News and Comments for Thursday 2 October
|Boundaries of responsibility|
My intention, starting tomorrow Friday or over the weekend, is to summarise the comments each week and bring them to the attention of the appropriate people.
UNCLEAR BOUNDARIES BETWEEN POLICE AND MILITARY RESPONSIBILITIES.. There have been conflicting reports on on the arrest of Bilitaki. This is my take on what happened. Josefa Bilitaki (60) was arrested for an alleged offence of annoyance (presumably his text messages to the PM) by a "task team" of four soldiers (who had no authority to make an arrest) last Friday night and taken to the Totogo Police Station in Suva. He was not beaten up, as the social media claims, and was released the next afternoon suffering from an unrelated health issue and taken to the CWM Hospital where he received treatment for high blood pressure.
Police Commissioner Ben Groenewald has visited Josefa in hospital and says he is in a satisfactory condition. The PC berated people for jumping to conclusions about what they read in the social media (but the matter may not have come to his attention had they not spoken up). He is satisfied Josefa was not assaulted, and he is most concerned about the action of the military ("The interference of military personnel in policing issues is unacceptable and will be discussed with the relevant authority.") The "case is under investigation and will be submitted to the Office of the Director Public Prosecutions" when completed.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International (assuming the social media complaint was valid, and ever quick to jump on any demeaning story from Fiji) is calling on the authorities to urgently investigate events leading up to Mr Bilitaki's hospitalisation This is already taking place. If, however, the PC's report is accurate, there was no assault and no reason for AA concern.
The real concern is that junior officers became involved (how did they know about the text messages to thje PM?) and then took it on themselves to act in what should have been solely a police matter. A military spokesman, obviously referring to this case, has urged people with complaints against the military to report to the police. He did not say whether any action was being taken against the officers involved in Josefa's arrest.
The boundaries of responsibility between the police and the military need to be spelt out very clearly. Based partly on the Fiji Times report.
WIDE 2015 BUDGET CONSULTATION. More than one hundred and twenty representatives from the business, government, opposition and other sectors have been invited to participate in a special budget forum this weekend to prepare the 2015 national budget. And this, surely, is a good thing.
Finance Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says participants will be able to move around and make contributions to the different groups after the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji makes a presentation. This obviously will have an impact on the budget input that we will have. Once they break out into the groups we will have about 2 and an half hours of that then we will come together as a group and take away some concrete suggestions that may be made and a coming together of minds on how we as a nation tackle the years to come in terms of positioning ourselves well. The Special Budget Forum will be held at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva on Saturday.
OPPOSITION SHOULD GET PRIORITIES RIGHT. Invited but they may not be there. Ro Teimumu has not confirmed she will be present at the Budget consultation and Dr Biman Prasad has a prior engagement in the West. One might have thought, and hoped, their attendance would have been at the top of their priorities.
Biman, however, has issued a list of what he wants considered: VAT dropped to 10%, reduction of import duty on a number of food items, an increase in the Social Pension Allowance, a means-tested scholarship scheme, changes to school grant allocations, and special budgetary package for crop rehabilitation in the drought stricken areas of the Western and Northern divisions and the maritime region, introduce a minimum guaranteed price of $85 per tonne of cane and to provide sugarcane farmers with a subsidy of up to 50% for inputs such as fertilizer and weedicides.
TRADE UNION AND MUNICIPALITY ELECTIONS. All trade union elections could be next on the list for the Fijian Elections Office.
Under the Electoral Decree, after the completion of the first general election, the Fijian Elections Office shall be responsible for the conduct of elections of all trade unions, municipalities and such other elections as determined by the Minister. Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem says his office is now waiting for the Attorney General to Gazette the trade union elections.
MEDIA MISUSES FREEDOM: Veteran Bougainville President John Momis could be speaking about some of the overseas media coverage on Fiji.
"I think Jubilee Australia should really apologise for misleading the people of Australia and in so doing they are also undermining the authority of this fledgling government of Bougainville which is trying to create unity and rule of law and getting people to accept responsibility for their own decisions and not be misled by damaging statements which have no foundation in truth."
He was speaking about a non-representative survey that conclude the people of Bougainville did not want the Paguna mine reopened,