July 26, 2010

The Shady Natadola Communique

Pacific leaders who may have taken up, in good faith, Bainimarama's invitation to the suddenly downgraded MSG meeting, find themselves endorsing Fiji's illegal and treasonous military regime EVEN when their resolutions during the Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting have been consistent thus far.

Oh to be a fly on the wall and watch them wilt under the unblinking stares from Australia and New Zealand whilst they're all in Vanuatu (sans Fiji) next week.

In news just to hand regarding our favourite and irrelevant regional media organisation PINA, we understand that a certain donor has yanked all funding for their meeting which they had hoped to hold at a 5-Start hotel in Vanuatu. PINA Execs are now quickly coordinating for a hugely downgraded meeting at a "smaller" hotel, with greatly reduced regional participation to boot.

Intelligentsiya will now be examing NGO's who are propping up the military regime and working to ensure that donors yank funding from unprincipled civil society bodies who think they can spend taxpayer money from functioning democracies yet prop up a military regime.

1. The Head of State of Kiribati, Prime Ministers of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Fiji and the Ministers, Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Representatives of Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Timor Leste, Tonga and Vanuatu met in Natadola, Fiji on 22 – 23 July 2010 to discuss issues of common interest including trade, security, sustainable development, good governance, commerce, environmental pollution, climate change and Fiji’s Strategic Framework for Change.

2. The Leaders expressed their appreciation and gratitude to the Government and people of Fiji for their warm hospitality.

The Leaders:

3. Acknowledged with appreciation the high level of representation and attendance of the Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS) that participated in the meeting;

4. Reaffirmed the special cultural bonds and ties that the PSIDS share with each other;

5. Agreed that Fiji’s Strategic Framework for Change (SFC) is a credible home-grown process for positioning Fiji as a modern nation and to hold true democratic elections;

6.  Agreed that important lessons could be learnt and shared within the region, from Fiji’s experience and Fiji’s implementation of the Strategic Framework for Change;

7.  Recognised the need for Fiji’s continuous engagement with the region and its full participation in regional development, initiatives and aspirations;

8.    Acknowledged opportunities for partnership offered by Kiribati to develop joint ventures in fisheries processing;

9.    Acknowledged opportunities offered by Papua New Guinea in various sectors to PSIDS on bilateral basis which include mining and exploration, employment, petroleum, education and other investment opportunities that could be taken up by the Pacific Island countries through bilateral arrangements;

10.  Agreed that the opportunities available in Asia have the potential to stimulate economic growth and investment in PSIDS and recommended strengthening of economic ties with Asia;

11.  Reiterate the need for PSIDS to take a stronger and united position on issues relating to climate change and sea level rise that affect the survival of the Pacific Island Countries;

12.    Expressed concerns that funding committed at the global level for adaptation measures on climate change is yet to materialise and funding already channelled through regional institutions by our development partners are being unnecessarily delayed by complex procedures and high consultation fees;

13. Called on regional organisations and development partners to expeditiously disburse funds committed on climate change mitigation and adaptation initiatives;

14.  Reaffirmed the urgent need to conserve the region’s ocean resources and supported the Pacific Ocean 2020 Challenge and other conservatory measures such as the Coral Triangle Initiative, Micronesian Challenge and the Phoenix Islands Protected Area;

15.  Committed that the fisheries resources and deep sea mineral resources must be exploited on sustainable and environmentally friendly manner

16.    Agreed to consider the proposal by Fiji to conclude on a bilateral basis with PSIDS agreements on areas which include trade, regional tourism, education, shipping, aviation, immigration, fisheries, assistance in modernising laws, labour mobility, cooperation between chambers of commerce and the private sector and regional hub.

17.  Noted the outcomes of the Police Commissioners Meeting that took place on 21 July 2010 and supported the setting up of a Regional Police Academy.

