November 05, 2007

ALERT: Just seen 5 min ago

CEO of Fiji Development Bank being escorted along Victoria Parade flanked by at team plain-clothes policemen in full public view.

Mr Tukana Bovoro appeared to be at ease with his cell phone firmly stuck to his ear while walking the street with his entourage.

November 03, 2007

The junta’s favourite trick: when drowning, roll-out a deflective tactic

So the military are up to their human rights violations again.

Ballu Khan and Rt Inoke Takiveikata were taken in most probably for “re-education” purposes today for allegations of conspiring to assassinate the iPres….woah….that’s going to be a mighty big one for Langman and Nasir to prove at FICAC as their track record and progress has been far from sterling.

The word on the street was that prior to October the junta’s military goons had been tailing Ballu, Rt Inoke and certain members of their clique using all manner of detective leg work -- the favourite being "taxi driving intell" by military personnel.

Therefore if they knew or suspected then that they were up to no good then, why are they jumping them now?

Or is this another ruse to bring out the PER again as there’s been so much public outcry about their ridiculous antics these past 2 weeks?

November 02, 2007

Some comic relief to the Junta Comedy of Errors

Further to whispers on the blog-vine, the UN now makes it formal.

Encore the comic relief and exit the clowns ;)
UN helped stop murder suspects

1531 FJT
Friday, November 02, 2007

Update: 3.31pm THE United Nations says it had a role in stopping a group of soldiers who were charged with murder in Fiji from traveling to take part in peacekeeping duties.

The spokesperson for the UN Secretary General Farhan Haqm said the UN received information about criminal investigations into the soldiers and seven of them were stopped.

''As per standard UN policy and procedures and in close cooperation with the Fijian authorities, seven individuals were prevented from leaving the country and will not be part of the UN deployment. The issue now rests with the Fijian authorities,'' Mr Farhan said

According to a report carried by Pacnews, Mr Farhan said the UN still has concerns about the political situation in Fiji following last year's coup which could affect future Fiji deployments.

The seven accused will appear in court this month charged with murder and assault, after the death of Nadi teenager Sakiusa Rabaka earlier this year.

November 01, 2007

The Junta’s Comedy of Errors continues

Phew!! What a series of ridiculous stunts we’ve had to endure yet again. It’s exhausting just keeping up with their treadmill journies going nowhere cloaked behind the façade of “moving Fiji forward”. Just when you want to post a blog about an issue, they go and pull something even more incredulously foolish.

However one plus-side to this comedy of errors is that it is forcing more coup supporters out of the woodwork to “show” that the coup has the backing of some demographical representation of our society. Only thing wrong with this strategy is that its no longer about individuals. The masses simply want numbers to do the talking ASAP.

First up, the iPM jets off to NY for the UN General Assembly. After re-playing his now broken record of a speech there, NZ proceeds to use some of their intervention time to tell the General Assembly a thing or two about what’s really going down in Fiji. Frank then jets off to Tonga thinking that he will regain his rock-star status on his Pacific turf. After the clapping from the crowds subsides and within the 4 walls of the Vavau retreat he gets the diplomatic “rock star” arm twisting. That’s when he realizes his status was really rock-bottom in the regional popularity polls and that Fiji, under what Frank see's as leadership, unfortunately no longer possesses the political clout that it used to. Just ask Parmesh, Aiyaz, Taito and all the minions that made up the numbers on the chartered flight that you and I paid for.

We would seriously have to ask what value for money the country has received in return from such a huge delegation to Tonga by way of bilaterals or aid. This is essential as our overdue budget announcement will have a gaping big hole in the INCOME column since Australia, NZ, USA and the EU no longer want to come to our parties. There is no way in hell that the Chindia alliance could ever make up this shortfall.

Further, the recent PR attempts by FIRCAs acting boss about the status of the state’s coffers is most amusing. Given that their projections are not as rosy as they used to be, they foolishly peg their hopes on Christmas shoppers and the festive season for import tax income. Perhaps it has escaped the analysts, and the A/CEO who is himself a former analyst, that the means for the masses to splurge during the end of the year is non-existent. So the question therefore is, if the states coffers are not as healthy as they should be, why and how on earth could the state afford to allow a tax amnesty period at this time given that we are no way near their billion dollar mark projections? Clearly this has been allowed to benefit someone or some people.

Hot on the heels of that laughable exercise, the “showboat” iAG (and a very apt name too fuggedaboutit) returns from essentially being a liability of a side-kick to the Tonga delegation to make the biggest legal mistake that even a rookie lawyer would have known better than to commit. He wrongly advises the iPres that Adi Koila Nailatikau, wife of the iForeign Affairs Minister, should take over the reigns as Chairperson of the Constituency Boundaries Commission. Clearly Rupeni Nacewa was also sleeping on the job for not cross-checking this advice, if he really is doing his job and acting in the best interests of the Head of State’s office.

Of course only when Aiyaz was soundly reminded about this legal booboo, he was most probably advised by his local PR/Journo advisor to take the high road and admit he was wrong. Unfortunately it falls flat. As rightfully pointed out by a blog comment and the NFP recently, in most countries people GET FIRED for such blatant incompetence. His absence from the public arena after that press conference is noticeable. But lo an behold being the showboat that he is, a prolonged media absence is simply not the done thing and we hear him today barking about the possible lifting of NZ sanctions because his parents are permitted to enter Aotearoa. The Foreign Affairs people of NZ quickly rebut this assertion. If we didn’t know any better, it almost smells like Aiyaz is turning into a Judas and has received what resembles 30 pieces of silver. But what the pound of (return) flesh is remains to be seen.

