The Houseguest from Hollywood.

The House Guest From Hell’

2003

His name is Marcus Livinghill , it’s not really, but some of the names have been changed to protect the guilty, of which Marcus is the principal one.

Marcus is a unique person, an eccentric, who like many of us is going through a midlife crisis, with the exception that he appears to have become addicted to his mid life crisis.

In appearance he is above average height, bears a slight facial resemblance to Tom Hanks, with all the other physical characteristics of Walter Mathau. Oh, there is one other thing, Marcus has an appendage that would make a donkey weep. (so we are told ).

His gyrations on a dance floor bring to mind a whirling dervish or an intoxicated version of Big Bird from Sesame Street attempting to hypnotise his partner with violent limb movements.

He is witty, gifted artistically, creative, generous to a fault and a total slave to his penis. For whose satisfaction he is prepared to sacrifice anything or anybody. Sad really. We refer to it as the sausage syndrome.

This little tale relates to a recent episode in the perpetual saga of his sausage.

It all began a week or so ago when Aunt Margaret was at her bridge club in Brisbane and her friend told her that her daughter Judith was returning to Hollywood after a few weeks holiday in good old Australia, she also mentioned that Judith had a six hour stop over in Fiji on her way to Los Angeles where she was a hairdresser to the stars.

Aunt Margaret who is a delightful septuagenarian with a wicked sense of humour had met Judith and it occurred to her that Judith might provide a challenge for the seductive powers of Marcus, who Aunt Margaret had known for a number of years.

A quick telephone call to Aunt Margarets son Tim in Fiji, was all it took to ensure that Marcus would be waiting at the Nadi International Airport arrival gate for the Brisbane flight the following Tuesday afternoon.

Nadi International Airport arrivals area is quite spacious. In 2003 it had two cattle type holding pens to the right of the arrival doors, these pens are for the containment of individuals waiting for their loved ones or friends to arrive.

To the left of the doors there was a security desk with a chair. Bonded to the chair with eight hour glue is a security officer.

A little further on the left is the cash dispenser, awaiting frustrated visitors with credit cards who foolishly believe it will always be fully operational. Immediately past the cash dispenser are the doors to the 24-hour Airport Bank.

These doors were kept locked 24 hours a day to protect the staff from any germs the tourists may bring into the country, they also protect them from abuse. The doors appear to have one-way glass. Whilst the potential customers can see the staff in the bank, the bank staff are totally oblivious to the customers even when they pound on the glass doors, which must also be soundproof. The bank has three external serving hatches, of which only one can be opened at any one time, usually the one furthest away from the hatch where a line of tourists has formed.

A little further on there is normally a trio of Fijians singing songs of welcome in Fijian, with various degrees of enthusiasm, the most enthusiastic being the ukulele player. Which has the effect of bemusing, amusing or terrifying the unsuspecting visitor.

Beyond the musical trio are the ‘meet and greet ‘representatives of the various hotels, with necklaces of shells to welcome their guests. Beyond them is a heavily roped off area which is the larger part of the arrival concourse. This is not a security area, nor is it in a perpetual state of being cleaned, it is just extremely slippery for jet-lagged passengers and there is no first aid section at the arrival concourse.

It was into this scene that our hero Marcus projected himself, dressed casually but carefully. Cleanly shaved, hair carefully brushed to look as if his prematurely greying locks had fallen into place. His John Lennon type spectacles perched halfway down his nose so he could either tilt his head back and look through them, or raise his eyebrows and peer over the top of them rather like a surprised bird. Marcus was on the hunt.

He gave the two cattle type holding a contemptuous glance; these were not for him, for he was not to be contained.

He moved past them and with authority went directly into the reception area reserved for  “meet & greet’ staff from the hotels, many of whom knew him and acknowledged his presence with due deference.

He was now in a prime position to observe the arrival of the promised challenge to his powers of seduction.

Due to the normal confusion of passed on messages, Marcus was expecting a blond haired woman of average height, wearing a pink top and black skirt. It transpired that Judith was in fact wearing a blue top with black skirt, she was a little less than average height and she was a brunette.

The plan Marcus had formed in his mind was that if Judith was a horror and he had been led into a trap, he could execute a smart exit to the rear of the arrival complex without drawing attention to himself. However if she was as attractive as he had been led to believe he could move forward without being impeded by the rails of the waiting seating area and welcome Judith to Fiji with all the charm he could muster.

It must be said that a number of attractive blonde’s of average height came through the arrival doors, and each time as Marcus drew himself up to his full height they were followed immediately by burly rugby playing types or by female companions.

Eventually when Judith bounced through the doors vibrant and brunette, Marcus glanced at her but dismissed her because she was not a blonde. Having got as far as the exit doors without being brought down in a tackle, Judith immediately turned round and headed for the Fiji Visitors Shop where she used the telephone to contact Aunt Margaret’s son Tim. He immediately telephoned your author who had been working in the area at the time who had also gone to the airport at Martins behest and was standing near the exit doors watching the performance, Rick gave a quick nod to Marcus together with raised eyebrows and he pounced, or rather flowed in Judith’s direction.

As Marcus confided later, he confirmed that Judith had a six hour stop over, and not being confident of a conquest in the time available persuaded Judith to extend her stopover by four days until the following Saturday, with Marcus graciously picking up the airline penalty charges.

When all the documentation was taken care of, Marcus promptly whisked Judith back to his home “The Shack” at Vuda Point, which is located on the same property section as Rick and Fipe’s family home.

Apart from being introduced to Judith, Rick saw very little of Judith that first day.

Early the following morning Rick had reason to look for an item in the tool shed, moments later Marcus was by his side, wearing only a sulu wrapped around his waist, and a worried expression on his face.

