Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum

Fijian Government defends improvements and denounces biased report from Amnesty International

Yesterday the Media party went all in on a shonky and shabby report from Amnesty International about Fiji.

Of course, it was Barbara Dreaver putting the slipper in while she enjoys staying in Suva, not at all grateful for her new freedoms.

A damning report from Amnesty International has found Fiji’s security forces are involved in an alarming level of torture, brutality and abuse cases.

Since the military coup of 2006 there have been five deaths in custody and other people have suffered serious injuries or been raped.

Amnesty International’s Pacific Researcher Kate Schuetze says accountability for these cases are the exception rather than the rule.

“It’s quite extraordinary the level of violence that some of these cases are experiencing … what makes it different in Fiji I guess is that you have immunities under the constitution which make it very difficult to investigate these,” she said.

Ms Schuetze says another problem is that Police and Prisons Commissioners are both senior serving military offices which “blurs the line between these two institutions”.

Amnesty International say more accountability is needed and there needs to be an independent mechanism monitoring the security forces so they aren’t investigating themselves when cases come to light.

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Why are the Aussies surprised at their snubbing in Fiji?

It seems the Aussies are still up to their old tricks.

This morning’s Fiji Sun has a story which may give us an insight as to what awaits?NZ and how we will handle what is likely to be the same treatment at ?the Waitangi Day celebrations next week in Suva.

Top Government and Judiciary members conspicuously stayed away from the Australia Day celebrations in Suva last night.

It underscored continuing concerns in Suva over attitudes of Australian diplomats here, including High Commissioner Margaret Twomey, well informed sources said.

Among those not at the high commission?s function were Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and Chief Justice Anthony Gates.

All were invited and all were in town.

It came at the end of a day when Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had warmly praised Fiji in a message published only by the Fiji Sun. But in marked contrast High Commissioner Twomey same time barely mentioned Fiji in a message published by both daily newspapers.

This reemphasised concerns of a chasm in attitude towards Fiji. This is between the warmth of Ms Bishop ? potentially Australia?s next Prime Minister ? and hardline bureaucrats and diplomats working in the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

These are the people who drove the now widely discredited failed Australian policy of trying to isolate Fiji. ? Read more »

Fiji A-G rips into CTU man Peter Conway

The Fiji Attorney-General?and Tourism Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has ripped into the fact free attack on Fijian tourism by the CTU and in particular Peter Conway’s comments.

Conway, who last visited Fiji over 6 years ago is clearly only getting his information from his fellow union brothers in Fiji who aren’t that happy with having their previous lucrative rorting stopped by the Bainimarama government.

Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum responds to Peter Conway. The comments about Fiji Airways are good too.

The Attorney-General and Tourism Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum? replied to Conway, not by attacking him or the overseas unions, but? by accusing? trade unionists in Fiji of being behind a new international campaign to hurt the country?s important tourism industry and those depending on it for a living.? He is “confident that our visitors will see this propaganda for what it is ? a crude attempt to punish Fiji for its reforms, which are designed, amongst other things, to erode the ability of a handful of elites to use their power to damage the Fijian economy and work against the Fijian people.

?This same hegemony of four or five unionists time and time again continues to demonstrate a disdain for ordinary Fijians by wilfully misrepresenting the situation in Fiji. ?Overall, we believe the impact of this petition will be minimal. Our visitors ? like the Fijian employees ? are smart enough to see through it.?

?For trade union leaders to encourage a tourism boycott ? an industry that supports the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Fijian families ? is the height of selfishness and irresponsibility. A boycott would not only threaten the livelihoods of those directly employed by the tourism industry and their families, but also the livelihoods of all those who play a supporting role in the industry: the taxi drivers, the airline and airport employees, women and men who produce handicrafts and the list goes on.? Read more »

Good ideas from Fiji on electoral reform

While Michael Field pushes his own agenda and silly bloggers and other media follow along with chucking misinformation around about Fiji they are just geting on and making meaningful changes.

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said;

?A public officer is somebody who is a member of a statuary body or a commission or a board established.

For example, if I?m a board member of AFL, I cannot be an applicant for a political party nor can I be a member of the original members of the 5,000, nor can I be a judge or a magistrate.

Nor can I be holding any office in the public service including the Fiji Police Force, the Fiji Corrections Services and the Republic of the Fiji Military Forces.

Nor for that matter can I be an official of a trade union and at the same time hold the office of a political party.

For example, if I?m a general secretary of a trade union, I also cannot be an official of a political party at the same time.

I can choose, I can be one or I can be the other.

What a brilliant law. The changes with regards to political parties and donations are certainly long overdue in New Zealand. The rules around membership and donations are smart. Is there a politician in New Zealand with the courage to implement the same rules here?? Read more »

An email from a reader

With my recent posts on Fiji I have received quite a bit of correspondence. But this email from a reader best summarises the sentiment:

Well done Cameron, I applaud you on your comments made on ZB.