Upon that error, the junta then appoints the head of the Catholic Church, Archbishop Petero Mataca to take Adi Koila’s place. A wave of dissatisfaction about this development hits the public domain and the Vatican's representative to the Pacific Archbishop Charles Balvo becomes involved. Obviously the separation of Church and State still means something in Rome. Rushing to his side to support the Archbishop comes Bishop Qiliho of the Anglican Church. Bishop Qiliho is the step-father of Lt-Col Sitiveni Qiliho (thank you for that clarification anon).

What will really throw a spanner in the fireworks of this little boundaries commission drama are the results of the recent census. Given that the race card is being flouted now (no more key words like “clean up” or “corruption” now folks - the new junta buzz word is “eradicating racism”), it will be very interesting to see what the boundaries commission will now concoct to support the junta's goals.

Next we hear that Francis Kean, brother-in-law of the iPM is found guilty of manslaughter and is sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, but wait (folks if this isn’t corruption I don’t know what is) he still gets "above the law" treatment by continuing to get paid!! Some animals are clearly more equal than others. Kean et al are then advised by Justice Byrnes that he can appeal his case for which Kean has his eyes set on a suspended sentence.

And if that isn’t enough, the 8 “necessary mercenaries” who were also linked to the murder of Rabaka and scheduled to be airlifted out for peace-keeping duties are off-loaded during the weekend. A flurry of media statements in the ensuing days highlight a pissed off Mosese Tikoitoga, caught with his pants down and daring to complain about their families shame and the lack of heads up from the DPP’s office. It’s a pity that his hot air could not extend his limited logic to a far worse grief faced by the families of the murder victims.

We however are convinced that all these guys: Kean plus the 8, may do a bit of time in the slammer but then under the public radar, they may get released on a Compulsory Supervision Order (CSO), a la Rt Jope Seniloli style. Interesting that they went ballistic then with Rt Seniloli but will very likely pull it off themselves in order to save Franks “boys”. With army man Ioane Naivalurua now heading the Prisons Dept (and Post Fiji), that works quite nicely in their favour. However there is just one little problem. Fiji is such a small place, that something like this is bound to get noticed.

So, quite a hectic period for the junta with not much going in their favour and in fact not much “moving forward” at all. They are ramping up their Charter exercise with more money-wasting awareness, but in the words of the Tongan PM and Current Chair of the Forum recently in Tonga: “The Peoples Charter we see it is an initiative by them but it’s not to replace the constitution”.

October 30, 2007

Rockstar or Rock Bottom?

You be the judge...

and the proof is in the the "rockstar".

September 16, 2007

The Head Count begins...

We're sorry but we really must vehemently disagree with the Fiji Times Editorial today which urges us to support the census.

Yes it has been a while since the last one but we would ask where are priorities for the people of Fiji? Vatukoula miners have been lamenting their patch for a long time and yet we are about to splurge on an exercise that really does nothing for us. Policy formulation and reform plans (based on census results) be damned! Bread and butter cries are resonating from every corner of this country.

We are constantly bombarded with contradictory words and actions. We are told that the civil service needs to be "reformed" because it costs too much but in the very next breath the Government has committed to renting more space from the Kadavu Provincial Council (as a thank you to Rt Jo Nawalowalo for sticking his neck out and supporting the GCC Reform of course).

Not only that, we have the iPSC Permanent Secretary lamenting poor per diems and the need to use UN rates (need we remind her that UN rates are for UN officials and those countries and entities that can afford it). Then we have Mr Teleni lamenting his contract conditions (for which he gets what he wants), followed by the huge delegation about to leave for Brussels with Mr Chaudhry for more sugar talks. Oh and we cannot forget about the pretty pennies all these legal consultants are costing us. Last but not least we are told that military purchases that are more then the $10K ceiling that have been rejected by the govt tender board gets instant cabinet approval.

The junta just don't get it (when have they ever we ask?). They say that our economy needs help yet they aren't really ready to face up to the fact that they need to PRIORITISE what's best for the people. It's safe to say that they just don't care.

So in relation to counting heads and this wasteful exercise we frankly just aren't interested. In fact let's make this fun. Let's give them numbers and data that will make their heads spin.

Because the fact of the matter is they have NO LEGAL RIGHT to be conducting a census. The census we suppose could be the preparatory part for phase 2. Once they understand the constituency demographics, we subscribe to the conspiracy theory that they will then re-draw up the boundaries to help skew election results.

After all no one is holding their breath for proposed election date promises anytime soon. They have yet to put the pieces of the puzzle that they need for their "mission" together -- chief among them which is banishing the key election threat Qarase into never-never land.

September 13, 2007

"Friend" of the Court?

We were half right. The court decided not to grant The Shyster with intervenor status but frankly the amicus curaie status is a whitewash.

We all know who's "friend" within the court The Shyster will be. Yep thats right the 2 Judges who would be stupid to rule against themselves (read: selective memories re: Treason).

But we sussed out their strategy. The junta knows full well that much rides on this case so apart from stacking the courts they need to stack the case so that it falls to their advantage. Enter the HRC who is now shamelessly flaunting themselves as coupsters and yet conveniently, as wolves in sheeps clothing do, pretending that they are still independent.

