June 24, 2007

Tick Fever is upon us

Please forgive us for succumbing to a bout of depression and the blues. That’s our excuse for the lapse in updates.

The junta & co and their weekly antics are just too outrageous for words. For us the shock has set in and we are now petrified-ly coming to grips with the fact that they REALLY have no idea about running a country. They have outdone themselves in proving to all and sundry that they are unfit leaders and the injury to the insult is that common sense evades all of them completely.

Yet they still plug their “ability gaps” by appointing family, friends and themselves rampantly all over the place. Consider Driti, who is now a diplomat in fatigues. Wonders will never cease when everything is now possible and legal when it suits the junta.

While much has been said about looking for new friends rather than our historical ANZUS ones, the crude reality is this: better the devil you know. Exploring new geopolitical ties is an exercise in futility because any favours they throw us will be boomerang one’s. Does it really give us an upper hand at this present time? Only for the short term and that’s a promise. While the wooing and the honeymoon period of a new relationship is giddy-ingly heady, the main objective of any new friends is getting their pound of “resource” flesh. For starters our geographic disconnection does nothing for strategic interests of the new global economic powers. History is merely repeating itself. It’s all about domination no matter which region one turns ones line of sight to. Better the devil we know.

From a purely pragmatic point of view, offering the smiles, surf n sand to travelers all the round the other part of the globe is (a) selfishly oblivious to the plight of our island neighbours facing evacuation from rising tides at a time when environmental consciousness is at an all-time high (is Bernadette interim environment minister or not we ask?) (b) lacking of inducements to the travel burden with stop-over packages that lessen the butt-aches and mucked up body clocks.

Madam junta minister, please ease up on the strands of pearls around your neck because they are clearly wreaking havoc on the flow of oxygen to your brain cells. Kinda like your earth-shattering idea of ginger and coconut lollies that will save an economy which has already flat-lined.

It’s also appropriate that we give our 2cents on the debate about democracy being a foreign flower etc etc. Whether we live under democracy, socialism or communism or whatever political ideology, the point is we need some form of rules to live by as a society. Otherwise we would be better of going back to the caveman ethos. Years ago many people opted for democracy. It will stay that way until we, the electorate, decide en masse on another model.

Meanwhile on the ground here political party tensions, undermining, alliances and opportunistic campaigning seems to be doubling up. But public reality and not rhetoric (talk is cheap y’all!) is what will really entice those ticks come 2009. Don’t bother wasting good money on opinion polls guys, we’ll do one online here for free IF this promise comes through. We aren’t however holding our breaths on this “agreement in principle” because our feeling is that the tune will change once the ka-ching hits the coffers. Think about it – would this lot throw away everything to execute/back this coup only to (a) have a successful court hearing declaring them illegal (b) conduct elections 2 years down the track? Nah…they’ve always wanted IN for the long haul and aren’t really ready for Hotel Nukulau as a permanent holiday spot just yet. Mind you when they get there, we are tempted to actively lead a campaign to deter any hard-earned tax dollars going towards feeding, clothing or sheltering them.

But just as money makes the world go round, the dire lack of it will be the tipping point for the junta & co. Regrettably it will be our sweat that will have to fix this but that’s what happens when coups take place. This better be the last coup or else new usurpers will find themselves Kings with no subjects – that’s right – it will be Moce Jo for real then. To that effect we applaud the contribution by the blogger “Observer”. We’re behind this approach 200%.

Deeply disturbing however are the opportunistic sorts using this period of instability for their own means. By this we explicitly and strongly condemn all ideas suggesting that a violent uprising by the people is a solution. No one has the right to suggest that our people can or should be used as expendable commodities for the purposes of political supremacy. No one is ever worth that. The mere idea reeks of selfishness. Forget it y’all – we will resist those notions to the fullest! The biggest insult in this suggestion is the insinuation that we the peoples are gullible, emotionally charged enough to resort to violence and are just plain stupid. So we say, rack off and let’s see if you would put yourselves in the front-line holding your molotov cocktails.

