August 20, 2009

Central Bank Muscles In On Capital Markets Body

Fijilive is reporting that the CEO of the Capital Markets, Mereia Volavola, has lost her job as part of the Reserve Bank's bid to take over the operations of developing and regulating the capital markets in the Fiji.

According to the illegal & treasonous Central Bank Guv, Sada Reddy, it's a logical move that will "consolidate the supervision and regulation of Fiji’s financial system and bring about greater efficiency and effectiveness in the operations of the CMDA."

Mmhmm. The only funny thing about this explanation is that both entities have two entirely different roles in our economy.

Our central bank, the Reserve Bank of Fij,i is charged with maintaining the stability of our currency, our money supply -- basically everything to do with the monetary policy of this country.

The CMDA regulates the licensing of securities professionals including brokers, dealers, investment advisers, unit trusts and their representatives, securities exchanges and central depositories. The CMDA essentially ensures that investors are protected against fraud, among it's other legal functions.

So it is most unclear how diverse interests can be protected under 1 entity.

This one will need close watching.

The Central Bank, with Sada Reddy at the helm, appears to be empire-building within the "money world" of this country. It's worth remembering that a special sector of "business minded" sorts have not forgotten that this same chappy, during the height of the '87 coup, made a killing for "special favours under the table" and siphoning money out of the country even though there were tight foreign exchange controls in place at the time.

August 19, 2009

Port Costs to be hiked as well

The Commerce Commission via its Chair, Dr Mahendra Reddy (pictured), is really rolling out the tariff hikes that appear to be anti-business in nature and not very helpful to the already flat-lining economic landscape of this country.

Now our ports will also undergo tariff hikes.

It appears that all those who have business at the wharf can expect to pay 7.5% more for marine service charges, stevedoring, local vessel charges, cargo service charges and storage charges DESPITE the pithy standards of service by the tariff instigators, Fiji Ports Corporation Limited.

And while the Commission swears that it is trying protect "exporters", Dr Reddy forgets that almost everything we export needs some input from things we need to import. Apart from that anything to do with imports affects the take-home pay of consumers and taxpayers.

Dr Reddy is better placed staying in the airy fairy world of academia as his rulings so far are so out of touch that they favour government subsidized bodies over those that pay the bills in this country.

Don't expect any miracles on the outcomes of revised interconnection rates for telecommunications folks.

Who do you serve Mahendra Reddy?

FEA to hike bills by 15% by September

Fiji TV relayed the news last night that the Commerce Commission has granted the Fiji Electricity Authority (FEA) full access to rob consumers blind by 15% with effect from next month.

If memory serves us correctly, the FEA has been angling for monopoly induced hand-outs from consumers for a while now and the initial tariff increase was proposed earlier because of global oil price hikes. As all consumers are aware these prices have since stabilised and in fact decreased.

Business houses who don't fit the $50/month bill exemption, will undoubtedly be up in arms about this one.

If that's not enough, the Commerce Commission overextend's its reach by laying down the law that it will, in 2011, oversee how far the FEA has gone to reduce its operating cost's.

Any right thinking person would immediately ask the question -- is that not the job of the board? If so, then what in the blazes is the board doing twiddling it's thumbs while Rome burns?
FEA 15% tarriff rise approved
18 Aug 2009 02:53:29

The Commerce Commission has today approved Fiji Electricity' Authority's submission to increase tarriff charges by 15 percent.

This is an interim increase effective from September 1st to 31st August, 2011.

Those who pay 50 dollars or less for electricity usage won't be charged the new tariff rate.

In its decision today - the Commission noted F-E-A generated 60 percent of electricity through hydro and up to 45 percent from diesel.

The Commission didn't grant FEA's request for a permanent increase.

The company is now required to provide the Commission a report in 2011 on steps it has taken to reduce operating costs.

New Methodists Get Political

Radio NZ carries a story by the "New Methodist's" head, Atu Vulaono.

Atu Vulaono is the brother of Bainimarama appointed (and military officer) Police Commander, Esala Teleni and is the same Atu of the “Qo na kei Atu” fame.

In the story Vulaono boasts a crusade that will see about 10,000 supporters and asserts that the reason why they were granted their permit (over the Methodists) is because of nepotism of the highest order they "don't incite with hate speech".

Fiji New Methodists expect over 10,000 at national crusade next week
Posted at 01:47 on 19 August, 2009 UTC

The head of the New Methodist Church in Fiji says up to 20,000 people may attend next week’s conference in Suva.

Pastor Atu Vulaono says the interim government has granted the church a permit to hold its crusade in the TFL national stadium from the 25th until the 30th of August.

This follows the interim regime’s crackdown on the established Methodist Church, banning its annual conference, also scheduled for next week, and now its choir competition.

Pastor Vulaono says one of the conditions of the permit for next week’s crusade, which he describes as the public proclamation of the gospel, is an attendance limit of 20,000.

“The condition is because we hold crusade every month, sometimes two or three in every month and that is for the last three years, the condition is the volume and there’s no words of inciting like hatred speech it’s just pure the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, that’s the condition of our permit ever since we start this open air crusade.”

Pastor Atu Vulaono of Fiji’s New Methodist Church.

August 18, 2009

Snapped: Mary & MaiTV...mmhmmmm

Snapped: "Wink, Wink, Let's Just Keep It In The Family Eh?"

Foster's Fairytale (Ye Gods!)

OK. So we thought we'd give Peter Foster the benefit of a doubt and read his side of the story.

Rather than take our word for it, we invite you to form your own views.

For the record the key para that totally gripped us (from falling on the floor) was this one:
I have seen the inside of 16 prisons in six countries, such is the life of an International Man of Mischief. It's not anything to be proud of, just an occupational hazard.

That would have to be the SMOOTHEST Con-line ever.

Read it in full here, and vibe to the copyrighted Bob Marley (who would surely turn in his grave if he realised that his inspiring songs of emancipation were being used to promote it) tune "One Love" while you get swept away by the fairytale.