‘Everything OK Marcus ? Rick asked” observing the deep scratch marks on Marcus shoulders and correctly assessing they extended to cover his back.

“Mate” Marcus said in a stunned hushed voice, “Mate, she is fucking insatiable, I don’t know if I will be able to last until Saturday”.

“Well Marcus , she looked pretty fit to me , and you have your reputation at stake  so you need to pace yourself” said Rick.

“Thank god the workers are coming soon” he said, for he was having alterations done to his abode The Shack, and its sun deck. As Marcus left to return to his house Rick suggested he would be wise to get either ointment or stitches for his lacerations. This got Rick a mumbled “Get fucked” as Marcus hurried off.

Rick smiled, but only because he had no idea what the future held. Had he known he would have packed his bags and departed for safer pastures and returned on Sunday.

Later that morning Judith emerged from the previous nights battleground looking as vibrant and attractive as ever, and looking as though butter would not melt is her mouth. She was introduced to Ricks dear wife Fipe, and they soon became firm friends, going on shopping expeditions and trips to the local beach resorts where Judith introduced Fipe to the dubious joys of early morning margaritas served in the swimming pool.

They were to find out later that Judith had an acquired taste for beverages containing alcohol, with the result she had been apprehended by Hollywood police for driving under the influence of some exotic beverage. After paying the appropriate fine Judith was encouraged or rather compelled by the authorities to attend weekly sessions of Alcoholics Anonymous. It must be said here that Judith was what one would call a happy drunk, she would smile, laugh dance and even sing. Never got irritable or angry, almost too good to be true.

But on with the story..

At the time of Judith’s visit, both Marcus and Rick were in need of a haircut, and Judith had announced that she would cut our hair on Thursday. As luck would have it Rick was otherwise involved on the appointed Thursday, as was Marcus and they avoided the scissors so to speak.

On Friday Fipe was invited to ladies lunch, which as luck would have it was hosted by an effeminate friend who lived on the next property, Adrian, the name is the only masculine thing about him; was taking his turn to host the local ladies Friday luncheon. Fipe accepted the invitation and advised Adrian that she had a houseguest, Judith a visitor from Hollywood, who was immediately invited to join the luncheon party.

Lunch Rick was told later, started at 12 noon, with lots of champagne. Judith was dressed in her concept of what was appropriate for a tropical lunch, a light blue top with a single shoulder strap that was held in place between a couple of inches above her nipples and a inch or three above her navel, she also wore a white pelmet mini skirt, with, as Rick was to find out later flesh coloured panties.

It is possible that some friction may have occurred between the more staid regulars at the lunch and this extremely outgoing, champagne quaffing, gin quaffing, white wine quaffing intruder, since at 3 pm the host suggested to Fipe it would be prudent to take Judith home before any of the other guests actually started throwing knives……

Rick was made aware of their return at about 3.20 pm when Fipe entered Ricks office/den and said “Judith is ready to cut your hair darling, she’s waiting for you at the Shack”

Rick looked up, concerned, Fipe who very rarely drinks more than one glass of anything alcoholic , today obviously had substantially more than one glass.

It was rarely that Rick wished he had a lock on his office door, but this was to be one of those occasions.

“ Sorry darling but I really am very busy” Rick replied, “ I must get this report out today”.. But it was useless, Fipe was not prepared to accept no, there was no way she would let her husband avoid having his haircut by a woman who apparently made a career of being a hairdresser to Hollywood stars, So within a few minutes she was escorting Rick the 30+ yards to The Shack which was their home before Rick built the main house.

The Shack was where Marcus now lived and Judith was waiting there to give Rick what was to be the most memorable haircut of his life.

As they approached The Shack, not only were they greeted by the elevated sound of Frank Sinatra singing Come Fly With Me, they were also greeted by the sight of Marcus together with one of his workers assisting the carpenter Ashok into the front seat of Marcus’s truck.

“Trouble Marcus?“  Rick enquired with raised eyebrows, “Trouble, Trouble” growled Marcus, “This poor bastards got a weak heart, now he’s having palpitations, he was working on finishing the sundeck steps down to the path when Judith decided to pole dance on the sun deck pine poles directly in front of him, she’s too fucking bad, I’m taking him home to rest and I am taking the rest of the crew as well, expect me when you see me”

(The Shack’s sun deck was elevated approximately 4 ft off the ground to the same level as the house, with the exception that the sun deck was supported by cross beams that were in turn secured to a series 12 ft high pine poles. Not normally used for pole dancing.)

“What about your haircut Marcus?”, Rick said, knowing what the response would be…………….. and Rick was not disappointed, with wheels spinning and chickens scattering, Marcus took off with his work crew down the drive.

Fipe and Rick went into the house and were greeted by an extremely happy Judith drinking white wine from a crystal glass large enough to hold a whole bottle of wine when full to the brim, and since the glass was half full she had some way to go.

Rick knew this because he had gifted those glasses to Marcus, as he had to other close friends when he was advised that he should not drink more than two glasses of wine a day.

Frank Sinatra was still belting it out as Judith danced her way out on to the sundeck, this was the chosen location for the haircut.

Rick more than a little apprehensive seated himself on the appointed chair, and Fipe seated herself on another about 6ft away, she had a happy half smile that semi intoxicated individuals sometime have.

Judith had placed her glass of wine on a nearby table and produced a rolled up package which she flipped open expertly to reveal its contents of six pairs of slim scissors of varying lengths and what appeared to be an equal number of combs of various styles; no clippers.

A quick gulp of her wine which she clearly did not need, and she was ready for action.

Her first action was to pull off Ricks tee shirt, saying “We wont be needing this Honey” . At this point Fipe later claimed Rick put on his Sean Connery look. What Rick was really doing was staring at Fipe and trying to get the message to her that he was not very happy.