18.  Acknowledged the presentation on the ‘Pacific Bridge to Noble Wealth’ project and the potential opportunities available for Pacific countries to integrate knowledge-based economies and tourism industries for sustainable development.

19.    Agreed to the concept of “Rethinking Oceania” and endorsed the efforts of the Pacific Conference of Churches to recommend a development model that moves Oceania towards inclusiveness and sufficiency, report back in two years time.
20.  Accepted the Fiji Government’s offer to organise annual meeting of Pacific Small Island Developing States to continue engaging with Fiji and review other issues they have discussed at Natadola.

Natadola, Fiji
23 July 2010

July 15, 2010

PINA Executive Board Resolutions

It appears that the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) continues to fumble along on the slippery slope downwards towards mediocrity.

It is a sad day for citizens of the Pacific when the fourth estate believes it is their calling to take sides in politics.

The resignation of ex-Vice President Mr John Woods is accepted just as matter-of-factly as day is day and nght is night.

And all the issues of mismanagement and bad goverance as continually raised by a fed-up John Woods continue.

Take Note Australian citizens. PINA is an entity that your hard-earned tax dollars are helping to prop up. They in turn are propping up the military regime and it is up to you to change this script expeditiously.

If PINA has no problem with the draconian Media Decree, which in essence limits their own ability to report Fiji news freely and fairly, questions need to be asked.

July 14, 2010

Australia outplays Fiji's Supremo

The Canberra column
by Graeme Dobell - 14 July 2010 8:07AM

Australia doesn't get everything it wants in dealing with the arc of islands in the neighbourhood, a reality many Australians seem to miss. Count the new Prime Minister among those subject to the odd regional reality check. East Timor has just given Julia Gillard a quick and painful demonstration of the limits facing the regional superpower.

This column, however, is about the other side of equation: how Australia often gets much of what it wants in the region. I'm going to desert the commentariat consensus and seek regional coherence and purpose in the way Australia is grappling with Fiji. The key to this perspective is to think about the South Pacific, not just Fiji.

By again expelling Australia's top diplomat in Suva, Frank Bainimarama is lashing out at the rest of the South Pacific, not just at Canberra. The bombast from Fiji's Supremo suggests that Suva is feeling some pressure. And that weight is coming from the region.

This is the decisive point: the region is siding with Australia. Bainimarama berates Australia, but his deeper anger is that the rest of the region agrees with Canberra and distrusts the Supremo.

The diplomatic tug of war is not merely between Suva and Canberra. It is about visions of the region and the definition of regional norms. The ultimate prize in this contest is the ownership and direction of regional instruments. In this fight, Australia and the Pacific Islands Forum have just had a significant win. Granted, such wins are wounding and debilitating for the region: a few more wins like this and we'll all be ruined!

It suits Bainimarama to claim that he is being insulted and assaulted by Australia and New Zealand. The constant narrative from Suva is that Australia is bullying the rest of the Islands to make them stand against Fiji.

But the Melanesian Spearhead Group has blown a giant raspberry at the Bainimarama version of regional reality. The MSG has stripped Fiji of its right to hold a summit in Nadi. The decision was announced by Vanuatu as chair of the MSG, but described as 'a collective decision of the leaders of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, the FLNKS and Vanuatu'. The statement from Vanuatu’s Prime Minister, Edward Natapei, said the group had acted to resolve an 'impasse' over Fiji's chairmanship:

The potential long-term ramifications of allowing Fiji to chair the MSG this time cannot be ignored. There are basic, fundamental principles and values of democracy and good governance that our organisation is built on, and we must continue to uphold them.

Australia could not have said it better: 'basic, fundamental principles and values of democracy’. As the Fiji-born academic Professor Brij Lal dryly comments, Fiji's military regime 'will be taken aback by the robust language used in the communique'. Taken aback? Gobsmacked! Not only has Fiji been kicked out of the Pacific Islands Forum. Suva cannot even bend the MSG to its will.

