Oct 18, 2017 Last Updated 12:43 AM, Oct 5, 2017

Truth and justice

Bishop stands firm on environmental issues

AS the Pacific and global focus turns towards COP 23 and the Oceans Summit, the region continues to face challenges with climate change, extractive industry and development. How much should the region give up in return for development? Are global development models applicable in the Pacific? Those are just some of the questions which challenge leaders, industrialists and the people of the Pacific. In his Easter message, Archbishop of Suva, Reverend Reverend Dr Peter Loy Chong, spoke about the link between God, creation and development.

Peace — Shalom! (May you have fullness of life). Peace is the first word uttered by Jesus to his disciples after he rose from the dead. Jesus greets the disciples who were still traumatised by his humiliating and brutal death. Easter celebrates the most important event of the Christian tradition, namely the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, the writings of the New Testament have no record of Jesus’ actual rising from the tomb. Instead it only has accounts of the appearances of Jesus to the disciples. This means that the disciples’ knowledge and experience of the Risen Jesus was given to them. In other words revelation is a gift from God. Therefore, to understand what happened on that original Easter and to reinterpret its meaning for Fiji today we turn to the disciples’ experiences of the risen Jesus.

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Costly price of conflict

Solomons rises again from the ruins of the past

THE United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include peace-building as part of a changing paradigm of how to achieve “development.” As a set of guiding principles that cover a broad range of issues, it is hard to interpret the SDGs as 17 stand-alone goals; the keys to “sustainable development” are difficult to isolate.

Hence why the SDGs have expanded beyond pure economics. In particular, Goal 16 is “dedicated to the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.” Starting in 1978, the Solomon Islands achieved and sustained peaceful postcolonial independence for two decades. But by late 1998, uneven economic development had aggravated ethnic animosity on Guadalcanal Island. Approximately 1000 firearms were looted from local police armories and between 2000-2003 ethno-tribal conflict escalated into a civil war.

In 1999 economic installations and infrastructure were also targeted, such as Goldridge Mine and Solomon Islands Plantations Limited’s palm-oil plantation. In the ensuing violence, approximately 200 people were killed and 30,000 people were displaced. According to estimates from Amnesty International, at least 100 child soldiers took part in the conflict.

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A wedgie in regional geopolitics

from the recently concluded Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations, or PACER Plus, raises some interesting questions about the changing geopolitics of the region and whether Australia is adopting a divide-and-rule approach.

PACER Plus was meant to be an opportunity to help Pacific Islands Forum countries benefit from enhanced regional trade and economic integration. Its key objectives were to provide long-term opportunity to create jobs, enhance private sector growth, raise standards of living, and boost economic growth in Forum Island Countries. Another element of the agreement was to enhance trade capacity building and trade development assistance to strengthen the Forum Island countries’ ability to trade.

Both, Fiji and Papua New Guinea have, over the years, expressed reservations about some of the objectives of the PACER Plus trade agreement and in particular whether real benefits would accrue for the islanders or for Australia and New Zealand. Following eight years of negotiations, an agreement was reached mid-April between Australia and New Zealand on one side of the table and 12 Pacific Islands Forum countries on the other – minus the region’s two prominent countries, Fiji and Papua New Guinea which, together, represent the South Pacific’s largest economies.

Australia’s Trade Minister, Steven Ciobo, dismissed Fiji and Papua New Guinea’s non-inclusion in the final talks saying they had elected not to sign the agreement. Fiji’s Trade Minister Faizal Koya, however, argues that Fiji was in fact “excluded” from the final negotiations.

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God is dead

“GOD is dead, God remains dead and we have killed him”, the enigmatic words of the German Philosopher – Friedrich Nietzsche. In a predominantly God and rugby obsessed nation like our own, these words are tantamount to blasphemy, heresy and as my late mother would typically retort, “rebuke it luvequ (my son), rebuke it!” However, at the risk of being ostracised, I would argue that Nietzsche’s words are relevant if not evident in Fiji today.

Before, the conservative and the religious among you, yell, scream or start praying and “rebuking me”, as I suspect my late mother would, let me explain. At one point or another we can agree that most Fijians see ‘God’ as the source, the means out of which morals are drawn. Attached to this is religion as its organised structure, from which these morals are referenced, studied, recited and praised. “God” in such a regard is understood and accepted as being the supreme entity, ever present, ever powerful, although invisible in homes and in whispered conversations.

Yet we would wonder where our morals have gone, when we read of the most horrendous cases of sexual violence that seem to “spring eternal” in our print dailies, court system and conversations around the tanoa. Take for instance the 29-year-old father that raped his seven-month-old daughter early last year or just as of this week, the accused 65-year-old for allegedly raping his six-year-old grandson. 

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Accessing credit is difficult for businesses in the Pacific. While there’s enough liquidity in the banking system, the ratio of private sector credit to GDP is in most cases less than 50 percent— similar to the level in many South Asian and South American countries.

In developed or fast-growing economies it is typically around 100 percent. Reasons for the lack of credit include the difficulty in using land as collateral, a lack of financial records, and poor business skills. Whatever the root cause, business cannot grow without credit, and employment, income growth, and living standards are constrained.

Government-sponsored credit guarantees are often promoted in the Pacific as a way of overcoming the lack of lending. The logic is straightforward: if the government agrees to repay some or all of a loan in the event of default, lenders will be more willing to lend and access to credit will increase.

But the rationale for guarantee schemes can be challenged on several fronts. The experience to date of the Pacific with these schemes does not make a compelling case for extending their use. In fact, they stand in the way of reforms which could resolve the underlying issues that inhibit lending.

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