Alternatively the PDF is available here.

One Conman Backs Another

If there is any indication of the MAJOR CON that Bainimarama and his circle have wrought on our country, look no further than validation by another Conman -- Peter Foster.

Foster has a well-known reputation in the Pacific. Just ask the Federated States of Micronesia, Vanuatu and ex UK PM Tony Blair's wife, Cherie Blair.

Being ConMEN, they both have a serious misunderstanding of the C-word....CREDIBILITY...which for both are in tatters.

Conman backs coup leader
4:00AM Tuesday Aug 18, 2009

Convicted conman Peter Foster has written an "insider's account" of Fiji's coup that holds self-imposed leader Frank Bainimarama up as the last bastion of hope for the troubled nation.

Foster, who is on parole after more than two years in jail for money laundering, has published a 60-page document he says reveals the truth behind Fiji's political volatility.

He says Bainimarama, who has been condemned by the Australian and New Zealand Governments and the Commonwealth for refusing to hold elections, is a "humble and decent" man who is Fiji's last hope.

The coup Bainimarama instigated in December 2006 desperately needed to happen to free Fiji from the corruption of the previous government, led by Laisenia Qarase, Foster claims.

He says on his website Fiji Truth that Qarase was corruptly elected and set the tone for corruption that Bainimarama has tried to break.

The claims have been denied by Qarase, who says: "As a convicted fraudster, Peter Foster cannot be trusted to speak the truth."

Others have questioned Foster's words, with one former friend, who did not wish to be named, labelling it "a lot of rubbish".

August 17, 2009

MoJo vs Fiji Water Cont'd

Following the posting up of our story by Mother Jone's on Fiji Water (and its too-close-for-comfort friendship with the military regime), we received a comment from Fiji Water highlighting their response to Mo-Jo.

[Note as a btw we also have not forgotten that Fiji Water was one of the first corporate bodies in Fiji to shell out FJD$600K towards Bainimarama's "flood appeal" -- which incidently still has not been publicly acquitted for in the interest of transparency].

On the weekend we also received a comment (Vinaka Soro) highlighting Mo-Jo's response to Fiji Water.

Both responses are reproduced below. Suffice to say that this Fiji Water story is beginning to generate some international interest.

In the interest of balance, we post both responses here for you, The People, to form your own views.

8/12/09|FIJI Water Responds to Mother Jones Article

This is our response to the recent Mother Jones article about our company.

We strongly disagree with the author’s premise that because we are in business in Fiji somehow that legitimizes a military dictatorship. We bought FIJI Water in November 2004, when Fiji was governed by a democratically elected government. We cannot and will not speak for the government, but we will not back down from our commitment to the people, development, and communities of Fiji.

We consider Fiji our home and as such, we have dramatically increased our investment and resources over the past five years to play a valuable role in the advancement of Fiji.

It is true that Fiji is a poor country, but we believe that the private sector has a critical role to play to address the underserved areas of Fiji’s development, with special attention to economic opportunities, health, education, water and sanitation.

First, we employ nearly 350 Fijians in a rural part of Fiji with very little economic opportunity. We are one of the highest paying employers in the country with an annual payroll of nearly $5 million; we provide health care and other fringe benefits; and we have created advancement opportunities for women. There are also a number of smaller, entrepreneurial enterprises that have been created in the local region to supply our facility.

As an active member of the Fiji community, FIJI Water is committed to enabling positive change by means of social investment, capacity building, and sustainable development. It is important to us that we give back to the communities in which we work and live. We know that Fiji has tremendous potential because we see it realized at our factory every day.

Part of our investment in Fiji comes from royalty and trust payments paid each year that is a percentage of our total volume. As we grow our business, we are able to contribute more in royalty payments. In 2008 alone, we paid $1.3 million USD in royalties representing 1.5% of gross revenues of our Fijian company. These payments have allowed us to bring clean drinking water to the surrounding villages, infrastructure projects like electrification, kindergartens, secondary schools, renovations of community halls and much-needed health care clinics.

In addition, in late 2007 we created the FIJI Water Foundation to serve as a vehicle for social investment around the islands of Fiji. The Foundation has played a critical role in flood relief in Fiji, renovation of schools, and bringing much needed health care to rural villages. We have also partnered with the Rotary Club and Pacific Water for Life to bring clean water to 100 communities in Fiji this year. To date, FIJI Water Foundation has invested $600,000 USD, directly impacting more than 50,000 beneficiaries in 11 of Fiji’s 14 Provinces. You can learn more about the specific projects we have funded at

With respect to the environmental issues raised in the article, our commitments are quite clear and laid out in We are the only bottled water company in the industry to publicly report its entire life cycle carbon emissions. We are independently audited and report to the Carbon Disclosure Project. And we are offsetting these emissions by 120%.

Land access issues are very delicate to negotiate in Fiji, but the Sovi Basin project remains on track and the 50,000 acres of the last remaining lowland rainforest in the South Pacific is protected now and through perpetuity from logging. The project will pay the local villagers not to sell their timber rights to logging companies. Deforestation of our tropical rainforests is one of the largest sources of carbon emissions. Protecting the Sovi Basin is the equivalent of removing 2 million cars from the highway.

Our carbon offset project in Fiji includes replanting the rainforests that have been decimated to plant sugarcane fields. Part of this effort includes planting native tree species, such as mango trees, to provide local villagers with a source of income. We are proud to create projects that protect the environment as well as provide for a source of sustainable income for the local Fijians.

It’s unfortunate that the reporter did not have the opportunity to speak to any one of the thousands of local people whose lives have been impacted in a very positive way because of FIJI Water. Had we known she was in Fiji, we would have been happy to escort her to any one of the 75 villages who have been a beneficiary of a clean water project sponsored by FIJI Water this year alone. She could have visited one of the villages surrounding our plant to visit a kindergarten that was recently built or to meet a local Fijian who received a life-saving corrective heart surgery by a physician we brought to the island.

