the wrong side of the regime for fear of reprisal, given the poor human rights record of the regime and suppression of strong and credible voices.

Its General Secretary, Attar Singh, says any voice opposing the regime is censored and most organisations operate under censorship for fear of being closed down.

"The Lowy survey was conducted in August when the decrees to wipe out trade unions, workers rights and employment conditions won over several decades was introduced. 

"A renowned and outspoken academic lost his job and two trade unionists were arrested for carrying out their normal work. The Methodist Church was refused a permit to hold its conference and Hindus had been told to obtain permits to celebrate the birth of Lord Krishna.

"The experts at Lowy should have known that was the worst time to carry out such a survey. The fact that they carried out regardless questions the motives given its proximity with the Forum leaders in Auckland."

Singh says security of life, property and jobs are most important to people of Fiji today. They will not risk these by speaking about anything against the current regime, its activities or better alternatives to even their friends or work colleagues, let alone strangers conducting a survey.

He dismissed the Lowy survey as unreliable saying it does not correctly depict the real picture of what is happening in Fiji.

"All it has achieved is given a false sense of legitimacy and momentary satisfaction to the military regime and its supporters. And the regime has readily interpreted the results as a mandate to rule and delay elections forgetting that mandate to govern can come from a real poll which is the General Elections."

FTUC has also rejected the poll.

Editor's Note: Sources say the CEO of Air Pacific, David Pflieger, in conjunction with the regime appointed attorney general, Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, have enlisted the use of public relations consultants from Europe and USA to secure organisational support for both the Essential Industries decree which has now been officially introduced and any subsequent Air Pacific initiatives.  Coupfourpointfive has been told US$120,000 is being paid to one PR consultant for three months work on this lobbying campaign. This, after paying US lawyers to draft the decree both in its original form and its current state.

Fiji gets a look in Pacer Plus but remains on the Forum outer

FIJI'S FINEST? Think not. Bainimarama, second left, and his officers at the state funeral for Josefa Iloilo in February.
They coat themselves in medals but they're the reason for the international sanctions and for Fiji continuing to be locked out of the Pacific Islands Forum.

The 40th Forum ended yesterday with the decision Fiji should remain suspended, although it was agreed it could poke its head in the door at the Pacer Plus discussions.

New Zealand and Australian prime ministers John Key and Julia Gillard rightfully withstood lobbying by the small island states, particularly the Melanesian countries who were in Nadi last week, to readmit the unelected government of Frank Bainimarama to the biggest annual gathering of the year. As was expected and as should be the case.

Below, the decisions that regard Fiji in particular from the Leaders communique after their retreat yesterday.

30. Leaders acknowledged the Forum’s ongoing work to encourage and support Fiji’s return to parliamentary democracy in accordance with the Leaders’ mandates and the Biketawa Declaration, cognisant of the Leaders’ decisions at Port Moresby and Cairns in 2009, and Port Vila in 2010.
31. Leaders welcomed the convening of the Ministerial Contact Group (MCG) meeting held in Port Vila on 14 February 2011 but expressed disappointment that a visit by the MCG to Fiji did not occur prior to the Forum Leaders’ meeting and called for a visit to take place as soon as possible, involving meetings with a range of stakeholders. Leaders tasked the MCG to continue dialogue and engagement with Fiji and report to the next Leaders’ meeting.
32. Leaders reiterated their call for commencement of genuine, inclusive political dialogue in Fiji between parties without preconditions or predetermined outcomes. In doing so, they also reaffirmed the underlying values of the Forum, namely respect for democracy, good governance and the rule of law, and expressed their continuing deep concern at the deteriorating human rights situation and serious political and economic challenges facing the people of Fiji.
33. Leaders reaffirmed the clear commitment of all Forum members to encourage and support Fiji’s early return to parliamentary democracy, including their standing offer of practical assistance in addressing the challenges faced by Fiji.
34. Leaders agreed to permit Fiji to participate in PACER Plus meetings at officials-level only, given Fiji’s important economic role and links to prospects for broader regional economic integration.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Narsey debunks Lowy poll

UNELECTED RULE: Bainimarama remains in control of Fiji with the help of guns and corrupt officials. BELOW: Julia Gillard holding up under unfair pressure.

