"By persons having no authority to do so but felt that they had. I had not fully realized the intent of such attacks... I need to tell you the reasons for my sudden resignation.
Fijileaks: Was Robin Nair fired but was given the face-saving option of resigning?
"As is customary, the Ministry had prepared a draft Statement/Talking Points (attached) through consultations, for our Minister [Bainimarama] to deliver to the Heads of Missions, to reflect his expectations, views, ideas, problems and a progressive agenda for the next 12 months, for the Ministry to achieve the breadth of Minister's and indeed Fiji's forward looking and progressive foreign policy objectives
* Like many of you, I was astonished to hear the contents of our Minster's Statement for the opening of the week's Meeting (HOMM). We were also astonished to see some outside people in our internal Meeting. We recognized nothing in the Statement and one would not have chosen an occasion like that, to attack, air views, comments, allegations, accusations, rumours, gossips and innuendos against some of my HoMs, myself and our Ministry, drafted by others outside our Ministry...
* The Prime Minister had never broached any of those issues with me, as any Permanent Secretary would expect. For example, who is the Official or HoM who wants doors opened for him and for people to stand when he enters the room? It was all new! I had checked the night before with PS OPM if there were any changes to the draft Statement/Talking Points, as I always had worked very closely with him, including sharing copies of all advice to our Minister and copies of all my relevant emails.
* I had thought that we worked in an atmosphere of respect for each other's positions, professionalism and integrity and shared a friendship based on trust. He assured me on the night before the morning of the Statement delivery, that he had changed a bit in a sentence to strengthen my point on MITT working more collaboratively with MFA and HoMs, and nothing else.
* What had changed so dramatically for our Minister overnight? We had been accustomed to PM changing his decisions that he might have even made in writing, but this was most unexpected.
* The Statement bizarrely attacked the implementation of the very own directions of our Minister to me.
* I realized to my horror and I know many of yours, that the Statement for the Foreign Ministry as delivered was not one drafted by our Ministry and written without reference to MFA, with personal views of others injected into it to denigrate the Prime Minister's own Ministry.
I have just settled back into normal life and enjoying and with time to reflect. What a luxury! As many of you expressed surprise, shock and disappointment at my resignation on Friday 7 April 2017, I owe it to you to give you some background as I see it and my reasons.
On the day I resigned, I happened to be reading the Fiji Sun and my eye caught my horoscope for the day. It read, "Your Pilgrimage may end up being fruitless"! At first, I thought how apt but then I thought perhaps not yet.
However, first, I must thank you all for the immense dedication and loyalty you showed to me through your high-quality work and your personal loyalty, although some of you may have had initial reservations on my appointment. You are a professional bunch and I was proud to head and work with such a professional team. Each day my estimation of you and your abilities increased. The talent and skill set in the Ministry are exceptional and I had continued to build on that.
I believe there should be more recognition given to you, the dedicated civil servants you are, but for reasons that you could not control or even influence, negative perceptions of the Ministry had been created from well before my time and continued to be created in my time as PS, quite deliberately, to devalue the work of the Ministry and to take away the bulk of its core functions. Paradoxically, our Ministry continued to excel albeit its very thinned out mandate, to achieve the high profile in international relations that Fiji has enjoyed and continues to enjoy. This delivered us the Presidency of CoP23, Presidency of UNGA, President of the Executive Board of UNDP, UNFPA and UNOPS and the Presidency of G77 and China among other international positions and accolades.
The high profile that a small island country, Fiji, has enjoyed and continues to enjoy in international affairs, has been because of you. The Ministry faces a paradox. On the one hand, Fiji has, largely through the work of its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, moved from an image of a mere dot in the Pacific Ocean to now enjoying immense international profile and recognition, but on the other hand, at home, there appears to be a reluctance by some influential elements to accept the achievements of the very Ministry that had taken Fiji to such heights. The Ministry continues to be denigrated and since 6 April 2017, publicly now. I had shared these perceptions many times with my senior staff, exhorting all to be aware of this perception of the Ministry but to continue to work together and to prove otherwise by the results we were achieving. Alas, we were given little space to achieve the recognition at home, by constant harassment and interference from outside, without reference to our Minister. This is not good governance and no professional PS should be expected to tolerate this.