The real irony here is that the reporter suggests that buying FIJI Water somehow legitimizes a military dictatorship, when in fact the jobs, revenues, and community projects supported by FIJI Water are strong contributors to growth in the well-being of the Fijian people.

Mother Jones Responds to Fiji Water
By Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery | Thu August 13, 2009 11:39 AM PST

Fiji Water spokesman Rob Six has posted a response to our story at the company’s blog. Writer Anna Lenzer replies:

Six’s key points are the same he and other Fiji executives have repeatedly made, and which are reflected in detail in my story: Donating money for water access projects or kindergartens is laudable, and I discuss Fiji’s charitable projects in Fiji (despite numerous requests, Fiji wouldn’t disclose how much it spends on most of these projects). The piece also makes it clear that Fiji Water accounts for significant economic activity in Fiji, and company executives are quoted to that effect.

Six doesn't address the key questions raised in my Mother Jones story, from the polluting background of Fiji Water’s owners past and present, to the company’s decision to funnel assets through tax havens, to its silence on the human rights abuses of the Fijian government. My piece doesn’t argue that Fiji Water actively props up the regime, but that its silence amounts to acquiescence.

"We cannot and will not speak for the government," Six writes. I didn't ask them to speak for the government, I asked them to comment on it. Though Fiji Water casts itself as a progressive, outspoken company in the US, it has a policy of not discussing Fiji’s regime “unless something really affects us,” as Six was quoted in the story.

The regime clearly benefits from the company's global branding campaign characterizing Fiji as a "paradise" where there is "no word for stress." Fiji's tourism agencies use Fiji Water as props in their promotional campaigns, and the company itself has publicized pictures of President Obama drinking Fiji Water. This is a point repeatedly made by international observers, including a UN official who in a recent commentary (titled "Why Obama should stop drinking Fiji water”) called for sanctions on Fiji, and singled out Fiji Water as the one company with enough leverage to force the junta to budge. Yet the most pointed criticism the company has made of the regime was when it opposed a tax as "draconian;" it has never used language like that to refer to the junta's human rights abuses.

It’s worth remembering that there aren’t very many countries ruled by military juntas today, and Americans prefer not to do business with those that are. We don't import Burma Water or Libya Water.

As to Six’ point that the company didn’t know I was in Fiji: I did contact Fiji Water before my trip, and Six mentioned that the company "takes journalists to Fiji"; I didn't follow up about joining such a junket. Despite news reports showing that Fiji wouldn’t cooperate with journalists who went there independently, I chose to do so and visited the factory on a public tour. I had planned to speak to Fiji Water’s local representatives, and to visit the surrounding villages, afterward. But it was at that point that I was arrested by Fijian police, interrogated about my plans to write about Fiji Water, and threatened with imprisonment and rape. After that incident, personnel at the US embassy strongly encouraged me not to visit the villages. I did discuss my trip to the islands with Six after I returned, and had extensive correspondence with him on numerous questions, many of which he has not addressed to this day, including:

- Why won't the company disclose the total amount of money that Fiji Water spends on its charity work? Do its charitable contributions come close to matching the 30 percent corporate tax rate it would be paying had it not been granted a tax holiday in Fiji since 1995?

- Will Fiji Water owners Lynda and Stewart Resnick, who in the company’s PR materials contrast our tap water supply with the “living water” found in their bottles, disclose the full volume of pesticides that their farming and flower companies use every year? Could limiting those inputs create better water here at home?

- Fiji touts its commitments to lighten its plastic bottle (which is twice as heavy as many competitors’) by 20 percent next year, to offset its carbon emissions by 120 percent, and to restore environmentally sensitive areas in Fiji, but its public statements never acknowledge that these projects are, in many cases, still on the drawing board or in the negotiating stages. Why?

Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery are the Co-Editors of Mother Jones.

August 14, 2009

"Do You Know Where Your Children Are?"....

...because parents in Fiji would be well-advised to keep their children the hell away from this shady Police project titled "Blue Light Camp" during the upcoming school hols.

If the police are deluded enough to think they can offer the future of this country some advice or motivation on how to be upstanding law-abiding citizens (with their sterling record to boot too) they really need more than a "Jesus Strategy".

The Fiji Police Force would be much better pouring the taxpayer funded resources for this camp towards CREDIBLE drug busts. Because it is highly unlikely that any parent would send their pride and joy to a gathering where the "'Qo Na Kei Atu" indoctrination will be prioritized.

What. A. Joke.

And. We're. Paying. For. This. Mediocrity?.

Commonwealth Visit Canned

When will the Commonwealth Secretariat learn the already painful lessons learned by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the leaders?

They'll be given the run-around forever by Bainimarama and his military regime because it will never be convenient for him to 'fess up to his lies.
Statement by the Commonwealth Secretariat spokesperson
13 August 2009
Commonwealth to maintain engagement with Fiji

In response to the Secretary General’s communication to the Interim Prime Minister of Fiji, Commodore Bainimarama, conveying the Concluding Statement of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) following its Extraordinary Meeting on 31 July 2009, the Interim Government of Fiji Islands invited a delegation from the Commonwealth to visit the country.

In keeping with the spirit of sustained engagement towards the goal of restoration of constitutional democracy in member states that are suspended from the councils of the Commonwealth, enjoined by the Millbrook Action Programme and consistently advocated by CMAG, the Secretary-General conveyed an immediate and positive response to the Fiji Interim Government, proposing that a delegation led by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Fiji, Sir Paul Reeves, visit Suva on specific dates in August. As these dates were not convenient to the Fiji Interim Government, the latter proposed rescheduling the visit to 29 August 2009. The Commonwealth Secretariat has conveyed to the Government of Fiji that it is not in a position to accept this particular date.

The Secretary-General has, however, reiterated his readiness to maintain engagement with the Fiji regime at a mutually convenient time.