This obviously did not deter Judith, because within seconds the comb was raking and the scissors were flashing and snipping. They were not the only things to flash, every time Judith leaned forward her right breast popped out over the strapless side of her skimpy top to see how the haircut was going. Judith covered it again each time by moving her top up a little with the top of her right forearm, but never quite enough to stop it popping out again and again. Judith appeared to be of the opinion she never needed a bra, and Rick  had seen enough to agree with her.

Eventually Judith pushed Ricks head back, trimmed his eyebrows (without asking) then his mustache.

Rick thanked her and Judith said, “I am not finished yet honey I have to clean up your neck” and to Fipe she said “ Feebee honey” she always called her FEEBEE although the correct pronunciation is Feepay, “Feebee honey can you go to the far bathroom and get mah razor” , Fipe got up weaved across the deck, through the living area and a few moments later called out “Which one Judith” to which Judith called back, “Mah Pussy razor honey, the Pink one”

That was enough for Rick, he said “Judith I am out of here, I can shave my own neck” Judith pushed him back into the chair saying “What’s the matter honey, you think I cannot shave your neck without nicking you” and she then lifted her micro skirt, pulled down her flesh coloured panties and pushed a mound of impeccably shaven flesh a few inches from Rick’s face. “What do you think of that honey?” she said. “Remarkable, now put it away before Fipe gets back” was Rick’s reply, and quick as a flash it was gone.

Fipe duly returned with the pink pussy razor gave it to Judith and sat down again. Judith shaved Rick’s neck, no nicks or cuts, not even a scrape.

“There you go honey, you can get a shower now” she said, but then as Rick stood up she moved behind him and with one quick grab, jerked his shorts to the ground. Fortunately his Y front underpants stayed in place, unfortunately they were a little old and a little loose, and his “Equipment” had slipped out the side, seeing this and in her intoxicated state Fipe moved forward out of her chair with her hands outstretched to catch the family jewels.

Her hands cupped she looked a little like the third slip in a cricket team attempting to catch a ball that might hit the ground before reaching him. Since they were Rick’s jewels he popped them back in his Y fronts with all haste.

To no avail, for Judith then pulled his Y fronts to his ankles and said “ Honey you should be proud to be naked in front of two fine women “. Since he was in no mood for debating the matter Rick said nothing, just stepped out of his clothing, walked across the sundeck, went directly to Marcus’s bathroom, closed the door, climbed down into his sunken Japanese bath and had a shower.

When he had finished he wrapped one of Marcus’s towels around himself, and beat a hasty retreat to the main house, where he put on fresh clothes and went back to his den to complete the report.

Some 15 minutes later Fipe appeared at Ricks desk she had a hand on each hip and said one word “AND” , “ And what ?” Rick replied. “ And what do you think would have happened if I had not been there ?” she said. Rick stared at her for a moment and replied “Fipe, I did not want to go there, it was yourself who insisted I did, in fact you forced me”, with that Fipe uttered a hmmnp and turned and left him to his work, but the saga of Judith and Marcus was still to disrupt Ricks life further, he just did not know it at that time.

Marcus returned home Friday afternoon in a quandary, Judith was due to fly out from Fiji at 11 pm on the following day Saturday, her check in time was to be 8.30 pm. The problem Marcus had was that a lady he had wooed for some time without success, had called him to say she would be arriving the following morning to spend a few days with him.

The fact that Marcus had arrived home to find Judith on the bed wearing only her running Nikes and bobby sox, did not bode well for telling her she had to be out of the house by 9.30 am some eleven hours before her check in time at the airport.

However Sausage Syndrome addicts are the same as any other addict and will stop at nothing to sate their addiction. And so it was with Marcus.

His fertile brain ferreted out a solution and he called Auntie Margaret’s only Granddaughter Penelope whose residence was just a few miles from the airport, telling her that he had a major problem, that he had to go out to the island, and would Penelope be kind enough to take care of Judith from Saturday morning and see that she got on the aircraft to LAX safely in the evening, and that he Marcus would for his part deliver Judith and her luggage to Penelope first thing the following morning. Much to his joy Penelope agreed.

He then advised Judith that he had to go out to the island for a few days, leaving first thing the following morning, and that it was his practice to keep his house locked and the security alarm ( to which he claimed only he had the code) activated. He also advised her of the arrangements he had made with Penelope. When Judith said that she could possibly stay the day with Fipe and get a taxi to the airport in the evening, Marcus persuaded her that since all the arrangements had been made it would be preferable she went with Penelope. Nor did he share with anyone his intention to bring the new love Harriet back to The Shack immediately Judith had gone.

So it was the following morning Fipe said her fond farewells to Judith, as Marcus loaded her bags in the truck, Rick watched Marcus drive Judith away, and looked forward to a quiet few days.. But strangely he had a sense of apprehension and telephoned Penelope to ask that she advised him as soon as Judith had departed.

Rick was advised that Penelope had a very eventful day watching over Judith, but since Rick was not there personally, we will leave the recording of those events to others. Penelope did tell Rick with some astonishment that Marcus did not cross the threshold of her house when he dropped Judith off, he just left her at the front door and put her bags in the driveway and drove off like a man possessed.

At 9.30 that evening Rick received a call from Penelope to advise him that Judith had gone, at least she seen her checking in for the LAX flight, and Rick said to Penelope half in jest “I will believe it when the aircraft is in the air”.

The rest of the evening was quiet and uneventful, and although Rick heard Marcus return he did not come across to the main house, Rick guessed correctly his attention was focused elsewhere.

