Thursday, May 21, 2009

More Pressure Needed to Oust Illegal Fiji Regime

Ousted Fiji minister says pressure needed to bring about dialogue, fears regime won’t relinquish power Sydney,
21 May 2009
----- A member of Fiji’s ousted Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL) government says applying more international and domestic pressure on the Fiji military government is the best way of forcing it to seek dialogue over the current crisis.Ted Young is in Canberra for the Centre For Democratic Institutions’ annual discourse on political parties in democracies.Mr Young said the current emergency regulations in Fiji make it difficult for the SDL to function as a party.But he told Radio New Zealand International he has no confidence in the interim regime making serious attempts at starting dialogue with political stakeholders any time soon.“The only way of neutralising, forcing the regime to come to dialogue and to find a way out of the crisis is to apply sustained pressure on them both from within and outside the country so that the pressure will make them have no other choice but to seek dialogue.”The SDL is prevented from meeting and Mr Young doesn’t expect they’d be allowed to have a say any time soon.“Like all dictators, once they’ve tasted power they become addicted to it and they’ll try and hold on to it as long as they can. Also, in Fiji’s case, we’ve reached the stage where saving their neck is more important than the wellbeing of the rest of the country. As long as their necks are safe and their cronies are taken care of, they’re fine to operate that way... even if the country slides down.” ends Fiji regime consultant lambastes New Zealand over coup sanctions Wellington, 21 May 2009 ----- A consultant to Fiji’s interim government has called on New Zealand to soften its stance on Fiji and remove sanctions, according to Radio New Zealand International.John Samy, who heads the support team for the National Council for Building a Better Fiji, was speaking at a seminar in Wellington that was considering what the role of the New Zealand government should be towards Fiji.Mr Samy said New Zealand and Australia have been obsessed with holding elections as soon as possible and the sanctions they have imposed are only hurting the people of Fiji.“New Zealand’s attitude to date has been more prone to folly and wooden-headedness. If the purpose of those sanctions are to bring the economy of Fiji down and in governance terms to actually get them to do things that are not in the national interest because they don’t have the capacity, the institutions are not working. How can we say that these are smart sanctions.”Mr Samy also helped to formulate the People’s Charter in Fiji and said this would provide a good framework for progress.
Fiji diplomat Ross Ligairi dies
Suva, 21 May 2009
---- Fiji’s Roving Ambassador and career diplomat Ross Ligairi died at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital at 12.05am today, according to Fiji Live. Mr Ligairi, over 50 years of age, was wheeled into the CWMH emergency unit at around mid-night by family members and straight into the mini-operation theatre where doctors and nurses tried to revive him. Moments later a woman’s cry was heard from within the theatre as one of his sons stood outside teary eyed.Nurses at the hospital could not find any medical records of Ligairi since, as his wife Losalini Kasetimaibau highlighted; he had never visited the public hospital. Mr Ligairi’s private doctor is expected to provide details of Mr Ligairi’s illness later today and hopefully avoid a post mortem examination.The family has also been informed that all mortuaries in the greater Suva, Nausori and Navua areas are filled to capacity. Mr Ligairi is survived by his wife and their three sons. He has four brothers and four sisters and is the second eldest in the family. He hails from Nabalebale Village in Cakaudrove, Vanua Levu and attended Queen Victoria School.Mr Ligairi joined the civil service in 1978 and has been a diplomat for most of his career.But, before that he had wanted to be a professional boxer and when studying in India held the All-India Universities middleweight title from 1973 to 1977. Later in England, he held the British Universities middleweight title from 1979 to 1980. He had 79 amateur fights, losing three on points.In 1980, Mr Ligairi was posted to the permanent mission at the United Nations as Second Secretary and Vice Consul.His diplomatic engagements include, being media spokesman for Foreign Affairs from 1986 to 1988.In 1988, he was posted to the Fiji Embassy in Wellington as charge d'affaires.From September 1993 to August 1994, he was the principal assistant secretary and head of policy research and assessment unit.He also worked under Sitiveni Rabuka as the PM’s private secretary before he was transferred as Counsellor to the Fiji Mission to the European Union in 1997. In 2001, he was transferred back to the Foreign Affairs office in Suva to the position of chief assistant secretary for political treaties and later ascended to the position of Foreign Affairs permanent secretary.In September last year, Mr Ligairi was appointed the new Roving Ambassador for the South Pacific replacing Ratu Finau Mara.Following his new appointment, Mr Ligairi trekked around the region trying to win friends for Fiji.One of his recent engagements, in March this year, was to convey to the Japanese Government Air Pacific’s withdrawal of its Narita service. Ends
President of Fiji’s Law Society says one lawyer will have to return to police
Suva, 21 May 2009
----- The President of the Fiji Law Society says one of the lawyers taken in for questioning by police yesterday, will have to return to answer more questions today.Richard Naidu and Jon Apted from the law firm Munro Leys were detained over allegations they were involved in the anti-regime blog, Raw Fiji News.Dorsami Naidu said Jon Apted has been asked to return to the police station in Suva for more questioning.He told Radio New Zealand Morning Report the two were targeted because they have been critical of the interim regime.“The law Society Members are not party to it, but they are known to be critical to what is happening, no rule of law in the country, the abrogation of the constitution, things like that.” ends