Eduardo del Buey
+44 (0) 207- 747-6380

August 13, 2009

Fiji Water (& Military Regime) Under the Spotlight

Mother Jones or MoJo is a nonprofit news organization that specializes in investigative, political, and social justice reporting. It currently has two main "channels": an award-winning bimonthly national magazine (circulation 240,000), and a website featuring new, original reporting 24-7. Read more about them here.

They've put out an interesting piece on Fiji Water and its origins - a military dictatorship in Fiji.

Fiji Water: Spin the Bottle
Obama sips it. Paris Hilton loves it. Mary J. Blige won't sing without it. How did a plastic water bottle, imported from a military dictatorship thousands of miles away, become the epitome of cool?
By Anna Lenzer
September/October 2009 Issue

THE INTERNET CAFÉ in the Fijian capital, Suva, was usually open all night long. Dimly lit, with rows of sleek, modern terminals, the place was packed at all hours with teenage boys playing boisterous rounds of video games. But one day soon after I arrived, the staff told me they now had to shut down by 5 p.m. Police orders, they shrugged: The country's military junta had declared martial law a few days before, and things were a bit tense.

I sat down and sent out a few emails—filling friends in on my visit to the Fiji Water bottling plant, forwarding a story about foreign journalists being kicked off the island. Then my connection died. "It will just be a few minutes," one of the clerks said.

Moments later, a pair of police officers walked in. They headed for a woman at another terminal; I turned to my screen to compose a note about how cops were even showing up in the Internet cafés. Then I saw them coming toward me. "We're going to take you in for questioning about the emails you've been writing," they said.

What followed, in a windowless room at the main police station, felt like a bad cop movie. "Who are you really?" the bespectacled inspector wearing a khaki uniform and a smug grin asked me over and over, as if my passport, press credentials, and stacks of notes about Fiji Water weren't sufficient clues to my identity. (My iPod, he surmised tensely, was "good for transmitting information.") I asked him to call my editors, even a UN official who could vouch for me. "Shut up!" he snapped. He rifled through my bags, read my notebooks and emails. "I'd hate to see a young lady like you go into a jail full of men," he averred, smiling grimly. "You know what happened to women during the 2000 coup, don't you?"

Eventually, it dawned on me that his concern wasn't just with my potentially seditious emails; he was worried that my reporting would taint the Fiji Water brand. "Who do you work for, another water company? It would be good to come here and try to take away Fiji Water's business, wouldn't it?" Then he switched tacks and offered to protect me—from other Fijian officials, who he said would soon be after me—by letting me go so I could leave the country. I walked out into the muggy morning, hid in a stairwell, and called a Fijian friend. Within minutes, a US Embassy van was speeding toward me on the seawall.

Until that day, I hadn't fully appreciated the paranoia of Fiji's military regime. The junta had been declared unconstitutional the previous week by the country's second highest court; in response it had abolished the judiciary, banned unauthorized public gatherings, delayed elections until 2014, and clamped down on the media. (Only the "journalism of hope" is now permitted.) The prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, promised to root out corruption and bring democracy to a country that has seen four coups in the past 25 years; the government said it will start working on a new constitution in 2012.

The slogan on Fiji Water's website—"And remember this—we saved you a trip to Fiji"—suddenly felt like a dark joke. Every day, more soldiers showed up on the streets. When I called the courthouse, not a single official would give me his name. Even tour guides were running scared—one told me that one of his colleagues had been picked up and beaten for talking politics with tourists. When I later asked Fiji Water spokesman Rob Six what the company thought of all this, he said the policy was not to comment on the government "unless something really affects us."

If you drink bottled water, you've probably drunk Fiji. Or wanted to. Even though it's shipped from the opposite end of the globe, even though it retails for nearly three times as much as your basic supermarket water, Fiji is now America's leading imported water, beating out Evian. It has spent millions pushing not only the seemingly life-changing properties of the product itself, but also the company's green cred and its charity work. Put all that together in an iconic bottle emblazoned with a cheerful hibiscus, and everybody, from the Obamas to Paris and Nicole to Diddy and Kimora, is seen sipping Fiji.

That's by design. Ever since a Canadian mining and real estate mogul named David Gilmour launched Fiji Water in 1995, the company has positioned itself squarely at the nexus of pop-culture glamour and progressive politics. Fiji Water's chief marketing whiz and co-owner (with her husband, Stewart) is Lynda Resnick, a well-known liberal donor who casually name-drops her friends Arianna Huffington and Laurie David. ("Of course I know everyone in the world," Resnick told the UK's Observer in 2005, "every mogul, every movie star.") Manhattan's trendy Carlyle hotel pours only Fiji Water in its dog bowls, and this year's SXSW music festival featured a Fiji Water Detox Spa. "Each piece of lobster sashimi," celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa declared in 2007, "should be dipped into Fiji Water seven to ten times."

And even as bottled water has come under attack as the embodiment of waste, Fiji seems immune. Fiji Water took out a full-page ad in Vanity Fair's 2007 green issue, nestled among stories about the death of the world's water. Two bottles sat on a table between Al Gore and Mos Def during a 2006 MySpace "Artist on Artist" discussion on climate change. Fiji was what panelists sipped at the "Life After Capitalism" conference held in New York City during the 2004 RNC protests; Fiji reps were even credentialed at last year's Democratic convention, where they handed out tens of thousands of bottles.

Nowhere in Fiji Water's glossy marketing materials will you find reference to the typhoid outbreaks that plague Fijians because of the island's faulty water supplies; the corporate entities that Fiji Water has—despite the owners' talk of financial transparency—set up in tax havens like the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg; or the fact that its signature bottle is made from Chinese plastic in a diesel-fueled plant and hauled thousands of miles to its ecoconscious consumers. And, of course, you won't find mention of the military junta for which Fiji Water is a major source of global recognition and legitimacy. (Gilmour has described the square bottles as "little ambassadors" for the poverty-stricken nation.)

"We are Fiji," declare Fiji Water posters across the island, and the slogan is almost eerily accurate: The reality of Fiji, the country, has been eclipsed by the glistening brand of Fiji, the water.