Qarase is to-ing and fro-ing with his decision to return to Suva. Whatever decision he finally makes is inevitably tied to the fact that junta’s much needed Emergency Regulations control “stick” is just waiting in the wings to be cued. His safety if/when he steps foot in Viti Levu will be keenly monitored on all fronts.

Folks, don’t give the junta & co the opportunity to whip out that stick. Let’s just let Qarase be and let him work his butt off to clear his parties name if he still wants those ticks. In the meantime he and SDL have a lot of work to do. We would caution Ro Teimumu against the cocky struts of assuming that they will win again merely because the electorate is incensed enough with the junta & co to prove a point. We will prove our point but we are also incensed enough to bestow our ticks to those who truly deserve it and who will deliver. Not the type of representation that has been common in the past once the ticks have been counted (read: see ya in 5 years time!).

On the NFP front, the latest sugar crushing drama seems to score points nicely in their favour. The FLP as a party would do well to change the leadership. Even though Mahend is the embodiment of the party he and his son will asphyxiate it to death if they remain there. The most logical thing to then do would be for those opposed to him to form a breakaway party that will be truly open to multiculturalism. The time is right and we hope Krishna Dutt stick’s around to lead that kind of legacy.

There are murmurs that already some members of this illegal government are feathering their nests to team up with the oddest people in yet another new party. Well...if Jone Navakamocea could so boldly stick a knife in the front and back of SDL (read: liumuri), just watch the new alliances reveal themselves and be amused.

Perhaps this time of respite is an opportunity to really reflect on the values we deem worthy of our ticks for the next government. One thing is certain. These next elections will show advanced voter maturity even in the rural sectors (read: remittances revenge). We may see the phasing out of votes along party lines and the evolution of independent candidates—especially those who (a) take their marriage vows seriously (b) walk the talk (c) know what the hell to talk about in the first place (read: proven credibility).

So while tick fever hypes up, a few words in ending for those who are actively backing the junta & co. Fortunately for us Fiji can still boast a sense of community. In some way everyone know’s everyone else. So while you backers enjoy your time in the limelight remember the legacy you will pass on to your descendants. Will they carry your name with pride or will they cower all over the country/world in shame? To be ostracized as a community reject is far more distressing than incarceration because the latter is time-bound while the first is forever.

June 10, 2007

Teleni no-show on live programme

Acting military commander Captain Esala Teleni failed to show up at a live Fijian language television talk-back show “Viti Nikua” today.

The host Sakiusa Bolaira told viewers Teleni was to have fielded questions in the weekly Sunday afternoon programme.

Apologising for the disruption to the programme, Bolaira said several attempts to get in contact with Teleni by telephone were futile. He said soldiers told them Teleni was in a meeting of military officers.

Bolaira said they were trying to get in touch with ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase but couldn’t get through to him also.

Instead of the usual questions from callers put to a studio guest (or a guest over the phone), an old documentary about Fiji’s veteran soldiers who fought in the Solomon Islands in World War II was played.

Teleni was appointed in the past week as Commissioner of Police, ahead of acting police commissioner Romanu Tikotikoca. The Constitutional Offices Commission refused to answer questions about Teleni’s qualifications to head the police force over Tikotikoca saying they were “confidential”.

"We don't discuss those kinds of things with the media, that's confidential," he told a Fiji Times reporter.

Only three applicants were interviewed for the job: Tikotikoca, Teleni and a former soldier. Teleni is also deputy commissioner of the regime’s anti-corruption unit which has a fashionable-sounding acronym FICAC (pronounced fai-kak!).

The appointment of the second-highest ranking officer in the RFMF as Commissioner of Police doesn’t look right, but hey, we’re run by a military regime.

Speaking truth to power

Six months after the military decided it knew best about how to run this country, it’s done a pretty good job of trying to shut up critics. It reached a farcical high point between March (the beginning of the hunt for Intelligentsiya) and May (during the hunt for fellow Freedom Blogger, FijianBlack).

