Sunday, July 05, 2015

The Labasa Rotary Club assistance

from w

Club looks to assist more projects

Luke Rawalai
Monday, July 06, 2015
THE Labasa Rotary Club has spent more than $252,000 to assist 11 community projects in the Northern Division.
Speaking during the club's annual general meeting on Saturday, club treasurer Yogeshwar Chand said they would look at assisting more projects this year.
Meanwhile, re-elected club president Ami Kohli said since taking up the role this year he intended to take the club to another level.
"Currently we are expecting a grant of $250,000 New Zealand money from Rotary International," he said.
"If the grant really comes our way it will be a great help for the people in Labasa and those living in remote areas.
"We have to sit with the club to identify projects that we can work on but right now some of the projects that we have identified are the construction of public convenience and resting facility between Savusavu and Seaqaqa."
Mr Kohli said the absence of such a facility might be a contributing factor to tired drivers who make the long trip daily along the highway.
"We have other big plans including the refurbishment of wards at the Labasa Hospital," he said.
"We at the Labasa Rotary Club here in Labasa would also like to assure members of the public that there will be increasing overseas medical specialist visits to the North in the future.
"It is good to have these specialists home to share their experience and professional know how in assisting the people of the North."
The Labasa Rotary Club plays hosts to visiting medical teams including catering for them and providing teams with accommodation.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Brij Lal still banned

from w
I think it is appalling to ban Brij Lal and his wife from going back to Fiji. They are both outstanding people and it is vicious and vindictive to say their case cannot be considered.  They are not criminals but people who do care for Fiji. Story from Fiji Times.

Stay out

Vuniwaqa Bola-Bari
Saturday, July 04, 2015
THE decision to ban academic Prof Brij Lal from Fiji was the Government's collective view and one it won't reverse.
Minister of Defence, Timoci Lesi Natuva confirmed this yesterday following allegations by the National Federation Party that the decision to maintain the ban was made by the Prime Minister's Office and not independently by the Ministry of Defence, National Security and Immigration.
"The directive comes from Government, it's a decision made by Government, a collective decision so we stand by the decision already been made and if they're thinking of coming for another application it's just a waste of time," Mr Natuva said.
"We will not change our decision. He's already applied and we denied the application."
NFP leader Prof Biman Prasad labelled the ban as a mockery of Fiji's democracy and the conduct of Government.
Mr Prasad said the decision was conveyed to Prof Lal by assistant immigration director Edward Brown, after the couple paid $380 to apply for a lift on the ban.
The party alleged that the Lals were to some extent given positive feedback of re-entering the country through electronic email exchanges between Mr Natuva and the Immigration Department.
On November 24 last year, an email sent from the minister to Prof Lal stated the director of immigration had confirmed the Lals could travel to Fiji but it was also advisable that they contact the director Nemani Vuniwaqa or his deputy Mr Brown.
On December 15, the Lals were informed that their names were still on the "controversial list" that had been given by the Prime Minister's Office.
That e-mail from Mr Brown also confirmed the immigration department's intention to write to the PM's Office to seek comment and endorsements on whether the names should remain on the list or not.
In his correspondence, Prof Lal said he had been offered an academic position at the Solomon Islands National University but the acceptance of the offer largely depended on whether his wife, Padma was able to travel to Fiji.
"It is undeniably a breach of fundamental rights of two former Fiji citizens who are banished from the land of their birth for defending democracy and human rights, we want the Prime Minister to come out and tell the truth about this travel ban," Mr Prasad said.
"The FijiFirst Government is hounding him like a common criminal; this is utterly insulting not only to Prof Lal and his wife but to all right-thinking and law abiding citizens and to the Indo-Fijian community whose historical background right from the days of indenture has been well researched ad documented by Prof Lal," Mr Prasad said.

The King of Tonga is crowned

Go to this website of the Age for a video of the coronation of the King of Tonga. http://media.theage.com.au/video-news/video-world-news/a-king-is-crowned-6661529.html\










Why didn't the Fiji PM go to Tonga?

from w
Surely the installation of the Tongan king is an event that is significant enough for the neighbouring nation to send their Prime Minister. After all it's only a couple of hours by plane.
Instead he was in Ba doing some small thing.
PM opens new R C Manubhai manufacturing facility in Ba
By Dhanjay Deo
Saturday 04/07/2015
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama
R C Manubhai Group of Companies has opened its brand new manufacturing facility in Ba today which is an investment of $10 million.

