#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: 2011-11-20

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Narsey: military regime trashes pensioners’ contracts

PIE IN THE SKY? $200 million dollar loan deal for new Air Buses being footed by FNPF fund.

By Dr Wadan Narsey

The illegal Military Regime has announced their plans to go ahead with their FNPF restructuring (more later, on that), and effectively, they are trashing the contracts that FNPF had signed with pensioners.

Existing pensioners will be give a choice of receiving back their final balance when they retired (in nominal dollars, of course), or go on to the new single pension rates which will range from 8.7% if you are 55 to 12.3% for those 70 years old and over.

This will give existing pensioners a “Hobson’s choice” or more correctly, the “Morton’s Fork” between two options,  both of which will imply an effective reduction to their existing contracted entitlements.

Or they can go ahead with the Burness/Shameem legal case (supposed to be heard in February 2012) to try and stop the Regime from changing their existing contracts.

But of course, there may yet be another Military Decree stopping any challenges in court.

Before that choice is thrust down our throats, and while we beg the Military Regime for “permission to discuss our just grievances in the media”, FNPF pensioners might want to clear their cobwebs on the following five statements, and especially Statement 3:

1.         Existing FNPF pensions cannot be legally reduced under the FNPF Act.

2.         The FNPF Act does not allow FNPF to vary the pension rates differentially for allegedly high and low income pensioners.

3.         FNPF has the financial capacity to pay existing pensions at their current rates for another 18 years, if the Buffer Fund had been properly credited with interest payments from 1975   to the present, AND if the provisions of the FNPF Act had been strictly followed by    successive Boards.

4.         Successive Fiji governments, including the current illegal Military Regime, have been        directly and solely responsible for whatever mess exists at FNPF today

5.         The only proper way to change the FNPF Act is for an Independent Expert Commission   of Inquiry into FNPF to make recommendations which should only be considered by a      future elected Government.

Essential background 

The Fiji National Provident Fund is not a “government owned public enterprise” belonging to the Fiji public and tax-payers, but it belongs only to the workers whose contributions have funded it.

Historically, however, FNPF has been totally controlled by successive governments, from its inception till today.

The FNPF was originally intended to be a compulsory savings scheme for workers, with all the savings and interest thereon to be returned to the worker as a lump sum on retirement (read the Legislative Council debates in 1968).

The system was then lawfully changed by Parliament in 1975 to introduce a pension annuity option, which was set at the high rate of 25% for single pensions, to encourage retirees to take the pension rather than the lump sum.

Despite that high rate of pension, the pension uptake was way less than 15%.

Then when the uptake proportion did begin to rise (late 80s and early 90s), an ILO study (1993) advised that the annuity rate should be brought down gradually to 10%.

But the 1998 Parliament decided to bring the pension rate down to 15%, gradually over ten years.

Even if actuarially unwise, this was a lawful decision made by Parliament, thereby legally under-writing the contracts which all pensioners have entered into.

To break these contracts is to make a mockery of justice, law and order, constitutionality, and the sacred powers and responsibilities of Parliament, and the people it represents.

But why is it that the ILO projection that in the long term some 35% of retirees would take the pension, has been proven inaccurate?

The FNPF’s pension gamble: the “risk of dying early”

Why is it that while actuaries have concluded that the annuities between 15% to 25% have been excellent value, the historical reality has been that the majority of retirees (more than 70%) have not been taking up the “good” pension offers?

Of course, the return was high.  But there is the risk of dying early and losing all thereafter.

This is a tough choice even for educated people, and even at the current allegedly high 15% pension rate.

I suspect that many of the retirees who took the pension option would be financially well-off and able to handle the risk of dying early.

Don’t forget that while some pensioners have found the annuity excellent value (which FNPF harps on about), some retirees have also died before they “recovered their life savings”: their families have lost out (no comment from FNPF on these losers).

Recent developments 

The recent Promontory Report, based on the actuarial study by Mercer, and examining the recent poor investment and income record of FNPF, recommended the further reduction of the single pension rate to 9% but only for future pensions (not existing pensions).

This Promontory Report has been very selectively used by the FNPF Board and Management to justify their planned changes to existing pensions.

At one stage FNPF Management stated that all annuity rates (existing and future) would be reduced to around 9%.

Then they backtracked to some nebulous proposal  that they would reduce the existing pensions only of those above some “poverty line” (to be decided by themselves).

Coconut Wireless now suggests they have dreamed up another “scheme” to give the illusion of “choice” to existing pensioners.    Wait for the 2012 Budget on Friday 25 November 2011, to reveal all (and more).

But pensioners must not forget that existing contracts of pensioners are legally valid and cannot be forcibly changed, by offering alleged “choices” to pensioners.

FNPF offered legal contracts to pensioners, approved by Fiji Parliament

The undisputed facts are:

(a) The current pensions were all freely offered by FNPF whose Boards have always been totally controlled by Government: all  FNPF Board members have been appointed by Government (while Employers’ Associations and unions may nominate representatives, the final choice and appointments are made by the Minister); and the Chairman of the Board has always been appointed by Government.

(b) All decisions on annuity rates have been made by the elected Parliament: the FNPF Board can only make recommendations, not decisions.

FNPF initially thought that Section 63 of the FNPF Act which states that the FNPF Board may “prescribe the amount, frequency of payment and duration of any annuity payable under the provisions of paragraph (b) of section 64” as may be” gives the Board an authority to reduce existing pensions.   This was a completely wrong interpretation, as that section simply refers to Section 64 (b) which gives powers only over the method of dispensing the annuity already decided upon by parliament as a percentage of whatever balance the pensioner leaves with the Fund.

Once that percentage has been fixed (and the OP-9 form specifies both the percentage and the corresponding dollar amount), the amount of the total annual annuity in dollars and cents cannot be changed- as that would be changing the percentage of the final balance being given to the pensioner in a legal contract on the OP-9 form.

Nowhere in the contract (the 9-OP form) is there any clause which warns the pensioners that their pension rate may be changed in the future by the FNPF Board at its discretion.

Any attempt by the FNPF Board to vary the annuity rate, already offered to and accepted by pensioners, is therefore totally contrary to the FNPF Act and in breach of the laws on contracts.

FNPF has the full capacity to enter into contracts

Article 4 of the FNPF Act states that the FNPF Board shall be a body corporate and shall, by the name of "The Fiji National Provident Fund Board", have perpetual succession and a common seal .... The Board may sue and be sued in its corporate name and may enter into contracts.

A legal corporate body (FNPF) made a clear offer (on Form 9-OP) to the retirees that should they choose the pension option (whether single, joint or combination) and leave all of some of their savings with the FNPF, they would receive in return an annuity (expressed explicitly in dollars and as a fixed percentage of their final balance) until they (or their nominated partner) died.

Legally, in a civilized world without arbitrary Military Decrees, the FNPF (and the Board Members) may be sued if they break these contracts.

If FNPF Board Members cannot be sued in Fiji, it should be investigated if those with foreign residency, can be sued in their home countries.

Promontory advised that existing pensions cannot be altered under contract law

The Promontory Report stated (paragraph 25):

“There have been some suggestions that existing pensions should be

withdrawn, capped or reset at a discount. ... Any retrospective adjustment of

existing pension benefits would be difficult under contract law......  While an adjustment to existing pensions remains a possibility (huh?), it is not further considered in this paper”.

Promontory based the rest of their analysis and recommendations on FNPF not breaking its contracts with existing pensioners.

The Promontory Report clearly separated the problem of funding existing pensioners, from the problem of funding future pensioners, whose annuity rate may be legally reduced by any lawful government.

FNPF cannot vary the pension rates differentially for low and high incomes
The FNPF Board previously announced that they will not reduce the existing pensions of some 89% of pensioners whose pensions are “below the poverty line”, but they will reduce those of the other 11% earning higher pensions.

However, Section 12 B of the FNPF Act specifically requires the Board “to act impartially towards beneficiaries and between different classes of beneficiaries.”

Forget poverty lines, etc etc.