I was very moved by the spontaneous show of deep emotions and the convening of prayer sessions by staff at all levels, on hearing of my resignation. I had not realized the impact I had made on so many lives, in such a short time. I have been most moved.
I have had similar messages that gives me hope, from Ministers, Politicians, foreign diplomats, and other senior public servants, RFMF, Police, private sector and the public, expressing their shock and disappointment at my resignation. Those who know me, this has been humbling. This is typical of the Fijian people we know. I said to my concerned colleagues, perhaps one year is long enough for a pilgrimage and I must go home.
My message to you all is that nothing should come in the way of truth, giving of principled, honest and fearless advice to your employer and their senior representatives. I had the luxury of such advice from my senior team led by DS Nayasi and DS Moceica and RA Mawi and Lt Col Leweni and the Directors of the Bureaus. Vina va levu!
Sycophancy leads to erosion of good governance. Fear is the antithesis of good governance. Our noble profession is to serve the people. Ruling through fear is the action of the weak, not the action of the confident.
Leadership is not just a nice word to be thrown around at every opportunity, thinking that by saying the word, one is indeed a leader. WE MUST SHOW LEADERSHIP TO ACHIEVE WHAT IS GOOD FOR THE NATION not for some individuals only.
Secondly, I need to tell you the reasons for my sudden resignation. I had enjoyed a very supportive Minister in our Prime Minister. I have enjoyed a long relationship with him over the years. He had often assured me of his full support in times of adversity or when I had been a victim of gossip or innuendos. He had in fact called me a professional. That constant reassurance sustained my zeal and enthusiasm to serve, despite continued interference from forces outside my Ministry, not allowing space for initiatives, for self-interests.
I had this support from our Minister but it changed suddenly without warning, one morning, at the start of the agenda 1 for the Heads of Mission Meeting (HoMM), on the morning of Thursday 6 April 2017. As is customary, the Ministry had prepared a draft Statement/Talking Points (attached) through consultations, for our Minister to deliver to the Heads of Missions, to reflect his expectations, views, ideas, problems and a progressive agenda for the next 12 months, for the Ministry to achieve the breadth of Minister's and indeed Fiji's forward looking and progressive foreign policy objectives.
My senior officials and I had worked very closely with our present Minister for more than 7 months. I had always been in constant touch with the Minister, if not in person as much as I would have liked, but certainly in writing. Our Minister is a good reader and prompt in responding. I kept our Minister informed. I also sought clarifications from him from time to time if I felt there were some ambiguity in directions or instructions. It had been a very smooth operation. My senior staff and I felt confident that we knew our Minister and his thinking on Fiji's foreign policy objectives, to enable us to draft a good Working Statement/Talking Points for our Minister to launch our extensive week of our annual HOMs Consultation 2017 (HOMM), an internal Ministry Meeting with our Minister. We had hoped that the Statement would dovetail easily into the rest of the agenda agreed through wide consultations, for the HOMM.
Like many of you, I was astonished to hear the contents of our Minster's Statement for the opening of the week's Meeting (HOMM). We were also astonished to see some outside people in our internal Meeting. We recognized nothing in the Statement and one would not have chosen an occasion like that, to attack, air views, comments, allegations, accusations, rumours, gossips and innuendos against some of my HoMs, myself and our Ministry, drafted by others outside our Ministry. We would have thought that our Minister would have raised any issues of concern to him earlier with his Permanent Secretary, so that he was better informed by his Ministry and where necessary, remedial actions taken. The Prime Minister had never broached any of those issues with me, as any Permanent Secretary would expect. For example, who is the Official or HoM who wants doors opened for him and for people to stand when he enters the room? It was all new!
I had checked the night before with PS OPM if there were any changes to the draft Statement/Talking Points, as I always had worked very closely with him, including sharing copies of all advice to our Minister and copies of all my relevant emails. I had thought that we worked in an atmosphere of respect for each other's positions, professionalism and integrity and shared a friendship based on trust. He assured me on the night before the morning of the Statement delivery, that he had changed a bit in a sentence to strengthen my point on MITT working more collaboratively with MFA and HoMs, and nothing else.
