July 25, 2007

From Turkey in solidarity

They say the world’s a small place, and this proves it. Who would have thought that in faraway Turkey, a group of young people with no connection to Fiji would have been interested in democracy here.

Intelligentsiya and the Fiji Freedom Bloggers received an email from a youth group in Turkey who called a press conference on a dockside in Istanbul, before getting on a boat and sailing out to simulate travelling to Fiji. Two of the youths delivered a speech in Turkish and English calling for the return to democracy.

The press conference organized by the Young Civilians on Saturday was filmed and the video posted to Youtube. It was touching to see a group of young people we don't even know with Fiji flags waving in the wind and posters of Bainimarama with the word "RESIGN" across it.

Granted some of the details in the speech are a bit inaccurate, but the spirit of the message remains.

In the email Neslihan, a member of the Young Civilians, explained how they’re experiencing similar problems in Turkey with their military trying to force its way into public life and threatening a coup.

The event came on the eve of elections in Turkey which was held on Sunday and won by the AK Party) in Turkey when reporting on election was banned. These people came up with a novel way to get around that, as Neslihan explains in the email:

“The event was that we read the text about coup detat of fiji both in turkish and in english at a coast of istanbul in front of a ship. after reading the statement we imitated that we got the ship to go to fiji. we left the coast by the ship at the end. it was quite nice. there were some journalists and tv cameras. one of them already wrote about the event now. and we think there will be more writings about it tomorrow. because tomorrow will be the election here and any news about the political parties and election is forbidden, so they will look for some alternatives. our protest of bainimarama coup will be that kind of alternative.

the thing is that we were talking about military pressure on people or interventions into civilian politics and parliament in fiji, but if you change the names and some details it was totally the story of our country, turkey. so, it s obviously meaningful to talk about your country here. when we are talking about turkey, people here tend to say that the army should intervene into politics if it s necessary(!) but when we are talking another country like fiji they are totally surprised and smile while saying that "wow what a funny politics". we know things are not funny. and we also know we are doing the right thing by standing against all kind of militarist solutions into politics.”

The video is posted here. The English version of the speech begins at 3:09.

Thank you to Neslihan and the gang at Young Civilians for your solidarity.

Fiji’s laws: The baby that no one wants

By Brother M

IG Attorney General and Minister for Justice Mr Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum recently said that the timeline for the tribunal to investigate the status of the real Chief Justice Daniel Fatiaki did not worry him, despite the fact that, in not yet formulating a committee or terms of reference, Fiji has failed their obligations under the EU agreement made earlier this year.

In this agreement, a proviso for the continued funding from EU was that progress was to be made in relation to the status of Justice Fatiaki and the investigation into allegations of misbehaviour made against him (which heretofore have NOT been formalized in any sort of charges). Frankly, this is ridiculous, and worse still reflective of an attitude evident in much of Fiji’s population.

Let me first speak on why it is ridiculous. Mr Sayed-Khaiyum appears to have no qualms with shirking his responsibilities, as evidenced in his wanting to get an extension on his assignment, just like a lazy teenager who hasn’t finished his school project on time. So, this lazy teenager intends to just stroll into the EU headquarters like he’s king-shit, and say, “Hey, Mr Boss man, give me an extension, eh?”

I hope they throw him out on his ass. The EU needs to punish him for failing. Write a big fat F on his assignment and a big fat L for loser on his forehead. I mean, what the hell else has he been doing if not this very important aspect of his job? Just flicking through the law books and Constitution of Fiji with Dr Shaista Shameem, looking for loop-holes to help his buddy Bainimarama cause further havoc?

So it’s clear Mr Sayed-Khaiyum is not hugely committed to his international obligations or his job as Minister for Justice. However, what I find most disconcerting and disappointing is the fact that he can be so blasé about the importance of resolving the issues pertaining to CJ Fatiaki. There are many reasons why Mr Sayed-Khaiyum should be worried, and may reasons why this needs to be resolved and quickly, for the sake of the interim government (IG) and the community at large:

The international community, governmental and judicial, is losing or has lost all faith in the credentials of the IG to uphold the rule of law. Too many things have gone without thorough investigation, and the operations of the courts have been compromised by a ridiculously biased CJ in Anthony Gates, and a coup apologist in Shaista Shameem (just read her report on the Dec 5 coup to see how much of a sham she is!) CJ Fatiaki, by definition of his job, could not have been involved in the system of mismanagement and corruption of the previous administration, and unless charges of such can be formalised (they’re probably being made up as we speak) he should be reinstated. If they can formalise charges, they should do so immediately to prove that someone is actually working towards a resolution of this stupid state of limbo.

