USP Scholarship termination and basic human right to political activity
In recent years the Bainimarama Government has been proclaiming proudly that by lowering the voting age to 18 they are strongly encouraging young people to be involved in the politics and governance of the country.
A necessary corollary of that must be that young people (including students) not just vote but be involved with political parties, policy issues and campaigning with voters to get their views across.
Indeed, the world over, students are at the forefront of political activity, and often radical activities, such as opposing wars, opposing racism, protecting the environment, and even being the youth arms of political parties.
The Bainimarama Government might even be hoping that the frequently and selectively maligned “old politicians” will be replaced by fresh young politicians, with fresh ideas.
The media has reported (FT 28 May 2014) that a student’s scholarship at USP has been terminated by the Tertiary Scholarship and Loans Board because he had been allegedly associating himself “in political agendas” (according to the letter from Secretary to the TSLB, Ms Tofinga).
The letter from TSLB made a number of other puzzling allegations implicating USP and the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs:
2. “and as per clause five of your award letter, you are required to abide by your institute’s rules and regulations” (i.e. presumably USP’s rules and regulations)
3. “the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs has zero tolerance for behaviour contravening those aspects” and the “MTA reserves the right to terminate your scholarship if a report is received from your institute” (i.e. presumably from USP).
Click here to read the full letter :
The University of the South Pacific has been built since it inception in 1968, by thousands of academic and administrative staff.
A few of us who have spent our entire working lives at USP, have an abiding interest in USP’s continued development, and a larger social responsibility to raise issues of concern to the regional member governments and the taxpayers, especially when academic excellence is under threat, despite the many successful and prominent signings of agreements.
It is a matter of serious concern when USP management, for its own unknown motives, refuses to do its utmost to retain extremely valuable and experienced regional academics and administrative staff, especially when there is high turnover of expatriate staff. On the contrary, the University management and senior members of the governing body appear to be doing all they can to encourage their departure from USP.
Recently, one of the more dynamic academics, Professor Biman Prasad resigned from USP, unsuccessful in his application to the position of Deputy President (Deputy Vice Chancellor).
He had also previously resigned as Dean of the Faculty of Business and Economics, in total frustration with the lack of cooperation from USP management. He had been the only Dean (out of 3) at the professorial level, and the most dynamic Dean at that. He was a committed lecturer and a good professional colleague to senior and junior staff alike, with the ability to galvanize them in collective academic work.
Click on the following link for the full letter:
Creeping totalitarianism at USP: an open letter to USP Council and Member Governments
When individuals do not resist small steps taken by dictators to limit their freedom, the restrictions become stronger, until one day, totalitarianism becomes the norm for the whole group.
It is especially hard to counter this when the dictators are friends one has known for more than three decades, working together to build the same institution.
USP stakeholders need to inquire if this is happening at The University of the South Pacific, deeply undermining not just its ethics, transparency, accountability and good governance, but also undermining all the universal principles which have characterized great universities over the centuries (see link below to Masefield).
While many organisations, like the FNPF, include protection of “whistle-blowers” in order to tackle internal governance problems, we all know it is extremely difficult for vulnerable individuals to “blow the whistle” on those in positions of absolute authority.
USP management recently warned all staff that they: “must never communicate directly with the members of the University’s Executive Committee or Council over any matter. A breach of these requirements may amount to … “gross misconduct” and may give rise to disciplinary action (including possibly, in serious cases, dismissal).” (my emphases).
I remind that USP is NOT a private company, “owned” by the Vice Chancellor, or Council Chairman, or even the Executive Committee of Council. USP is a “public company” whose real governing body is the entire USP Council, acting on behalf of the tax-payers of the region.
Yet USP management has today virtually become the owner rather than the employees. Moreover, the governing structure is such that USP Council may now be systematically denied information which could throw USP Management in bad light, especially if the USP Vice Chancellor and sometimes the Chair of Council have a vested interest in such matters. Continue reading
According to news reports Mr Aiyaz Khaiyum is reported to be justifying his remaining as Minister for Elections while also being General Secretary to the proposed Fiji First Party by claiming that Rabuka in 1999 and Qarase in 2001 and 2006 were also in a similar position.