Friday, July 03, 2015

About Fiji minimum wage

from w
Here is a response concerning the minimum wage in Fiji.

WAGE RATE

Nishant Singh, Lautoka | Saturday, July 4, 2015
WITH the implementation of the new minimum wage rate and more than 100,000 to benefit as per the relevant ministry's claim, let me put forward a scenario.

An employee, say an unskilled labourer and a breadwinner supporting a family of four, sweats it out for 45 hours a week at $2.32. He would earn about $104.40.
After FNPF deductions kick in (mandatory by law), his take home pay roughly equates to $96.
With the current high standard of living and the cost of goods and services skyrocketing, can the Labour Ministry explain how one would cater for the financial needs for a family of four by earning $2.32/hour?
Basic grocery shopping for four family members would generally amount to $100-$150.
Other subsequent expenses would include utility bills, rent, hire-purchase payments, education, unforeseen medical emergencies and other social obligations. And yes after a tough week at work, one deserves to reward himself with a bowl of kava or a cold glass of beer. So how would one survive on $96 a week to fulfil the above financial commitments?
It still puzzles me as to what feasible formula the Employment Relations Advisory Board and the Ministry of Labour agreed to that justifies the new wage rate. The Government almost daily reminds the public that Fiji is economically progressing at a steep rate and the livelihoods of the people are changing for the better.
If so, then why put into practice such an impractical wage rate for a nation that is supposedly phasing through an economic boom?
Would the Labour Minister be game to work at $2.32/hour?
Take up the challenge and you would almost certainly have an improved understanding of what a common person endures earning less than $3/hour!

About principals of Fiji Schools

from w
When the Minister for Education accused a school of  being racist when asking for an indigenous Fijian as principal, a very good reply has been published in the Fiji Times.  The author shows that ethnicity is a fact and cultural considerations need to be addressed not ignored as irrelevant.  And I remember one time a Christian based school was given a Hindu principal because head office in Suva apparently chose the principal, not the school board.  It wasn't satisfactory in my opinion. The local people  - in the islands, in the countryside - should have a say in their school leaders, not some office men and women in Suva.

