April 30, 2013


Canonical ID:07SUVA292_a
Original Classification:CONFIDENTIAL
Current Classification:CONFIDENTIAL
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TAGS:FJ - Fiji | MARR - Military and Defense Affairs--Military and Defense Arrangements | PGOV - Political Affairs--Government; Internal Governmental Affairs | SOCI - Social Affairs--Social Conditions Concepts:-- Not Assigned --
Enclosure:-- Not Assigned --
Office Origin:-- N/A or Blank --
Office Action:-- N/A or Blank --
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From:Fiji Suva Markings:-- Not Assigned --
To:Australia Canberra | Central Intelligence Agency | Joint Intelligence Center Pacific | New Zealand Wellington | Papua New Guinea Port Moresby | Secretary of State | United States Pacific Command

1. (C) Summary: An independent assessment team commissioned to consider how soon post-coup Fiji could hold elections will issue its report to the Pacific Islands Forum-Fiji interim government joint working group June 7.  The team is optimistic that three of the crucial steps necessary for new elections in Fiji -- a census, redistricting and voter registration -- can be accomplished with relative little difficulty and in time to permit an election within two years.  Whether Fiji's crippled election office will be able to then carry out the election itself is, in the team's view, another matter and still not clear.  The assessment team found most Fiji government agencies involved in the pre-election preparatory process to be relatively well equipped and ready to do the jobs necessary to lay the groundwork for elections.  The team said it thought the relevant agencies would welcome U.S. support, either in the form of financial support or technical expertise.  

End summary. 

2. (C) A four-member independent assessment team tasked with looking at the timeline for an election to return Fiji to democracy has told us it thinks the processes of executing and evaluating the planned 2007 national census and redrawing Fiji electoral districts in preparation for new national elections will take significantly less time than some have predicted.  The team told PolOff May 24 that based on the current state of readiness, the preliminary results of the census, planned for September 16, will be ready six weeks later.  The final results will be out by the end of March 2008, and census officials don't anticipate any significant discrepancies between the initial results and the final ones.  The team said their visit to the national lands office, responsible for surveys and mapping, had reassured them that the redistricting work that will flow on from the census results will be done quickly and correctly.  The manpower, expertise and required computer software is ready and waiting, according to the assessment team. 
3. (C) The assessment team consists of New Zealand elections expert Paul Harris; Canadian elections logistics expert Bruce Hatch; and former Fiji boundaries commissioners Dr. Kesaia Seniloli and Barrie Sweetman.  The team was commissioned by the joint working group.  The team's terms of reference required the four to assess "the minimum time required to prepare for and conduct the next parliamentary elections in Fiji, under conditions that would ensure such elections were free, fair and credible."  Sweetman told us the group had concluded that the boundaries of Fiji's 1,600 electoral "enumeration areas" would, in fact, have to be redrawn, as was widely expected.  He said the team's visit to Fiji's lands office had left them with the strong impression that, once the preliminary census data are available in early November, the lands office was well prepared to carry out the re-districting, using "MapInfo" software.  "The lands people are on top of it," he said. 

4. (C) Sweetman said that once the census was done and the redistricting complete, the elections office would have to begin the process of registering voters.  He noted that, from a purely logistical standpoint, the registration does not present a major challenge.  He said census officials estimate that only about 80,000 new and revised registration records were likely, the result of new voters reaching the age of majority and the redistricting exercise.  The main problems with registering voters, he said, are likely to arise within the elections office.  The elections office has come under fire from the interim government and the military.  The interim government has sacked the former supervisor of elections and three of the other four members of the electoral commission have resigned; others in the office have also left or been forced out since the coup.  The office's funding runs out in July, according to Harris, but the remaining civil servants working there have, according to him, been assured that the office will receive the necessary further funding.  (Note: The dismissed former election supervisor is protesting his dismissal and has said he will take the matter to court.  On May 25, the media reported, however, that his replacement has already been named, along with three other new commissioners.  End note.)

