October 25, 2012

Naivalurua mum on injured prisoners

07:03 Yesterday (October 24, 2012)
Report by: Mika Loga

Police Commissioner Brigadier Ioane Naivalurua is mum on the details of investigations in relation to the alleged assault of the five inmates who escaped from the Naboro Medium Corrections Centre last month.

They were admitted at the CWM hospital for injuries they suffered from their recapture.

They were hospitalized for about a week.

Some had their limbs plastered and needed help walking while one was on crutches they appeared in the Suva Magistrates Court.

They also had bruises to the face and limbs.

The fifth inmate is still in hospital.

Escapee's leg amputated

18:00 Mon Oct 22, 2012
Report by: Devendra Narayan

One of five prison escapees, who were recaptured in a joint friendly forces operation, is unable to appear in court for another two weeks.

The Magistrates Court in Suva heard that Epeli Qaraniqio has had his right leg amputated for injuries allegedly sustained during the recapture.

Qaraniqio was to have appeared in court this afternoon.

Director of Public Prosecutions lawyer, Lisiate Fotofili told Magistrate Janaka Bandara that Qaraniqio won’t be able to appear in court for another two weeks.

While presenting a medical report, Fotofili said the dressing on Qaraniqio’s leg was only removed on Friday.

Qaraniqio is still recovering at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital.

The case has now been adjourned until November 5th.

Qaraniqio and other four prisoners allegedly escaped from the Naboro Medium Security Prison last month.

They were arrested a few days later in a joint operation by police, prison and military officers.

Four other escapes have already appeared in court.


FIJI GINGER, MALAYSIA PINEAPPLE IMPORTS UNDER AUSTRALIAN

Pacific Beat, AM & Rural, ABC
Updated October 24, 2012, 2:46 pm

Australian senate inquiries have begun examining the risks of allowing ginger from Fiji and pineapples from Malaysia to be imported into Australia.

Australian growers have told an inquiry into Fijian ginger imports that buying the overseas crop could devastate the local industry, as the imports run the risk of carrying a pest known as a burrowing nematode.

They say nematodes have been known to wipe out up to 70 per cent of Fiji's crops.

Senator Bill Heffernan is taking part in the inquiry and he has told more research needs to be done to stop the produce coming into Australia.

"From the first snapshot of this, there's not enough science put into this," he said.

He says Fiji should bear the cost of the research.

"It appears to me unfair that the cost of proving the science on this falls on Australia and not on Fiji and I think that's one of the things we'd like to see changed," he said.

The Rural and Regional Affairs committee is presided over by six Australian senators and gives organisations and individuals a chance to tell Australian lawmakers their views on policy and legislation.

It will produce reports on the issues which can include recommendations for government.

Australian pineapple growers such as Les William have also expressed concern about a disease called heart rot being brought into the country via Malaysian pineapple imports.

"In Malaysia there's up to 40 to 60 per cent losses in the field," he told

"If it gets here, we just could not sustain that level of loss."

There are also fears cheap imports will undercut local growers' prices.

Biosecurity Australia, an arm of the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), has said the danger of exotic pests and disease is manageable through strict quarantine measures.

But Mr Williams says growers are not confident the measures will protect Australian crops.

"We have Biosecurity Queensland saying it's a moderate to high risk and Biosecurity Australia says it's a low risk," Mr Williams said.

The Senate Committee's final reports are due on November 29.

Potato imports
Australian potato growers say they remain convinced that importing potatoes from New Zealand is too great a risk for their industry.

DAFF Biosecurity is recommending that the Australian Government allow New Zealand potatoes to be imported for processing in Australia under strict quarantine protocols.

But South Australian, Tasmanian and Victorian industry representatives told a Senate inquiry in Canberra on Wednesday that the government should reject that recommendation.

Potatoes South Australia's chief executive Robbie Davis says any risk that the devastating zebra chip disease could make it across the Tasman is simply too big a risk to take.

"Premium quality is our competitive advantage. If the Australian potato crop is contaminated by zebra chip alone, without considering the other pests and diseases, the industry's farm gate value, and the value all the way down the value chain to the consumer, could potentially halve. Just at the farm gate, that is a quarter of a billion dollars," he said.

Zebra chip causes potatoes to develop a black stripe when they are cooked, making them inedible.


Landowners pocket 800K more

Tevita Vuibau
Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A PLANNED reduction in iTaukei Land Trust Board (TLTB) administrative fees will see landowners around Fiji pocket more than $800,000.

The reduction, effective from next year, was announced by Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama during the TLTB Strategic Corporate Planning Workshop at the Warwick Fiji Resort and Spa in Sigatoka yesterday.

Under the new reduction, administrative fees charged by TLTB will be cut by a full five per cent.

"Today I can announce the administrative fees charged by TLTB will be reduced by 2.5 per cent effective January 1, 2013," Commodore Bainimarama said.

"It is expected that these will be reduced a further 2.5 per cent later in the year, equalling an effective five per cent in 2013.

"This will mean more lease money in the hands of all landowners," Commodore Bainimarama said.

TLTB general manager Alipate Qetaki said the move was a positive one for them and also good news for the landowners.

He said while the new reductions would see TLTB forego more than $800,000 in revenue, the board remained confident in its ability to operate without the funds.

"We have been considering the reduction for quite a while but we have also looked at the implications because the board is self-funded, it is not funded by the government," Mr Qetaki said.

"We are quite confident because we have improved our services, the efficiencies and all that, and we look at our income from the past four years and we are confident that we can live with that."

Mr Qetaki said the TLTB would now need to work harder and be more efficient and effective in their delivery of services.

Landowners to pay less

Tevita Vuibau
Thursday, October 25, 2012

THE reduction in TLTB administration fees announced this week will result in landowners paying 2.5 cents less for every dollar of rent earned.

TLTB general manager Alipate Qetaki revealed to The Fiji Times specifics of the administration fees reduction expected to take effect on January 1 next year.

"Currently TLTB receives 15 per cent of all monies received from rent, so for each dollar of rent earned, TLTB gets 15 cents," Mr Qetaki said.

"What was announced will mean that TLTB will now receive 12.5 cents per dollar. We are talking about administration and management fees which are utilised to finance TLTB's operations under the operations budget."

As announced on Monday, the fees are expected to be cut by another 2.5 per cent in the next year which means landowners could be paying as little as 10 cents for every dollar earned.

Mr Qetaki said there were about 36,000 iTaukei leases registered with landowners and paid on a fixed timeframe.

"Landowners in Fiji are paid on a monthly basis to their trustees bank accounts. That is if there are funds paid in for leases on their land."

Mr Qetaki earlier said the new reductions would result in the TLTB foregoing about $800,000 in income. However, he remained adamant this would not affect the TLTB, stating instead the organisation was more efficient.


Rabuka has doubts about 2014 Fiji elections

CHARLEY MANN AND ANNA TURNER
Last updated 12:24 19/10/2012

Democracy in Fiji rests on a fragile election that may not happen, former Fijian Prime Minister and coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka says.

If elections do not go ahead, Prime Minister and coup leader Frank Bainimarama, who is not a member of any political party, will remain in power, he said.

Rabuka, who was speaking to gathered academics at the Democracy in the Pacific conference at the University of Canterbury this morning, voiced concerns about the promised 2014 elections - the first democratic elections since Bainimarama sized power in a 2006 military coup.

''I have not seen Mr Bainimarama move in a civilian political party organisation direction, so I don't know whether he will have a party or will join one,'' he said.

''I don't know whether we will have everything in place for the 2014 elections. Whether we can meet all the deadlines and steps remains to be seen. There are still so many detractors but the programme is in place."

While he said he hoped the elections would go ahead, he said "that hope is not based on very good grounds".

"When we talk about democracy in the Pacific, one size does not fit all. Military has always had a presence in the Fiji culture. We think of militant ways of changing things, rather than waiting for the next elections.

"It may be that we have corporate cooperation in 2014 where together the government and the military keep tabs on our civil military relations to prevent things from breaking down again, as it has happened many times in Fiji.''