Racist or sensitive

Jioji Kotobalavu
Saturday, July 04, 2015
I am prompted to write this after reading of comments by the Minister for Education, Dr Mahendra Reddy, as reported in The Fiji Times issue of June 30, 2015.
Dr Reddy questioned the propriety of the principal, manager and leaders of a school in Nadroga in asking for an iTaukei headteacher at a primary school where the majority of the students are iTaukei. The minister was reported as saying such attitude from school heads "who are obsessed with ethnicity" needed to stop immediately, adding the ministry should determine who will be headteacher because it was paying for the salary.
Aware of
cultural context
The purpose of this article is not to criticise the minister but to highlight the importance of those in government authority being aware of the cultural context when communicating with community members in our multiethnic and multicultural society. This is to avoid the kind of intercultural misunderstanding which could lead to resentment and undermine social stability and harmony.
The minister seems to think that simply because the 2013 Constitution has made all of us as citizens of Fiji to be "Fijians", this is all that matters. It is not so, and I would advise him as a scholar of exceptional intelligence to read his 2013 Constitution thoroughly because the authors have very carefully and adroitly crafted into it several identities each with a particular constitutional purpose. Let me explain.
We, the people of Fiji
The first identity specified in the Constitution is in the preamble. It opens with the words "We, the people of Fiji". It then identifies who the people of Fiji are. They are the iTaukei and Rotumans as the indigenous peoples of Fiji, and the descendants firstly of the indentured labourers from British India, and secondly of settlers and immigrants who followed in coming to make Fiji their home.
The constitutional significance of this identity of "we, the people" is threefold. It is the people in this holistic sense who are the repository of the sovereignty of the State of Fiji. It is the people as the source of the sovereign power of the State who constituted the State of Fiji in its 2013 Constitution, providing for its system of parliamentary democracy and government, and for the human rights of all its citizens. It is the people in exercising this constituent power who have legitimated the 2013 Constitution.
The 2013 Constitution, as the constituted creation of "we, the people", then sets out several identities.
The first and most important of this is set out in section 5 (1). As citizens of Fiji, we are all Fijians, and as Fijians we have equal status and identity. This means that we are equally entitled to the rights and privileges of citizenship and that we are equally subject to the duties and responsibilities of citizenship.
In the Bill of Rights, in Chapter 2, one can see three identities referred to in it. Most of the fundamental rights enumerated in it apply to "every person" or "a person". The person here refers not just to citizens of Fiji but also include a non-citizen who has been granted the necessary visa as resident or as visitor to be in Fiji. But the political rights set out in Section 23 apply only to citizens of Fiji.
Constitutional
significance
The recognition of the iTaukei and Rotumans in the Preamble as Fiji's indigenous peoples and the protection under Section 28 in the Bill of Rights of their customary ownership of their communal lands are constitutionally very significant for three considerations.
Firstly, it is the same recognition and protection that were granted to them by the British Crown when it accepted the deed of cession of Fiji's sovereignty from Fijian chiefs in 1874 and Rotuman chiefs in 1879.
Secondly, it was because of that British recognition, under its common law, of Fijian and Rotuman native titles to their customary lands, territories and resources that today the iTaukei, for example, still own 91 per cent of all lands in Fiji as their communal lands.
Thirdly, by being a party to the ILO Convention 169 on the Rights of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, the State of Fiji has recognised the right of indigenous iTaukei and Rotuman peoples under international law to self-determination. At the very least, this obligates the State and all its agents to consult the iTaukei and Rotumans on any matter that is of concern to them about their customary lands and culture.
Showing sensitivity
So, had the Minister for Education been aware of this right of the indigenous iTaukei and Rotumans to be consulted he would have been more sensitive to their concerns and carefully explained his ministry's intentions. He could have assured them he would take into account their cultural concerns in the deployment of teachers who would actually do the teaching.
The headteacher is the school's administrator and the minister could have cited the outstanding example of individuals like Amraiya Naidu when he was appointed principal of Ratu Kadavulevu School. Under his stewardship, RKS produced its best results ever in Fiji's external examinations. What was really important in the Minister for Education's reported encounter was the need to be aware of the cultural context and to show sensitivity in the way he reacted.
Splendid example
Prime Minister Bainimarama set a splendid example in recognising this when he recently officiated at a public ceremony at Raiwaqa/Raiwai. It was all done in an iTaukei cultural context with traditional ceremonies of welcome and Christian prayers. The people were acting in a cultural context and were honouring him as PM and national leader.
The PM could easily have told them that we are all Fijian citizens and equal in our right to human dignity, and to treat each other as equal in our individual human rights status and entitlement. He could also have reminded them that under the 2013 Constitution with its foundation in modern day liberalism, the State is required to remain neutral on religion and culture and to treat them as private and personal matters.
But he recognised and respected the cultural context and the free wishes of the people to honour him according to their customs and tradition. He, for his part, felt emboldened to publicly declare that iTaukei culture is safe and secure.
Proper grounding
Finally, the Honourable Minister for Education ought to know the critical importance of the proper grounding of all children in their own vernacular language, especially in their early years of education up to Year 6. For the iTaukei, the protection of their customary lands and the proper knowledge and use of their own language are the two essential elements of sustaining their culture and their indigenous identity.
So, if the manager, landowners and parents in an iTaukei primary school are concerned about the ethnicity of the teachers who are being posted there by the ministry, please do not jump to the conclusion that they are "racist" or "ethnic blinded". If you are patient and take the time in a culturally sensitive and appropriate manner to ascertain their concerns, you will surely find out they genuinely care about their children being proficient in both their vernacular and English.
If in your posting of teachers, you are not sensitive to this need for cultural differentiation, you will be perceived by the community of failing to act in good faith in discharging the public trust conferred upon you by your election to office. Worse still, you will be accused of manipulating the constitutional principle of common and equal citizenry for all "Fijians" in pursuance of a deliberate policy of cultural assimilation in schools.
* The above views are the author's and not of this newspaper

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Minimum wage is still only about $2F

from w
It seems like a joke to people in Australia but the minimum wage has gone up in Fiji to   $2.32F. an hour, which is still so little. And that's in Fiji dollars.  When you know what tourists often have to pay for their accommodation, trips, and meals, the hotel workers surely need their wages to be doubled, tripled, not just put up by a few cents.