Finally ,someone who has actually been to Fiji; taken the time to understand Fiji’s position and report accurately on affairs of state. As a kiwi who has had business interests in Fiji for 11 years, who typically spends 4-5 months a year living there I can say categorically that in our many dealings directly and indirectly with the government and its representatives, that the current regime; is, in relative terms to past governments, doing an outstanding job.

The Australasian position has been nothing short of arrogant and ill informed; we simply believe that unless it is a democracy it can’t possibly be good; yet we understand little of the reasons behind the coup, nor the positive changes bought about by the current military lead government.

I see the crack downs on corruption; government departments actually turning up, doing their job and working in a manner that is bringing equality for all Fijians.

I feel a sense of stability and as best as can be expected of any government, a people who feel mostly satisfied with the performance their leaders are delivering.

Recent posts/interviews on Fiji:

Whale in Fiji: Christopher Pryde

Whale in Fiji: Pio Tikoduadua


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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Whale in Fiji: Speaking with Leighton Smith

I was in at NewstalkZB this morning and Leighton Smith grabbed me on the way past and we spoke for a few minutes on my observations in Fiji.

Leighton Smith, Cam Slater talking about Fiji

Have a listen to my observations on Fiji.

Tomorrow is my interview with the Fiji Attorney-General,?Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

Whale in Fiji: Christopher Pryde

I recently spent a week in Fiji. I have become sick of reading stories in our media that didn’t gel with people I have been talking with in Fiji.

So I thought I would go up to Fiji and see how I got on with trying to speak to some of the key people in Fiji.

I was able to obtain interviews with?Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum,?Fiji’s Attorney-General, with?Pio?Tikoduadua,?Permanent Secretary – Office of the Prime Minister and with Christopher Pryde who is currently the Director of Public Prosecutions.

I was given free access with absolutely no restrictions on what I could talk about or ask. Readers will see in coming interviews that I publish the wide-ranging topics that I was able to cover.

As I mentioned in an earlier post access was easy to gain, I simply asked, and walked in thorough minimal security. I certainly saw no armed military anywhere. Even on the 4th floor of?New Wing Government Buildings where a cabinet meeting was in progress in the next room I was able to access the floor without any of the security palaver that I have experienced gaining access to just Parliament in New Zealand.

I have previously blogged guest posts from Christopher Pryde about the Law Society blocking advertisements for staff. I wanted to explore some aspects of that more.

Here is the video of my discussion with Christopher Pryde, where I discuss everything from the “smart sanctions” and how they have affect the fair dispensing of justice in Fiji. I also discussed the various warnings I?received?from media in New Zealand about my safety and the like. We also discussed Phil Goff’s statement about Fiji needing a free and indepedent judiciary before being welcomed back into the South Pacific Forum.

The improvement in women’s protection under the law with regard to domestic violence was interesting and also the Child Welfare Decree and also the new law preventing discrimination on the basis of HIV status. So far from restricting human rights in Fiji the government has in fact extended human rights to cover women, extended gay right,?decriminalising?homosexual?relations?and protecting those with a positive HIV status.

The prosecution of Laisenia Qarase for corruption was also discussed.

I found Christopher Pryde to be engaging and open. When I return to Fiji I will follow up with any additional questions that may come up in comments.

The focus in Fiji on knocking corruption on the head is interesting. They have establish the FICAC and there are signs everywhere asking people to report corruption. Their website shows just what sort of progress is being made. New Zealand still lacks an?Independent?Commission?Against?Corruption and we have the temerity to lecture Fiji on?internal?politics.

Tomorrow I will blog about my discussion with Pio Tikoduadua.

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Voter registration has begun in Fiji

? Newstalk ZB

Progress is being made in Fiji, despite the efforts of the New Zealand and Australian governments to hinder progress. The first voters are now being registered now in Fiji.

The Fijian Prime Minister has kick started the voter registration process.

In a ceremony marking the launch of the electronic voter registration machine, Frank Bainimarama completed the new and simplified process.

Attorney General and Minister for Electoral Reforms Mr Sayed-Khaiyum says registration will be opened to the public on July 3.

He says 1,000 registration clerks will have the task of registering 600,000 people in eight weeks.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum says adopting the system will add integrity and credibility to the elected Government in the 2014 elections.

Fiji making progress

Voter registration starts in Fiji on 3?July 2012.

The Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum speaks very clearly to cane farmers about how to go about registering for the election in 2014. He also urges them to go the Constitution Consultation meetings that are going to be held around the country and have their say.

The Attorney-General?gets down to the level of the ordinary Fijian so well.

Murray McCully needs to announce the dropping of travel sanctions against Fijians helping the Fijian Government. Bob Carr needs to eat humble pie.