The junta knew full well that iState party needed help and what better platform then the generous human rights provisions as protected in the Constitution. The junta also knew new full well that as intervenors to the case they wouldn't have a chance. But intervenor status wasn't what they wanted anyway. It's the oldest trick in the book, negotiate upwards but your real "want" is what you will get when you reduce the options downwards.

They wanted to enter as amicus which more or less allows them to pick and choose all the human rights violations committed by Qarase (and if they're feeling generous they might point out that the junta also committed human rights violations like oh you know some minor traffic violation).

As a by the way, we must applaud the state lawyers McCoy, Pryde and Sherry. They learn pretty quick from their newly adopted junta mother as probably coached to them from I-arse who's still being breast-fed from the bhaini's in terms of bollywood acting. The fake "indignation" is most entertaining as they are the one and same!

Note to Mr Pride: keep those monthly free-booze sessions for the staff going -- its going to get your pockets nowhere and you may soon notice the peaks in "loyalty" on those nominated booze days.

Back to the cruncher. Byrnes & Gates let her be their "friend" and she advises the court using the most marvellous human rights fantasies that you could ever imagine, in order to put Mr Qarase away. Ties in well with the iPM's wishes too and then they'll withdraw the PER as a measure of good-will.

Then they'll pull the sob stories with the international community for sympathy and money and profess that the people have spoken by wanting a new way forward for Fiji a la Peoples Charter aka New Constitution.

Only problem with this is the best laid plans (especially where the junta is concerned) very often go awry.

But our question is who will be the friend of the people in these perplexing times?

September 11, 2007

Bending the Rules

Now this little bit of news was again sooo predictable on the part of the junta....

Twist to ousted PM court case

The Fiji Human Rights Commission wants to be an additional party in the case in which Mr Qarase is questioning the legality of the removal of his government by the Fiji Military last December.

Radaus/ Pacnews
Tue, 11 Sep 2007

SUVA, FIJI ---- There’s been a surprise twist in Fiji concerning the case brought out against the island’s military government by ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase.

The Fiji Human Rights Commission wants to be an additional party in the case in which Mr Qarase is questioning the legality of the removal of his government by the Fiji Military last December.

Radio Australia reports outgoing director of the Fiji Human Rights Commission Shaista Shameem is asking the High Court for permission to be the intervener in Mr Qarase’s case.

She told acting chief justice Judge Anthony Gates this privilege is allowed for under the island’s Human Rights Act.

Dr Shameem said she also want to submit two reports her Commission has compiled about the legality of the military action.

But both the plaintiff and defendants’ lawyers objected to Dr Shameem’s application.

Mr Qarase’s lawyer Tevita Fa wondered whether the reports were authored by the Commission or by Dr Shameem herself.

He suggested the Human Rights Commission’s involvement can be considered at a later date.

The state lawyer agreed, submitting that both the two primary parties be allowed to continue on their own, without the intervention of Dr Shameem’s Commission.

Judge Gates will rule on the matter on Wednesday.

What she essentially suggests in her application is that the Human Rights Commission (HRC) Act can more or less bend the rules of our courts. Now the HRC Act does allow the Proceedings Commissioner (and not the Ombudsman) to be heard in the High Court, the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court in relation to any proceedings for which on unfair discrimination or violations of rights are at issue.

But the HRC's position as intervenor as clearly outlined in this media piece will (predictably) stoke the dying embers of "this coup was not a really a coup" and "Qarase et al committed crimes against humanity".

However, practically thinking the REAL role of the HRC in such a matter whether as amicus curiae or as an intervenor should be to provide specialist (human rights) advice and the HRC MUST BE INDEPENDENT of the parties to the case. There are court standards already in place to ensure this and they are called the High Court Rules.

But what will be most telling is when the learned Judge Gates rules in The Shyster's favour to intervene in this case (and mark our words he will because he wants to save his own neck as co-conspirator).

But wait! Thats not all. In July this year our good ol President under the expert advice (ho hum) of the iAG, Messrs Saiyed Khaiyum promulgated yet again changes to the High Court Act which allowed for judges from Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and India to sit on our benches.

Court stacking anyone? Cus that's really what's going down here.

September 07, 2007

Déjà Vu

Yes we’ve got déjà vu too. We’ve been down this road before and already the regional and international condemnation is coming thick and fast.

Sorry FVB folks. You will again bear the repeated brunt of having to perform miracles of turning water into wine on the tourism front. The upgraded travel advisories won’t make this task any easier.

So again we citizens have to make do with reduced public outbursts. You know what that means on the Letters to Ed and blogging fronts.

What is extremely entertaining tho’ is the continued charade of their continued upholding of our constitution. This time around the junta has firmly placing a noose around the Presidents neck who does not really have powers to declare a state of emergency. A Promulgation does not cut it folks…check your constitution. It is very unclear how The Shyster is interpreting her version of the light blue book.

But if there’s one thing we can count this junta on its PREDICTABILITY. Their cycle of governing has consistently been as follows

• Problem
• Knee Jerk reaction
• Impact
• Rethink reaction
• Problem
• Knee Jerk reaction
• Impact
• Rethink reaction

And so it goes. Only thing is the initial problems they encounter end up metamorphisizing into 3 more problems. Do not be surprised therefore that we aren’t going anywhere. Do not be further shocked to discover that original thinking nahi hai.