Rabuka said he did not expect any future coups, given Bainimarama's powerful grip on the island nation.

''I can't see why there should be another coup, whether there be should be anybody or another group powerful enough to execute something to counter Frank's (coup).''

Rabuka said he visited the deconstruction this week of Christchurch's Queen Elizabeth II Park, the venue for the 1974 Commonwealth Games where he was a decathlete and captain of the Fiji team. He passed on his sympathy to the people of Christchurch because of the earthquakes.


Demand for chips

Serafina Silaitoga
Friday, October 19, 2012

INCREASED demand for pine chips from Asian markets over the last quarter has resulted in Tropik Wood boosting the harvest on Vanua Levu.

Tropik Wood Limited chief executive Faiz Khan said over the past week, the company increased pine harvesting in Bua and Macuata.

Mr Khan said they had set their eyes on harvesting and chipping 25,000 to 30,000 tonnes of logs per month.

"Chipping operations too have been increased to a minimum 12-hour shift per day to produce wood chip from the level of logs being harvested," he said.

"This has been made possible through increased demand in the last quarter of 2012 by Japan and China compared to the generally sluggish 2012 demand."

Mr Khan said the level of pine harvesting was unprecedented for Bua and Macuata.

"We are hopeful all stakeholders will participate to ensure any infrastructure challenges are tackled successfully.

"Our production plans are directly linked to our export demand. The current level of production will remain for three months until the end of the year and will be reviewed thereafter."


Border traffic alert

Repeka Nasiko
Friday, October 19, 2012

THE sudden increase in cargo and passenger traffic in the Western Division has prompted the Lautoka Customs Intelligence Unit to launch hotline bumper stickers to alert citizens that they can report suspicious tax and Customs related matters.

Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority chief executive officer Jitoko Tikolevu said they were partnering with stakeholders to effectively carry out their roles in revenue collection and border management.

He said FRCA was reaching out to stakeholders because of challenges posed by the geographical boundaries of the Western Division.

"FRCA alone, through its Customs Division, cannot maintain the security of its borders. That is why we have taken an integrated approach with our stakeholders. The main hinderance to FRCA's work towards securing our borders is the geographical setup of the country — 333 scattered islands, limited resources of the country and coverage area for FRCA West is from Sigatoka to Rakiraki," he said

Mr Tikolevu said the confidential hotline provided a way for citizens including government workers to report suspected tax and customs matters.

"An effective confidential hotline is a necessary component of a successful compliance regime and effective integrated border management.

It allows FRCA to collect, manage and disseminate relevant information into areas that pose a threat or risk for the organisation and our core objectives. The Lautoka CIU Hotline will capture reports, information and issues regarding tax and Customs matters and disseminate accordingly to the Customs and tax divisions of FRCA," Mr Tikolevu said.

He also revealed there was an increase in the volume of cargo and visitors entering the country.

He said in 2011 total imports for the ports at Nadi and Lautoka amounted to 83million kilograms. This figure increased to 4.6 billion kilograms this year.

In addition, Mr Tikolevu said the number of visitor arrivals for 2011 ranged from 36,000 to 69,000 on a monthly basis, which proved that the amount of cargo and passengers passing through Fiji's borders was increasing.

The hotline — 6626777 — is a 24-hour service.


PRB drops 42

Geraldine Panapasa
Friday, October 19, 2012

WORKS on the construction of 500 Public Rental Board flats at Raiwai and Raiwaqa in Suva are progressing well says PRB general manager Mesake Senibulu, adding 50 per cent had been completed for the homes in Raiwai.

However, the initial 250 flats earmarked for this area has been reduced to 208 to give more space between flats.

The $20million commercial contract signed with China Railway First Group Company Limited in June 2010 has since seen sky-high construction machines towering over the Raiwai and Raiwaqa area as works continued over the past two years.

"The purpose of the reduction of 42 flats for Raiwai is to give more space, some aesthetic and environmental benefit to tenants who will come in to occupy flats," Mr Senibulu said.

"It is also meant to give some space for encouragement for some backyard gardening.

"This is something we have been promoting to other tenants in other estates to do and proving very successful. Raiwaqa is in its planning stage." In terms of the number of interested tenants applying for a place at the new flats, Mr Senibulu said they had received 53 applications at their office and a few more approved applications at the Hibiscus Festival housing booth.

"About 50 other applicants have taken application forms and have not brought it back for further processing," he said.

"We will need to set up our marketing strategies of these flats once we have sorted out the rate to he charged per flat."

Mr Senibulu said they had agreed with the contractors to release 46 flats consisting of three blocks at the lower end of Raiwai.

"They (contractors) have been working very hard to ensure these flats are ready by the end of this year so that prospective tenants can begin the New Year in Raiwai," he said

The other 146 flats, he said, would be ready towards the end of 2013. PRB chairman Mosese Tikoitoga said earlier $11m would be used on the construction of one and two-bedroom flats at Raiwai and $9m for the same in Raiwaqa. The loan from the EXIM Bank in China is under the same financial cover accorded for the Housing Authority's $50m housing project.


Health authorities concerned by spread of TB in Fiji

Posted 18 October 2012, 9:22 AEST

Although much of Pacific is winning the fight against tuberculosis, Fiji is struggling.

The World Health Organisation's Global Tuberculosis Report says since efforts were stepped up 17 years ago, 20 million lives have been saved worldwide.

But the body says there is a real risk of losing momentum in the battle to keep TB under control.

Dr Mario Raviglione, from Stop TB, told Pacific Beat the situation in Fiji is a concern and that instability in a country can often determine health outcomes.

"We can speculate about other factors that could be important such as the fact that many of these islands are developing and developing fast and that means sometimes more diabetes and when you have more diabetes, you have an increased risk of tuberculosis," he said.

The WHO report also says while the incidence of TB has gone up in Fiji, treatment rates have decreased.

"More cases are developing in the societies and the communities but the system is incapable in a way of treating the patient properly so you start seeing a decrease in the cure rate," said Dr Raviglione.

He says competence, commitment and money is needed to help stop the spread of the TB in the Pacific and across the world.

"TB needs investment like with any control of a particular disease that is out of control in particular parts of the world," he said.


RFMF’s engineers helping farmers get goods to Nadi

October 19, 2012 | Filed under: Fiji News | Posted by: newsroom
By JYOTI PRATIBHA

More than 100 villagers from the interior of Nadi will have easy access to the town once the Republic of Fiji Military Forces engineers finish a roads upgrade.

The village of Korobebe, in the province of Ba, had three of their bridges washed away and roads badly-damaged during the two floods which affected the Western Division earlier this year.

Some 17 engineers, headed by Sergeant Major William Vakasavuwaqa, have been staying at their base between Korobebe and Navilawa villages for the past three months, working long hours to fix and upgrade the 6.1-kilometres of road.

Chief of Staff Land Force Lieutenant-Colonel Sitiveni Qiliho visited the troops yesterday and to check on the progress.

Sergeant Major Vakasavuwaqa said the Government-funded project was almost complete, adding that villagers in the area depended on the road for everydaytravel.

Villager Timoci Nabou said more than 100 villagers would benefit from the restored and upgraded roadwork.

Mr Nabou said they were farmers and for them, getting their produce to the markets on time and in good condition was very important.

“When the bridges were washed away, we had to wait … before we could cross the streams and this was very dificult for us. As farmers, it is very important for us to get our crops to the market in time and also to make sure our produce is in good condition.

“This road is the only one that gives us access to Sabeto and it was in such bad condition before, that travelling was a problem, but we are happy to see that our problem has been noted and taken care of,” he said.

Sergeant Major Vakasavuwaqa said his men would be on site until the work was completed. He said, for his engineers, timely completion of the upgrade was of utmost importance.

The project is part of continuing rural development work by RFMF engineers, sometimes in remote and difficult to access areas.


October 19, 2012

Fiji military embezzlement probe widened

Posted at 03:18 on 18 October, 2012 UTC

The Fiji military has arrested five of its own personnel on what it calls substantial charges of embezzlement, and is investigating whether others are involved.

