Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Indo-Fijian Label in Fiji

<>Sun.com.fj, 8 August 2006
<> Political Editor

The call by the Minister of State for National Planning, Jone Vakamocea, for the Speaker, Pita Nacuva, to rule on the use of the term “Indo Fijians” in the House of Representatives borders on racism. The call comes at a time when the nation wants to move forward under the multi-party Cabinet policy.
“I would like to raise my concern and if you could make a ruling in this august House to discourage the use of ‘Indo Fijians’ in the House or in any report or document or correspondence to be tabled in this House since it is not legally prescribed under the Constitution,” said Mr Vakamocea. “The use of Indo Fijians is not defined in the Constitution but has been propagated by Indian academics at the University of the South Pacific to Fijianise their Indian identity.”
The constitution is silent on this issue.
It clearly states that all citizens of Fiji are known as Fiji Islanders and the indigenous people are called Fijians. Mr Vakamocea prefers the use of Indian to describe an Indian of Indian origin or ethnicity and Fijians to be described as indigenous Fijian. Should we continue to call Fiji Indians, Indo Fijians? Why is it that Mr Vakamocea calls for a ruling from the Speaker? Indians are all over the world and something that needs to be mentioned is that their contribution to the economic welfare of the nations they dwell in is enormous.
A non-resident Indian (NRI) is an Indian citizen who has migrated to another country. For tax and other official purposes the Government of India considers any Indian national away from India for more than 180 days in a year an NRI. In common usage, this often includes Indian-born individuals who have taken the citizenship of other countries. A Person of Indian Origin (PIO) is literally, simply a person of Indian origin who is not a citizen of India. For the purposes of issuing a PIO Card, the Indian Government considers anyone of Indian origin up to four generations removed, to be a PIO.
There is a huge NRI and PIO population across the world, estimated at about 25 million. Here in Fiji, Indo-Fijians are people born in Fiji, but who are ethnically Indian. The constitution of Fiji defines “Indian” as anybody who can trace, through either the male or the female line, their ancestry back to anywhere on the Indian subcontinent. They are mostly descended from indentured labourers brought to the islands by Fiji’s British colonial rulers between 1879 and 1916 to work on Fiji’s sugar plantations. These were complemented by the later arrival of Gujarati and Punjabi immigrants.
Indo-Fijians are concentrated in the so-called sugar belt and in cities and towns on the northern and western coasts of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu; their numbers are much scarcer in the south and inland areas. The majority of Indo-Fijians are Hindi speakers, with large minorities speaking Bhojpuri, Urdu, Tamil, Bihari, Gujarati, and Punjabi, among others. Almost all Indo-Fijians are also fluent in English, and in the younger generation, English appears to be gradually replacing Indian languages.
The Indian communities in other countries identify themselves as Indo and the name of the country follows to identify their citizenship like: Indo-Caribbean, Indo-Fijian, Indo-Guyanese, Indo-Mauritian, Indo-Canadian, Indo-Trinidadian Indians in Trinidad call themselves Indo-Trinidadians. They are people of South Asian descent who are citizens or nationals of Trinidad and Tobago. They are also referred to simply as Indians or East Indians.
Like many Indo-Caribbeans, many are also descended from all over the Indian subcontinent. Indo-Caribbean people or Indo Caribbeans are people of South Asian origin who live in the Caribbean, or the descendants of such people. Today, Indo-Caribbeans form a large part of the population in Guyana, Suriname, and Trinidad. Smaller groups of Indo-Caribbeans live elsewhere in the Caribbean, especially Barbados, Jamaica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Martinique and Guadeloupe. Many Indo-Caribbean people have migrated to the United States of America, Canada, The Netherlands, France and the United Kingdom.
Indo-Canadians are Canadians whose origin traces back to the nation of India. The term Indian is not commonly used to describe people of ancestral origin from India since it has been used in the past and present to refer to the Aboriginals of Canada. The term East Indian is also used to distinguish people of ancestral origin from India from people from the Caribbean, since they are sometimes referred to as West Indian. Most Indo-Canadians prefer, and many times will refer to themselves, as Indians more than East Indians.
This is partially because many of them are immigrants who are used to being referred to as the internationally used term. However, because the term East Indian is not pejorative and is in widespread use in Canada, this term is accepted by Indo-Canadians. Another term, NRI (non-resident Indian), is used by Indians in India to refer to Indians abroad, including Canada. According to Statistics Canada in 2001, there were 713,330 people who considered themselves as being Indo-Canadians.
The main concentration of the Indo-Canadian population is centred in the Greater Vancouver Area and the Greater Toronto Area, however there are growing communities in Calgary, Edmonton and Montreal. Below is an approximation of the NRI population in various territories in the world. Middle East: Saudi Arabia 1,400,000; United Arab Emirates 1,200,000; Kuwait 500,000; Oman 350,000; Qatar 175,000; Bahrain 140,000; Yemen 100,000; and Jordan 4,100 South East Asia: Malaysia 2,300,000; Singapore 400,000; and Philippines 125,000. South America and the Caribbean: Guyana 326,782; Suriname 162,113; Trinidad 473,735; as well as nominal communities in Barbados, Belize, Jamaica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Martinique and Guadeloupe. Africa: South Africa 1,200,000; Mauritius 800,000; Reunion 250,000; Kenya 70,000; Uganda 60,000; Tanzania 50,000; Madagascar 30,000; Mozambique 21,000; Zambia 20,000; and Zimbabwe 20,000. Europe: United Kingdom 1,500,000; Netherlands 300,000; and France 70,000. North America: United States 2,500,000; and Canada 713,330 (2001). Oceania: Fiji 350,000; Australia 150,000; and New Zealand 70,000.
Indians in the USA are one of the largest among the groups of Indian diaspora, numbering about 1.7 million, and probably the one of the most well off - their median income is 1.5 times that of the host country. They are well represented in all walks of life, but particularly so in academia, information technology and medicine. There were over 4,000 PIO professors and 33,000 Indian-born students in American universities in 1997-98. The American Association of the Physicians of Indian Origin boasts a membership of 35,000. In 2000, Fortune magazine estimated the wealth generated by Indian Silicon Valley entrepreneurs at about $250 billion.
Here in Fiji the Indo Fijian community controls the business sector and contributes massively to the economic development of the nation. By using the name Indo Fijian, it clearly differentiates them from the Fijian race. The Constitution does stop the use of the name Indo Fijian. Under the constitution we are all Fiji Islanders and the indigenous people are called the Fijians. This not the first time that this call had been made in parliament as in 2004 Senator Adi Litia Cakobau raised the matter.
In her contribution to the Senate in the form of an adjournment motion the Bau chief said the use of the expression ‘Indo-Fijian’ should be criminalised because it was diluting the word “Fijian”. She said Indians who were born in Fiji had their registered ethnicity at birth as Indian. “They are identified as Indians in all census counts,” she said. “They are Indians in the Electoral Act. They have social, economic, political and ideological contact with India. Their political party receives cash and other forms of help from India.
“They listen, speak, read, write and worship in Hindi. They eat Indian food, watch Indian movies and listen to Hindi music” This was part of Adi Litia’s speech as part of her adjournment motion in 2004. Adi Litia said “the constant usage of this ‘Indo-Fijian’ coinage, bullies the mind of the unsuspecting and unwary Fijian into accepting it without question. Thus a blatant lie is being subtly injected into the collective Fijian, national and international consciousness”. She said her motives in making the statement were not racial or political.”
One thing that should be clarified is the fact that the name Indo Fijian does not include the Fiji Indians as Fijians. It is clear that a Fijian is registered in the Vola ni Kawa Bula (VKB). Why should we bother about the name? Surely the name Indo Fijian identifies Fiji born Indians. The name is not going to cause division and I believe it should remain. Mr Vakamocea is expressing his right but the constitution is silent on the matter. We are all Fiji Islanders but an Indo Fijian is a Fiji born Indian and is also a citizen.