While it might raise some eyebrows a teensy weensy bit to see Khaiyum justifying his behaviour today by referring to similar behaviour by previously maligned “old politicians”, there are some profound differences, other than age and maturity.
Rabuka and Qarase were lawfully elected Members of Parliament, Ministers and Prime Ministers while Khaiyum holds all his ministerial positions courtesy of Rear Admiral Bainimarama’s illegal military coup and an unelected government.
Rabuka’s and Qarase’s governments annually published all the Auditor General Reports on their respective governments’ revenue collection, expenditure and public debt borrowing, thereby showing their willingness to be accountable to the voters (and taxpayers) of Fiji.
In contrast, Bainimarama and Khaiyum, arrogantly refuse to release the Auditor General Reports, showing their utter contempt for the basic principle of accountability of all Ministers (including the Minister for Elections) to tax-payers for the last eight years (two normal terms of government), and also suggesting to voters with any active brain cells, that this government has a lot to hide.
There is therefore a mountain of difference between an elected accountable Minister of Elections holding a political party position, and an unelected and unaccountable Minister such as Mr Khaiyum.
Even more so when the same Minister for Elections (Khaiyum) is also the source of a totally unreasonable and unpopular Electoral Decree and Constitution, which has been unilaterally imposed on the voters of Fiji, supposedly setting the election rules, but which apparently cannot be applied to Bainimarama’s yet- to-be-registered Party, its yet-to-be-confirmed Party Leader, and yet-to-be-confirmed Secretary General Khaiyum. Khaiyum also has appointed his own personal choice of Supervisor of Elections who does not have the slightest chance of being called “old” anything.
This is like the manager of a street fighter insisting on being the referee of a boxing match with the opponents having to follow all the Queensberry rules set by the manager himself, with the rules not applying to his own street fighter.
Professor Wadan Narsey
A handicap that you gave yourself, by giving one individual too much power, the handicap of the resulting lack of transparency, cronyism and corruption. It is all around you Frank, you MUST be able to see it.
Those that want you to continue in power are appalled that you ignore it. Those that want to replace you are rubbing their hands in glee.
There is no doubt that you will get many supporters willing to sign when your Blue Bus travels the country, but on polling day Frank it could well be a different story unless you put your own house in order.
You created these problems Frank and there are still a great many people who are waiting to see if you are big enough to sort it out.
Time to stop listening to bullshit Frank, time to sit down with the men you trusted in 2006 (some of who you have discarded) and listen to what they have to say, chances are you might not like to hear it, but it could help you win the forthcoming election.
Everyone now knows who is presently making all the rules in Fiji Frank, and it is not you.
I’m 83. Except for brief period in the 50s when I was doing my National Service, I’ve worked hard since I was 17. Except for some serious health challenges, I put in 50-hour weeks, and didn’t call in sick in nearly 40 years.
I made a reasonable salary, but I didn’t inherit my job or my income, and I worked to get where I am. Given the economy, it looks as though retirement was a bad idea, and I’m tired. Very tired.
I’m tired of being told that I have to “spread the wealth” to people who don’t have my work ethic. I’m tired of being told the government will take the money I earned, by force if necessary, and give it to people too lazy to earn it.
I’m tired of being told that Islam is a “Religion of Peace,” when every day I can read dozens of stories of Muslim men killing their sisters, wives and daughters for their family “honour”; of Muslims rioting over some slight offence;
of Muslims murdering Christian and Jews because they aren’t “believers”; of Muslims burning schools for girls; of Muslims stoning teenage rape victims to death for “adultery”; of Muslims mutilating the genitals of little girls; all in the name of Allah, because the Qur’an and Shari’a law tells them to.