Fiji Police Upholding UN Police Core Values, UN Police Commissioner
21 May 2009 Monrovia
----- The UN Police Commissioner in Liberia Henrik Stiernblad, has assured Liberians of the continued support of UN Mission in Liberia - UNMIL - in strengthening the country's security forces, particularly the Liberia National Police, to cope with post-conflict challenges such as combating violent crimes and unrests. Mr Stiernblad made these remarks when he awarded UN peacekeeping medals to 28 Fiji UN Police Officers for their services to UNMILCommissioner Stiernblad reiterated the support of UNMIL and its partners in the UN system in enabling the country regain its place in the community of nations, stating that: “Liberians will have to work hard to sustain the peace it has that we supported over the years. The job is not over; we have laid the foundation, but Liberia will have to solidify the peace to prevent a slide back into conflict”He added that this will ensure that Liberian security forces are strengthened to deal with both internal and external security threats as the country moves towards recovery, rehabilitation and development.The UNPOL Commissioner praised the Fiji Police Contingent on their significant contribution to international peacekeeping, coupled with their commitment in upholding the UN Police core values of compassion, integrity, respect, excellence and courage“Fiji Police advisers have played key roles in the implementation of the Liberia National Police Strategic Plan that provides a road map to develop the LNP organization; and involvement in joint capacity building initiatives, which have greatly helped in supporting the LNP achieve its strategic objectives”, Commissioner Stiernblad told the Fiji Police officers.He urged all peacekeepers - uniformed, as well as civilians - to perform their duties with the utmost respect for the people and communities they serve. “All our contribution and sacrifice will easily be tarnished and diminished by any act of indiscipline and bad behaviour particularly sexual exploitation and abuse,” Mr. Stiernblad said. “Each and every one of us must strictly observe the Secretary-General's policy of Zero-Tolerance against SEA. We must work, individually and collectively, to guard against it and I urge all commanders and senior managers to take this responsibility seriously”, he emphasized.He paid tribute to Contingent Commander, Senior Superintendent of Police Krishna Naidu, for his leadership, and the men and women of the Fiji UNPOL Contingent, for effectively carrying out their duties. Senior Superintendent Naidu attributed the success of their mission in Liberia to the support provided by the UNMIL leadership and fellow UNPOL colleagues and expressed thanks and appreciation for the assistance.Fiji first started contributing to UN peacekeeping in 1989, when it sent its first batch of UN Police Officers to Namibia. Since then, it has contributed peacekeepers to Lebanon, Sinai, Iraq, Cambodia, Angola, Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Sudan, Darfur and here in Liberia.ends
Fiji Sugar secretariat idea mooted
Suva, 21 May 2009
---- Setting up a Sugar Industry Secretariat should be considered in light of the dissolution next month of the Sugar Commission of Fiji (SCOF), says outgoing CEO of the Sugar Cane Growers Council Surendra Sharma. And he has drawn up a proposal on how this could be done, which he said he had discussed informally with industry stakeholders such as the Fiji Sugar Corporation (FSC), Sugar Research Institute of Fiji (SRIF), Sugar Cane Growers Council (SCGC), Sugar Cane Growers Fund (SCGF) and the Sugar Industry Task Force/Sugar Unit of the Ministry of Sugar. “With the dissolution of the Sugar Commission of Fiji there will be a vacuum created with regard to the sugar industry being provided the services of a secretariat type facility that SCOF was able to facilitate within its location in the Sugar House, ”Mr Sharma told Fiji Live.
“I have actually discussed this informally with a number of key industry stakeholders as well as government representatives in the sugar unit/task force and they are very receptive to the idea of a sugar secretariat. “The proposal has been conveyed more formally to each stakeholder and it is for them to decide which way they wish to take,” he said.
The main elements of his proposal are:
• The formalization of the setting up of the Sugar Industry Secretariat (SIS) can be by way of a Decision of the stakeholders comprised of the following as a Sugar Industry Secretariat Management Board : CEOs of FSC, SCGC, SRIF, SCGF and the Head of the Sugar Unit of the Ministry of Sugar;
• The annual budget of the SIS will be contributed equally by the stakeholders comprised in the Management Board. Other financing methodologies can be sought to be put in place once the SIS shows its utility as a service/facilitative centre. An option is the re-allocation of funds from the ‘sale’ of operating assets of SCOF into a fund for financing the SIS budget;
• The Sugar Industry Secretariat will be profiled externally as a ‘sugar industry coordination organ’ sponsored by the industry stakeholders;
• The Sugar Industry Secretariat Management Board will appoint a Coordinator of the SIS and secretarial staff to provide the requisite services to the sugar industry and stakeholders;
• The SIS will rent the offices currently occupied by SCOF and contribute an internal rent to the new ownership of the Sugar House as well as take over/rent all furniture, fittings and office equipment from the new ownership of the chattels previously owned by SCOF at a pre-agreed value;
• The SIS will have offices and facilities available for visiting consultants, advisors, visiting delegations etc and arrange meeting venue within its premises and logistical support for all meetings, industry consultations and missions etc that are regarded as conducive to the well- being of the sugar industry and are likely to benefit the industry. It will also maintain a body of information about the sugar industry for the stakeholders, other interested parties and the general public; and
• A parallel service will be the maintaining of a Technical Assistance Service (TAS) tied to the SIS. The TAS will be an enabling service that would draw external/donor funding and expertise to promote and lobby the interests of the sugar industry.