FNPF has the financial capacity to pay existing pensions

There are several legitimate sources to fund existing pensions.

Source 1:  The Pension Buffer Fund

This was expressly set up in 1975 to fund pensions, with all members injecting 2 cents in the dollar between 1975 and 1998, when the injection was stopped by Parliament.   The Buffer Fund was then absorbed into the General Reserve in 2000.

However the account was still maintained, and continued to receive all the final balances of members who chose the pension option.

But successive FNPF Boards wrongly neglected to pay interest on this Buffer Fund although the Fund earned income on these funds.

My calculations show that the properly credited Buffer Fund would in 2010 have amounted to some $870 millions (or a bit less given that the interest income has to be spread over all the shareholders’ funds), which would cover around  18 years of the current annual pensions payout of around $47 million (and probably more as high earning pensioners gradually die off).

It is false of the FNPF to claim that they do not have the financial provisions to pay the existing pensions at the existing rates.

Source 2:  The savings from pensioners who die early

While FNPF has given numerous tables alleging cross-subsidization of existing pensioners by current contributors, it has never acknowledged nor given any data whatsoever on the numbers of pensioners who have died before they could “get back their money”.

These “savings for FNPF from those who die early” partly cover the costs of those annuities of pensioners who live on (allegedly for “too long”).

Source 3:  The General Reserve

The General Reserve has also been contributed to by pensioners and has always been expected by the actuaries to be the final guarantor of pensions.

Ultimate Source 4:   The Fiji Government

The FNPF Board is authorized under Section 10 of the FNPF Act:
“If the Fund is, at any time, unable to pay any sum which is required to be paid under the provisions of this Act, the sum required shall be advanced to the Fund by the Government and the Fund shall, as soon as practicable, repay to the Government the sums so advanced”

The FNPF Board can legitimately make a case to the “Government of the Day” that they should pay any shortfall (which is not required as I state above).

It has been past governments who have enjoyed easy finance at relatively lower interest rates than charged by the private sector, and they moreover are responsible for whatever financial mess the FNPF currently finds itself in (see below).

Note FNPF Boards’ Continuing Breach of Section 8 of FNPF Act 

Section 8 (FNPF Act) requires that “the Board shall, having considered the recommendation of the General Manager”, declare a rate of a rate of interest to be paid to members’ credit, not less than 2 1/2 per cent per annum provided that:
“no rate of interest exceeding 2 1/2 per cent per annum shall be so declared, unless, in the opinion of the Board, the ability of the Fund to meet all payments required to be paid under this Act is not endangered by the declaration of such rate”.

Yet year after year, the FNPF Board has declared a rate of interest higher than 2 ½ percent. Even this year (2011) is has credited more than 5% to Members’ funds.

Yet the current FNPF Board and Management allege that existing pension rates are unsustainable, and have been known to be unsustainable for more than a decade.

The FNPF Board has been in breach of the FNPF Act by declaring rates of interest which are in excess of 2 ½ percent and at the same time claiming that the Fund is unsustainable.

While not doing what it is specifically required to do by the FNPF Act, the FNPF Board is attempting to do what is nowhere authorized in the FNPF Act, namely to reduce existing annuities contracted to existing pensioners or their beneficiaries.

Governance issue: refusal to make public all reports and FNPF dataUnder the provisions of the Act, the FNPF and all its assets belongs to the current contributors and pensioners. The FNPF Board are only trustees, and together with the FNPF Management, are supposed to be accountable and transparent to the members.

Yet, for several years now, both the FNPF Board (current and preceding ones) and Management (current and preceding ones) have adamantly refused to make available to the beneficiaries of the Fund, all the various Reports and relevant data on the sustainability of the FNPF.

They make a mockery of the “Core Values” which FNPF proudly and falsely advertises on its website:

Accountability: Being answerable and having the courage and honesty to take ownership of our actions; Fairness: Treating everyone in an equitable and nondiscriminatory manner; Integrity: Being honest and fair to all our stakeholders; Excellence: Always maintaining highest standards.

The Board Members and FNPF management ought to be taken to task for their abject failure to abide by these “Core Values”.   The latest data on their “Key Indicators” webpage ends with 2007 data- already four years out of date.  How pathetic.

Publicly available consultants’ Reports have serious gaps in data, and none of them give the details of actuarial projections based on the life expectancies; therefore one has no idea if their assumptions and analyses are correct.

Some of their assumptions about future life expectancies may even be wrong.

Possible errors in actuarial assumptions
 

The Promontory Report’s recommendations were based on the Mercer actuarial study. The Mercer presentation at the symposia organized by FNPF stated that the mortality rates they used were derived from “the 2008 Fijian population life tables prepared by the World Health Organization” (no problem) but they used “mortality improvement based on experience of the Australian population over 25 years as reported in the current Australian Life Tables (2005-07).”

Demographers will know that projections of improvements in Australian mortality cannot be used to predict future trends in Fiji’s mortality. Australia’s life expectancy is rising, their people are living longer, and drawing pensions for longer. If the Australian patterns of mortality improvement did apply to Fiji, then Fiji’s people would also be living longer, and the sustainability of FNPF pensions may indeed require relatively lower pension or annuity rates for Fiji.

However, if Fiji’s mortality falls or stagnates, then Fiji’s pensioners will die earlier than predicted by Australian trends, and Fiji’s pension annuity rates would correspondingly need to be relatively higher.

All indications are that Fiji’s mortality will not fall like Australia’s and Fiji’s life expectancies will not rise like Australia’s (detailed explanation of this is excluded here).  Similar errors seem to have been made by the ILO actuarial projections.

Government’s excessive role in FNPF 

Note that the Government-controlled FNPF Board has been the ultimate decision-maker on:

 (i) all large lending decisions (how much and interest rates) including loans to Government.

(ii) the interest rate to be credited annually to the FNPF Members.

(iii) the three historical decisions approved by Parliament: the original 1975 decision to pay 25% annuity on single pensions; the 1998 decisions to reduce pensions gradually from 25% to 15%, and the stopping of contributions to the Buffer Fund.

(iv) all large investment decisions, including the questionable price paid for the majority shares in ATH which independent assessors thought may have been more than $100 million or probably up to $150 million in excess; and the cost blowout at Natadola and Momi.

Even the Promontory Report criticized the government’s excessive and negative influence on the FNPF:

Paragraph 90 of the Report:

“In discussion with stakeholders... appointments have been seen as highly politicized and blamed for some of the poorer investment outcomes. A common theme was that Government had interfered too much with operations and decision-making of the Fund.

Paragraph 91

“Policy Principle: the FNPF Board should comprise a majority of independent members. The Board’s primary fiduciary responsibility is to act first and foremost in the interests of the fund members, not representative groups, Government or even the wider interests of Fiji.”

Promontory advised that any new legislation needed to spell this out explicitly and the law be strengthened in this regard.

It can be seen therefore, even from a Report that was commissioned by the FNPF itself, that FNPF contributors and pensioners have had no say whatsoever in any of FNPF Board decisions and that Government has had over-riding influence.
Poor investment decisions by FNPF Boards  

A very important question for investigation is whether successive FNPF Boards have been giving loans to the Fiji Government at relatively low rates which the governments would not have received from the commercial banks, locally or internationally.

Would a truly independent Board and FNPF, free to invest internationally and locally, have been able to receive higher interest rates from the Fiji Government which could have resulted in higher returns to Members and higher sustainable annuities to pensioners?

Is the current liquidity crisis of FNPF due to bad Board decisions made on the large investments at Natadola, Momi, GPH, FSC, Tappoo City etc which are not returning the loans on time?

Would an independent FNPF Board have made the large loans to FSC which has technically been insolvent for a couple of years, and whose problems have been worsened because of the Regime’s refusal to hold elections in 2009 (hence EU refusal to grant 300 million dollars for sugar industry restructure?

How much has FNPF lost in income and capital value because of Fiji Government’s decisions through the RBF to bring back FNPF investments from abroad?