5. (C) The assessment team was careful not to discuss the political ramifications of their work.  The Forum Secretariat had, in fact, only agreed to facilitate the meeting with PolOff after he made clear that the topic was the logistics of the electoral process.  Nonetheless, Sweetman and the others gave all indications that they believed there are no insurmountable logistical barriers to holding an election within the 24-month timeframe favored by the Forum's Eminent Persons Group, as opposed to the 36-month timeframe the interim government prefers. The team will provide its findings to the joint working group on June 7. Thereafter the report is supposed to go to the Eminent Persons Group, and ultimately to the Forum foreign ministers.  No dates have been set for the latter reviews.  

6. (C) Several of the team members inquired about USG interest in supporting the electoral process, including the census and redistricting process.  Poloff noted our interest in a fair and timely election and said we would consider providing appropriate support or assistance. 


April 20, 2013

Fighters from the island paradise to help Austrians

11th April 2013, 19:35
Translated via Google Translate

When the Fijian soldiers of the army did not overthrow the governance, they parade in front of the government palace in the capital, Suva.Four military coups in 20 years and many foreign missions

160 soldiers from Fiji to the Austrian peacekeepers in the Golan Heights assist in the border area between Syria and Israel. So that money flows back into the economy of the impoverished island republic. Because the income from the numerous UN peacekeeping missions of the Fijian army are an important source of income for the families of soldiers dar. total 3500 soldiers are active in military service. Two of the three battalions of the regular armed forces are working for the United Nations in Lebanon, Iraq, East Timor and in the Sinai.

In addition to know-how from a peacekeeper soldiers of the 850,000 inhabitants Republic can not rely on a completely different experience: In the past 20 years, the mini-army coup four times against the government in the capital, Suva. Finally, the 2006 was the case, since there is a military government in Fiji.

On the Golan probably not used to that the approximately 300-strong Marine of the island. This can at least nine patrol boats call their own. Compared with the equipment of the land forces is that much: According to media reports, have the Fijian armed forces after a crash in 1994 only a helicopter. (Red, derStandard.at, 04/11/2013)

  • photo: AP photo / rick rycroft
    When the Fijian soldiers of the army did not overthrow the governance, they parade in front of the government palace in the capital, Suva.

FBC Speak Your Mind: Voreqe Bainimarama

April 08, 2013

South South News: Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama Interviewed on G77 Chairmanship (Incomplete Interview)


April 7, 2013
Members of current government will form PM’s party

The Prime Minister yesterday confirmed that his current Government will form the political party he will lead into next year’s general elections.

This revelation was made at Sawanikula Village in Wainimala, Naitasiri, by Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama during a talanoa session with the villagers.

The Prime Minister had previously confirmed to the Fiji Sun that he would be forming a party. Now he has confirmed this will be built on the Government he now leads.

Commodore Bainimarama was answering questions from the villagers when asked about the political party he was about to form.

In his reply he said – “Well to answer your question on my party, it’s the current Government that will form this new political party.”

However, he said the launch would be early next year as their priority now was to prepare the nation for the 2014 elections.

The Prime Minister said in his visits around the country, many had asked that the Government continued leading the country and there should be no elections.

He said since his Government came into power he had promised he would return the nation to democratic elections.

“I stand by my word and we will have elections in 2014 and it’s up to you to elect the government you want to lead the country after 2014.”

The Prime Minister said a majority had also said they wanted him to lead the country after the 2014 elections and that was the reason he was forming his own political party.

“I have to join a political party to contest the elections and for that to materialise I have to form my own party,” he said.

The Prime Minister said his party would continue the same service as it was doing now and many were happy about it.

He also said past governments and politicians had made many false promises and some of the parties involved were re-registering to contest the elections.

He reminded the people of Sawanikula these parties had ganged up and criticised the way forward to democracy.