So where are we heading right now? Your guess is as good as ours. But hold fast and hold true to the fact that every cloud has a silver lining.

God is with us.

August 20, 2007

Of weasels and weasel tactics

Take a bow Thakur Ranjit Singh aka Thakurji for the most erroneous, shabby, poorly expressed political commentary ever to be presented on national television! Apologies to those who were not privy to last Sunday’s Fiji TV Close Up debacle (take it from us you didn’t miss much), unfortunately the programme is not available for on-line viewing as yet.

The man essentially said that democracy is not about the wishes of the majority and that victims of human rights abuses are a price that we pay for an evolving democracy. Extremely odd that the organization that he is employed for has other views on the matter.

Messrs Thakurji was very careful however not to slam NZ too harshly saying it was a very transparent democracy BUT that it should have intervened with Fiji to get it back on the straight and narrow. In the next breath while detailing how Aotearoa went about their qoliqoli legislation he then went on to say that NZ understands sovereignty (I know! We were equally confused).

Way to go Thakurji…I wonder whether Amnesty International a global NGO committed to human rights worldwide would appreciate this interpretation of human rights and democracy especially on the heels of their international office’s statement supporting the immediate adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples!

But we’re not going to waste any more time on the weasels coming out of the woodwork. What is more concerning is the fast and furious pace that buy-in is being solicited on the Peoples Charter before the 2nd deadline of 31 August. It is very evident that a concerted effort is being made by the junta to get some semblance of numbers from the rural populace (yes Raturala has been busy working that microphone) so that whatever happens next, they can confidently say that XX% of a cross-section of Fiji engaged with us on this charter…it will NOT matter that you disagreed with it (they might tell us later that "actually a majority of people we consulted really liked the charter and therefore the aye’s have it") in which case you will probably join the multitudes of unresolved complaints at the human rights commission or FAIKEK.

The frenzy for getting support whilst it has involved some provincial council engagement, will no doubt quadruple in effort thanks to the new GCC Review team which already (try as we might to be optimistic folks) reeks of an agenda.

We’ve said our piece on this bogus charter before but we’ll say it again. People of Fiji do not be fooled. The only charter that should be worth your time is one which has ballot boxes awaiting your ticks.

August 17, 2007

Come out, come out wherever you are!

It’s not surprising that all the junta supporters are slowly but surely tip-toeing out of the woodwork with emotional black-mailing guns cocked at the ready with their BS about stepping up to the plate for the good of this country or the "house is on fire" etc etc.

They can call it whatever they like, and even sugar-coat it with fat-free sucrine to make it more tempting to swallow but the bottom line is this. They have publicly made their positions known by supporting an illegal regime. That’s fine. They can have their views and that is respected but they will be made to answer for it very soon on the legal, moral, religious and medical fronts. Guilt is very taxing on the human psyche. Moreover, they will be shunned tacitly or untacitly for disrespecting the majority wishes of the voting electorate.

Another key trend is the influx of academic rhetoric being conveniently floated around about “democracy; what/who’s democracy/” or “elections not a panacea” for which our response is "trifling". Underneath it all is clear support for the militia-led removal of a democratically elected government.

Equally concerning is the flooding of FLP allies from Aust and NZ into Fiji. The new TV channel 2 owner Kenneth Stratton who helped the FLP in media aspects of their 2006 manifesto as highlighted by Fiji TV will soon be a player in television broadcasting. We hope Stratton et al have done their number crunching well, as the market is probably already saturated and prospective customers have more pressing priorities with their already dwindling disposable incomes. In addition FICAC has hired yet another Kiwi lawyer to provide advice.

All we will say to that is that Mr Howard and Ms Clarke better get their people straightened out or it will yet again show the wider Pacific community just how inconsistent the big brothers can be. No use jumping up and down about democratic rule when their own citizens are helping the illegal regime aye matey's? Tonga is definitely the place to be come October.

The EU’s confirmation of a financing agreement of F$8mill of public fund Euro’s towards the sugar sector is an interesting development. The agreement was signed in June in the presence of Mr Chaudhry. However the EC as a whole will have to decide in finality next month about the release of funds. Perhaps the statement of 27 June by the German President of the EC is key to this final decision.

All in all, the rhetoric and the correlating actions (and inactions) will speak volumes. To those still “shy” about meeting the public we say come out, come out wherever you are!

July 25, 2007

From Turkey in solidarity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fiji’s laws: The baby that no one wants

By Brother M

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My prescription:

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

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

Counting the cost of the coup...

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Congratulations Frank! You've done it again!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 18, 2007

Snapping out of it together

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

Take an on-line test to assess yourself here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep your chins FIRMLY up.

July 13, 2007

What have you done for me lately?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 06, 2007

Priorities anyone?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 24, 2007

Tick Fever is upon us

Please forgive us for succumbing to a bout of depression and the blues. That’s our excuse for the lapse in updates.

The junta & co and their weekly antics are just too outrageous for words. For us the shock has set in and we are now petrified-ly coming to grips with the fact that they REALLY have no idea about running a country. They have outdone themselves in proving to all and sundry that they are unfit leaders and the injury to the insult is that common sense evades all of them completely.

Yet they still plug their “ability gaps” by appointing family, friends and themselves rampantly all over the place. Consider Driti, who is now a diplomat in fatigues. Wonders will never cease when everything is now possible and legal when it suits the junta.

