During my trip to Fiji I was very privileged to be able to speak extensively with Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, the Attorney-General of Fiji.
Said to be the power behind the Commodore by many I wanted to explore several aspects of Fiji with him. It was a very wide ranging discussion which I have included below. We did have one short break when the Prime Minister rang. I have left the start of that call in to show that I have not edited out anything. I was not restricted on anything I could ask, and the whole time was just Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and myself in his office.
In particular I wanted to explore the allegations of human rights reductions that are levelled against the government of Voreqe Bainimarama and to understand the Road to Democracy including the Constitutional review process. In particular I was interested to learn about the changes regarding domestic violence and the commitment to gay rights and marriage equality. Bear in mind that Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum is a devout Muslim when listening to him talk about the human rights improvements that the government has enacted.
Discussion was held over Phil Goff’s comments on the Fiji. The Attorney-General was very dismissive of Goff and other Australian and New Zealand politicians. He then launches into an attack on Felix Anthony, who is currently in a battle with Mahendra Choudhary for the leadership and control of the Fiji Labour party. It is a very candid discussion about Felix Anthony and the trade union movement and their involvement in causing trouble inside and outside of Fiji.
The discussion over the “smart sanctions” gave me the view that Fiji has actually been strengthened by the sanctions because as a result of those sanctions a lot of aid ceased and they have weaned themselves off international aid.
“It has also made Fiji look to the globe. Fiji has now formed more diplomatic relationships over the past two years than it has done since independence”
The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have ceased aid money due to NZ and Australian veto. The government then has been forced to adjust their economy to live without aid.
“We have now reduced our deficit to 1.9%, our foreign reserves have never been higher…our Standard and Poor ratings have gone up”
Fiji has ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption. They have formed the FICAC and are now cracking down on corruption in all its forms. Fiji is submitting themselves to peer-review as part of the process.
The discussion later on in the interview (30min) regarding the voter buying and corruption of the previous government, where there was voter turnout of 101% in one constituency and the report produced by the European Union in 2006 which outlined all the electoral abuses of the Qarase government which was unreported in New Zealand.
We also talked about the voter registration process that Fiji is currently completing in order to minimise voter fraud. They have essentially followed the recommendations of the European Union in that report in moving toward democracy.
I even asked at one point about the allegations by commentators here, including David Farrar, that the Commodore won’t hold elections. Listen for the answer to that and understand the progress that is being made to ensure that the people of Fiji return to a representative democracy without a racist constitution or neo-colonial baggage imposed on them by other countries.
This is a wide ranging discussion and covers many, many areas that the New Zealand media has refused to.