Sunday, November 08, 2009

Regime Repressive Policies to Deal with Bloated Costs

Rawfiji News posts

Fiji’s retirement age to drop from 55 to 50

November 7, 2009

Dropping the Fijian retirement age from 65 to 55 earlier this year by Frank & Co. received mixed reactions from those affected.

Frank wasn’t bothered about its impact on the Fijian populace.

His plan was to get rid of as many civil servants as possible from his payroll and the only way how is to reduce retirement age from 65 to 55.

While some celebrated with their over-night legal right to access their FNPF retirement funds, some were not amused with Frank’s bullish attitude in signaling them out as a group of Fiji citizens whose services were no longer required.

Frank’s new retirement age policy was lambasted after the public realised how selective he was with his new policy.

Case in point were his brothers who both kept their jobs eventhough they were way past 55 years and hardly productive in their own field of work.

And now, sources are saying there are talks that Fiji’s retirement age will drop further to 50 come 2010.

But it doesn’t end there.

The junta is introducing an FNPF decree that will disallow 50 years and over members to fully withdraw their pension money unless they are migrating overseas.

Sources say that members who wish to fully withdraw their pension will have to accept a repayment schedule by FNPF that will run over a few years.

There are indications that Frank’s reckless spending on things that only matter to his self-preservation program will cost Fiji’s public much with a predicted increased in VAT from 12.5% to 15%.

The VAT increase is expected to be announced during the 2010 budget session.

It is a tax that will directly hit the Fijian populace wallets as price of goods and services will jump by another 2.5%, on the backdrop of the the highest inflation rate ever recorded in Fiji’s history.

Frank’s junta is running very thin on money supply while Fiji’s economy continues to frail away under his military dictatorship.

Fiji’s national budget announcement is something that small coup fested island always holds it bated breath for.

More so now when it’s citizens freedom of sorts has been raped by a corrupt military led regime by Frank Bainimarama.

Without miss, previous governments have always marked the first week of November as the budget announcement week but not under Frank’s junta.

Sources say the budget announcement has been postponed to end of November while Frank & Co. try to pump some artificial life into their sick economic management ethos.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the latest diplomatic spat is reading the columns of so-called experts who say how bad or ineffective sanctions are.

What sanctions?

The major sanction applied by the Australia and New Zealand to the tin-pot dictatorship on the door-step is refusing visas to visit Australia or New Zealand.

Both governments have said they don’t want to use economic sanctions which could impact upon the lives of ordinary Fijians more than the regime elite. It’s standard practice in a dictatorship to make sure that the elite are taken care of no matter what, so there’s no way sanctions can affect them.

But refusing a visa to judges appointed by the regime (and then only after they’ve taken an oath to faithfully serve a regime that has abolished its constitution) serves only to let the judges know that they are regarded as servants of an illegal regime. It’s a symbolic gesture.

For the legal profession, illegality is something that ought to matter. And the way the illegal Chief Justice and Attorney General have reacted, it seems that the symbolism of the gesture is very effective.

Aiyaz and Gates do not like to have the illegality of their positions held up for the world to see.

THE Australian National University has sent a formal complaint to Fiji over the expulsion of one of its top academics.

Professor Brij Lal was detained, verbally abused and given 24 hours to leave the country on Wednesday after the Fijian military regime took offence to comments he made in the media.

His expulsion came just a day after Australia and New Zealand’s top diplomats were given similar marching orders, deepening the rift between the two countries and their Pacific neighbour.

The university has sent a letter to the Fiji High Commission in Canberra, condemning Prof Lal’s treatment and forced deportation.

”(We) unreservedly condemn the actions of the Fiji military forces in taking our colleague Professor Brij V Lal into custody, abusing him and ordering his departure from Fiji,” the letter reads.

“Professor Lal was born in Fiji, and has risen to become a leading Pacific historian as well as an important commentator on contemporary Fiji politics.

“He has consistently made his expertise available to advance the public good.

“For the Fiji military to abuse and expel him in this way is unacceptable.”

The Australian Government warned it will maintain a hardline stance against Fiji in the wake of the expulsions, but has not suggested imposing any further trade sanctions.