Shoddy Tebutt Opinion Poll by Lowy Institute
By Dr Wadan Narsey

The interpretations that the Lowy Institute and coup supporters are putting on the recent Tebbutt Research Poll in Fiji would be laughable, if only the long-term consequences of such propaganda were not so tragic for ordinary people of Fiji.

Students of survey methodology should find this “Lowy Institute Poll” extremely  interesting, in a perverse kind of way, on how not to conduct, and how not to interpret sensitive opinion polls in a Fiji, dominated by a climate of fear and intimidation.

A number of relevant questions need to be asked:
1. Is the poll genuinely representative of the views of Fiji people?
2. Could the questions be understood by ordinary Fiji citizens in the time given?
3.  Could citizens honestly answer, given the climate of fear in Fiji (cf the Charter)
4. Why did the Lowy Institute not report all the tables?
5. Which tables did the Lowy Institute choose not to release?
6. Why did the Lowy Institute ignore the political climate of fear in Fiji?
7. Who financed the poll and their interests in Fiji.
8. Links between Tebbutt Research and the Bainimarama Regime and functionaries?

1.  The Tebbutt sample was not representative of Fiji but systematically biased.

The experts in the Household Survey Unit of the Fiji Islands Bureau of Statistics will tell you that to randomly select and poll even one thousand households from the 180,000 households  throughout Fiji, is extremely difficult.

You would need to use the 2007 Census locations for all the households through Fiji (urban and rural, including the islands) and randomly select a properly stratified sample of 1000 households, a very technical and difficult statistical exercise in a country like Fiji.   Secondly, it is a logistical and cost nightmare to train, transport and accommodate interviewers throughout the length  and breadth of Fiji.

No doubt, to save time, effort and money, the Tebbutt Poll restricted itself to urban and peri-urban areas on Viti Levu: Suva, Lami, Nasinu, and Nausori in Central Division, and Nadi, Lautoka, and Ba in the Western Division.

In other words, all households in rural Viti Levu and rural and urban Vanua Levu, and all other islands were left out.  Rural households are the traditional supporters of Qarase and Chaudhry both marginalized by Bainimarama.   In many rural areas, their traditional leaders continue to oppose the Bainimarama Regime: Naitasiri (Takiveikata in gaol); Rewa (Ro Teimumu Kepa continues to suffer persecution by the Regime), and Cakaudrove (Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu forced to lie low).

The ommitted rural households have also fared very badly since 2006, while urban households  have not suffered so much.

The results of the latest poverty analysis shows that, between 2002 and 2009, poverty in rural areas has worsened:  the sugar industry has been decimated and most of the farmers and cane cutters dependent on the sugar industry will not have been polled.

While the polled urban households generally gained between 2002 and 2009, largely because of their dependence on formal sector employment (with wages and salaries not being cut despite the  economic depression) and large remittance inflows from abroad.

The poll was therefore systematically biased towards favourable responses (even if they were genuinely given) and left out rural responses which would have been more negative.

The Lowy Report tries to create the impression of the poll being very scientific. It claimed (in italics) and my comments (in parentheses) (page 23 of the Report):

The sample was stratified by ethnicity (iTaukei, Indo-Fijian, and other ethnicities), gender, age, and location”.
[The statisticians at FIBoS and Australian Bureau of Statistics would laugh at how Tebbutt Poll would have done this incredibly difficult exercise, which even FIBoS struggles with].
“Start points were selected at random, and respondents were selected at random from within the household, to quota.”
 [Start points may have been selected at random, but it is extremely unlikely that the interviewers would have randomly chosen all the next households to interview, until they reached their “quota”. Probably those closest to the man roads.  More laughs].
“Data was post-weighted to the Fiji Bureau of Statistics population estimates (based on the 2006 census)”.
[All the Tebbutt Poll would have done was ensured that the responses were scaled up to the same national proportions of the ethnic groups recorded by the 2007 Census. 
But there is absolutely no way that urban responses on Viti Levu can be scaled up to represent possible rural responses throughout Fiji, or both urban and rural Vanua Levu. More laughs from the statisticians if this survey claims to represent all Fiji.]