They had said there would be no elections and now that they know there would be elections they are opting to criticise the way forward to democracy.

The draft constitution
Politicians and non-governmental organisations are now criticising the draft constitution.

“My concern is that these politicians and NGOs are trying to misrepresent and mislead the people, ” the Prime Minister said.

The Prime Minister has encouraged the villagers to read the draft constitution and make up their own minds.

He said the draft constitution, for the first time in Fiji’s history, guaranteed socio-economic rights for every Fijian.

These, the Prime Minister said, included rights to housing, reasonable access to transportation, education, adequate food, clean water, a just minimum wage, social security schemes, health services and sanitation.

And they also included specific rights for children and the disabled.

The Prime Minister thanked the people for their support. He said he was optimistic his Government would come back to power after the 2014 elections.

PM must lead: Aziz

April 6, 2013

The Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) wants the Prime Minister, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, to lead the country after the 2014 General Election.

Speaking to Fiji Sun yesterday, the RFMF’s chief of staff, Brigadier-General Mohammed Aziz said: “We will give him our support to keep his leadership.”

He was responding to political comments that have started as the nation prepares for the elections in 2014.

Brigadier-General Aziz said the Prime Minister had started a new political path for the nation, which was totally different from what the nation had experienced from past governments.

He said after the takeover in 2006, the Bainimarama-led Government had to attend to some sad issues from the past.

Promises, he said, had been made by politicians as a way to win quick votes, but it was rather sad that these votes were never translated into meaningful change.

The RFMF’s chief of staff said another issue which the Government had worked on was land.

“Land is usually a controversial issue and past governments used it as a political tool to gain votes from the landowners.”

However, he said very little was done compared to what’s being done by the current Government.

The Prime Minister had introduced land reforms and with these reforms more land was made available on new favourable terms and conditions.

Land reform is a priority for the development of the resource-based sector which will be mutually beneficial for both the landlords and tenants.

Brigadier-General Aziz says one of the objectives of the reforms now in place is to eradicate abuse and corruption.

The way forward for Fiji, he says, is for the Government to hear people’s concerns and act positively.

Now, he said, past politicians were ganging up and making criticisms against the Government.

“However, they have not ever put forward to members of the public their way forward for the nation.”

He said the RFMF would work with the Prime Minister to see that he retains leadership after the 2014 elections.

He urged members of the public to join the military in supporting the Prime Minister in his bid to lead the nation in 2014.

The new political direction the nation is now experiencing, according to the RFMF’s chief of staff, can only be carried forward by the Prime Minister and his Government.

FBC: Na Vakekeli with PM

Dr Marc Edge: Al Jazeera takes on just another dictator

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The international news pioneer Al Jazeera has lots of experience covering dictators. The Qatar-based satellite TV broadcaster, which was founded in 1996 with US$137 million in funding from that Persian Gulf country's emir, made its name covering the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. 

Bainimarma: "That's an insult."
That was the subject of a fascinating documentary by Egyptian-American filmmaker Jehane Noujaim, called Control Room, which explored important issues of objectivity and propaganda. Al Jazeera brought a balance not before seen in Arab media, broadcasting not just government propaganda, but also daring to cover the other side as well. Its motto was "The opinion and the other opinion," and it took balance so seriously that soon Israeli voices were even heard in the Arab world. That angered many Middle Eastern governments, so much so that Al Jazeera was banned from IraqBahrainJordanKuwait, and Saudi Arabia. It was also denounced by the U.S. for airing video of battlefield corpses and interviews with POWs and even Osama bin Laden. Its rich funding has allowed Al Jazeera to install 70 correspondents in 35 bureaus around the world at one count, enabling it to provide coverage of international events that has arguably surpassed CNN and now rivals BBC World. It soon became the go-to source during the Arab Spring pro-democracy uprisings that began springing up across the Middle East a couple of years ago. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called it "real news," in contrast to the pap produced by the American networks.