Mr Sharma said the advantage of such a secretariat is that it is not intended to have any mandate to oversee or coordinate the work or functions of the other stakeholders such as was the case with SCOF. “This will purely be a facilitative organ that works for the industry and stakeholders as a service center. I believe the lack of a facilitative organ will be felt sooner rather than later by the sugar industry, when SCOF ceases to exist after the end of June or so. “A common, convivial meeting-ground in an industry that has such divergent interest groups is an imperative, not an option,” Mr Sharma stressed. Meanwhile, Fiji’s interim Attorney General says they do not view the cancellation of the 2009 sugar allocation for Fiji by the European Commission to mean a closing of all doors.The move will cost Fiji more than $32 million.In a statement, the EC said it has taken the decision to cancel the allocation in the absence of any indication that a legitimate government will be in place in 2009.But Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum in a statement said the cancellation by the European Commission is its prerogative.He said Fiji views the Commission as a committed development partner because it has been engaging and open minded.And he said Fiji wishes to continue to engage with the European Commission. ends
Investment lending boost expected: RBF
Suva 21 May 2009
---- The Reserve Bank of Fiji says recent regulatory policy measures on the weighted average lending rates of financial institutions should encourage investment-related lending, according to Fiji Live “In addition, policy initiatives on micro-finance should encourage growth of small-to-medium enterprises,” said the central bank in its economic review for April month-end. The RBF highlighted the 12.0 per cent increase in commercial bank’s annual lending growth, compared to 2.5 per cent in the corresponding period last year. “This was underpinned by higher lending to the wholesale, retail, hotels and restaurants, transport, storage and communication, private individuals, public enterprise, and the manufacturing sectors,” reports the RBF. “The higher credit growth is also associated with the base-related impact and the special loan approvals granted for the priority sectors by the bank.” In its economic review at the end of March this year, the RBF said both the outstanding and new lending rates rose to 8.24 per cent and 8.83 per cent, respectively. “Similarly, the existing and new time deposit rates have also risen to 4.23 per cent and 6.02 per cent, correspondingly.” In April, the 91-day treasury bills rate rose to 7.30 per cent from 7.27 per cent recorded in March, said the report .ends
Fiji - First Pacific Island Nation to Achieve Baby-Friendly Hospital Status for all Twenty-One Hospitals
Suva 21 May 2009
------Rotuma Rural Hospital became the 21st hospital in Fiji to be awarded the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) on May 11, 2009 making Fiji the only Pacific Island Country to achieve Baby- Friendly status across all its hospitals.The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Nutrition Specialist, Mrs Seini Kurusiga presented the award on behalf of UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO).Mrs Kurusiga said “Both UNICEF and WHO are proud to share this milestone achievement with the Ministry of Health and the Government of Fiji for one of the simplest interventions and yet challenging tasks of creating the right environment for optimum nutrition resulting in a good start in life for the children of Rotuma and Fiji – the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative.”She added that “the improved survival rate of mothers and particularly children can be achieved through baby friendly hospital initiatives (BFHI) which recognise each mother’s right to make her decision based on full and accurate information about feeding options. Breastfeeding is one of the proven and effective interventions for reducing maternal and new-born disability and mortality.”The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, launched in 1991, is an effort by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure that all maternity facilities whether free standing or in a hospital, become centers of breastfeeding support.A maternity facility or hospital is designated 'baby-friendly' when it does not accept free or low-cost breast milk substitutes, feeding bottles or teats, and has implemented 10 specific steps to support successful breastfeeding.Mrs Kurusiga reminded the hospital staff of their commitment towards breastfeeding and challenged them to “maintain and enhance standards including the encouragement of breastfeeding culture within workplaces, communities and families.” Since BFHI began, more than 15,000 facilities in 134 countries have been awarded Baby-Friendly status. In many areas where hospitals have been designated Baby-Friendly, more mothers are breastfeeding their infants, and child health has improved.ends For more information, please contact Donna Hoerder, Communications Specialist – External Relations on telephone 679 3300 439 or 679 3236 100
Conference not political, say Fiji Methodists Church
Suva, 21 May 2009