Sunday, August 6, 2006

Blueprint Review Next Year

Fijilive.com, Monday August 07, 2006

The Fiji Prime Minister’s Office says a comprehensive review of the Government’s Affirmative Action programme will be undertaken next year and not this year as earlier planned.

The chief executive in the PM’s Office Joji Kotobalavu said at the Government was currently monitoring the 29 Affirmative Action programmes or Blueprint on a monthly basis.

FBCL reports the PM’s Office is also the coordinating agency for the Government in the monitoring of all Affirmative Action programmes.

Kotobalavu said this was why the multi party Government established a cabinet sub committee on Equal Opportunities and Human Rights to undertake the comprehensive review.

This Cabinet sub committee is going to be chaired by the PM and the review will be undertaken in the course of the coming year.

"Now in the context of this comprehensive review, the recent report by the Human Rights Commission on the Government’s Affirmative Action programme will be an important input.

"But the Cabinet sub committee itself will ensure that in this review they will be wide participation by the people in general because under the Constitution there is a requirement that Government resources drawn from the Budget for the implementation of the Affirmative Action programmes must be based on a board understanding by all the communities in Fiji.

"So that in general is the purpose of this comprehensive review," Kotobalavu said.

The Fiji Human Rights Commission has termed all of the Government’s "race-based" affirmative action policies as "unconstitutional" and called for affirmative action policies to be based on needs not race.

The report was prepared after a complaint last year by the Fiji Labour Party, the Citizens Constitutional Forum and the Fiji Teachers' Union on the various race-based programmes.

At the recent Asia Pacific Human Rights Forum, Vice President Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi said the Affirmative Action programme should be audited to determine the efficacy and legitimate expenditure of funds as it involved taxpayers’ monies.

Saturday, August 5, 2006

Copy of Letters to Fiji Times Editor

Subject: Pita Driti -January 6, 2007

I have a message for army officer Pita Driti from a relative of Laisa Vulakoro.
He as the Land Force Commander gave orders for innocent and courageous Fijians to be picked up and taken to the army camp for questioning. He and his superiors are nothing but cowards because they hide behind the guns they have.

They have now won themselves the title of "women bashers".

They have disgraced the institution that Laisa's uncle and Fiji's sole Victoria Cross recipient, Sefanaia Sukanaivalu, died preserving. Driti should ask himself whether he had remotely done anything to uphold the proud tradition of the Fiji military he and his misguided and deranged superiors have now bastardised?

History only records heroes and not the likes of Bainimarama, Driti, Kean, Teleni and Leweni.

Driti should know that as long as he walks this earth, the people of Yacata in Cakaudrove will always despise him and his bullies for what they did to Laisa Vulakoro.

PM Be Firm - 10 November 2006


The PM must never bow to the illegal, illegitimate and nonsensical demands by the Military to withdraw any of the Bills his government is currently navigating through parliament. He has the support of all indigenous Fijians minus the brainwashed lackeys of the Military Commander who he labels as his "silent majority". The BLV has upheld the legality of his government and the paramountcy of parliament to make laws. I suggest he has again the mandate and endorsement of this body and he should go ahead and implement the policies.

Has the Commander ever thought of the generational impact on Fijians if these legislation are not enacted? As in other nations, when natives' interest get positively addressed in a significant manner, the country's progress often flourishes because the discourse then moves on to developmental and not "rights" based entitlement. I will tell the Commander that what the PM is striving to achieve for indigenous Fijians in Fiji is the envy of similar indigenous groups in other Pacific nations with a large European population.

The real issue with the Military and Commander's position is the very low regard they have of the average Fijian who they keep believing as not being smart enough to discern the implications of these legislations. I would suggest it is perhaps an assessment more suitably directed at the Military leadership, than Fijians who have and will in generations to come, never rest until they have back their entitlements and birthrights.

Military Officers - 4 November 2006


Fiji's PM deserve to be congratulated for confronting the Fiji military for their illegal posturing to oust a democratically mandated government. The same for Fiji's Police Commissioner for his courage and common sense to stand up to this dumb posturing by the military commander just because he has the ammunition and weapon to brandish around.