Bainimarama sought to create a new regional power base for Fiji, inviting all members of the Forum apart from Australia and New Zealand to attend his Nadi summit. The MSG has refused to play.

Understand what this says about the erosion of Fiji's standing in the South Pacific under the Supremo. After the two coups in Fiji in 1987, the rest of the Islands lined up with Fiji against Australia and New Zealand. Back then, the Forum expressed more than understanding for Fiji. The region supported the Fiji military and the regime it installed after throwing out an elected government. No thought then of expelling Fiji from the Forum.

Bainimarama has managed to shred Fiji's role as the heart of regionalism in the South Pacific. This is an amazing bit of serial blundering.

Australia and New Zealand are not alone in mistrusting Bainimarama and what he has done. Canberra and Wellington are just more explicit than the rest of the Forum in expressing their distaste. Australia has played its hand with restraint: not cutting diplomatic links with Fiji, not imposing economic sanctions on Fiji, not cutting aid directed at average Fijians. The nasties have been aimed at Fiji's elite – travel bans on the regime's cronies and the ejection of Fiji from the regional club which has its secretariat in Suva.

It may not amount to masterful diplomacy, but it gives proper attention to the views of the rest of the South Pacific. Australia has not sought to crush Fiji's economy (Bainimarama is doing that by himself). Such diplomacy means that Australia and New Zealand can stand with the rest of the South Pacific in shunning the Supremo.

Too many Australians see this as weakness by Canberra or – the Gillard mistake again – a failure of Australia to properly assert its regional power. You can detect such assumptions in this comment by the chairman of News Ltd, John Hartigan, responding to the Supremo's move to strip the Fiji Times from News' ownership:

The Australian government has brought little pressure to bear on the military government to hold elections, restore democracy or re-establish the depleted power of Fiji's judiciary, apart from imposing travel bans on regime leaders.

It's easy enough to argue that Australia has been 'confused and contradictory' in dealing with Fiji. Let's not, though, confuse cause and effect. There has been a lot of strange, even bloody-minded behaviour on display, but most of it emanates from the Supremo. Whatever the limits of its power (or diplomacy), Australia can point to mounting evidence that it is closer to the rest of the South Pacific than Fiji. No wonder Bainimarama is angry.

The region agonises, but continues to insist that Fiji, one day, will have to confront its Army curse. Many countries have armies. A few unfortunate places are afflicted by armies which possess the country. Fiji is living that nightmare.

July 13, 2010

Fiji censorship like dark matter: impossible to see, but still there

Tuesday, 13 July 2010
by journalist Michael Field
on Crikey

Australia’s top diplomat has been expelled from Fiji for “unfriendly acts”. Not that you’d read about it there.

Watching Fiji these days is a bit like astronomy and physics: you can look into the universe and know that dark matter exists. It is just that it is impossible to see. Theory says it has to be there, and that is like Fiji.

Censorship is an almost all pervading thing; anything even slightly critical is blue-pencilled out of existence. However, not quite. If you look carefully at the Fiji media, you can see what is not there, even as in the parallel universe of reality, it exists.

Take the typhoid epidemic. Officially, it is under control and everything is fine, problem solved. Look again, the Fiji media keeps reporting it is all well, every week. Censorship has pushed the Fiji media into black hole, while out here, in the real world, there are other clues that typhoid is not at all well, and not under control.

The thing is, ordinary people are hearing the same things I am hearing now around the crashing health system; it is why the Fiji media keep reporting all is well. They are not going to report that things are deteriorating.

Look at the Fiji media; there is almost no crime other than that which can be spun by the military regime into evidence against previous regimes. So, when an old lady of some earlier fame is gang raped in her Suva old folks home, it does not get into the censored press. It cannot be blamed on former PM Laisenia Qarase; it is here and now.