And the final outrageous statement suggesting great statistical accuracy “at 95% confidence level”:   “A truly random survey of the sampled population with this sample size, surveyed with 100% response rate, would produce results with a maximum ±3.04% margin of error at 95% confidence level.”

Yes indeed, this might be true IF it was a “truly random sample”.  But it blatantly was not a random sample, instead, systematically biased towards favourable responses given under fear.

The Director of Polling (Fergus Hanson) and Research Consultant (Sol Lebovic) should be hanging their heads in shame that they did not point out all these very serious statistical qualifications that were omitted from the Lowy Report (deliberately or otherwise).  Just as well for Caz Tebbutt that it is not her Report but the “Lowy Report”.

2. The totally unrealistic questions asked

There were some 25 questions in each interview lasting a total of 10 to 15 minutes according to the Lowy Report, or roughly 24 seconds to 36 seconds per question.  Let us just say 30 seconds on average.

But look at the questions below and imagine how they would have been understood by average Fiji persons,  in English or, heaven forbid, in Fijian or Hindustani translations. On average, it would take at least 20 seconds to ask most question (some would take five minutes), leaving 10 seconds for the person to think about and given their answers.

Table 1a:
Please rate your feelings towards some countries, with 100 meaning a very warm, favourable feeling, 0 (zero) meaning a very cold, unfavourable feeling, and 50 meaning not particularly warm or cold. You can use any number from zero to 100: the higher the number the more favourable your feelings are toward that country.

There were 14 countries to comment on, in 10 seconds?

Table 1b: Thinking now about the Fiji Government’s relations with governments from other countries, do you personally agree or disagree that it is important for the Fiji government to have a good relationship with the governments of each of the following countries.

Again, 14 countries to choose from:  and what could the answer possibly be except yes to all. But wait:  note the rankings of the countries in Table 1b:  At the top are, in order of popularity:  Australia, NZ, US, and UK.  All countries who have totally disapproved of and acted against the Bainimarama Regime in stopping aid from the EU and getting expelled from the Commonwealth and Forum.

China and India, the countries that have supported the Bainimarama Regime come only fifth and sixth, while the Melanesian Spearhead Group countries who Bainimarama has been actively courting, come even lower down.

Table 2a: Do you personally agree or disagree with the approach the Australian Government has taken towards the current Government in Fiji in response to the 2006 coup?

Table 2b: Following the 2006 coup, the Australian government imposed travel sanctions against members of the Fiji Government and Military and supported the suspension of Fiji from the Commonwealth. Which one of the following approaches do you personally think the Australian government should now take? How on earth could an average Fiji citizen assess such a complex foreign policy measure by Australia, which flummox even academics and Think Tank experts, like Jenny Hayward-Jones.  But hold it. An amazing 36% of Fiji citizens agreed with the sanctions?

Table 3:  Foreign countries should try to pressure for democratic elections in Fiji, OR Foreign countries should allow Fiji to sort out its return to democracy on its own

Table 4A:  Do you personally agree or disagree with Fiji’s suspension from the Commonwealth?

Table 4B: Do you personally agree or disagree with the decision to exclude Fiji from participation in the Commonwealth Games? What on earth can be the normal reaction of ordinary citizens to any kind of sanctions against one’s country and one’s people?

Table 5: Due to travel sanctions, Fiji’s rugby team might miss out on participating in the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. I am going to read you three statements about this, and please tell me which one you agree with most. Astonishing for rugby mad Fiji, 37% agreed that the sanctions were necessary.

Table 6A: Do you personally agree or disagree that Fiji currently plays a leadership role in the Pacific?

Table 6B:
Thinking back to Fiji’s leadership role say 5 years ago, and comparing that to nowadays, would you personally say that Fiji’s leadership role in the Pacific is now stronger, weaker or about the same? What on earth is happening?  45% of the respondents said that Fiji’s role in the region was now stronger?

Table 7: Please think now about regional organisations. Overall, which one do you personally think is more important for Fiji. Only 16% thought that MSG was more important for Fiji, compared to 51% for Forum. What? The organisation that Bainimarama is most contemptuous of, got four times the approval that the MSG gets?

Table 8: Do you personally think that Australia/New Zealand) should be a member of the Pacific Islands Forum? Now, which Fiji citizen would know about the implications for the Pacific countries of having Australia and NZ as members or not members of the Forum?