A few glasses of red wine later, well fed, wined and relaxed Rick retired to his large and very comfortable bed. Fipe always complains that Rick can go to sleep immediately he lays his head on the pillow. In fact on a number of occasions she has woken him up just to vent her anger on that very matter.

On this particular night he was in a very relaxed sleep, so comfortable it felt as if he was suspended in water, warm comfortable water. In the distance he dreamt he could hear his dogs barking, and then someone was trying to save him from the water, he did not want to be saved, but the life saver was determined to pull him out of the water.. He awoke to the realisation that Fipe was shaking him and pulling at his arm. Then she said the most God awful thing he could imagine. “Wake up Rick, Judith’s here”.

No it’s not possible he thought as Fipe dragged him out to the hallway, and there Judith was in all her throbbing pulsating glory. But his eagle eye noted there were no bags.

“What happened Judith, Penelope told me you had checked in for your flight”… Judith stared at Ricks shocked expression and then explained in a rush that she had checked in, the flight had been delayed, all the passengers then boarded the aircraft including Judith, and were then advised by the steward, that there would be a further delay because they had a slight technical problem. It would seem that the vibrant Judith over vibrated and advised all within range that she did not deign to fly on aircraft with technical problems and she wanted her bags removed immediately. And removed they were, with Air Pacific management swearing to themselves that this particular lady would not experience the joys of travelling on their aircraft again, since it is a costly and time consuming business find one person’s luggage in amongst that of 400+ others on the aircraft.

So now Rick knew Judith’s luggage was in the taxi that had brought her from the airport and was waiting in the driveway outside. He also knew that less than a stone’s throw away and within calling range, Marcus was playing hide the sausage with his latest love.

In desperation Rick called a friend at the airport only to be advised that the 747 was taxiing down the runway as they spoke, Judith was all Rick’s and at that stage he had no idea how long for.

Fipe suggest Judith should have the use of the guest room and Rick agreed, and Judith duly paid the taxi driver and brought her travel luggage to the house.

At 5.30 am Sunday morning, of the opinion that Marcus had soaked the sausage long enough, Rick telephoned the Shack (not wanting to walk over and kick the door in) When Marcus answered Rick said two words… “Judith’s Back” it took a few moments for Marcus to understand Rick was not joking, then he said “Buddy you are going to have to sort it out, you must get rid of her, you should never have let her in the house, I can’t help you” to which Rick immediately replied that it was Marcus’s problem and he had to FIX IT.

An hour later at 06.30 the telephone rang and when Rick answered it, it was Marcus, he apologised profusely but he had convinced his new love that this was some kind of a adventure and that he was being stalked by Judith, so they packed up, drove out of the property very quietly and went to a Hotel in Nadi, where he had checked in under the name of a friend Neil, and they were catching the first boat out to Castaway Island and had no intention of returning until Judith had departed since he felt incapable of handling the situation, and anyway Auntie Margaret should never have unleashed Judith on him.

Coincidence is a very strange thing, and at 07.30 while Rick was on his morning walk to the Marina, his mobile phone rang, and it was Neil’s wife Jackie, who was calling from Paris. Rick thought is only fair to advise Jackie that should she hear that Neil had checked into a Nadi Hotel with a very attractive member legal profession from Suva, that it was really Marcus using her husband’s name… It was a small revenge for the problem Marcus had created.

Judith stayed as a houseguest with Fipe and Rick for another 4 days, it took that long for Rick to persuade the airline that she would not be a problem, and since they had the only direct flight to LAX Judith understood the problem and promised to be good.

Everything went pretty smoothly until the evening she was about to depart. Forty minutes before the taxi was due to arrive, Judith came rushing into Ricks den and said “I cannot find my purse/wallet” Rick was stunned, and sat thinking, here we go again. Rick got Judith and Fipe to tell him everywhere they had been that day and when did Judith remember last having the wallet with her USA cash and all her credit cards in. He then telephoned the two Hotels they had favoured with their business, unfortunately the shops they visited were closed. But after a great deal of brainstorming Judith rushed out to Fipe’s car remembering she had put the wallet under the passenger seat for safe keeping, she still had all her cash and credit cards in place.

The taxi arrived on time and Fipe and Rick said farewell to the houseguest from Hollywood.

RTR

FOOTNOTE:

I am glad I have finished this little memoir, and all credit goes to someone who I only know by the card name of Grover and whom I have never met. I started writing it in 2003, almost 17 years ago, but obviously I have had distractions along the way,

I must thank everyone who has touched my life, and in particular the friends involved in this little episode.

Auntie Margaret was Margaret Casey, sadly she passed away on 16th December 2011, happily she was 92 when she did and still mentally alert and very sharp. Margaret was small in stature but a veritable dynamo, very attractive and delightful company, who had spent a large part of her life in PNG.

I first met Margaret through her son Tim who has been a very close and kind friend for a great many years. We met when he arrived in Fiji and have been friends ever since, Tim like his mother is a dynamo, I have watched over the years as he has transformed everything around him, he is one of nature’s builders. Penelope is Margaret’s only Granddaughter and Tim’s only daughter. Penelope is a brilliant artist and her paintings of the Papua New Guinea Highlanders have most people hypnotised.

I  recommend that you go to her web site at www.penelopecasey.com to see samples of her extraordinary range of South Pacific art. If you are really smart you may invest in one.

At the time of writing Penelope still resides in Fiji and has forgiven Marcus who has now reached the autumn of his years and believes in the “one bone one dog principal”, as a result he is a very happy and content individual who I am fortunate to still have as a friend.

Judith, we have not seen Judith since she departed. For some months after she left the telephone would ring at between 9 and 10 at night, which was 2 or 3 in the morning Los Angeles time, and it would be Judith calling to talk with Fipe.

