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Five Statements From the Interim Fiji Government

Statements From the Interim Fiji Government

Five statements from the office of the Fijian Information Minister

- FOREIGN AFFAIRS ASSURES FOREIGN MISSIONS
- TRAUMA UNIT ESTABLISHED
- SANCTIONS NOT SO SMART: GOVERNMENT
- THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT NEEDS TO LEARN FROM ITS OWN LESSONS
- PSC RESPONDS TO FPSA CLAIMS
- GOVERNMENT TO ASSIST EMPEROR GOLDMINES


15th September, 2000

FOREIGN AFFAIRS ASSURES FOREIGN MISSIONS

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, External Trade and Sugar has advised all foreign missions in Fiji that the situation is improving.

In a Diplomatic note to the missions, the ministry said that since the establishment of the interim government, the law and order situation in the country has improved significantly. It also advised that although there was still some opposition to the new government, the public reaction has been generally positive.

The Ministry asked for the goodwill and understanding of the missions and the International and Regional Organisations, and for them to convey to their capitals that the government is taking appropriate measures to return the country to normality.

It also highlighted steps that have already been taken in this direction, including:

… the formulating of a Mini Budget to stimulate economic recovery

… the establishment of a Ministry of National Reconciliation

… the arrest of rebels and their leaders, which illustrates government¹s commitment to restoring law and order and

… the establishment of a Constitution Commission to review the Constitution and a Road Map of Return to Democratic Rule within 2-3 years, which illustrates government¹s commitment to political stability.

The Embassy of Japan was the first mission to give its assurance of cooperation with the Interim administration.

(End)

14th September, 2000

Statement by the Minister for Information & Communications, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola on Fijian Holdings Limited

The Minister for Information and Communications, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, says the People's Coalition's call for an independent public inquiry into the affairs of Fijian Holdings Limited is designed to discredit the Interim Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase, on the eve of his departure to the United Nations.

Fijian Holdings Limited is a public company, and, therefore, premature at this stage to comment on the allegations and the call for an inquiry, he said. However, the Minister noted that Fijian Holdings Ltd is a public company, with a Chairman and Board of Directors who would be in a better position to comment on the matter.

Meanwhile, it is understood that Fijian Holdings Limited has referred the matter to its Solicitors.

[End]

14th September, 2000

TRAUMA UNIT ESTABLISHED

Cabinet has agreed to the formal setting up of a national trauma recovery team following a recommendation by the Ministry of Health.

The unit, to be known as the Fiji Trauma Recovery Team (FTRT), was first established after the events of May 19th by the Health Ministry in association with the Republic of Fiji Military Forces.

FTRT members comprise qualified professionals and lay people who provide support and counseling to political hostages, their families and those seriously affected by the events of May 19th and its aftermath.

Specifically, the FTRT will be responsible for:

providing general psychological and mental health services as might be required to assist in the recovery of those directly affected by the May 19th and post May 19th events.

providing general psychological and mental health services to minimise the impact of the current situation on the community at large and,

providing services that are culturally acceptable and respecting customary methods of recovery from traumatic stress.

Personnel currently serving with the FTRT are drawn from the Health Ministry, RFMF, non-government organisations and overseas expert advisers.

(End)

14th September, 2000

SANCTIONS NOT SO SMART: GOVERNMENT

Sanctions are not so smart and only serve to increase nationalism as the European Parliament has just found out, says the Minister for Information and Communications, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola.

Sanctions imposed by the European Union on Austria after the election to power of a nationalistic party have only increased nationalism in the country, the EU has just been told by a panel of experts.

Ratu Inoke's comments come after the European Parliament threatened to impose sanctions on Fiji unless the country returned to parliamentary democracy within six(6) months.

The outcome of such punitive sanctions, imposed or threatened, only cause resentment and anger to grow in Fiji, Ratu Inoke said.

The so called smart sanctions are not so smart after all and serve to strengthen Fijian nationalism and make rigid ethnically cherished positions.

Ratu Inoke said the European Union and the Commonwealth, including Australia and New Zealand, must recognize the need for understanding and assistance.

They will do more good for Fiji by being willing to listen to us rather than preaching to us.

Ratu Inoke said the sanctions imposed on Austria were also seen as a case of big states bullying a smaller one.

He said similar perceptions of blatant bullying exist amongst the people of Fiji over recent actions and statements by Australia, New Zealand and the European Union.

It is another example of large rich nations ganging together to impose their will on a small island state with a population of 400,000 indigenous people and limited resources.

-End-

14th September, 2000

THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT NEEDS TO LEARN FROM ITS OWN LESSONS

Statement by the Minister for Information & Communications, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola

We sincerely hope that elements in the European Parliament like Chaudhry's Kinnocks will learn from what European experts have just told the European Union about its treatment of Austria. They have been told that sanctions have increased nationalism in Austria.

And some states see it as a case of the big states bullying a smaller one. Similar perceptions exist amongst the people of Fiji of the treatment of Fiji by Australia, New Zealand and the European Union.

The people of Fiji, especially indigenous Fijians seeking a recognition of their rights perceive Australia, New Zealand and the European Union and their threats and sanctions as a case of blatant bullying. It is a case of nations of millions of people wanting to impose their will on a population of 400,000 indigenous people, unique to Fiji.