--- The general secretary of Fiji's Methodist Church, Reverend Ame Tugaue, says while the church is mindful that the government may put a stop to the church's annual conference, the conference is not politically motivated.Mr Tugaue said the church had already received the green light to hold the annual meeting scheduled for August.“We have got the permit for the conference to go ahead,” he said.Last week, Ministry of Information permanent secretary Lieutenant-Colonel Neumi Leweni warned the government would not hesitate to defer the conference indefinitely if the security forces suspect any motive to cause instability.The warning was issued after the church's social services director, Reverend Manasa Lasaro, a former president of the church was taken into police custody last week.He was questioned over what Leweni said was an anti-government proposal the clergyman had made to the church hierachy, and which police believed was in contravention of existing emergency regulations.Leweni said people needed to realise that under regulations, the police will not hesitate to take into custody anybody believed to be a threat to peace and Fiji.He also appealed to members of the church who are preparing for the annual conference not to be misled by the few people that were trying to break peace and cause instability.However, Reverend Tugaue said whatever the investigations were involving Reverend Lasaro must not be used against the church which had been holding the conference every year. ends Bainimarama wants dialogue with NZ, Aust leaders Suva, 21 May 2009 --- Fiji’s interim Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama is still willing to hold talks with Kevin Rudd and John Key about Fiji’s way forward. Ministry of Information’s permanent secretary and army spokesman Lieutenant- Colonel Neumi Leweni yesterday maintained that Commodore Bainimarama’s stand to meet his Australian and New Zealand counterpart was still onBut it is for them to move quickly if they want to meet as Fiji was moving on. Commodore Bainimarama would not be waiting for them. “As the PM said in his earlier interview with Graham Davis and again today, maintains he is ready to meet Kevin Rudd and John Key for talks,” he told the Fiji SUN. Lt-Col Leweni reiterated the stand after Tongan Prime Minister Dr Feleti Seveti called on Pacific countries to support Fiji. In a joint press conference with Mr Key in Wellington on Tuesday, Dr Seveti called for support as the country finds a pathway to democracy. “We do not know why the change of heart but our PM wants to have talks with Rudd and Key.” He said decision by the Pacific Forum to suspend Fiji and now the call made by Dr Seveti is not going to change anything. “It must be clear that with or without the Pacific Forum, Fiji is going to forge ahead with its road map set out by the charter.” Lt-Col Leweni said despite the suspension and the stand Australia and New Zealand have taken, the country is able to find new friends who understand the situation we face here. “We’ve been able to have friends from Asian countries who understand our situation and have come in to help.”….ends
Fiji lawyers sidelined as justice deteriorates
Suva, 21 May 2009
----- It's just over a month since Fiji's president scrapped the constitution and sacked the country's magistrates and judges, but with the media censored, no new judges appointed, and less than half the magistrates working it appears while there may be some order there is no law. In the first of this two part look at the state of Fiji's justice system after the abrogation of the constitution, Radio Australia spoke to a few very under-employed lawyers in Fiji to discuss how the country is coping without a working justice system.
Radio Australia’s Presenter Anita Barraud speaks with Speaker: Dorsami Naidu, President of Fiji Law Society; Tupou Draunidalo, Lawyer, activist, former politician and stepdaughter of former Fiji Prime Minister; Mr Nagin, Lawyer for Sherani and Company in Suva NAGIN: I think the only court that seems to be operating at the moment is the family court. In the magistrate's court, we in Suva, especially we have only one magistrate, the chief magistrate, who more or less is dealing with cases and adjourning them rather than doing any hearings, because for one man it's too much. And the high court we are not having any hearings at all. I don't think that anything will be heard even in June.
BARRAUD: Suva lawyer, Mr Nagin, is having an enforced holiday. Only nine of the usual 22 magistrates are currently working across this nation of just under a million. On the West Coast, it's no better.
Tupou Draunidalo, is based in Nadi.
BARRAUD; Oh, hello Tupou. Now I am just wondering, I rung through your office, you have got a person at the front answering the phone, you have probably got a secretary, but there's no work?
DRAUNIDALO: No, there is no work. I have not had any new instructions since before the degradation and I have heard that staff have been laid off, work days have been cut and there is more to come.
BARRAUD: What impact is this having on your general citizen awaiting to get their day in court?
DRAUNIDALO: Well, I suppose the best would be when the magistrate's court, the lowest court reopened after eight days of closure and we had persons accused of various offences telling the magistrate they had been remanded there for eight days in very appalling conditions, because there was no magistrate to bail them. And they complained of being inhumanely treated by the authorities and no-one to check and worse, there was no media to tell the world or anyone about what was going on. So and the consistency in their stories one after the other.
BARRAUD: And how many stories are we talking about?
DRAUNIDALO: Appalling. That morning, the first morning of the reopening, I would say about 10 at least, that was in one district court.
BARRAUD: On one day?
DRAUNIDALO: Yeah, the allegations that they were beaten up by the authority to confess to certain allegations made against them and I remember in particular there was one accused person who kept asking the magistrate if he could show him his injuries and he'd have to take off the trousers that he was wearing to show the magistrate and the magistrate said there is no need for that and I accept what you say and he ordered that these people get medical reports, medical treatment by 4pm on that day, before they reappear. I don't know what happened when they reappeared. But that is what occurred on that day.