Another piece of dark matter floating around is the Land Use Decree. We are told that this will lead to a rational and reasonable use of leased land. We are told, repeatedly, about how badly land was used in the past. Again and again, without specific reference to lands being, well, rationalised.

Why is that? Censored Fiji is not being told what is happening.

In fact, the decree is rationalising — and that is not the word — the beginnings of a kind of Mugabe land grab. I know of large well-managed properties around Viti Levu where people aligned with the Bainimarama regime are now getting doubtful orders from the corrupt courts to have land seized. In one case, a prominent military appointed court official has managed to get orders seizing white leased farmland without any compensation to the leaseholder.

Some of it even slips through the censor’s net: Momi Bay and Lagoon Resort in Pacific Harbour. Again, it is not what you read, but what you don’t read. The Black Matter is the name, or names, of the people in the regime who will profit from these seizures.

Bainimarama says corruption has gone; in fact, it is the black matter we cannot now see in the New Legal Order.

Look at the Surfing Decree, proclaiming the waves of Fiji open to all. Well, who could argue that robbing a fat cat’s property and giving it to the poor (or in this case, the lazy surfers of the world) is laudable. Just that Fiji might just find it increasingly harder to attract the fat cats any more.

After all, if the military gun can steal the waves, what about the resorts on the land next to them? Free rooms at Treasure Island; free room service at the Sheraton? Watch out Vomo.

What is notably absent from the censored press is any coverage — not a solitary word — of the discussion and consultation that preceded the Surfing Decree. Dark matter buried in there.

Another clue that all is rotten in Fiji is in Frank Bainimarama’s emergency budget. He said he had to bring it out because of unexpected events that he did not think of in his earlier budget. These included cyclones and rain. Cyclones and rain, unexpected, in Fiji?

In addition, his economic projections were knocked over by a termite outbreak in Nadi. Who does he think he is kidding? Termite treatment costs less than the Chinese weapons he is proposing to buy for the Republic of Fiji Military Forces.

A lot of black matter floating around in those unchallenged ‘budget’ statements. One of which was why wasn’t there money for a rainy day?

Bainimarama says he is going off to the IMF to get $1 billion. However, he says they will only take it up after “placing paramountcy on what is in the best interest for Fiji and her people”.

Why would you state such an apparently obvious thing? It’s simple — as Greece and other much more powerful countries have long since found out; when you are broke and holding out a begging bowl no one cares about your paramountcy. Therefore, you tell the world — like pissing into the wind — that your paramountcy matters. No, it does not, and you will not read that in the Fiji media.

Then, there was the Media Decree. Now that came after 150 minutes of “consultation” with the media industry. The difference between the April draft and the June version is modest in the extreme.

Just before going there though, a small piece of unnoticed context, more dark matter if you like. Two weeks before the decree blitz hit, Bainimarama and his bag peon Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, announced they were off to the Arab League where, the censored media assured us all, the Middle East was about to sprinkle US$50 million in gold on the regime. The censored media said, repeatedly, that this was Fiji’s money to claim.

There was black matter, unreported; the Arabs offered US$50 million to be “shared” among 14 Pacific nations, not just Fiji. Bainimarama delivered a speech to the assembled Arabs that was so bad I doubt even he can remember what he said. Then he and bag boy came home.

Nothing more in the censored media; it has gone, black matter. Don’t mention the Arabs.

Yes, we can determine from that vacant space that Bainimarama got nothing. Zilch. Chances are he even had to pay for his own mini-bar.

Nothing in the media equates with nothing in Fiji. So, they come home and immediately change the subject. They attack the media and Rupert Murdoch in particular.

Have no doubt, Bainimarama is being nasty and vindictive in the most self-destructive way. Investors have had the message driven home with ruthless efficiency; if we don’t like you, we will change the rules. It is robbery, straight and simple. It is also anti-democratic, oppressive and designed to squeeze out whatever independent thought is left.

Michael Field is the author of Swimming With Sharks: Tales from the South Pacific Frontline

Ack - Here We Go Again...