While Fiji Village reports the matter has been referred to police, the military has confirmed that the five will also face an internal board of inquiry.

Dr Steven Ratuva at the University of Auckland is a researcher into military-civil relations and says this is not the first time the military has unearthed corruption from within its own pay office.

He says he is not surprised this has occurred again and it’s important for the military to be consistent and clean up corruption in its own ranks, according to its own publicised campaign.

Dr Ratuva says the military as well as the interim government in general need to be more transparent, particularly with regard to salaries and accounting.

“We are really not sure the extent to which that is happening, and not only within the military but in the Government generally. Because the books are not very much open to the public and I think it’s important that the public has access to open books of the Government and the military as well since the taxpayers are the ones who are paying for them.”

Dr Steven Ratuva from the University of Auckland.


Army to quiz fund misuse

October 18, 2012 | Filed under: Fiji News | Posted by: newsroom
By MAIKA BOLATIKI

The Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) has ordered a full board of inquiry on allegations of embezzlement involving funds in the Republic of Fiji Military Forces.

This was confirmed to the Fiji Sun yesterday by the RFMF chief of staff, Brigadier-General Mohammed Aziz.

“I can confirm to you that a full board of inquiry will now look into the embezzlement of the military funds,” Brigadier-General Aziz said.

He said five military personnel from the pay section were allegedly involved.

The five suspects were in military custody from September during investigations.

Now that the board of inquiry is in place, according to Brigadier-General Aziz, the suspects were now back in their homes and have to report to the board when necessary.

The five are on suspension without pay, he said.


Tracking devices for Ministry vehicles

07:02 Today (October 17, 2012)
Report by: Elenoa Turagaiviu

Abuse of vehicles in the Ministry of Lands fleet will soon become a thing of the past with the installation of tracking devices.

The ministry has decided to implement the device after a successful trial of the GPS tracking device on its vehicles.

Acting Permanent Secretary, Tevita Boseiwaqa says the devices will ensure that government-owned vehicles aren’t abused.

The devices will give basic information on vehicles, driver information, data on fuel consumption and mileage.

The Ministry has more than seventy vehicles.


Handicraft vendors cry foul

07:04 Today (October 17, 2012)
Report by: Elenoa Turagaiviu

Small handicraft vendors are crying foul – claiming that they’re losing out to the larger department stores when cruise ship tourists visit the capital.

Four cruise liners have called into Suva port since Saturday bringing thousands of visitors to the city.

Rakesh Kumar has been selling handicraft for many years.

When an FBC news team visited his stall, he had made only ten dollars.

He says all the big sharks are eating the small fish referring to the large stores taking business away from the small vendors.

“They have been advised not to buy much stuff from the streets – to buy our handicraft. So – we basically sell quite a lot of jewellery. It’s not as much as expected. Sometimes we go home without any money. So we are really struggling after these big companies come in.”

Retail giants Tappoo’s manager retail operations, Thilini Kahapolaarachchi says the company saw sales surge in the past few days.

“Recently there has been an increase of cruise ships coming into port in Suva which has boosted our sales and this is the 4th week and that has increased our sales at Tappoo City.”

She says tourists are buying handicraft that are fumigated unlike some sold in street stalls.


FRCA will concentrate on audits

13:02 Today (October 17, 2012)
Report by: Ritika Pratap

From January, the Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority will be concentrating heavily on audits.

This will include companies or businesses all over Fiji.

Chief Executive Jitoko TIkolevu says this will give them a better understanding of all tax payers.

“This is a profile – audits are not just done for the sake of doing audits. It is subject to doing profiles on tax payers – the nature of activities of each sector – like a trend of how we calculate profit for tax purposes.”

Tikolevu says this will give FRCA a better idea of where to focus their efforts in trying to catch tax evaders.

“Once that is done – we actually zero it down to the sectors – like accountants, lawyers, manufactures, housing, real estate and hotels. These are whom we target in terms of doing averaging for analysis. So that has to go through profiling and all that is part of the process to determine which area or sector needs to be prioritized for auditing purposes.”

Even now, some big companies are being investigated for alleged tax evasion.


$400m target

Geraldine Panapasa
Thursday, October 18, 2012

THE Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority is working towards achieving its target of $400million for this quarter despite a setback in revenue collection caused by the two national disasters early in the year.

In the 2012 budget announcement by Prime Minister and Finance Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, FRCA was tasked with collecting $1.72billion this year.

"In the last quarter, FRCA's collection was $10million above forecast. We have tax arrears over $100m and with the tax rates reduced across the board this year, we are urging taxpayers to comply with the tax laws," said FRCA chief executive officer Jitoko Tikolevu.

"FRCA's legal powers include freezing bank accounts, selling assets, closing businesses, imposing fines and even imprisonment for unpaid taxes."

Early this month, Mr Tikolevu revealed more than 10 companies were under scrutiny for fraudulent activities including understatements of documents for duty.

"Our tax evasion investigations are continuing and we cannot divulge any information at this stage," he said yesterday.

Last week, acting permanent secretary for Finance Kelera Vakaloloma confirmed the 2013 national budget announcement would fall on November 23.

"FRCA collects 90 per cent of the government's revenue. We cannot make a comment on the 2013 national budget at this stage," Mr Tikolevu said.

Consumer Council of Fiji chief executive officer Premila Kumar confirmed on Tuesday they had lodged their budget submission while other ministries and organisations remain tight-lipped on what to expect from the announcement.


Warning on water

October 18, 2012 | Filed under: Fiji News | Posted by: newsroom
Authority to prosecute thieves
By MAIKA BOLATIKI

The chief executive of the Water Authority of Fiji, Opetaia Ravai, yesterday sent out a strong warning to those involved in water theft.

According to Mr Ravai these people get water free by illegally or directly connecting to the Water Authority of Fiji’s water reticulation system.

“This is daylight robbery on their part and now that the amnesty period is over we’re going to strengthen our monitoring and once they’re found they’re going to be taken to court,” Mr Ravai said.

“Illegal or direct connection to the Water Authority of Fiji’s water or sewerage reticulation system is a crime under the Water Authority of Fiji Promulgation 2007 and such offence carries severe penalties.”

He said the authority does not condone corrupt activities such as this and those involved must prepare to face the consequences.

He warned consumers who fail to regularise their status that they would face a minimum fine of $1000 and up to a $1,000,000 together with other penalties.

Mr Ravai said the WAF had given an amnesty period to its customers illegally connected to its reticulation system.

“The amnesty period started on May 14 and has ended on August 14, 2012.”

At the end of its amnesty period, the WAF has so far recorded a total of 1020 customers who have come forward to regularise their water and sewerage connections. As a result, the Authority collected $379,566 in revenue.

Mr Ravai said while the WFA was appreciative of the efforts made by these customers to regularise their connection, a team was currently carrying out verification exercise on its water and sewerage reticulation system to detect those who continue to be illegally connected to its reticulation system.

He confirmed that WAF’s legal team would now be taking necessary steps to prosecute customers who continue to illegally connect to its water and sewerage reticulation system.


$14m bill write-off

Nasik Swami
Thursday, October 18, 2012

ABOUT 100,000 Fijians are expected to benefit from the government's decision to waive water bill arrears amounting to $14million.

Two of the thousands of families who have contemplated on their livelihoods for a long time will breathe a sigh of relief after struggling to clear their debts.

Livai Bulivou of Wailea Settlement in Vatuwaqa tried to fight back his tears while sitting at his home yesterday after becoming the first household in the country to benefit from the government's decision.

Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama visited his home with senior government officials and waived arrears amounting to about $900 of unpaid water bills.

Mr Bulivou, 74, said he had been staying in the settlement for the past 25 years and was not able to clear his water bills because a lot of people were using water from his home and left without paying him any money.

"This action by the government shows how much they care about the people of Fiji and I am very happy with this decision," he said.

Another beneficiary, Bhoob Chand of Nawanawa Rd in Nadera whose family consists of eight members was thankful to government after their arrears of about $1000 was waived.

The government also waived about $24,000 of unpaid bills for Ballantine Memorial School at Delainavesi.