What had changed so dramatically for our Minister overnight? We had been accustomed to PM changing his decisions that he might have even made in writing, but this was most unexpected.
The Statement bizarrely attacked the implementation of the very own directions of our Minister to me.
I realized to my horror and I know many of yours, that the Statement for the Foreign Ministry as delivered was not one drafted by our Ministry and written without reference to MFA, with personal views of others injected into it to denigrate the Prime Minister's own Ministry. This would be intolerable for good governance. Ultimately, in the Ministerial form of governance, the buck in the performance of his Ministry stops with the Minister. For example, in a democratic setting one would ask, what had he done about the issues being raised and what responsibility did he have on allegations being aired? What steps had he taken to ensure corrective measures? Or indeed, why was he criticising his Ministry publicly and vicariously himself? This was indeed bizarre as one of our colleagues commented. I could not accept our Minister being misled to this extent and I should not.
I decided that if a Minister was not going to take responsibility for the criticisms aired by a Prime Minister, the responsibility fell on the Permanent Secretary under the principles and protocols of good, open and transparent governance that I was familiar with. I was not alerted to the perceived problems outlined nor given a chance to respond in a more civilized environment. The drafters of the Statement should have, at the least, sent a draft courtesy copy to the Permanent Secretary and his Ministry, before releasing it to the Minister as the final copy. We had been deliberately ambushed. I had not seen this in any government before nor imagined it could happen. Where had the protocols of good, open and transparent governance which we believed was expected in our system of governance, disappear. Most importantly, I asked myself as to what was indeed the role of a Permanent Secretary, who by Convention and in our case by law, is the Chief Adviser of his/her Minister. Was this role understood? Loyalty of a civil servant should not extend to compliance with bad governance practices.
In fact, I had no opportunity to respond. One very respected senior ambassador quipped to me that this was not the man he knew, referring to the Hon PM. I felt the same. I felt betrayed. My position was no longer tenable as the Permanent Secretary without the public support of my Minister. The honourable thing for me to do had become obvious, to resign, a decision I conveyed to my close associates straight after the Statement was delivered. I resigned very proudly and with integrity, at the first opportunity.
The reasons why the authors of the Statement might have seen the opportunity to attack me, HoMs and the Ministry, including the Minister responsible for the Ministry, was left to speculation and caused confusion to me and my Ministry as it was dressed in spin language. I can only surmise the reasons as I was never alerted to any. On reflection and closer look at the contents of the Statement delivered, it appeared that the written and direct instructions of my Minister to me, that I had been following to the word, had not been sitting well or misconstrued by those outside with an interest on those instructions, who were indeed not team players but on a jaunt of their own, tightly managing their own interests. They cleverly accused the victims of not being team players or dropping the ball. I had been completely, perhaps most naively, oblivious to the build-up, as I had my head down and performing what I believed were the duties and the role of a Permanent Secretary, loyal and professional. I can safely say that each of my staff would vouch on that if they could speak without fear. I would have expected PS OPM to alert me, a close and dear friend and colleague but there was not even a hint from him that my Minister or indeed the AG had lost confidence in me. Perhaps he was not also privy to the plot. Was I a scapegoat? (in the Bible) a goat was sent into the wilderness after the Jewish priest had symbolically laid the sins of people upon it!