The Military Coups’ impact on FNPF

To what extent is the current FNPF crisis due to lack of investment, lack of economic growth, lack of growth in employment and incomes and FNPF contributions, due to the continuing political uncertainties and the results of the 2006 Military coup and the 2009 purported abrogation of the 1997 Constitution?

To what extent is the high rate of inflation which is eroding all pensions and funds in the Pension Fund caused by the massive deficit financing by the Government (using easy funds obtained from the FNPF), and lack of economic growth?

These are all questions which would need to be examined in detail with full facts and figures, and all available reports, made available to an expert Commission of inquiry, and to Fund Members and Owners.

Amendments to FNPF Act Only through an elected Parliament 

All changes to the Fiji National Provident Fund Act have historically been implemented through elected parliaments, with full responsibility falling on the people’s own elected representatives, whether the decisions were correct or incorrect.

This is the only way in which such drastic changes should be made to a legislation that will affect the lifetime savings and pensions of hundreds of thousands of waged and salaried persons in Fiji, and impact on the wider economy.

There should first be an Independent Commission of Inquiry which would examine all the financial, economic, actuarial expert analyses and reports, consider the past history (including key decisions, successes, failures, errors in judgment by FNPF Managements and Boards etc ) and give reasoned and balanced advice on the future path for the Fiji National Provident Fund.

If the Independent Commission finds that the actuarial studies, properly revised to Fund members satisfaction, do indicate the need for reviews of the pension fund, then that would no doubt go ahead, but only with social approval and social consensus, through an elected Parliament.

All calls for greater accountability of FNPF Board, have been ignored by this Military Regime, giving the lie to their Charter’s hollow  promises of accountability and transparency.

Continuing media censorship, takes away our basic human rights of freedom of expression including our rights to discuss publicly our just grivenances..

Pensioners’ legitimate interests are just one casualty of this Military Regime.

The breaking of contracts with pensioners will be merely another example of the many legal and social contracts this illegal Military Regime has broken, and continues to break,  with impunity.

The defense of pensioners’ rights are part of the bigger challenge to defend all our human rights in this country.

These challenges cannot be separated.   To separate them is to basically state that one wants our own rights to be safeguarded, while others’ basic human rights are others’ problems.

Annex             My Early Warning Signals on FNPF

“The ATHL monopoly: between the devil and the deep blue sea", The Fiji Times, 6 March 2002:

            How FNPF’s purchase, at an extremely inflated price, of majority shares in the ATH super monopoly condemned to a quandary where to protect its investment, it would have to squeeze maximum dividends out of its ATH shares, and hence the maximum from Vodaphone, Telecom Fiji and FINTE, at the expense of consumers and the economy.

"The Reserve Bank and the FNPF: funny business for the guv". The Fiji Times, 12 March 2002:

            The inherent conflicts interest for the Governor of the Reserve Bank who  was also appointed as Chairman of FNPF and also Chairmanship of FINTEL: with the RBF forcing FNPF to bring back its investments (thereby losingrevenue and risk minimisation for FNPF), RBF’s role as regulator of Fiji’s financial system while FNPF was a huge player in the financial market, etc. A similar conflict of interest was also always there with the Permanent Secretary of Finance, or other Permanent Secretaries being appointed as Chairman of the FNPF Board.

“Communications Monopoly monsters at work” The Fiji Times, 21 May 2004:

How the communications monopolies were doing huge damage to Fiji economically and socially, and FNPF, to gain short-term dividends, was harming itself in the long run by supporting monopolistic practices which squeezed the economy, reduced economic growth and job creation and thereby squeezed its own long-term growth in contributions from existing and new members.

“Auditors between the devil and the deep blue sea”. The Sunday Times, 14 August 2005:

that the implications of the Professor Michael White’s analysis of FNPF accounts by auditors on  how FNPF would appear to be far worse if proper accounting procedures were to be followed in respect of the massive premium paid by FNPF for ATH shares, and the likely loss of value once competition was brought into the telecommunications industry

“Stock markets, sharks, suckers and victims”. Islands Business, May 2006:

            While stakeholders in the Fiji Stock Exchange had been attempting to encourage the public to convert their savings into shares in the stock market, it points to the dangers lurking in the future, especially if governments, under pressure from WTO or just a good change in policy, try to reduce monopolies, such as cement  producing companies, or ATH. There would be inevitable losses in share value,which stock market stakeholders were not pointing out. FNPF had even been encouraging its members, wrongly in my view, to use their FNPF money to buy shares in ATH.

 “Coup wolves circling FNPF” Fiji Sun, 14 March 2009 and The Fiji Times 13 March 2009.

Fijian Holdings Limited, a company controlled by the Military Government, tried to            borrow more than a hundred millions from FNPF, when private banks had refused.     FNPF refused. More ominously, the Military Government wants to borrow hundreds of      millions, basically to sustain their increased recurrent expenditure and military over-   spending. The private banks, local or overseas, will not oblige. If FNPF continuously          gives in to such lending pressures from Government, without economic growth, it will only encourage inflation to rise in the long term, thereby slashing the real value of           everyone’s savings and pensions. And if ever pensioners totally lose confidence in FNPF,   it may become insolvent, with future pension rates slashed, and even existing pensions             reduced in dollar terms. The key issue is that the FNPF Board is now controlled by an        unelected Military Government’s appointees and we the FNPF contributors who own the         savings do not have a single direct representative on the FNPF Board who can be          accountable to us.

Then came the Military Regime’s censorship of Fiji media, which Fiji meekly accepted.  Most of the rest of the articles had to be published abroad.

“Saving FNPF and Fiji”  Pacific Scoop, 12 May 2010.

FNPF announced a $327 million “write down” in its investment value (with some $300 million of that due to the Natadola loan). But FNPF also has some other large exposures which are not looking good: Momi, FSC and other private sector borrowers. And very strange that RBF has lent $22 million to the Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC). These are all extremely worrying developments for FNPF, RBF and for Fiji. Urgent need for Public Inquiry. How did these massive losses take place? Who should be held responsible? Might it get worse for FNPF? And how should FNPF management be strengthened to prevent further unwise decisions?

“Helping FNPF, despite media censorship”. Pacific Scoop. 18 January 2011:

With a stagnating economy FNPF revenues have been severely constrained. Few new jobs have been created and existing incomes have not grown; many loans are nonperforming; returns on FNPF investments have been declining; and large amounts of capital values have been written off because of mismanagement. But collectively, FNPF contributors and pensioners remain the largest group of spenders in the Fiji economy. This article constructively suggested how FNPF contributors and pensioners could direct their consumption expenditure towards FNPF investments (such as Holiday Inn, the Intercontinental, and Tappoo City), and change FNPF policies for the better. How FNPF management could encourage this by providing financial incentives and changing their management structure. Called on FNPF stakeholders (FNPF itself, unions, pensioners, civil servants etc) to conduct marketing campaigns in the aid of FNPF assets and loans recipients.

“Your money is not fully yours”. The Fiji Times 7 May 2011:

            While Fiji citizens technically own their money, they and their institutions (like FNPF) are not free to invest it where they wish to- they must obtain RBF permission to invest abroad. FNPF, which used to keep moderate amounts of their funds abroad in order to diversify their investments, have also been forced to bring them back, wherever there have been foreign exchange reserves crises, and suffered losses as a consequence. Whatever the FNPF loses in income, is gained by the RBF, which passes it n to the Government of the day, to spend and enjoy. Fiji citizens, who were forced to keep their investments in Fiji, have paid a heavy price, periodically.

“FNPF sinks lower” Pacific Scoop. 26 May 2011:

That the FNPF symposium being organized by the FNPF and the Military Regime was a farce. The FNPF management and Board, under orders from the Bainimarama Regime,  continue to hide all the reports that would reveal that the Bainimarama Regime is itself directly and indirectly responsible for a large part of the mess that the FNPF is currently in and the urgency of needed reforms; The Bainimarama Regime will continue to milk the FNPF cow, which, with increased contributions and reduced payouts, will give them even more of our savings to use ad misuse, however they wish. The contributors to FNPF and the pensioners of FNPF, will have no choice in the matter. With media censorship, they cannot even publicly and freely discuss these massive changes to your pension fund.