This is the calibre of the man who thinks he is fit to rule the country.

When he is publicly hung to dry by the very group who he thought would protect him and his illegal rule, he retaliates by attacking someone else.

Until he learns to behave like an adult instead of the neighborhood bully, he and his gang would be better off dedicating 1 printing press at the Government Printery to churn out the "persona non grata" love letters, because the international community will not bow to childish tantrums.

Lest Bainimarama forgets the termite expert who has been helping us eradicate the plague is a gift in good faith of Australian taxpayers. 

His attempt to kills the Fiji Times is also a continuum of kicks to the gut to Australia.

But we know the international community will not be deterred.

Bainimarama however in true childish fashion decides to have his party with or without his Melanesian Wantoks. What a gaff!

Hold on to your seats for the next peak and trough of this Mad Hatter's Merry Go Ride.
Fiji expels Australian diplomat
Last updated 23:16 12/07/2010

Fiji's military regime has retaliated against Australia after Suva suffered severe embarrassment when its Melanesian neighbours suddenly cancelled a high profile summit later this month.

Australian High Commissioner Stephen Smith said tonight their acting High Commissioner had been forced to leave Fiji by order of coup leader Voreqe Bainimarama.

He said it was because Australia would not support the summit meeting of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).

New Zealand has also refused to support the meeting but it is not known whether Suva will act again against Wellington.

Bainimarama  had touted the MSG summit later this month as a counter-point to the Pacific Forum 16-nation summit that has suspended Fiji's membership.

The MSG takes in the Melanesian nations of Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and the Melanesian political party in the French territory of New Caledonia.

Bainimarama had persuaded several Polynesian nations to attend the summit and claimed it was to counter the domination of Australia and New Zealand in the forum.

In an announcement tonight MSG chairman and Vanuatu's Prime Minister, Edward Natapei said they were deferring the summit because members could not agree on who would be the next chairman.

Natapei said the long term ramifications of Fiji chairing the MSG could not be ignored.

"There are basic fundamental principles and values of democracy and good governance that our organisation is built on and we must continue to uphold them," he said.

Mr Smith told AAP the decision to expel the Australian high commissioner was both unjustified and disappointing, but Australia would not retaliate.

"I'm not proposing to respond in kind," Mr Smith said.

Mr Smith said the reason behind Ms Roberts' expulsion was Australia's view with other Pacific countries that it was inappropriate to meet with Fiji as part of the MSG.

Fiji is a member of the sub-regional group and Bainimarama has been trying to build his support base with other Melanesian countries in the Pacific.

"We made it quite clear it was inappropriate," Mr Smith said.

"That's the proper reason from Fiji for the expulsion."

Mr Smith said he had spoken to his New Zealand counterpart, Murray McCully, and advised him of the "disappointing, surprising and a regrettably backward step".

He had also told him he would not respond by expelling Fiji's sole diplomat to Australia.

July 12, 2010

Melanesians Pulls the Plug On Frank & Co.

As we have continued to say, the Leaders of the Melanesian Spearhead Group aren't fools and they know when they've been used as "Wantoks of Convenience" one time too many.

July 08, 2010

Fiji Times Dumps PINA

One by one, right thinking members of the Pacific's Fourth Estate abandon the military regime backed PINA.

Fiji Times withdraws membership of PINA
Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Fiji Times newspaper has withdrawn its membership of the Pacific Islands News Association, saying it is no longer appropriate to continue as member.

In a letter to the PINA President Moses Stevens, Fiji Times editor Netani Rika says they understand that the organization faces difficulties in working out how to deal with the situation in Fiji.

However Rika writes that the course of action taken by PINA on the situation in Fiji is not in the best interest of the Fiji Times.

The Fiji Times writes that PINA’s stand does not support the fundamental principles of the media – which they believe are fundamental to society.