Thankfully not everybody is afraid to peacefully speak their minds - and not everyone minds being hunted by the military over their opinions.

In case you haven’t noticed, several other blogs have joined the ranks of the Fiji Freedom bloggers. There’s what we think to be the first dedicated Fijian language blog called i Taukei and Très Désabusé. In Très Désabusé's words: "To say that there must be no criticism of this unelected interim group of sycophants, or that we are to stand by them, right or wrong is not only unpatriotic and servile but is morally treasonable to the Fijian public." Keep the discussion going people.

Lawyer Graham Leung is one of those few people who are not afraid of telling it like it is, as Très Désabusé has already pointed out.

His speech at the 20th Biennial LawAsia Conference in Hong Kong on Friday, June 8 lays bare the division within the legal fraternity and dangerous ground the judiciary is now treading in being complicit with the military junta.

Read Leung's speech on the Fiji Times’ website here.

Precluding Leung's speech, an episode in a rather tiny courtroom of the High Court in Suva on Wednesday morning observed by the diplomatic corp illustrates the suspicion that the interim regime is "pressuring" the judiciary or that parts of the judiciary itself are complicit.

In that case, Dr John Cameron, another lawyer unafraid to speak his mind, told Justice Jiten Singh's court that this "illegal regime has no intention of having its illegal acts scrutinised by the courts".

An Australian with decades of experience on the Fiji Bar, Dr Cameron was representing Angie Heffernan, who as (now replaced) executive director of the Pacific Centre for Public Integrity, is seeking constitutional redress for being threatened by the military for her criticism.

Dr Cameron was reacting to a last-minute order obtained under questionable circumstances by the interim regime to halt the case which was to be heard from Wednesday. He questioned the urgency with which the order was made - during off-court hours just one working day away from the main hearing to begin on Wednesday morning.

Justice John Byrne, a High Court judge who was recently appointed to the bench of the Court of Appeal, granted the order at 4.30pm on Monday. Dr Cameron also questioned the propriety of Justice Byrnes ruling on the application by the Attorney-General, when his appointment to the Appeals Court, like the appointment of acting Chief Justice Anthony Gates, would be challenged in a case brought by the Fiji Law Society on June 28.

Justice Jiten Singh who is presiding over the case expressed surprise himself that he didn't hear about the order until the morning of the case. And Dr Cameron asked Justice Singh to summon the Attorney-General to court to explain why he should not pay the plaintiff cost out of his own pocket for deliberately delaying the case.

But the lawyer representing the Attorney-General monotonously insisted that since an order from a higher court had been made to stop the hearing, the application could not be heard. Dr Cameron and Justice Singh, though annoyed and irritated at the delay, agreed that nothing could be done until the full Court of Appeal is petitioned to set aside Justice Byrne's order.

On Thursday, Justice Byrne was visibly angry (almost quivering with rage) when approached by Fiji TV reporter Sainimili Finiasi questioning him on the order he made. He said judges could not comment on their own decisions and when he was asked about whether he had been properly appointed to the Court of Appeal, he replied, "It's in the Constitution."

Acting Chief Justice Anthony Gates evaded speaking to the camera referring Finiasi to a written response to questions she sent him before being whisked away in his "official" vehicle.

Ousted Vice President, respected lawyer and chief Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi also spoke of the weakening of the rule of law following the military coup (on Fiji Times's site).

That episode earlier in the week illustrates the sort of legal division Leung referred to in his speech. And its not just amongst the lawyers. The judges who are willingly helping the interim regime seem are also on the defensive.

June 09, 2007

Post-mortem of a coup

Here’s some excerpts from a collection of writings published this week on the 2006 election and coup by various writers, edited by Dr Jon Fraenkel and Dr Stewart Firth.

The book “From Election to Coup in Fiji: The 2006 Campaign and its Aftermath” was launched this week in Fiji and Australia.

To download the complete chapter that summarizes the 2006 coup and its illegality go here. (Thanks to Dr Fraenkel for the link)

"Because the prime minister had declined to resign and the president equivocated, the illegality of the takeover had become inevitable.