While much has been said about looking for new friends rather than our historical ANZUS ones, the crude reality is this: better the devil you know. Exploring new geopolitical ties is an exercise in futility because any favours they throw us will be boomerang one’s. Does it really give us an upper hand at this present time? Only for the short term and that’s a promise. While the wooing and the honeymoon period of a new relationship is giddy-ingly heady, the main objective of any new friends is getting their pound of “resource” flesh. For starters our geographic disconnection does nothing for strategic interests of the new global economic powers. History is merely repeating itself. It’s all about domination no matter which region one turns ones line of sight to. Better the devil we know.

From a purely pragmatic point of view, offering the smiles, surf n sand to travelers all the round the other part of the globe is (a) selfishly oblivious to the plight of our island neighbours facing evacuation from rising tides at a time when environmental consciousness is at an all-time high (is Bernadette interim environment minister or not we ask?) (b) lacking of inducements to the travel burden with stop-over packages that lessen the butt-aches and mucked up body clocks.

Madam junta minister, please ease up on the strands of pearls around your neck because they are clearly wreaking havoc on the flow of oxygen to your brain cells. Kinda like your earth-shattering idea of ginger and coconut lollies that will save an economy which has already flat-lined.

It’s also appropriate that we give our 2cents on the debate about democracy being a foreign flower etc etc. Whether we live under democracy, socialism or communism or whatever political ideology, the point is we need some form of rules to live by as a society. Otherwise we would be better of going back to the caveman ethos. Years ago many people opted for democracy. It will stay that way until we, the electorate, decide en masse on another model.

Meanwhile on the ground here political party tensions, undermining, alliances and opportunistic campaigning seems to be doubling up. But public reality and not rhetoric (talk is cheap y’all!) is what will really entice those ticks come 2009. Don’t bother wasting good money on opinion polls guys, we’ll do one online here for free IF this promise comes through. We aren’t however holding our breaths on this “agreement in principle” because our feeling is that the tune will change once the ka-ching hits the coffers. Think about it – would this lot throw away everything to execute/back this coup only to (a) have a successful court hearing declaring them illegal (b) conduct elections 2 years down the track? Nah…they’ve always wanted IN for the long haul and aren’t really ready for Hotel Nukulau as a permanent holiday spot just yet. Mind you when they get there, we are tempted to actively lead a campaign to deter any hard-earned tax dollars going towards feeding, clothing or sheltering them.

But just as money makes the world go round, the dire lack of it will be the tipping point for the junta & co. Regrettably it will be our sweat that will have to fix this but that’s what happens when coups take place. This better be the last coup or else new usurpers will find themselves Kings with no subjects – that’s right – it will be Moce Jo for real then. To that effect we applaud the contribution by the blogger “Observer”. We’re behind this approach 200%.

Deeply disturbing however are the opportunistic sorts using this period of instability for their own means. By this we explicitly and strongly condemn all ideas suggesting that a violent uprising by the people is a solution. No one has the right to suggest that our people can or should be used as expendable commodities for the purposes of political supremacy. No one is ever worth that. The mere idea reeks of selfishness. Forget it y’all – we will resist those notions to the fullest! The biggest insult in this suggestion is the insinuation that we the peoples are gullible, emotionally charged enough to resort to violence and are just plain stupid. So we say, rack off and let’s see if you would put yourselves in the front-line holding your molotov cocktails.

Qarase is to-ing and fro-ing with his decision to return to Suva. Whatever decision he finally makes is inevitably tied to the fact that junta’s much needed Emergency Regulations control “stick” is just waiting in the wings to be cued. His safety if/when he steps foot in Viti Levu will be keenly monitored on all fronts.

Folks, don’t give the junta & co the opportunity to whip out that stick. Let’s just let Qarase be and let him work his butt off to clear his parties name if he still wants those ticks. In the meantime he and SDL have a lot of work to do. We would caution Ro Teimumu against the cocky struts of assuming that they will win again merely because the electorate is incensed enough with the junta & co to prove a point. We will prove our point but we are also incensed enough to bestow our ticks to those who truly deserve it and who will deliver. Not the type of representation that has been common in the past once the ticks have been counted (read: see ya in 5 years time!).

On the NFP front, the latest sugar crushing drama seems to score points nicely in their favour. The FLP as a party would do well to change the leadership. Even though Mahend is the embodiment of the party he and his son will asphyxiate it to death if they remain there. The most logical thing to then do would be for those opposed to him to form a breakaway party that will be truly open to multiculturalism. The time is right and we hope Krishna Dutt stick’s around to lead that kind of legacy.

There are murmurs that already some members of this illegal government are feathering their nests to team up with the oddest people in yet another new party. Well...if Jone Navakamocea could so boldly stick a knife in the front and back of SDL (read: liumuri), just watch the new alliances reveal themselves and be amused.

Perhaps this time of respite is an opportunity to really reflect on the values we deem worthy of our ticks for the next government. One thing is certain. These next elections will show advanced voter maturity even in the rural sectors (read: remittances revenge). We may see the phasing out of votes along party lines and the evolution of independent candidates—especially those who (a) take their marriage vows seriously (b) walk the talk (c) know what the hell to talk about in the first place (read: proven credibility).

