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Cane Farmers - Qarase - Indigenous Rights

Cane Farmers Reps Boycott Meeting
Issue No: 833 8 June 2001

Representatives of the sugar cane farmers who won the Sugar Cane Growers Council election held last month are boycotting the first meeting of the Sugar Cane Growers Council meeting scheduled for today.

The election was won by the National Farmers Union. The Union received 21 seats while the opponents received 16 seats and an independent candidate won 1 seat. The regime, however, appointed 8 other councillors who belonged to the defeated farmers group thereby frustrating the mandate of the winning team. The Union has filed a legal challenge to the appointments.

Meeting yesterday, the Union Councillors decided to stay away from the meeting. Without these councillors, the meeting will not have a quorum. It could also not pass the council's new budget.

The reasons stated by the councillors for not attending the meeting are:

· failure on the part of the Council to give due notice of the meeting as required under the Standing Orders;

· late distribution of council meeting papers, including the budget and other financial documents; many councillors received these documents only two days before the meeting;

· rejection by the Council of motions filed by some councillors for the meeting;

· participation in the meeting of persons nominated to the Council unlawfully and unjustly by the Qarase regime; and

· the pending finalisation of the results of 4 seats which are being investigated by the Sugar Industry Tribunal.

The Union has appealed the decision of the returning officers in 4 of the 38 sectors. It is confident of winning the appeals in all these sectors.

Meanwhile past councillors have revealed that the current Chief Executive Officer of the Council, Jagarnath Sami, exceeded his powers in granting a contract of rice supply to a businesshouse. Allegations of kickbacks have also been made.

Sami has responded to the claims by saying that the meeting notices were distributed on time, and that the papers were also sent on time. The Councillors refute this.


Qarase Double Talk Hits Indian Businessmen Issue No: 832 8 June 2001

Regime's Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase has hit out at the business community which has been the beneficiary of millions of dollars of state financial assistance through concessions and tax breaks.

The attack, however, came in the Fijian vernacular language radio program over the weekend. Qarase stated that the businessmen of other ethnic groups, but particularly ethnic Indians, were beneficiaries of such funds while ethnic Fijians were deprived of such assistance.

Qarase himself has been a major player in channelling such assistance to ethnic Indian businessmen. As Manager of the Fiji Development Bank, Qarase channelled millions of dollars of bank funds to these businessmen. Many transactions were less than transparent. Qarase has maintained a very close relationship with these businessmen, many of who not only allegedly financed the terrorists but who also are financial backers of Qarase's new party. In office as the regime's Prime Minister, Qarase has overturned the People's Coalition Government's policies to introduce a fairer tax system. In place, Qarase has put back in place the concession regime which benefits a small group of monopolistic businesses controlled by ethnic Indians. The regime has now let the big businesses continue with tax evasion while vigilantly targets small businesses.

The business community and its representatives, the Chambers of Commerce's and the Retail Associations have not responded to Qarase's claims.


No Fear Over Indigenous Rights - Speed Issue No: 831 8 June 2001

No one should fear that indigenous rights is not protected in Fiji, says the Leader of the Fijian Association Party and high chief Adi Kuini Speed.

Speed stated that ethnic Fijians were not insecure in Fiji. Their rights were fully protected in the Constitution. Talks of threats and insecurities were spread by a few ethnic Fijians for their personal gains, Speed told the Fiji Times. She further stated that the 2000 coups had nothing to do with indigenous rights.

Speed was reacting to the call by NFP's leader Jai Ram Reddy for ethnic Indians to acknowledge indigenous rights.

Reddy has joined the bandwagon of politicians who threaten voters that unless the ethnic Fijian right wing gets power, there will be no peace in Fiji.

The widespread view in Fiji is that Reddy played right in the hands of the ultra-nationalists who are demanding that the country's ethnic Indian population stay out of political decision-making in the country. One political analyst, and former member of the National Federation Party says that Reddy's call is the voice of a section of the country's ethnic Indian businessmen, most of who are descendents of later day Gujarati immigrant community which has no links with the ethnic Indians who were brought here as indentured labourers. The analyst claimed that the interest of this section of the business community is to make money and the best way they can do this is by making deals with the ethnic Fijian leaders. The consequence on the country, he stated, is not their concern.


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