Fiji People's Coalition Govt Issues 249-259
GCC, Regime Differ On Legality Of Land Transfers
Issue No: 259 4 December 2000
The chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs, Sitiveni Rabuka has stated that the GCC has not given any mandate to the interim regime to convert crown land into native land by decrees.
In a statement widely quoted by Fiji media, Rabuka stated that the mandate was only to keep the machinery of government running. He stated that while the GCC desired that state land be transferred to native ownership, this should be done lawfully and after careful consideration of the effects of the transfer.
The regime's interim Lands Minister Mitieli Bulanauca earlier informed the media that the regime had received its mandate from the Great Council of Chiefs, and it did not bother about the High Court ruling on its legality.
Government of reconciliation & unity need in Fiji - NZ Issue No: 258 4 December 2000
New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister, Phil Goff says Fiji is still along way from finding a solution to its problems.
Today's Fiji Times reported that Goff stated that Fiji has not even started to address the causes of the disturbances, including bringing those responsible for the terrorist activities to justice. He also stated that the problems need to be addressed "front on" and grievances put to rest for Fiji to be back on the path to democracy.
Goff called for a government of national reconciliation and unity in Fiji.
No democracy, no investment - says US Ambassador Issue No: 257 4 December 2000
Investment in Fiji will not take place unless democracy is re-established in the country.
This was the message of the American Ambassador, Osman Siddique to the Fiji-USA Business Council over the weekend.
According to a report buried on p. 22 of today's Fiji Times, Siddique told the Council:
"Neither the people nor the private sector want a future in which investors exist in fortified island surrounded by seas of misery. Democracy gives us a chance to avoid that future."
He further stated:
"I want more American investments in Fiji but before any American dollar can come in, you have to make sure that the commercial environment is fair and not exposed to undue risks".
Authorities from the Qarase regime are trying to bring to Fiji American investors to convince them to invest in Fiji. It is believed that the regime paid for a trip for some businessmen from the US to Fiji recently.
Law and Order breakdown a concern, say Hoteliers Issue No: 256 4 December 2000
The breakdown in law and order in Fiji is a major concern for the tourist industry.
Over the recent months, cases of assault, harassment, and robbery of hotel owners, employees and tourists has increased.
The concern is so great for the hoteliers that the Fiji Hotel Association has listed maintenance of law and order and political stability in Fiji as one of the main themes for this year's Tourism Forum. Today's Fiji Times reports that the FHA has expressed concern that the recent increase in robberies against hotel owners and tourists.
Two weeks ago the owners of a resort in Kadavu were beaten and robbed by robbers from Viti Levu. They were assisted by a resort employee who got a suspended sentence by the Fiji courts. The victims have expressed shock at the lenient sentence by the courts to the accomplice. The robbers are still to be tried.
Data on robberies show that most of the robberies and assaults are carried out not by unemployed youth, but by those who have regular jobs. A vast majority of the robbers are ethnic Fijians.
Commonwealth Envoy appointed Issue No: 255 4 December 2000
The Commonwealth has appointed Justice Pius Langa as its special envoy to Fiji reports today's Fiji Times.
Justice Langa is a South African judge with, as Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon stated, "a distinguished record in jurisprudence as well as considerable experience in politics of pluralism and national reconciliation". He will be assisted by two senior officials Judith Pestaina and Michele Law.
The appointment follows the decision by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) to "appoint a Special Envoy who would act as a facilitator to accelerate the restoration of democracy and to promote national unity in Fiji" (see http://www.pcgov.org.fj/archive/2000-09/no44.htm for the full CMAG decision). The decision emerged from the request by the People's Coalition Government to the CMAG to appoint a special envoy to facilitate the return to the 1997 constitution (see http://www.pcgov.org.fj/docs_c/cmag_pm_address.htm for the PCG submission).
The Qarase regime says it is not aware of the appointment.
University's role questioned Issue No: 254 3 December 2000
Asesela Ravuvu's statements on political supremacy of ethnic Fijians has brought into focus the role of the University of the South Pacific in the Pacific.