You may not agree with it, but you feel like you're getting real news around the clock instead of a million commercials and, you know, arguments between talking heads and the kind of stuff that we do on our news which, you know, is not particularly informative to us, let alone foreigners.
Al Jazeera began broadcasting in English in 2006 but was unable to gain a toehold on more than a few cable systems in the U.S. and Canada. It may have remedied that problem earlier this year when it bought tiny cable channel Current TV from former U.S. vice president Al Gore for $500 million, which it will use as the base for its planned Al Jazeera America. It is now in the process of beefing up its U.S.-based journalism and just last week lured away CNN anchor Ali Velshi, who is an Arab-Canadian. Al Jazeera even provides much of the international news coverage seen in Fiji, as it is broadcast on both Mai TV and FBC to help fill those long hours of off-prime programming. That makes its interview with prime minister Frank Bainimarama significant, because the hard questions it asked Fiji's dictator stand in sharp contrast to the timid coverage provided by the country's domestic networks. 

Can you imagine a reporter for FBC or Fiji TV describing the prime minister's constitutional consultations the way that Al Jazeera correspondent Andrew Thomas did? "What might seem like the ultimate democratic exercise, asking all Fijians to review and endorse this document," intoned Thomas, holding up a copy of the Bainimarma draft, "is dismissed by many as a sham, a way for Fiji’s military ruler to tighten his grip on power." Then the Sydney-based "roving" correspondent, who has been with Al Jazeera since 2010, had the temerity to actually allow a Fijian to voice these types of concerns. It's a good thing he got out of the country before his report went to air. Now that it has, Thomas may not be allowed back. He read his report on the Bainimarama draft over repeated shots of the Fiji Sun's screaming front page headline that recently urged Fijians to SUPPORT HIM.

It keeps Bainimarama in power until election day and allows him to lean on the media and sideline opposition parties and critics in the run-up to it. Then it gives extraordinary powers to whoever is elected prime minister. No community leaders will review this document. Instead the prime minister has taken to the airwaves, asking the people to put their comments straight to him. 
The report then shows Thomas and Bainimarama walking and talking, with Permanent Secretary for Information Sharon Smith-Johns following close behind. “No, no, all positive, no criticism,” Bainimarama is heard telling Thomas before the report switches to an exchange from their sit-down interview.
Thomas: Are you confident that you will win next year’s election and is that because you’ve essentially rigged the constitution to make sure you do get elected?

Bainimarama: I think that’s an insult to the people that’s put together this constitution, when you say “by rigging this constitution.” You don’t rig [a] constitution. The constitution is for the people of the Fiji. You think I did all this just to rig the constitution?
The report then cuts to the British-born correspondent telling viewers that this is "exactly what some people do think." Cut to an interview with CCF head Rev. Akuila Yabaki. "This amounts really to a constitutional coup," Yabaki tells Thomas. "He would have been the author of a constitution that concentrates power in the prime minister, and if he becomes prime minister he benefits from a constitution which he himself has authored." To which Bainimarama protested that his critics are "talking out of the top of their heads. They don’t know, really. They don’t want to know what we have in place." Thomas left Fiji's democratic future hanging in his extro: "As well as a tropical paradise, Frank Bainimarama says he wants Fiji to be known as a respected democracy. Whether his constitution can provide that, though, is unclear." But in asubsequent blog post, Thomas gives a more candid assessment of the regime's draft constitution.
Many in Fiji and elsewhere fear the government-sanctioned charter will merely provide cover for ongoing autocratic rule. . . . There has to be a level playing field going into [elections]; the dice can't be weighted in one candidate's favour. That's what good constitutions ensure.  They level playing fields and make sure the dice aren't dodgy.
Then he tells the story of the lunch he attended on Thursday with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who hosted a group of foreign correspondents. Seated conveniently close to the Seat of Power, he says he was able to apprise her of his visit to Fiji and grill her on the situation there. Gillard gave the "stock response about Fiji," according to Thomas, "without referring directly to concerns over the latest incarnation of the constitution."
She said, "Commodore Bainimarama needs to be held to his promises and accountabilities about having those elections, and they need to be held on time and properly done." Few now doubt Bainimarama is indeed committed to the first part, that elections are held "on time". But, without the second part as well, elections “properly done”, Fiji may be a democracy in name only. 
Al Jazeera has now given worldwide TV coverage to the misgivings many have over Bainimarama's manipulation of Fiji's constitutional process. Coming hard on the heels of theEconomist's recent dissection of his machinations, it shows that it is unlikely Bainimarama's draft constitution will stand up to international scrutiny, at least from journalists. Whether it will pass muster with foreign leaders is another matter, of course. But one thing is for sure, as Thomas notes in ending his blog post: "Constitutional clauses can sometimes be dry, but they can also be crucial."

