fiji UNCENSORED

June 10, 2009

AN EXPERIMENT IN NATION-BUILDING Part I

Filed under: General — fijiuncensored @ 15:53
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OPINION

  • This is part 1 of the paper GRAHAM LEUNG was to have delivered at the annual Fiji Institute of Accountants Congress convention to be held at the Sheraton Fiji on Friday. As a result of instruction by the police on Monday that the permit to hold the convention would be revoked unless Professor Brij Lal, Richard Naidu and he were dropped from the speakers’ list, this paper is now being circulated to stimulate discussions on the “way forward”.

WE have had five coups in 22 years. Dictatorship and arbitrariness has replaced the rule of law, democracy and human rights. We have a regime whose authority is based on force rather than the consent of the people. That is our reality. Who can say with certainty that this scenario will not continue beyond September 2014?

The prospect is depressing. How do we climb out of this quicksand into which we are fast sinking?

Fiji is not just in a political, but a deep financial crisis. The root of that crisis stems from the underlying political instability and coups which have ravaged the country over the last two decades.

This crisis cannot be solved merely by getting the economic fundamentals right, because its origins lie in systemic political and governance issues. This crisis will not solve itself if we just ignore it.

No matter how attractive the fiscal and policy incentives cobbled together by the regime, there will be few takers given the present political instability and uncertainty. And the confidence needed to restore the economy will only come if we make the right decisions going forward.

The world has changed since 1987. Human rights concerns do matter. And in the world of real politick, we are vulnerable and small enough to be held accountable.

Call it double standards, call it what you will. That is how international relations work. The regime may well think it can defy external pressures. But it will come at the expense of further decline in social services, our standard of living, decay in infrastructure, increased poverty, crime and other social ills.

Why Should We Despair?
The Reserve Bank of Fiji has forecast a contraction of the economy by 0.3 per cent in 2009. This follows very low growth of just 0.2 per cent in 2008 and a contraction of 6.6 per cent in 2007.

Exports are projected to decline by 12.2 per cent in 2009. Investment in 2009 is estimated to fall to about 13 per cent of GDP, down from an estimated 15 per cent of GDP in 2008.

In early March 2009 official foreign reserves stood at $674 million, equivalent to around 2.7 months of goods imports. The abrogation of the Constitution is likely to worsen the liquidity situation. The RBF’s introduction of measures to tighten exchange controls on 14 April in order to protect foreign reserves underscores the fragility of our economy.

In April 2009, Standard and Poor’s Rating Services announced that it had revised its outlook on the long-term sovereign credit rating on Fiji to negative from stable. Standard and Poor’s affirmed its ‘B/B’ foreign currency credit ratings on Fiji.

The outlook revision reflects Fiji’s declining international reserves and weak growth prospects. It also reflects a likely rise in external borrowings this year and into the future at a time when the Government’s fiscal flexibility and economic options are diminishing.

The RBF reports that reserves have fallen to US$431 million (7.2 per cent of GDP) in December 2008 from US$618 million at the end of 2007 (or 10.3 per cent of GDP).

They have come under pressure from recent floods that have damaged Fiji’s key earners of foreign exchange: Tourism and sugar. Recessionary conditions in key export markets have also weighed on merchandise exports and remittance flows. These factors may also impair short term. Growth will also be depressed by an uncertain business environment with lower levels of investment.

Recent figures by the International Monetary Fund show that Fiji’s GDP ranking is in the same league as Eritrea, Bhutan and the Central African Republic. We were ranked 150 of the 192 countries listed by the IMF. Zimbabwe was ranked 159, nine places behind Fiji. Not exactly comforting statistics.

You don’t have to be a genius to work out that we are in the bottom 20 per cent of the class – the dunce in the class.

Savenaca Narube until recently the Governor of the Reserve Bank was appointed by the Constitutional Offices Commission. But he was sacked by the army-backed regime.

There is no evidence that the board of the RBF protested against his summary removal. For that matter, there is no evidence that anyone did.