BARRAUD: There is little way of knowing how many cases are pending or people on remand awaiting bail hearings or sentencing and it's not just criminal cases. Mr Nagin, an attorney from the law firm, Sherani and Company, works in mainly civil and commercial law. He says other cases not being heard include probate cases, where there are disputes over wills, medical negligence and compensation cases, human rights issues, discrimination and a variety of complex, commercial litigation. From big companies to smaller businesses, nobody is getting their day in court.
NAGIN: Yeah, one of them was a case where the Shell Company which is the owner of a service station is trying to evict a person who is not paying rent and has been really abusing the conditions of the lease. Now the man is still in possession, we can't get him out.ends
Tuvalu plans to revive Air Fiji
Suva, 21 May 2009
---- Air Fiji owner, the Tuvalu Government, wants to revive the company but it hinges on a board meeting with other majority shareholder China National Aero-Technology Import and Export (CATIC) next month.But Tuvalu Transport Minister Taukelina Finakaso said yesterday that his Cabinet may not be keen on putting more money into the airline.“Tuvalu would need a partner if it is to revive the company,”" Mr Finakaso told the Fiji Times“We don't want to close shop because of the implications to the workers. “The airline management did propose for the Tuvalu Government to help out on the payment of workers but I think Cabinet may not be keen on that.“This is a national icon of Fiji and we also have sentimental connection to it because it was the only airline that assisted us when Air Marshalls ceased operations in Tuvalu.”The Tuvalu Government also had invested heavily in the airline -- $2million on shares, $150,000 for the purchase of a plane and guaranteeing a $500,000 overdraft with the National Bank of Tuvalu among other guarantees.“The airline management was concerned with the future, particularly that of the workers,” Mr Finakaso said.“This is a very difficult time for everyone particularly with the global economic recession.“We have a few proposals that I need to take back to my Cabinet and we sympathise with the plight of the workers.“We should remain optimistic, there is light at the end of the tunnel.” Mr Finakaso said the airlines' accounts were still being audited and he was unable to estimate how much debt it was in.Mr Finakaso arrived in the country at the weekend to resolve issues pertaining to the ailing airline. ends
Fiji Sugar Corp Sees sweet future despite EU Loss
Sydney 21 May 2009
---- Fiji Sugar Corp Ltd says the loss of 24 million euros ($32.37 million) in European Union subsidies will not stifle its plans to increase production in 2010 by doubling the amount of land planted with sugar cane.The European Commission cancelled subsidies to Fiji's sugar industry on Monday in the absence of a commitment to hold elections this year, as promised by the South Pacific nation's military chief and coup leader, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama.“We remain positive despite all the adversity of the political dimensions thrown at the sugar industry,” Deo Saran, chief executive of the firm, which is 68-percent owned by the Fiji government, said in an interview with Reuters Sugar and tourism are mainstays of Fiji's economy, making up about 9 percent and 18 percent respectively of gross domestic product, and both have been battered by the hardline taken by Bainimarama, who staged a bloodless 2006 coup.“In anticipation of the loss of the subsidies, given our political climate, we have been working on alternative arrangements and the government has provided some facilities for cane planting programmes and infrastructure,” Mr Saran said.“We do not see it having any marked impact on the planting programme,” he added, in a reference to the loss of subsidies.Fiji's annual sugar cane crush is due to start on Friday. The FSC expects 2.4 million tonnes of cane and 250,000 tonnes of sugar for 2009, slightly up from 2.32 million tonnes of cane in 2008 and 207,000 tonnes of sugar. That is equivalent to a tiny 1.6 percent of annual global production.Without widespread flooding in Fiji earlier in the year, which damaged about one third of the island nation's crop, the crush would have been 2.6 million tonnes, said Saran.The Fiji government has allocated F$12 million ($5.5 million) for flood damage rehabilitation and F$7 million for planting.
DOUBLE PLANTING The FSC said it planned to double the planting of sugar cane in 2010 to 6,000 hectares (14,800 acres) by increasing farm sizes and by starting its own planting, with the aim of introducing large scale, mechanised sugar farming to Fiji.Fiji's sugar industry has remained largely unchanged for decades, with the average four-hectare (10-acre) farm being manually harvested.“We want to go into large-scale farming, mechanised farming to gain efficiencies,” said Mr Saran.“We estimate we will have 6,000 hectares planted in 2010, which is almost twice what we planted last year...but we have to build capacity at the farmer level," he said.The corporation said it was negotiating the purchase of land, with a minimum size of 75 hectares (185 acres), for its planting.“In five years' time we would like to have about 30 percent of the crop to supply to the mill and we will do that in an aggressive way," said Saran.The FSC said that Fiji's sugar industry was in transition.An upgrade of Fiji's three main mills, Lautoka, Rarawai and Labasa, was nearing completion, said Saran, and should result in more reliable and efficient crushing.