April 06, 2013

Islands Business: How effective are the watchdogs?

By Professor Wadan Narsey
Fri 05 Apr 2013

The Commerce Commission of Fiji (CCOF) is charged with fostering competition in the Fiji economy and discouraging non-competitive behaviour or the abuse of "substantial market power".

A few years ago, the CCOF (under another chairman) did nothing when Carlton Brewery (a beer manufacturer) took over the only rum distillery in Fiji, thereby monopolising the local protected alcohol industry (later called Fosters Pacific).

The activities of the CCOF since Dr Mahendra Reddy took over as chairman also raise the eyebrows of economists.

The CCOF has zeroed in on many sectors and products, such as pharmaceuticals, hardware or bread, where one would have thought there is adequate competition, while ignoring the retail prices of the telecommunication giants, especially the mobile companies.

I have written about it previously.

The Commerce Commission saw no cause for concern when Coca Cola Amatil (the most dominant player in the Fiji soft drinks market) recently took over Fosters Pacific, thereby acquiring substantial market power over both the soft-drinks and the alcohol market.

Fijian Holdings Limited and Fiji TV In recent months, there has been another acquisition - that of Fiji TV by Fijian Holdings Limited (FHL) - which has also not led to any great discussion in the Fiji media. This may not be strange given the continuing climate of media self-censorship.

Yet this acquisition also has the effect of concentrating "substantial market power" in the media industry in another kind of way which the Fiji public need to be aware of and discuss.

In a recent article, I have pointed out the damaging consequences on media freedom of having the major media outlets in print and radio, owned by large businesses who are vulnerable to discretionary government policies of one kind or another.

The impact of such large business ownership (of Fiji Sun and The Fiji Times), combined with the effect of the Fiji Government owning and controlling Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (radio and TV) was a significant reduction of the media's role as "watchdog on government".

The only redeeming feature was that Fiji TV was still relatively privately owned, although it also faced continuous intimidation because of the refusal of the regime to grant it only a six-monthly license, instead of the normal long-term license.

Well, the Fiji Government may no longer have to bother with using the license as a lever.

One may expect now that the Bainimarama Government will be able to exercise control and direction of Fiji TV in the same way that they exercise control and direction of FBC.

Both the television channels will therefore now be subject to effective government control - an exercise of substantial market power" by one entity over the Fiji TV media.

FHL is also a corporate giant in the Fiji economy, and it has wide commercial interests which are far more valuable than profits from Fiji TV, and many of which also depend on government's discretionary policy such as duty protection (eg cement).

My previous comments on Motibhai Patel's ownership of The Fiji Times and CJ Patel's ownership of the Fiji Sun not being good for media freedom and its watchdog role, apply equally here.

Fijian Holdings Limited will not want to jeopardise any of its substantial commercial interests in the Fiji economy, by taking the risk of annoying the Fiji Government through any kind of genuine watchdog role.

Did the Commerce Commission express any concerns over the FHL acquisition of Fiji TV?