With hindsight and tempered by time I would describe the Judith that flashed through my life as a person who turns the music up loud, takes life in her arms and dances with it, with no inhibitions. Who also gave me the best haircut I have ever had.

During subsequent visits to Los Angeles I would carefully scan the seating of restaurants that I entered, just in case Judith was there and I had time to flee

I started out calling this memoir the Houseguest From Hell, now 16 years later it is the Houseguest From Hollywood. Some may say there is little difference.

Rick Rickman

Fiji….

Texas 2019….Final revision for my older Grandchildren

Copyright: Rob Rickman RAWFIJI

Coronavirus Now COVID 19

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/wuhan-virus-coronavirus-who-new-name-12424116

The World Health Organization says the official name for the disease caused by the new coronavirus is Covid-19.

“We now have a name for the disease and it’s Covid-19,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva.

It comes after the death toll from the virus passed 1,000. Tens of thousands of people have been infected.

Dr Ghebreyesus called on the world to fight the new virus as aggressively as possible.

The word coronavirus refers to the group of viruses it belongs to, rather than the latest strain.

The virus itself has been designated SARS-CoV-2 by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses.

Coronavirus Now COVID 19

There are now more than 42,000 confirmed cases of Covid 19 in China with over 1,000 Deaths

On Monday, some 103 people died in Hubei province alone, a daily record, and the national death toll is now 1,016.

But the number of new infections nationally was down almost 20% from the day before, from 3,062 to 2,478.

In recent days, Chinese authorities have increasingly been criticised for their handling of the crisis when the cases first emerged.

The death of a doctor whose early warnings were suppressed by authorities sparked widespread public anger.

Beijing has now “removed” several senior officials over their actions to control the disease.

The party secretary for the Hubei Health Commission, and the head of the commission, were among those who lost their jobs. They are the most senior officials to be demoted so far.

The central government has also sent a team from its highest anti-corruption agency to Hubei to investigate the treatment of Dr Li by police.

Details from BBC 11-02-20

 

Submission to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence

Submission to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence

On the Ratification of the 2011 Asia-Pacific Convention on the Recognition of Higher Education Qualifications (Tokyo Convention 2011).

portal.unesco.org › ev.php-URL_ID=48975&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL

30 January 2020.

By Professor Shaista Shameem  SJD, PHD, LLM, MA, LLB, BA.

Fellow of the Royal Society on the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (FRSA).

1.0 Introduction

I am grateful to be provided with an opportunity to make submissions on the 2011 Asia-Pacific Convention on the Recognition of Higher Education Qualifications and its ratification by Fiji as proposed.

I have been involved in higher education for nearly 30 years in both Fiji and New Zealand and have taught generations of students in both countries. I feel that at my stage in life I am in a position to personally make some remarks in light of the Convention that may be useful to lawmakers of Fiji.

I make these remarks in my capacity as a citizen of Fiji and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce and not on behalf of my Employer, the University of Fiji where I am Dean of the Justice Devendra Pathik School of Law.  I do acknowledge with pride the University, owned by the Arya Prathinidi Sabha and supported by a robust Council, which has provided affordable education to students who may not otherwise have been able to receive higher education. Many of the Professors of the University are eminent Fijian leaders, in particular I mention Professors Tupeni Baba and Subramani who are the gurus of our entire nation, and any student would be fortunate, from a local perspective, to have such experienced scholars provide them with a sound education which is based not only on a rigorous curriculum but also on ethical values common to all our societies in Fiji.

At the same time, those of us with lifelong experience in higher education in Fiji are faced with enormous difficulties emanating from global problems out of our control. To be upfront about this, the crises facing the world affects our own education system at its core. The students, who are our next generation of citizens are, in my view, seeking answers that we hope we can provide but I believe we have fallen far short in making them feel confident and secure, as well as providing them with sound ethical values that will serve them and the nation well in the future.

In fact, I have to be blunt- we are failing our students abysmally and I feel a deep sense of responsibility myself that I am not able to do more than what those of us in senior positions, who have the nation’s interest at heart, are already doing. It is just not physically possible to do more for the next generation unless we confront head on, as a society, what I regard as mediocrity in the global education system.

The new Convention, if ratified by Fiji, will help to alleviate some of these problems, for example, institutional weaknesses, democratic engagement and the ability of higher education to contribute effectively to the public good. I will elaborate on this a little later but I turn now to the value of the Convention itself.

2.0 The Convention

The key points of the Convention that are important for Fiji’s higher education framework and, for that reason alone, ought to be ratified are as follows:

  1. 1) Recognition of our own curriculum and qualifications. The Convention allows all signatories to respect each other’s higher education framework despite the diversity that exists in the Asia Pacific region. This goes to transferability and thus employability of our graduates in the region.
  1. 2) Collaboration. The Convention allows us to collaboratively support better quality in higher education due to the need to be able to transfer the knowledge gained by individuals who are residing in the states who are parties to it. This allows the up-skilling not just of the individuals but also of states to which knowledge is transferred. The quality of higher education is what concerns me now, particularly when we hear news that very few students have passed the 7th form maths examination in Fiji. Does the Convention provision on collaboration allow us to employ collaborative techniques to improve teaching standards and not just qualifications since it is not clear what causes the failure of high school students in such large numbers in one subject?
  1. 3) Standards. The Convention allows standardising of assessment of qualifications and this, in turn, introduces an element of common educational understanding among the parties in terms of the criteria to be used for measurement which is non-discriminatory and therefore reliable. Standardising should not mean one size fits all and thus we need to be able to explore the parameters of this clause to be able to allow for diversity of assessment of qualifications.
  1. 4) Accreditation of qualifications. These are not set in stone as the Convention allows parties to impose additional requirements suitable for their unique circumstances, and this is important in the Fijian sense, for our autonomy. The presumption that accreditation of our qualifications elsewhere has to meet certain criteria applies across the board for all state parties to the Convention.
  1. 5) Fiji’s international obligations towards refugees and internally displaced peoples is reflected in section 7 in case a qualification that is stated by a person in that position cannot be proven. Fiji has not opened her doors to refugees in any significant numbers yet, but the principle expressed in this clause is important.
  1. 6) The right to information is covered by section 8 and is well represented in the Fijian sense by the Fiji Higher Education Commission and the Ministry of Education which now have the relevant database and a rigorous approach to standardisation of the recording forms through their Fiji Qualifications Framework (FQF).