Called on the contributors and pensioners of FNPF to demand the public release of all the reports by IMF, WB, ILO and recent independent consultants; demand the release of all the reports on the investigation into the investments at Natadola, Momi; demand that the majority of the FNPF Board Members must be democratically elected by the current FNPF contributors and with pensioners having separate elected representation; demand that the Chairman of the Board must be from these elected Members and definitely not some foreigner as currently; demand that any decision on changes to the FNPF must be made by the elected Board and not the current Board and Management; demand that FNPF must be allowed to invest as much of its funds abroad as is prudently advisable and that RBF must recompense FNPF for all the lost earnings because of foreign investments brought back; demand that the FNPF management swear oaths of allegiance to the real owners of the Fund- the contributors and the pensioners, and not to an illegal Military Government.

“Consultants helping the Fiji military milk the FNPF cow”. Pacific Scoop. 2 June 2011:

While consultants were recommending significant reductions to the annuity rates for future pensioners, serious questions may be asked, for example, whether the Mercer calculations are correct, especially their assumption of Fiji’s future mortality patterns following Australian patterns. While these consultants and FNPF management talked about accountability and transparency, and the need to protect “whistleblowers”- they do not apply these same principles to themselves with their data and analysis.

“End FNPF subsidy to Fiji Governments- linking the many battles” Pacific Scoop. 20 July 2011:

   The FNPF Board and Management conveniently ignore that FNPF has been giving large subsidies (amounting to hundreds of millions over the last forty years) to successive Fiji governments through easily available loans, at interest rates much lower than that charged by commercial banks. The legal battle by current pensioners against FNPF and the Military Regime, should point to these massive FNPF subsidies to Fiji governments as a moral justification for Fiji Government to finance any future shortfalls in the liabilities to existing pensioners. To help FNPF’s revenues and current contributors and pensioners, these interest rate subsidies to Government should also be ended. For that to occur, both pensioners and contributors need to fight Battle 3, which is to have an FNPF Board completely accountable to its members.

“Battle to seek justice for Fiji pensioners strikes new legal defining point”. Pacific Scoop. 1 August 2011:

The Burness/Shameem case is important for FNPF pensioners, but it is far more important for the Fiji economy as a whole, because the planned FNPF action strikes at the heart of private property and legal contracts, both of which are at the core of all business transactions in Fiji and globally. This case should therefore be of great interest to Fiji’s business interests, Chambers of Commerce, Employers’ Federation and all investors in Fiji. The resolution of this case will be a defining moment for Fiji’s system of laws and justice.

“FNPF bakes Pie in the Sky for Air Pacific”  Pacific Scoop, 27 Sep 2011.

            FNPF makes yet another risky loan, of $200 million to Air Pacific to be collateral for         purchase of 2 Air Buses, when private banks obviously won’t lend to Air Pacific.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Budget 2012: tax cuts and pay increases so where will regime get its money from?

Two notables in this year's budget: the unelected prime minister was home to make the address himself and an all out effort was made to reach people via live streaming on the internet, radio and TV.

The regime's chief censor, Sharon Smith Johns, says the idea was to widen the audience. “Using a live stream provided by Mai TV will greatly benefit those living overseas, in particular Fiji Embassies throughout the world who will also be able to tune in. This also includes Fiji citizens living outside the country."

No word yet on how many followed the address live (readers will recall the budget was delivered last year by the illegal attorney general Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum) but key announcements were as follows:

Tax cuts
People earning $15,600 and less will not have to pay any tax. The threshold was $15,000 previously. Other tax brackets have also changed:
$15,600-$22,000: Tax rate drops from 25-7% and fixed component is eliminated.
$22,001-$50,000: Tax rate drop from 31-18% and fixed component will also be decreased.
$50,001-$100,000: Tax rate drops from 31-20% and the fixed component will also decrease.

Pay increases
Civil servants and the members of the disciplined forces and will get a three percent pay increase starting January the first at a cost of about $14.8 million.

Nurses and doctors will get an additional three percent on top of this making their increase six percet.


Police officers will get 9 percent increase.

Boost for Sugar
The Fiji Sugar Corporation will get $40 million with a promise of $700,000 worth of farming equipment and machinery.

FNPF reforms
Four key changes were made to the Fiji National Provident Fund pension scheme, including the introduction of the new FNPF Decree, which allows the regime to introduce a new age-based pension rate which starts March 1st 2012.

Current pensioners will be given the option to be refunded the initial amount they had set aside for pension, irrespective of their hitherto withdrawals.

Pensioners will then be able to choose from a number of new annuity options.

According to today's announcement there will also be top ups to pensioners who currently receive a monthly pension of below $100 while those with income between $100 and $300 per month 'will have their pension income protecte'

Those who receive over $300 per month "will be offered the best of two options—which is to bring their new pension level to $300 per month or a top-up of 25 percent of their refund capped at $10,000, to be applied on the purchase new life pension.'

Bainimarama says FNPF has been providing pension on an unsustainable basis and the only way forward is to introduce new pension rates. 

"If we do nothing now, the funds available to pay FNPF pensioners would only last until 2050, and threaten the stability of the national economy. These changes take into account the interest of all—existing pensioners, current and future members, FNPF and the nation. The fact that FNPF can offer these options, these top-ups, and these pension withdrawals demonstrates that FNPF is in a strong financial position. The reforms will make it even stronger."

Fiji Village National Budget 2012

Pay rise for civil servants

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cakaudrove joins Rewa in rejecting People's Charter

The following report emerged after Cakaudrove's council meeting this week. The article by Vasiti Ritova of Bula Bee says Cakaudrove's chief has used his  closing address to reiterate an earlier stand against the regime, just as Ro Teimumu Kepa, did at the Rewa meeting last week.

SOMOSOMO, TAVEUNI (Tuesday 22 November 2011): RATU Naiqama Lalabalavu, Gone Turaga Bale na Tui Cakau, has directed a firm stand against the People's Charter for Change, Peace and Progress.


He has also directed Cakaudrove's traditional leaders not to sign over its shares to the Ministry of Taukei Affairs.


Ratu Naiqama's decisions were handed over by way of his closing address today at the 2011 Cakaudrove Provincial Council.


The paramount chief of Tovata Confederacy stated that the People's Charter for Change, Peace and Progress is merely "a lip service to please".


The decision is the second of such nature in the past week by paramount chiefs.


Last week, Ro Teimumu Kepa, Gone Marama Bale na Roko Tui Dreketi, and members of the Rewa Provincial Council, stood their ground against the People's Charter, saying the current government was illegal as it came into power by way of an illegal coup.


Both paramount chiefs have been steadfast against the Bainimarama military regime in the last four years. And today, as many indigenous Fijians reel from the tough stand of the military regime against the Great Council of Chiefs, Methodist Church in Fiji and largely-Fijian institutions, Ratu Naiqama and Ro Teimumu have been what an observer said is "beacons of hope" for the indigenous Fijians.


The People's Charter had often topped the agenda on various provincial council meetings in the last four years, and the military regime established a whole ministry to look into the document and how it would, according to Bainimarama, initiate change. When he launched it in 2008, he said the Charter would "rebuild Fiji into a non-racial, culturally vibrant, united, well-governed, and truly democratic nation; a nation that will seek progress and prosperity, through merit-based equality of opportunity, and peace".


He stated that race-based policies of the past had "thwarted the orderly progress and development of our nation".


Observers have, however, noted that the Charter was a copy-and-paste document from well-used Development Plans and State of the Economy reports prepared by civil servants for previous democratically-elected governments.
Ro Teimumu expressed the opinion of the people of Rewa, saying they were "sick and tired of coups".


"Our country has suffered many coups and we have learned a lot from these successive coups," she said. "Perhaps the one clear thing we have learned after all these coups is that a coup will always hinder progress and development."