I’m tired of being told that out of “tolerance for other cultures” we must let Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries use our oil money to fund mosques and madrassa Islamic schools to preach hate in Australia, New Zealand, UK, America and Canada, while no one from these countries are allowed to fund a church, synagogue or religious school in Saudi Arabia or any other Arab country to teach love and tolerance.
I’m tired of being told I must lower my living standard to fight global warming, which no one is allowed to debate.
I’m tired of being told that drug addicts have a disease, and I must help support and treat them, and pay for the damage they do. Did a giant germ rush out of a dark alley, grab them, and stuff white powder up their noses or stick a needle in their arm while they tried to fight It off?
I’m tired of hearing wealthy athletes, entertainers and politicians of all parties talking about innocent mistakes, stupid mistakes or youthful mistakes, when we all know they think their only mistake was getting caught.
I’m tired of people with a sense of entitlement, rich or poor.
I’m really tired of people who don’t take responsibility for their lives and actions. I’m tired of hearing them blame the government, or discrimination or big-whatever for their problems.
I’m also tired and fed up with seeing young men and women in their teens and early 20s be-deck themselves in tattoos and face studs, thereby making themselves un-employable and claiming money from the Government.
Yes, I’m damn tired. But I’m also glad to be 83. Because, mostly, I’m not going to have to see the world these people are making. I’m just sorry for my granddaughter and their children. Thank God I’m on the way out and not on the way in.
There is no way this will be widely publicised, unless each of us sends it on! This is your chance to make a difference.
If you don’t forward this you are part of the problem”.
Editor, let’s be quite clear about this new Party; ‘Fiji First’ is the name of the political party that was registered under the 1997 Constitution and has 20 or so founding members. The leader of the Party is Anit Singh.
The Party was founded as a result of human rights violations inflicted upon the people of Muaniweni in 2000 after Speight’s takeover of government. Even the police and military failed the Muaniweni people by refusing to protect them. Instead they were rescued and protected at the Sanatan Dharam school in Lautoka by a group of outraged Fiji people calling themselves the ‘Fiji Human Rights Group’ ( and not to be confused with ‘Fiji Human Rights Group NZ Inc’ which was a NZ off-shoot much later for the purpose of raising funds).
Anyone searching the Fiji media archives on the relevant dates (June-August 2000) will know who these individuals, taking up a protective champion role for the Muaniweni people, were. The Muaniweni people, led by the Fiji Human Rights Group and the Fiji Human Rights Commission in June 2000, took their human rights violations to court under the name of ‘Chandrika Prasad v the Republic of Fiji’ and won it in the High Court and in 2001 in the Court of Appeal. This case brought the 1997 Constitution back and restored it to the people of Fiji.
Eventually this process led to the founding of the ‘Fiji First Party’ with two of the original Fiji Human Rights Group in it as founding members.
Bainimarama has taken advantage of the fact that the leader of the Fiji First Party, Anit Singh, chose not to engage in the up-coming election under dubious decrees and a Constitution whose legitimacy is in question. The fact that Bainimarama took (Fiji First would say ‘stole’) the Fiji First name belonging to a marginalised human rights victim group in Muaniweni is a reprehensible and disgusting act, similar to his government breaching the contractual rights of FNPF pensioners.
But can we expect anything else from such a person who surrounds himself with the incompetent and vindictive legal advisers he has? Shame on Bainimarama for not recognising that the lack of integrity of his advisers now reflects badly on him. People expected such great things from him in 2007.
Section 28 (Bill of Rights) is vague on processes on native land. Further he should note that native land can also be alienated under long -term leases.
In any case, what are the effects of placing native land protection under the Bill of Rights? What is the impact on the Native Lands Act, the Native Lands Trust Act and the NLC? What is the effect of the Land Bank Decree? Does it have adequate measures to safeguard and protect native landowner interests and later generations?
I also recall a decree issued by Mr Sayed-Khaiyum blocking all Deed of Cession claims.
What is the effect of this on legitimate landowner claims? Continue reading