Fiji plan needed now

November 7, 2009Bold

THE escalating diplomatic stand-off between Australia and Fiji might follow established practice but it is clear this is not hastening a return to democracy in the Pacific island republic or lessening the burden of Frank Bainimarama’s military rule on its people.

While it might be understandable for Australian dilpomats to warn prospective Sri Lankan judges of the travel bans that would apply should they take up judicial appointments in Suva, such involvement in Fijian affairs was always going to be at least provocative and its wisdom is now open to question.

This, and the fact New Zealand authorities were seen to react slowly to a plea for medical assistance for the sick child of a Fijian judge, were behind the expulsion of our high commissioner James Batley and his counterpart from Wellington.

The usual tit-for-tat reaction in Canberra has prompted Fiji to apprehend an Australian academic Brij Lal and then force him to leave the country after the Australian National University professor gave interviews critical of Commodore Bainimarama’s regime.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith are clearly exasperated by Commodore Bainimarama’s refusal to talk with Australia or other Pacific countries.

It is this pig-headedness in Suva – and what Mr Rudd calls a fear of a “coup culture” pervading the Pacific – that’s behind the increasing use of blunt diplomatic devices such as expulsions.

The coup culture fear looks thin as, except for Papua New Guinea, there is no other military presence in the Pacific able to threaten a government.

The other actions against Fiji, particularly targeted travel bans, are obviously having an effect. Mr Rudd was right to resist broader economic sanctions which would only hurt the Fijian people, but there needs to be some smarter way of putting pressure on Commodore Bainimarama and his cronies who talk vaguely about holding elections in 2014.

The 16-member Pacific Islands Forum has been ineffectual, mainly because some participants are sympathetic to Commodore Bainimarama and dislike strong-arm measures favoured by Australia and New Zealand. Mr Smith protests that it is impossible to have a dialogue if the other side refuses to talk, which is true but after this week’s diplomatic chest-beating the chance of any conversation with Suva is non-existent.

To simply isolate Commodore Bainimarama even more does little except to give the military rulers an excuse for their actions. No one wants undemocratic rule in Suva with its suppression of free speech and denial of basic rights. However, shouting from across the ocean only serves to tick off the Foreign Affairs to-do list. We need to engage with the regime in Suva and find a way of changing the mindset that led to this coup that now stands against a return to democracy.

Mr Rudd doesn’t mind sending personal envoys to promote his grand international designs for Asia or the United Nations. Perhaps he should find someone to engage with the Fijians and find a new way to bring that country back into the Pacific community. This week’s events prove conventional methods are not working.

- Courier Mail,,26315208-13360,00.html

Like previous appointments to the judiciary, we have not been told of the professional background of Sri Lankan judges and their fellow magistrates who were sworn-in by the illegal President Ratu Epeli Ganilau in the presence of the illegal Chief Justice Anthony Gates.

A search into Google has returned no hits on the two judges, suggesting that the two, as well as their colleagues, have been small and insignificant judicial frogs in the legal well of Sri Lanka. No wonder they are happy to get away from their island nation, to sit on the Fiji bench.

What is ironical is that these Sri Lankans come, presumably, from the majority Sinahala community, who have been oppressing the minority Tamil community, akin to what had been done to the Indo-Fijian community by the taukei Fijians, if we are to believe the toxic and maniacal dictator Frank Bainimarama that he is trying to eradicate ethnic chauvinism against the Indo-Fijian community.

What is not in dispute is that the Sri Lankan judiciary, composed of the majority Sinahala judges and magistrates, have been in the forefront of judicially oppressing the Tamil minority, as the following report in June 2009 by the International Study Group highlighted:
“Sri Lanka’s judiciary is failing to protect constitutional and human rights. Rather than assuaging conflict, the courts have corroded the rule of law and worsened ethnic tensions. Rather than constraining militarisation and protecting minority rights, a politicised bench under the just-retired chief justice has entrenched favoured allies, punished foes and blocked compromises with the Tamil minority. Its intermittent interventions on important political questions have limited settlement options for the ethnic conflict. Extensive reform of the judicial system – beginning with a change in approach from the newly appointed chief justice – and an overhaul of counterproductive emergency laws are essential if the military defeat of the LTTE is to lead to a lasting peace that has the support of all ethnic communities. ”

“The judiciary has not acted as a check on presidential and legislative power but has instead contributed to the political alienation of Tamils”, says Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. “Under the former chief justice, the Supreme Court’s rulings strengthened political hardliners among Sinhala nationalist parties”.