There might have been another reason. This concerned what I had perceived to be a dysfunctional relationship between the Ministry of Investment Trade and Tourism (MITT) and our Diplomatic Missions abroad, which sat across the globe in 18 strategic locations. The core functions of our bilateral Missions were indeed Investment, Trade and Tourism, falling squarely within the mandate of the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Tourism (MITT). My Heads of Missions, particularly those in bilateral Missions, had continuously expressed unhappiness at the traction they were getting from the MITT. Some Heads of Mission had briefed our Minister of their difficulties with MITT, on several occasions. This was serious and not a fiction of my imagination or arrogance. As Permanent Secretary responsible for the Missions, it was my responsibility to work towards making the relationship between the two Ministries work better, even if it meant MITT instructing, directing or managing ITT directly with the Missions or HOMs, without reference to me or MFA. I had tried very sensitively to remedy this through many discussions with my counterpart in MITT. One of my initiatives, with the full agreement of our Minister, was for the two Ministries to jointly host the Annual Heads of Missions Meeting (HOMM), with partnership being a core agenda item, a no brainer. Again, one of the Ministers outside of these two Ministries had earlier castigated me (and attacked the Head of Mission) in no uncertain terms, for me asking a Mission and the Trade Commission Office in the same country to work together in harmony, promoting trade and to recognise the Head of Mission in the country as the Chief Representative of Government. He had misinterpreted my initiative which was in response to genuine concerns expressed by my Head of Mission, as one trying to gain turf for my Ministry. Although I had never contemplated Trade returning to the Foreign Ministry, although many other countries familiar to ours and like ours, including our Minister, were recognising the synergies between trade and foreign policy. I was accused most unfairly of trying to do this to gain turf. The calling of Joint Hosting did not appear to sit in well with some!
There was another incidence of my questioning the Consultants from Baker and McKenzie on the CoP23 Presidency about the funding for the Presidency. MFA was told by PS (Econ) that there were no funds in the Secretariat for the Presidency and MFA had to pay some of travel expenses relating to the Presidency from its own budget, when the Ministry had no allocation for such expenses. I was always led to believe that funding for the Presidency would come from the Secretariat of the Presidency from donor funds. When I had found three months into the Consultancy that we did not have funding in the Secretariat, I remarked to the Consultants that one of their strongest pitch to obtain the consultancy was their ability to raise funding for the Presidency and three months down the road, there was none. I felt I was obliged to ask such questions as PS responsible for the Ministry’s budget and one of the Ministries reporting to the Secretariat directly on CoP23 matters. The Secretariat was headed by a consultant from Baker and Mackenzie. I realised later that it was not appropriate for a PS to ask such questions. I note from news this week that the Hon Prime Minister has expressed publicly his disappointment at the lack of donor funding.
As an example of interference in the work of the Ministry, I attach a personal email to me as an example of manipulation and interference in my work by persons having no authority to do so but felt that they had. I had not fully realized the intent of such attacks. At times also, some of my HOMs had raised legitimate questions in writing to me on how to respond to instructions passed on to them by this consultant who had no authority in those areas. I had sought instructions from the Prime Minster on these through the Prime Minister's Office. At times, governance was chaotic and we were walking constantly on egg shells. Instilling fear appeared to be the form of governance. Other PSs and Ministers have shared similar experiences of their own to me, particularly after my resignation.
The forces were much larger than me to comprehend as I was a mere civil servant and a trained professional civil servant to work within perimeters and be accountable to the public purse. My Minister and I were accountable to Parliament and the people of Fiji, for the actions of the Ministry. How could the Ministry accommodate interference by individuals who had no accountability? Another example of instructions sent to me by one of our Heads of Mission from a consultant will remain confidential, although passed to the Office of the Prime Minister. I, nor our HoMs, had any instructions to work for that consultant or any other Ministers?
I know the risk I am taking to respond to an attack, to ask for natural justice, the corner stone of our legal system. I take that right seriously as a civil servant and as a Fijian citizen. I have been trained in those values. I may be vilified further with opportunities and machineries more readily available to the strong and with their ability to spin without verifying facts, but let truth be the winner for the weak. I am prepared to take a risk to further the cause of good governance. I am ready to open myself to further vilification or punishment. As all this happened within days and leading up to the Holy Week of Easter, let me end up with words that was sent to me by a prominent individual after my resignation, to fit in with the message of our Holy Easter, which consoled that I was not alone,
Forsaken for Our Sake: Mt. 26:36-46
Jesus needed comfort as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew what he was about to face: betrayal, arrest and death. He asked His closest friends to stay and pray with Him, telling them that His soul was "overwhelmed with sorrow". But Peter, James and John kept falling asleep. Jesus faced the agony of the garden without comfort of a hand to hold. But because He bore that pain, we can be confident that God will never forsake us (Heb. 13:5). Jesus suffered so that we will never have to experience separation from the love of God (Rom. 8:39). His companionship makes anything we endure more bearable. Because of God's love, we are never truly alone.