ON THE MAP, Fiji looks as if someone dropped a fistful of confetti on the ocean. The country is made up of more than 300 islands (100 inhabited) that have provided the setting for everything from The Blue Lagoon to Survivor to Cast Away. Suva is a bustling multicultural hub with a mix of shopping centers, colonial buildings, and curry houses; some 40 percent of the population is of Indian ancestry, descendants of indentured sugarcane workers brought in by the British in the mid-19th century. (The Indian-descended and native communities have been wrangling for power ever since.) The primary industries are tourism and sugar. Fiji Water says its operations make up about 20 percent of exports and 3 percent of GDP, which stands at $3,900 per capita.

Getting to the Fiji Water factory requires a bone-jarring four-hour trek into the volcanic foothills of the Yaqara Valley. My bus' speakers blasted an earsplitting soundtrack of Fijian reggae, Bob Marley, Tupac, and Big Daddy Kane as we swerved up unpaved mountain roads linked by rickety wooden bridges. Cow pastures ringed by palm trees gave way to villages of corrugated-metal shacks and wooden homes painted in Technicolor hues. Chickens scurried past stands selling cell phone minutes. Sugarcane stalks burning in the fields sent a sweet smoke curling into the air.

Our last rest stop, half an hour from the bottling plant, was Rakiraki, a small town with a square of dusty shops and a marketplace advertising "Coffin Box for Sale—Cheapest in Town." My Lonely Planet guide warned that Rakiraki water "has been deemed unfit for human consumption," and groceries were stocked with Fiji Water going for 90 cents a pint—almost as much as it costs in the US.

Rakiraki has experienced the full range of Fiji's water problems—crumbling pipes, a lack of adequate wells, dysfunctional or flooded water treatment plants, and droughts that are expected to get worse with climate change. Half the country has at times relied on emergency water supplies, with rations as low as four gallons a week per family; dirty water has led to outbreaks of typhoid and parasitic infections. Patients have reportedly had to cart their own water to hospitals, and schoolchildren complain about their pipes spewing shells, leaves, and frogs. Some Fijians have taken to smashing open fire hydrants and bribing water truck drivers for a regular supply.

The bus dropped me off at a deserted intersection, where a weather-beaten sign warning off would-be trespassers in English, Fijian, and Hindi rattled in the tropical wind. Once I reached the plant, the bucolic quiet gave way to the hum of machinery spitting out some 50,000 square bottles (made on the spot with plastic imported from China) per hour. The production process spreads across two factory floors, blowing, filling, capping, labeling, and shrink-wrapping 24 hours a day, five days a week. The company won't disclose its total sales; Fiji Water's vice president of corporate communications told me the estimate of 180 million bottles sold in 2006, given in a legal declaration by his boss, was wrong, but declined to provide a more solid number.

From here, the bottles are shipped to the four corners of the globe; the company—which, unlike most of its competitors, offers detailed carbon-footprint estimates on its website—insists that they travel on ships that would be making the trip anyway, and that the Fiji payload only causes them to use 2 percent more fuel. In 2007, Fiji Water announced that it planned to go carbon negative by offsetting 120 percent of emissions via conservation and energy projects starting in 2008. It has also promised to reduce its pre-offset carbon footprint by 25 percent next year and to use 50 percent renewable energy, in part by installing a windmill at the plant.

The offsetting effort has been the centerpiece of Fiji Water's $5 million "Fiji Green" marketing blitz, which brazenly urges consumers to drink imported water to fight climate change. The Fiji Green website claims that because of the 120-percent carbon offset, buying a big bottle of Fiji Water creates the same carbon reduction as walking five blocks instead of driving. Former Senior VP of Sustainable Growth Thomas Mooney noted in a 2007 Huffington Post blog post that "we'd be happy if anyone chose to drink nothing but Fiji Water as a means to keep the sea levels down." (Metaphorically speaking, anyway: As the online trade journal ClimateBiz has reported, Fiji is using a "forward crediting" model under which it takes credit now for carbon reductions that will actually happen over a few decades.)

Fiji Water has also vowed to use at least 20 percent less packaging by 2010—which shouldn't be too difficult, given its bottle's above-average heft. (See "Territorial Waters.") The company says the square shape makes Fiji Water more efficient in transport, and, hey, it looks great: Back in 2000, a top official told a trade magazine that "What Fiji Water's done is go out there with a package that clearly looks like it's worth more money, and we've gotten people to pay more for us."

Selling long-distance water to green consumers may be a contradiction in terms. But that hasn't stopped Fiji from positioning its product not just as an indulgence, but as an outright necessity for an elite that can appreciate its purity. As former Fiji Water CEO Doug Carlson once put it, "If you like Velveeta cheese, processed water is okay for you." ("All waters are not created equal" is another long-standing Fiji Water slogan.) The company has gone aggressively after its main competitor—tap water—by calling it "not a real or viable alternative" that can contain "4,000 contaminants," unlike Fiji's "living water." "You can no longer trust public or private water supplies," co-owner Lynda Resnick wrote in her book, Rubies in the Orchard.

A few years back, Fiji Water canned its waterfall logo and replaced it with a picture of palm fronds and hibiscus: "Surface water!" Resnick wrote in Rubies. "Why would you want to suggest that Fiji came from surface water? The waterfall absolutely had to go." One company newsletter featured the findings of a salt-crystal purveyor who claimed that Fiji Water rivals the "known and significant abilities of 'Holy Healing Waters' in Lourdes, France or Fatima, Portugal." Switching effortlessly from Catholic mysticism to sci-fi, he added that the water's "electromagnetic field frequency enables Fiji Water to stimulate our human self-regulation system."