What does it say about us as a nation when senior constitutional office holders can be swept away without not so much as a murmur from the business and financial community? Did anyone stand up and say “No you can’t do this. This man has done nothing wrong? What is his crime?”

Sadly, courage and truth have become rare commodities in this country.

In a report published in April, the Sydney based Lowy Institute for International Policy said “the removal of the respected Reserve Bank Governor will destroy what is left of business confidence and deter potential foreign investors. Fiji faced a serious liquidity crisis even before 10 April; the negative outlook for the economy will be dramatically worse as a result of the actions of President Iloilo and Commodore Bainimarama.”

Fiji has been suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum. The Commonwealth is likely to take a similar decision later in the year. EU aid funds have dried up. Even the normally conservative Japanese Government declined to invite the current regime and its leader to an annual summit with Pacific Island leaders that was held in Hokkaido last month. Our international standing has never been any lower.

The situation has been made worse by the dismissal of the judges and a judiciary which is now even more dysfunctional.

More recently, the regime took over the licensing of lawyers, removing the power to grant licenses to practice from the law society to the Registrar of the High Court, an army-appointed major.

Frank Yourn executive director of the Australia Fiji Business Council said “Both existing business operating in Fiji and prospective investors would be very concerned by this radical development”.

Reacting to the unilateral changes to the Legal Practitioners Act, the president of the Law Council of Australia John Corcoran expressed concern that the changes could be the first step to the “government’s” attempts to control the country’s legal profession by not allowing lawyers who oppose the regime to practice law. He said that “an independent Judiciary and legal profession are vital to the stability of a nation.

“Without an independent legal profession, a crucial ingredient in upholding the rule of law in Fiji would be missing.”

Investors will get no relief from doing business in Fiji without the safeguards of an independent and competent judiciary to adjudicate over commercial disputes, including where government is a party. The level of distrust within and between communities is unprecedented in our history. The rivers of political enmity and suspicion between our leaders run deeper than ever before.

The news is not good. In fact it is positively depressing. And it will get worse. The spin doctors cannot fool us. The facts and figures do not lie. Fiji is falling apart. If we do not stem the tide, Fiji will be a failed state. – fiji uncensored

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7 Comments »

  1. Graham’s article is interesting, he says: “WE have had five coups in 22 years”. He forgot the Ratu Sir George coup in 1977 when Mr Koya of NFP had won the election. It should read “WE have had six coups in 32 years” if he is classifying the abrogation of the 1997 constitution as a coup.In that regard, the High court judgement in Frank vs Qarase is also a coup and so is the appeals court judgement, depending on how you look at it and where your allegiances are. Such is, or should I say, was, the law of the land and the so called guardians of our laws thrive on interpretations and counter interpretations of a document called “CONSTITUTION”. As an example, H/E The President is vested with “Reserve Powers” in the 1997 constitution. When He exercises that “Power”, many self appointed referees and linesman are on to their whistles in a flash. Graham says “The world has changed since 1987”. I strongly agree with that. More appropriately, “Fiji has changed since 1987.” Instead of defending Rabuka, you should have made sure that he went to jail. Rabuka and SP8 coups were in the name of indigenous supremacy and supported by GCC, Methodist Church etc, so what is the problem with the 2006 coup when it is for all citizens? Did you and your FLS say BOO when Qarase was raping Fiji under the guise of democracy? A true son of Fiji has put his life on the line for all of us, which you lawyers failed to do. Be it by force or thru the ballot box, we have to support this man as he has good intentions. The choice is yours, wait for the good results or eat the forbidden fruit.

    Comment by joe — June 11, 2009 @ 02:38 | Reply

  2. Joe – you obviously don’t live in Fiji! Or if you do you must live in a box where you don’t read or watch or listen to the news!

    Of course the FLS opposed Qarase! There is oodles of documentary evidence to prove this. The difference is, they only used legal methods and free speech methods to oppose him, AND THEY ONLY DID IT WHEN WHAT HE DID WAS ILLEGAL!!!

