Whale in Fiji – Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum

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.

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  • LesleyNZ

    If NZ media ignore your “Whale in Fiji” series than that will prove beyond reasonable doubt that NZ media is biased or that they do not want to acknowledge the truth and that they have been wrong in their biased attitude towards Fiji. Same goes for our politicians.And – what does David Farrar think now?

  • AnonWgtn

    Well done Whale – but any MSM here will not listen to what has been said.
    They do not agree with anything other than the support of the Labour Party stance in Fiji.

  • frankenass

    A sychophantic interview with patsy questions. Why not ask something challenging such as how much are the Illegal AG and PM paying themselves, then that info could be passed on to the hapless Fijian citizen that has been denied this and other fundamental information about their country over the past five years.

    • Travis Poulson

      And that ban that was in place preventing private meetings of more than 3 people without a permit. What was that expected to achieve?

    • How much was Qarase taking in the form of “donations” in order to award contracts…you ok with that? Presumably you are.

      And the vote rigging and vote buying…that was ok with you? What about the 101% turnout in one electorate? Ok?

      And all you can moan about is the salary of the PM and A-G?

      What a dick. And if you cared so much about Fiji you wouldn’t be using Telecom from Tauranga.

      • frankenass

        A compromised judiciary put Qarase away on trumped up charges from more than 20 years ago. No SDL member has yet been convicted of corruption, despite Bainimarama claiming government corruption as the reason for his coup.
        The salary question is valid as the regime continues to refuse to disclose this basic piece of information (as well as government budgets, including the military fund blowouts.) You ok with that?
        Your comment to Leighton Smith that you couldn’t see any military in government is a joke–they’ve infiltrated the public service and are there to stay–perhaps the fact they’re wearing civilian clothing fooled you?
        The only dick here is the one you were sucking in Aiyaz’s office.

        • LesleyNZ

          Your last sentence negates your credibility.You have lost the argument so you revert to sick and sleazy comments. I don’t believe you have listened to the interview.

        • Anon

          Tobo tale mai Tauranga. kaila

    • LesleyNZ

      Did you actually listen to the interview? You sound like those “patsies” who are always being negative about what is happening in Fiji even if the news is positive.

  • Rakiraki boy

    Good work Whale Oil for actually going to Fiji and reporting, but yes the questions were pretty favourable. It’s true that there is little on Fiji in the mainstream media in New Zealand, but it’s not fair to tar all the media with the same brush. If people care to read and to listen, there is plenty of very balanced reporting on Fiji on Pacific Scoop (http://pacific.scoop.co.nz/) and the Pacific Media Centre site: (http://www.pmc.aut.ac.nz/) (both edited by the Pacific Media Centre at AUT University).

    Radio New Zealand International do a very good job on all the Pacific, including Fiji. But they don’t have a good name with the Fiji regime, as they do ask the hard questions as well. If a regime is criticising a Kiwi media outlet, more often than not, that’s a good thing.
    But there has been warranted criticism of some of the fairfax and APN sites and papers as there is very superficial coverage most of the time.

    Towards the end of the interview, S-K criticised the NFP and says there’s only two people running the party. Well there’s only two people running the whole country at the moment – Sayed-Khaiyum and Bainimarama (who is pretty much instructed by Sayed-Khaiyum). Now they might be doing a pretty damn good job (especially for only two people), but no matter how good you are going, the longer you go with only two people in charge, the more and more people start getting fed up. It’s human nature to want to vote.

    It would be a great tragedy if there wasn’t a vote in 2014. Even though it’s highly likely the people will overwhelmingly vote for the current government, people need to have their say.

  • Rakiraki boy

    The same sentiments you express in your questions to Tikoduadua here have been expressed and written about on Pacific Scoop for months and even years. It’s a shame that people think that Kiwis just listen to and read the mainstream media. When you want the best coverage, don’t go to where there are consumerist policies- go to academia and public broadcasters such as RNZI.

    • LesleyNZ

      RNZI, along with most other mainstream media here in NZ really have been very biased and negative in their news reporting about what is happening in Fiji. MSM’s source of information has even been the stories posted on the anti-Fijian Govt blogs such as Coup 4.5. Sometimes the whole truth about an incident/story for whatever reason was not told. Very few mainstream media organisations in NZ report the positive that is happening in Fiji but as soon as there is something negative, media picks up on it straight away, frequently not verifying if the information they have received is totally correct. Here in NZ, NewstalkZB and TV3 have probably been the most balanced media organisations when reporting on Fiji. TV3, because like The Whale, journalists got on a plane and visited Fiji and found out for themselves.Most NZers would not have heard of Pacific Scoop.Those who are really interested in Fiji will listen to and read many different media sources, (such as Pacific Scoop) but most here in NZ believe what mainstream media dishes up as the whole truth and if mainstream media decide to take on a certain stance/direction – that becomes the direction of public opinion.

      • Rakiraki boy

        I would certainly not put RNZI in the same category as the other mainstream media outlets. RNZI report on Fiji almost on a daily basis, and at times do send reporters to Fiji, even despite the terrible funding levels of public broadcasting in NZ. Despite having almost zero funding Pacific Scoop do send student journalists and other postgrads to Fiji such as when there is a conference. This happened recently and there is more informed information on that site than anywhere else in NZ or Australia regarding the situation in Fiji. However it does not have the resources to cover all areas, and tends to focus on media issues, as it is run by the Pacific Media Centre.

        I agree the reporting of media focuses on the negative, and I agree that’s not a good thing – it needs to change. But all media do that supposedly because it’s a ‘news value’ and people supposedly prefer to read negative stuff. Other countries, such as Fiji, don’t have that approach and so I can understand why they are often offended at the foreign reporting done by Kiwis and Aussies.