In keeping with this rarefied vibe, Fiji Water's marketing has focused on product placement more than standard advertising; from appearances on The Sopranos, 24, The View, and Desperate Housewives to sponsorship of events like the Emmy Awards, the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, and Justin Timberlake's "Summer Love" tour, it's now "hard to find an event where our target market is present and Fiji isn't," according to Resnick. As far back as 2001, Movieline anointed it one of the "Top 10 Things Young Hollywood Can't Get Through the Day Without." At the Academy Awards, E! has handed out Fiji bottles to the stars; as it happens, the complex where the Oscars is held was owned until 2004 by Fiji Water founder David Gilmour's real estate empire, Trizec (which before its acquisition by Brookfield Properties in 2006 was one of the largest real estate companies in North America, with projects including everything from the Sears Tower to Enron HQ).

In a 2003 interview, Gilmour told the London Times that "the world's water is being trashed day by day." He would know: Before launching Fiji Water, he cofounded Barrick Gold, now the largest gold mining enterprise in the world, with operations in hot spots from Tanzania to Pakistan. Its mines, often in parched places like Nevada and Western Australia, use billions of gallons of water to produce gold via a toxic cyanide leaching process. Barrick's practices are so damaging that after an environmental review of the company, the Norwegian government announced last year that it would divest itself of some $200 million in Barrick stock.

Gilmour was a powerful presence in Fiji long before he got into the water business. Back in 1969, he launched what would become—with help from a couple of Saudi princes—the region's biggest hotel chain, the Southern Pacific Hotel Corporation, which built a massive resort complex in Fiji. His investors and advisers have included everyone from notorious arms trader Adnan Khashoggi to George H.W. Bush; in 2004, Colin Powell presented him with the Secretary of State's Award for Corporate Excellence for his work in Fiji. Gilmour's Fijian holdings include the exclusive Wakaya resort, which boasts six staffers to each guest and has hosted Bill Gates, Nicole Kidman, and Keith Richards (who famously fell off a tree there); he also owns Zinio, an electronic publishing company that produces the digital version of Mother Jones magazine. He declined to be interviewed for this story.

In the early 1990s, Gilmour got wind of a study done by the Fijian government and aid organizations that indicated an enormous aquifer, estimated at more than 17 miles long, near the main island's north coast. He obtained a 99-year lease on land atop the aquifer, brought a former Fijian environment minister on board, and launched an international marketing blitz inviting consumers to sample water preserved since "before the Industrial Revolution." To this day, Fiji Water has nearly exclusive access to the aquifer; the notoriously corrupt and chronically broke government has not been able to come up with the money or infrastructure to tap the water for its people.

BY THE TIME Gilmour put Fiji Water up for sale in 2004, it was the fourth most popular imported bottled water in the United States. He found eager buyers in the Resnicks, who made their fortune with the flower delivery service Teleflora and the collectibles company Franklin Mint. The Beverly Hills-based couple are also agribusiness billionaires whose holdings include enough almond, pistachio, and pomegranate acreage to make them the biggest growers of those crops in the entire Western Hemisphere; a 2004 report by the Environmental Working Group calculated that in 2002 alone, their agricultural water subsidies totaled more than $1.5 million. They own a pesticide company, Suterra, and Lynda Resnick almost single-handedly created the pomegranate fad via their Pom Wonderful brand.

Fiji Water wasn't the Resnicks' first foray into the water industry: Years ago, they gained control of one of the largest underground water reservoirs in the nation, the Kern Water Bank on the edge of California's Central Valley. This vast holding system—built with public funds in 1999 to help buffer the effects of droughts—stores water from California's aqueducts and the Kern River; it's estimated to be worth more than $180 million on the open market and has allowed the Resnicks to double their acreage of fruits and nuts since 1994, according to the Los Angeles Times.

With the profits from their enterprises, the Resnicks have been major players on the political scene, giving more than $300,000 each over the past decade. They have supported mostly marquee Democrats—Obama, John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, Al Franken—though both also donated to the McCain campaign. They give millions to museums, environmental organizations, and other charities: Lynda is a trustee of the Aspen Institute, and Stewart is on the board of Conservation International. One of Britney Spears' recent meltdowns led to her stay at the Stewart and Lynda Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital at UCLA. In June, the California Institute of Technology announced the creation of the Resnick Sustainability Institute after receiving a $20 million donation from the couple. Fiji Water also gives to a range of conservation groups, including the Waterkeeper Alliance, Oceana, the Nature Conservancy, and Heal the Bay.

The charitable works Fiji Water brags about most often, however, are its efforts in Fiji itself—from preserving rainforests to helping fund water and sanitation projects to underwriting kindergartens. This January, after catastrophic floods swept the main island of Viti Levu, the company also donated $500,000 to the military regime for flood relief, and gave another $450,000 to various projects last summer. True, some of Fiji Water's good works are more hope than reality: Though Lynda Resnick insists that "we only use biofuels," the Fiji plant runs on diesel generators, and a project to protect 50,000 acres of rainforest—plugged on the actual bottle label—has yet to obtain a lease. Still, Resnick told New York's WNYC last year, "We do so much for these sort of forgotten people. They live in paradise, but they have a very, very hard life."

Fiji Water may be well advised to spread a bit of its wealth around locally. During the 2000 coup, a small posse of villagers wielding spearguns and dynamite seized on the chaos to take over the bottling plant and threaten to burn it down. "The land is sacred and central to our continued existence and identity," a village spokesman told the Fiji Times, adding that "no Fijian should live off the breadcrumbs of past colonial injustices." Two years later, the company created the Vatukaloko Trust Fund, a charity targeting several villages surrounding its plant. It won't say how much it has given to the trust, but court proceedings indicate that it has agreed to donate .15 percent of its Fijian operation's net revenues; a company official testified that the total was about $100,000 in 2007. (For perspective, the trade journal Brandweek put Fiji Water's marketing budget at $10 million in 2008; it recently dropped $250,000 to become a founding partner of the new Salt Lake City soccer stadium.)