Commodore Bainimarama said his government would write-off about $13 million dollars in outstanding bills.

"Nothing is more important to my government than helping ordinary Fijians provide for themselves and their families," he said.

He said about 25,000 households, businesses, schools and religious institutions had unpaid bills.

"My government is responding to an issue that we can all relate to. Many of these customers simply could not afford to pay their bills because they were so high. The arrears had built up over many years and settling them was beyond their means," he said.

Commodore Bainimarama said they were prepared to forgo this revenue to help Fijians make ends meet.


October 17, 2012

Uk invite for Ministry of i Taukei Affairs

17:02 Today (oCTOBER 17, 2012)
Report by: Masimeke Latianara

A delegation from the Ministry of i Taukei Affairs leaves for London on Monday at the invitation of i Taukei soldiers serving in the British Army.

The families have asked for assistance in registering their children in the Vola ni Kawa Bula.

Col. Apakuki Kurusiga the Deputy Permanent Secretary who will lead the delegation told FBC News today that five meetings have been planned with the i-Taukei community in the UK.

Members of the Kadavu Choir will also be travelling to the UK to share their knowledge about traditional dances and dressing with children who have grown up overseas.

The Kadavu Choir leaves on Friday.


Over 1,000 duplicate names found in EVR

17:05 Today (October 17, 2012)
Report by: Elenoa Turagaiviu

The Elections Office has identified over 1,000 duplicate files in the electronic voter registration database.

Electoral Reform Permanent Secretary Mere Vuniwaqa says these duplicate files concern people who have registered more than once.

Vuniwaqa says in one instance – one name was registered 10 times.

She says once they have cleared out all the duplicate files – they will then put together the provisional roll.

“So we will be out in the media – the radio, papers and TV – to let people know what places they can go to – to check their names in the roll that will be made available. We have identified over 1,000 places where these centers will be and that list will be made public.”

488,000 people registered in the first phase of registration.


Ghai says Fiji constitution will be based on good package of submissions

Posted at 06:09 on 17 October, 2012 UTC

The chairperson of Fiji’s Constitution Commission, Professor Yash Ghai, says the more than 3,000 submissions it has received make up a good package for the new constitution.

Submissions have closed but there has been criticism consultations on the new document were rushed and unfair, with young people especially lacking knowledge and funds to get together and contribute ideas.

Professor Ghai says civic education has been lacking but there have been many detailed recommendations and the constitution will gain much from people simply speaking from their heart.

“We are aware more than before the decline in economic standards, the decline in the welfare, how many many people are coping with absolutely dire poverty on a day to day basis. We have an idea of what people want for the future.”

Professor Ghai says every group that wanted to talk to the commission has had a chance.

He says the commission has received very divergent views which now need to be harmonised if possible.

Professor Ghai says drafting will begin using public views set against a complex framework of past experience, decrees and the commissioners’ own judgement.


Fiji concludes public hearings on constitution

Updated 16 October 2012, 13:43 AEST

Three months of public consultations for Fiji's new Constitution wound up yesterday.

The process has canvassed opinion from the public, officials and NGOs across the country on how Fiji should be governed after elections due in 2014.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts

Speaker: Professor Yash Ghai, chair, Fiji Constitution Commission



Prof Ghai disappointed with Youth NGO’s

Publish date/time: 17/10/2012 [08:09]

The chairman of the Constitution Commission Professor Yash Ghai said he is extremely hurt by the public comments by some NGOs who are saying that a young women’s group was denied the opportunity to make their submission.

When questioned by Fijivillage on the comments by the Emerging Leaders Forum Alumni, Professor Ghai said some people just did not bother before and want to rush in the last minute to make their submissions.

The Emerging Leaders Forum Alumni could not make their oral submission in Suva on Saturday as the commissioners said that they had run out of time and they had not made an appointment to make their submission.

Alumni Coordinator Roshika Deo claimed last Friday Mahendra Chaudhry was allocated 40 minutes to speak however he spoke for nearly two hours and was allowed to do so.

Deo said politician Iliesa Duvuloco insisted and was given time beyond his 30 minutes to finish his presentation.

They said the voice of young women was not heard by disallowing the alumni from making its oral submission.

One of the members, Miriama Robanakadavu said she felt so low just because she is a young woman and it got her thinking that if she was a man she would have gotten more courage to stand up and claim her right to speak.

Meanwhile, Professor Ghai said the submission period is over and they will now speak to the people of Fiji and experts on matters like the economy, land, elections, the role of the military and democratic transition as they draft the constitution.

He said they are aiming to have the draft constitution ready before this Christmas.

Story by: Vijay Narayan


Coup prevention key message in Fiji constitution consultation

Posted at 03:11 on 17 October, 2012 UTC

The chairperson of Fiji’s Constitution Commission says submissions to the constitution-making body show overwhelming consensus that everything must be done to prevent coups in future.

He says people from all over Fiji have expressed their great disgust at coups.

Professor Yash Ghai says it will be a difficult task, reconciling what the people want with a decree which embeds immunity in the new constitution.

He says commissioners will have to follow the decree but could make comments on its wisdom.

“The constitution will have to give immunity. But there are many ways, I guess, of providing immunities for different acts for different parties for different periods of time and we will keep in mind the general feeling in the country that immunity should be as restrictive as possible so that we move on to a culture where coups will never be tolerated again.”

Professor Ghai says the commission started reviewing today the more than 3,000 submissions it has received.


Military will make special submission

October 17, 2012 | Filed under: Fiji News | Posted by: newsroom
By Maika Bolatiki

Submissions to the Constitution Commission both verbal and written are now closed.

However, the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) is yet to make its submission.

Speaking on behalf of the RFMF yesterday, Chief Of Staff Brigadier Mohammed Aziz told the Fiji Sun that they were making arrangements with the Commission for the military to make a special submission.

“We are aware that the submissions had closed but we’re making arrangements with the Commission for the military to make a special submission,” Brigadier Aziz said.

In an earlier interview with the Commander of the RFMF, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama said the military removed the 2006 Government leadership for a good reason.

Now with the formulation of the new constitution the military Commandeer said they would have their say in their submission.

Brigadier Aziz said the military submission was ready for the Commission. All divisions of the RFMF had an input in the military submission.

RFMF spokesperson and Land Force Commander Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga had called on all the political parties to come with new ideas in the submissions to the new constitution to help build a new and better Fiji.

The RFMF say they fully support the Bainimarama-led Government and its submission will reflect Government’s new roadmap enshrined in the People’s Charter.


Commission to have seminar without RFMF

Publish date/time: 17/10/2012 [13:20]

The Constitution Commission is having a public seminar tonight based on the theme “The military in transition”, however, the RFMF will not be present in the seminar.

When questioned by Fijivillage, Commission chairman Professor Yash Ghai confirmed that the military was invited, however, some issues came up.

He said he has also given an explanation to the Prime Minister.

Professor Ghai said these talks have to take place and he wants to know the public’s view on the role of the military.

The military has confirmed to Fijivillage that it will not take part in the seminar organized by the Constitution Commission and the Fiji National University in Nasinu.
           
RFMF Land Force Commander Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga said the Military Council will soon be making a formal submission on behalf of the RFMF to the commission.

Colonel Tikoitoga said the submission will address among other things the formation of the government after 2014.

He said the military believes it is inappropriate for the RFMF to take part in a public forum of this nature.

He said the Military Council will make its submission and then wait like the rest of the country for the constitutional process to take its course.

The panel of experts in the seminar are former Chief of Territorial Affairs for the Indonesian National Armed Forces General Agus Widjojo, Associate Professor of the Department of Political Science of University of Chicago Dan Slater and a graduate of USP and University of Christchurch dealing with history, politics, economics and international law Raijeli Nicole.

Story by: Vijay Narayan


Open arrest for Military officers

13:03 Today (October 17, 2012)
Report by: Apisalome Coka

Five military personnel have been sent home pending a board of inquiry into allegations of embezzlement involving funds in the Fiji Military Force.

The pay officers were detained in military custody from September during investigations.