Impact on Fiji of ratification

Quite apart from adhering to Fiji’s obligations pursuant to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which emphasise life-long learning as well as gender-neutral access to affordable education overall, the impact of ratifying the Convention for improvement of our educational landscape will be felt immediately. As always, Fiji will be taking the leadership role by ratification and her people will be able to take advantage of jobs and qualifications in the region suitable to their career preferences.

However, there is more to ratifying the Convention and the process of compliance than merely joining the internationally benchmarked family. Importantly, the Convention provides us with a unique opportunity in Fiji to review our education system, particularly in terms of whether we meet the requirements necessary for a robust educational profile for future generations and for those who wish to pursue life-long learning as adults.

Issues pertinent to higher education in Fiji that will be assisted by ratification.

In this second part of my submissions I would like to survey some of the issues that those of us with a background in higher educational institutions in Fiji have learnt and, at the end, I address the benefits that may accrue with ratification and the future direction in education that the opportunity to ratify represents.

These are some questions that I raise for consideration for a further review of the educational framework of Fiji that ratification can allow.

  1. 1) Education as a social good and public service.

Do our higher educational institutions make any contribution to understanding important issues that face us, including of survival, for example, (i) environmental and economic challenges, (ii)  the ways that our body politic can better earn the trust of the people, (iii) the idea of a public service, and (iv) corporate social irresponsibility? If not, how will ratification of this Convention help? It can but only if it opens up proper and inclusive discussion of all these issues by the public.

2) Research quality and not quantity

Research in higher educational institutions the world over, and Fiji is no exception, has become a key result area (KRA or KPI) that has pulled academics into publishing the results of research in obscure ‘ranked’ journals that no one reads and has little or no social impact. Research on improving a society so that it makes an effort to impact positively on the lives of people is not as much a priority in the academic career race. Thus what is academia in higher education about? This is true the world over and much has been written on it. Educators who consider that their job is also to be the critic and conscience of society recognise the difference between an ‘academic’ and an ‘intellectual’, but which one do we favour in higher education in Fiji?

    3) Knowledge versus skills

In our higher education system are we teaching and learning ‘knowledge’ or ‘skills’? Do we as a nation sufficiently value knowledge, or do we value skills more? This raises the issue of the rise in the 20th and 21st centuries of ‘low value’ higher education and higher fees for low cost subjects.

Skills are less transferrable than knowledge. We emphasise technological skills but these are useless without adding knowledge represented by the human experience. If we do not take this matter on board for discussion, not just in Fiji but the world over, humans will come to resemble robots more. It will no longer be robots resembling humans but the other way round.

Furthermore, in the pursuit of formal education and qualifications how much do we appreciate the value of  emotional intelligence as an educational attribute? EI constitutes things such as Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation, Motivation, Empathy and Social Skills. Is emotional intelligence encouraged at primary or high school? We should discuss this openly as a society.

    4) Knowledge that matters

To acquire meaningful knowledge we should place emphasis on appropriate humanities and social science education in all the disciplines. Humanities, also called ‘liberal arts,’ and the social sciences, encourage critical thinking, intellectual flexibility, development of  a social conscience, communication, team work, ability to work in diverse environments and writing aptitude. We also need to think about how we teach and not just what we teach, and also get beyond the confines of the disciplines. Peer learning has become an important new methodology of learning that has allowed us to move away from the top down hierarchical method used in our classrooms. Higher educational institutions should use the peer learning pedagogy to good effect because it turns failure into success.

The knowledge economy seeks to understand why the fundamental problems of society- namely poverty, law and order crises, gender inequality (and the trafficking that is a part of it) as well as violence against women and children, and also now climate change which is the ultimate effect of excessive waste and emissions brought about by the conventional ways of making a living- still exist. Are our higher educational institutions taking the responsibility of asking those hard questions?

  5) The future of work

In the traditional sense, work is defined as the number of hours during the week where one is productive in a specific environment which has some value attached to it. Fiji’s employment legislation sets out the number of hours per week that an employer can expect an ordinary worker to work- maximum of 48 hours for example. The description of what can be achieved in that time period is set out in Job Descriptions or KPIs and measured against performance.

However, there is an increasingly popular view that ‘life skills’ or what some may call ‘soft skills’ are as important in work as formal qualifications. These are skills gained through providing support to the disadvantaged, or mentoring young people, or building houses for the homeless, volunteering and so on. Such skills are not usually included in CVs or resumes but in terms of the kind of work we will have to do in future, and life-long learning, they are significant. While not everyone works in a factory, the factory production format has risen to apply to bureaucrats’ and professionals’ work methods.

However, nowadays the employment frameworks are no longer uniform. Some countries and businesses have introduced a 4 day working week with marked success not just for work/life balance but for productivity. Can we ask that question for Fiji? What would be under discussion is not the future of work but the future of good work.

Ethical responsibility of the private sector is another question for us all. The issue is whether we can expect companies to behave ethically in all circumstances and what would be the definition of ethical conduct? Creating a work environment free from sexual or other harassment would be one example and I am pleased as a human rights advocate to see that Fiji’s employment legislation has played a large part in the transformation from exploitation to ethical conduct at work with ultimate oversight of this by the judiciary.