Rika told FBC News that their withdrawal has nothing to do with the setting up of a new organization, nor are they looking to set up a new organization.

He says they just feel PINA is not working in their interest.

The Fiji Times faces closure in three months due to foreign ownership conditions set out in the new Media Decree.

Report by: Stanley Simpson

Tuilaepa Turns Down Bainimarama

July 01, 2010

Sada Reddy: Military Mouthpiece Vowed "No More Devaluation"...

..yes he did.

In October 2009 Sada Reddy promised us, We The People, that there would be no more devaluations.
We wonder how he will be eating his words gracefully this time tomorrow and just how TF they will justify a whispered VAT Hike of 15%.
Reddy vows no more devaluation
Shalveen Chand
Saturday, October 24, 2009

THERE will be no more devaluation of the dollar, says Reserve Bank governor Sada Reddy.

Opening the Fiji Human Resources Institute convention yesterday, he said: "There was no other way to salvage the fast depleting foreign reserves brought about by the global financial crisis and the political crisis, which had an immediate impact."

Mr Reddy said when he took over as governor in April, Fiji had only enough foreign reserves to sustain just one month worth of imports.

"The devaluation was the only way to go as we could not waste time," he said. "When we have a political crisis, there is speculation regarding currency and there was such in Fiji, and to curb that, we took the difficult steps."

Mr Reddy said by last month, the foreign reserves had touched the billion-dollar mark.

He said that by mid-next year, the forecast inflation rate would drop by 2 per cent if the price of oil remained stable.

"There was speculation about another devaluation which did affect the economy slightly, but let me assure you there will be no other devaluation," Mr Reddy said.

He said that tough decisions were only successful because of the people who helped make the decisions.

"In 1998, I spearheaded a change in the RBF which saw almost 60 people lose their jobs, however, this step was taken with the future in mind," Mr Reddy said.

"Now we have all graduates who know what they are doing. The three-year change which began in 1998 was a move to bring about qualified people who would be able to stand out and help in dire times."

He said the human resource decisions taken almost 10 years ago had helped the RBF come up with sound policies that have salvaged the economy.

"We had asked the commercial banks not to increase interest rates but there were no initial policies however two banks went ahead and increased rates so we put in a policy to ensure that people did not suffer with increased rates which normally happens in crisis situations" said Mr Reddy.

One of the new changes that will be seen with the banks next year is micro-financing, banks have been told by the RBF to look at providing finances to people who do not fit the credit ratings.

Mr Reddy said that the RBF found that banks in Fiji had a much more better spread, rate of return than most banks.

"From January next year banks will have to have a microfinance unit. Banks have to change their minds about this. Banks will be involved with the RBF on how they can go about doing this."

According to Mr Reddy, he had to take up the post of governor of the central bank as there was a vast vacuum at the leadership level after the exit of Savenaca Narube following the abrogation of the constitution.

"People are the key to economic success and we have to ensure that we have a skilled labourforce, that will ensure sound decisions and practice, like the one that saw the RBF come together in time of a financial crisis."
Postscript:  Today's mini-budget announcement dictates a 15% VAT hike on imported vegies. No sign of a strongly whispered Devaluation.

The PINA Row Erupts Again

Mr John Woods. Take a bow. You are The Man.

Freedom loving journalists this is a test of your integrity and your respect for your role as the 4th Estate in a democratic society, so please strongly consider joining the new body that is being set up. 

This new media entity can only be as good as the upstanding professionals in this industry that it attracts.

VP of peak Pacific media body PINA resigns in disgust
Updated July 1, 2010 07:29:41

The vice president of the Pacific Islands News Association, PINA, has tendered his resignation saying the board's inaction in "leading the rage" against Fiji's new media laws makes him ashamed to be a member.

Monday's gazetting of Fiji's Media Industry Development Decree 2010 will see stiff penalties handed out to journalists and media owners for unfavourable reporting as judged by the military-backed regime. And foreign ownership regulations will be tightened, which will squeeze The Fiji Times' owner News Limited out of the country.

