Fiji v Tonga

May 17th, 2011 at 10:20 am by David Farrar

The “rescue” of Lieutenant-Colonel Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara by Tonga is fascinating, as are the demands of the Commodore that he be returned. You would think he would be glad to have a dissident out of the country.

Mara is the son of the founding Prime Minister, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara. He was very close to the Commodore and it is not known what has led to him to be charged with sedition, which led to him fleeing.

What I find most interesting is the suggestion that Mara was helped to flee by his brother-in-law Ratu Epeli Nailatikau. Nailatikau is the current Pesident of Fiji and nominally Commander-in-Chief. Is it possible the President could move against the Commodore?

Democracy in Tonga

November 27th, 2010 at 6:00 am by David Farrar

Audrey Young reports on the first elections in Tonga where the people elected the majority of Parliament:

The figure probably given least credit for the new Tonga is King George Tupou V whose progressive views are overshadowed by his eccentricities.

Nonetheless his long held ambition to surrender his executive power to the people is highly unusual.

Opinion remains divided on the King. Some say he is a true democrat and reformer. One less kind critic told me he is simply too lazy to govern himself, so that is why he gave up power!

King George, who went to Kings School and Kings College in New Zealand, said he would not have wanted reform if he had been educated only in Tonga.

“Like others of my generation, my education has generally been a liberal European education and I feel sure that without a European education, with a solely Tonga education, I don’t believe I would have been able to make the changes,” he told Bruce Hill.

Liberal European educations have a lot going for them. I hold a tiny amount of hope for North Korea on the basis their future ruler went to school in Switzerland.

Editorials 4 May 2010

May 4th, 2010 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald talks social media:

If anyone doubts how technology is changing the way people communicate with each other they should consult the latest research by the Privacy Commissioner.

Published this week, the survey of Individual Privacy and Personal Information shows that 43 per cent of us now use a social networking site such as Facebook or Twitter.

This is an enormous increase from the 14 per cent recorded three years ago. Clearly these sites provide a welcome service to large numbers of happy customers.

But there is a big difference which Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff highlighted with the release of the survey results. She pointed out that more than half of those who used social networking sites assumed them to be private spaces.

However, this was really an illusion of privacy; personal details or pictures could be easily obtained by third parties, creating the real possibility of unintended, unacceptable and even dangerous consequences.

They are public places, but the sheer amount of info there, makes them semi-private. Unless someone is looking for your info for a reason, then people’s info generally stays with friends and families. But if you apply for a job, come to public notice in some way, it is all there to be seen.

A much better approach was suggested by Ms Shroff this week when she urged people to use internet safety resources available through Hector’s World, Netsafe and the Privacy Commissioner’s website.

As the survey has shown, most people join social networking sites with their eyes wide open and they understand the risks and issues and how to protect themselves.

Rather than bringing in more laws, the challenge should be to open the eyes of the few who fail to see the consequences of what they are doing.

I agree.

The Press wants better  roading infrastructure:

New Zealand has had a habit of under-investing in road infrastructure.

The most obvious example of this has been in Auckland, where decades of myopia has required multi-billion dollar catch-up projects, while in Wellington, the Transmission Gully route was until recently an exercise in dithering.

And in Canterbury it should not have taken a triple fatality crash on Saturday morning to highlight the driving risks on parts of State Highway 1 which require action. …

Steven Joyce has shown commendable speed in identifying roading priorities and pledging the money to them (the harder part).

This roading situation might have been adequate or acceptable a generation ago, when traffic volumes were far lower, but not today. Waimakariri and Selwyn, through which SH1 goes, are two of the fastest growing districts in New Zealand. Increasing numbers of commuters travel from small towns, including new ones such as Pegasus, into Christchurch, sharing the road with significant tourist traffic and with trucks.

The US do it quite well. Motorway and highways do not go through towns but around them.

The Dom Post looks at democracy in Tonga, or the lack of it:

The only good thing that could have come from the tragic sinking of the Princess Ashika off Tonga would have been a new openness and accountability in the Tongan political system.

The resignation of Attorney-General John Cauchi suggests that is a forlorn prospect.

The inquiry gave Tongans a rare glimpse of the inner workings of the elite who run their country – an elite who gain power based on hereditary links and personal contacts rather than talent. But having promised, and delivered, a fully transparent inquiry, it appears Tonga’s rulers are getting cold feet.

The Australian-born Mr Cauchi quit last week over government plans to abolish the judicial services commission which appoints judges. He believes the move is an attempt to interfere with the inquiry. Others say the cabinet is trying to discredit the royal commission.

The Tongan Government says Mr Cauchi was unable to properly exercise the powers he was granted and outsiders should butt out. Political reform is a matter for Tongans alone.

But as Tongans do not have the vote in a meaningful way, that is not true. They do not have the ability to get change internally.