A Fijian politician says the military backed regime is doing itself damage by censoring all voices of dissent. Since April, all Fiji’s news has been censored, under the instructions not to allow anything critical of the interim government. The military backed regime says it supports free speech, but as it is trying to rebuild the country, it does not need critics. And over the past week the censorship has included a lot of the stories relating to the tit for tat expulsion of High Commissioners and Heads of Mission from Suva, Canberra and Wellington.

Presenter: Pacific Correspondent Campbell Cooney
Speakers: General Secretary of Fiji’s National Federation Party Pramod Rae; John Keniapisia, Special secretary to the Solomon Islands Prime Minister; Samoa’s Prime Minster Tuilaepa Salilele Malalegoa; Fiji President, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau

COONEY: Since April when Fiji’s Constitution was scrapped, it’s only been what the interim government, the military which backs it and agencies like the police have judged as suitable which has been allowed to appear in the country’s media, and over the past week, its censors have made sure the public there have only heard, seen and read what they have deemed acceptable in relation to the diplomatic battle, which has seen their heads of mission in New Zealand and Australia expelled as well as Fiji’s expulsion of those countries heads of mission and the forced exit from Fiji of respected academic, Professor Brij Lal.

Pramod Rae, is General Secretary of Fiji’s National Federation Party.

RAE: That is how the place operates, there is extreme media censorship. There is a view that the way that people have become silent and have stopped being critics of the regime. That is not correct, the criticism and the scrutiny of the regime continues. It is just the media are under such strict control, so it’s not surprising these kinds of events are supported. But of course word gets around. Fiji is a small place. It does not take long for people to know.

COONEY: Mr Rae believes the interim government is being badly served by cutting off all voices of dissent.

RAE: They are actually doing themselves a great disservice, because word gets around of whose doing what and who can be bought for how much and those kinds of things are normal in this kind of environment. So as I said, they are doing themselves a disservice by clamping down the media in this way.

COONEY: Do you feel that things like nepotism, corruption, despite the fact that the interim government are saying that’s why they came to power, to get rid of those things. Do you feel that those things are being seen to flourish at the moment over there?

RAE: Well, I think that is the general view that is happening, as well as bad decisions and I think Mr Bainimarama is surrounded by people who are giving him incompetent advice and wrong advice and wrong views. The decision that he took to expel the Australian High Commissioner and the New Zealand head of mission appears that is a very extreme step.

COONEY: Around the Pacific, the response to what’s happened in Fiji is best described as subdued.

In Solomon Islands, the Special secretary to Prime Minister, Dr Derek Sikua, John Keniapisia said this.

KENIAPISIA: The new dimension that this problem has taken itself into is affecting international relations between our regional friends.

COONEY: And while Samoa’s Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Salilele Malielengaoi, has previously been a harsh critic of coup leader and interim prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, when he was asked how the current situation can best be resolved. He’s previous scorn for the commodore and his military-backed regime was nowhere to be heard.

MALALEGOA: We should pray a lot. I Epeli Nailatikau, being appointed president do swear that I well and truly serve the Republic of Fiji and the office of the president.

COONEY: In Fiji yesterday, all eyes were on the swearing in of Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, as the country’s new head of state.

Previous president, Ratu Josefa IIoilo was seen as little more than a rubber stamp, supporting all proposals and policies of the military government. Ratu Epeli is a former commander and a former interim minister of Commodore Bainimamarama and he was not appointed by the Great Council of Chiefs, which has been disbanded by the interim government, but was appointed by the interim prime minister himself.

Pramod Rae says the new president may have all the power that office holds, but the way he got into that office means he does not really have the respect of Fiji’s people.

RAE: I think the reaction and the lack of acknowledgment that this appointment draws is indicative of the fact that yes, you are sitting there, you can appoint the president, you can appoint two presidents. So it really does not make a lot of difference to the lives of ordinary people.

- Radio Australia

Pacific Beat speaks to Professor Brij Lal in Australia’s capital, Canberra, his home and also home to the Australian National University. The Australian academic expelled from Fiji says he was subjected to ‘intense verbal abuse’ and ‘foul language’ when he was taken into custody.