Table 9: Do you personally agree or disagree with Fiji’s suspension from the Pacific Islands Forum? What on earth could be the answer to this from ordinary Fiji citizens?

Table 10: Overall, how good a job do you personally think Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama is doing as Prime Minister? Wow.  66% approved of his role as Prime Ministers.

Which person in his right mind in Fiji today would dare tell some interviewer from Suva (who could well be an informer for the army) that Bainimarama was not doing a good job?

What does such a question mean, if there are no alternative Prime Ministers given such as Qarase, Chaudhry, Mick Beddoes, Jai Ram Reddy or Madraiwiwi?

Note: Wikileaks has just revealed that John Samy admitted to the US Ambassador before departing for New Zealand that the alleged public approval of the Charter was strongly influenced by the army intimidation.  But no public revelations yet.

Table 11: Overall, do you personally think that things in Fiji are going in the right direction or in the wrong direction? How on earth could this question be interpreted by the average Fiji citizen?  Right direction?  Wrong direction?  With respect to what policy?

Table 12: Overall, would you personally say the government is doing a very good job, a fairly good job, an average job, a fairly poor job or a very poor job of listening to the views of people like yourself? 87% allegedly said this Military Regime is doing a good or average job of listening to the ordinary people?

In a country where the Parliament (of ordinary people’s representatives) has been closed, whose GCC has been shut down,  where sports organisations have been taken over by the Regime; where legitimate gatherings of (some) churches and unions are banned and people prosecuted; where dissidents are taken up to the camp for “questioning”; where a regional university can be financially blackmailed to get rid of questioning academics?

Table 13:  How good a job do you personally think the Government is doing in terms of delivering services in education, health, transport:   More than 69% said good.

Which ordinary citizen being polled will know how much this coup has cost the country in terms of lost incomes and government revenues and services (more than a billion dollars over four years) in return for a few tens of millions thrown at school busfares or squatter housing?

Which ordinary  citizen being polled will know about the hundreds of millions of dollars of tax-payers’ funds gone missing and four years of Auditor Generals Report not being released by the same Bainimarama Government?

Table 14: How would you rate what the Government is doing in terms of working on…
More than 80% said good or average for the following (but, the facts say otherwise).
Ending racial inequalities and divisions (worse now)
Improving land ownership laws (nothing doing)
Increasing employment opportunities
(worse now)

Improving the economy  (worse now)
Reducing poverty (worse now)
Preparing to draft a new Constitution  ( what’s the hurry- wait another 3 years?)
Making progress towards elections (what’s the hurry? wait another 3 years)
Reforming the electoral system (hey, what’s the hurry? wait another 3 years)

Table 15: Thinking about what effect the new constitution will have, please say whether you personally agree or disagree with the following statements.
More than 70% agree:
            Will lead to a better democracy in Fiji
            Will end racial inequalities and divisions in Fiji
            Will end the coup culture in Fiji

Table 16:   Please say which one of the three statements comes closest to your own personal views about democracy.
Preferable to any other kind of government 53%
Non-democratic government preferable under some circumstances

Doesn’t matter to someone like me 21%

What on earth will ordinary citizens (or even the experts) say about questions 15 and 16, when they don’t even know that the Charter, Roadmaps etc are all repetitions of whatever is there in the 1997 Constitution, and they have no idea at all of what a genuine democracy is, or that a “non-democratic government” is here a surrogate for an illegal  treasonous military Regime?

Table 17: Do you personally think that the Church and other religious organisations should be involved a lot, a little or not at all in politics?

66% said “Not At All”, obviously thinking only of the Methodists being currently bashed by Bainimarama- not of the Hindus, Catholics and Muslims who politically and actively supported Bainimarama’s 2006 coup and his and John Samy’s Charter charade.

Table 18A: Overall, do you personally approve or disapprove of the RFMF’s role in Fiji at the moment?  68% approved.

Who in Fiji would dare to tell an interviewer that they disapprove of the army in the current climate?  How much do the ordinary citizens know about how much extra tax-payers funds the military has been illegally swallowing up since 2006, denying them funds for health (shortage of basic medicines at hospitals - buy your own says Neil Dharma) education  and social welfare.