The international community doubts Fiji’s ability to follow through, as does it’s own denizens. They need to show that they can actually make things happen. My fear with respect to how they choose to engage this is that the IG may decide to compromise the law in trying to prove they haven’t just wasted all this time having two CJ’s simultaneously: they may make falsified documents and fake allegations in order to show that they were right all along. I truly fear what the IG is capable of in turns of casting asunder the precious laws, that enshrine the rights of Fiji’s people, and within which are the keys to future success for the nation.

The government is financially burdened by maintaining two Chief Justices, neither of whom are currently doing any work; Fatiaki because he is not allowed in his own office, and Gates, well, I’ll best leave it there.

So the status quo with respect to the status of CJ Fatiaki is problematic on a few levels. The case brought by the Fiji Law Society against the Judicial Services Commission, basically questioning the status of CJ Gates and whether he has any right to sit as CJ, should shed some light on CJ Fatiaki’s status too: if Gates’ promotion is proven illegal (as it should be if justice is not maligned) then CJ Fatiaki should be recalled to office, or invited to decide on his own successive acting CJ, as the process is meant to be. Nazhat Shameem, who decided to convene a JSC meeting despite her ineligibility, needs to be cut down and proven to be a sham. The laws pertaining to this are simple, and were undoubtedly contravened by her actions. If she and Gates are not reprimanded for the JSC meeting and the subsequent direction of the judiciary, you will know that justice and the rule of law have been abandoned in Fiji.

What I find fascinating, and very well illustrated throughout the whole Fatiaki case, since his suspension in January, is the general lack of interest Fiji people have in the law and their rights in a democracy. Further to this I think it points to a very broad disengagement to government, politics and legal issues among Fiji people. Given the normal living conditions in Fiji, I can somewhat understand this: life is hard enough as it is trying to make ends meets and support a family, without having to wrack one’s brains over politics, and where one personally stands. I think the many coups are to blame for this disengagement: while you’d expect the continuous trampling of people’s rights to ignite a high level of engagement in the system that governs their lives, I think all it has done is reveal all the complicatedness of the law and it’s governmental bodies, such that it flies over the head of most people.

Most surprising is how this attitude of disinterestedness impacts the legal fraternity. Graham Leung was very right to compare Fiji’s legal profession to that of Pakistan: when Iftikhar Chaudhry, CJ of Pakistan was suspended pending investigation, the law society caused such a stir that most lawyers across the country rioted in the streets. Fiji’s response pales in comparison, with petitions the order of the day. Leung should be applauded for his call to (non-violent) arm at the latest meeting of the Fiji Law Society. However he should take heed of my observation in regards to Fiji people and how they see their laws and rights. Just like the average guy on the street, Mr Sitiveni Citizen, most members of the legal profession are merely interested in themselves and their quality of life, too scared to go out on a limb to defend the rule of law. I hope that answers your question, FLS.

But once again this is a mere example of the attitude that permeates much of Fiji’s society. The rights of Fiji people are enshrined in the Constitution and subsequent common law of the nation, and yet the law is the baby that no one wants. No one is sufficiently interested in the law to read it.

My prescription:

  1. Fiji’s legal profession needs to take a long hard look at itself, each individual questioning why they entered into the vocation. Lawyers across the nation need to understand that they need to be the readers and defenders of the law. They need to present a united front to the people of Fiji, and be the first to ignite the flames of unrest when the actions of those in power are legally questionable. I applaud Hemendra Nagin, Tupou Draunidalo and Graham Leung for their work to bring this to reality.
  2. Fiji people generally need to become more engaged with the laws that govern their domain. Each household should have a copy of the Constitution, and feel committed enough to what it says, to stand up when they feel it has been compromised. CCF and Yabaki have been doing this for a while, but I think this organisation needs to jolt of energy and a face lift for it to fulfil its capacity.

I think people’s connection to the law is a great benchmark of nationhood, and hope Fiji people are going to take it upon themselves to do their bit to guide the future of the nation. Don’t neglect this baby which is the law, because unless you bring it up nicely and teach it well, it will come back when it is grown up and ugly, seeking revenge against you who chose to ignore it.

Counting the cost of the coup...

I can reliably inform readers that there IS a figure - albeit a closely-guarded one - for the budget blowout occasioned by Frank Bainimarama's latest play project, more widely known as the 5th December 2006 Fiji Coup.

The figure was passed on to your humble correspondent a few weeks ago. But since then I have managed to get it double-checked. And I mean "double checked" quite literally because I have authenticated the original figure through two additional and quite independent sources.

And I should stress that my sources in this case are impeccable.