While an exodus of sugar farmers seeking different employment is expected to continue, the FSC is encouraging the remaining farmers to expand their farms to produce efficiences of scale.But the cornerstone of Fiji's sugar industry, a 30-year plus deal with the EU for subsidied prices, ends in September. Under the deal Fiji receives three times the market price for sugar.A new European deal will see Fiji's sugar price slashed by 36 percent, but it will still be slightly above market prices.“With the EU price coming down by 36 percent, we believe the only way we can survive and be financially strong is to accept that sugar milling by itself will be marginal,” Mr said Saran.“The successful sugar companies are those that have not restricted themselves to milling. Each one of them is heavily into planting and controls the entire value chain.” ends
Fiji lawyers in police custody
Suva, 20 May 2009
--- Fiji Police have taken in Suva lawyer Richard Naidu for questioning under the Public Emergency Regulation, according to Fiji Village.Director Police Operations Waisea Tabakau confirmed Mr Naidu was taken in for questioning at midday today and remains in custody. Tabakau has also confirmed that they are currently checking Mr Naidu's computerMeanwhile, The President of the Fiji Law Society says three lawyers and their computers have been taken in to a police station in Suva.Dorsami Naidu said the search warrants police used to seize the computers of lawyers Jon Apted, Richard Naidu and Tevita Fa suggests they are suspected of involvement with a blog site.Tevita Fa is a lawyer for opposition political leader, Laisenia Qarase and Mr Naidu said he was concerned the police will have access to information about the lawyers’ clients.“There’s a lot of confidential matters. I mean anyone who goes to a solicitor relies on confidentiality and there may be a lot of information and other data and there’s no guarantee that the police will not abuse their powers of search in this case.” Mr Naidu told Radio New Zealand InternationalMr Naidu said the lawyers have been taken in under the emergency regulations which are being interpreted in a draconian way. ends
New Fiji human rights commission decree criticized
Suva, 20 May 2009
---- Several Fiji organisations are critical of a new presidential decree on the country’s human rights commission..Under the new decree, the commission is to educate the public about human rights.It’s not to receive complaints to investigate or question the legality of the abrogation of the 1997 constitution or other presidential decrees.The director of the Fiji-based regional organisation, the Pacific Resource Concerns Centre, Tupou Vere, said she believes the commission will have no power.“We question what’s the point of having a human rights commission in the country when any semblance of human rights is virtually nil. At the moment in Fiji when we have decrees such as this one, we don’t see any relevance of having any mechanism, a human rights institution in the country.” Ms Vere told Radio New Zealand InternationalThe Citizens Constitutional Forum Executive Director, the Reverend Akuila Yabaki, shares the concern. ends
Australia Backs EU’s ‘Firm Line’ Cancelling Sugar Aid to Fiji
Canberra, 20 May 2009
------- Australia welcomed the “firm line” the European Union is taking on Fiji, saying the cancellation of sugar aid to the Pacific island nation this year was inevitable after the military government refused to restore democracy, according to Bloomberg. The European Commission announced two days ago it has canceled a grant worth 24 million euros ($32.6 million) because Fiji rejected international calls to hold elections in 2009. The cancellation “is the inevitable result of the interim government’s failure to return Fiji to democracy,” the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said in a statement today. “Fiji and its people continue to bear the consequences of the interim government’s intransigent attitude.” Australia has led international criticism of Fiji since a military coup in December 2006 and is calling on Frank Bainimarama, the army chief and interim prime minister, to restore democracy. The military government says elections won’t be held before 2014 and has imposed a state of emergency under which the media is censored. The sugar industry is the nation’s second-largest after tourism and contributes between 6 percent and 8 percent of the country’s total gross domestic product, according to Fiji’s government. The EU announced in October 2007 that subsidies would be tied to progress toward democracy. Fiji’s Interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum yesterday signaled the government may seek talks with the EU on the issue. Fiji’s central bank last month devalued its dollar by 20 percent to cushion the effects of the global financial crisis, and announced a tightening of exchange controls to safeguard foreign reserves. ends
Fiji superior courts sittings rescheduled
Suva, 20 May 2009
---- Fiji’s Supreme Court and Appeals Court sittings have been deferred to later in the year while there is still no word on the resumption of the High Court, according to Fiji Live.This comes as appointments of judges are yet to be made since the abrogation of Fiji’s Constitution on April 10 this year. Fiji’s lower court, however are functioning although there is only one magistrate at each of the districts, including the greater Suva area.Interim Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has assured that further appointments to the judiciary will be made “in due course”.As a result of the delay, many civil cases are still to be heard.“These include probate cases where there are disputes over wills, medical negligence and compensation cases, human rights issues and discrimination, and a variety of complex commercial litigation, ” local lawyer, Hamendra Nagin told Radio Australia.Acting Chief Registrar Major Ana Rokomokoti has yet to respond to questions seeking clarification on how many cases have been affected by the delay. Ends
Ease sugar leash, PM urges Europe
Suva, 20 May 2009