    You and Frank have got some kind of hysterical hatred for Qarase that is so bad that you can’t help but see EVERYTHING he did as being outrageously objectionable. Such an attitude is not only dishonest, it is downright destructive and dangerous. All you guys have done is to paint yourselves into a corner, and lead the nation into a dead-end!

    Why should anyone pay attention to your paid, mercenary opinions when you don’t know what you’re talking about, and you are saying things which are DEMONSTRABLY UNTRUE?

    Good intentions don’t mean anything if you can’t produce good results (which you can’t – even with your silly PER things are only getting worse. What else are you clowns going to try?) Anyway before you even get to that, you can’t even prove your alleged good intentions because ALL the evidence available points to dishonest and self-serving intentions!

    So don’t give me this rubbish that this is all about Fiji – if it was, we could have the problem solved within months! No this thing is really all about saving Frank’s skin, installing the NAPF as the pre-eminent political power in Fiji, and of restoring the Mara/Ganilau dynasty.

    Who wants to put their lives on the line for that? And who asked Frank to do it, and wreck the country and its future doing it?

    If the Mara/Ganilaus want to return to political paramountcy, let them do it the way everyone else has to – work hard and achieve good things and kudos themselves! Why do we have to have a coup just to re-install these undeserving fat cats in a life of titular luxury?

    You are wasting your time and ours insisting that anything good can come out of this evil – so the only choice is for you goons!

    Either wake up to your failures and retreat out of them – or else waste 40 years getting nowhere until the next generations take over and roll back all your useless mistakes for us!

    Comment by Jean d'Ark — June 11, 2009 @ 12:24 | Reply

  3. Great article, Graham, however, I wish you could have directly targeted the military and their coup-psyche and talk about the the immediate need to rid Fiji of it’s military – the one institution that’s dragged Fiji back 50 years.

    Joe, it is folks like you that are slowly killing off what little progress Fiji has made towards economic and social prosperity (when you support someone who overthrows a democratically elected government).

    I also wasn’t fond of Qarase, the same way I despised George Bush, however, that doesn’t give me the right to overthrow the government and install my own regime. A coup is wrong, like Graham said, it 1987, we suffered but not to this extent, now, everyone’s getting pissed off with Fiji’s situation (I can almost guarantee no more foreign investors would take a gamble on Fiji). Fiji is taking a nose-dive, the money’s running out, I can almost predict anarchy and a full-blown civil war within the next year or two if, when we run out of money.

    We need Australia and NZ to intervene, even if it requires military presence. Those military clowns need to be executed and the military abolished. Fiji expats need to be more vocal and pressure international bodies like the UN and any other organization that aids Fiji. Countries that accept diplomatic postings from this illegitimate government should be taken to task as well. Like the folks in Australia are doing, we should band together to ensure our loved ones in Fiji don’t suffer any more.

    Let’s wake up, people – together we can make a difference.

    Comment by Samu — June 11, 2009 @ 15:53 | Reply

  4. The voice of the detractors sound more like that from the wilderness.We are all suffering Samu, including the rest of the world. The number of unemployed in the USA is enormous. Those who have lost their homes is in the millions. Mid-East, Africa & the Latin Americas suffer tremendous human rights violations. Starvation rampant in many parts of the world. Suffering you talking about is but a dramatization and exaggeration of the rough times we all are going through. Today people are very much awake and wont fall for any incitement that will bring about the senseless violence you seem to condone.
    These dissident lawyers whose first interest is their pockets and their personal agendas should ship out. I’m sure the Aussies & Kiwis would welcome them with open arms; a word of caution though, might be a good idea to stay away from Melbourne(especially Dorsami Naidu) The best option the voices from the wilderness is, join in the foward movement for change. Get our elections going, on a new constitutional platform of course and then lets sought out any differences we may have.

    Comment by Dau — June 11, 2009 @ 21:17 | Reply

  5. Dau – your illegal Regime may seem like small potatoes next to Mugabe or Al Bashir, but you are just about the only ones in Fiji setting your sights so low.