Military spokesperson, Brigadier Mohammed Aziz says a board of inquiry is in place and the officers will have to report to the board when necessary.

He wouldn’t disclose the amount of money that is allegedly missing.

FBC News has been reliably told that the money is missing from the regimental funds in the military.


Not much changes in 2013 Budget: Biman

13:02 Today (October 17, 2012)
Report by: Ritika Pratap

Economist Professor Biman Prasad believes next year’s national budget will be similar to the 2012 budget.

Prasad said this year’s budget was a bold one with many significant changes made.

Company tax was reduced from 28 percent to 20 percent and the personal income tax was also reduced which had a positive impact.

Prasad says consumers spending power also increased and this has helped the economy.

“I don’t think the 2013 Budget will be significantly different from what they put out for 2012 simply because it was in some sense a radical budget so I am expecting and people should expect the government to continue with the direction in which the policies were set out in the 2012 Budget – that is what I expect.”

Prasad adds the 2013 budget could be significant against the back drop of the current constitutional consultation process because the process has already inspired some investor confident in the country.

The government will announce the 2013 budget next month.


WAF begins waiving of outstanding water bills

Publish date/time: 17/10/2012 [13:16]

Thousands of households, businesses, schools and religious institutions who were facing difficulties in settling their water bill arrears will no longer have to pay these arrears as the Water Authority of Fiji has started to waive them from today.

The government has approved the waiving of $13.4 million in water bill arrears and today four bills were waived by Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama and he visited the three households and Ballantine Memorial School.

A family of seven in Nawanawa, Nadera, who had $1,052 in arrears, was not able to hold their tears when the Prime Minister visited their home to tell them that they will not have to pay the arrears.

Karma Wati said they were paying their bills, however, it kept accumulating, adding that the waiver has lifted a lot of burden as their only bread winner is her disabled son who does odd jobs to look after the family. 

Their other source of income is the assistance provided by the Social Welfare Ministry.

Meanwhile, Commodore Bainimarama said many of these customers could not afford to pay their outstanding bills because they were so high.

Certain criteria are being used to assess the bill waiver which includes leakages on customers plumbing works, long period of underestimated usage, first reading for usage accumulated over the years and arrears for schools and religious organizations that have accumulated arrears prior to 2010 before the Water Authority of Fiji.

According to Water Authority of Fiji, customers will have to make an application for a waiver which will be assessed on a case to case basis.

Story by: Praneeta Prakash


Cane Growers want minimum guaranteed price of $80 per tonne

Publish date/time: 17/10/2012 [11:14]

The Fiji Cane Growers Association has asked the Constitution Commission during their submission to recommend a minimum guaranteed price of $80 per tonne for sugarcane farmers.

More on this story in the next hour.

Story by: Khushboo Singh


China Railway fails to pay FNPF

07:30 Today (October 17 2012)
Report by: Mika Loga

The China Railway 5 Company is under surveillance by the Fiji National Provident Fund for allegedly failing to make superannuation contributions to its local employees.

The Chinese company is contracted by the Water Authority of Fiji to upgrade water and sewerage plants.

FNPF has confirmed that Inspectors from the Fund visited the company’s office following complaints from employees.

A statement says Directors of China Railway 5 have been advised about the process of submission of wages records for its employees.

Chinese Officials at the company office in Domain, Suva could only tell FBC News the company is treating this as a big issue and referred all questions to their General Manager who is away overseas.

FNPF has warned that those who don’t comply will be dealt with according to the law inclusive of court actions and the imposition of penalties.

The Fund is encouraging employers to comply with laws and ensure its employees contributions are paid on time.


Overwhelming response in Constitution submissions

07:04 Today (October 17 2012)
Report by: Roland Koroi

People from all walks of life have shared their views on what kind of Constitution they would like.

And Constitution Commissioner Penny Moore is pleased with the response from the public.

“It’s been heartwarming to see people that don’t normally speak preparing submissions, coming and sitting and waiting and coming up and giving a submissions that has often come from them and their families and you hear the discussions in the submissions.

They really respect the fact that they’ve been allowed to make a submission.”

Moore says this is the response they are hoping that will be reflected in the new constitution.

About 3000 submissions both written and oral were made to the Commission since the beginning of August.

The commission will now draw up a draft Constitution before the end of the year.


Immunity provisions questioned: Ghai

17:05 Tue Oct 16, 2012
Report by: Devendra Narayan

Some members of the public have raised concerns about an immunity decree in their submissions to the Constitution Commission.

And Commission chairperson Professor Yash Ghai says some people feel issues related to the provisions of immunity should be debated.

“Most people were realistic, any regime anywhere in the world will not give away powers unless they have an assurance for immunity, people are concerned that it is not for public debate or consultation, they said there should be a process of truth and reconciliation and that process can also deal with immunity.”

Professor Ghai says he initially thought the issue had been exaggerated.

“I thought maybe it is not so necessary but in view of wide spread request there is a need to consider it very seriously.”

The Commission concluded receiving submissions from the public yesterday.

It expects to have a draft Constitution by the end of the year.


FRCA on target

07:05 Today (October 17 2012)
Report by: Ritika Pratap

The Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority is on track with its revenue collections for 2012.

Chief Executive – Jitoko Tikolevu says the Authority was given a target of 1 point 7 billion dollars in revenue collection for this year.

He says collections were hindered by the two floods that hit the western division at the beginning of the year.

However Tikolevu says no revision was done to the original forecast and stringent measures were put in place that has put them back on track.

“Well first of all we are above forecast from January to September by about $10m but the forecast for the whole year is about $1.7b but there is still a long way to go but so far so good – but there are some challenges and hopefully the positive trend will continue.”

Tikolevu says aggressive methods are also being used to track down tax evaders.


October 16, 2012

Nazhat Shameem lends a hand to the illegal and treasonous regime's international reporting obligations

Fiji's international reporting obligations on women's issues has had the boost of an influential hand via the illegal and treasonous regime's legal advisor, Nazhat Shameem in their additional comments to the UN body.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
This Report was a collective effort and would not have been possible without the extensive input and contributions of Government ministries and departments, all of whom the Ministry of Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation would like to sincerely acknowledge.  
 
Special thanks to the Consultant, Ms. Nazhat Shameem who have compiled and drafted this follow-up report with the following individuals from the CEDAW Working group from various agencies who work within the ambits of the issues pertaining to Concluding Observation 11.
  1. Mr. Nemani Mati – The Acting Permanent Secretary, Prime Minister‟s Office;
  2. Hon. The Chief Justice Mr. Justice Anthony Gates;
  3. Ms. Irani. G.W. Arachchi – Chief Registrar, High Court of Fiji;
  4. Mr. Ashwin Prasad – Statistician, Judicial Department;
  5. Mr. Gene Bai – Senior Legal Officer, Solicitor General‟s Office;
  6. Mr. Mosese Korovou – Assistant Director for Public Prosecutions, DPP‟s Office;
  7. Adi Finau Tabakaucoro –  Consultant, Charter Corporate Unit, SFCCO;
  8. Mr. Joeli Besetimoala  – Director Public Relations Unit, Strategic Framework for Change Coordinating Office;
  9. Mr. Viliame Vuyaimoala – Senior Electoral Officer, Elections Office;
  10. Ms. Jimaima Vilsoni  – Principal Administration Officer, Public Service 
  11. Commission;
  12. Ms. Sovatabua Colavanua – Barrister and Solicitor, Fiji Human Rights Commission
  13. Ms. Swasti Nand, Fiji Human Rights Commission
  14. Mrs. Salote Radrodro, Director for Social Welfare and Women, Ministry of Social 
    1. Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation;
  15. Ms. Raijeli Mawa, Acting Principal Research Officer, Ministry of Social Welfare, 
    1. Women and Poverty Alleviation;
  16. Ms. Amelia Nairoba, Acting Senior Women Interest Officer, Ministry of Social 
    1. Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation.
The Ministry would also like to acknowledge the continuous technical and financial support and assistance of the UN Women, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and particularly for funding the engagement of the consultant and the printing of this report.
In Fiji's CEDAW additional report there were many tidbits that not even the everyday Jone and Pranita are privy to, even though their taxes fund them and these exercises.