"At this point in history, we can say with certainty that coups contribute nothing positive to our society and will always result in impeding our progress," she added. "The reason we (Rewa) are opposed to the regime and the coup is because we can see no good can come of it, only grave difficulties."


"Therefore, we can say we never will want to experience another coup in Fiji," she said. "If it falls on Rewa to express this opinion to the current regime, so be it. Let there be no confusion; Rewa is opposed to any coup."


LOMAIVITI PROVINCE
Fresh reports have also emerged that members of the Lomaiviti Provincial Council voted its Chairman out, a staunch Bainimarama follower, and have installed Atu Kaloumaira.


Observers say this is good news for Lomaiviti as Kaloumaira would "ensure that right things are done for us". Colonel Etueni Caucau was elected Vice Chairman of Lomaiviti which the regime found unacceptable.


The Lomaiviti Provincial Council meeting was held in Lautoka, and before the military regime could recall it so that it could force them to have a re-election of a new Deputy Chairman, delegates had already left Lautoka.


Political observers report that the tough stand by Rewa has rekindled the flame for Fijian issues to be brought to the fore. They report that "Bainimarama's people are on the run trying to stem the growing tide".


KISOKO CAGITUEVEI BLASTS REWA, AGAIN

Meanwhile, a People's Charter official, former policeman Kisoko Cagituevei, has warned Rewa that their stand against the regime "could cause differences within the Vanua".
Cagituevei told Radio Fiji News that some villages in Rewa have presented their traditional apologies to government - showing their full support. The Fiji Times reported last month that Narocake had done this.


Cagituevei says this "clearly indicates the differences between the people and their chiefs", adding that the "the main worry" would be "that people could stand up for what they believe is right, and in the process, weaken the respect for chiefs".


He said it was critical for chiefs to "make wise decisions and remain in dialogue with their people".


Cagituevei said the regime did not support a gradual weakening of the chiefly system because it would mean a major isolation from "the government and the church".
Cagituevei has showed his frustration at many meetings in Rewa where strong stances had been taken to stop the adoption of the People's Charter.


The hostile or indifferent reaction of most ordinary Fijians has apparently infuriated the military regime. On 08 September 2008, Bainimarama railed against those criticising the Charter and threatened that elections would be cancelled and the military would rule for a further 20 years unless it was approved.


Whatever the document's final fate, the regime's plans were further derailed by the world financial crisis. With the US and the world threatened with a severe recession, Fiji's exports are likely to take a further hit while tourist numbers could decline further.


Such developments would further exacerbate social tensions and heighten the regime's isolation from the international community.


The Fiji Sun has, meanwhile, reported that government development projects remain a priority in rural areas and outer islands, according to Commissioner Northern Lieutenant-Colonel Ilai Moceica. It cites him as speaking at the Cakaudrove Provincial Council meeting at Somosomo Village on Taveuni saying the Government’s mission is to develop and implement best political, social and economic policies. He is quoted as urging council members to work together in developing the province. The Sun says: "This is part of the Vanua Levu Development Plan focused towards ensuring that the Look North Policy becomes a reality. Lieutenant-Colonel Moceica said Vanua Levu, which included Cakaudrove, was rich with resources and the Government had embarked on a roadmap towards development for the division in its bid to raise the living standards of the people."

Bula Bee reports
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bula-Bee/175902582458457 

Moceica reassures provincial council
http://www.fijisun.com.fj/main_page/view.asp?id=65164 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Indigenous Fijian rights in Fiji's politics

Presentation by Niko Nawaikula at the FDFM AGM in Melbourne.


I am putting the title Indigenous Fijian rights in Fiji's politics to this paper and within that I will attempt to answer the questions that I am assigned by the organizers of this conference.

The population of Fiji has been and continues to be a colorful mixture of many different races. About 48% each of that population is made up of ethnic Indians and indigenous or native Fijians. So that together they make up more than 96% of the total populations. The remaining 4% is made up of others.

In 1986 the appearance was that the people of all races in Fiji were living in harmony. Indeed when Pope John Paul II came there for a short visit in that year he said Fiji was the way the world should be. But he was proved wrong shortly after that when on 14th May 1987, nationalist Fijians, under Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka over threw the democratic and constitutional government of Dr Bavadra in a bloodless coup.

We all know that indigenous Fijian rights and interests lie at the heart of Fiji’s politics. It was one of the key factors as well as a reason and motives for the 1987 coups by Sitiveni Rabuka, the 2000 coup by George Speight and the 2006 coup by Frank Bainimarama. Rightly or wrongly these individuals and their collaborators blamed indigenous Fijian rights and interests as a reason for them doing what they did.

The coup of 1987 was executed by Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka on behalf of those who said that it was necessary to restore and maintain the paramountcy of Fijian rights and interests.  George Speight and his gang also did what they did to restore the paramountcy of Indigenous Fijian rights and interests.

Frank Bainimarama’s reasoning was the opposite but still having something to do with indigenous Fijian Rights. He did what he did to remove a government dominated by what he called were ethno-nationalists and racist Fijians bent on imposing their rights and interest at the expense of all others.

So what then is this so called indigenous Fijian rights? Are they paramount or should they be. Is the fear that they were being compromised, neglected or removed real? If they are indeed how can they be addressed and considered in a manner that will not be discriminatory against other races in Fiji. Is there a political solution apart from the whims of military officers conducting coupes one after another.

Before I define for you the meaning of indigenous rights generally and in the context of Fiji and native Fijians, I for one am sincerely of the view that Fijian rights and interests that were originally nurtured, protected and held paramount by a benevolent colonial administration has been badly ruined.
 
They were compromised, ignored or simply neglected. Individual right and commercial progress was talk of the day and a measure of success. And native Fijians were left behind wondering why everyone else had progressed economically.

I hold the view that there was a sincere need to review government policy and the legislation that recognize and regulate native rights and interests. The task was always how to recognize those rights and balance them with the rights of other citizens. But the way to do it is not through a coup. A coup for whatever reason is selfish, illegal and sinful.

But first let me define Indigenous rights before I come back to tell you how much of native Fijian rights has been removed or compromised and how that can be resolved in a multicultural country like Fiji.

 3. Indigenous Rights

In May of this year I was invited by the UN Voluntary Fund to attend the 10th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York. And as expected we were each given a pamphlet outlining the 46 articles that constitute the rights recognized by the UN for the indigenous people

They include the right of self determination, the right to maintain their social and cultural institution, the right to maintain their ethnic identity, the right to practice their culture and customs, the right to language, land right and others.

If you are a native Fijian or if you have lived in Fiji you will probably say we know all those and they all sound too familiar. Native Fijians have been recognized the right to self determination for a very long time by virtue of their matanitu Taukei established under the Fijian Affairs Act.

Native Fijians do maintain their social and cultural institution by virtue of their Mataqali, Yavusa and Vanua. Native Fijians have been given and recognized the right to maintain their ethnic identity and to practice their culture and to speak and learn their language.

Fijians have the right to their lands and they have a selfish share of 86% of all the land in Fiji when they only constitute half the population. They have the Native land trust act to protect and give to them the investment value of their land. They have their provincial council and the Great Council of Chief to look after and promote their customs.

But the truth is, in my view is, that all those things are not what they seem. They are facades of what a benevolent crown had given to them initially. They are the last remains of what successive governments beginning with the communal government of 1904 had taken away.

Those that were too entrenched in legislation like the Native Land Act, Native Land Trust Act and Fijian Affairs Act they either stripped them of their function or it used those institutions to control and submit native Fijian to state authority.

Ironically, they are the same rights that are now recognized under the UN declaration of Indigenous Rights. Except that the UN declaration is saying where   rights exist together with those of others it is imperative that they must not be exercised at the expense of the right of others.

Article 46(2) says “ in  the exercise of the rights enunciated in the present Declaration, Human rights and fundamental freedom of all shall be respected. The exercise of the rights set forth in this Declaration shall be subject only to such limitation as are determined by law, and in accordance with international human rights obligations. Any such limitation shall be non-discriminatory and strictly necessary solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and for meeting the just and most compelling requirements of a democratic society. 