    So you guys are better than a handful of murderous tyrants – big deal! That is like asking someone if they’d rather die by freezing or by burning. Is that supposed to inspire anybody? Is that what is supposed to get people excited about the future? Is that all you have to offer to encourage the people to get creative, be all they can be, and reach for the kind of heights Graham was referring to in his article?

    Who is talking about violence here? You guys are the only ones using violence at the moment. But make no mistake – YOU are creating that environment. Nobody else.

    So since you have removed all avenues for non violent change then what are you expecting? A kiss on the cheek? And you can’t blame anyone else since you were the very ones who set up that whole situation in the first place (without anyone asking you to, by the way).

    What would be the point of joining with Frank and the Charter? They are both so flawed that they can never work anyway, regardless of how many people support them. It is like saying if enough people wish hard enough you will be able to fly. Well, you can wish as hard as you want, but if you jump off a cliff you’re not going to defy the law of gravity, you’re going to illustrate it!

    You people have chosen to follow Frank’s misguided crusade and waste your time, and the nation’s future, on a wild goose chase after the Charter’s myopic goals. That is your choice (even though it is wrong and useless). But just because you and Frank have made such a huge mistake, doesn’t mean anyone else has to also waste their own time and effort on the same doomed cause.

    The success of your efforts will not rest on the support you get, or the sincerity of your desire. It will rest on the merit of your plans! The Charter has already been published, and it’s merits (or lack thereof) and the thinking behind it (or lack thereof) is plain for all to see. It is a sad shopping list of wishful thinking that offers no justification of how it can, or will, work. That’s all she wrote. You guys want to waste your time on it, go ahead. But no amount of unity or “fresh starts” or anything will change the basic flaws and deficiencies that are already there, and which can ONLY be fixed by admitting and correcting each and every one!

    So the clock is ticking on you guys – the smarter ones will wake up and give up sooner, while the dimmer ones will take longer to figure it out, or to get tired of wasting their time and not getting anywhere. So lets see who are the brighter ones, and who are the grunts.

    Comment by Jean d'Ark — June 11, 2009 @ 23:51 | Reply

  6. Dau – what good has the coups brought Fiji? Can you justify the economic climate in Fiji as having been caused by the US financial crisis? Do you think the people of Fiji are happy with the military regime? Not the minority but the majority of Fijians? Sure, the whole world is suffering but bro, give anyone in Fiji a choice of USA, Australia, NZ or Fiji to settle in right now and do you think anyone will opt for Fiji? I’m sure the Fijians will ALL want to go abroad despite the drop-in-the ocean financial crisis the western countries are facing compared to Fiji. At least overseas, we are coming out of whatever crisis we were facing, we still have jobs, education is still free, we can vote, oh yeah, we can criticize our government openly and there’ll be no repurcusion. Can you say the same for Fiji residents? (Can never be sure with you Frankie supporters though).

    A coup was, is, always will be counter-productive to any institution, let alone a government! When the majority ‘speaks’ and votes someone into office, we ALL have to respect that, whether or not we like the result. The is called democracy – and not a dictatorship like Fiji is under right now.

    Like Jean alluded to, it is obvious that education might be the answer to having the members of this coup cult think out of their limited ethos and into total freedom.

    I commend all those in Fiji, lawyers included (gee, didn’t realize they’d be getting filthy rich from talking openly about the dictatorship) who are standing up for the rights of all Fijians. Anti and pro-coup supporters alike.

    I want to urge Fijians to band together for the good of the future generation. It is up to you now to make a stand, whether you want to continue to be dragged backward or whether you want a brighter future for you and your kids. You have to make that choice and the support from Fijians overseas will back there to back you up. (I’m glad the Methodist church has been stirred up from their long snooze).

    Sometimes, we have to fight for peace..

    Comment by Samu — June 12, 2009 @ 11:24 | Reply

    • (I’m glad the Methodist church has been stirred up from their long snooze). The methodist morons have always been up to it dickhead, only that this takeover does not suit them criminals.

      Comment by joe — June 17, 2009 @ 02:33 | Reply


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