Geraldine Coutts begins by asking if news reports that Fiji’s immigration director, Major Nemani Vuniwaqa, saying he was not expelled are correct.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts
Speaker: Professor Brij Lal, Australian National University

LAL: Well, I have never claimed that I was deported. I was told by the officer interrogating me in absolutely no uncertain terms that I had to leave the country within 24 hours or else. Now, the historical records would show that I was booked to leave Fiji on the 4th December. I mean I have been there since August, I was doing research and still one full month more to go before I was due to return and this can be confirmed and changes had to be made on that night that I was expelled and this can be confirmed by officials at the Australian embassy who were very helpful and indeed even officials from Qantas. So I respectfully ask the gentleman who has made this statement to confer with the officer who was talking to me to see exactly what was said. I have no reason to lie in this. I mean I was there fully prepared and commited to another month’s work.

COUTTS: Now, are they playing with words and semantics, choosing not deported as distinct from expelled?

LAL: Yeah, yeah, yeah. This is verbal games. They simply want to clamp down on any dissenting voice and I suppose mine has been a fairly prominent one for a long period of time and my comment on the expulsion of the High Commissioners was the breaking point so to speak and I think the message that is being sent to other people in the country who might raise their voice against aspects of what is being done and happening in this country is to watch out. I mean unless you subscribe to the version of events that the military is putting out, you are simply enemy of the state.

COUTTS: Now, not one word of this has appeared in Fiji’s press. In fact, we know that stories were written up but the censors got to it and withdrew the stories about you. So, apart from the fact that you are a Fiji-born person, it’s a bit sad to say that people in your own country, your homeland are not hearing about this latest story?

LAL: Well, I mean this is one example and I was rung up on that night by a person from the newspaper, the Fiji Times, and told that they were writing a tory, whether it was to be published or not is a different matter. But this is attacking news. Mine is not an exceptional case. A number of cases which are which throw bad light on some aspects of what the government has done or is doing, they never get published. There is total darkness. I mean the newspapers operate under huge censorship, the radios; the television broadcasts only that which is approved by the military regime. So I think this is perhaps the most difficult part of living in Fiji. The total blackout on information, which gives rise to all kinds of blog sites and all kinds of other channels promoting information, as well as misinformation and I think this is what is really hurting the people of Fiji, because they cannot talk about what is happening. They cannot exchange ideas in public. You are always looking over your shoulder to see if someone is listening or not and I have been told by many people that this is one aspect of this coup that is different, very different from the ones in the past. In the past, there seemed to be a pattern where after the initial period, leadership was handed back to a civilian authority, whether it was Mara in 1987, or Qarase and others in 1999. But this time around, the military is deeply entrenched and they are intent on remaining in power for a very long period of time.

COUTTS: Now, you said earlier that you hoped the cooler heads will prevail and that in a couple of months time, you might consider going back. Are you serious?

LAL: Well, I would like to go back, not necessarily in the next couple of months, but hopefully in the near future. I mean I don’t want to tempt fate obviously, but writing about Fiji has been the preoccupation of my life, my obsession and I would not like to just leave that. But I will just have to wait and assess the situation, see what the thinking is and then hope, because expelling me or asking me to leave is not going to help solve Fiji’s problems. It’s simply a side event and I just hope also that the public emergency regulations which are being extended month by month by month will end and people will be able to express their views as they have done in Fiji for all this time, except since the abrogation of the Constitution in April this year.

Over the past week the events in Fiji have been front page news in Australia, New Zealand, and many other parts of the world, including the Pacific. Fiji’s media was also been given the go ahead by the censors to cover the comments by Chief Justice Anthony Gates, alleging judicial interference by Australia and New Zealand. Outlets there also reported the military backed regime’s response to those allegations, the expulsion of Australia and New Zealand’s heads of mission, and the reaction of those countries, and the expulsion of Fiji’s Heads of mission in Wellington and Canberra. But as Pacific Correspondent Campbell Cooney reports Fiji’s censors, based in newsrooms since the constitution was scrapped in April, have ensured there has been no mention of the overnight expulsion of Fijian born Australian National University academic, Professor Brij Lal.