Here are but a few gems that are note (read: court) worthy and much more information then perhaps  intended:
3. The Constitutional Review Process
3.1 The constitutional review process will commence in 2012. However it is envisaged that a constitutional review process will be based on the People's Charter for Change, and the Roadmap for Democracy and Sustainable Socio-Economic Development 2009-2014 . It is also likely that the process of ensuring meaningful participation of women will involve using the strategies used to ensure that public consultation on the People‟s Charter for Change was meaningful and representative.  
3.2 The National Peoples Charter Advisory Council (NPCAC) monitors the implementation of the Roadmap for Democracy and Sustainable Socio Economic Development. It provides a forum for national consensus building on development issues, and it has advised a dialogue, consultation and awareness process to ensure a representative constitutional framework design. 
4. The Participation of Women 
4.1 A real obstacle to the real and meaningful participation of women in the past has been the patriarchal nature of Fiji society. Another is the existence of cultural barriers in ensuring that women's voices are heard in a way in which cultural, religious and family pressures are minimised. During the constitutional review processes in 1995 and 1996, as a result of which the 1997 Constitution was drafted, the participation of women was disappointing . There was some representation of women's organisations and elite women, but there was no real process of ensuring that the voices of women's groups and of the elite women truly represented the voices of Fijian women.  
4.2 Indeed through the Charter process of consultation, attempts were made, with some success, to avoid the pitfalls inherent in consulting only elite women, and instead to forge new methods of consultation at grassroots level which involved consultation with women in traditional settings, in poor urban areas, and within all religious and cultural groups. The aim was to penetrate layers of elitism which were not representative of all views of all women in Fiji, and to devise strategies to consult with informal and formerly unacknowledged groups of women. 
4.3 Thus, in a village setting, cultural norms have not always allowed the voices of women to be heard. Often, informally, the village nurse may speak for the women. Formally, women are usually heard through male elders. During the Charter consultation process, this traditional method of consulting the village communities, was adapted to allow for the seeking of views of separate groups of women. The result was gratifying, as the women felt more comfortable speaking to representatives of the Charter group, away from the men of the village, and often had different views and perspectives from the male views in the village.  It was also clear that the women's groups, often led by elite women, did not speak for the women in the villages, squatter settlements, and heavily populated urban areas. This is not to diminish the worth of the contributions of the various representatives of women's groups in the past. They have at least ensured that women had some voice. However, it is time to work towards a more representative contribution from women. 
4.4 It is therefore intended, that to ensure the real and meaningful participation of women in the constitution-making process, that the People's Charter strategy of consultation will be adopted. Indirectly, the adoption of informal mechanisms for consulting women, side-stepping cultural protocols, some of which do not allow women's voices to be heard, may lead to a useful adaptation of tradition and cultural practices in Fiji, which is in itself in accordance with Fiji's obligations under CEDAW.  
4.5 Consideration will also be given to the suggestion that in the selection of a panel for the constitutional review process, at least one woman, or 30% of the total membership, should sit on the panel, and that all members of the panel, male and female, should be gender-competent. 
4.6 Pillar 1 of the People Charter  requires that there be “sustainable democracy and just governance”.  The principles that Fiji is committed to are; a  fair and representative electoral system, the strengthening of national security, substantially reducing the likelihood of coups d'├ętat ,defining and articulating the role of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, ensuring the effective operation of the rule of law, improving the response to law and order issues, entrenching a culture of democratic governance, enhancing public sector accountability and participation in governance, maintaining an effective anti-corruption framework, creating a free and responsible media which contributes to good governance and national development, and improving Parliamentary oversight. 
5. The Rule of Law
5.1 The rule of law is said to be about equality before the law. It has two aspects, one, that every person should be subject to the law (the King is subject to God and the law) and two, that the law must be applied in the same way for every person. The concept has been developed by jurisprudence around the common law world because of the inescapable fact that societies have inequalities, and that “equal” treatment of the disadvantaged often leads to greater disadvantage.  
5.2 Thus affirmative action is not necessarily an example of inequality. It can be used to enforce an equal access to justice for those who have had an unequal access to justice.  Thus in discussing the rule of law, it is necessary to discuss inequality in the access to the courts, gender justice, and the relationship between poverty and gender inequality in the justice system. It is necessary to discuss reforms to the Legal Aid Commission, which represents the poor, and which until 2007, had been grossly under-funded by government. It is necessary to discuss legal reforms intended to remove systemic gender discrimination, such as the abolition of the law on spousal privilege and on previous sexual history. It is necessary to discuss the availability of efficient and fast court services to the poor, the rural areas, and to women and children. The Asia-Pacific Human Development Report on Gender, “Power, Voice and Rights” says: 
“Globally, four billion people-most of the world's population- are excluded from the rule of law. This figure covers a significant number of women in Asia-Pacific, even in countries where laws are relatively sound....Specific barriers, rooted in gender, prevent women from getting to court or other judicial mechanisms, or finding fair judgments once they are there. This propensity worsens when the laws themselves ignore or discriminate against women. Effective justice systems are particularly critical when power is imbalanced, and people with a weaker voice and fewer options for recourse- like women- have limited options for redress. Women are often more vulnerable to injustice to start, and more in need of measures to protect their legal rights. Impoverished women carry an additional burden. The extra-powerlessness of poverty makes them even more prone to criminal and human rights violations, and more likely to fall further into poverty through the lack of redress. 
5.3 Fiji is aware of these real barriers to the rule of law. If there is no effective access to justice, there is no rule of law. In particular, perpetrators of gender based violence have for many years been above the law. 
6. Independence of the Judiciary 
6.1 Central to the rule of law is the independence of the judiciary. Fiji accepts that the judiciary must be independent, not only of the executive, but also of other influential and well-resourced authorities, in Fiji and abroad. True independence is about making decisions on the merits of a case without actual or apparent bias. 
a. Appointments 
The appointments to the High Court, Court of Appeal, Supreme Court and the magistracy, are currently made by the President of Fiji.  Positions are advertised in newspapers in Fiji and abroad . However, it is envisaged that a Judicial Service Commission to make recommendations to the President will be enlivened by the President at an appropriate time. This issue is dealt with under (7) below.  
Currently there are impediments in making appointments to the Bench from the local Bar. 
All judges and magistrates in Fiji are on a ban for travel to New Zealand and Australia, and this ban has led many qualified local lawyers to avoid appointment. This has led to appointments from the sitting Bench and the Attorney-General‟s Chambers in Sri Lanka. However in sofar as the political action of Australia and New Zealand has led to obstacles in the recruiting of competent, qualified and suitable men and women from Fiji to the Fiji judiciary, this is a direct interference to the judiciary. The appointment process should be on merit alone. In a statement made on the 1st of November 2009,  the Chief Justice said; 
"Like many a Chief Justice I would normally be slow to issue a press statement let alone appear on camera for such a purpose. However as Head of the Judiciary in Fiji I must stand up against such interference. Fiji must have a judiciary. And it is not for Australia and New Zealand to tell us we cannot have one, or to tell us who we are to appoint. No international convention allows for such a supervisory role to a neighboring state.” 
8. Gender Equality and Constitutional Change 
8.1 The 1997 Constitution, under section 38, guaranteed the right to gender equality, as well as a number of other rights, including freedom from discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation. It is unlikely that there will be any derogation from this right in a new constitution. Firstly, the Human Rights Commission Decree provides specifically for the right not to be discriminated against on the ground of gender. The Decree also provides for effective enforcement procedures to ensure that the guaranteed rights are not mere platitudes. The Decree also defines discrimination in accordance with developing jurisprudence in particular in the light of jurisprudence from the European Court of Human Rights. 
10. Enforcement  
10.1 Article 2(c) of CEDAW requires States Parties to “establish legal protection of the rights of women on an equal basis with men and to ensure through competent national tribunals and other public institutions the effective protection of women against any act of discrimination.” 
10.2 Currently, the rights of women can be enforced through the Human Rights Commission, the Legal Aid Commission, and the courts. In particular the law in Fiji provides better strategies for protection since the enactment of the Crimes Decree, the Criminal Procedure Decree, the Employment Relations Promulgation, the Domestic Violence Decree, the Child Welfare Decree, the Mental Health Decree, the HIV/AIDS Decree, and the Human Rights Commission Decree.  
10.3 It is envisaged that there will be rights to enforcement in the new Constitution. The 1997 Constitution gave the judiciary the power to strike down or read down laws which were inconsistent with the Bill of Rights. Using these powers the judges read down criminal laws on homosexuality  and struck down laws on the mandatory imprisonment of juveniles. Consideration will be given to retaining such a judicial power in the new Constitution. However, an accompanying priority for Fiji is the continuous training of judges and magistrates on gender justice and human rights. This is accepted by the judiciary, and is being implemented.
11. Free Elections 
11.1 Ensuring that elections in Fiji will be free, is a challenge for Fiji. This is because, our past experience has shown that the authority of traditional, patriarchal, and cultural institutions influence how votes are registered and made. Pillar 1 of the People's Charter for Change  identifies those barriers to democracy which have existed in the past. They are;  a communal representation system, a preferential system of voting which did  not necessarily represent the views of the majority, the absence of a law which ensures that no person shall be discriminated against by political parties on the grounds of race, religion, gender, or circumstance, a voting age of 21 so that adults over the age of 18 were not permitted to vote, compulsory voting, a constitutional electoral process which was hard to amend to reflect the will of the people, and most importantly, reserved seats for different racial groups and voting on ethnic bases as was required by the 1997 Constitution. 
11.2 Our experience of past elections was that the elections were far from free. The laws on elections easily permitted malapportionment, inaccurate voter registration which then effectively dispossessed whole groups of people of the right to vote, and the transfer of massive numbers of votes from one constituency to another.  
11.3 The steps currently being taken to ensure the elections in 2014 are free, such that people are free of any pressure, political, cultural, and religious, or influenced by patriarchy, are aimed at the following:
a. Enhancing voter registration processes – the introduction of Electronic Voter Registration;
 
