Friday, September 28, 2007

FICAC to bypass DPP

FICAC was given another set of extraordinary powers yesterday when Cabinet amended the Criminal Procedure Code to allow FICAC to completely bypass the DPP's office in appointing lawyers to prosecute cases.

The High Court had previously knocked back an earlier attempt by FICAC to prosecute its own cases because only the Director of Public Prosecutions could prosecute criminal charges.

With the amendment to the Criminal Procedure Code, for the first time in Fijis history, the litigation of cases on court on behalf of the state is no longer the sole responsibility of the DPP.

The change has elevated FICAC from an organisation that was established to "investigate" corruption cases to one that will now have the powers to prosecute.

This development is of great concern as we now see FICAC gradually, and by stealth it seems, gain greater powers and move beyond the objectives for which it initially set up,

Like most Fijians, we here at Loyal Fijian supported efforts to target corruption and bring those guilty of corrupt practices to justice.

But it now increasingly appears that FICAC  is going to play both judge and jury and that is a major concern. The concentration of such widespread powers in one organisation does not augur well for a democratic society especially as FICAC is answerable to politicians and not the people of Fiji.

This move by Cabinet to amend the Criminal Procedure Code is also a blatant attempt by Cabinet to overturn the decision of the High Court.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Life the Public Emergency Regulations Act

The Interim Government should lift the Public Emergency Regulations Act immediately.
The Public Emergency Regulations Act was re-imposed after Laisenia Qarase returned to Suva from his 9 month long stay in Lau. The military responded to his return by imposing the PER.
This seems to have been a knee -jerk reaction that has caused more harm than good, similar to the deportation of former NZ Ambassador to Fiji, Michael Green.
What the IG needs, as Ministers travel the world trying to convince aid donors and tourists that normalcy has returned to Fiji, is back it up with concrete deeds. Just talk is not going to work.
Re-imposing the PER is not going to do any favors when discussing aid with the EU or discussing the visitor worker program with NZ. No tourist will be more likely to come to Fiji because of this backward step. 

Another pertinent point in this whole saga is that the decision to re-impose the PER was taken by the Security Council and not Cabinet!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Bainimarama unhappy with FICAC

FICAC has come under fire from none other than supremo himself, Frank Bainimarama.

The Interim Prime Minister was quoted on Fijilive as saying that FICAC was taking much longer than he would have liked in coming up with hard evidence of corruption.

He was also less than impressed with some FICAC officials who had lost track of the real intentions for establishing FICAC. Bainimarama was scathing in his criticism of FICAC officials wasting time and resources getting involved in minor issues and not going after the alleged major corruption cases .

As an example Bainimarama used the case of the Grand Pacific Hotel saying that it had used up $15million of yours and my money from FNPF. He also mentioned alleged abuses of funds in the FNPF, the abuses of funds in the Sports Council and the AFL and the ATS.

The criticism of FICAC from Bainimarama is very significant. As we all know, FICAC is being "supervised" by none other than the Minister for Finance.

Is this a sign of growing frustrations and division within cabinet?

For several months now Loyal Fijian has been highlighting the incompetence and in some cases the pettiness of certain FICAC officials. It appears that certain FICAC agents have gone for personal glory rather than concentrating on accumulating evidence of corruption and bringing charges ion a court of law.

Major Moti "Cowboy" Rattan in Labasa is one such example of a person drunk on power who has lost the plot.

FICAC is being used as a vehicle to settle scores as seen by Asst Superintendent Nasir Ali's attacks on Police Officers he believes were behind efforts to reveal his dealings with the Police Credit Union.

For FICAC to regain credibility, it must do more than make allegations. It must produce evidence and lay charges.

The time for that is NOW.

Monday, September 17, 2007

FICAC's leash shortened

Finally, some sense seems to have been knocked into the heads of the IG supremos regarding their attack dog, FICAC.

FICAC as we all know has been very prominent in the news ever since its formation leading full scale military type raids into FDB and FHL, confiscating files form PWD and also being involved in the investigation of the murder of a Nadi business man.

Loyal Fijian has on numerous occasions in our previous posts questioned the rationale for the FICAC to be involved in criminal investigations.I mean, they are having a hard enough time bringing any corruption charges against anyone after such a beat up about 370 FILES OF ALLEGATIONS OF CORRUPTION etc etc.

We have a Police Force and  a judiciary (whose Independence is increasingly coming under question) to deal with investigation and prosecution of criminal matters.

FICAC has no business being involved in such matters .

It came as a bit of a relief that the Attorney General has announced that FICAC will (in theory) no longer poke its nose where it doesn't belong.

Interim-Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said several amendments had been made to the FICAC promulgation which was passed by Cabinet last Tuesday.

