I try not to put pen to paper in the blog about Fiji politics but sometimes things that are important need some airing. The latest decree is certainly going to stir up people as there's a mean spirit in the air. It's okay to set out criteria for the political parties to be registered but in between the lines of this decree is a mean streak as the writers attempt to exclude so many decent people. Maybe the only ones left are the church people and I don't think they are popular! I'm surprised that they didn't put in 'talatalas' not allowed! Here's how the story was written up in the Australian newspaper. Fiji Village wrote a very long post yesterday on it if you can find that again, it gives many details. http://www.fijivillage.com/?mod=story&id=150113dc7d1c46938cc77d3485bc1b
The second thing of note in the Australian piece is in reference to Senator Carr, Australia's Foreign Minister, who obviously knows little about Fiji's cultural story and present situation.
Fiji decree restricts political participation
- by: Rowan Callick, Asia-Pacific editor
- From:The Australian
- January 16, 201312:00AM
FIJI’S military government yesterday released details of a decree that will restrict trade union leaders and other “public officers” from founding political parties, and require parties to recruit at least 5000 registered members divided between the country’s four geographic divisions.
After the decree takes effect on Friday, parties will not be allowed to receive funds from businesses, from foreign sources or from NGOs, and no individual can donate more than $F10,000 ($5370) a year to a party.
As well, they must have their accounts audited and published.
Registration of a party will cost $2650. And the 16 parties now registered – which have needed to have only 180 members each – have been given just 28 days to re-register or they will be committing an offence.
If all 16 are to succeed in registering, in order to contest elections due next year they will have to enlist in total almost 10 per cent of the entire population as registered members.
A new party that was to be formed following a meeting in Nadi last weekend of more than 400 leading trade unionists and members of civil society groups may not fulfil the new criteria for registration.
Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, who is the Minister Responsible for Elections as well as the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Anti-Corruption, Public Enterprises, Industry, Investment, Tourism and Communications, said in announcing the long-anticipated new rules: “When applying to either re-register or form a new political party you must set out the name of the proposed party in English language, and the symbol, abbreviations used and acronyms.”
One of the country’s biggest parties is the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua, whose principal, well known, title means, in Fijian, United Fiji Party.
Its leader, Laisenia Qarase, the prime minister from whom military ruler Frank Bainimarama seized power in December 2006, has been jailed for a year on corruption charges dating back 20 years.
Separately, Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr was yesterday prominently cited in Fiji’s media as backing the military government’s recent discarding of the draft constitution, drawn up by a commission led by the internationally renowned constitutional expert Yash Ghai, and which AusAID supported with about $1 million.
The Fiji Sun, the government’s most staunch media supporter, led with a story that Senator Carr “said he understood why the controversial Yash Ghai draft constitution has to be modified”.
The Fijilive website said that Senator Carr “has welcomed the decision” to rewrite the constitution. The site headlined its story: “Aust takes softer stance”.
Senator Carr told the ABC about the suggested introduction of a broadly based National People’s Assembly, including all cabinet members, other parliamentarians and local government and civil society representatives, sitting annually to discuss broad issues and on occasion to elect the president, “is something I can’t think of enjoying precedence anywhere else in the constitution of a democratic country”.
The draft also proposes the re-establishment of a Great Council of Chiefs, which had been abolished by the military regime, but this time as a civil society organisation rather than as a political body as previously – following a large number of community requests. Senator Carr said: “The re-creation of an unelected Great Council of Chiefs would seem to give rise to the suggestion that ethnic divisions in the country were going to be exaggerated by new constitutional arrangements . . . I can find it understandable that the interim government has objected to both these features of the draft constitution presented to it.”
ACTU president Ged Kearney said: “I’m very disappointed by the Foreign Minister’s response.
“What we’re seeing now is the regime making it very clear that it pretty much intends to do what it wants without any sanction by the people of Fiji.”