The Still Slumbering Media Authority?
The Media Industry Development Decree 2010 (which many have criticised) requires the Media Authority to "facilitate the provision of a quality range of media services which serves the national interest; to ensure that media services in Fiji are maintained at a high standard in all respects and, in particular, in respect to the quality, balance, fair judgment and a range of subject-matter of their content".

Internationally, the role of "watch-dog over government in the public interest" is considered to be one of the cornerstones of media freedom and societal relevance.

Increasing Fiji government control over the Fiji media goes directly and explicitly against this role and "balance".

Yet the Media Authority and its chairman make no public statements despite the many criticisms of media censorship in Fiji and unhealthy patterns of media ownership.

Did the slumbering Media Authority express any concern over the acquisition of Fiji TV by Fijian Holdings Limited?

It would be interesting to find out if members of the Fiji public have expressed their concern through letters to the editor, which have just not been printed.

Need for public oversight In Australia, there is an excellent ABC TV programme which each weekly puts the microscope on the media, including programmes by ABC itself. You can watch it here.

You can also read the scintillating columns by the host of this TV programme, Jonathan Holmes.

Holmes has been a journalist for 35 years and brings incisive and balanced, but humorous views on media misdemeanors and unfairness - in print, radio or television.

It would seem that Fiji has a long way to go before such a critical and publicly useful programme can ever be aired (on TV or radio) or such critical columns that protect the public and private interests, see the light of day in the print media.

In the meantime, it might help if the statutory authorities charged with these responsibilities, Commerce Commission and the Media Authority, were to take their responsibilities seriously. That is not happening as well as it should.

Prof Wadan Narsey: The Charter and accountability of John Samy and Archbishop Mataca

6 April 2013

The reputations of John Samy and Archbishop Mataca have taken a heavy beating from prodemocracy advocates, over the Regime’s use of the Charter in  justifying the 2006 coup.

But a November 2011 letter to Commodore Bainimarama suggests that critics (including myself) may have been too harsh in their judgment of Mataca and Samy.

The People’s Charter was formulated under the chairmanship of Commodore Bainimarama and Archbishop Petero Mataca, who presented the final product to the people of Fiji.

The intellectual driving force was John Samy, an internationally respected former ADB functionary,  and former Fiji senior civil servant victimized and driven out during the 1987 military coup in Fiji.

The People’s Charter  and its “Pillars” of development have for six years been heavily used by the Bainimarama Regime as their primary public justification for their continued hold on government and “constitutional reform”.

While the first clause of the Charter stated that the people of Fiji would abide by and strengthen the 1997 Constitution, it was purportedly abrogated following the 2009 Court of Appeal judgment against Bainimarama.

Mataca and Samy have made no public statement on the Regime’s widespread abuse of all the praiseworthy principles espoused in the Charter or even on the purported abrogation of the 1997 Constitution.

Their silence has been interpreted by critics as a fraud on the hundreds of thousands of Fiji people who were led to support the Charter,  believing that the Regime would abide by the 1997 Constitution as clearly stated in the Charter.

But it is now clear that John Samy and Archbishop Mataca did speak out on the Regime’s abuse of the Charter principles, in a 17 November 2011 letter to Bainimarama, not previously made public.

The letter also goes a long way towards redeeming the reputations of  these two individuals who clearly held strongly enough to the principles of their Charter to protest in no uncertain terms, when the Regime refused to abide by the principles of the Charter they had themselves helped formulate and approve.

This letter (coming to me via anonymous channels) raises for public debate the very neglected principle of accountability of leaders to the people of Fiji, for their past actions.

The recommendations made by Samy and Archbishop Mataca are still of relevance to the problems that Fiji faces today, and have greater weight coming from previous Regime supporters.

[Wherever the letter mentions "the principles of the Charter", you can equally substitute the "principles of the 1997 Constitution".]