With my best wishes. Let us Forgive. May the Almighty Guide You. Go Forth in Peace to serve our nation and each of our individual citizens as public servants
6 May 2017
HON PM BAINIMARAMA ADDRESS AT HEADS OF MISSIONS MEETING 2017
Ambassadors and High Commissioners
Consul-Generals and Trade Commissioners
Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.
We come together today at one of the most crucial moments in the history of Fiji’s relations with the rest of the world.
We are two months out from cohosting the UN Oceans Summit in New York, where we will confront the threat of pollution and overfishing to our way of life. And we are seven months out from presiding over COP-23 – the ongoing UN climate negotiations in Bonn on which our future also depends.
Time is running out for both. Preparations for the Oceans Summit appear to be well advanced. But we are hurrying across a broad front to meet a number of deadlines in relation to COP that must be met and require a lot more coordination.
In the first week of July – exactly three months away – the leaders of the Pacific nations, regional NGOs and the private sector will gather in this very room to prepare our regional response to the COP negotiations.
In the second week of October - six months from now – regional leaders will be back in Fiji and be joined by several global leaders for an all- important Pre-COP gathering in Denarau.
And then a month later comes COP itself in Bonn, where I will preside over the global negotiations on behalf of the whole world as President and the Attorney General and Minister responsible for Climate Change will lead the Fijian delegation.
I repeat – Suva in the first week in July. Nadi in the second week of October. And Bonn over two weeks in November. Three dates that I want etched in your minds this morning. As well as the Oceans Summit before that in New York in June.
Because this is by far the most important foreign policy commitment that we have ever undertaken. Not only on behalf of Fiji but the entire Pacific and every single climate-vulnerable nation in the world. So we have a mammoth task ahead of us.
Someone described COP to me as the diplomatic equivalent of the Olympics. Like any athlete, we must prepare for it. Which is why I will be undergoing a period of intense training starting this month on the technicalities of the negotiations. And mastering the COP Rulebook that it is my task to advance as President.
We will have to be at our intellectual and physical peak – both as individuals and as a nation. It is the biggest job the world has ever given us to do. It is a marathon and it is all uphill. Because we are taking on the presidency at a time when the multilateral consensus that we reached in Paris two year’s ago for radical cuts in carbon emissions is being challenged.
Ladies and gentlemen, one would have thought this COP would be reasonably routine - advancing the rulebook and preparing for the next stage of climate action through the Facilitative Dialogue of 2018. But we now find ourselves in the driver’s seat at perhaps the most critical COP of all. Bringing governments, civil society and the private sector together to defend the Paris Agreement and ensure that our hard-won gains aren’t eroded.
While the stakes for the whole world have never been greater, the stakes for the Pacific are even higher because we are among the most vulnerable to climate change. And our fate now hangs in the balance. The fate of our people and our island life. The fate of our nation and that of our neighbours. The fate of all we hold dear as Fijians and Pacific islanders.
The importance of this mission cannot be overstated. We are already extremely vulnerable at the current global temperature of one degree above that of the industrial age. We’re told that it may already be too late to save our reefs and we may already have to endure a drastic impact on our agriculture. But we desperately need the Paris Agreement to be fully implemented to save us from much worse. We desperately need the cap on global warming that it provides for to be embraced by every nation. Under two degrees and closer to 1.5 degrees. Because if we can’t get agreement on this, we are doomed. And much of the world is doomed.
The failure of the Paris Agreement would plunge Fiji and other vulnerable nations into a nightmare scenario. More extreme weather events, ever rising seas and a constant threat to our agriculture and food security.
We must use the COP presidency to do what we can to persuade the world to step back from the abyss. We must carry out the job that we have been given to the very best of our ability, mustering the best people we can.
Like a rugby coach on the eve of a crucial championship, I am going to be frank with you all. We need to come together as a team more now than ever before. Team Fiji. Working as one to pull off the greatest foreign policy challenge we have ever faced. To fulfill the trust that the world has placed in us. And bring honour to ourselves and to our beloved Fiji.
Every permanent secretary and every minister received a letter from me recently outlining their responsibilities. So you will need to adhere to them and convey them to your staff. The clock is ticking and I want everyone completely focused on what we have to do to make the Oceans Summit and COP 23 a success.
