Nov 19, 2017 Last Updated 9:11 AM, Nov 15, 2017

Friends no more

Tonga heads to the polls

AS a student at the University of the South Pacific, Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva decided to put an end to what he saw as the corrupt system of governance in his homeland – Tonga. The monarchy and King Tupou IV were at the root of all that was bad about the system which civil servants, members of the nobility and foreigners rorted for personal benefit.

Upon his return to the kingdom, Pohiva launched a series of sustained attacks on the monarchy and corrupt governance systems using national radio as his platform. In 2010, Fiji-educated Dr Feleti Sevele – later Lord Sevele of Vailahi – was appointed the first commoner prime minister of the kingdom by the late King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV. That appointment was largely caused by Pohiva’s agitation for change and the growing strength and anger of the pro-independence movement.

After the election of 2014, Pohiva became minister in 2014 – the first elected commoner to hold the position in 135 years. Today the freedom fighter-turned prime minister is a caretaker, effectively removed from office by a monarch who has found his head of government to be tiresome, bungling and increasingly unpopular. Two years ago it would have been impossible for the king to dismiss Parliament and the prime minister. 

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Fiji rugby feels the heat

Pressure mounts on Fij i Rugby Union to investigate Ben Ryan’s sevens franchise

BEN Ryan has been labelled a “master coach”. But he is also the mastermind behind the idea to franchise the Fiji 7s team to address the financial welfare of the players, keep the fans happy, and make money for the Fiji Rugby Union. Since last August’s inaugural Olympic gold medal feat for rugby sevens, the FRU has not attempted to leverage its key resource, the Fiji 7s brand. It refuses to comment on the issue, except for a slur in Parliament by the Sports Minister linking the idea to the way McDonald’s and Starbucks run their business, purely for commercial profiteering.

But Ryan’s idea of franchising the Fiji 7s team is based on the Green Bay Packers model. “When I talk franchise, I talk Green Bay Packers. That type of franchise that could work,” Ryan told the ABC Pacific Beat. The Green Bay Packers is a professional American football team that sells shares to its fans to raise money.

It is a public, non-profit organization whose shares do not gain value. They don’t pay dividends and ownership can only be transferred to immediate family members. There’s a $200,000 cap limit on individual shares to prevent any one person becoming the majority owner. In 2011, the Packers needed money to upgrade their stadium so they sold 185,000 new shares at $250 each to raise the $46.25 million they needed.

Profits are re-invested back into the franchise, while 60 per cent of gains from share concession sales are given to local charities. The team has won 13 World Series and 4 Super Bowls. Ryan is adamant the Packers model would suit the Fiji 7s.

Fiji has the fan-base support from individuals and corporate groups both locally and abroad to raise money the FRU don’t seem to have to maintain the Olympic and World Series winning teams. Player’s contracts continue to plague the team while facilities and other crucial resources are scarcely available.

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Spotlight on Honiara

Region watches as assistance mission comes to an end

AT the end of June, the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands will come to an end. What started off as a military operation to quell violence and return the country to democracy after the ethnic tensions of 2000 will be no more and normality will return. Or will it?

When politically-fuelled ethnic tensions were literally fanned into flame in 2000, the Happy Isles as the Solomons are commonly known eruoted into violence and bloodshed. The Chinese community – mostly traders – bore the brunt of ferocious attacks and were evacuated by chartered flights to safety after much of China Town was torched or looted by angry mobs. Troops from New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga made up the core of the military stabilisation force which responded to the plea for help to calm tensions and bring about a return to democracy.

This was the second regional stabilisation mission since the South Pacific Peacekeeping Forces was deployed to Bougainville after a truce singned in 1997 ended the civil war on the island. Pacific nations also supported a New Zealand and Australian-led monitoring mission with military capabilities in East Timor (now Timor Leste) in 1999-2000. The concept of regional assistance was relied upon when the Solomon Islands sough help.

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River poisoning alert

Heavy metals concerns in proposed Sigatoka River mine

MINING of the Sigatoka River on the southern coast of Fiji’s main island poses a real risk of severe marine life poisoning with flow-on effects on people who feed on such fish, mussels and crustaceans.

The warning is highlighted in a report by environmental consultants, Corerega Environment Consultancy, which was contracted by Fiji’s Department of Environment to conduct the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on the proposed mining of the Sigatoka River by Australian company Dome.

The report warned that “contaminants” from mining could result in ‘severe poisoning.’ A copy obtained by this magazine said: “The dredged materials wash out having a lot of contaminants in them may go back into the river during heavy downpour and pollute the water and if taken up by living organisms in the river will make them severely poisonous.

“If such organisms are fish, crabs or “kai” (mussels) etc. people consuming them would become seriously ill. To ensure impact of sediment wash out are minimised, proper mitigation measures are to be put into place.”

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Rabuka ready for big race

Loyalty pledge by MPs

WITH around 12 months before the next election in Fiji, former prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka has consolidated the support of the current parliamentarians of the main Social Democratic Liberal Party. Of the 15 sitting MPs, all but two – Opposition Leader, Ro Teimumu Kepa, and suspended Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu – have applied to contest the polls under the SODELPA banner.

Ro Teimumu is being courted by Hope, a party formed by dissident members of the SODELPA working committee including activist Pita Waqavonovono, politician Mick Beddoes and former journalist Jese Sikivou.

In the 2014 election, Kepa polled the second highest number of votes with 49,485, second only to 2006 coup leader, Rear-Admiral Frank Bainimarama on 202,459. She galvanised the mainly conservative, indigenous and far right support from those who opposed Bainimarama. Much of her support – however – came from Lau Province at the behest of her nephews and nieces once former civil servant, Anare Jale, was ruled out of the running by the Elections Office. Whether she will be able to maintain that support on her own in a new political entity is rather unlikely.

Kepa may retain voter support from the confederacy of Burebasaga, over which she is traditional leader. But her subjects including MPs from Kadavu, Nadroga and even the Tui Namosi, Ro Suliano Matanitobua, have already signed up with SODELPA. Twice in the past, commoner Rabuka has stood against the traditional chiefly establishment and won. 

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