Presenter: Pacific Correspondent Campbell Cooney
Speakers: Fiji’s Interim Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum; Radio Australia’s Phil Kafcaloudes; Mark Davies from the SBS; Fiji interim Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama

COONEY: A leading commentator on Fiji politics Professor Lal has a home in Suva and has been there for the past few months doing research. He appears to have run foul of the regime over interviews he conducted with international media about the interim government’s expulsions. After a three hour interrogation by the military he was told he was unwelcome and was given 24 hours to leave Fiji. But this story about the detention, interrogation and expulsion of one of the country’s leading academics and commentators appears to be something Fiji’s leaders don’t want Fijians to know about, especially on the day the military regime gets the head of state it wants with former interim minister Ratu Epeli Nailatikau swearing in as President. And online check by Radio Australia of Fiji’s media and the Pacific news wire service Pac News can find no mention of the forced exit from Fiji of Professor Lal. And in an interview with Radio Australia, interim Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum indicated Fiji has a different view of what free press means.

SAYED-KHAIYUM: The only restriction on media at the moment is that there are one or two individual politicians whose voices aren’t heard, but other people’s voices are heard.

KAFCALOUDES: Why are some politicians voices not heard, certainly that isn’t freedom of speech if some are not allowed to speak?

SAYED-KHAIYUM: Yes you can argue that, but the point is that we are building a nation.

COONEY: In July Mark Davies from the SBS Dateline program spoke to interim prime minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama about the censorship.

DAVIES: There’s a pretty good chance I could break a law on the streets of Fiji. I just have to bring my camera out and try and speak to an opponent of yours and I’d be breaking the law?

BAINIMARAMA: Well yes but that’s law by decree.

DAVIES: Mr Qarase, he’s not able to speak out against you or to organise against you. I believe he’s now not allowed to leave the country, is that correct?

BAINIMARAMA: That’s his bail condition I think.

DAVIES: And one of the reasons given to not allow him out of the country is that he will speak to journalists. Specifically he’ll speak to journalists in Australia?

BAINIMARAMA: Well not really, he will go out and make destabilising remarks about what’s happening in Fiji.

DAVIES: Is he able to speak freely?

BAINIMARAMA: Well he can speak to his wife and his family freely in that sense, yes.

DAVIES: Can I speak to him?

BAINIMARAMA: You want to speak to him? What do you want to speak to him about?

DAVIES: Ask him his opinion of you perhaps?

BAINIMARAMA: No, I don’t want you to speak to him because he doesn’t make sense.

COONEY: And while the interim government says there are only a couple of politicians who aren’t allowed to talk publicly, the expulsion of diplomats and academics means those contacted over the past few days by Radio Australia asking for comment have declined, giving the reason of not wanting to put Fiji’s military leaders off side. Fiji’s public are definitely not going to be reading a story in the News Limited-owned Australian newspaper about the man credited with triggering Fiji’s latest conflict with its international neighbours, Chief Justice Anthony Gates. Written by the paper’s legal affairs editor Chris Merritt, it’s first paragraph reads:

“The breach in relations with Fiji has been triggered by one extraordinary man, Chief Justice Anthony Gates, an Australian citizen who appears to believe the role of a judge includes providing briefings for dictators.”

COONEY: And if that’s not enough to attract the attention of Fiji censors then its description of Mr Gates’ career trajectory to his appointment as Chief Justice is sure to:

“For Justice Gates this promotion is the pinnacle of a career that has flourished as democracy in Fiji has withered.”

COONEY: Don’t hold your breath waiting to see it in print in Fiji anytime soon.

- Radio Australia

A spokesman for Fiji’s military regime says it will take action where it sees national security as a concern.

The military chief of staff, Colonel Aziz Mohammed, says the Fiji-born Australian academic Brij Lal was detained and questioned this week because he breached public emergency regulations.

Professor Lal says he returned to Australia after he was told to leave Fiji because of criticism he’d made of the interim regime’s decision to expel Australian and New Zealand diplomats.

Colonel Mohammed would not specify how Professor Lal had breached regulations, but says the military acted of its own accord and not in response to government instructions.

He says Professor Lal was treated well.

