Fiji

David Shearer dead wrong on Fiji…again

David Shearer has opened his mouth and spouted more nonsense about Fiji and human rights.

Radio New Zealand reported:

The New Zealand Labour Party says it will raise the Fiji police’s closure of an investigation into alleged beating and torture of prisoners by security personnel at the Foreign Affairs Select Committee on Thursday.

A nine-minute video released on the internet last year shows a handcuffed man being beaten with batons and metal bars by men in plain clothes with one man being set upon by a dog as its handler urges the animal on.

The Police Chief of Operations, Rusiate Tudravu, confirmed the case had been closed but declined to explain what prompted the police decision.

Labour’s spokesperson for foreign affairs, David Shearer, says the contents of the video and the closing of the case are travesties against basic human rights and action must be taken.

“It’s appalling that they’ve just closed the investigation. If the Fijians want to be seen as a democratic player in upholding human rights, these sorts of reviews need to be seen through to their conclusion, and we need to have recommendations and people brought to account.”

There is a massive problem with that story, from Shearer’s point of view and for Radio New Zealand in reporting it.

It is flat out wrong as you can see from reporting at Fiji Village.

The investigation into the alleged brutality video case has not been closed as Fiji’s Police Commissioner Major General Ben Groenewald confirmed to Fiji Village today.

The Police Commissioner has today revealed that the investigation regarding the alleged brutality video posted online remains under investigation.

Major General Ben Groenewald said earlier comments by Police that the matter was closed referred to advice from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions concerning possible charges against the person responsible for uploading the video.

He stresses that no final decision has yet been made relating to other allegations concerning the video.

Groenewald said once the investigation is complete the file will be forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions for a decision.

Police Chief of Operations, ACP Rusiate Tudravu had earlier said that the case is closed and he will not make any further comments.

Also what Radio New Zealand and David Shearer forget is that these ratbags who the Police apprehended had previously escaped from Suva Prison and went on a rampage robbing, assaulting and destroying property fro over a week.

They were violent thugs who caused a great deal of fear and anguish in SUva while on the run.

If they got a bit of a tickle up in the back of a ute then very few Fijians especially those in Suva would have cared very much at all.

- Radio New Zealand, Fiji Village

Thai coup, will McCully put in place sanctions like with Fiji?

The Thai military has reacted to political instability and conducted their 12th coup since 1932.

Thailand’s military seized power in a bloodless coup, dissolving the government, scrapping the constitution and dispersing groups of protesters from both sides of the country’s political divide who had gathered in Bangkok and raised fears of a violent showdown.

The powerful army chief, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, announced the military takeover in a statement broadcast on national television.

It was followed by additional announcements including a nationwide curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. and an order for 18 government officials – including the ousted prime minister – to report immediately to the country’s new governing military commission.

Soldiers kept a low profile in the center of the capital. But as the curfew approached, troops diverted traffic at key intersections and used armored personnel carriers to block some main roads, including the one in front of the US Embassy.     Read more »

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NZ Aid money used to buy Cook Islands’ PM a new boat

While everyone likes to have a go at the smallest transgression in Fiji, it appears that senior politicians in the Cook Islands can funnel NZ Aid money into their own pockets and the NZ Government will turn a blind eye.

TV3’s Brigitte Masters reports:

The Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna is set to get an estimated $116,000 worth of equipment and loan funding from NZAid for his pearl farm in Manihiki, despite an apparent conflict of interest.

The payment is part of a Grant Funding Arrangement (GFA) signed between the Cook Islands and New Zealand in 2013, which gave $1.7 million to the Cook Islands as part of the Pearl Revitalisation Project.

A requirement of the GFA was that all conflicts of interest were to be declared to the New Zealand Government. However, Mr Puna’s involvement in his pearl farm was not.

So the NZ Government hands our money over to the Cook Islands’ Government and it gets funnelled into Mr Puna – nice.

According to a document supplied by the Cook Islands’ Ministry of Marine Resources (MMR) in Rarotonga, Mr Puna put in a request for a $38,000 boat, an $18,000 outboard motor and $30,000 worth of building material to upgrade his seeding house.