The story is from Fiji Live.

New NMW comes into effect tomorrow June 30, 2015 05:33:19 

 The increased National Minimum Wage of $2.32 comes into effect tomorrow. The increase which was announced by Government in February this year has been gazetted and employers are reminded to comply with the implementation of the new wage.  

The Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations, Jioji Konrote reiterated that the increase will see more than 100,000 marginalised workers have their weekly wages increased from the $90.00 - $96.00 range, to the $104.40 - $111.36 range for a 45 to 48 hour week working period, respectively.  The NMW covers workers in the informal sector, as well as those workers in the formal sector that are not covered under the current 10 Wages Regulations.  
  
Consistent with Government’s obligation under the Constitution to ensure that all workers are afforded the right to a just minimum wage, this is the second increase under the revised NMW in just over a year.  Minister Konrote said that the employers had almost a five-month adjustment period to enable compliance with this new wage policy.  He adds that the enforcement of the first minimum wage has been successful with minimal non-compliance by the employers. 

A total of 98 per cent of the 581 employers that were inspected in 2014 complied with the law, while 90 per cent compliance has been recorded for the first two quarters of 2015.  The Enforcement Unit of the Ministry will continue to ensure compliance of the new wage through regular employer inspections.  In addition, to protect workers from being exploited, the fixed penalty notice under the Employment Relations (National Minimum Wage) Regulations has been increased from $100 to $500 dollars.  

This means that employers who fail to comply with any provisions of the NWW will be issued on spot fine of $500 dollars by Ministry’s Enforcement Officers.    Minister Konrote added that the National Minimum Wage does not repeal but coexists with the current sectoral minimum wage rates for workers in the ten (10) sectors covered under the new 2015 Wages Regulations.
The 10 industries expected to see an increase in wage rates include, Printing Trades, Wholesale & Retail Trades, Hotel & Catering Trades, Garment Industry, Sawmilling & Logging Industry, Road Transport, Building & Civil & Electrical Engineering Trades, Manufacturing Industry, Mining & Quarrying Industry and Security Services. 

By Reginald Chandar
Copyright 2015 © Fijilive.com
-------------------------  And also - a response to this story in the Fiji Times.



Like Greeks bearing gifts

from w
I noticed this item in Matangi Tonga, re China in the Pacific. Like Greeks bearing gifts I reckon.
Thirty vehicles from the Chinese Government were handed over to Tonga for the Coronation celebration of HM King Tupou VI on 27 June.
The vehicles included 10 cars, 15 SUVs and five 35-seat buses with a Chinese maintenance team to train drivers in Tonga.
The Chinese Ambassador HE Mr Huang Huaguang signed the handover certificate with the Minister of Finance Hon ‘Aisake Eke with Crown Prince Tupouto’a ‘Ulukalala present at Taliai Camp.
HE Huang thanked the Tongan Royal Family and Tongan Government for supporting the development of China-Tonga cooperation and friendship.
“China attaches great importance for His Majesty’s coronation. Chinese President XI Jinping appointed HE Mr Li Jinzao, Chairman of China National Tourism Administration to be his Special Envoy to attend the ceremony,” he stated.

No longer in a hurry about the flag

from w
Interesting items in today's Fiji Village.  I. Delay to talk more about that flag. 2. 11,000 signuatures in a petition led by Sodelpa to keep the current flag.  What fun they are having, disturbing the government's push to change the flag.