Altogether, I have three independent sources telling me exactly the same thing that the RFMF's budget has been exceeded by $40 million.


Now, depending on who you believe, that represents at least 50 per cent of this year's RFMF budget (the official RFMF budget figure is $75 million, but my sources say it's actually $80-million).

So there it is - the reason why, since the coup, there are more electricity blackouts, water supply hiccups, unfilled potholes, unpaid flood victims, etc. etc.

To put it simply, the government's piggy bank is emptying at an alarming rate. And the huge blowout in the RFMF budget is the main reasoin.

The financial demands of mobilizing the RFMF for the Public Emergency Regulations the PER (I use the official-speak for "pointing a gun at Fiji's head") were clearly huge. And with overall declining revenues, especially from tourism-generated tax revenue, the IG's warning bells must be howling - if they actually KNOW or CARE, that is.

Congratulations Frank! You've done it again!


Nurses strike in first test of regime's hold on power

As of midnight, nurses around the country have walked off their jobs after a failed attempt yesterday afternoon by the military to bribe the nurses with promotions for 60 senior nurses.

Kudos to the nurses unions for refusing to be intimidated by the junta and standing their ground. In contrast to the nurses, the FPSA made a big song and dance about the pay cut and other issues and was actually the first union to file a strike notice, but in the end didn't follow through on all its threats.

Today, the military junta will experience the first real public test of its existence. While everyone will agree that nurses provide an essential service, this strike should make Bainimarama and his cohorts sit up and smell the dissent.

If anything, this will be the first time since the coup that an organized protest against the junta will take place.

How pathetic the interim public service minister Poseci Bune sounded when he lamented the state of the economy as the reason for it being impossible to restore the five percent pay cut on civil servants. Who put us in this situation in the first place?

Bula also called the deal put to the nurse yesterday afternoon as "major concessions". The union leaders promptly came out of the meeting and described it as nothing different to what has already been discussed.

Fiji has about 1600 odd nurses. About 1400 are going on strike, leaving some 200 or so nurses. What makes the junta think that offering 60 senior nurses promotions would lure them out of the strike?

And how odd it is for the junta to be putting on a brave face by saying the health services will "not be affected". Not be affected. With the permanent secretary of health Dr Waqatakirewa himself confirming about 90 percent of nurses will be on strike, how can the health service not be affected? The mind boggles.

It's heartening to see the nurses, most of them women, are not being bullied by men with guns and power making noises about what it's trying very hard to make out as a criminal act.

Realizing that the nurses had covered all their bases in filing for strike action, the interim ministers tried their best to derail the union efforts by openly saying they would cut their pay and hire new workers, implying they would sack them.

Thankfully, some could see right through the tough-talk. Pay cuts are normal for those on strike but it would be illegal to sack workers on a legitimate industrial action.

The junta also tried to discredit the efforts of the unionists by claiming their intelligence officers are reporting that criminal elements may take advantage of the strike.

A bit below the belt in trying to tarnish the nurses' industrial action but that's the military.

The junta has more coming - other unions under FICTU, including the Fijian Teachers Association and the Public Employees Union strike on Aug. 2.

July 18, 2007

Snapping out of it together

It’s true we are all being subjected to waves, bouts, hi’ and lo’s of depression. There is no denying it and many psychologists will agree with me that it is certainly no laughing matter.

Take an on-line test to assess yourself here

What to do? For the love of God talk about it with people you trust but DO NOT keep it all bottled up inside. Rant, rave on the blogs but don’t let it get to you.

Yes the state of our beloved country is helter-skelter but we still have much to be thankful for—we have good health, we have filled stomachs, we have family, we have friends. Celebrate life and pause to be thankful for the small mercies.

OK so perhaps blogging is not making the waves as quickly as we wanted. Justice is coming but let’s keep it firmly embedded in our minds that if anyone/s is to face a panel of judges it certainly will not be any of us. It will be them, it will be them, it will be them.

So why do we do this…it’s for our people and this picture of a Bubu in the market perhaps say’s it all.

It is our people out there who (and you can bet on it) know exactly what’s going down but will choose to worry daily about sustenance for the day and scrounging the pennies to get on the bus. We cannot ask them to change their priorities—theirs is life and death, ours is the life of the country.

The onus is on us, yes I’m talking about you the urbanite and the rellies all over the globe to worry about the life of the country on behalf of our people out there. Is that not the essence of veikauwaitaki?

So if you love your country, deal with your depression and learn to quickly snap out of it. There is much to be done.

