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Jo Singh, Lodhia, and Fiji Times not too pleased

Jo Singh, Lodhia, and Fiji Times not too pleased

Issue No: 542 2 March 2001

As the nation and the world hail the landmark decision of the Fiji Court of Appeal, some individuals have expressed reservations about it.

Jo Singh, a member of the regime's Constitution Review Commission, has been quoted by today's Fiji Times as saying that Fiji should not go back to the pre-29 May days. The apparent reference is to the reconvening of the Parliament as it was before the terrorist crisis began.

Using a little known "Pacific British Chamber of Commerce" banner, Singh stated: "the reality of the situation needs to be addressed seriously.. The legality is one thing because its being done in court and the reality is another". While he called for people to respect the rule of law and the Acting President, Singh stated: "We need to go back to May 29 and see the wisdom of those involved, including the President, in helping put Fiji on the path to democracy. We need to be cautious. Don't undermine that path and go back to pre May 29".

Singh was earlier disowned by the Fiji Chamber of Commerce of which he was a past president.

Himmat Lodhia has also been quoted by the Fiji Times as saying: "It's an abrupt judgment and the business community is panicky because of what's happened in the past. Their fear is justified so every member is taking precautionary measures.. We sincerely hope for good sense to prevail on all sides - from government, the Labour Party and other parties - for better nation building. If everyone asks for their pound of flesh, then we will go down".

Lodhia used the banner of the Suva Retailers Association. The Association was de-registered only two weeks ago by the Ministry of Labour and Industrial Relations, but was re-registered after interventions by Lodhia's contacts in the regime.

But the most surprising reaction of all has come from the Fiji Times which reported reactions to the decision and not the exact court decision itself. Only on page 12 it began published extracts of the 60 page judgment.

Leading its page one with the bold title "We go to the polls" and the subtitle "Court of Appeal upholds 1997 Constitution", the paper began with an opinion piece by its reporter Margaret Wise before reporting on the Acting President's address to the nation.

Its prominent page 3 lead article was titled "Legality versus reality" and subtitled "Be cautious, or else, Chamber warns". The article contained comments from Jo Singh using the little known Pacific British Chamber of Commerce banner, and comments by Himmat Lodhia, and Mark Halabe. It relegated the official statement from the Fiji Chamber of Commerce to a small corner on page 4. The Fiji Chamber of Commerce had in no uncertain terms welcomed the decision.

While the paper's editorial called for the nation to accept the decision, in the most ironical twist, it called for the retention of the Qarase regime. It stated: "The interim administration has done a commendable job under the most difficult of conditions. It could be retained, legally, if necessary while the process of a return to democracy is allowed to continue".

The newspaper has in the past continued to stir ethnic tension in the country. Only recently, an independent academic had analysed the media in Fiji and concluded that the Fiji Times had played a crucial role in the collapse of democracy in the country. Its reporting today confirms that the paper, or at least some of its writers, are continuing in this tradition.

END 2 March 2001

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