State sets new deadline for flag design consultation

By NASIK SWAMI
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Update: 5:25PM THE Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama today announced the extension of public consultations on a new national flag to December 15.
"While we had originally set a deadline of today for the first phase of the flag selection process to be completed, the Government has decided to extend the period of consultation," Mr Bainimarama said. 
"More choices are going to be offered over the next few weeks and months. And the closing date for design consultations will now be 31 December, 2015. Cabinet and then Parliament will  consider the new flag design when it convenes in 2016. 
"By extending the deadline, there is now ample opportunity for Fijians of all ages and backgrounds to further contribute and consider what symbols most appropriately represent our wonderful nation. It has taken some time - in the Fijian way - for many people to become fully engaged and I very much welcome the current lively debate on the flag designs.
"We will soon be announcing precise details of the revised timetable for consultations. And I appeal to all Fijians who have yet to do so to become involved in the process in a spirit of cooperation, collaboration, goodwill and nationhood.
"I appeal to every Fijian to join our quest for a flag that represents who we are today, rather than our past, and that we can fly proudly into the future as we fulfill our vision to become a modern nation state."
From Fiji  Village
The closing date for the new Fiji Flag design consultations will now be 31st December, 2015. Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama has just announced that cabinet and then Parliament will consider the new flag design when it convenes in 2016. Bainimarama says while the government had originally set a ..

SODELPA delivers over 11,000 signatures from those against new flag design
By Vijay Narayan and Elizabeth Rokosuka
Tuesday 30/06/2015

Opposition Leader, Ro Teimumu Kepa (nearest to camera) leads the group to the Department of Information at the Government Buildings in Suva
The SODELPA youth group conducted a short march to the Department of Information at the Government Buildings in Suva earlier this afternoon to deliver signatures of 11,178 people who are against the new flag design and process.

SODELPA Principal Administrative Officer Mick Beddoes says the group was led by Opposition Leader, Ro Teimumu Kepa and General Secretary Pio Tabaiwalu.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

So is cassava bad for you

from w
I always knew that raw cassava has poison in it but I thought cooking it took all of that out but from this recent report it indicates that there is still some cyanide it it, so is cassava bad for you. They do not say conclusively that we should not eat it at all, so I wonder.

Toxic cassava

Luke Rawalai
Monday, June 29, 2015
AN academic report claims cassava contains a lethal chemical known as hydrogen cyanide.
The study by the University of the South Pacific titled A study on cyanide levels in cassava and some of its products in some South Pacific Island Countries said cassava contained naturally occurring but potentially toxic compounds called cyanogenic glycosides.
According to the study, the cyanogenic glycosides release hydrogen cyanide (HCN) as a result of enzymatic hydrolysis following maceration of the plant tissue.
As part of the study, cassava samples from three countries — Fiji, Tonga and Vanuatu — were analysed.
The study found that prolonged soaking and fermentation can effectively detoxify cassava of cyanide.
"Out of 10 samples of various cassava chips produced in Fiji by a single manufacturer and bought from Fijian super markets produced around 20 milligrams of HCN per kilogram of cassava chips," the report said.
"A Fijian cassava chips manufacturer provided raw cassava, raw cassava chips blanched and un-blanched and finished products with results indicating that cyanide content decreased by 45 per cent.
"In an attempt to study the effects of agronomic conditions such as drought, a single variety of cassava from drier parts of Fiji's Viti Levu were studied."
The report stated that results from the research seemed to show that for the same variety, the cyanide content of cassava from the drier side of Viti Levu was more than that of the wetter side.
"Overall, the levels of hydrogen cyanide found in raw cassava in countries being studied were between 10 and 160mg per kg raw cassava," the report said.
"Existing studies suggests only about 50 per cent of cyanide is removed when cassava is boiled."
When contacted for a comment, Ministry of Health spokesman Sunil Chandra said in a statement they needed to study the report before commenting, adding that they had received a report.
Meanwhile, principal agricultural officer North John Cox said cyanide in cassava was a known fact but that different varieties of cassava had different cyanide content.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Tonga ceremonial installation of King

from w
Tonga is in full swing for the installation of the King. Go to http://matangitonga.to/ for many photos of the ceremonies. That's the Tonga newspaper. Here are some of the photos.



Thursday, June 25, 2015

It's Natonal Sports Day in Fiji

from w
It seems like a good idea to get everyone fit and focus on sport for one day. But did they delete some of our old holidays such as Ratu Sukuna Day?