Total cooperation and constant contact are essential between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the COP 23 Secretariat that has been established in the Ministry of Economy on Level 9 of Suvavou House.
The Executive Director of that Secretariat is John Connor. Bula John and welcome to Fiji and we all look forward to your leadership and working with you.
John is the former head of the Australian Climate Institute. John built that Institute into an organisation that was respected by governments and the business community for its tough but evidence-based approach to climate policy. He has now brought those skills to Fiji. And it is to him that you will report on every aspect of COP and through him to the Minister Responsible for Climate Change – the AG – and me as COP president.
I also ask every single head of mission and every Fijian diplomat to make the Oceans Summit and COP your top priority – again working through the channels that I have established. In the case of COP, John Connor and his team.
Broadly speaking, we are running a two-tiered approach to COP. With the assistance of our climate consultants at Baker McKenzie - acknowledged experts who also assisted with COP 22 in Marrakesh – we are working on the technical details of what needs to be done. Something that involves both me as President and Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan as Fiji’s COP negotiator.
At the same time, we are building a grand coalition across the world of governments, civil society and the private sector to uphold the implementation of the Paris Agreement. Something that involves both me as incoming President and our Climate Champion, Minister Inia Seruiratu.
In parallel with this, we are building a grand coalition in the Pacific of governments, civil society and the private sector to form a collective Pacific Islands position to take to Bonn. And I wish to announce this morning that I have appointed Amena Yauvoli - someone who is well known to most of you and will join us, as a special representative, on secondment from the Melanesian Spearhead Group. Amena will work through the directions of John, out of the COP Secretariat to assemble this very special Pacific grouping, including current and former Pacific leaders. Because we want our Pacific brothers and sisters to stand shoulder to shoulder with us every inch of the way. In Suva in July, in Nadi in October and in Bonn in November as we put our case to the world that as the region bearing the brunt of climate change, the Pacific must be heard.
Ladies and gentlemen, I ask every one of you here today to support the great team we have assembled – and are still assembling - to chalk up a win in Bonn for Fiji and the world. Some of the team members are known to you. Other players are non-Fijians because they bring skills to the team that we don’t have but we need. Treat them as one of us. Respect their leadership and expertise.
I always say that we need to hire the best people we can find, irrespective of where they come from, and this applies most of all to COP 23. Because I repeat: this is the biggest thing we have ever done and time is getting away from us. And I want team players by my side as President, not turf warriors or empire builders. So that together, we can do the best we can for ourselves and the billions of other vulnerable people around the world.
In this spirit of teamwork, I want to say how delighted I am that for the first time, we have brought together the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism, as co-sponsors of this event.
Aside from Oceans and COP, the health of our economy and the effort to take the Fijian-Made brand of quality goods and services to the world are our overriding national imperatives. Our catch cry must be to work together. Because our export drive is the surest way to continue our record period of economic growth. And extend the prosperity that we are now witnessing to every Fijian.
I want our exporters to be given utmost attention by those who represent Fiji’s interests around the world. Just as I want these two key ministries to forge a much closer relationship on a daily basis than is currently the case.
Our Trade Commissioners, our Ambassadors and High Commissioners must work closely to maximise our export effort. Our Ambassadors and High Commissioners are our chief diplomatic representatives in the countries to which they are assigned. But like our Trade Commissioners, they must put trade at the top of their list of priorities also. Again, teamwork is the key and understanding and appreciating the different skill sets of each other is critical.
Ladies and gentlemen, I want to close by saying that for all our many challenges, we are privileged to be living in an age when the collective Fijian voice has never been stronger. Privileged to be living in an age when it has never been more respected.
The coming months are going to be tough as we shoulder the responsibilities that the world has entrusted to us. But with your assistance and commitment, I am convinced as incoming COP President that we are going to do it and we are going to do it well.
Good luck with your deliberations in the coming days and I leave you with one final message as your captain. Stay united over the coming months and keep your eye on the ball. And if you do that, we will all bring credit on our nation and stand taller than ever before in the eyes of the world.
I now have the great pleasure to declare the 2017 Heads of Missions meeting open.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.