Let’s also celebrate what we collectively have achieved via blogging this week at least (1) a now ex-Post Fiji chairperson’s and (2) the now-ex Chairperson of ATS. Did you honestly think that the mainstream media got wind of this by divine intervention? Nah peeps they got their leads from the blogs.

We’ll get there people but let’s focus our energies on the courts and the census/boundaries farce.

Keep your chins FIRMLY up.

July 13, 2007

What have you done for me lately?

Don’t worry “Ex-Fiji Tourist” we were also floored when we heard Mr Bainimarama’s ironic pearls of wisdom to himself quipping “let me see what else have we done?”. What a bozo. If he was so passionately into the cause, these “achievements” should have been dripping off his tongue.

If there’s an apt response to this question from many people of Fiji, it would be this: NOTHING. They have done nothing-zero-squat-e sega-nahi, to progress this country despite all their rhetoric about noble intentions.

Much of the junta’s focus is intent on getting buy-in on THEIR charter, which is shrouded under a bogus “People’s Charter” title. The first few sections lament racial divisions in this country. We agree that race is an issue however when race is used to try and over-turn the wishes of the demographic majority in this country then there is a problem.

Therein lies the bone of contention regarding democracy. This junta will continue to refute democracy as a political ideology because it’s about the numbers game. Numbers that they know they don’t have and will probably try to skew via boundaries reforms and a new census.

Equally ironic are their allegations that past governments have flouted the race-card whenever they wanted votes. To our minds it appears that the same stunts are being pulled now.

More importantly however is that race issues will never, repeat, will never, be resolved by a top-down driven political agenda. Multiculturalism is nourished in our homes and inculcated by our societal environment, with our class-rooms being one key driver. Yet the educational incubators of our next generation continue to see schools that are divisively segregated, and this core area is but mentioned briefly in the Junta’s Charter appearing as less of a priority.

Some key steps being touted by this document to progress the Junta Charter are:
  • The development of independent Report on “The State of the Nation and the Economy” (SNE);
  • The set up of a 40-member National Council for Building a Better Fiji (NCBBF) by the President of Fiji;
  • The set up of 6 national-level Task Teams (NTT) and a Technical and Support Secretariat (TASS). The 6 NTTs are supposed to look into:
  1. Good Governance,
  2. Growing the Economy,
  3. Reforming Public Service including Service Delivery,
  4. Reforming Public Financial Institutions,
  5. Looking at Access to Land and Land Utilization, and
  6. Social and Community Sectors.

So much fluff via acronyms, un-mandated roles/responsibilities and levels of bureaucracies yet missing two core pre-requisites—money and international support.

So how does the junta aim to counter this? Drafting the buy-in of we, the peoples. They have begun by getting buy-in from some NGO’s. We would ask these NGOs who exactly they represent and if they could take a poll. More importantly do their “members” fully understand what this document means especially as it has not yet been translated in the Hindi vernacular? It’s all about numbers and by golly if we didn't know any better it would seem that this farcical document might be soon heralded as the beginnings of the new rules of our land.

His Excellency the President is being conveniently entrenched more and more in this mess and we would even boldly suggest that his presidential seal will see him, as an individual (since the GCC has been sacked) face the courts one day soon as the primary coup-ster.

No matter. Intelligentsiya rejects this Charter. We are resolute in our stand—we want Elections and nothing but Elections ASAP. We are not going to help this junta in any way as they forcefully took over the country, “nobly” stepped up to the plate and said they would bring in better days.

So, by all means, you have the floor Junta—all by yourselves—and we do mean every single one of you, those that we can see and especially those puppeteering behind the curtains.

July 06, 2007

Priorities anyone?

There they go again. Stuffing up the country and the economy and internationally any semblance of self-respect that Fiji ever had.

It’s pretty obvious that inconsistencies will continue to abound from these goons and that the ride is going get bumpier.

But while Pearly Bernie is (a) away on the eve of a national strike and (b) frazzled by the questions regarding her jaunt to Dubai she maintains that she’s going to build bridges.

Well Lovey that’s fine but why not (a) start building bridges with your unions first and (b) why all the cloak the dagger?

But looky-look what we have here…while civil servants face a looming pay cut AGAIN there’s a whole troupe accompanying 2 Junta Ministers (who will obviously fly first class) and most probably donate much-needed $$$ to the Korean Airlines coffers….will the idiocy and lack of priorities ever end? Not any time soon as Discombobulated Bubu, Bainivore, Fuggedaboutit and Hydenceek pointedly continue to spell out.

Unconvinced? Read it for yourself…they make the news at the DUBAI SUMMER SURPRISES extravaganza.

No doubt Mahend will be seething quietly in his corner and biding his time as that’s much needed moula for his sugar pie out the window.