But hold it.  31% actually said they disapproved, even in this biased sample?  What would the number be without the media censorship, Public Emergency Decree and arbitrary arrests?

Table 18B: Still looking to the future, do you personally agree or disagree that the Republic of Fiji Military Forces should play a permanent role in politics?  53% agree.
Well, well, well.

Table 19: Since the December 2006 coup, do you personally think the local media in Fiji has become more reliable and trustworthy, less reliable and trustworthy or is it about the same as before the coup?

In a country which continues to suffer from total media censorship, with one newspaper owned by a totally pro-Bainimarama business (which also has extended its tentacles to  the Fiji Pension Fund and the Fiji Islands Revenue and Customs Authority), one newspaper whose owner is in gaol and facing more charges, one radio station run by Aiyaz Khaiyum’s brother, and a television station whose control is about to be taken away from Yasana Holdings (the current majority shareholder), by the Military-controlled Fijian Holdings Limited.  

A country where no critical news are allowed about the missing hundreds of millions at FNPF, all kinds of secret under-the-table deals bypassing the tenders board, pensioners’ views on the imminent cutting of their pensions not allowed in the media, or the views of some economists critical of this regime ....

43% of the poll respondents said the media was now more reliable;  31% same; i.e. 74% said the media was the same or more reliable after the 2006 coup. This must really take the cake as far as the reliability of the Lowy Institute Poll is concerned.  Heh heh heh heh heh heh.  Please pick me up from the floor.

20.  Importance of human rights:

The right to freely express yourself (no such freedom in Fiji)
The right to freely vote in national elections (no such freedom in Fiji)
The right to a fair trial (no such freedom in Fiji)
The right to a media free from censorship (no such freedom in Fiji)

With no Bainimarama presence hovering over this question, more than 95% of the respondents said yes. Yet the Bainimarama Regime has deprived Fiji’s people of all these basic human rights.

What is reported and what is not reported
Earlier Tebbutt Poll reports (for The Fiji Times) usually gave break-downs by ethnicity, age, gender and division.  They consistently showed greater Fijian support for Qarase than for Bainimarama; and that Indo-Fijians showed greater support for Bainimarama- largely because of his rhetoric of racial equality.

Whether that Indo-Fijian support would still be there today in a secret referendum is an interesting question, given that the sugar industry has significantly declined, casual wage earners (mostly Indo-Fijian) have suffered badly because of the stagnating economy, and Indo-Fijian leaders have been marginalised  (a few swallows don’t make a summer).

The detailed ethnic break-downs are not given for every table, however dubious the results. Were the rural areas to be randomly polled as well, all the results in support of Bainimarama would go down, despite the upward pressure from the “fear factor”.

Clear Lowy Report bias towards Bainimarama
The Report may be easily characterised as portraying the Bainimarama Regime in a good light, not just from the cover picture of a very respectable looking Bainimarama speaking at the United Nations.

The introduction to the Lowy Report alleges that the differences between the Qarase SDL/FLP Govenrment and Bainimarama emerged over the three contentious Bills- Reconciliation, Tolerance and Unity Bill, the Qoliqoli Bill and the Land Tribunal Bill.

But more and more evidence is coming out that Bainimarama had been planning the 2006 coup from the time that the Qarase Government wanted him prosecuted for the several deaths in military custody, surcharged for over-spending the military budget in 2004, 2005 and removed as Commander for insubordination.

Some allegations are now being made by Major Mara that Bainimarama may have initially supported the 2000 coup and the removal of Chaudhry’s Government.

But the Lowy Report simplistically claims “When the government did not meet all the military’s demands, Bainimarama seized power and assumed the position of Prime Minister, which he has maintained to date. He promised to engage in a clean-up campaign to rid Fiji of corruption and to eliminate racial inequalities in Fiji. Bainimarama said elections would be held when the country was stable and when appropriate electoral reforms were implemented”.

No comment at all on all the broken promises since 2006 or the final treasonous abrogation of the 1997 Constitution in 2009, by a manipulated senile President.

The Lowy Report is full of strange strained logic which puts a positive spin on the Bainimarama Regime, and tries to ultimately suggest that Australia is out of line and should lift all its sanctions and restore all links with the Bainimarama Regime.