Perhaps mindful of the unpleasantness of 2000, today Fiji Water executives refer constantly to the company's role in Fiji's economic life. "Our export revenue is paying for the expansion of water access at a pace that Fiji's government has never achieved," the company told the BBC in 2008. "If we did...cease to exist," sustainability VP Mooney told U.S. News & World Report the same year, "a big chunk of the economy would be gone, the schools that we built would go away, and the water access projects would go away."

What Mooney didn't say is that though Fiji Water may fill a void in the impoverished nation, it also reaps a priceless benefit: tax-free status, granted when the company was founded in 1995. The rationale at the time, according to the company: Bottled water was a risky business with uncertain chances of success. In 2003, David Gilmour said that his ambition for Fiji Water was "to become the biggest taxpayer in the country." Yet the tax break, originally scheduled to expire in 2008, remains in effect, and neither the company nor the government will say whether or when it might end. And when Fiji has tried to wring a bit of extra revenue from the company, the response has been less than cooperative. Last year, when the government attempted to impose a new tax on water bottlers, Fiji Water called it "draconian" (a term it's never used for the regime's human rights violations) and temporarily shut down its plant in protest.

While Lynda Resnick has called for "very public conduct" by private companies, she seems to appreciate that, as she wrote in her book, "transparency is a lot easier to talk about than it is to realize." The closely held company won't disclose basic data about its business (such as total charity expenditures), and it's gone to some length to shelter assets in secretive tax havens: The Fijian operation, according to court documents filed last year, is owned by an entity in Luxembourg, while its American trademarks are registered to an address in the Cayman Islands.

At the moment, Fiji's government certainly seems in no mood to confront Fiji Water—quite the contrary. "Learning from the lessons of products, we must brand ourselves," Fiji's ambassador in Washington told a news site for diplomats in 2006, adding that he was working with the Resnicks to try to increase Fiji Water's US sales. A Fiji Water bottle sits at the top of the embassy's home page, and the government has even created a Fiji Water postage-stamp series—the $3 stamp features children clutching the trademark bottles.

Fiji Water, for its part, has trademarked the word "FIJI" (in capital letters) in numerous countries. (Some rejected the application, but not the United States.) It has also gone after rival Fijian bottlers daring to use their country's name for marketing. "It would have cost too much money for us to fight in court," says Mohammed Altaaf, the owner of Aqua Pacific water, which ended up taking the word "Fiji" out of its name. "It's just like branding a water America Water and denying anyone else the right to use the name 'America.'"

When such practices are criticized, Fiji Water's response is simple: "They don't have a ton of options for economic development," Mooney told U.S. News & World Report, "but bottled water is one of them. When someone buys a bottle of Fiji, they're buying prosperity for the country." Without Fiji Water, he said, "Fiji is kind of screwed."

August 12, 2009

Marijuana Busters or Missionaries?

Break out the violins and yank out the hankies.

The police is "sad" about the population not paying them any heed on drug education.

You can hardly blame us can you fellah's? Many of us are totally confused about whether your tax-funded role is to uphold the rule of law or uphold the cross!

Confirmed: Fiji's Economy Is In The Toilet

Nasdaq reports that our economic outlook is looking pretty shabby.

Well with (military?) officials scurrying illegally all over the place on obviously unbudgetted expenses and unclear objectives, it's hardly surprising now is it?

Fiji Economic Outlook Bleak, To Contract Sharply - Analyst

CANBERRA -(Dow Jones)- The economic outlook for Fiji is bleak, with the gross domestic product to contract by at least 5%, Renuka Mahadevan, a senior academic at the School of Economics, University of Queensland, said Tuesday.

Three factors underpin the "very bleak" outlook for Fiji's economy, including the impact of the global financial crisis, which has compounded the dire consequences of the political situation, and ongoing unstable and sluggish growth since a political coup in 2000, she said.

It isn't far fetched to think that GDP growth could be "negative 5% or even lower," she said

"But that's very conservative," Mahadevan said in an update on Fiji for the Australian parliament organized by Australian National University.

GDP grew 0.2% in 2008 after a contraction of 6.6% due to the impact of a political coup in 2007, she said.

Fiji is a small island-based nation in the South Pacific with a population estimated at almost 950,000 in 2008. It has suffered a series of political coups over the past two decades. Main industries include tourism, sugar, fisheries and garment manufacture.

In a brief run through of key economic indicators, Mahadevan said the annual inflation rate is "pretty low" for now at 0.8% but a 20% devaluation the Fijian dollar on April 15 will cause inflation to accelerate to an estimated 9.5% annual rate by the end of the year, a disappointing return to last September's annual inflation rate of 9.8%, which was a 20 year high, she said.

The devaluation was undertaken to improve the export sector but its timing poor as the global financial crisis meant demand for exports was going to fall anyway, moderating the impact of the devaluation, she said.

Moreover, the devaluation approach to solve economic problems shifts focus way from a need for domestic economic reform, she said.

As for the impact of the global financial crisis, "Fiji banks are fairly well insulated," with the indirect impacts of this of greater concern, such as export demand for garments and tourism, both of which are major contributors to the economy, she added.

Government revenue will decline also as a result of the global financial crisis, with export revenues and remittances declining, so a government budget previously estimated at 3% of GDP this year "is going to be squeezed even further," Mahadevan said.

But this will be financed raises potential problems, with internal borrowings potentially pressuring interest rates upwards. While external borrowing is possible with external debt quite low at 7% of GDP, Fiji's ongoing political problems have caused Fiji's credit ratings to be downgraded so it isn't clear if external borrowing will help, she said.

A coherent, holistic reform process must be put in place increase efficiency and productivity in areas of governance, agricultural and nonagricultural industries and trade, Mahadevan said.

By Ray Brindal, Dow Jones Newswires; 612-6208-0902;

August 11, 2009

Human Rights Violations Continue in Fiji Courts

Here's a media release we received from Jagannath Sami affirming that the respect for human rights is non-existent in our courts, thanks to the illegal and treasonous Actg Chief Registrar of the High Courts in Fiji, Major Ana Rokomokoti.

