Transparency International makes “tactical shift” for 2013 Siwatibau Lecture
Transparency International (Fiji) makes “tactical shift” for 2013 Siwatibau Lecture
Professor Wadan Narsey
Earlier this year I accepted a request from Transparency International Fiji (TI Fiji) to give the Siwatibau Lecture on the good governance implications of planned changes to Fiji’s electoral system.
Mrs Suliana Siwatibau (wife of former USP Vice Chancellor, the late Mr Savenaca Siwatibau, in whose memory the Siwatibau Lecture is annually presented) informed TI Fiji that I was an “excellent choice” to be the speaker, and suggested the theme “Promoting clean elections through a PR system in Fiji”, to which I agreed.
Although TI Fiji made repeated requests to be given a copy of the electoral provisions in the Regime’s Constitution, they were informed by the Attorney General’s office that the details would be released with the Constitution itself.
On the 22 August 2013, after the Regime’s Constitution (including the details on the electoral system) was released to the public, TI Fiji informed me that “we have as an organisation made a tactical shift away from the election” theme.
Additionally, instead of having me as the keynote speaker, they would organize a panel discussion on the theme “corruption in education” and they would consult the Siwatibau family and USP on this theme.
Given that the theme and speaker for the Siwatibau Lecture had already been approved by the Siwatibau family, the “tactical shift” by Transparency International appears to have been made after consultation over the Siwatibau Lecture with USP, whose Vice Chancellor (Professor Rajesh Chandra) sits on the Board of TI Fiji. He is also an ardent supporter of the Bainimarama Regime.
Is it a coincidence that earlier in the year, the USP Vice Chancellor also instructed the USP Journalism Programme to remove me as Chief Guest and Keynote Speaker on World Press Freedom Day?
The current changes to Fiji’s electoral system are being hailed by the Bainimarama Regime as the most revolutionary and progressive in Fiji’s history and would indeed be a topic worth discussing in the Siwatibau Lecture.
At the recent CPA Conference, Commodore Bainimarama called for a battle of ideas in the run-up to the September 2014 elections, while Mr Aiyaz Khiyum bemoaned the fact that there was a lack of intellectual discourse on the Fiji Constitution.
It is a pity that both Transparency International Fiji and The University of the South Pacific, refuse to heed the call by the Bainimarama Government for independent intellectual debate over the constitution. Instead of the ethos of free intellectual debate, transparency and accountability that should be associated with their institutional names, they practice blatant censorship.
Transparency International (parent body) may wish to note the further “coincidence” that former Chairmen of TI Fiji include Ikbal Janif (current Chairman of USP Council and member of several Fiji government statutory boards) and Winston Thompson (Fiji’s Ambassador to US and Chairman of USP’s University Grants Committee), both of whom are also ardent supporters of the Bainimarama Regime.
The late Mr Savenaca Siwatibau was a strong proponent of constitutionality, law and order and good governance. In 2000, he firmly refused the offer from the coup plotters, to become the Interim Prime Minister of Fiji, choosing instead to become the Vice Chancellor of USP, from where he became a leading voice in Fiji and the Pacific on good governance, transparency and accountability.