Monday, October 15, 2007

Fiji on Watch List

Commonwealth keeps tab on Fiji

Last updated 10/15/2007

Interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama will be the target of an association of states attending the Pacific Forum Leaders meeting that begins in Nuku�alofa, Tonga today.
Speaking from Sydney yesterday, Commonwealth General-Secretary Don Mckinnon said he was hoping to hold talks with Commodore Bainimarama concerning Fiji�s progress towards restoring democracy though the poll. "I've got to talk and hear from him as well," said Mr McKinnon.
Mr McKinnon indicated that the Commonwealth ensured that good and proper conduct was maintained by Fiji and said Commodore Bainimarama�s speech at the United Nations general assembly in New York, early this month, where his justification of the military takeover, "was a thing of the past".
As for now they have to look ahead.
He stressed there are issues raised in the speech, which needs to be discussed with the interim Prime Minister.
"I won't reveal those issues as yet because I would like to discuss it first with Commodore Bainimarama."
When contacted, Commodore Bainimarama indicated that he will call a press conference at Nausori Airport today before he boards the flight to Tonga.
Commodaore Bainimarama would be accompanied by his Permanent Secretary Parmesh Chand, Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed- Khaiyum and Commerce Minister Taito Waradi. Permanent Secretary of Foreign Affairs Ross Ligairi is in Tonga with two senior officials.
Mr McKinnon pointed out that Fiji was still suspended from the Commonwealth and the only way out was to hold free and fair elections and put in place a democratically elected government.
"We don't condone the act of the overthrowing of a democratically elected government by the military."
He refused to deliberate on what actions the Commonwealth was going to take if the interim administration failed to hold the general election in 2009.
Mr McKinnon said the Commonwealth was updated on developments in Fiji that included moves to change the electoral boundaries.
He said Fiji needs to go back to the polls, in the shortest timeframe possible to convince the Commonwealth. Mr McKinnon added the Commonwealth was ready to assist Fiji.

Activist lobbies on the sidelines

Last updated 10/15/2007

As Tonga looks set to host the 38th Pacific Island Leaders Forum meeting in Nukualofa, Fiji-based activist and Pacific Centre for Public Integrity director Angie Heffernan was yesterday trying to obtain accreditation to attend the meeting.
Ms Heffernan arrived in Tongatapu on Friday and has had difficulty finding accommodation.
Yesterday, she attempted to pose as a media representative in order to obtain accreditation but Tongan officials knew her and made it difficult for her to obtain accreditation via the media.
She even attempted to contact a local media firm in Fiji to ask the editor if she could be allowed to cover the forum meeting on behalf of the firm.
It could not be established whether her attempts were successful.
She has even suggested that she would have to lobby leaders in public bars because of the difficulty of access at the delegates accommodation venue.
The PCPI is not a recognised NGO by the Forum Secretariat.
Despite the meeting areas cordoned off by soldiers of the Tongan Defence Force, Tonga's Prime Minister Dr Feleti Sevele said his government was looking forward to the arrival of leaders.
He added that he was looking forward to the arrival of interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, whose military takeover in December, last year, was an item on the meeting agenda.
"It means a lot of people coming here, we are showing what we can provide, showing the friendliness that we have. Tourism is picking up here, the number of visitors here have definitely increased. We are grateful for all the regional meetings that are held here," Dr Sevele said.
Dr Sevele and Cdre Bainimarama attended Marist Brothers High School during the same period.
Asked what he thought of comments made by Pro Democracy Movement advocate Akilisi Pohiva labelling him and Cdre Bainimarama as dicators, Dr Sevele said, "I will not dignify such silly comments."
The Fijian Tongan community is also looking forward to the arrival of Cdre Bainimarama today and will accord him a full ceremony of welcome this afternoon.
Cdre Bainimarama is expected to arrive in Nukualofa at 11.30am today.

Detectives question Qarase on death threat

Last updated 10/15/2007

Deposed Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase was interviewed by the police regarding his claims of a death threat against him. This was confirmed by Mr Qarase�s lawyer, Tevita Fa, yesterday. Mr Fa said his client was interviewed by police three weeks ago.
�Thep are investigating the matter, they�ve interviewed Qarase already but I don�t know what the final outcome will be,� said Mr Fa.
He said he was happy that the police are following the case.
�I am happy in that respect and it has also taken some time now. The difficulty is trying to determine who made the death threat,� he said. Mr Qarase received a death threat in August this year while he was at his village, Mavana, Vanuabalavu, Lau.
On the day he was to have traveled to Suva, he received a phone call from someone claiming to be in the military.
The caller told him that they were looking forward to his trip to Suva and on his arrival, they would kill him.
Mr Qarase cancelled his trip to Suva that day but he later managed to come to Suva in September.
Police confirmed they are still investigating the case, however, they did not give details on whether there were any leads on the case or if anyone was questioned regarding the allegations.

President appoints poll boundary team

Last updated 10/15/2007
Three members of the Constituency Boundaries Commission were appointed by the President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, yesterday.
The announcement of these appointments was made by the interim Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.
The commission�s role is to ensure that election boundaries for the next general election are fair. The chairperson is Ulamila Fa-Tuituku. Father Kevin Barr and former Director for Lands Albert Queet are the other members.
�These appointments goes to show the government�s commitment in terms of putting in place all the various machinery necessary to facilitate the next election,� Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.
He said previous appointments of the Electoral Commissioners, the continued efforts to obtain the services of a suitably qualified Supervisor of Elections and yesterdays� appointments of the Constituency Boundaries Commission were evidence of the Interim Government commitment to returning to democratic rule.
The A-G said the commission would use the recent census results, which are yet to be released, to identify suitable constituency boundaries for the next election as was specified by the constitution.
�The results of the recent census have not been released yet but it is good to set the team in place before they are out.
�The work of the constituency boundaries commission is to ensure that the boundaries of the election are fair. It will be unfair if an area with a population of 8,000 appoints a representative and another area with a population size of 20,000 also appoint just one representative. This would mean that the first group�s votes are a lot more powerful then the second,� he said.

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