An adventure in Tonga

from w
An elderly man seeking adventure spends a short time living alone on a newly formed island in Tonga.  An elderly adventurer channelled his inner Robinson Crusoe and spent 11 solitary nights on a piece of land situated alongside the remote island of Hunga Tonga – 2,200 miles from Sydney.
Ian Argus Stuart, a British entrepreneur who made millions buying and selling luxury yachts, survived eating nothing but seagull eggs and squid.
The 65-year-old made history by becoming the first person to spend a single night on the island, which is the world's youngest.Go to this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHR6ZjN2_f0  a couple of minutes he filmed on the island.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-3138805/Adventurer-person-spend-11-nights-remote-island-surviving-seagull-eggs-squid.html#ixzz3e8MqpQBb 
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook
Quite different to what's happening in the rest of Tonga at present with preparations for the crowning of the King of Tonga.



Wadam Narsey on the Fiji flag fiasco

from w
They are still talking about the design competition and Wadam Narsey gives his views in the Fiji Times.

Fiji's flag fiasco

Professor Wadan Narsey
Thursday, June 25, 2015
Prime Minister Bainimarama announced in February this year the new flag process would be driven by the Fijian people and a Fijian flag committee. In reality, the process has been hijacked and the people marginalised.
Government must tell taxpayers the cost of the whole exercise and whether people would like to save this money for better things like medicine or nurses.
There are many unfortunate similarities to the Yash Ghai "new constitution" fiasco of 2012.
Why change the flag?
What the PM said is below.
It is only he and the Attorney-General who say: "We need to replace the symbols on our existing flag." The public did not ask for it.
"The new flag should reflect Fiji's position in the world today as a modern and truly independent nation state." Gobbledygook. How does a flag a country is "modern" and truly independent nation state (certainly not with a drua)?
'The existing flag is widely loved and admired. Our United Nations peacekeeping troops have fought and sometimes died under it. Our sportsmen have stood before it as they achieved some of the greatest and most inspirational victories in our sporting history..... every Fijian has stood before it in our schools as they sing our national anthem with patriotism and pride."
Correct. They have done so for 45 years. So why bother changing?
"It is time to dispense with the colonial symbols on our flag — the Union Jack of the United Kingdom and our colonial shield."
Perhaps, remove the Union Jack, if that is what people want. But why remove the shield?
"You all know that I chose a stylised version of our "noble banner blue" for my FijiFirst political movement that won the September election."
So is he admitting the Fiji flag was misused for political purposes, and is now being dumped?
"It is time to sever links that are no longer relevant." Gobbledygook. No foreign links are being severed, least of all with the Brits.
"A national symbol that reflects our present state as a nation.. indigenous and truly Fijian ... fills us with even more pride... promotes even more unity... make us stand even taller and prouder than our existing one."
All gobbledygook.
People wave their flags, at sports events or war, to show others their common solidarity. No one ever waves a flag alone.
"New Zealand and has begun a process to change its flag and Australia is currently debating theirs." Quite true, but they will do it by a referendum.
A process hijacked
The propaganda for months has been that all Fijians will be encouraged to enter a national competition, a flag committee will select a short list, and the people will then choose the most appropriate design.
Apparently, the committee did choose five designs. But a committee member revealed to Radio NZ earlier this month that they reported directly to the Attorney-General, who demanded more designs.
Major mystery: 23 "composite" designs suddenly appeared, seen by some committee members for the first time, with not a single one actually entered by anyone.
Enter Ted Kaye
American Ted Kaye, a vexillologist (flag expert), volunteered to help the flag committee using his "universal principles" of simplicity and a few colours only.
Ha ha ha. So already we can forget our unique Fijian values and symbols.
Kaye revealed in an interview on March 3, 2015 to Mark Hay (www.vice.com) that a short list drawn up by citizen's panel "will be opened to the public for comment, after which a final design will be nominated by the cabinet for consideration during the national parliament's July sitting". No mention of the public choosing democratically.
American Kaye already asserted before he came that the Union Jack was "a relic of the colonial past", the shield had "too many colours" and that there were many similar flags to Fiji's current one.