b. Maximizing voter turnout by running voter education programmes using the same participatory channels as the Charter consultation and the constitutional review process; 
c. Minimizing invalid votes by, inter alia, reviewing ballot paper design; 
d. Eradicating voter fraud by using measures such as the use of fingerprint and photograph identification; 
e. Ensuring that elections are financed in a cost-effective way, by measures such as holding elections on one day, and using the same Roll for municipal and national elections; 
f. Ensuring the elections satisfy national and international standards by reviewing policies systems and procedures; 
g. Ensuring there are rules for political campaigning, campaign funds, and media reports on political campaigns. This will include review of codes of conduct for politicians and political parties. 
11.4 Pillar 1 of the People's Charter states that reform must be implemented to abolish the alternative voting system which did not reflect voter opinion, to adopt the List Proportional Representation Open System, to adopt an electronic voter registration system so the flaws in door to door manual registration are removed, and to remove voting on ethnic lines.  It is envisaged that equal franchise, non-ethnic voting, and proportional representation will be enshrined in the Constitution, but that the electoral processes and regulations will be in a separate Electoral Decree. By removing the ethnic basis of voting, and by removing reserved communal seats, it is anticipated that political parties will increasingly campaign on the basis of social and economic policies. It will also be necessary to educate the public on the need to vote on policies and not on racial or communal lines. 
11.5 The State of the Nation and the Economy Report (NCBBF, August 2009) set out the proposed electoral reforms as follows; 
11.5.1 the complete abolishment of the communal representation system as provided for under the Constitution and the Electoral Act 1998 and the use of a common roll for all future elections;
11.5.2 the electoral and voting system as provided for under the Constitution and the Electoral Act 1998 is reformed to enable the adoption of a Proportional Representation System;
11.5.3 that the open party list be advised as the preferred electoral system in public consultations on electoral reform. Other systems that may be included for these consultations are the closed list and MMP systems;
11.5.4 that specific anti-discrimination measures be incorporated into Fiji‟s electoral laws to ensure no person is  discriminated against by political parties on the grounds of race, religion, gender or circumstance;
11.5.5 that a relatively small number of large constituencies, but no more than five, is adopted to maximise the proportional benefits of a PR electoral system;
11.5.6 that the mandatory power sharing arrangement as provided under section 99(5) – (9) of the Constitution be removed and due consideration shall be given for the formation of a truly representative Cabinet;
11.5.7 the reduction of the voting age from 21 to 18; and
11.5.8 the abolition of compulsory voting.
 
The Fiji government has accepted these recommendations as the basis of electoral reform. Other reforms considered are in relation to the term of sittings of Parliament, the size of the House of Representatives, the future status of the Senate, eligibility to contest a general election, eligibility to vote, and ways in which the Constitution may be amended.  
11.6 Following the abrogation of the Constitution in April 2009, all appointments under the Constitution were revoked, including that of the Supervisor of Elections. The Office was re-established under Decree No 6  as was the Electoral Commission. The Office is working on the steps necessary to administer the elections, including spearheading electoral reform. By 2014, the numbers of voters eligible to vote (over the age of 18), will be approximately 660,000. It is likely that there will be 4 or 5 constituencies, that the voting system will be the Proportional Representation Open List System, that there will be 1150 polling stations, that registration will be compulsory and that voting will be optional. Registration will be electronic, there will be approximately 1150 ballot boxes and it is planned to have electoral reforms to ensure that voting takes place over one day.
12. Fair Elections by 2014 
12.1 Where elections are free, they are more likely to be fair. However, often unfairness arises from circumstances which are not easy to detect or police. How free are women in Fiji to vote where they want? Or must they vote with their husbands and male children? Just as women are often pressurised not to complain about family violence inflicted on them, and just as the dark figures of unreported crime is the highest for crimes where the victims are women and children, so are women pressurised to vote along the lines expected of them in patriarchal society. 
12.2 The Office of the Supervisor of Elections has adopted a gender mainstreaming policy which is designed to strengthen the participation of women at each stage of preparation and conduct of elections. They include strategies for consulting women during the voter education programmes, the political party nomination process, the registration process, and the voting process. It is designed at improving the representation of women during and as a result of elections. 
12.3 To ensure that elections are truly “fair”, Fiji is embarked on a period of fundamental social change, aimed at the substantive democratisation of our society. By democratisation, we mean substantive equality. By equality is meant, equality between men and women, between the rich and the economically disempowered, and amongst all the ethnic groups in Fiji. In order to ensure that every vote has the same weight, what must be eradicated are our fundamental social inequalities which have prevented elections from being fair in the past. 
12.4 How this is to be achieved, is set out in the People's Charter for Change and in the Roadmap for Strategic Change which deals not only with legal reform but also with social and economic reforms. It is accepted by Fiji, that legal reforms have little meaning without economic empowerment. Thus government is working on reforms to the right to safe housing, the right to access micro financing, the right to benefit equally from land rents, poverty alleviation programmes, the legalising of the titles to land for squatters, the development of village communities, free education for all children, free text books and bus fares for school children, and the removal of VAT from essential food items. This is not to say that our people will be reliant on handouts from the State. We have had such a relationship between the State and groups of people since colonial rule, and it has not built a self-sufficient and self-reliant population. Our reforms are aimed at encouraging self empowerment. 
12.5 Nor is there a plan to abolish our cultures. We are proud of our cultures and draw strength from them. Our reforms are aimed at educating the people and their cultural leaders that responsible leadership is democratic leadership, and one which empowers men and women in order that they may make wise decisions for themselves and all of the community. Wise leadership is also about accountability, of the leaders, to the people.  
12.6 Therefore our reforms are aimed at the substantive democratisation of our society, and at unifying our people regardless of ethnicity, gender and economic status. Fair elections are only possible when there is substantive equality and therefore substantive democracy. We do not wish to hold elections, only to have the results rejected by groups of people because their party did not win. Yet that has been our history. If democracy is to survive in Fiji, it must have meaning in the hearts of our people. It is for that reason that the reforms must take place before elections- to ensure that elections in the future will be fair in the true meaning of the word. It is for that reason that elections cannot be held earlier than 2014. They will be held no later than 2014.