Police should go ahead and arrest the Commander and blacklist him as an international fugitive if he wants to defy Police authority to do so. Then let us see what he and his lackeys and yes people under him resort to in response.

What is obvious in all this sad development is the lack of steel and loyalty in the officer corp in the Fiji military to the institution, instead blindly pledging their loyalty to the Commander. The officer corp should wake up to the folly of this and be counted to redirect the Fiji military back to its rightful and proud place as an agent of the state and people of Fiji that is under civilian control.

History often remembers only those who stand up to do the right thing for their country and not for an individual who happen to hold sway for only a period in time. Let Fiji record in its history those officers in Fiji's current military who will decide to take such a step. Fiji and the vanua eagerly awaits.

Subject: Army's Outburst - 16 October 2006

As an obvious apologist for the military in Fiji, Iliesa Cewanivavalagi (FT 15 October) is displaying a dismal lack of understanding of the organisationa and machinery of government.

There is nothing wrong in the military alerting government to implications of any intended policy, but it has to do this within the processes set out for government agencies and not as an added arm of the state. The military is an agent of government and subject to its decision making and policies. It is therefore odd for the military to be opposing government policies let alone publicly advocating against it. Sadly, this appears to be conveniently ignored by Cewanivavalagi.

It indicates bad leadership and smacks of hypocrisy when you expect your subordinates to tow the line while not applying the same principle to those who are your superiors and who are legitimately mandated through the electoral process. This in essence is what is
fundamentally wrong about the Miitary's outburst in Fiji. Anyone blind to this is refuting the indefensible and belittles the excellent work and reputation of the military built up over the years, especially by those of our forebears who spllied their blood upholding this and similar principles.

Those of us who have retained our Fiji citizenship while working away for the time being, feel very keenly the lost opportunities the perceived instability such a confusion is creating offshore. To that end I would be taking every opportunity, such as at my upcoming Bose ni Yasana on my island, to table and discuss the topic with others.

Perhaps Cewanivavalagi could do something similar, and outside his immediate circles, if he really cares for the military in Fiji.

Subject: Indigenous Partnerships - 15 October 2006


The just completed Melanesian Arts and Cultural Festival in Suva emphasised the value and pride that can be harnessed when indigenous peoples come together for a cause that is founded on their values and beliefs.

In the area of public policy, it is this same ingredient that is critical, yet lacking, in seeking to move indigenous groups up the economic value chain. But the political environment in which this has to be pursued do not often place a high regard on those values. Value conflict is the very basis of problem solving and the need for governments. Even worse when approaches to solving those problems in government are often derived from a monocultural and largely Eurocentric base.

One way to capitalise on this value based approach is increased partnerships among and between indigenous peoples in the Pacific. For Fiji this could involve pairing up the 14 Fijian provinces with Maori tribes in New Zealand on the basis of similar asset base to learn of each other. A Maori tribe with a large coastal fishing enterprise such as Ngai Tahu in South Island, could pair up with a province in Fiji with similar asset and likewise for ecotourism and forestry enterprises.

What would be unique in this partnership is the need to not only learn from each other on how to develop and obtain a commercial return from their natural assets, but also to gain an understanding of each other’s history, myths, arts and culture as indigenous people. These are areas in which a common understanding based on peoples’ values and beliefs could be used as levers to drive other opportunities such as economic and business development.

It is simply about applying and utilising human and cultural capital to realise economic outcomes. It is founded on affirming who we are as people as opposed to the exploitation of who we are and what we own for the time of our lives, on behalf of our forebears and those to come ahead of us.

<>Subject: Economic Panic - October 2006


While the doom merchants may be having a field day in relation to the current economic situtation in Fiji, there is no need to panic at this stage. Government has signalled a number of key economic reforms that should help curb the blow out in its spending while
maitaining its current account status. Reforms of a number of departments and ministries should provide opportunities to absorb surplus staff from core departments. However this need to be accompanied by more concerted effort to recover lost revenue either through unpaid taxes, duties and fines.

Dealing with the demand side will only bring about limited savings if revenue rightfully due to government is also not efficiently gathered in. Raising the dividend paid to government from its commercial entities should also be part of raising its revenue base as some of them continue to underperform.

Investment in infrastructure is also critical and much needed even though it is capital intensive and has long term impact on government accounts. Tourism and trade depends on it and Fiji is now reaping the cost of not investing in the now aged infrastructures and
utilities. With these in place, Fiji has every chance of emerging from its current economic situation without creating additional pain for its citizens.

However, all these would be useless in an environment of political instability as has been singularly generated by an unruly military. That is why a Supreme Court ruling of its role is critical to sorting out its proper place. While it is obvious to most, the military does not yet realise that its untutored foray into politcs in Fiji now poses as the single most factor that will relegate Fiji back into the backblocks of developing nations. Perhaps this is what
the army commander was referring to when relating his vision of Fijians back to wearing grass skirts.

Subject: Military Leadership -October 2006


The Military's recent submission on the Qoliqoli Bill

merely lay bare again for any right thinking person to
conclude that its leadership has reached its use by
date. As everyone locally and even externally have
witnessed, it has become one of the biggest obstacle
for Fiji in trying to move forward.

One of the marks of good leadership is knowing when
you have become a hindrance to the desire of the
majority to pursue a particular path. Despite blatantly obvious
signals and directions to the
Military that this is what Fiji wants,
as enunciated by
those legitimately mandated to do so, they persist in
their illegal attempt to derail the wishes of the
government of the day. It now behoves those in the
military with sense to show true leadrership and
correct the path the current commander is taking the
military in.

Subject: Economics Not Politics - August 2006


Fijians have tended to respond to perceived or real erosion of their rights in the political governance of the country in political terms. This has often resulted in either some restoration of those rights or the tipping in the balance of power to the other end of the nationalistic spectrum, sparking condemnation allround. Often not much gain in real economic terms arises from this political recalibration until the next so called “political upheaval”.