So while tick fever hypes up, a few words in ending for those who are actively backing the junta & co. Fortunately for us Fiji can still boast a sense of community. In some way everyone know’s everyone else. So while you backers enjoy your time in the limelight remember the legacy you will pass on to your descendants. Will they carry your name with pride or will they cower all over the country/world in shame? To be ostracized as a community reject is far more distressing than incarceration because the latter is time-bound while the first is forever.

June 10, 2007

Teleni no-show on live programme

Acting military commander Captain Esala Teleni failed to show up at a live Fijian language television talk-back show “Viti Nikua” today.

The host Sakiusa Bolaira told viewers Teleni was to have fielded questions in the weekly Sunday afternoon programme.

Apologising for the disruption to the programme, Bolaira said several attempts to get in contact with Teleni by telephone were futile. He said soldiers told them Teleni was in a meeting of military officers.

Bolaira said they were trying to get in touch with ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase but couldn’t get through to him also.

Instead of the usual questions from callers put to a studio guest (or a guest over the phone), an old documentary about Fiji’s veteran soldiers who fought in the Solomon Islands in World War II was played.

Teleni was appointed in the past week as Commissioner of Police, ahead of acting police commissioner Romanu Tikotikoca. The Constitutional Offices Commission refused to answer questions about Teleni’s qualifications to head the police force over Tikotikoca saying they were “confidential”.

"We don't discuss those kinds of things with the media, that's confidential," he told a Fiji Times reporter.

Only three applicants were interviewed for the job: Tikotikoca, Teleni and a former soldier. Teleni is also deputy commissioner of the regime’s anti-corruption unit which has a fashionable-sounding acronym FICAC (pronounced fai-kak!).

The appointment of the second-highest ranking officer in the RFMF as Commissioner of Police doesn’t look right, but hey, we’re run by a military regime.

Speaking truth to power

Six months after the military decided it knew best about how to run this country, it’s done a pretty good job of trying to shut up critics. It reached a farcical high point between March (the beginning of the hunt for Intelligentsiya) and May (during the hunt for fellow Freedom Blogger, FijianBlack).

Thankfully not everybody is afraid to peacefully speak their minds - and not everyone minds being hunted by the military over their opinions.

In case you haven’t noticed, several other blogs have joined the ranks of the Fiji Freedom bloggers. There’s what we think to be the first dedicated Fijian language blog called i Taukei and Très Désabusé. In Très Désabusé's words: "To say that there must be no criticism of this unelected interim group of sycophants, or that we are to stand by them, right or wrong is not only unpatriotic and servile but is morally treasonable to the Fijian public." Keep the discussion going people.

Lawyer Graham Leung is one of those few people who are not afraid of telling it like it is, as Très Désabusé has already pointed out.

His speech at the 20th Biennial LawAsia Conference in Hong Kong on Friday, June 8 lays bare the division within the legal fraternity and dangerous ground the judiciary is now treading in being complicit with the military junta.

Read Leung's speech on the Fiji Times’ website here.

Precluding Leung's speech, an episode in a rather tiny courtroom of the High Court in Suva on Wednesday morning observed by the diplomatic corp illustrates the suspicion that the interim regime is "pressuring" the judiciary or that parts of the judiciary itself are complicit.

In that case, Dr John Cameron, another lawyer unafraid to speak his mind, told Justice Jiten Singh's court that this "illegal regime has no intention of having its illegal acts scrutinised by the courts".

An Australian with decades of experience on the Fiji Bar, Dr Cameron was representing Angie Heffernan, who as (now replaced) executive director of the Pacific Centre for Public Integrity, is seeking constitutional redress for being threatened by the military for her criticism.

Dr Cameron was reacting to a last-minute order obtained under questionable circumstances by the interim regime to halt the case which was to be heard from Wednesday. He questioned the urgency with which the order was made - during off-court hours just one working day away from the main hearing to begin on Wednesday morning.

Justice John Byrne, a High Court judge who was recently appointed to the bench of the Court of Appeal, granted the order at 4.30pm on Monday. Dr Cameron also questioned the propriety of Justice Byrnes ruling on the application by the Attorney-General, when his appointment to the Appeals Court, like the appointment of acting Chief Justice Anthony Gates, would be challenged in a case brought by the Fiji Law Society on June 28.

Justice Jiten Singh who is presiding over the case expressed surprise himself that he didn't hear about the order until the morning of the case. And Dr Cameron asked Justice Singh to summon the Attorney-General to court to explain why he should not pay the plaintiff cost out of his own pocket for deliberately delaying the case.

But the lawyer representing the Attorney-General monotonously insisted that since an order from a higher court had been made to stop the hearing, the application could not be heard. Dr Cameron and Justice Singh, though annoyed and irritated at the delay, agreed that nothing could be done until the full Court of Appeal is petitioned to set aside Justice Byrne's order.

On Thursday, Justice Byrne was visibly angry (almost quivering with rage) when approached by Fiji TV reporter Sainimili Finiasi questioning him on the order he made. He said judges could not comment on their own decisions and when he was asked about whether he had been properly appointed to the Court of Appeal, he replied, "It's in the Constitution."

Acting Chief Justice Anthony Gates evaded speaking to the camera referring Finiasi to a written response to questions she sent him before being whisked away in his "official" vehicle.

Ousted Vice President, respected lawyer and chief Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi also spoke of the weakening of the rule of law following the military coup (on Fiji Times's site).