It is an example of large rich nations ganging together to force their views on a small island state, with limited resources.

The outcome is that these punitive actions, including the smart sanctions, which are not at all smart, causing resentment and anger to grow.

These punitive actions are resulting in fuelling Fijian consciousness and strengthening Fiji nationalism and making rigid ethnically cherished positions.

Hopefully the European Union and the Commonwealth including Australia and New Zealand will recognize the need for understanding and assistance, and will respond with a willingness to listen to us and stop preaching to us.

-End-

14th September, 2000

PSC RESPONDS TO FPSA CLAIMS

Accusations leveled at the Public Service Commission by the Fiji Public Service Association in yesterday¹s Fiji Times (13/09/00) entitle ŒWe don¹t trust PSC, says union leader¹ is not only unwarranted but is also superfluous.

Secretary for the Public Service, Anare Jale, said the statement lacks the insightfulness that one would expect from such a responsible organization representing thousands of members.

³Sadly, the Association seem to have deviated from the acceptable practice of direct interactions, mutual trust and partnership with the Commission, opting instead to go direct to the media and in the process misleading not only the public but also its own members.²

Mr Jale said the Commission would like to assure Mr Rajeshwar Singh that under no condition is the Commission becoming a law unto itself and making unilateral decisions, because the Commission is fully accountable to the Government and the people of Fiji Islands.

On the Association¹s continuing conviction that the Commission was instrumental in the implementation of the 12.5% pay cut, Mr Jale said the Commission would reserve its comment as the issue is presently before the Arbitration Tribunal.

³Unfortunately Mr Singh¹s comments can be construed as unduly influencing the arbitration process.²

Mr Jale said Mr Singh¹s comments that the Memorandum of Agreement signed by the unions and the PSC Board on 17/03/00 provided for both parties to jointly finalize a Performance Management System (PMS) for civil servants by June 30 this year is quite true.

However, Mr Jale said this needs to be clarified, adding the PMS referred to in the Agreement is the performance appraisal and remuneration linkage system of the PMS.

³This is still to be negotiated and agreed to with all the Public Service Unions before it is implemented.²

He said the other aspects of the PMS such as the corporate planning, management planning, performance agreements, position descriptions and individual work plans (PMS) are already operational in Ministries and Departments and this is the substance of PSC Circular No. 40/2000 of 01/09/00 which Mr Singh is obviously confused about.

³Had he contacted PSC in the first instance, we would have easily clarified it to him.²

-End-

13th September 2000

GOVERNMENT TO ASSIST EMPEROR GOLDMINES

Cabinet has endorsed a proposal to assist Emperor Gold Mining Company Limited (EGM) in the light of the current situation in Fiji, depressed international gold prices and other factors.

A major issue in Government¹s agreement to assist EGM has been the need to protect and retain jobs at the Vatukoula Mines as well as helping the company overcome its current financial problems.

The Government was also concerned with acting to help preserve a vital national industry with good potential for long term growth. Government is also conscious of gold mining¹s crucial role in the economy of the Ba and Tavua areas. It believes Emperor¹s project to develop a new mine at Tuvatu is promising. It will assist in whatever way it can and hopes to encourage a specific investment initiative.

The proposal to cabinet was submitted by the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Investment following a request for assistance from the company.

In its consideration of the assistance programme to EGM, Cabinet noted that the company had been receiving assistance and subsidies since the commencement of mining operations in Vatukoula in the 1930s. No special assistance, however has been given to EGM in the last nine years since the current management took over.

Government¹s previous assistance programmes to EGM have been on the basis of its contribution to the national economy.

In the 1960s, EGM, for example, contributed 50 percent of total exports. By 1998 EGM contributed 7.4 percent of total exports and accounted for 2.7 percent of Fiji¹s gross domestic product.

However, since the events of May 19th, the company has suffered a 20 percent loss in market capitalisation on the Australian stock exchange in addition to depressed gold prices which have been at historically low levels since 1997.

EMG sought specific Government assistance as follows:

… provision of a pumping subsidy for pumping mine water out of underground mines. Pumping costs have increased as a result of increased power costs from the recent increases in diesel fuel;

… that the export tax on gold and silver be removed and be replaced with a sliding scale royalty as export taxes are inconsistent with government¹s policy for export -led economic growth;

… EGM to access the national power grid through the use of hydro electricity during FEA¹s off peak periods. Hydro electricity is less costly than EGM¹s diesel power on site; and … concessions on fuel and oil.

Cabinet¹s decision to respond positively to EGM¹s request for assistance will entail the grant of the following concessions:

… the removal of the three percent export tax.

… the reduction in duty on fuel from ten cents to four cents per litre in line with similar concessions to the bus industry.

… the rationalisation of fiscal duties on EGM¹s machinery, equipment and raw materials to three percent.

Cabinet has agreed that these concessions will be reviewed after six months or earlier when gold prices rise above US$315 per ounce.

Also the concessions, worth $4.4 million dollars, are being granted on the understanding that Government and EGM will adopt a new tax policy within six months to replace the Vatukoula Tax Agreement of 1982 and that the company retain its current employment level unless conditions deteriorate further.

(END)

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