This is the line that Jenny Hayward-Jones has consistently taken over the last couple of years, driven largely by the view that Australia has been out maneuvered and being displaced in the Pacific by China.

It would be more honest of the Lowy Institute if they were to honestly come out and maintain their arguments purely on foreign policy interests of Australia vis a  vis China. There was no need to engage in a statistical charade of an opinion poll, with unrealistic questions being asked of ordinary Fiji citizens in a climate of fear, with outrageous conclusions being reached based on the unreliable responses received.

It does not help that Caz Tebutt has personal business interests in pushing the Fiji Australia Business Council line for restoration of normal Australian relations with Fiji: her opinion poll business took a nosedive with the 2006 coup and Australian sanctions on Fiji (but ironically encouraged her to extend her business to the Pacific and earned her an Exporter of the Year Award). Her business could do with a revival of the Fiji economy.

It is not plausible of the Fiji Regime spokesperson (more than a passing acquaintance of Caz Tebbutt) to claim that the Regime had no idea that such a great expert survey was being conducted.  Nor is it plausible for Tebutt Research to claim that they did not ask for permission from the Regime but just “sought legal opinion”.

It also does not help the Lowy Institute reputation that this poll was co-financed privately by one Mark Johnson AO who supposedly has mineral exploration interests in Vanua Levu.

Given the positive spin that this Lowy Poll has put on Bainimarama, Johnson will no doubt be glad to have Bainimarama’s goodwill over the next few years when his business interests in Fiji come on stream and he has to negotiate taxation regimes with the Regime.

Dishonest pressure on Australian Government

It is ludicrous that the Lowy Institute should use the dubious responses from a 1032 ordinary relatively under-educated citizens of Fiji, to place pressure on the Australian Government to change its foreign policy stance on Fiji.

Or to pressure the Forum countries to do the same.
It is dismaying that writers like Graham Davis, who are given credibility by national Australian newspapers like The Australian, should contemptuously contrast the “high popularity rating” of Bainimarama from the grossly biased Tebbutt Poll with the allegedly low rating of Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Australia.

Davis and other coup supporters like Croz Walsh should note that for a proper comparison to be made, Julia Gillard would have to:
* use guns to remove a lawful government and make herself Prime Minister
* illegally over-spend tax-payers funds amounting to more than twice the Health Budget
* stop five years of Auditor General’s Reports on Government revenues and expenditure
* hide reports on the losses of hundreds of millions of dollars of pension funds resulting from decisions made by boards appointed by herself;
* illegally pay herself 30 years of back-pay for leave she allegedly did not take
* stop the audit of Regimental Funds abused by successive Military Commanders
* pay herself multiple salaries through a private accounting firm which also receives large business deals without going through proper tender processes
* have total media censorship in place, with a Public Emergency Decree that bans all meetings not wanted by her
* and ensure a judiciary that enforces Military Decrees including those which state that the Regime may not be taken to court for anything.
The list is still growing.   Fiji is a small place and truth will eventually come out about  everything.

Simply because this regime had maintained a stranglehold on Fiji for the last five years does not in any way make it right or that it is going to be good for Fiji in the long run.

Nor does it mean that neighbouring Forum countries should just accept the “bad boy” back in the fold, as Anote Tong (Kiribati President) so naively suggests.

Forum countries who keep supporting Bainimarama for whatever reason they have, need to think about the day when their own soldiers or police forces may forget their oaths of obedience to the lawful elected government of the day and copy Bainimarama.

We Fiji people know now that we cannot expect any support from the US Government who (as Wikileaks has revealed) knew all the dirt on the Bainimarama Regime, but chose to not support Australia and NZ pressures on Fiji, because of their own foreign policy need for Fijian troops in Iraq and Afghanistan (likewise the morally bankrupt UN).  Tough luck for human rights and democracy in Fiji, eh?

For the Pacific, the Lowy Institute has just undermined itself very badly as an independent and objective “Think Tank”.

It shows itself to be just a private lobby group, indulging in propaganda, manipulating shonky opinion polls, to justify its foreign policy view for Australia, based largely on fear of China.

The Australian Government needs to ask whether the Lowy Institute really deserves Australian tax-payers funds in order to so contemptuously undermine long term law and order, constitutionality, and basic human rights in Pacific Island countries.