So how does ratifying the Convention assist with these five issues of concern for the civic minded person in relation to higher education in Fiji?

The light is focused on two aspects of the Convention- (i) the notion of wide recognition of qualifications to promote life-long education which will, if properly done, take care of the concerns relating to education as a social good and public service and the quality of research; and (ii) to emphasise collaboration in the advancement of knowledge which will take care of the concerns regarding knowledge versus skills, knowledge that matters and the future of good work.

Ratification of the Convention is not simply about standards and transferability of our degrees and qualifications in the region, but about the opportunities that ratifying gives us to open up the conversation, and space, for discussion of the social conditions that higher education can improve; and the value of higher education for transformation of the social milieu which surrounds us as a nation.

If we cannot find our students jobs that make them happy and fulfilled, and if they are not satisfied with the way the higher education system cannot currently prepare them for the world they need to face and the problems their countries obviously have, then we need to allow them to go elsewhere whether or not this would represent a skills flight. Ratifying the Convention opens up that opportunity.

Of course there is a way to prevent the brain drain but only if we first have a proper consultation on what the definition of national (and global) interest is with respect to employment and enjoying a decent life, and whether our national interest coincides at all with the personal preferences of students.

The core value of Fiji’s ratification of the Convention in my view is the fact that it allows us, as a nation, to open up space for a meaningful conversation with each other about higher education as a whole.

This is an opportunity we cannot miss if we are to progress with dignity and national pride alongside the other parties to the Convention.

Commentary based on questions from the Standing Committee:

Section II and III of the Tokyo Convention refer to the competence of the authorities in assessing qualifications as one of the measurements for complying with the Convention post-ratification. In Fiji this is served by the statutory Fiji Higher Education Commission which has an independent persona, though  Ministerial approval is required for appointment of members of the Commission.

The Higher Education Act 2008 will need to be re-visited with a view to bringing it more strongly into conformity with the Convention for the purposes of compliance with the provisions on competence in assessment of qualifications. Section 6 (3) of the Act states as follows in relation to ministerial appointment of members of the Higher Education Commission:

Section 6 (3) In appointing the members of the Commission, the Minister shall consider members who have –

(a) substantial knowledge and experience with a balanced combination of post- graduate qualification and work experience;

(b) research and publication experience in any academic field;

(c) knowledge and experience of higher education academic affairs;

(d) knowledge and experience in governance and management of higher education institutions;

(e) knowledge and experience in the design, development and delivery of higher education courses; and

(f) independence and integrity.

In other words, those who have the statutory duty, as laid down in the Act, to assess qualifications at higher educational institutions must themselves be appropriately qualified to do so in regards to what is required pursuant to section 6 (3) of the Act. It is not sufficient to have industry experience (indeed industry experience is not necessary at all given the section 6 (3) provision) but higher educational qualifications and experience are mandatory. Furthermore, the qualifications established by the Act are cumulative as all of the sub-provisions must be fulfilled in each case.

The last provision, section 6 (3) (d)  ‘independence and integrity’, goes to aspects such as ‘fit and proper’  person or  ‘of good standing’ of the members and is as important as the mandatory formal qualifications  (‘the Minister shall…’), pursuant to section 6 (3) (a), (b), (c), (d) and (e). This requirement also needs to be clearly and transparently established.

Thus Fiji’s ratification and compliance with the Tokyo Convention involves much more than mere existence of an entity entrusted with assessments of qualifications and accreditation. Those having this responsibility must themselves be qualified to do so. This specific requirement can be reviewed by the Government since those involved in higher education delivery of qualifications have the legitimate expectation that its governance, monitoring and evaluation are conducted by people actually qualified to do so. Otherwise there will be lack of confidence in government’s ability to provide the right mechanism for ensuring its compliance with the Tokyo Convention.

Higher education in Fiji is very important for the future development of the nation.  Paying mere lip service to it and not considering the need for adherence to the legislation overall but specifically with the need for correct qualifications within the monitoring and compliance agency as required by the Higher Education Act of Fiji will make Fiji’s higher education programme not only structurally vulnerable  but, embarrassingly, also open it up for criticism by those involved in it directly, thus jeopardising Fiji’s compliance responsibility to the international community.

The right to education is protected in Fiji’s Constitution as a human right and thus governance of the higher education mechanism in Fiji needs to be adequately and carefully scrutinised and monitored in view of higher education’s significance to the national interest. Those with a stake in higher education have a special duty to do so.

Travel Sickness ???

BREAKING NEWS

**Bainimarama’s illness exposed: Suffering from acute Perdiemitis**

Guest post by Visiting Perdiemitis Surgeon

Perdiemitis is a rare disease infecting only a select few of the world’s population.

Confined mostly to the third world, it’s prevalence has been diagnosed among those whose work is designed to make them travel frequently to claim their entitlement to be paid per diem (daily) allowances.

In its acute form, perdiemitis affects a handful of government ministers, prime ministers and presidents who regularly find any excuse to go abroad to tend to their nation’s business.

Because the disease is self-inflicted, it is curable – not medically by surgery, but electorally by voting out these parasites on the public purse.

It was only recently revealed that Bainimarama is paying himself $3,000 per diem each day he is out of the country travelling on official business.

He justifies that astronomical amount by claiming it as his lawful entitlement.

Why is it lawful?

Because his AG says Parliament has enacted a law to legalise it.

It doesn’t matter whether it is morally right or even economically sound.

Legalised theft is what it is when Bainimarama’s Fiji First Party members used their majority votes in Parliament to enact a law to enrich him and themselves.