What if the responses have been economic via a concerted focus on developing Fijian human capital and asset base to yield ongoing economic and commercial returns? The fact that the economic lot of a majority of Fijians have not significantly improved as a result of righting the political ship, would mean that Fiji politics will remain a “zero sum” enterprise.

Maori in New Zealand have firmly embarked on raising their contribution to and impact on, the economy in a manner that is also revitalising to their culture and place as the indigenous people of Aotearoa. While they have received assistance from the State by way of compensation for confiscated lands, there is a deliberate focus on realising their economic potential as a key driver to realising broader political and cultural priorities.

The challenge then for Government is providing a climate that will enable the Fijian potential to unfold and blossom. Yet this will remain only a dream if the size of Government is around 11% of GDP, and investment is largely towards consumption. It is a clear indication that Fiji is over governed and regrettably, is hardly the recipe for unleashing Fijian potential. For Fijians, impacting the balance sheet should now take precedence over continuously righting the political ship of the nation.

Subject: Review NLTB – August 2006


Recent cases of Fijian landowners resorting to blockades over developments on their land point to a disturbing trend that requires a focused policy response from Government. It must be understood that these are not unrelated but interconnected issues that is world wide as the centre of government begins to deal with the desire by its citizens for self sufficiency and independence.

Fijians no longer regard the State as their own as in former times. Just look at landowners taking government to court and recent blockades. Devolution of power outwards always push government in the way of trying to preserve the status quo. Instead, what is required is a good stocktake of what is and should be the role of the State in fostering self sufficiency and independence. Those indicating the desire and are able, should be supported to gain independence from the State. To this end, machinery of government initially set up to preserve the centre also has to be assessed if it is still "fit for purpose".

Sad to say in the case of the NLTB, its organisational culture and mode of operation increasingly appears to be all about keeping Fijians under the apron of the State. This is simply contrary to the tide of events as Fijians want to strike out their own pathway to self sufficiency and independence from the State.

S Lealea

Subject: Sack Commander-June 2005


The latest childish outburst by the Commander against the PM further reveals the sad state of affairs in the military and the increasing risk posed by them against moving the nation ahead.

As stated by the CEO in the PM's office, what is clearly lacking in the military is credible intellectual leadership capable of discerning what the legitimate role and functions of public servants are and acting in accordance within the rules of the public service. One simply has to contrast how the Police Commissioner goes about engaging his political superiors in order to table operational matters for his portfolio to how the Commander stumbles all over rules of public sector governance with undue arrogance. The said thing about it all is that the Commander may have inadvertently brought this on without even realising the gravity or consequences of such actions.

Any law abiding public servant would know what to do if he or she feels strongly about the policy direction of the Government of the day. The decent and honourable thing to do is to resign, join a political party, and take on the Government on the same political footing, not hiding behind the cloak of the public service and taking pot shots at the Government that pay his salary, then appealing to the political and moral high ground to justify his actions. Worse still, to also brainwash junior officers in the military to his line of thinking against Government speaks more of his insecurity than the legitimacy of his position.

By his actions, the Commander may well not realise that he and the military have now become the biggest obstacle to moving Fiji forward. What an irony such a situation has revealed given the Fijian dominance of the military. Again the key lay in the leadership which in the case of the current Commander is sadly lacking and for that reason he must go.

S Lealea

Subject: Reconciliation Bill - May 2005


The proposed Bill is so far the best approach to bringing about closure to the events of 2000 despite the opposition raised so far by the vociferous few, most of whom could never claim to represent indigenous Fijian aspirations.

It needs to be made clear that the cost in political, social and economic terms of Not moving to bring matters to a close would stifle current and future desire for stability and positive development. In essence, it is about weighing and balancing the observance of justice on one hand and the need to move ahead as a nation. For now, it is my view that moving ahead rather than placing too much weight on "punishing" the perpetrators, which appears to be the driving agenda of those opposing the Bill.

Fijians are not going to put up with the ongoing retributions meted out to those who now want to move on to positive development and dialogue without being dragged back by the vengeful desire of politically correct public servants and misguided and politically naive elements in the military.

S Lealea

Subject: Unity Bill Cost – May 2005


Dr Wadan Narsey placed a $6million cost on the Unity Bill in a way designed to suggest that it would be a waste of resource and effort.

As an economist, he should have seen it fit to also compare such a cost with the benefits that would result from undertaking such an exercise. The finality in resolving differences and its impact in ushering in a climate of stability would no doubt result in untold return by way of inward investments, unclogging the courts system and general positive outlook of the future. Admittedly, it may well be difficult to quantify valuations that could be placed on some of these changes. Dr Narsey, to be balanced in his analysis should at least acknowledge this other side of the ledger.

Doing so would be a much more balanced approach to his analysis in that it would make it clear that for any decision there are always trade-offs involved. And that depending on the valuations applied, people, and in the case of Government its true representative, unlike the military or police, have the mandate to consider and implement.

S Lealea

Subject: Message for Fiji Army Boss - February 2005


The choice for the Commander and others in the army who think they're to be treated differently from other public servants is nakedly simple- tow the line and follow Government policy consistent with the concept of government or resign and test your mandate with the people so that you could engage in a political debate with Government on policy issues.

Have they not caught on to the concept that it is Government that sets policy and public servants carry it out, no matter how unpalatable it is? That is what being a public servant is about, in that you serve the public through service to those who legitimately have the mandate of the people, which is the Government of the day. Once you engage in a debate that impinges on that mandate as a public servant, the honourable thing to do is to resign and seek that mandate in order to legitimise your position in that debate. After all, it is Government that pays your salary pure and simple.

S. Lealea

Subject: Under-Performing Government Companies - February 2005


I have always argued, and continue to hold, that major State enterprises are not being challenged enough so as to return maximum revenue for Government. A reason could well be in the formula for structuring dividend payments, in that based on profit, State enterprises such as Telecom Fiji and Fiji Post could achieve their target without any connection to the level of investment (by way of capital and asset worth) tied up in the enterprises.