--- Fiji’s interim Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama has urged the European Commission to be flexible on the disbursement of sugar funds to Fiji to address drastic sugar price cuts, according to Fiji Live. Bainimarama made the plea at the ACP Sugar Ministers conference in Guyana earlier this week, coinciding with the European Union’s announcement that it is withholding $43 million earmarked for the Fiji sugar industry this year.Europe has been pressing the Bainimarama government to hold elections. European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Louis Michel said: “I encourage the Government of Fiji to fulfil its commitments to the European Union so that we are able to reinstate sugar reform payments in the future.”Bainimarama appealed for understanding at the ministerial conference and called on Fiji’s longstanding trading and development partners to recognise his government’s efforts to bring about genuine change to ensure sustainable peace, stability and democracy.He thanked the European Union for the substantial developmental assistance provided in the form of the Sugar Protocol which had contributed greatly to “economic and social development and poverty reduction in Fiji”.The special ministerial conference is geared towards planning a new sugar arrangement between the EU and its former colonies. Fiji was assured support through to 2013. The $43 million that the EU has withheld amounts to almost 20 per cent of Fiji's revenue from sugar, the country’s second largest income earner after tourism, making up about a quarter of exports.Sugar Cane Growers Council CEO Surendra Sharma said cane farmers must find ways to confront the changed situation, engage in innovative ways to carry on their efficiency and productivity improvements and work towards adaptation and survival without the promised EU help. “Cane farmers in Fiji have never really premised their survival on hand-outs and the recent floods have demonstrated very graphically that no tooth-fairy is waiting on the wings for them!”Mr Sharma is hopeful that the EU may re-consider the reinstatement of its 2009 allocation to Fiji.“My understanding is that this money has not been re-allocated to other ACP countries as yet and may be salvageable,” he said. “There’s clearly a window of opportunity for the government to dialogue with the Forum Island leaders and the EU and work towards some form of agreed framework on the way forward.” ends
NZ softens stance on Fiji sports teams
Wellington, 20 May 2009
---- New Zealand has softened its stance on visiting sports teams from Fiji, says Prime Minister John KeyThe Labour government banned all visiting Fijian sports teams except the rugby sevens team after Commodore Frank Bainimarama's military takeover of the country in 2006.Mr Key said his Government had “softened” its stance on Fijian sports team since coming to power in last year's election in November, The Dominion Post reported.“New Zealand has been effectively softening its sanctions in relation to sporting ties and the travel of sports teams.”“To all intents and purposes, since we've been the Government we've been signing off on sports teams either transiting to New Zealand or coming to engage in sports activities here.”However, a travel ban remains on members of Cdre Bainimarama's regime and their families coming to New Zealand..ends Tonga urges re-engagement with Fiji Wellington 20 May 2009 --- Tonga’s Prime Minister Feleti Sevele says it's a mistake to isolate Fiji's military regime despite its decision to ignore international demands for elections, according to AFPFiji was suspended from the 16-nation Pacific Islands Forum at the beginning of this month after military leader Voreqe Bainimarama broke a promise to hold elections by March this year.Last month, the regime abrogated the constitution, sacked the judiciary and said elections would not be held until 2014 to restore the democracy overturned in the 2006 coup.“To ostracise Fiji would not be in the interest, not only of Fiji but of the forum as a whole,” Dr Sevele told a press conference after meeting New Zealand Prime Minister John Key in Wellington.“I am sympathetic to anyone who needs assistance. Fiji needs help now.”The leader of Fiji's South Pacific neighbour said he supported the decision by the forum to suspend Fiji but added that a new strategy was needed.“What has happened in Fiji is the exact opposite of what the forum wanted to achieve, so maybe it is time for us to reconsider our approach”Mr Key indicated New Zealand did not intend to soften its approach, saying a 2014 election deadline was unacceptable but he added his government was willing to engage with Fiji if the military regime developed a clear pathway to democracy.“This hasn't been about trying to punish Fiji but we want to see a democracy restored,” he said.“We’ve always stood ready, willing and able to engage and support Fiji as they restore the country to democracy. In the end that remains in the hands of Frank Bainimarama. If he wants to take that step and legitimately engage with us I think all Pacific Forum leaders would stand thereto assist them. We don’t want to leave them out in the cold nor do we want to sanction an illegitimate regime.”The European Commission on Monday announced it was withdrawing aid worth 24 million euros ($A42.56 million) this year to help restructure Fiji's struggling sugar industry.In a statement, the executive arm of the European Union said the grant was being cancelled "in the absence of any indications that a legitimate government will be in place in 2009.”ends
Fiji human rights commissioner labels latest decree farcical
Suva, 20 May 2009
--- A Fiji human rights commissioner has labelled a decree banning the Human Rights Commission from taking complaints or investigate the abrogation of the constitution as farcical.Under the new decree, the commission is to educate the public about human rights, but it’s not to receive complaints to investigate or question the legality of the abrogation of the 1997 constitution or other presidential decrees.Commissioner, Shamima Ali, said the decree was shocking.“It’s nothing short of a farce and a mockery of a national institution on human rights, because the issue that’s contained in there are in total contradiction to each other. On one hand, it cannot investigate human rights abuses and the abrogation of the constitution, and on the other hand three commissioners promote human rights in the country. It really doesn’t make sense.”Ms Ali told Radio New Zealand International no self-respecting human rights commission will set itself up under this decree.ends
Fiji police warns against stirring trouble
Suva, 20 May 2009