How can anyone in their right mind accept that a PM whose job it is to look after the nation’s welfare smugly claim his entitlement to supplement his enormous salary by another $3,000 per day for being overseas doing what he is already paying himself to do?

Why appoint himself as our country’s Foreign Affairs Minister as well and spend 191 days away from home?

It is a devious ploy and a cunning formula which masks double, triple and multiple dipping into our impoverished nation’s coffers.

What are the costs and benefits of all of those who comprise the massive delegations accompanying Bainimarama on those overseas jaunts?

Will we ever find out the exact quantum of all those bills footed by taxpayers?

Why $3,000 extra for him when we already pay for his first and business class seats along with his limousine transportation (which is usually provided free and with armed security protection by host nations), food, dining and entertainment as well as 5 star hotel accommodation?

Bainimarama’s perdiemitis is a rort. It is unjustified and unjustifiable. A financial scandal that is simply outrageous.

Like appendicitis, this disease can only be removed by clipping his wings.

If we don’t vote him out on 14th November, we are doomed to be ruled for another 4 years by an absent PM who will be busily tripping overseas and amassing his personal fortune.

Why are we voters currently being distracted venting our spleens over Opposition parties’ proposals to increase the national minimum wage from $2.68 per hour while Bainimarama is earning $3,000 per day along with enjoying all the perks of being our poor country’s rich PM?

Perdiemitis can be cured by ordinary Fijians without any medical qualifications at all.

Voting Bainimarama out is his antidote!.

Due your duty as a caring citizen, cure his sickness by voting him out…

Change MUST be coming SOON,

Fiji looks to a future free of racism, nepotism and privilege – Bainimarama

By Iva Danford

Saturday 29/09/2018

 

Fijian Prime Minister Hon. Voreqe Bainimarama delivers his Natonal address at the United Nations General Assembly hall in New York[Photo:Fijian Government]

Fiji looks to a future free of racism, nepotism and privilege.

This was the message by the Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama while delivering his national address at the 73rd United Nations General Assembly Hall in New York earlier this morning.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FFijianGovernment%2Fvideos%2F479250409245893%2F&show_text=0&width=560

More Fake News ???

This, if true, brings back memories of the easy loans given to government cronies by the National Bank of Fiji.

We can only hope that the HFC Bank is not on the same slippery slope as the NBF..

 

Faiyaz Koya exposed

Continuing our expose of corruption within the Fiji First Government here’s one about a former Attorney General and now Industry, Trade and Tourism Minister, providing false information in order to gain for himself.

Documents obtained by C4.5 tonight reveal Fiji First Minister Faiyaz Koya falsely declared a higher salary on his application for a loan from the HFC – Home Finance Company Bank.

The unscrupulous Faiyaz Koya is another puppet who dances to the tune of Frank Bainimarama and Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, circumventing the system and breaking the law like his role models, for personal gain. He is a favourite of Frank Bainimarama’s boys, with the dictator calling him Amitabh Bhachchan for his moves on the dance floor as well as sharing his cigarettes with the school dropout PM.

The documents are from 29th September 2014, five days after Koya was appointed Attorney General and Minister for Justice, a portfolio he held for less than two weeks before Khaiyum took over and Koya became Industry, Trade and Tourism Minister

In 2016 Bainimarama gave him additional portfolios of Lands and Mineral Resources, positions previously had by the reliable Mereseini Vuniwaqa.

The documents show Mohamed Harun of HLB Crosbie & Associates, acting as Koya’s accountants wrote to HFC saying Koya was on a salary of between $260,000 to $300,000. The letter was written on 29th September 2014, four days before the Bainimarama regime promulgated the last Decree before Parliament started on October 6th, paying the Ministers hefty salaries.

But in the Decree the AG’s salary was $235,000 while other Cabinet Ministers (except Health, Education, Infrastructure who were paid $200,000), were paid $185,000 per year.

Koya falsely over-declared his salary by $75,000 to $115,000 to qualify for a larger loan.

Within three days of his application, Koya obtained a loan of almost a $1 million. Which other ordinary customer, described as a politically exposed person according to the documents, would receive such a high amount of loan within three days?

At the end of November 2015, 13 months later, Koya applied for a another loan against his salary and assets that suddenly accumulated to $885,000. His liabilities were shown at only $150,000.

This is the way our nation has been run where the rules are different for the privileged few. And don’t forget – this is after a military coup, that the regime says was a clean-up revolution to get rid of corruption!

And this is the man representing Fiji at Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru. So if the puppet is rolling in what he reckons is rich filth, it is no wonder that Khaiyum has millions stashed away as revealed last week.

And what is the Supervisor of Elections doing about this? Is he investigating the false declarations made by Koya and Khaiyum! Or is he on a witch hunt tormenting Opposition political figures?

Watch this space as we reveal more corruption within Fiji First.

FAKE NEWS ?? You decide…

This does not make sense given the rcently published income and assets of the Attorney General..

Then there is the old saying where there is smoke there is fire…

The following is from http://www.coupfourandahalf.com/

Khaiyum’s millions in an American bank and elsewhere

Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum has close to $15 million in assets – more than $7 million of it cash.

Bank statements made available exclusively to Coupfourpointfive show Khaiyum has been depositing as much as $65,000 at a time.

In March this year, deposits totalled $100,000 plus.

 
 

Account statements for Scottrade, an American investment bank, that’s been taken over by TD Ameritrade, show Khaiyum has amassed millions since seizing power with Frank Bainimarama.

It’s no wonder he doesn’t want to leave and that Bainimarama can’t touch him.

The money trail in these statements show the inseparable link between these two crooks.

More to come on this story.

January bank statement

 

February bank statement

March bank statement

 

April bank statement

May bank statement