Contents of Letter
This is a summary of the contents of the letter, using their own words wherever appropriate, and critical statements numbered by me, for emphasis.

John Samy and Archbishop Mataca  pointed out that in March 2007, the following had been impressed (presumably by John Samy) on Bainimarama, his Cabinet Ministers and the Ministry Council:
  1. that the Interim Government (including Fiji’s Military) did not have the legitimacy or the mandate from the people of Fiji to undertake any of the major reforms desperately needed;
  2. that the IG’s Roadmap was being imposed on the people of Fiji undemocratically;
  3. that it was not clear what the IG was seeking to achieve through the “Clean Up” campaign;
  4. that for sustainable democratic governance, the widest possible cross-section of the Fiji public must be meaningfully involved.
It was in this context that the Regime agreed to the National Council for Building a Better Fiji (NCBBF) processes to be led by John Samy,  the People’s Charter was formulated, and, eventually “approved by 64% of the adult population of Fiji”.

Samy and Mataca pointed out that they had repeatedly emphasized to the Regime that the purpose of the Peoples Charter was

5. not to replace the Constitution but to strengthen it;

6. to respect and safeguard human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals and groups, safeguarded by adherence to the rule of law and our respect for human dignity, and

7. to hold responsible and accountable those who hold positions of leadership in communities, organizations, and at the national level.

However, with great disappointment, Mataca and Samy informed Bainimarama that since 2009

8.  “a number of actions taken by the IG have signaled that it has drifted away from the spirit and key principles of the Peoples Charter, that it has betrayed the people of Fiji on its most solemn promises“.

The most significant of such disappointing signals was the

9. abrogation of the 1997 Constitution in April 2009

10. the Public Emergency Regulations, originally meant to be temporary but which has been in place for more than two years

11.  restrictions on the media

12. restrictions on peoples’ basic freedoms and rights, such as those of free speech and assembly

Samy and Mataca noted

13. “the current environment  in Fiji is highly controlled and it has instilled a growing sense of fear amongt the populace… more widely perceived as being repressive”.

Instead of being transparent and accountable in its governance, the IG has

14. “adopted a strong-fisted, unilateralist approach which has been increasingly alienating the very people who could be playing an active role in building broad-based consensus”.

Serious issues of transparency, accountability and overall governance have been emerging, such as

15.   a few Cabinet Ministers (especially Bainimarama and the Attorney General) holding multiple portfolios

16. rumors that both were being paid exorbitant salaries, not through the Minister of Finance but a close relative of the AG, through a high-fees based contractual arrangement

17.  the militarization of key institutions of the State.

These, Samy and Mataca pointed out, had fuelled the growing perception that

18.  “you, your Ministers and the Military Council are now enjoying power and the benefits associated with it so much that you will not relinquish it voluntarily; that power has corrupted you all”.

More recently,

19. the IG’s handling of the FNPF issues and

20. the imposition of the Essential Industries Decree, without following the due consultation processes,

had called into question whose agenda for change the IG is now pursuing, especially as they violate the key principles contained in the People’s Charter.

21. Previous supporters of the IG were “becoming increasingly disillusioned” with a “growing feeling of betrayed by you and the IG”; that instead of practicing transparent and accountable governance, you have adopted the “might-of-the-military” approach to ruling Fiji.

Their Recommendations
John Samy and Archbishop Mataca outlined very specific and useful recommendations for the way forward to elections in September 2014 (still of relevance today):

22.  formulation of the new Constitution to be “independent and at arms length of the Government and the Military through nation-wide consultations”

23.  the Constitution be adopted through a credible and legitimate process that would include a national referendum

24.  the PER be immediately lifted

25.  the total number of Ministers be increased from the current 9 to 13 to ensure a more balanced allocation of portfolio responsibilities

26.  demilitarization the key institutions of the State

27.  realignment of the role of Fiji’s Military to end the cycle of coups in Fiji

The Samy/Mataca letter attached a Special Supplementary Statement that Commodore Bainimarama could read out during his 2012 Budget Address.