That episode earlier in the week illustrates the sort of legal division Leung referred to in his speech. And its not just amongst the lawyers. The judges who are willingly helping the interim regime seem are also on the defensive.

June 09, 2007

Post-mortem of a coup

Here’s some excerpts from a collection of writings published this week on the 2006 election and coup by various writers, edited by Dr Jon Fraenkel and Dr Stewart Firth.

The book “From Election to Coup in Fiji: The 2006 Campaign and its Aftermath” was launched this week in Fiji and Australia.

To download the complete chapter that summarizes the 2006 coup and its illegality go here. (Thanks to Dr Fraenkel for the link)

"Because the prime minister had declined to resign and the president equivocated, the illegality of the takeover had become inevitable.

“Bainimarama, having himself rendered the government incapable of acting, claimed its incapacity as justification for the takeover.

The military’s actions unleashed “an accusatory culture, and putting judgement into the hands of those who were not experts, also elevated the position of those with axes to grind on the mill of the clean-up campaign.

“In time, indigenous Fijian resistance to the interim government might grow. The Methodist church is by no means reconciled to the new order, and nor are the Bau and Cakaudrove chiefs. The government – short of money – will impose public spending cuts that are likely to stir resentment in the indigenous Fijian community, especially as Mahendra Chaudhry will be the minister implementing them.

“The May 2006 election, like that of August 2001, had been rigged, said the FLP leader, dismissing the ‘rhetoric about the takeover of a democratically-elected Government’. In these statements, Chaudhry was clearly positioning himself for an extraordinary transition from steadfast upholder of the rule of law to participant in an illegal administration, from RFMF victim to ally of the latest military insurrection and from principled democrat to coup apologist.

“The independence of the judiciary, which had been damaged but not broken by the events of 29 May 2000, was now to be more thoroughly compromised by senior judges’ assumption of positions under the auspices of an illegal regime.

“The RFMF had transformed itself from the guarantor of indigenous Fijian paramountcy into its nemesis. The FLP had cartwheeled from victim to victor in the illegal overthrow of elected governments, and the despised language of the 2000 coup (‘I agree with the goals, but not the means’) had become the favoured retort of those seeking accommodations with the new order. It was an event justified, like previous coups, by claims that perhaps Fiji was not yet ready for democracy, nor for institutions that had been carefully nurtured over hundreds of years in Europe and north America.”

June 06, 2007

Military encroaching on academic freedom?

The power of anonymity…

From Cassandra's Desk

Two "anonymous" responses to my recent writings for Intelligentsiya speculated as to my real identity. Well, apologies and all that but your correspondent finds anonymity just too convenient for his particular purposes to even think about revealing his true persona.

For example, how inconvenient would it be if one Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama knew that Cassandra - the mythical prophetess of doom - was none other than yours truly?

Full disclosure - due to our respective associations with certain popular sports, Fiji's self-appointed ruler and your humble correspondent have been acquainted for some time.

But, I hasten to add, that particular connection is ALL we have in common. Moreover, I can honestly state that even before he went completely coup-coup, I never found any reason to like or admire the man, nor can I think of anything else - excluding of course gender and nationality - that could be cited as even remotely resembling a shared characteristic.

Indeed, we couldn't be more different. It’s all about being civilized. Without putting too fine a point on it, I believe - passionately - in civil, open society. Frank's all too apparent creed is guns, threats and deceit.

Whereas he relies on a chain of command and his rank enables him to bark orders to achieve his ends, I rely on an extensive and collaborative network of dear friends and allies, a network based wholly and solely on mutual trust, mutual respect and shared values and ideals.

And it’s a very supportive little network, thank you very much. All I need to do is ask - and whatever I seek is willingly proffered or shared if it is available. Now, is that or is that not, a civilized way to get things done? It’s certainly more civilized than pointing guns at people and trampling on their rights by illegally detaining them or beating them to death!

Now, were Bainimarama to discover my true identity, I suppose we could expect at the very least a cameo display of that unpleasant curled-lip sneer of his, and some (very) naughty words. Oh dear!

On the other hand (and this is my reason for addressing the issue of anonymity), how would he react to learning the identities and views of certain others, also long-time acquaintances, but ones far more powerful, influential and better placed than yours truly?

According to sources in my aforementioned network, this growing bank of disaffected “Francophones” – including in the military! - are now united in their opinion that Frank's nation-saving coup has become a nation-wrecking disaster.

And if Frank were to discover exactly what these erstwhile cronies now think of him and what they would like to see happen, there's be no time for sneers or oaths.

Rather, I foresee a sudden and urgent desire for the same cloak of anonymity that your correspondent finds so convenient.

Anonymously Yours,


May 22, 2007

The paradox is in the pudding (or Why Are Bloggers Such a Horror)

Have you noticed how, since the military-blogger shenanigans started in March, the mainstream media have demonstrated an aversion to blogs and bloggers?

They hardly knew what blogs were before Intelligentsiya went live in January. Even today, radio, TV and newspapers all think that the word blog is interchangeable with Blogspot and that “blogsites” is also a term to describe it. Could it be an aversion to technology the journalists barely knew existed before the December putsh?

The aversion could also stem from the fact that most of the media have just gotten their heads around the whole business of the World Wide Web. The grand old FijiVillage is still there – emphasis on the old. And FijiLive, whose design is definitely past its used-by date, is trying to hold on to its reputation of online breaking news reporting

Then there’s the site that’s desperate for a top ranking of country sites, FijiTimesOnline.