“We had a very cordial conversation, we made the position and our concerns known to him, and basically he agreed to certain things we had to say.”

Colonel Aziz Mohammed says he was not aware Professor Lal was told to leave Fiji within 24 hours.

Radio New Zealand International

PO Box 123, Wellington, New Zealand

Never before in our nation’s history has there been such a unified chorus of international condemnation levelled against our country as now following the most arrogant show of power by the Interim regime. In ordering that the Australian and NZ high commissioners leave Fiji within 24 hours, Bainimarama has not only defied the covenants of the Vienna convention but also showed how badly out of tune he is with international opinion and to what extreme extent he will go to entrench power for powers sake.

Australia, NZ, US, UK, the neighbouring Pacific, Commonwealth, EU and United Nations all have pleaded unsuccessfully for some measured restraint and show of commitment to restore proper governance and democracy. Pitted in a posture of unmalleable pride and strident defiance, the regime has shown a contemptuous unwillingness to engage with anybody who disagrees with their agenda of total control and usurpation of the democratic process.

There is no validity in the argument that in refusing transit visas to the Sri Lankan judges, Australia and NZ are interfering with the administration and independence of Fiji’s judiciary. There is no nexus between the two and his excuse is spurious at best. Nor is there any basis to suggest that any such action impinges on Fiji’s sovereignty in any way.

Fiji’s sovereignty is based on its stature and acceptance by the international community of nations; its adherence to the rule of law, respect and commitment to the true principles of constitutional democracy, human, civil and trade union rights, media freedom, racial equity and justice and the opportunity it offers to its citizens to live and conduct their lives freely and without fear of the state institutions.

National sovereignty is not compromised because a few Sri Lankan mercenaries have been denied transit visas by another sovereign country.

From a once glorious jewel of the Pacific, widely hailed “as the way the world should be”, our Fiji has been reduced to a pariah, isolated as a political leper without friends and ridiculed. It is this self inflicted degradation and destruction of the nation that has robbed Fiji off its rightful place in the world of nations which has besmirched its sovereignty.

The truth of the matter is that the current judiciary in Fiji has never had any independence since the Bainimarama coup of 2006. Whatever modicum and pretence of judicial legitimacy it had, has been irrevocably destroyed by the abrogation of the Constitution in April 2009. The entire legal infrastructure of the country; right from the appointment of the Chief Justice, judges, magistrates, Registrar of the Courts, the Solicitor General and the administration of the courts, the police and the prosecution etc lacks constitutional authority and independence. In its inability to attract suitably qualified personnel of adequate competence, integrity and independence, the quality of the judiciary has been heavily compromised and politicised. The traditional Westminister model predicated on the principle of the separation of the judiciary, the executive and the legislature as been violated. Justice Gates has established a new nadir in judicial chicanery by taking it upon himself to criticise two sovereign neighbouring governments.

There is no Legal and Judicial Services Commission to oversee the proper appointment of judges and magistrates. Most positions have been filled on the basis of political patronage and an unashamed declaration of allegiance to the regime’s political interests and on the recommendations of the PM and AG. Unlike the long established convention of appointment for life, they are all on temporary contracts which can be terminated at a month’s notice. Instead of declaring their adherence to the rule of law, ethics and proper administration of justice, they have all taken an oath to uphold the promulgation and decrees of the regime.

They have significantly restricted jurisdiction. Neither can any case before the courts prior to April 10th 2009 nor any subsequent decision of the regime be challenged.
The legal profession has been completely neutered by the Legal Practioners Decree under which practising licenses are now issued by the highly politicised Chief Registrar. These licenses are generally issued for 12 months but in certain cases for only 3 months.

The Public Emergency Regulation has completely destroyed media freedom, all basic human rights , freedom of expression, assembly and even the rights to religious meetings.

The economy is in a tailspin, high unemployment and little to no future for the poor citizens. Farmers are physically threatened and the sugar industry is almost dead.

The regime cannot go begging the world for financial assistance, UN deployment of its soldiers, EU aid and subsidy, foreign investment etc if they are not prepared to live by the norms of democracy.

The leader of the Fiji Labour Party says the expulsion of Australian and New Zealand diplomats is regrettable, and the sending of home of academic, Brij Lal, is concerning.