A much more realistic approach would be a return based on 10% net worth of the enterprise compared to over 50% of profit. I distinctly recall commenting on this same point some years back on Winston Thompson, now of Telecom Fiji, handing a dividend cheque to Government representing over 50% profit for National Bank just months before it collapsed. The truth then stands as of now, in that a profit-based dividend payment regime does not accurately reflect the net worth of an enterprise. Government will continue to miss out on much needed revenue if this issue continues to be neglected, especially for major enterprises such as Telecom Fiji and Fiji Post.

S. Lealea

Subject: Law as Policy – October 2004


Recent, current and upcoming court cases involving Fijian chiefs around their alleged involvement in the political events of 2000 raise fundamental issues around the place of laws as instruments of public policy.

In effect, outcomes to date of court cases such as that for the Vice President, appeared to have elevated the place of laws of the land and the status of judicial officers who administer it, to a position which for a place such as Fiji, seem unrealistic and bound to be unproductive in public policy terms. I say this because it seems clear that law making and legal pronouncements in Fiji are being carried out in a politically charged context. Judges and legal practitioners are unelected officials whose role do not extend to applying the law to achieve public policy outcomes as these are politically determined and require popular mandate.

Law is merely an instrument of public policy, a means available to elected people to realise outcomes they seek for their constituencies. To the extent the law becomes an obstacle, it is well within the mandate of those popularly elected to seek changes to it. It seems to me that Fiji now is awash with judicial officers who, by virtue of international alignment and correctness, appear keen to adopt a more activist and punitive approach than is necessary or consistent with their mandate.

S Lealea

Subject: ADB Projection Flaw – September 2004


I recently read an item on the Asian Development Bank's forecast for Fiji and it would appear it was based on some flawed analysis. For a start it did not seem to match the optimism in key sectors such as tourism and investment.

Too much undue emphasis also appeared to be placed on the political situation and its impact. While this is a key factor, at least the economic fundamentals and efforts to date at promoting reconciliation will provide some buffer against any adverse impact on the economy, especially during the onset of the next general election.

Two other factors need to be addressed in order to really bed down the economic recovery Fiji is currently enjoying. First is the need to reform the labour market as there is simply too much influence by organised unions in dictating wage setting and working conditions thereby strangling investment, especially new ones. Good businesses can put up with bad national politics but not with bullying unions.

Secondly, there is a real need to break up Telecom's monopoly to ensure equitable access to, and hasten wide use of, broadband technology. E-commerce will not take off in Fiji unless there is greater access by businesses to new and fast internet technology. To this end, Government has a major role to play with its regulatory role to ensure the wider population also has access to affordable IT technology.

Otherwise, you would just be creating a new IT underclass with the cost to be eventually borne in forgone benefits to the national economy in the end.

S Lealea

Subject: Mixed Policy Signals – September 2004


On arrival at Nadi one is instantly impressed with the boom in economic activity in Fiji. I even struggled to get a room when my internet booking for accommodation did not register with the local hotel as it was handled by its international chain. This no doubt is the outcome of a combination of factors, including good economic management by Government and is greatly pleasing.

This picture changes significantly on arrival in Suva, with its focus on political posturing and the challenges of public policy management. The impression gained is there is competition within elements of the State to the extent it projects a mixed picture as to who is in fact running the country. In public policy terms this is an intolerable situation when public officials seem to be remarking on the policy direction of the elected Government. Officials’ role is to contribute to constructive discussions to enable Government to reach policy decisions then get on with implementation for which their performance would then be assessed. The temerity with which some officials in the disciplined services to respond to any government pronouncements concerning policy direction can never be tolerated anywhere else.

One way to deal with these untutored utterances is to factor it in the performance management system within the public service in a manner that is focused on achieving outcomes for Government. In that way, it takes the focus away from managing for departmental interests and recasts the mindset away from "what departments do and how, to what difference what they do makes to realising outcomes for the Government of the day".

S. Lealea

Subject: Envoy Out of Line – November 2000


What ever sound reasons Mr Tia Barrett may have to utter the words he did at the USP event about the situation in Fiji, as a senior diplomat he should have been aware of the potential repercussions.

Even more disappointing is the fact that, as a Maori, he should have displayed much more sensitivity and understanding about the difficult task ahead for the Interim Government in balancing the demands of the indigenous Fijians and the need to restore democratic government.

I like to think that Mr Barrett's unfortunate choice of words has more to do with echoing the negative sentiments of his political masters towards Fiji than his personal attitude to Fiji and its government. Mr Barrett has played an important role in keeping intact the link between the two governments. It would be a great shame if he allows himself to be exploited by a blind adherence to foreign doctrines that even Maori in New Zealand are beginning to question.

S. Lealea

Subject: Blueprint Plan- July 2000


The sooner Mahendra Chauhdry realises that any hope he has of his former government being reinstated is all but vain hope, the better it will be for Fiji.

The Bose Levu Vakalevu is once more and rightly at the titular head of the governance of Fiji. The key now is to allow the interim government to be appointed by the President and the task of revamping the constitution and bringing around the economy to begin, without the sniping from the sideline by those whose bad political judgement has put paid to their tenure of office.

Mr Qarase's blueprint plan for Fijians outlines some very useful areas of much needed affirmative policies for Fijians and should be welcomed. It will be critical that the plan is well co-ordinated and brought under clear and overarching framework of implementation and monitoring that forges close partnership between central government and the provinces.

Provinces must be empowered to take advantage of the opportunities while central government develops the necessary monitoring, accountability and support structures. After all, the coup has highlighted how Fijians were alienated from the centre of government in relation to some of their long held concerns about their development. The takeovers by landowners of ancestral lands were telling reminders in recent weeks.

Much of the success of the policies in the blueprint plan will depend on how the responsibility for its implementation is bedded in at three levels namely: government or ministerial, departmental, and personal at the departmental head. It is at these levels that the accountability for realising the achievements in the plan should also be configured.