THE REMOVAL OF NATIVE FIJIAN RIGHTS

What had happened initially in Fiji is that the crown colony had conferred upon native Fijians the totality of what you may call indigenous rights similar to those that are now recognized under the UN Declaration.

These where all institutionalized under its laws and policy under what was then called Native policy making indigenous Fijian rights and interests paramount. In 1904 onwards successive governments have been trying to take this away. There is now an even more urgency to do this by the present regime

Let me show this by example. Firstly, the recognition of indigenous rights under Native Policy: Here you can see the recognition of Fijian right to land under the Native Lands Ordinance of 1882.  The rights to maintain cultural institution was recognized under the Native Affairs Ordinance.

Fijian language was promoted, written, taught and was the official second language. Village communities where regulated under the Native Affairs health regulation. There was a Fijian court system to adjudicate on customary law and minor offences.

On the other side of the coin, there are many examples of the removal and striping away of indigenous rights.  Legislation was introduced in 1905 to enable the sale of Native Land. If not stopped by Sir Arthur Gordon there would be no more Native Land. Legislation was passed in 1940 namely the Native Land Trust Act. This took away control of native land and put it in a government agent known as Native Land Trust Board.

 By virtue of this legislation native Fijians where forced to give out their land to subsidize development at the expense of investment at the market rate. There are many examples here and I know this very well because I have worked for the Native Land Trust Board.

The Fijian court system was removed totally. The Fijian administration was stripped of its function to regulate health and regulate custom.

The provincial council and the great council of chiefs were turned into institution of the state to control and make Native Fijian submissive to state authority.

Examples from the current regime include the announcement that the great council of chief function and role is useless and they are better of drinking home brew under the mango tree. Restrictions have been but permanently on the Great council of chiefs holding any meeting.  Amended legislation were introduced to allow the regime to control the great council of chief and provincial council by giving the regime discretion to appoint sympathizers.

On land the current regime has established committees to work with its agent the NLTB to coerce native land owners to renew their lease. There are also policy announcement and amendments made to give to the government in unilateral power over Native Land . The Land Use decree now allows the state to set aside portions of native land under direct control.

Amendments to the Fiji Hardwood Decree has terminated all claims against the state by native Fijians and allows the state direct ownership and control. The irony is that Fiji's Mahogany Plantations were intended initially to be owned by native Fijians to compensate removal of native timber. As its potential and financial value became obvious the state moved in to take control.

THE WAY FORWARD

I have expressed my views on the way forward for Fiji in at least one of my speeches in parliament. I approached it from the need to create a common identity for all who live in Fiji. And I apply the principle guide of the UN Declaration that Fijian indigenous right must not be held paramount but is to be balanced with the rights of other communities.

On common identity I submit that the common identity for all people who live in Fiji is the Fijian identity.

Let me illustrate this by example. Many times while I was in Australia as a student the final climax of every major function we go to is the singing of a very unique Fijian song the “Isa Lei”. When the time comes for that every person who identifies with that song, with the country, with that land in a very unique way would rush up to the stage to sing that very special song the Isa Lei.

When I look around me in that crowd everyone from Fiji is there Native Fijian, Indian, Chinese, European, part European. And I look around and see that everyone is singing their hearts out.

Even many who cannot speak native Fijian were feeling well and truly Fijian. But the reality is that they cannot speak the language of what they were uniquely feeling inside on something that sets them out as unique which is what identity is all about.

There is a need to promote those common bond that make us unique, like all having to know the Fijian language and the basics of Fijian custom and the need for these to be taught and promoted in schools. Much like what New Zealanders are doing, adopting Maori as their identity.

We do not become that by forcing the “ Fijian “ label upon us because that label implies some commonness like the language and custom associated with that label which we must all learn and acquire.

The problem in Fiji is that if you promote the teaching of Fijian language and culture in schools some will say you are discriminating against Indians and we must also teach Hindi. But I'm talking about our common identity here. I think it will be an all inclusive thing to do.

Moving from there to our community and its institutions, including political institutions, we must begin to break down barriers. For example what is wrong with the Rewa provincial or the Cakaudrove provincial council having  Indians in that province represented there when they truly consider themselves Rewans and the Rewa Chiefs as their chiefs.

What is wrong with Indians being represented in the Great Council of Chiefs . The GCC is not sacred or sacrosanct; it is simply a council of representatives.

On political institutions my model of Fiji’s parliament is to have the Great Council of Chief to replace the senate to manifest that the sovereign power of Fiji is held by them but they delegate that to a parliament for democratic process and they reserve the right for review. It will also be an inclusive symbol at that level and unifying symbol of our common identity with the appearance they are chiefs to all who live in Fiji

For my model the Fijian indigenous right is no longer paramount but is balanced with the rights of others. On land rights for example to remove the feeling of insecurity of tenants of land and a third type of title to native land called the Native freehold can be introduced which can give better security.

CONCLUSION

To conclude Mr. Chairman, I say that indigenous rights that is now only recognized by the UN was nurtured and promoted for Native Fijians a long time ago between the period 1874 – 1904 under Native Policy making those rights paramount.  From 1904 – 1987 colonial administration have systematically tried to remove them totally. One reason is obvious and it is because Fiji was then becoming a very plural society. The coups of 1987 and 2000 were vain attempts to restore those paramount rights. The current regime is again trying its best to remove them totally. As a way forward, I submit we should be guided by the UN Declaration for Indigenous Rights which now recognize that Indigenous Rights are Human Rights. The challenge however, is for us or any future government for Fiji in that matter is to balance those rights against the rights of others. I am suggesting here that if we accept that the Fijian identity is our common identity we should therefore be able to work about balancing those rights and using the institutions that are already there to create for us a society that is truly Fijian and harmonious not only in name but in a true Fijian character maintaining the uniqueness of its language and custom in a way that is inclusive to all.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Samisoni: regime players driven by bitterness

 
FDFM Executives and Members: (from left to right) Roko Ului, Vonivate Driu(Media Officer), Vula Yee (Vice-President),  Jone Baledrokadroka, Niko Nawaikula, Suliasi Daunitutu (President), Mere Samisoni,  Sera Laveta  (NSW Acting President), Stuart Huggett(FDFM NZ), Jiosifini Waqanibete(VIC Executive Member), Jone Buadromo – Robinvale President.
(Standing behind Daunitutu): James Huggett – FDFM Lawyer(Melb), Suka Sevuia (National Treasurer & Victoria chapter president), Mesui Tuifua- SA Vice President, Tevita Naroba (SA President), Lainoa Rasiga (Robinvale Secretary), Rusiate Naulivou (NSW Member)


The Australian based Fiji Democracy Freedom Movement held its AGM over the weekend and elected the following people to executive positions:
National President – Suliasi Daunitutu
Vice President – Vula Yee
Secretary – Tevita Naroba
Treasurer – Suka Seviua

The Deposed SDL MP, Dr Mere Samisoni, was one of the speakers at the Melbourne conference. Below is her address.


Dr Mere Samisoni
Thank you for the invitation to speak at your Fiji Democracy Freedom Movement (FDFM) Australian Chapter AGM.

I am speaking in my capacity as the deposed SDL member of the Lami Open Constituency, and as a former MP in the SDL/FLP Multi-Party Government that was ousted from power in the December 2006 coup.

I have been asked to address the subject matter of possible “mistakes and learning” made by the ousted SDL/FLP Government, which helped usher in the present Bainimarama Regime, a regime which the Fiji Court of Appeal has ruled unconstitutional. I have my own views on this but felt that in the interests of fairness and closure, I should ask the respective leaders of Fiji’s two major political parties for their input.

I asked them each the same 4 questions, in the context of the time constraints and the requirement of power sharing leadership within the Multi Party Cabinet. These questions were:

1. What regrets, if any do you have about the role you may have played in helping usher in the current Bainimarama regime? 