But Regime did not listen
The proposals that John Samy and Archbishop Mataca advocated, were not followed.

Word from several people in the know suggest that Commodore Bainimarama had agreed personally to the proposals from John Samy, but changed his mind the next day, presumably under the influence of his advisers.

Since the Samy/Mataca letter in November 2011, a lot more water has flowed under the bridge.

The Regime’s own appointed Yash Ghai Commission (which John Samy also facilitated) had its Report rejected on spurious grounds, except for select little bits (there was also serious fallout on one of the Commission’s executive staff, who Samy had convinced to take the appointment).

The people’s Constituent Assembly to discuss the Draft Constitution was dispensed with on equally spurious grounds.

The Regime has devised its own Bainimarama/Khaiyum Constitution (BKC), which, following comments from the Fiji public, will be finalized by the Regime, “assented to” by the President, and “displayed” to the Fiji public, in a charade of popular participation.

A former elected Prime Minister has been jailed over charges of abuse of office committed twenty years and involving minor sums (judgment being appealed), while the Regime’s Draft Constitution demands total immunity for the Regime from 2000 to 2014.

Media censorship continues unabated, with all disagreement with the Regime’s constitution writing process blacked out from the media, while the Regime has full and free rein with all its views, including attacks on the critics (who are not reported).

These events (and more besides), contradicting the principles of the Charter, would have caused even more angst to Samy and Mataca, and a longer letter of complaint, if written today.

Lessons in accountability?
The John Samy/Archbishop Mataca  letter goes a long way towards redeeming their respective reputations.

Yet true accountability, which the Charter holds dear, should be not just to the Regime, but to the Fiji public, many of whom (in Fiji and abroad) were influenced towards supporting the Regime, by the obvious public stature of these two individuals.

Archbishop Mataca’s participation in this honest letter can also be a starting point for reconciliation between the Catholic and the Methodist Church which has been very unfairly treated by the Bainimarama Regime.

Of course, one should not just focus on Samy and Mataca, but ask about the accountability of the rest of the social leaders who took part in the NCBBF exercise- including other religious leaders, unionists, politicians and academics.

(Don’t bother asking one Hindu leader who told me that the Charter did not contain any commitment to  the 1997 Constitution- his firm also made a lot of money out of the printing of the NCBBF documents).

Accountability over Yash Ghai exercise
The Samy/Mataca letter also has a salutary lesson for those who took part in the Yash Ghai Constitution exercise.

As was pointed out at the meeting at the FTA Hall, a women NGO representative passionately complained how she and here colleagues had encouraged hundreds of submissions from rural women, for the Yash Ghai Commission.  So also did thousands of others who took the Regime’s word that they wanted a genuine “People’s Constitution”.

They were all disappointed when the Ghai Draft was summarily rejected.

Like Samy and Mataca with the Charter, members of the Yash Ghai Commission (Professor Ghai, Professor Murray, Dr Satendra Nandan, Ms Taufa Vakatale and Ms Penny Moore, the last three also staunch Regime supporters), have also been led up the garden path.

All these five Commission members should make their views known, not just to the Regime, but  to the Fiji public from whom they elicited and received seven thousand submissions in their formulation of their Draft People’s Constitution.

Not just their personal reputations, but genuine accountability to the Fiji public and Fiji’s constitutional history, require that.

Last, the Regime’s treatment of John Samy and Archbishop Mataca, the Yash Ghai Commission and many others (Kevin Barr, the unionists etc), is a harsh lesson for well-intentioned individuals who venture into the brave world of nation-building, based on fundamentally illegal foundations.

Fiji debates disputed draft constitution - Asia-pacific - Al Jazeera English

Fiji debates disputed draft constitution - Asia-pacific - Al Jazeera English

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