“Bainimarama, having himself rendered the government incapable of acting, claimed its incapacity as justification for the takeover.

The military’s actions unleashed “an accusatory culture, and putting judgement into the hands of those who were not experts, also elevated the position of those with axes to grind on the mill of the clean-up campaign.

“In time, indigenous Fijian resistance to the interim government might grow. The Methodist church is by no means reconciled to the new order, and nor are the Bau and Cakaudrove chiefs. The government – short of money – will impose public spending cuts that are likely to stir resentment in the indigenous Fijian community, especially as Mahendra Chaudhry will be the minister implementing them.

“The May 2006 election, like that of August 2001, had been rigged, said the FLP leader, dismissing the ‘rhetoric about the takeover of a democratically-elected Government’. In these statements, Chaudhry was clearly positioning himself for an extraordinary transition from steadfast upholder of the rule of law to participant in an illegal administration, from RFMF victim to ally of the latest military insurrection and from principled democrat to coup apologist.

“The independence of the judiciary, which had been damaged but not broken by the events of 29 May 2000, was now to be more thoroughly compromised by senior judges’ assumption of positions under the auspices of an illegal regime.

“The RFMF had transformed itself from the guarantor of indigenous Fijian paramountcy into its nemesis. The FLP had cartwheeled from victim to victor in the illegal overthrow of elected governments, and the despised language of the 2000 coup (‘I agree with the goals, but not the means’) had become the favoured retort of those seeking accommodations with the new order. It was an event justified, like previous coups, by claims that perhaps Fiji was not yet ready for democracy, nor for institutions that had been carefully nurtured over hundreds of years in Europe and north America.”

June 06, 2007

Military encroaching on academic freedom?

The power of anonymity…

From Cassandra's Desk

Two "anonymous" responses to my recent writings for Intelligentsiya speculated as to my real identity. Well, apologies and all that but your correspondent finds anonymity just too convenient for his particular purposes to even think about revealing his true persona.

For example, how inconvenient would it be if one Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama knew that Cassandra - the mythical prophetess of doom - was none other than yours truly?

Full disclosure - due to our respective associations with certain popular sports, Fiji's self-appointed ruler and your humble correspondent have been acquainted for some time.

But, I hasten to add, that particular connection is ALL we have in common. Moreover, I can honestly state that even before he went completely coup-coup, I never found any reason to like or admire the man, nor can I think of anything else - excluding of course gender and nationality - that could be cited as even remotely resembling a shared characteristic.

Indeed, we couldn't be more different. It’s all about being civilized. Without putting too fine a point on it, I believe - passionately - in civil, open society. Frank's all too apparent creed is guns, threats and deceit.

Whereas he relies on a chain of command and his rank enables him to bark orders to achieve his ends, I rely on an extensive and collaborative network of dear friends and allies, a network based wholly and solely on mutual trust, mutual respect and shared values and ideals.

And it’s a very supportive little network, thank you very much. All I need to do is ask - and whatever I seek is willingly proffered or shared if it is available. Now, is that or is that not, a civilized way to get things done? It’s certainly more civilized than pointing guns at people and trampling on their rights by illegally detaining them or beating them to death!

Now, were Bainimarama to discover my true identity, I suppose we could expect at the very least a cameo display of that unpleasant curled-lip sneer of his, and some (very) naughty words. Oh dear!

On the other hand (and this is my reason for addressing the issue of anonymity), how would he react to learning the identities and views of certain others, also long-time acquaintances, but ones far more powerful, influential and better placed than yours truly?

According to sources in my aforementioned network, this growing bank of disaffected “Francophones” – including in the military! - are now united in their opinion that Frank's nation-saving coup has become a nation-wrecking disaster.

And if Frank were to discover exactly what these erstwhile cronies now think of him and what they would like to see happen, there's be no time for sneers or oaths.

Rather, I foresee a sudden and urgent desire for the same cloak of anonymity that your correspondent finds so convenient.

Anonymously Yours,