Another dubious and shady Australian character was recently heard praising the illegal regime’s coup when he delivered a public lecture at the Fiji National University, in which he claimed that the pre-2006 elections were outside the perimeters of democratic ideals. He is another Peter, not the conman Peter Foster but Peter Lewis, former speaker and member of the South Australian Parliament.
In his lecture he added that pre-2006 elections were more likely to establish disproportionate privileges for ethnic groups. “Fiji’s recent experiences in regards to law and order itself show that those who exercised such power were ignorant of the consequences,” he said. Lewis said Fiji’s then constitutional structure provided some people with more than one vote electing representatives to the same Chamber and who were provided with more weight to their vote than others.
Lewis believes it is too simplistic to assume that Fiji’s Parliament and its government at the time of the coup was democratic just because people voted in elections. “To be democratic in the real sense, the electoral process needs to be based on one vote to each citizen and roughly equally populated electorate’s process regardless of their ethnicity,” he added.
He also questioned why Australia and New Zealand had taken a tough stand against Fiji. Lewis said it was for the people to decide on. “I cannot understand why the relationship between Fiji, Australia and New Zealand differs when compared to other countries that are worse off,” Mr Lewis said. He said there was no bloodshed taking place here compared to other countries, yet Australia and New Zealand had better relationships with these countries.
Who is this latest cheerleader of the regime? How did he end up delivering a public lecture on ‘Coups and Constructive Commitment’ at the Fiji National University? Ivan Peter Lewis was a member of the South Australian House of Assembly between 1979 and 2006. Between 1979 and 2000 he was in the HA as a Liberal MP. From 2000 until 2006 he served as an Independent. His decision in 2002 to support the Australian Labor Party resulted in a Labor State Government led by Mike Rann.
It was not long after his election in 1979 that he quickly gained a reputation as a maverick, defying his party bosses. In 2000, the Liberals had enough of him, and in July of the same year, expelled him from the Liberal Party. In 2002, he was re-elected when he contested his seat under the banner of the CLIC, the Community Leadership Independence Coalition. After the 2002 election, he gave his support to Labor, enabling it to form government. In return, he extracted a promise for the holding of a Constitutional Convention, and also that he be made Speaker, which he became, earning widespread attention for his colourful style of regulating parliamentary debate.
In 2002, he also came under the scrutiny of Australian media over his links to businessman and former criminal Terry Stephens. The two were alleged to have been involved in questionable business dealings regarding the sale of Lewis’s mining company Goldus to Stephen’s company Arrowlea. The Australian newspapers also revealed that Lewis’s nephew Gary Lewis, was an executive director of Arrowlea, which had its assets frozen after an Australian Securities and Investment Commission investigation found Stephens was a director of a company six months early after being convicted of fraud charges. Creditors of the failed venture later attempted to recoup losses through the sale of remaining assets.
Peter Lewis accused one local MP, Ivan Venning, of conducting a ‘smear campaign’ against him. Lewis was exonerated of any wrongdoing despite submitting himself to extensive police investigations. Stephens was later convicted of lying to smear Lewis.
In 2005, Peter Lewis faced a potential no-confidence motion after he and two of his volunteer staffers, Barry Standfield and Wendy Utting, alleged a sitting MP was a paedophile. Before a vote could be taken Peter Lewis resigned on 4 April 2005. In 2008 Standfield and Utting, were found not guilty of defamation over the claims. The next year Lewis did not stand for his seat of Hammond but instead stood as an independent for election to the Legislative Council. The voters rejected him. He received only 0.6% of the votes.
He owns eight mining leases, as well as interests in Goldus Operations and Mintech Resources.
What is his motive for praising the present regime? Is he planning to make a bid for Fiji’s goldmines?
It is worth pointing out that his two staffers, the child abuse activists, were acquitted because of the confusion in the law of defamation in South Australia. Besides naming two high-profile South Australian political identities, they had also named two senior police officers as alleged paedophiles. Just imagine Lewis’ two staffers fate if they happened to be speaking out against Esala Teleni, Fiji’s illegal police commissioner. They would have been marched straight to the army camps to do that favourite ‘punishment exercise’ or worse, like Peceli Rinakama, would have disappeared without trace for weeks in gestapo Fiji.
The two staffers, who performed volunteer work for Lewis, claimed that they were exercising their moral right and free speech – which is sorely lacking in Peter Lewis’s new found friends – in the illegal regime in Fiji, who have clamped down on the media and are going further to kill free speech with their media decree.
It is time the likes of Lewis stopped singing the praise of ‘coup paedophiles’ and the Fiji National University should stop providing a platform to a failed Australian politician, whose unsubstantiated paedophilia allegations against politicians and police officers was described as ‘the darkest in South Australia’s political history’. His allegations were described as ‘a shameful abuse of power’.
Peter Lewis, while bowing out of the Speaker’s chair, was unapologetic about his actions. An investigation into the claims found there was no evidence to support his allegations of paedophilia, that a then serving MP had preyed on boys at a gay meeting place in Adelaide.
We do not need a lecture from such a politician, and delivered under the auspices of Fiji National Univeristy in Suva.
Cabinet has approved the Fiji National University Decree 2009.
The Decree will establish the Fiji National University (FNU), which will be formed with the merger of six state-owned institutions namely the Fiji Institute of Technology (FIT), the Fiji School of Medicine (FSM), the Fiji School of Nursing (FSN), the Lautoka Teachers College (LTC), the Fiji College of Advanced Education (FCAE), and the Fiji College of Agriculture (FCA).
The University will commence operations in 2010.
Cabinet based its decision on a submission by the Minister for Education, National Heritage, Culture and Arts, Youth and Sports, Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment, Mr Filipe Bole.
Mr Bole said that an Interim Council for the FNU was formed earlier this year to carry out the necessary preparatory work in order for the University to commence operations from January 2010.