---- Fiji Police are closely monitoring the movement of people who are trying to stir up trouble, according to Fiji Sun Ministry of Information’s permanent secretary and army spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Neumi Leweni said Government has appealed to the public to refrain from destabilising the country. “Government appeals to those individuals instigating or participating in any action that will destabilise the country not to do so,” Lt-Col Leweni said. He said Government’s appeal was specially made to members of the Methodist Church of Fiji who are preparing for their annual conference. Lt-Col Leweni asked members not to be misled by a few people who were trying to cause instability. “We have been down this path before, but this time around Government and the security forces are more alert,” he said. “We will be pro-active in our collective effort to keep the peace throughout the nation.” he said. He added that Government was grateful to the people who were going about their daily lives and contributing positively to the peaceful environment that is experienced throughout the country. Assistant Police spokesman Sergeant Suliano Tevita said they were tracking people who were breaching the law especially in the current situation. “We have seen that individuals are breaching the PER (Public Emergency Regulation),” he said. “These people do not support this Government and they should remember police is on full patrol now and they will make sure they are arrested before any trouble is created.” Sgt Tevita added that police are keeping up with their patrols and at the same time keep a tight control of the situation.ends
Bainimarama to appoint Shameem’s replacement
Suva, 20 May 2009
----- A new Fiji Human Rights Commission (FHRC) chairperson and Ombudsman will be appointed when Interim Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama returns next month from a three-week trip overseasFiji Live reports interim attorney-general Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the appointment will be made in consultation with the President Ratu Josefa Iloilo.Both positions were previously held by Dr Shaista Shameem.Commodore Bainimarama is in Georgetown, Guyana this week for the 11th Special African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) ministerial conference on sugar.He is expected back on 01June ends.
Heart ill common in Fiji
Suva, 20 May 2009
--- Rheumatic heart disease is common in Fiji, says a surgeon who's part of the Open Heart Surgery team from Sydney Adventist Hospital. “Rheumatic heart disease occurs in societies where general community health is still being developed - and where infection in childhood is not treated,” said Dr Matthew Bayfield told the Fiji TimesHe said the disease was very uncommon in developed western societies like Australia and England and USA. “It is quite a different disease pattern that we see here compared to home,” he said.Dr Bayfield arrived on Saturday to operate on patients for a week.He said a problem in Fiji was the lack of resources.“All the gear that is required for the heart surgery has to be brought from Australia - and those are brought by donations,” he said.He returns to Australia at the end of this week when another surgeon will fly in to replace him in the team.This is Dr Bayfield's third trip to Fiji as part of the team.“We enjoy coming to Fiji very much and the spirit of the team is terrific and everyone is here to help out the Fijian people,” he said.“We also enjoy the work we are doing and we love to come here,” he added.He said he took a week away from work as part of his annual leave time.Dr Bayfield said he felt good about being in the team.“I think we are doing people some good. It also helps with our professional lives. We do some interesting heart surgery and learn from it,” he said. ends
Fiji told to brace itself for Influenza A
Geneva, 20 May 2009
----- Fiji has been told it must now brace itself for the arrival of the Influenza A (H1N1) virus after the World Health Organisation upgraded its alert level to phase six at its assembly being held in Geneva, Switzerland, reports Fiji LiveInterim Health Minister Dr Neil Sharma, who is attending the meeting said there is no question of whether the disease will get to Fiji or not but a question of when it will hit Fiji. “And we must be ready for that time - when it does hit us,” Dr Sharma said. He said since Fiji is the hub of the South Pacific “we are at risk more than anyone else in the South Pacific”. “If it does come to the South Pacific it will come through us first because flights come in through Nadi and ships come in through our ports,” he said. So far, 40 countries have reported 8829 cases of Influenza A (H1N1) infection, including 74 deaths.The list includes one confirmed case in Australia, nine in New Zealand, three in the Republic of Korea, 4714 in the United States of America, 101 in the United Kingdom, 125 in Japan and 496 in Canada. All these countries have air-links to Fiji.“So we have to be prepared. We must have our guards up,” said Dr Sharma. He said it is important that people are reassured about the processes that have been taken to ensure they are protected and that the country is ready if there were some cases. “People should be assured that we will be able to handle cases if they do get confirmed in Fiji and the onus is on all of us, stakeholders involved, to keep sending those messages to members of the public,” Dr Sharma said. “We have to get the tourism industry to do their bit, the schools and school management teams, the Customs, Immigration, Health and other Border Control people to play their part too. “Everyone must now join hands and work together because it is now inevitable that the virus will get to Fiji.”Dr Sharma said the WHO meeting discussed the Influenza A situation at length. The WHO had agreed to look into ways of making the anti-virals, Tamiflu, readily available and accessible to everyone, including developing and under-developed countries, Dr Sharma said. “There will be locations identified where the anti-virals can be stocked, ready for distribution to countries that would need them.” Dr Sharma said the meeting had discussed the production of vaccines that could be used. “Countries like China, Russia and Ethiopia are ready to start and England has shown that they will be putting in a lot of money in this issue.” ends

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