FDFM AGM
2. What do you think you could have done differently to avoid the present regime?
3. Is there anything else you believe your Prime Ministerial predecessors could have done to also help prevent the current regime?
4. Do you have any other points or concerns in regard to this subject?

As of 5th November, deposed Labour Leader, Mr. Mahendra Pal Chaudhry had not replied to any of these questions that I had sent via his colleague, Felix Anthony. Deposed Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, on the other hand, gave me his reply within a few days. I list his answers, as follows:

Reply to question 1. What regrets, if any do you have about the role you may have played in helping usher in the current Bainimarama regime?

“I do not have any regrets about my decisions and actions prior to the military coup on 6th December 2006. I upheld the Constitution all the way. I did not bend the law in anyway in order to meet, what I considered, the illegal demands of the Military. I did not play any role to usher in the present unconstitutional government in Fiji. This is unthinkable given my commitment to democracy and its values. The truth is that Bainimarama and his colleagues forced themselves into Government with military power, to protect themselves for personal reasons.

Reply to question 2.  What do you think you could have done differently to avoid the present regime?

“I would have done nothing differently.  My role as Prime Minister was to uphold the Constitution and the laws of Fiji. To do otherwise would have meant total surrender to an illegal usurper of power. I was not prepared to do this.

The reality is Mr. Bainimarama was determined to take over Government by force for personal and other reasons. The Police were closing in to arrest and charge him for some serious crimes committed. He was not prepared or did not have the courage to face up to the full brunt of the law. The reasons he gave earlier for carrying out the coup were “a cover up” for his crimes.

My commitment was to stand by the Constitution, the truth and what was right.

Question 3. Is there anything else you believe your Prime Ministerial predecessors could have done to also help prevent the current regime?

The greatest mistake made by my predecessors including myself, was to allow the continuation and expansion of our Military force. Fiji does not need a military force. It is already too powerful. The military will continue to be a thorn on the side of Fiji unless it is drastically reduced in size and authority. Better still Fiji would be better off without a military force as it has outgrown its purpose to protect the people of Fiji and their democratic institutions for development, safety and security according to the Constitution of Fiji.

Question 4. Do you have any other points or concerns in regard to this subject?

Evidence now suggests that the leadership of the Fiji Labor Party was actively involved in the discussions and planning of the 2006 coup. It is too dangerous for Fiji’s future if political parties align themselves to the Military Force. By aligning itself to the military the FLP was lending support to an illegal activity, which they now regret.

I thank the former PM the Rt Honourable Laisenia Qarase for this forthrightness. Due to the fact that the situation in Fiji today is utterly unacceptable, there is a sense amongst many that there must have been more that could have been done, to avoid it. But the basic reality of Fiji’s situation for the past decade is that our military has been ruled by an unelected individual prepared to issue any orders necessary to get his way. The 1997 Constitution (assuming this post would always be occupied by someone of noble and just character) was designed to give whoever was Commander all the power and authority needed to get around any other authority. The chances of out-maneuvering that kind of power, was never going to be great, or even significant.

In that sense, Fiji’s current course was really set much earlier than 2006, and it was really just a matter of time for it to play itself out. I have been told by “high-ups” in the SDL that they knew their days were numbered right back from 2003, and that they were simply trying to do as much as possible before being kicked out.

Against that backdrop, peoples’ hopes & regrets for things to have turned out differently are perhaps analogous to the tendency to sometimes blame the victim of rape instead of the perpetrator. Perhaps there were things she might have done differently to avoid it. But any such failures, pale in comparison to the culpability of the sheer, brutal obsession of the rapist to commit his crime in the first place.

That said, there might have been some things I would have done differently if I had to do it all over again – always keeping in mind the rather miniscule chances of success in any event.

There are two main ways to look at this question. The first is what might have been done strategically. The second is what might have been done politically/legally. The first category is obviously best answered by military types (like Col Baledrokadroka) who have access to the kind of inside information that I am not, and was not, privy to. I have had a layman’s tilt at it though, in Appendix 1, which I will not be presenting to you verbally today. It is attached with your copies of this paper, and you can read it at your leisure if you so desire.

The second category of political proposals to the threat of Frank Bainimarama is more my territory and I have included it in Appendix 2, which I will also not be presenting verbally here today. It is in the form of response to what I feel are the most common questions people might be asking themselves today about why we (SDL) didn’t do things differently. For completeness, my speculation on possible responses from ousted Labour Leader, Mahendra Pal Chaudhry, to this topic, is included in Appendix 3.

Once you read my Appendices – particularly Appendix 2 – you may feel these were a bit of a whitewash and an exercise in self-justification by the SDL. I do not want to stand in front of you today and claim, “nothing could’ve been done differently”. But I think the Appendices will make it fairly obvious now that the chances of things turning out differently were not huge. Not at least during the SDL’s time! The real question anyway, is not “What could we have done different then?” It is “What can we do different in future?”

I think in this regard, the main lesson from the 2006 coup is the danger of what I refer to as political irrationality. Fiji is not unique in this regard, and there are plenty of overseas examples of irrational, and irrationally hostile, politics. But these reached completely absurd levels in Fiji in 2006 (and of course, also back in 2000 & 1987). The fact that both sides have now had a taste of this medicine, sets the stage for important lessons to be learned and return to institutional democracy as planned in the 1997/1998 Constitution.

Explaining this from an SDL perspective, the most baffling thing about the 2006 coup to me was the sheer irrational malice that so many otherwise intelligent people had towards us. This malice completely blinded them to the wrongs of the 2006 coup because they were somehow revved up into thinking we were the “lesser of two evils” (probably all the previous injustices done to them). Most have now woken up and realized that we weren’t, and they can see for themselves now that things were nowhere near as bad then as they are now. This “political irrationality” is not just a FLP/UGP phenomenon either! Many educated Fijians (some might include me in this category) likewise couldn’t think their way properly through the 2000 crisis due to irrational fear and dislike of Mahen Pal Chaudhry. The same goes for the 1987 coup and the irrational fear of Indian rule!

I think that kind of irrational fear & politics was the real fulcrum in this drama since it allowed people to remain blinded to the far greater threat to Fiji, of having a military strongman rule Fiji.


At first glance, the 2006 coup may just appear to be a story of greed and power-lust dressed up as political crusading. But if you look closer, you can find real lessons worth learning that will far outlast the stillborn Peoples’ Charter.

The first is that the FLP finally got a chance to prove itself in Government. Looking at their performance without the irrational Fijian political fears of old, we can see that they weren’t so bad! Certainly not anywhere near as bad as made out in 2000, or 1987. The fact that some of their ideas and policies were implemented, and the Fijian race didn’t immediately vanish into the sea, is instructive.

On the other hand, the FLP weren’t that great, either! Certainly not so great as to think Fiji has missed out on huge growth since 1987 by not having any Indian leadership of Government. An expectation has arisen amongst many that because Indians regularly outperform Fijians in non-sport endeavors, that this could also be expected in the arena of Government, too. Anger at the injustices of 1987 and 2000 goaded this prejudice to irrational levels, discounting much Fijian success as simply quota-policy prompted. Once a competent Indian Government was in place, then everyone would see what’s what!

But from what we saw post-2006 though, this was not the case! All the people who thought in 2006 that Government wasn’t firm enough, or that they could do a better job – have all now been empirically proven wrong. And in plain view of the whole country & region, too! (Mahen even reportedly confided privately to colleagues in late 2007 that running Government was hard.)

This means the biggest loss to Fiji and its economy does not come from missing out on a progressive, socially-conscious, Indian-dominated Government, or a steady, underdevelopment-wary, Fijian-dominated one. The biggest problem and cost to Fiji BY FAR comes from removing whatever Government we do have by illegal means, just to install whatever supposedly “better” Government we felt we missed out on!

The cost-benefit analysis of that kind of swap just doesn’t hold water! The estimated cost of the 2006 coup to Fiji is already, well into the $3billion to $5billion range now. It is hard to imagine any Fijian or Indian Government bungling things so badly as to be able to rack up that kind of damage. (Even drunken teenagers would find it difficult). By contrast, even if we had put Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore in charge of Fiji after the 2006 coup, he would take decades, if ever, to claw back the GDP growth lost due to the takeover itself.