Fiji will probably only have one shot of righting the wrongs silently endured by indigenous Fijians for so long. Qarase's plan has scoped out some areas requiring urgent as well as long term attention. All it takes is to regard and face the task ahead as one of opportunity and challenge in the face of known adversity. As a nation, Fiji has never been known to shy away from such a confrontation.

S Lealea

Subject: Military Option - June 2000


The Military should think very carefully before opting for any role in the direct governance of Fiji.

From a conceptual standpoint the Military is basically a loose organisational entity whose identity and culture is determined by its members and whose values are in turn prescribed by external community forces. It is therefore no different to any other organ of government, except in relation to its capacity to enforce its authority with the means solely at its disposal at a point in time. Though they may not realise it, the criticism by FPSA and the unions of the military and the PSC is basically founded on this reality.

For that reason, the Military has so far been regarded as an enabling force in resolving the current crisis in Fiji. That is, it has so far been seen as a solution to the political problem facing Fiji. Support for the Military from Fiji's provinces is evidence of this ceding of authority to the military to effect a resolution.

This is bound to change the moment the Military assumes direct governance of the country, especially if it does so without seeking the endorsement of the Great Council of Chiefs (GCC). Ratu Inoke Kubuabola's call to convene the GCC, which I agree with, points to the changing nature of the issue at stake. For Fijians, the authority to resolve the current problem is far different from a determination of their sovereignty and how best for it to be acknowledged and upheld. The Military runs the real risk of confusing these two interlinked yet separate questions if it insists on its own approach to resolving the coup in Fiji.

The military therefore needs to explore other options rather than issuing ultimatums which are unrealistic. To persist on its own solution to the problem in Fiji could result in the Military being seen as part of the problem itself. This is a development which the military could least afford given its existence as an organ of government whose integrity is only as good as the volume of goodwill given it by the Fijian society.

S. Lealea

Subject: Political Reality - June 2000


Recent display of pragmatism by the military in accepting that George Speight and his followers may have a contribution to make in the revamp of the 1997 Constitution is very welcome, be it a long time coming. It is critical that the military places priority over the re-examination of the constitutional framework for governing Fiji after recently giving very mixed signals to appease the various international delegations paying fleeting visits to Fiji.

A similarly welcome sense of reality was referred to by the Chief Justice as the basis for his accepting the current status of governance by the military. For that matter the Fiji Law Society would be misguided not to support the Chief Justice in his move as the optimal option to ensure the continued implementation of judicial policy and services for Fiji. To argue otherwise is to engage in a pointless and impractical tug-of-war in which participants have no real say in setting the rules of engagement.

The same could be said for unions and those agitating for non co-operation with authorities in Fiji in moves to minimise the impact of the current crisis. These detractors need to be reminded that loyalty to an ideal is a luxury that is least enjoyed by those who are prevented from valuing it for themselves.

S. Lealea

Subject: Diplomatic Doublespeak- June 2000


The hardline and punitive approach taken by Australia and NZ towards the current crisis in Fiji offers a study into the practice of diplomatic doublespeak by these two nations when compared to their treatment of relations with countries in South east Asia. Both these countries see their future tied economically with Asia. That is enough reason to display acquiescence when confronted with crises in Asia that have similarities to that in Fiji. Using the instrument of aid, countries such as Fiji are therefore made to tow the ideological line regarded as appropriate by others.

In the long term, the way out for Fiji involves forging closer links with the indigenous populations of the Asia and Pacific region. Countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and importantly China, display a better understanding of the issues confronting indigenous peoples. Amongst this group, there is more than enough market and consumer power to ensure individual nations are not picked apart by the exploitative tendencies of nations in the Pacific who somehow feel compelled to continue with a colonialist agenda in the wrong half of the globe.

S. Lealea

Subject: Provincialism Welcome- June 2000


Recent moves by provinces and confederacies in Fiji to reassert authority over their governance points to an interesting quest for self government by Fijians which undoubtedly has also come of age. This is a natural reaction in the event of a weak central government, especially in addressing the concerns of significant groups in society.

Rather than being regarded as a detrimental development, it is a trend occurring globally in nations peopled by more than one ethnic grouping. It would therefore be inaccurate to portray it as a disintegration of a nation but rather a redefinition in the mode of governance. Accepting this will focus attention on how best to manage such a development.

For Fijians, there are no reasons why a number of central government powers and functions cannot be devolved to provincial-type governments. These could be in the delivery areas of rural and economic development, social welfare, health, education, aspects of law and order and the like. In turn, central government retain powers relating to raising taxes, defence and foreign relations and trade, in addition to setting overall policy direction for the nation.

If well considered, provincialism could offer an avenue for Fijians to realise their quest for self government in an age where weak central states are increasingly becoming the norm.

S. Lealea

Subject: Fijian Paramountcy- June 2000


Despite all the doom and gloom forecast as a result of the current crisis in Fiji, there exists a real opportunity to redress the concerns of Fijians in the context of Fiji's governance structures.

The failure to date has been due to an overdependence on a constitutional and electoral response in dealing with the Fijian concerns. While these responses are important, it has been insufficient in ensuring appropriate and targeted policy responses to deal with the poor socio-economic outcomes confronting Fijians at the practical level. This has meant that initiatives for Fijians remain mainstream and lumped with those of other groups thereby diluting its effect. The opening up of the Fiji Development Bank to other groups is an example of a mainstreaming approach.

As well, there are no clear accountability on government departments to respond to Fijian needs in a targeted manner. To address this, the Ministry of Fijian Affairs could have a greater role in monitoring and ensuring that departments and permanent secretaries annually report on how they respond to the needs of Fijians in all outcome areas.

As long as socio-economic outcome gaps exist between Fijians and other groups in Fiji, it will continue to fuel resentment and doubt as to the real intention of the various sections in the previous constitutions relating to the paramountcy of Fijian interest.