A long letter written by Tongan Sione Masina in today's Sunday Times questions the values which the USP considers when promoting its academics.
Ravuvu is a professor of Pacific Studies at the USP. Masina wrote:
"Pacific Island parents have placed their trust in Fiji's chiefs and leader by sending what they treasure most - their children - to attend and learn from such regional institutions."
"The events of 19 May, 2 November (not to mention 1987) show how misplaced this trust in the integrity of the chiefs and leaders of Fiji has been.
"Professor Ravuvu's contemptuous and unprincipled diatribes raise an even more serious issue - that is that standards being included into the students who attend the USP, the standards which are being set for the future of Fiji and other Pacific Islands. ow did someone like Ravuvu get awarded a `professorship'?"
"What is the process that the USP follows before it grants this professor title?.."
"If the system at the USP enables Ravuvu to be considered worthy of the title of [professor] the USP needs help.."
"Can it be that the likes of Professor Ravuvu have already brainwashed/influenced Pacific Islands students to believe that the `pacific Way' means blaming Indians (or everybody else but yourself); saying nothing against injustices; blindly following the more vocal, unscrupulous and bullying chiefs; claiming all the perks you feel you are entitled to with no responsibility and discrediting anybody else whose op[inion may differ to your own?"
Many others have occasionally raised the issue of ethical standards at the USP. USP had closed down the journalism students' website at the height of the hostage crisis, which many saw as a direct attempt to curb not only academic freedom at the USP, but also to placate the terrorist George Speight and his band. The USP has also remained silent on the involvement of the students' union president in terrorist activities in May this year. Some USP staff also advised the military and the state lawyers on drafting decrees which attempted to abrogate the 1997 Constitution. The High Court has now declared that the attempted abrogation was illegal.
USP has also given leave to a law lecturer to work for the regime's Constitution Commission. The High Court has declared that the Constitution Commission has no legal basis. Another USP academic has been vocal in advocating an ethnic supremacist ideology in Fiji. Michael Kidd, a Fellow in Legal Practice, wrote a long centrefold article on Fiji in today's Sunday Times (3 December) where he not only argued in support of extremist indigenous Fijians who believe that they risk cultural marginalisation in Fiji, but also hit out at Justice Gates for criticising the Chief Justice's role in the attempted abrogation of the 1997 Constitution.
Disband army, says former academic turned farmer Issue No: 253 3 December 2000
Prominent spice farmer and retired American Professor of Economics Ronald Gatty says that the military should be disbanded.
In a letter to the editor of today's Sunday Post, Gatty wrote:
"Everything is the opposite in Fiji.. Army guns caused the problem and held the nation to ransom. We should disarm the army, not the civilians.
"Civilians with guns have some sense. Most of them are vulagi and not wild-eyed indigenists."
"They have never hurt anyone except a few pigeons"..
"It was the army guns - and Fijians at that - shooting at people, threatening elected parliamentarians."
"Fijians bludgeoned Indian farmers, not Indian farmers who bludgeoned Fijians".
"In mob violence it was Fijians again who rioted and looted in the streets of Suva and burnt buildings".
"Gun-toting civilians were as peaceful as pussycats. Indians and white people, mostly".
"We should disarm the army. Give guns to civilians who have proven themselves responsible, unlike the army"
"Please disband the army or export it to Lebanon.. Here at home in Fiji . the army is not the solution to our problems. The army is the problem. And give us civilians our guns back".
Gatty was commenting on the police force's decision to take back all guns legally held by civilians. Most such guns are hunting rifles.
Gatty has lived in Fiji from before 1987. After the 1987 military coup, Gatty wrote in the New York Times almost supporting the deposition of the Bavadra government. For a period, he had a column in the Fiji Times but was forced to stop writing by the SVT government then. Now Gatty occasionally writes anti-coup letters.
Refugee colonies for evicted farmers Issue No: 252 3 December 2000
New refugee colonies will be established for farmers evicted from their farms by the Native Lands Trust Board.
The National Farmers Union announced yesterday that a new colony will be established in Nanuku Rakiraki before the end of this month. Union President, Krishna Chand Sharma said that similar refugee camps will be established in Tavua, Ba, Lautoka, Nadi and Sigatoka. The NFU has one refugee camp already running in Valelawa in Vanua Levu.