Tourism Fiji plays down disruption

15 October, 2012 Anne Majumda

Tourism Fiji and Air Pacific continue to work effectively together, despite disruptions to the leadership of the tourism body in the past year, the airline’s chief has insisted.

Speaking to Travel Today in Suva, Pflieger, who is also executive chairman of Tourism Fiji, insisted the changes taking place are all “very good” despite the recent loss of both acting chief executive Michael Meade and former chief executive Josefa Tuamoto.

He insisted the unstable leadership of Tourism Fiji had not negatively impacted the airline’s success.

“Tourism Fiji is rebranding Fiji, separate and distinct to what is going on with Air Pacific but they will complement each other nicely,” he said.

“In fact, I see nothing but good things that have come about from change that is happened and is happening on the tourism side.”

Pflieger highlighted a raft of changes implemented in the last year that would benefit the destination’s tourism industry.

“We’ve got new creative agency and new PR companies in Australia, New Zealand and the US, and we’ve announced a new social media company and a new web company,” he said.

“This isn’t change for change’s sake, this is change to materially dial up the country as a destination and make sure that people think of Fiji top of mind as opposed to other island destinations.”

He stressed the importance of synergies between the two entities.

“We bring in over 63% of all visitors to this country so we should be completely aligned,” he said.


Daylight saving should be discontinued immediately-FICTU

Publish date/time: 16/10/2012 [07:13]

While daylight saving starting on Sunday morning, the Fiji Islands Council of Trade Unions or FICTU is proposing that daylight saving be discontinued.

In their submission to the Constitution Commission, FICTU said that daylight saving has not helped the economy but provided more hardship given the pain and strain on the school children, their parents and the working population.

In their thirteen page submission, FICTU is also proposing that the Essential National Industries Decree, State Services Decree, Administration of Justice Decree and Employment Relations Amendment Decree be repealed in the new Constitution and provide constitutional safeguard for the future.

Making FICTU's presentation, General Secretary Attar Singh proposes that the Public Emergency Regulation, Public Order Act Amendment Decree and the Media Decree be repealed and restore fundamental freedom and free media.

He added that the retirement age for all workers including public servants, police and prison officers be removed and all workers must be free to continue in employment subject to physical, medical fitness and good performance.

Singh recommends that the House of Representatives comprise of 70 seats and Senate of 20-25 members nominated by political parties.

He say the President and Vice President be elected by a joint electoral college comprising the two houses of parliament and serve one parliamentary term.

FICTU proposes that a closed list proportional voting system be adapted on a single national boundary electing all 70 members.

Singh said that they propose for voter registration to remain compulsory however voting be left voluntary and voting must be by manual marking on a ballot paper, not by any electronic form.

He say there should be restriction or removal of Party or candidate sheds and voter transportation during elections as voting must be the responsibility of the voter without any influence.

FICTU proposes that the voting age be reduced to 18 for the second elections under the revised constitution or 5 years after the 2014 elections.

Story by: Sneh Chaudhry


Fiji’s Leadership of G77 a ‘Rare Opportunity’ for the Pacific

Analysis by Catherine Wilson


BRISBANE, Oct 15 2012 (IPS) - For the first time in 48 years, a Pacific Small Island Developing State (PSIDS) is gearing up to assume chairmanship of the Group of 77 developing nations plus China.
In 2013, the Republic of Fiji – located between Vanuatu and Tonga in the South Pacific and currently under a military government led by Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama – will take leadership of the largest intergovernmental coalition within the United Nations, replacing the incumbent chair, Algeria.
“Fiji’s election to the Chair of the Group of 77 and China (G77) for 2013 demonstrates the international community’s (confidence in us) to preside over the 132-member organisation in its endeavour to advance international matters that are of great importance to all developing countries,” Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, Fiji’s minister for foreign affairs and international cooperation, told IPS.
The G77 was formed in 1964 with 77 founding member states, representing a collective ambition by developing nations to advance their international voice and influence on world trade.
Since then, the G77, now comprising 132 member states, has championed South-South cooperation as a key strategy to boost standards of living and economic fortunes in the global South.
The intergovernmental group, which has identified the eradication of poverty as one of its greatest challenges, was also influential in developing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
According to a United Nations report last year, South-South cooperation has boosted development and investment between developing countries and is a formidable driver of economic growth.  Between 1990 and 2008 world trade expanded four-fold, while South-South trade multiplied more than 20 times.
Fiji’s rising role
Fiji’s new role within the U.N. was confirmed at the G77 foreign ministers’ meeting in New York on Sep. 28.
The island state, with a population of about 868,000 spread over more than 330 islands, has an economy dominated by the sugar and tourism industries, as well as the highest national human development ranking within the Pacific sub-region of Melanesia.
However, an ongoing struggle for political power between indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians – descendants of nineteenth century Indian immigrant labourers – has fuelled four military coups since 1987.
During the most recent one in 2006, Bainimarama, commander of Fiji’s military forces, took over the presidency and dissolved parliament in an alleged attempt to stifle corruption.
His declared aim is to reform the race-based electoral system and draft a new constitution, following nationwide consultations, ahead of planned democratic elections in 2014.
But Fiji’s refusal to hold democratic elections by 2010 led to international sanctions and its suspension in 2009 from the Commonwealth and the Pacific Islands Forum, a regional intergovernmental group of independent and self-governing states.
The government of Fiji currently receives significant economic aid and political support from China.  It also remains politically engaged in the South-west Pacific as an active member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), an intergovernmental group comprising Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and New Caledonia.
Nikunj Soni, board chair of the Pacific Institute of Public Policy (PIPP), an independent regional think tank based in Port Vila, Vanuatu, told IPS that with the emergence of a range of advocacy platforms, such as the MSG and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the Pacific Islands Forum was no longer the sole organisation through which the islands could coordinate a voice.
“Fiji’s chairmanship of the G77 will give the country’s leadership a chance to reach out to the rest of the region by way of consultation in order to make sure a regional voice can be heard on the international stage,” Soni told IPS. “The Pacific will have a rare opportunity to represent itself on the global stage…”
This is becoming increasingly important for the Pacific Islands as neighbouring superpowers like China and the U.S. set their sights on the archipelago as a crucial geo-strategic location.
China is increasing its investment and presence in the islands, while the U.S. has made moves to renew its engagement with the Pacific region in areas ranging from aid to security, and has deepened defence ties with Australia.
The Pacific Islands are also rich in mineral, forest and marine resources. The PIPP emphasised that increasing the region’s international voice on issues of security and resource management in the context of climate change was a top priority.
“With the Pacific Ocean covering half of the world’s ocean area and one third its total surface area, the region contains some of the largest unexploited natural resources and some of the most climate vulnerable nations on earth,” Soni explained.
“It remains important that small island developing states are not used by larger powers as proxies for their own geopolitical battles. At the same time, we must be able to protect our natural resources for the benefit of our own peoples.”
The global influence of the G77 will only increase as developing countries, especially Brazil, China and India, emerge as the new leaders of world economic growth. According to this year’s U.N. global economic outlook, developing countries will grow an average of 5.9 percent in 2013, while developed countries are likely to average only 1.9 percent growth.
But this year’s G77 Ministerial Meeting in New York also highlighted many challenges ahead for the coalition of developing nations, including the impact of the global financial crisis on world trade, food security, the fight against poverty, technology transfers and efforts to combat the severe effects of climate change.
“More recently, the G77 has taken on negotiating positions in areas of climate change and sustainable development, the two areas which PSIDS focuses on in New York,” Kubuabola stated.
“These are the two areas Fiji wishes to place emphasis on to ensure that the interests of all developing countries, including those of PSIDS, are effectively addressed.”
During a speech at the G77 meeting in September, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for economic and social affairs, Wu Hongbo, pointed out that the G77 also had an influential role to play in drafting the global Sustainable Development Goals, one outcome of the Rio+20 Earth Summit held in Brazil in June.
(END)