The document shows the equipment Mr Puna requested was worth more than twice as much as that asked for by most other pearl farmers. He also requested $18,393.75 as part of an emergency float loan.

[…]   Read more »

Cash, Cars, Conflict and Commercial Radio Stations – Part III

Part III in a special Whaleoil blog investigation

Part I and Part II

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So what of MBIE?

Apparently all the facts in the first two parts of my series have been raised by Mr Khan with MBIE.  They have not replied in any satisfactory way in monitoring radio licensing, which forced Radio Tarana to take costly legal action.

There are serious questions to answer as to why CFS and the Algie Family Trust were involved as intermediaries to cash transactions to shuffle facilitate money into 5TUNZ.  Was it a loan? A gift? Financial assistance? Why was it not declared in statutory returns?

The cash from Lodhia could simply have been deposited into Mr and Mrs Prasads personal bank account (if it really was a personal gift or a loan for a private purpose) or directly into 5TUNZ (if it was a gift or a loan for the use of the business).

Was the money used to attempt to externally make 5TUNZ appear more solvent than it was?  Or internally to make it look more indebted?

Let us go back to Mr Lodhia’s very concise confident comment to me:

“My only obligation and financial interest is in Radio Tarana”.    Read more »

Cash, Cars, Conflict and Commercial Radio Stations – Part II

Part II of a special Whaleoil blog investigation

Part I

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What is the problem?

Putting aside the local and continuous content issues, in statutory declarations to MBIE who oversee the licences, 5TUNZ must declare all funding received. Mr Lodhia paid $70,000 in cash through to the Prasad’s and it is alleged none of this was declared when it should have been.  MBIE seem unconcerned to date with this.  

I asked the obviously generous and wealthy Mr Lodhia if it would be normal for him to pay five figured loans to friends undocumented in cash. This was the only question the otherwise cheerful and friendly gentleman refused to answer and specifically asked me to move along.  As a “decent journalist trained and skilled” it is only natural that I did not and looked even closer at the issues at hand.

Mr Lodhia’s cash didn’t go straight in the 5TUNZ bank account at all, all three installments were channeled into a family trust of the CFS CEO Kevin Algie and CFS itself, a company that finances second hand car purchases.  It may not be unusual for people in the Indian community to carry large amounts of cash but the “all my peoples trade in cash” defence is known not to work in the year 2014 when explaining away the placement stage of allegations of money laundering or answering to MBIE or making statutory declarations.

I asked Mr Lodhia if he helped the otherwise green owners with actually how to run a radio station.  I know from my time in the media that running a radio station does not look that easy.  Mrs Prasad had only recently graduated from AUT and Mr Prasad is a used car salesman. Mr Lodhia commented that they had “someone” in the industry helping them.   He did not name that person.  This is obviously a fight Mr Lodhia does not much wish to get involved in, he claimed that he felt he was more obliged to help because it was his idea they front the radio station in the first place and “once their set up was done I moved away, I said it’s your baby now I wish you all the best”.   Read more »

Cars, Cash, Conflict And Commercial Radio Stations – Part I

A special three part Whaleoil blog investigation

As you all should know by now I have a special interest in matters arising from Fiji and all matters to do with media.  The buzz in the local Auckland Fijian Indian community as of late is a right legal donnybrook brewing in the High Court between Robert Khan of NZ’s Number 1 Hindi station, Radio Tarana and Roshila and Satyandra Prasad, currently operating as Radio Humm.  What makes it all the spicier is that in the middle of the fight is the Honorary Consul for Fiji influential Auckland businessman, Harish Lodhia and a curiously complex trail of ownership, cash and loans.

All happening under the watchful yet seemingly lazy eye of MBIE.

Mr Lodhia leases 1386AM to Radio Tarana under a Full Commercial Licence.  He then has intertwined dealings with the registered owners of 5TUNZ, the company that operates Radio Humm on 106.2FM under a Local Commercial Licence.

At the heart of the matter is that local commercial licences are less expensive but more restrictive than full commercial licences and overseen by MBIE.  Mr Khan’s cost base therefore is higher than the Prasad’s and he operates under different rules.

Publicly available documents outline the dispute surrounding Mr Khan’s allegations that Radio Humm is failing in its statutory obligations under its Local Commercial Licence not only a) in terms of the required local content but b) commonality of ownership and the sometimes invisible hand of Harish Lodhia.