Mahendra Chaudhry, who quit as the interim regime’s finance minister last year, says he considers Australia and New Zealand to be important neighbours and development partners.

He says the cutting of diplomatic ties will have an effect on Fiji and the sooner relations are restored the better.

Mr Chaudhry says Australia and New Zealand have had a policy on travel sanctions since 2006 and have a right to determine their own policies.

He says detaining and ordering Professor Lal to leave after he criticised the expulsions does not help the situation.

“I’ve always maintained that we can only resolve Fiji’s problems by engaging, and having dialogue and not by taking measures which are arbitrary.”

Mahendra Chaudhry says the Labour Party has been engaging with the interim administration about issues that concern it, such as the harassment of sugar cane farmers.

Radio New Zealand International
PO Box 123, Wellington, New Zealand

Fiji’s interim attorney general says training of magistrates is ongoing, following a new report finding them to be gender-biased and unexperienced.

The report has been compiled by the Women’s Crisis Centre and looked at how new magistrates ruled in gender-based crime cases.

The new magistrates were appointed after the turmoil in April when the constitution was thrown out and the judiciary sacked.

Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum says the problem hasn’t appeared overnight.

“The Bainimarama interim government commissioned an inquiry into the magistracy and that found a number of issues that needed to be addressed. So, those matters are on foot. There’s also been some very good training that’s been going on within the magistracy and the judiciary by some very competent judges and former judges.”

Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum

Radio New Zealand International
PO Box 123, Wellington, New Zealand

THE US government has strongly backed Canberra and Wellington in their escalating row with Fiji’s military regime.

Supporters of the regime had held out hope the US would take a nuanced approach, differentiating itself from Australia and New Zealand.

Instead, US State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters yesterday that Fiji’s expulsion of Australian and New Zealand diplomats “has undermined any opportunity for progress toward re-engagement and constructive dialogue with its neighbours”.

“The United States calls for the restoration of Fiji’s independent judiciary and the rights to free speech and assembly that are essential to the country’s return to democracy,” Mr Kelly said.

Despite the US criticism, Fiji’s Chief Justice Anthony Gates, an Australian and British citizen whose press conference railing against Australia and New Zealand for “interfering” in the judiciary prompted the latest downturn in the countries’ relationship with Fiji, yesterday swore in Ratu Epeli Nailatikau as President.

The ceremony, at Government House in Suva, was attended by military officers, government officials and some diplomats.

Kevin Rudd yesterday ruled out any prospect of normalising relations with Fiji’s military rulers, vowing to maintain a hardline approach in his government’s dealings with the regime led by military chief Frank Bainimarama.

Cranking up the rhetoric, the Prime Minister told ABC radio he was concerned to ensure Fiji’s coup culture “was not seen in any way as normal” and did not spread to other parts of the South Pacific.

Mr Rudd’s comments followed yesterday’s expulsion of Fiji’s acting high commissioner Kamlesh Kumar Arya.

The tit-for-tat exchange was triggered on Tuesday when Commodore Bainimarama kicked out Canberra’s senior envoy James Batley for alleged interference in Fiji’s judiciary.

The latest casualty of the diplomatic row is Australian National University academic Brij Lal. Professor Lal, who was born in Fiji, was detained by the Fiji military and then ordered out for public comments on the worsening state of bilateral relations. He arrived in Canberra yesterday.

During a stopover in Sydney, Professor Lal, who had to leave his wife, Padma, in their Suva home, said he was relieved to be back in Australia.

“I was really touched by the words the police officer spoke to me when we landed,” Professor Lal said. “She said: `Welcome home, sir, we will protect you.’ These were words it was beyond me to describe.” Professor Lal, a Fiji expert and Australian citizen, had been living in Suva since August, preparing to write a book about the urban poor.

He was arrested after criticising the regime’s decision to expel Mr Batley.

Professor Lal was detained and interrogated for three hours on Wednesday and described the “intense verbal abuse, foul language and explosive anger” of the police officer who dealt with him, but said there was no physical assault.

Mr Rudd said Commodore Bainimarama’s actions over the past 48 hours showed normal dealings with the junta were out of the question.