But a costly coup and an unconstitutional government were not the only results of this kind of political irrationality. It also prevented good policy-making and even intelligent debate well before the coup, too.

The most obvious of these was the much hyped “Anti-corruption” and “Fraud” politicking of the FLP, subsequently appropriated by the military’s flopped “Clean-Up” campaign of 2006.

Of course there was corruption! But the vast majority of this was either in the civil service (PWD & Agriculture Departments), or had been committed by politicians and ministers of bygone years. Few if any then-current SDL people were involved (as the absence of legitimate “Clean Up” prosecutions against the SDL to date, shows). In their irrational loathing of us (SDL), and their unholy haste to smear us with the “corruption and fraud ” label, the FLP & the military lost sight of this simple fact!

On the other side of the coin, the SDL became dismissive of these constant and erroneous “cheap shots”. Unfortunately, this dismissiveness probably also desensitized us to the exact state of the real corruption in the civil service. Of course we couldn’t just conjure up a Kangaroo Court or sack people because Fiji still had a democratically elected government in place.  But there’s always more you can do if you prioritize things appropriately through management objectives and processes.

We did try to set-up the role of the CEO under the Public Enterprises Act 1996, to be responsible for this. And we updated the 1981 Finance Act (in 2004) to require and provide Management Information Systems to keep close track of over-spending and suspicious spending. These developments were aligned to the Paris Declaration 2004/2005 for good governance. But they needed more time (and perhaps more driving) to deliver results than we were given.

Race was one of the other topics treated irrationally by all sides pre-2006. The SDL called “a spade a spade” and played the political reality of having to pander to the partisanship of our majority Fijian electorate. The FLP railed and wailed publicly as a minority against the unfairness and political incorrectness of, while still subtlely pandering to the partisanship of its Indian electorate. Both have now been overtaken by the misguided, and some might claim, irrational race policies of the Bainimarama regime.

Between these extremes of too much and too little, is a perfectly rational middle ground. The trick is simply to formulate policy based on demonstrable causality. Issues whose outcomes are not impacted by ethnicity don’t need ethnic policy solutions. (Don’t give someone money just because he is Fijian). But issues, whose outcomes are impacted by ethnicity, need to be addressed as such (Don’t deny someone help either just because he and his government are Fijian). Credible research, not political grandstanding, will tell us which is which. Irrational responses outside that needed to be avoided.

Realistically speaking though, we know that Fiji has too many political phobias about this right now to expect normality and rationality about it any time soon. In the meantime, affirmative action can be adequately addressed using socio-economic and geographical criteria as Wadan Narsey had previously pointed out! Socio-economic and Geographical criteria automatically will automatically correct for ethnicity/race in most instances anyway, so no need to stir the phobias while we are trying to outgrow them.

Practically-speaking though, race & ethnicity still need to be accounted for by Bureau of Statistics because of the importance of measuring outcomes in development and healthcare. In the SDL’s time, these were used to guide the Alternative Livelihood Programme (ALP) and Rural Outer Island Development Programme (ROD). They leveraged Affirmative Action Polices under the Social Justice Act 2001 to target respective multi-ethnic communities and their respective value systems that are strategic and sustainable for added value with multiplier effects. Thus targeted and appropriate assistance could be delivered where needed.

The final point, I wish to make about political irrationality are the ongoing dangers it poses if not dealt with. If you look at most of the major players who are still supporting the unconstitutional government in Fiji, are all highly driven by grudges and bitterness. You know most of them, and therefore, I will not name them here. 

The point I want to make is if those people are all so bitter and driven by past injustices, then how many people are harboring grudges and unforgiveness today in relation to the ongoing perceived injustices of the current regime? How are we shaping our leaders and public of tomorrow? As we can see from 1987 and 2000, injustice breeds bitterness. The antidote then is justice.

The people need to tell their story, let off steam, and receive counseling, and I leave it to the FDFM to come up with suggestions on how best these people, who cannot speak freely because of PER, get their messages out of Fiji

For example, the people of Muaivuso & Waiqanake are not happy with the current lease arrangement with the Tengy Cement Company Ltd of China, which I am more than happy to elaborate in Q & A session.

We need to bear all these things in mind at the next ballot box to keep a proper perspective. Losing an election is tough! But there are worse things! We have seen for the umpteenth time in Fiji that coups are bad, very costly and bring no worthwhile benefits, and the 2006 coup is no exception. Hopefully the coup culture in Fiji will end in our lifetimes. It must end someday since it is not based on any tangible or recognizable issue, principle, cause or phenomenon.

According to former US Ambassador Larry Dinger (2006), and to quote him: “as the post-coup political process here plays out, it will primarily be Fiji's ethnic-Fijian population that determines the outcome.  Ethnic-Fijian politics and decision-making processes are often opaque (Narsey’s silence proposition).  Still, we figure international actors (and Fijians overseas – my input) can have influence.  We will continue to maintain contacts broadly and will try to encourage as rapid and progressive an outcome as possible given the circumstances”.

In SDL’s revised Constitution (as attached and Chaired by Dr. Tupeni Baba, 2008) the SDL Leadership and Party are poised to play a leading role in the future of Fiji as a Multi Ethnic and Multi Religious Society. A list of issues on constitutional democracy from Dr. Baba is also attached to facilitate the return to democratic elections ASAP.

In that context, one major issue for Fiji is how to foster more Teambuilding or Servant Leadership (Qarase 2006), which is authentic and professional towards our multi-ethnic society and sensitivities, as well as to the fact that the majority Indigenous Fijians are lagging behind other races. Since the 50’s, Management Schools throughout the world established and implemented Leadership and Management principles in reaction to the WW2 abuse of leadership power and position by Adolf Hitler. Independent thinking based on valid research needs to impact theory, policy and management of development, within a tailor-made, multi-disciplinary holistic yet strategic framework. Such a model can statistically remove subjective biases, grudges and irrationality. Fiji had started to address these concerns and barriers pre-2006, via our Strategic Development Plans for which Indigenous Fijian development was the sine qua non.

In my experience, race is a variable that affects “success”. It is a valid and significant scientific lateral market differentiator in any success research. More importantly it can be measured and accounted in policy “risks/benefits” analysis and balancing. Race will continue to impact developments, and under-developments, in Fiji regardless of whether it is buried or hidden by the irrational imposition of the elite few from the unelected illegal Interim Regime and their stooge supporters.

Diversity is already socially embedded as part of any market (de Bruin & Dupuis 2003) in respect of customers, capital and companies. Race & ethnicity is part and parcel of any diversity. Global entrepreneurial opportunities are growing at a rapid rate by dint of change and globalization. World markets are also being pushed in that direct by design and support of the World Bank, IMF, Commonwealth, EU and EC through bilateral funding agencies. Ethnic segmentation of those markets is a fact of life that can’t be ignored by anyone who is serious about trading in those markets. Fiji will need to ask itself why it wants to move against the global tide of developments in this regard. The trick in my view, is to neither ignore, nor over-emphasized race – but to simply give it attention that is “just right”!

Nevertheless, accountability is important when an unelected Military government backed by a minority Marxist political party is in place, and remains unaccountable to the public purse nor to a government by the people under Constitutional law. The Cotonou Agreement (articles 96 and 95) signed by Fiji 2000 and 2004 respectively is customized for strategic relevance in five broad areas in order to facilitate opportunities related to both structural and customer values refocus for democratic change.

The broad areas are political, development, investment facility, implementation and management procedures. These areas are linked to the Milbrook Commonwealth Programme on the Harere Declaration 1991 (Hatchard & Ogowewo 2003; Primack & Bilal 2004;Pearson 2005), which deals with unconstitutional overthrows of democracies – an emerging trend in the Commonwealth.


God Bless Fiji!   

Dr. Mere Tuisalalo Samisoni SDL member for Lami Open Constituency (Deposed 2006).