S Lealea

Subject: Policy Flaw – June 2000


The coup in Fiji is a classical lesson in how not to develop public policy. The Chaudhry government's policies on land, affirmative initiatives, public sector ethics, civil service appointments and Fijian affairs suffered from not being properly appraised in terms of its political implications on key stakeholders. It is one thing to assert that one has a mandate to govern, yet it is totally ill advised to ram through badly thought out policies without determining the range of impacts it is bound to generate. The mandate to govern arises from the electoral process while the efficacy of public policies is largely determined by the level of consensus that exists in the public-policy development process.

Public servants have only a limited part to play in figuring out the political implications of government policies as this is the proper function of political appointees such as a Private Secretary. In a public policy sense, the downfall of the Chaudhry government resulted from bad political management. S. Lealea

Subject: Folly of Multiculturalism- June 2000


The military needs to be cautious about being seen to be prolonging the resolution of the current crisis in Fiji. After all it is a political crisis which ultimately requires a political solution. To that end matters to do with the governance of the country has to be vested in a civilian-type entity such as the Great Council of Chiefs with the military having a role to play (ensuring law and order) within such an institutional framework.

No amount of pontificating by outsiders on the virtues of democracy can resolve the crisis in Fiji. What seems common to all external pronouncements is the lack of real appreciation of the depth of feeling by Fijians on the threat (real or perceived) to their identity as the first peoples of Fiji. The 1997 Constitution sowed the seed for the downgrading of Fijian interest by the emphasis it placed on multiculturalism.

Maori in New Zealand remain hesitant about multiculturalism for the reason that it would tend to de-emphasise the bicultural nature of its relationship with the Crown. It does not mean that other groups are not important, but simply that it is critical not to lose sight of the paramountcy of the interest of the peoples of the land.

Fiji has been misled by those who champion the benefits of a multiracial society without actually examining the extent to which it lumps the interest of the indigenous peoples with those of others. This is evident in the equality of treatment approach of the 1997 Constitution, as opposed to equality of outcomes. Malaysia has undergone similar experience and was able to come out of it in a manner that upholds the status of the indigenous Malay. Such an outcome is also well within the reach for Fijians.

S. Lealea

Fiji Indians & Reconciliation

Indians are misrepresented: Prof. Nandan

Fijitimes.com, Sunday, August 06, 2006

INDIANS in Fiji have for a long time been deliberately misrepresented to the world.

However, University of Fiji's Professor Satendra Nandan is hoping that a new generation of thinking men and women will end the national blasphemy.

Mr Nandan was speaking at a symposium for academics in Deuba yesterday on living together in a globalising Fiji.

"Where else do we get the idea of paradise so blatantly advertised by the FVB without a single Indian face?" he queried.

"Is it the failure of our imagination that we have not been able to imagine our community in that famous phrase, we have never become an imagined community?

"As a consequence we cannot imagine the other who is our brother, neighbour, co-worker, colleague and compatriot integral and essential to humanity.

"A community not only represented but often deliberately misrepresented to the global perception is the Indians."

Mr Nandan spoke on the topic Living Together: Worlds Apart.

He said unless people of Fiji learned to respect the Constitution, the global community would have little respect for us.

"We regard the Deed of Cession as a sacrosanct; it gives 90 per cent of our land to native people.

"It gives Fijian chiefs a special position in the Constitution and national consciousness. Perhaps this is how it should be.

"But how easily the Constitution of free Fiji is torn apart, the Constitution that gives us equality and equal value as citizens.

"No document should be more multi-valued and more sacred. And yet, I know no country which has had many constitutions destroyed and drafted as Fiji.

"Unless we learn to respect it, the global community will have little respect for us."

Mr Nandan said the days of being second-class citizens should have been over long ago.

"If one section of our community is bullied into accepting it, it is far more insidious to those who bully us," he said.

"Democracy, in its true sense, may not exist anywhere but like the idea of God, it is essential for our progress, survival and self transformation.

"If there's one God there must be one equality too."

Mr Nandan said the idea of God brought him the notion of reconciliation.

"This is a remarkable and rich concept and it comes out of our search for truth and a sense of justice," he said.

"There can be no genuine healing where we do not understand and share the suffering of others.

"Without genuine acknowledgement and understanding of the unnecessary suffering we have caused to so many and damaged many lives, the process of reconciliation will remain hollow."

Thursday, August 3, 2006

Qoliqoli Bill & Claims Tribunal to be tabled in Parliament

Qoliqoli Bill to be tabled in Parliament
http://www.fijilive.com Wednesday August 02, 2006

Fiji’s Cabinet has approved the Qoliqoli (traditional fishing ground) Bill for tabling in Parliament. In his submission, Minister for Fijians Affairs, Lands and Provincial Development, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu told Cabinet that the Bill marked the culmination of about 125 years of preparations and expectations by the Fijian chiefs and their tribes over their traditional customary qoliqoli rights. "The Bill reconfirms the ownership of usage rights previously enjoyed by qoliqoli owners over their respective qoliqoli areas." Ratu Naiqama said the principal objective of the legislation was to transfer to qoliqoli owners from the State, the proprietary ownership of their respective qoliqoli areas which are currently owned by the State. "The transfer will be by operation of law and not through ordinary conveyance. A Cabinet statement said Ratu Naiqama explained that claims for compensation for past use of qoliqoli areas would be disallowed. "This is because currently all land that is to be transferred to the qoliqoli owners is owned by the State, and as such, the qoliqoli owners cannot claim for land that they do not currently own." Ratu Naiqama said that under the legislation, land within qoliqoli areas would be deemed to be native reserve and may only be de-reserved through declaration by the Minister upon the request of the qoliqoli owners. A major feature of the Bill is the establishment of the Qoliqoli Commission through the reconstitution of the Native Fisheries Commission (NFC). "The Qoliqoli Commission will issue licences to undertake commercial fishing in any qoliqoli area, and will also appoint qoliqoli guardians to see that provisions of the Act are enforced in the qoliqoli areas. Ratu Naiqama said no commercial fishing licence issued for operation within qoliqoli waters would be issued without prior consultations with the Qoliqoli Commission which would insist on certain conditions. "No commercial operation can be undertaken within qoliqoli areas without prior approval of the NLTB after consultations with the Qoliqoli Commission and the qoliqoli owners." He explained that in cases where commercial operation was approved, income from the operations would be paid into a trust fund for the benefit of qoliqoli owners. Ratu Naiqama emphasised that ownership rights being conferred do not include and are subject to: the right of public access to the foreshores; the right of passage recognised and guaranteed under international law; any legal interests, including leases and licences granted over such qoliqoli areas; and, the right to the use of the waters within qoliqoli boundaries. "Fears that transferring the proprietary rights to qoliqoli owners might affect the free passages of boats/vessels in Fiji waters are ill-founded. "This is because firstly hardly any vessel covered by this protective principle needs passage over qoliqoli areas, and, secondly, because this right is especially preserved in this proposed legislation." The legislation will come into force when preparations of all subsidiary laws and resourcing requirements are completed.
Indigenous Claims Tribunal Bill goes to Parliament
http://www. fijilive.com Thursday August 03, 2006