The 5TUNZ local commercial licence does not permit cross-ownership in a full commercial licence such as  Mr Lodhia’s 1386AM.

Radio Humm is directed more at the youth market and Mr Khan alleges that rather than have the required local content it is “predominantly international Bollywood and that does not fulfil the continuous broadcasting obligations”.  It is also alleged that Humm doesn’t meet local programming obligations.   Read more »

Is money important in elections? New research suggests it is

In New Zealand, despite no evidence to support the contention that money has a massive influence in politics the Labour party passed the draconian and anti-democratic Electoral Finance Act.

The evidence in NZ is actually contrary to the opinion that money in politics can sway results. The Act party for instance spent a great deal more than any other party for a negligible return, same with Colin Craig. On the other hand the unions pour money into Labour’s coffers and get a good return on their investment.

In Fiji the news electoral laws forbid anyone or organisation other than natural persons from donating to political parties or candidates. This stops corporates and the unions donating.

Meanwhile the left wing continues to push for state funding of political parties, a system that rewards incumbency. They don;t want to have to bother with pesky things like members and sausage sizzles and cake stalls.

And of course there is Kim Dotcom who is making the mistake many wealthy business people make in entering politics, thinking that money can buy you votes.

In the United States however there is building evidence that big money, and by big I mean BIG, can and does make a difference in campaigning. Apparently 91% of the time the better resourced candidate wins.

There are few talking points more beloved by underdog political candidates (and their aides) than to declare that money doesn’t matter. (If it did, Steve Forbes would be the president!)

Well, they’re wrong — at least most of the time.

Take a look at the chart below, created last month by Jasper McChesney, a designer at United Republic, a nonpartisan nonprofit that tries to spread awareness about the influence of money in politics.   Read more »

Fiji travel bans lifted, what did they actually achieve?

soper-fiji

The government has finally lifted the Fiji travel bans:

New Zealand is lifting travel sanctions against Fiji, Foreign Minister Murray McCully has confirmed.

In a statement, McCully said the progress Fiji was making towards holding free and fair elections deserved recognition from the Pacific region and international community.

“There are now more than 500,000 people registered to vote in the September elections, electoral commissioners have been appointed and importantly Commodore Bainimarama has stepped down as the head of the Military.

“The visit by the Pacific Islands Forum Ministerial Contact Group in February was a success and the Commonwealth recently acknowledged the progress that Fiji is making.

“Last week the electoral decree was published, an Elections Supervisor appointed, and the 17th of September was announced as the election date.”

As a consequence New Zealand would end all remaining travel sanctions and would also remove all remaining restrictions on New Zealand Government departments working directly with their Fiji counterparts.

Which is all good, but one wonders what they actually achieved. These sanctions certainly never deterred the government of Fiji from progressing to a true democracy, with one person one vote, and a proper census, complete photo id voter registration and the removal of the electoral rort of the Great Council of Chiefs.   Read more »

The Huddle

newstalkzb

I was on NewstalkZB this evening with Larry Williams and his show The Huddle. With me was another pinko, arts and travel blogger David Farrar.

Our topics were:

The polls are out and the Mana Party’s still willing to sell it’s soul (if it has one) to get in with Kim Dotcom – all because Dotcom doesn’t like John Key. There’s been a bit of an  improvement for NZ First – is that because people are forgetting his track record. (A high probability given the age of the NZ First support base!)

Then the travel ban for Fiji has been lifted. This leads the way to full democratic elections in September. For all his bad though, it appears Bainimarama has kept things relatively stable and is popular amongst the peeps and likely to win.   Read more »

The Huddle at 1740

newstalkzb

I am on NewstalkZB this evening with Larry Williams and his show The Huddle. With me will be another pinko, arts and travel blogger David Farrar.

Our topics will be:

The polls are out and the Mana Party’s still willing to sell it’s soul (if it has one) to get in with Kim Dotcom – all because Dotcom doesn’t like John Key. There’s been a bit of an  improvement for NZ First – is that because people are forgetting his track record. (A high probability given the age of the NZ First support base!)  Read more »