And the ODT looks at ACC:

Unless it is a statistical blip, evidence points to procedures within ACC’s Sensitive Claims Unit having radically altered.

Figures show 32 sexual-abuse claims for counselling were approved in the first two months this year, compared with 472 in January and February 2009.

That is not far off a tenfold decrease.

And, on Monday last week, ACC Minister Nick Smith announced the way the corporation managed the claims of sexual-abuse victims was to be reconsidered.

To this end, he named a panel to undertake a “clinical review to ensure best possible practice in this sensitive area”. …

The conclusion must be that changes to the way in which ACC handles such claims, introduced in October last year by Dr Smith, have been responsible for the drop.

On the one hand, this will undoubtedly be helping to meet the savings of which the minister has made something of a mantra; on the other, it could mean that the changes have been “overcooked”, laying the minister open to charges of callousness and injustice.

Personally I don’t think sexual abuse victims should receive ACC. I do think they should get assistance for counselling etc from the state, but through Vote Health or Vote Justice. One of the problems of ACC is it has expanded too far from its original mandate.

Editorials 11 April 2010

April 10th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald welcomes the legal aid changes:

Criminal defence lawyers have escaped remarkably unscathed by the damning report they received from a ministerial inquiry into legal aid last year. Decisions announced by the Justice Minister, Simon Power, this week will impose requirements on publicly financed lawyers that are no more than reasonable and long overdue. …

It will be interesting to see how well a full-fledged Public Defender Service competes with the car-boot brigade. Mr Power has been advised that the costs of setting up the service can be recovered in lower operating costs. It is hard to believe lawyers working in public service conditions can match the efficiencies of those who work with low overheads and greater mobility, but we may see.

The difference may be in the remuneration lawyers at the PDS get, compared to the income a car boot lawyer can make from legal aid.

The Press is concerned over the proposed Fijian media controls:

The freedom of the media clearly remains a totally alien and undesirable concept for Fiji’s self-appointed leader, Commodore Frank Bainimarama. …

The decree, to be enforced by a media authority appointed by the regime, would provide for fines of NZ$344,000 for news organisations that failed to comply with it.

Individual journalists whose work was deemed to be critical of Bainimarama’s regime would face fines of up to NZ$69,000, which would be crippling in Fiji, and a possible five-year prison term. To ensure the authorities knew who had written a story, it would also be an offence not to identify the journalist concerned.


The regime claims its decree is intended to encourage responsible journalism, but nothing could be further from the truth. Rather, it aims to ensure the news media cannot perform its democratic role of holding Bainimarama’s unsavoury government to account and promoting free and frank debate on issues of public interest.

Absolutely. I want to believe that the Commodore has a plan to put in place a non race based constitution, and return to democratic elections in 2014. But his actions point towards an ongoing dictatorship.

The Dom Post focuses on the Princess Ashika ferry tragedy:

The report of the Tongan royal commission of inquiry into the sinking of the ferry Princess Ashika has laid bare a system of government as riddled with flaws as the ship was with rust – and just as dangerous. …

However, it is up to the king to deal with the systemic ones that allowed people such as Lord Dalgety QC (the title is Tongan), now resigned transport minister Paul Karalus and Prime Minister Feleti Sevele into pivotal roles in his kingdom. The report notes that Lord Dalgety, the Shipping Corporation of Polynesia company secretary, “clearly lacks integrity and honesty, even when giving evidence before a royal commission” and that “he was not a fit and proper person to be a company secretary of any company in Tonga”.

I have some friends who have lived in Tonga. They alerted me to the vileness of Lord Dalgety some time ago, and what I have seen of him on television reinforces their view that he is a deeply corrupt and racist individual. His arrest was a very good thing. While I don’t condone Wikipedia vandalism, I did have to laugh at the edit done to his Wikipedia profile which said:

On February 26 Lord Dalgety, the Secretary of the Shipping Corporation of Polynesia Ltd, gained an entry in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s lowest form of life

Back to the editorial:

What must not be forgotten in all this is that 74 people drowned. No women or children survived. The impact in a country the size of Tonga is, as commentator Josephine Latu has pointed out, the equivalent of 3200 New Zealanders dying. The Princess Ashika tragedy was a scandal that cannot be repeated.

Absolutely. And may the tragedy bring about some democratic reform.

The ODT talks foreshore & seabed:

Just let us pause for a moment: if the legal status of the foreshore and seabed is to be “public domain”, then who owns it, and therefore can claim the rights and benefits of ownership?

Will Maori?

Will Mr and Mrs Joe Bloggs?

Will the Crown – the obvious choice?

On the basis of the options paper published by the Government last week, in which “public domain” is the Government’s preferred choice, the issue of ownership most likely will be determined in the long term by the courts, piece by piece, over time.

Well yes courts do determine rights. The ODT editorial writer (whom I suspect is the former Labour Government Press Secretary) presumably prefers the status quo where the right to test your rights in court was extinguished.