The Indigenous Claims Tribunal (ICT) Bill that seeks to address long standing grievances of native landowners has been given the go ahead for tabling in Parliament. Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Senator Qoriniasi Bale in his submission to Cabinet said native landowners claimed that part of their land had been acquired by early settlers through means which were fraudulent, dubious or unjust. "These are the grievances which native landowners have requested successive administrations to address and resolve. "With passage of time, other legal doctrines such as time bar and indefeasibility of title have made this problem increasingly difficult to resolve." Senator Bale said the ICT Bill was, therefore, an enabling legislation to provide a firm legal foundation for Government’s core objective of providing a legal forum to which aggrieved claimants may refer their claims and grievances for formal enquiry and rulings on whether or not they were justified as a matter of fact. "Where such claims are established, and where so recommended by the Tribunal, then the claimants may under the process of negotiated settlements provided in the legislation, agree on a fair and equitable redress. "This will undoubtedly be a major consideration given that the time of the alleged wrong was more than 100 years ago. "If, after careful analysis, the original transaction is proven deficient, then a practical and holistic solution must be recommended by the Tribunal to address the claimant’s grievances, while at the same time not disturbing the indefeasible title to the current proprietor. "If the current title holder is interested in offering the property for sale voluntarily, then the claimant ought to be given the right of first refusal through a buy-back scheme assisted by Government based on sale on open market value." Senator Bale said that should compensation be the only redress available to a successful claimant, the usual practice which was also recognised in this legislation was that the party whose action/inaction was the cause of the original defect paid the compensation. "If it can be shown that the Government, for example, was at fault then convention dictates that it should pay accordingly. "The question of how this figure is arrived at and whether the amount is justifiable and can be met will be carefully reflected in subsidiary legislation mainly dealing with negotiated settlements between Government through the State Law Office and the claimants concerned." Senator Bale said currently, the NLTB was the main institution, by virtue of statute, that received and recorded the schedules of all claims. "However, given the inadequacy of the current legal provisions and structure to address the grievances already submitted to the NLTB, the Indigenous Claims Tribunal under the Bill is the ideal option." Senator Bale said that although the Bill covers only land claims, it was cited as the Indigenous Claims Tribunal Bill because it was envisaged that the legislation would be used in future to include processes for addressing and removing indigenous grievances which have caused justifiable discontent and instability amongst Fijians for far too long. The Tribunal will be chaired by a retired Judge or a person qualified as a judge under the Constitution. Senator Bale said the Tribunal’s recommendations were not mandatory orders or directions such as those given by the Courts, but were solutions which were subject to amicable negotiations and settlements aimed at rectifying injustices of the past. He further said the Tribunal would also be empowered to assume powers, with necessary modifications, given to Commissions of Inquiries under the Commission of Inquires Act.

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Broadcast Standards Bill

Bill to set broadcast standards
Fijilive.com Wednesday August 02, 2006

A Bill to monitor standards in the broadcast industry has been approved for tabling in Parliament.

The Broadcast Licensing Bill 2006 seeks to establish a Broadcast Licensing Authority to regulate Fiji's broadcasting industry in both radio and television.

Making the submission to Cabinet, Minister for Information and Communications, Isireli Leweniqila. explained that the move to set up a Broadcasting Authority was a direct response to concerns raised over the years about the need to monitor standards in the broadcast industry.

"At present there is no legislation to provide for qualitative controls for commercial radio and television except the regulatory functions concerning the licensing of broadcast spectrums for commercial radio and television broadcasters.

"The Broadcasting Authority will operate with the Ministry of Information and Communications as its secretariat and revenue earned will continue to be paid into the Consolidated Fund of Government."

Leweniqila said that the authority would issue, renew and regulate licensing of various types of broadcasting.

"It will establish Codes of Conduct for programming, for advertising and for technical aspects for the purposes of the Act and monitor compliance by broadcasters."

Leweniqila said the authority would establish a system for orderly planning in relation to the use of broadcasting frequencies through the development of a Broadcasting Frequency Plan.

"The authority will also hear complaints on breaches of licence conditions and on the codes of conduct and hear appeals and issue sanctions and penalties for offences wherever necessary."

Leweniqila further explained that the Bill would seek to regulate broadcasting in Fiji to promote the upholding of the Constitution, as well as human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

"It will protect and promote freedom of expression, encourage creative national broadcasting, and license public, private and community broadcasters.

"The Bill will promote a diverse range of quality broadcasting services which serve all of Fiji's language and cultural groups.

"It will enhance the public's right to know through promoting pluralism and a wide variety of programming of matters of public interest, prevent monopolisation of ownership and promote fair competition in the broadcasting sector and accurate, informative and balanced programming.

"The provision of quality educational programming will be encouraged and the widest possible geographic distribution of broadcasting services, including licensing national and local broadcasters would be promoted."

He said the Bill would also develop and promote broadcasting reflecting national and regional culture and identity, promote the appropriate use of new technology, and enhance the overall financial and competitive viability of broadcasting in Fiji.