PINA is based in Fiji.

Geraldine Coutts asked Vice President John Woods - who is also the managing editor of the Cook Islands News - for the reasons he decided to resign.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts
Speaker: John Woods, former vice president of Pacific Islands News Association, PINA
Listen here.

WOODS: Basically the implementation of the decree is the last straw, and I'd say the last straw in that for over a year now PINA has been challenged to standup, speak against and resist the impositions of the military regime as far as they affect censorship and freedom of speech. And PINA has kowtowed to the regime through its administration, which is Fiji based, and the administration has dodged and ducked whenever politically a board member like myself has asked for some action, for a response. Disillusionment has grown and spread throughout the region amongst journalists and amongst media operators because of the inaction of PINA to the point of frustration and the suppressed outrage has now kind of manifest itself with a silent transfer of support and allegiance away from PINA to a new entity, which has the working title of Pacific Media Association.

COUTTS: So you're saying that you're going to setup an opposition group now to PINA?

WOODS: A group of independent media operators in the region is going to do that, I'm merely one of the group.

COUTTS: Who will be the group, who will be the members of the group?

WOODS: Well at the moment we have publishers and broadcasters from Vanuatu, from Samoa, from Tonga, from the Cook Islands, who have met and we have forged the concept of a framework for a new body which will be totally independent, will be all inclusive in terms of we won't have too many restrictions on who's allowed to speak, who's allowed to attend our meetings. And we won't play political games like PINA plays every year or two over who's paid and who hasn't their membership fees. We will be looking from as far afield as Wallis and Fortuna, right across to French Polynesia, we're looking at New Caledonia. These are countries that are not represented in PINA. The members have pulled out and failed to renew because of concerns over the duplicity and double standards of PINA.

See PINA's basic constitution is to uphold and defend free speech and a free press. If PINA cannot even answer or comment on the problems and challenges of censorship and restrictions in one country, then it's lost its credibility.

COUTTS: Mr Woods have you got the backing of the Forum and will their subscribers, such as Australia and New Zealand support this new body?

WOODS: I don't know you'll have to ask them.

COUTTS: Well I'm just wondering if you're setting it up have you been in touch to find out how viable this new organisation can be?

WOODS: We know it's viable because we're the independent media operators and we're forming an association for ourselves. We're not bludgers, we're not dependent on aid, like PINA, and we're not going to basically beg, go cap in hand to funding organisations. We will survive on our merits and on our own strengths and on our own undertaking.

COUTTS: Well you've written your letter of resignation to Moses Stevens, the President of the PINA board. Have you had a response from him?

WOODS: No and I'm not surprised.

COUTTS: Why not?

WOODS: Because anything thorny and anything difficult gets duck-shoved and ignored by the PINA administration.

COUTTS: So you obviously won't be based in Fiji as the PINA board is. Where will this new organisation be headquartered?

WOODS: You're asking me for definitive answers to something which is really it's still in its conceptual stages. So everything's provisional and everything's new. I can't speak for the organisation because the organisation's not even properly constituted. We are merely a gathering of independent media operators who want to form a new organisation. We met in Samoa a couple of weeks ago, we are thinking that Samoa would be an ideal location because politically the prime minister is a champion of free speech, because it has good air links throughout our region to Polynesia, Melanesia and New Zealand. And that's the preferred choice at this stage.

COUTTS: I know you're only just getting going and you're not quite sure, but the base of it is that you're protesting against the Fiji media decree. Can I just ask you what in particular you are most upset about that this decree introduces?

WOODS: Well the obvious strictures of insisting that foreign investment be reduced to a tiny percentage, that journalists are subject to imprisonment and horrendous fines if they contravene the decree's restrictions. These things are oppressive, barbaric, and in themselves are enough reason to I think pull PINA out of Fiji, which should have been done long ago, and for at least the organisation to speak up and challenge the military puppets that have invented this ridiculous, barbaric 19th century set of rules.