Jagannath Sami VS Army Commander Voreqe Bainimarama, The Royal Fiji Military Forces, Ministry of Home affairs and Immigration, The Attorney General of Fiji, Ratu Josefa Iloilo Uluivuda, Hon. President of Fiji Islands and Sugar Cane Growers Council.

Last week my legal counsel, Mr. Shalen Krishna of Krishna & Co. Lautoka, Fiji handed over to me the “Certificate Of Termination Of Proceedings” signed by the Acting Chief Registrar of the High Courts in Fiji.

In essence this means that the High Court in Fiji will not proceed to hear my (Jagannath Sami’s) Civil Action for damages against the Army Commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama (1st Defendant), The Royal Fiji Military Forces (2nd Defendant), Ministry Of Home Affairs and Immigration (3rd Defendant), The Attorney General Of Fiji (4th Defendant), Ratu Josefa Iloilo Uluivuda, Hon. President Of The Republic Of Fiji Islands (5th Defendant) and Sugar Cane Growers Council (Third Party).

The Registrar in issuing the Certificate of Termination of Proceedings states and I Quote:

TAKE NOTICE that pursuant to the powers given to me under the section 23(3) of the Administration of Justice Decree 2009, I hereby CERTIFY that this proceeding is wholly terminated pursuant to section 23(3) (e) (g) of the Administration of Justice Decree 2009.

It is a sad day for Fiji and its people that the Registrar of the High Court did not see fit in allowing the Plaintiff his day in Court before terminating the proceedings and thus making mockery of the Fiji Judicial System. No Law is a just law if it deprives the right of justice to a citizen. In this instance what is laughable is the fact the defendents in this action itself decides to terminate the Court proceedings. Is this the equality that the Interim Government brags about.

Indeed, the above action was brought after my unlawful and forceful removal from office as the CEO of the Sugar Cane Growers Council (SCGC) on 02 of January 2007 and subsequent order by the High Court of Lautoka on 16 January 2007 for me to return to work. The High Court had also ordered an injunction against the Royal Fiji Military Forces not to interfere with the Council and its CEO. However despite the High Court Order and the injunction the military and police on 17th January forced me out of office once again.

It’s almost two and a half years now since my removal from office and I have been patiently waiting for the Courts to set a date for the hearing. Instead, the Interim Government by its own naïve actions has produced evidence that the Fiji Judiciary is no longer independent and impartial. There is no respect for human rights of individuals as demonstrated by this action. The Interim government by Promulgating the “Administration of Justice Decree 2009”, which rightly should be named the injustice Decree, has deliberately hijacked the due process of the Judicial system of the country.

I therefore call upon the International Community and democratic societies all over the world to condemn the abuse of Human Rights in Fiji and demand that the country be returned to an elected democratic government and rule of Law and Order as soon as practicable.

Jagannath Sami
Former CEO, Sugar Cane Growers Council

August 07, 2009

What the Pacific Islands Forum said about Fiji

The latest PIF Communique has this to say about Bainimarama's military regime:
44. Leaders noted activities carried out under the Biketawa Declaration in relation to Fiji and reaffirmed their unanimous and resolute support for the January 2009 Port Moresby decisions.

45. They noted the implementation on 2 May of the Port Moresby decisions. Leaders took note of the Ministerial Contact Group (MCG) report and its recommendations. They took careful note of the grave concerns about the situation in Fiji, as expressed directly to Leaders from respected individuals and organisations in Fiji.

46. Leaders strongly condemned the actions of the Fiji military regime which have led to a severe deterioration in basic liberties and democratic institutions in Fiji since Leaders last met, including the abrogation of the Constitution, the imposition of media controls, restrictions on freedom of assembly, and the ongoing erosion to the traditional pillars of Fijian civil society, including the churches and chiefs. They deplored the recent detentions of church Leaders by the regime.

47. They welcomed the clear solidarity and support for Forum positions shown by the Commonwealth, and by other members of the international community, for a prompt and credible timetable for the restoration of democracy. They expressed their deep concern at the rejection by the military regime of the Commonwealth’s call for elections.

48. Leaders reaffirmed the importance of continued strong solidarity for the region’s position on Fiji from the United Nations, the EU and across the international community.

49. Leaders expressed their deep concern for the people of Fiji in the face of Fiji’s deteriorating economy as a consequence of the military regime’s actions, including the undermining of the private sector and the negative effect on business confidence in the absence of the rule of law.

50. Leaders called again for political dialogue in Fiji between parties on the principles of genuine, inclusive dialogue without preconditions or pre-determined outcomes.

51. In this context, Leaders reiterated a commitment to engage Fiji on an early return to democracy so that Fiji could again take its proper place in the community of the Forum. They noted that the MCG and the PIF-Fiji Joint Working Group remained important mechanisms for continued dialogue and called on Fiji to re-engage.

Ah Yeah. You're STILL OUT Bainimarama and your tantrums are getting boring.

August 05, 2009

Overseas Fijians keep watch on Fiji at Pacific Islands Forum

Radio NZ International has this story on the watch being kept by democracy loving Fijians in Cairns, and maintaining the pressure on the military regime.

Australia-based group calls for Forum to increase sanctions on Fiji

A group of protesters is calling for the Pacific Islands forum to keep Fiji high on the main agenda of tomorrow’s meeting.

A small handful of people are camped outside the convention centre where the Pacific Islands Forum is being held in Cairns.

The Australia-based Fiji Democracy and Freedom Movement’s Usaia Waqatairewa says they have a ten-point submission to give to the leaders.

“We want to cut off the lifeblood that continues to exist in Fiji, like returning all the soldiers that are serving for the United Nations in Sinai. We’re asking that the Pacific Islands Forum countries accept all the travel ban that’s been given by the Australia, New Zealand and the United States so that they wouldn’t even be able to go to Vanuatu for that MSG meeting last week.”

Usaia Waqatairewa says he believes the people of Fiji are prepared to experience some short-term hardship in the form of sanctions for long-term benefit.