This means that FICAC's focus will be on systematic and institutional corruption, or so we are told.

The Fijian nation is waiting for all the talk and speculation to be  followed up by  real evidence of corruption .

Thursday, September 13, 2007

84 endangered turtles slaughtered

As most of you would have heard, the Methodist Church held its Annual Conference in Macuata at the end of August.

The provinces of Macuata, Bua and Cakaudrove had asked permission to catch 20 turtles for "traditional" use during the conference.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Pacific, who were present in Macuata for the 3-day conference, reported that 40 to 82 critically endangered Green and Hawksbill turtles allegedly killed for feasting by church members, although this number could be much higher then reported.

Turtles are among the most endagered of all species which are found in Fiji. The Hawksbill Turtle has been classed as CRITICALLY ENDAGERED.

Critically endangered is the highest risk category assigned by the World Conservation Union for wild species. Critically endangered means that a species numbers have decreased, or will decrease, by 80% within three generations and could become extinct if conservation efforts are not stepped up.

I wonder when we will learn that there is more to gain from protecting these wonderful animals then serving them up on a plate?
The World Conservation Council which honoured Macuata high chief, Tui Macuata Ratu Asea Katonivere, in New York in June 2006 for the province's efforts in protected its marine areas, is none too impressed.
As an aside, heres another unique creature found in Fiji that many of us may not have heard of that is on the CRITICALLY ENDAGERED LIST. So, if you do see one (which is very unlikely), please leave it alone:
The Fiji Petrel, Pseudobulweria macgillivrayi, is a small, dark gadfly petrel.

The Fiji Petrel was known from one immature specimen found in 1855 on Gau Island, Fiji. It was rediscovered in 1983, since when there have been a further seven records. This species is classified as critically endangered as it is inferred from the number of records that there is a tiny population confined to a small breeding area.  

Monday, September 10, 2007

Explosives Go Missing From Emperor Mine

The Loyal Fijian had reported in a previous post about the existence of a shadowy group known as the Moto ni Vanua.

SDL organiser, Peceli Kinivuwai, when quizzed by Fiji One News who had reported on Loyal Fijians revelation, denied his involvement with such a group.

According to sources inside the security establishment, there are growing signs of the Moto ni Vanuas efforts to cause widespread disturbances.

An alarming report suggests that in excess of 200kg of explosives, namely Powergel (used extensively in the mining industry) has been reported missing from the Emperor Gold Mine in Vatukoula. It appears with the closure of the mine and reduced security , "thieves" made away with the explosives.

This has been a closely guarded secret to prevent panic.

However, the saving grace has been the inability of the thieves to gain access to the detonators which are stored separately for security purposes.

Fijians will remember that this is not the first time that explsoves have been stolen from Emperor Mine for use in politically motivated attacks.

In 2000, Navakasuasua, a close confidante of Peceli Kinivuwai was behind plots to bomb Nadi Airport using explosives stolen from Emperor Mine.


Thursday, September 6, 2007

Qarase Entitlements Withdrawn

It was reported today that  Laisenia Qarase has been stripped off all entitlements and benefits which he qualifies for as a former PM.

Under the Parliamentary Emoluments Commission rules, all former Presidents, Vice-Presidents and Prime Ministers are entitled to certain privileges after leaving office.

This includes free provision of security, transport, pension and medical treatment.
All such privileges have been cancelled.
It is not immediately clear as to what led to such a measure being implemented although former PM's Sitiveni Rabuka and MP Chaudhry both continue to receive all the entitlements as former PM's.

According to well placed sources, there has been concern in the IG that Qarase's return is being used by Anti-IG forces to mobilise opposition to the IG.
After the poorly planned and ill-fated FICTU/FNA strikes, it is widely believed that Anti-IG forces are now looking at Qarase's return and the impending court cases as their last chance of making a dent in the IG's standing.
The IG on its part has responded by withdrawing Qarase's entitlements, including security.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Qarse Claims Death Threats

Fijian police have begun investigating ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase's allegation he was threatened with death by the military if he returns to Suva.

All law abiding Fijian will welcome this development as it demonstrates a willingness and ability of the Fiji Police to act independently and without fear or favor.

Acting Police Commissioner Eroni Antonio gave the directive to Asst Comm Nasir Ali for investigations to begin after receiving a written complaint from Qarase's lawyer Tevita Fa early yesterday.

Mr Qarase said earlier this week he had received a telephone call from someone who spoke to him in Fijian and said he was from the military.

"He said `I am from the military and we hear that you are coming back later this week. We are happy that you are coming back but on arrival we will kill you'. He then swore at me and put the phone down," he said.

Whether the military to go to such an extent or whether there are other forces at play, is open to conjecture.