FijiDailyPost went online last year, with its self-proclaimed “independent” reporting. There’s also Fiji TV whose newly redesigned site has an irritating urge for users to log in before seeing content that is much touted on the evening news bulletins.

Don’t forget Fiji Sun’s online edition. The underdog of all the Fiji news sites which looks like staying like that for a while. The site’s usability became worse after some reconfiguration a while back. It’s never updated during the day, and navigation is a nightmare.

The point is, bloggers have been a threat to the online presence of the established media. We’re taking eyeballs away from their websites, to quote Patrick Craddock of the USP journalism school, and they don’t like it. Internationally it’s becoming acceptable for staff writers, reporters, announcers, photographers - most media people - to blog as part of their work. But I think there was some horror (expressed by a journalist being interviewed on TV) that blogs should be mentioned in the same word as journalism.

Hence, the underlying hostility when the media reports on bloggers.

However, the paradox it created for bloggers was that while the media attention was focused on what the military were threatening to do to us, free speech became a tangled metaphor and some of the real issues that needed to be raised were pushed off the news agenda.

We definitely appreciated the media attention because it contributed to the military seeming to back down from censorship of cyberspace. But even bloggers were caught up in the coverage of ourselves.

Propaganda, fuels counter-propaganda, fuels counter-counter propaganda… An endless cycle of talking heads and back-chat while the country goes to hell in a handbasket.

For a good rundown of how every junta leader and his dog jumped on the blogger bandwagon last week and what we should not lose sight of, read FijianBlack’s assessment here.

Another day in this blogging paradise

It’s been another day in paradise. Or has it?

Today Fiji’s bloggers have been given a reprieve. The army says it’s not bothered with trying to find us anymore. They shouldn’t have tried to in the first place, but that’s the military mindset at work: we order, you minions follow; if you’re not with us, you’re against us.

But despite the pretence of not minding our incessant blogging, the military really is itching to get its hands on us.

Fiji Times spoke to Colonel Pita Driti and reported,

“However, he did say that if bloggers were eventually found they would be taken to the camp to be questioned.”

So we’re not letting our guard down, because we know at least a bit about how the army mind works.

Already they’ve mistakenly taken in people accusing them of being bloggers. Yes we know business Ulaiasi Taoi was not the only one. There was at least one other person the military hauled up to QEB for “questioning” after being wrongly linked to the Freedom Blogs, and it was not SDL parliamentarian Ted Young.

It’s almost daily that the military junta make outrageous statements that seem to be its hallmark.

Self-proclaimed prime minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama made two today in one brief interview.

Asked by Fiji TV reporter Sainimili Finiasi outside his office this afternoon about interim finance minister Mahendra Chaudhry’s comments in India that Fiji would hold elections in 2010, Bainimarama almost snorted.

He said it “doesn’t make sense” for the military to have overthrown the government in December only to have elections several months later because “this would make us the laughing stock of the whole world”. (Ahem, we already are!) Now for those of you who were not convinced earlier that Bainimarama is an autocrat in the making, then this is proof from the horse’s mouth.

Bainimarama then used the familiar line that Fiji should be left to sort out its own problems (but thanks very much for the EU cash) before going to elections. This implies the junta will then think about elections when it feels like it.

He was also asked about human rights violations reported by people who were arbitrarily detained at various military installations and assaulted.

“Aha,” Bainimarama said, wagging his finger and smiling, “that’s where the problem is. They claim it (human rights abuses) and you report it as true.”

I thought I’d heard wrong, but it was there in colour on our TV screen.

So Ted Young’s black-eye must have been the result of walking into the cell door at QEB. And Ulaiasi Taoi’s account must have been a bad dream he had while naked in the cell.

Interim attorney-general Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said today (again on Fiji TV) the interim government isn’t breaking the promises it made regarding arbitrary arrests. “It’s only when necessary,” he told Fiji TV, that people are detained by soldiers. It looks like military detentions have become a necessity then. Take the hint from a post on WFC – we should just be declared a “military state” (This theme was echoed by the Fiji Times editorial today titled 'Who is in control')

We really shouldn’t be surprised but then again… It’s a case of one arm saying something and the other saying something else, hardly the sign of a cohesive “government” leading this country to eternal bliss.

The irony keeps on coming. After unleashing their heavily armed selves on a coup-weary population, the junta is now persuading all and sundry that the “Bula Spirit” is well and truly alive. Of course, the hotel worker who lost her job or the casual labourer working on a construction site who was laid off, are all expected to be cheery and welcoming to the visitor, despite not being able to put food on the table.

While she’s part of an illegal regime, you have to give it to interim tourism minister Bernadette Rounds-Ganilau for telling it like it is.

On Fiji TV’s “Have Your Say” program tonight she all but admitted the dire state of the tourism industry, while in the same breath gushing about how tourists who do visit find that paradise never went anywhere when booking in at the four and five-star resort in the Western division.

“We don’t even have attachments that don’t pay,” she said in response to a question from a tourism graduate that he has been searching fruitlessly for a job in the industry for quite some time.

So while it may be another day in paradise for the tourists this country is so hard-up for, the ordinary people of Fiji are confronted daily with bread-and-butter issues, most of which were forced on them by the actions of the military leadership in their misguided belief that staging a coup would set things right for this country once and for all.