“You cannot send anything less than a clear-cut message to the people of Fiji, the Fijian regime and more widely the people of the South Pacific — that the governments of Australia and New Zealand will not simply stand idly by while this Fijian regime fundamentally breaches its democratic principles.”

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop said the Coalition would support the government’s actions but called on Mr Rudd to relocate the Pacific Forum Secretariat, at present headquartered in Suva, to further pressure Fiji’s regime.

Additional reporting: Jill Rowbotham

- The Australian

A former Fiji Human Rights Commissioner says the treatment of the Fiji born Australian academic, Brij Lal, by military authorities is shocking.

Professor Lal says the military authorities came to his house and took him to the barracks for questioning on Wednesday, giving him 24 hours to leave Fiji.

This came after he gave media interviews criticising the interim regime’s expulsion of top New Zealand and Australian diplomats earlier this week.

Professor Lal left Fiji yesterday morning and is now back in Australia.

Shamima Ali says the military’s behaviour is unacceptable.

“I’m very concerned about what’s happening. We seem to be facing a deteriorating situation politically in this country. And when we thought that bridges have been mended that’s when it seems that it slipped out of our hands again. So it’s not a good place for Fiji to be at the moment.”

Shamima Ali.

Radio New Zealand International
PO Box 123, Wellington, New Zealand

Fiji Labour Party leader and ex- Minister Finance in Frank’s illegal military regime, Mahendra Chaudhry, is still enjoying his freedom to travel to Australia, eventhough he took an illegal oath to serve under Frank’s junta.

Mahendra Chaudhry is reported to have been in Australia for the past few days for some personal business and briefing with the Australia’s Federal Labor government.

Many are already questioning the double standard immigration policy adopted by Australia for entertaining a coup apologist and beneficiary like Mahendra Chaudhry while it continues to deny common Fiji citizens from entering Australia simply under the virtue of one of their family member being a military officer or a senior appointee of the junta.

Sources confirm that SDL political party General Secretary, Peceli Kinivuwai, was detained and questioned at the military camp yesterday.

It followed his radio new zealand interview where he said that the junta’s decision to expel the Australian High Commissioner and NZ acting High Commissioner was “naive”.

Like Professor Brij Lala, Kinivuwai is said to be been verbally abused and reminded that the Public Emergency Regulation is still in place whihc prohibits him from making any public statements against the junta.

Fiji Labour Party also released a statement calling for diplomatic restraint however, none of their officials was hauled in by the military.

Good for nothing Inoke Kubuabola, once Fiji’s Ambassdor to PNG and Japan, and now the illegal Minister Foreign Affairs has admitted that he was kept in the dark on the decision made to expel ANZ envoys from Fiji.

He is reported to have said that the decision was made entirely by Anthony Gates and Aiyaz Khaiyum who later adviced Frank to announce it during a press conference.

Sources say the latest foreign relations blunder by Frank & Co. is a slap on the face for Inoke Kubuabola – an unemployable becile who sided with the coupster for the sake of getting employed.

Inoke Kubuabola was also reported to have said that he can make positive changes from within in pushing Fiji to democracy but so far, he has nothing to show for except lining his own pocket with Fiji taxpayers money.

Sources added that Kubuabola is still renting in Cakobau Flats in Suva and is yet to take up residence at one of the government houses.

They hinted that Kubuabola is feeling uneasy about moving to a government quarters fearing that his stay there may be short-lived.

UN questions

There are continuing questions about the role of Fiji’s soldiers in UN peacekeeping, which ensures a steady flow of UN income to Fiji’s military families.

Another ANU academic focussed on Fiji, Doctor Jon Fraenkel, has written that the situation is outrageous.

He also says that Fiji has designated Colonel Pita Driti to head the Fiji Guard Unit in Iraq.

Colonel Driti is described by Doctor Fraenkel as “one of the military commanders most implicated in human rights abuses since the coup”.

He’s also the subject of a long-running dispute with Malaysia which refused to accept him as Fji’s High Commissioner over his human rights record.

In a statement the United Nations has told Radio Australia that it does not have confirmation about Fiji’s intentions for Colonel Driti in Iraq and that the it is seeking clarification from Suva.

It also notes that personnel alleged to have committed human rights abuses or other illegal activities will not be accepted to serve in UN peace operations.

- Radio Australia

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