COUTTS: Well PINA has resisted the request, the often put request to move itself out of Fiji. Why do you think it continues to do that?

WOODS: Because it is dominated and driven systemically by Fijian interests because the operators are protective of their jobs, and because the democratic operations of the board that drives the association are controlled, contrived and manipulated by a few people.

The Hollow Echo of Empty Government Coffers

FBC yesterday released a fascinating story about Fijian Holding and the Fijian Affairs Board:

FAB and Fijian Holdings to pay back $20 million grant
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
The Fijian Affairs Board and Fijian Holdings Ltd is now required to pay back the $20 million that was given to them by government 21 years ago. 
Government gave the $20 million interest free loan to the Fijian Affairs Board in 1989 to help accelerate and broaden the participation of indigenous Fijians in commerce and business. 
The FAB injected the $20 million loan into Fijian Holdings Ltd to enhance Fijian business. 
In 2001, a Laisenia Qarase-led government agreed to convert the Loan to a grant and the relevant amendment to the loan agreement was agreed to. 
However today, Cabinet under Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama agreed to convert the grant to the FAB back into a loan.
Bainimarama says given the need to instill prudent and transparent financial practices in the use of government revenue, it is imperative that the loan, which was converted to a grant in 2001, be recovered and repaid to government coffers. 
He says the FAB will remain liable for this loan.
If you check out the emboldened paragraphs, many interesting tidbits arise.

First of all Qarase's very controversial loan then grant to Fiji Holdings has now being reversed to a loan by the illegal and treasonous Cabinet.

OK so FJD$20million of taxpayers money (without interest) is now owed by Fijian Holdings to the Government coffers. So how on earth does the Fijian Affairs Board remain liable? It is money OWED to the government coffers is it not?

This is where the journalistic efforts of FBC are found sorely wanting. If we take what Bainimarama is saying, it stands to reason that what is transpiring is that the Government shares in Fijian Holdings (grant/loan whatever you want to call it) are essentially being cashed out.

But if the Fijian Affairs Board now has to pay back this LOAN then the illegal and treasonous Government is essentially coercing the next cash-cow that is Fijian Holdings (especially now that they've buggered up our pension funds) to cough up a $20million loan.

So the way this news story is tweaked, it is NOT about Fijian Holdings paying back their grant/loan whatever you want to call it.

The illegal and treasonous Government has taken a $20million loan from Fijian Holdings at interest rates unknown. And how on earth does a Government Department have the means to be liable if they are dependent on Government Funding? Well the Fijian Affairs Board is liable because they continue to rake in money from dividends from their shares in Fijian Holdings.

In essence Fijian Holdings is giving the Government a loan that Fijian Holdings will also pay back via dividends to Fijian Affairs. And whether or not Fijian Holdings can pay this back depends on their local investments and ultimately the economy.

CleveRRRRRRRR but not clever enough we're afraid. The shareholders will inevitably riot once this blows open.

You see the stench of Government desperation to keep their coffers open has spread.

We are told that all government owned entities have similarly been leaned on to release funds in the MILLIONS back to Government coffers ASAP.

FIRCA's current operating 2010-2011 budget has had to cough up $10mill and the lovely spin pieces on Airports Fiji Limited and Fiji Ports Corp Ltd all tell the same story.

The Government is officially broke. And desperate since all this has transpired in the span of a week.

Sada Reddy has been nominated by them as crap-spinner to massage investor confidence during this crisis.

The illegal Governments wish-list to IMF has not seen the light of day and the Public Service Commission Chief, Parmesh Chand has even been hinting delicately at the inevitable.

The icing on the cake was that Bainimarama's recent jaunt to the Pacific Island-Arab League Summit was a fishing expedition to see whether we could put our begging bowl out.