Yet the shield which has never bothered any Fijian for the past 45 years, and contains the only distinctive and historical Fijian elements and contributions of the major ethnic groups:
o The dove from the historical Seru Cakobau flag;
o Sugar cane, our historical economic foundation built on Indo-Fijian labour;
o The coconut palm, the European and Kailoma contribution; and
o Bananas, the first major indigenous Fijian export industry (before it was killed by Australian and Kiwi tariffs).
Kaye claimed "the distinctive aspect of Fiji's flag is its colour". Gobbledygook.
Many other flags have the same colour, and Kaye ridiculously even claimed, simultaneously, the new Fiji flag could have the same colour as the flags of the neighbouring Pacific countries.
Because wily Kaye knows Bainimarama had already said on February 3: "My preference at this stage is to retain the existing 'Fiji blue' background — but without the Union Flag and shield ... (and perhaps have) indigenous flora and fauna."
Hence we can see that the 23 proposed designs do not have the Union Jack or the shield. But what we do have now are simple triangles, waves, sails, stars, and the sun, the drua, and the turtle; and the tagimoucia flower, unique to Fiji, but few people anywhere would ever recognise it as symbolising Fiji.
The good news is that the PM has conceded, euphemistically, that "the public's reaction to the 23 new flag designs has not been entirely positive" and that there will be more time for more suggestions, which we malua Fijians can make.
But he still refuses to outline the approval process.
Who approves
and from what selection?
If the process is to be a genuine "people's call" the flag committee should choose a short list of proposed new ones (say five to 10), and add the current popular one to form a list the public can choose from.
The final choice must not be left to Cabinet or a parliamentary vote, as the FijiFirst party will inevitably and mindlessly "block vote".
A mobile texting exercise with one vote per phone may suffice, but that rules out all those without a phone. The only legitimate way is a referendum, which is too costly on its own.
The most cost effective and democratic way would be to have the referendum at the 2018 general elections. Fiji can surely survive another three years under the current flag, having survived for 45 years.
After all, the RFMF, the "ultimate guardians of Fiji's sovereignty", has already assured the public that "the new flag would be accorded the same respect by the RFMF as they do for the current flag" (The Fiji Times June 6, 2015).
No one knows of course, what that means given the events of 1987, 2000, 2006 and 2009, apart from saluting the flag now and then.
Sad similarity to the
constitution exercise
Will the Bainimarama Government repeat the Yash Ghai "new constitution" exercise? Remember how Fiji was told in 2012 that it needed a new constitution?
Then a gender-neutral Yash Ghai Commission was set up, with lots of foreign experts, who would listen to all the people's views, then a decree declared that a people's assembly would democratically discuss, revise and approve the draft constitution. But in the end, the Yash Ghai draft was trashed and even burnt, and the people's assembly dispensed with never to be heard of again.
The 2013 Constitution was drawn up by unknown persons, and imposed on Fiji, with the RFMF also declaring that they would support it, perhaps just as they supported the constitutions of 1970, 1990, and 1997.
One has to wonder why there is far more passion and public participation over a flag change than over a constitution change?
Richard Naidu's The Fiji Times article of the June 20, 2015 points out the ridiculousness of proposed flag legislation which assumes accused people are guilty unless proven innocent.
Why on earth would Fiji suddenly need draconian laws to enforce "respect for the flag" when we have done perfectly well without it for the past 45 years.
What of the costs?
Despite claims of a "great country" needing a "great flag", Fiji is a poor country whose educated people are forever emigrating, partly because our governments claim not to have the money to pay for quality education or health.
Yet we seen to have no shortage of funds for a superficial flag change.
The Minister of Finance must tell the taxpayers, how much it has cost taxpayers so far, and how much more it will cost Government if we do decide to change the flag.
As a rough guess, anywhere between $20-$50 million.
Recommendations
I suggest the citizens of Fiji should be allowed to decide at a referendum conducted simultaneously with the voting at the 2018 General Elections, whether:
* They want to spend this money on a new flag design;
* Just keep the current flag and use the savings on medicines or nurses; and
* Accept or reject the proposed flag legislation.
* The views expressed are those of the author and not of this newspaper.