The decision to establish refugee camps was made by the NFU's council members who met yesterday. The Union states that the farmers have no choice but to stay in refugee camps because the regime has encouraged the NLTB to evict farmers, while at the same time, not providing for the welfare of the evicted farmers.
This year over 700 leases in the sugar can areas have not been renewed. Most of the farmers in Fiji harvest between 100 and 150 tonnes of cane. At the current market price of cane, farmers' gross revenue is between $5,000 and $8,000 from which all farming, harvesting and transportation costs have to be deducted leaving farmers in perpetual indebtedness and below the official poverty line.
Some Western chiefs warn of violence Issue No: 251 3 December 2000
Some chiefs from Western Viti Levu have warned that if the interim President Ratu Josefa Iloilo was replaced, his people may resort to violence.
According to a report in yesterday's Fiji Times (2 December), some western chiefs met in Namoli village to discuss the Judge Gates decision. According to the Fiji Times, the Tui Vitogo Ratu Jovesa Sovasova warned of violence if the presidency changed. The Fiji Times quoted an unnamed chief as saying: "Do the judges want turmoil in the country to continue? The law is one thing but reality is another".
Meanwhile, the interim President Ratu Josefa Iloilo met some western chiefs yesterday. Also reportedly present was Sailosi Kepa, the Ombudsman and the Chair of the Human Rights Commission. Kepa's wife is a minister in the interim regime. Others present included defeated SVT government minister Isimeli Bose. It is not clear what the meeting was about, or the decisions taken.
Fiji Times lends support to Savua Issue No: 250 3 December 2000
The Fiji Times has supported the reinstatement of Isikia Savua to the post of Police Commissioner.
Today's Sunday Times editorial stated that because the Board of Inquiry into Savua's conduct cleared him, he must be allowed to continue to lead the force. It stated: "It is best that he be allowed to continue his work as the police chief without any further interruptions".
The other English language dailies, the Fiji Sun and the partly government owned, Daily Post, have both expressed concern at the decision to reinstate Savua.
So far, other than the Fiji Times, only former PM, Sitiveni Rabuka and the SVT have supported Savua's reinstatement.
Rotuman leader concerned about regime's Blueprint Issue No: 249 3 December 2000
The Chairman of the Council of Rotuma, Visanti Makrava has expressed concern at the regime's Blueprint for Fijian and Rotuman development.
In an interview published in today's Sunday Post, Makrava stated:
"Fijians and Rotumans are trying to compare themselves with Indians and Asians in commerce. What we don't understand is that the Asians and Indians are reaping the hard work of their ancestors centuries ago and here we are trying to jump into something that was never part of our life and we are getting our fingers burnt."
"This is why I am concerned with the Interim Government's [Blueprint] idea. It has to be very careful in the provisions it makes under this document if not then we must expect a generation of frustrated Fijians and Rotumans if this fails again".
Makrava, was made the Chief Executive of the National Bank of Fiji after the 1987 military coup. He successful saw the total collapse of the Bank within a few years through scandalous loans and corruption; it also cost the taxpayers over $300m to salvage public deposits. Makrava was forced to resign after the bank dealings were revealed in the Parliament. An inquiry into the collapse of the Bank and the loans made have not resulted in any conviction yet.
Meanwhile veteran journalist and columnist, Robert Keith-Reid has suggested that there could possibly be a link between the persons behind the terrorist uprising and the National Bank bad debt clients. In his Sunday Times column today, he wrote:
". an interesting line of research could be to make a comparison of May 19, and now Nov 2 suspects, with the names of all those persons, who directly or as company owners indirectly appear in that long, long National Bank bad loan list.
"Dare I suggest that such research could be applied also to the bad loan list hidden away in the depth of a certain development bank, not to mention a few other of [Fiji's] national institutions".
The development bank reference is to the Fiji Development Bank, which was headed by Laisenia Qarase for over 15 years until 2 years ago. Qarase is now the interim regime Prime Minister.