Jun 29, 2017 Last Updated 2:11 PM, Jun 12, 2017

Call to end Fiji black list

A FIJIAN opposition party has called for the lifting of travel bans on all individuals – including former Fiji citizens.National Federation Party President, Roko Tupou Draunidalo, said Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, needed to follow through his recent rhetoric with action.“Last weekend the PM announced in Australia that any journalist would be free to visit the country and report without restriction once they have been accredited by the Department of Information,” Draunidalo said.

“This also referred to three prominent journalists from New Zealand and Australia who were banned from entering Fiji.”Draunidalo said Bainimarama had urged Fijians in Australia to take advantage of the dual citizenship that Fiji now offers, return home and build houses or start businesses. 

“However all this will remain just tokenism unless bans against those who have served Fiji loyally in their capacity as expatriates as well as former Fiji citizens remain in place.” Draunidalo said the Immigration Department black list that prevented former and current citizens from returning to Fiji, the land of their birth, must be removed.

“The name of academics Professor Brij Lal and his wife, Dr Padma Lal, as well as other individuals who have been placed on this list for frivolous, undemocratic reasons, must be removed if the Prime Minister really wants to show the world that Fiji is a robust democracy.”“Inviting Fijians to return home for simply financial and economic reasons, is not being global at all. They have their families, friends, cultural roots and identity here in Fiji and have the best foundation to contribute to Fiji’s social and economic progress. “

Room at the Inn

Church ventures into hotel business

BIBLICAL accounts of the birth of Jesus Christ speak of the lack of accommodation in the Palestinian town of Bethlehem, forcing Mary and Joseph into a barn. The rest is history. Today Fiji’s Methodist Church – one of the largest in the region with around 212,000 members – is exploring the possibility of investment in business, primarily a hotel.

Developed by Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, the $FJD110million Park Inn by Radisson will include a hotel, apartments and shopping complex on the corner of Stewart and Saint Fort streets in Suva. It will be the second Radisson property in Fiji, the first being a beachfront property on the holiday island of Denarau.

Carlson Rezidor has signed a management contract with the iTaukei Trust Fund which already owns shares in Radisson Blu and Union Plaza – a shopping mall in Suva’s Central Business District. The Methodist Church will provide land it owns for construction of the hotel and shopping complex which was initially expected to open for business in the first quarter of 2018. 

The land to be developed is 16,000 square metres of prime freehold of which 8000 will be dedicated to the hotel and the remainder towards parking, shops, restaurants and office space.

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Aliens invade the bay

ant invasive iguana (GII), also known as American iguana, in Vanua Levu, Fiji’s second biggest island. Last week villagers living near Viani Village, on the south coast of Natewa Bay, caught a male GII, a reptile that could grow to two metres long.

Nearby resident Jay Browning said while the male GII was killed, it was unfortunate that a female was also spotted but it escaped into the forest. Biosecurity Authority of Fiji (BAF) had declared American iguanas as pests and they are working closely with villagers to find others believed to be in the forest. According to BAF the pests were brought illegally into the country some 10-plus years ago and released on Qamea Island.

They have since spread to neighbouring Laucala, Taveuni and Matagi islands and now to their nearest main island, Vanua Levu. American iguanas breed rapidly and a female can lay 50 to 80 eggs. As herbivores they pose immediate threats to food security, eating plants such as dalo leaves and cassava tops, bele, tomatoes, cabbage, beans and yam vines. The last sighting on Vanua Levu was in 2014, when Tawake villagers on the west coast of Natewa Bay, found and killed one on their shores. The scenic Natewa Bay is the biggest bay in the South Pacific.

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The middle road

Looking for a Fiji for all

WHEN Tupou Draunidalo chose to leave the Opposition National Federation Party earlier this year, political commentators wondered about the wisdom of such a move. For there are many who believe that without the support of the NFP and its huge support in the cane-growing areas of Fiji, Draunidalo will have little backing ahead of Fiji’s 2018 polls.

But the fiery lawyer and former Parliamentarian has chosen to step away from the Federation to set up a party inclusive of all ethnicities and genders – what she describes as a truly representative political movement. “I believe that the Fijian electorate largely, like many electorates overseas, falls in the middle,” Draunidalo said. “At the last elections, the ruling (FijiFirst) party successfully painted itself as a middle party.

Fiji has seen that that is far from the truth.’’ Fiji’s Prime Minister, Rear-Admiral Frank Bainimarama, drew up a Constitution which included a provision for all people to share the name Fijian – once the exclusive domain of the indigenous population. This single move has been credited with winning many Indo-Fijian votes in the 2014 elections. The Indo-Fijian populations has considered itself second class citizenry due to discriminatory laws in place during colonial times and after the 1987 coup. Now the indigenous people are called iTaukei – ironical because the term means “owner of the land”.

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IT’S just days after New Year and while chaos reigned on the mainland as news spread of an underwater earthquake, the then President of the National Federation Party, parliamentarian Tupou Draunidalo, was sitting unperturbed by the beach.

The threat of a tsunami had passed many hours beforehand, but the little island beach was still deserted - and she was facing an earth shattering decision of her own. Eight months into a full term parliamentary ban that many have called “extreme”, she was contemplating how best to step down so voters didn’t have to miss out on a voice in Parliament. It would be one of the most difficult decisions she’s ever had to make.

“It wasn’t easy,” she said. On reflection, “it was like any divorce, very heart wrenching, emotional and difficult”. One of her mentors, Sydney-based retired lawyer Harish Sharma - who to this day calls her “beti” (daughter) - was once a celebrated leader of the party. Many friends, family members, colleagues and supporters had rallied to her NFP call. But the die was cast. In the weeks leading up to the decision, it was increasingly clear that her firebrand approach was out of step with those who preferred to walk on political eggshells, especially over the accountability of coup makers and other soldiers with coup makers.

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