Tuesday, May 14, 2013
UNFORTUNATELY, on this occasion the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has the situation in Fiji wrong. As offensive as all democrats find a military regime, the party and trade union opposition to the Bainimarama government in Fiji does not have clean hands either.
The trade union officials who are, quite rightly, opposed to many of the restrictions imposed by the regime have been mostly supporters of a political party, the Fiji Labour Party, which is undemocratic, unrepresentative - except of a few cane farmers and long-term party hacks - and definitely not a desirable alternative to the present government. Indeed, the FLP is in the process of forming an electoral alliance with the most reactionary ethnic Fijian/itaukei party which includes all "the born to rule", anti-Indo-Fijian chiefs. The alliance is purely opportunistic and represents a return to the past which produced the military regime in the first place.
Thursday, March 7, 2013
|A tearful Viriseini Sanawa tells of the trauma she endured while watching the online video. |
Picture: Jone Luvenitoga/Fiji Times
"ISA na luvequ! Oilei turaga! Sa mosi dina na yaloqu, na cava beka e leqa (Oh my son! Oh Lord! My heart is in pain, what is the problem)."
These were words of 42-year-old Viriseini Sanawa, the mother of one of the two handcuffed men being brutalised by a group of men - identified as security forces - in an online video that went viral on Monday night. It is now being investigated by Fiji police.
It was after midday on Wednesday when Sanawa's neighbour called her to watch what they believed was her son being brutalised by the group in the tray of a truck. She said the family did not mention anything about the video until she watched it and confirmed it was her son, Iowane Benedito.
"Isa, koya saraga qo na luvequ. Isa, Iowane na luvequ (That's my son ... Iowane, my son).
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL has called for an independent and transparent investigation into the Fiji assault of two prisoners by apparent plainclothes security forces as a public outcry climbed over brutal torture scenes portrayed in a leaked video.
The global human rights organisation said torture was unacceptable under any circumstances and those responsible for the shocking scenes on the video should be brought to justice.
Police spokesman Inspector Atunaisa Sokomuri said in a press conference in Suva yesterday that the force was disturbed to see the video of what appeared to be the abuse of two men understood to be recaptured prisoners. But added that they were not the fugitives who escaped from Naboro Prison last year.
Fiji Times EDITORIAL by Fred Wesley
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
AS police investigate the circumstances surrounding a video that shows a group of men brutally assaulting two handcuffed men, a lot of questions will emerge.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
There has been a great deal of angst over Commodore Bainimarama’s draft Media Industry Development Decree 2010 which features harsh penalties for journalists and news organisations which breach vaguely worded content regulations. Being a freedom of speech kind a guy, I can see too why this isn’t a good thing. However, Fiji isn’t New Zealand and each country has its own solutions to particular issues of the time.The other half of Whale Oil's column picks up on Café Pacific's recent posting about Radio NZ's Nights programme host Bryan Crump "dumping" one of the better informed Fiji analysts, Crosbie Walsh, formerly director of development studies at the University of the South Pacific. A case of silencing one of the dissenting voices that don't fit the politically correct view of Fiji?
It is extremely hypocritical of us to wave the finger at Fiji over press freedoms while at the same time having free trade agreements with other, far more authoritarian regimes. Currently we have:
New Zealand-Hong Kong, China Closer Economic Partnership (NZ-HK CEP was signed on 29 March 2010 but not yet entered into force)
New Zealand-Malaysia Free Trade Agreement (MNZFTA was signed on 26 October 2009 but not yet entered into force)
ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA) – 2010 New Zealand-China Free Trade Agreement (NZ-China FTA) – 2008 Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (TransPac) – 2005
New Zealand-Thailand Closer Economic Partnership (NZTCEP) – 2005
New Zealand-Singapore Closer Economic Partnership (NZSCEP) – 2001
Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relationship (CER) – 1983
Of those, only Australia has true freedom of the press. The Asean Nations (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam) with the sole exception of the Philippines, and even that is marginal, re true democratic countries, the rest, including Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand are authoritarian.
If you don’t think Thailand is, then try and write something in the press against the King of Thailand and see where that gets you. There are no freedoms that we take for granted in Hong Kong and China yet we have deemed it desirable to have a FTA and also to not comment on their internal politics.
So why is Fiji different. is it because government was formed at the point of a gun? Yes? Then what about China? Their government was formed at the point of a gun when the Communists overthrew the legitimate Kuomintang government in 1949.
At the moment we are also busily negotiating anti freedom treaties like the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), a law and treaty at the behest of big business, but I don’t notice Keith Locke or Labour railing against that. We are also negotiating an FTA with countries from the Gulf States, (Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the sultanate of Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.). Autocracies the lot of them without exception.
And so I come to Fiji again. For some reason New Zealand has a fixation, mostly for the negative for Fiji. As I have demonstrated we want and have FTA’s with countries with far worse political situations, far worse human right records, and yet we impose sanctions upon Fiji and travel bans. The latest outcry has been over press freedoms yet in our own country of New Zealand we have government organisations curtailing freedoms with a self imposed censorship.
These are media organisations that continue to spread rumour, innuendo and straight out lies about the situation in Fiji and Radio New Zealand, in particular, has taken a line of shutting down any dissenting voice from the political group think about how “we” are supposed to think about Fiji.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
INTRIGUING to have a slightly satirical local edition of the "Fiji Times" on hand at this month's week-long exhibition featuring inspiration and oppression in the Salon in Auckland's funky K Road zone. Nothing like the real rag (fortunately), apart from a fleeting typographical resemblance to a masthead of yesteryear. Café Pacific dropped in to the launch and was pleased to see friends and colleagues from the old USP days, Luisa Tora and Sangeeta Singh. And to savour their creativity.
However, most inspirational was Torika Bolatagici Vetuna's "Protect Me" digital chromgenic print of a Fiji gag. (A tame poster version of this is pictured above). She has now donated the work to Tautai Trust Tsunami Relief Auction. Sangeeta's faceless and sombre "Resilience" was also appealing. And Luisa Tora's stark poster "Faith" (first instalment of a trilogy) featuring Police Commissioner Esala Teleni is now off to a new home in Christchurch.
All five Fiji women artists plus curator Ema Tavola essentially had an optimistic message in their creations. But it struck me what a sign of the times when a mood of censorship and vindictiveness abounds in Fiji leads mean-spirited countrymen back home to quickly bully their way onto the blogosphere.
Jone Kvie completely missed the point when he posted this on Pacific Scoop:
Debating and worrying about issues such as democracy, human rights and militarism are wonderful in the abstract, but actually mean very little to people in Fiji. I am quite sure an exhibition such as this held in Fiji would get the short-shrift it deserved from the majority of the population because it is speaking with an [un]authentic voice. It is not their voice, it is the voice of ex-residents who pride themselves in running Fiji down. Far from being part of the solution, these "so-called artists" are the problem.But pleasing to see Ema Tavola bring him back to earth:
Thanks Jone for sharing your opinions. It’s a common perception that the modern arts are a frivolous waste of time, I agree in many cases. But in this case, I beg to differ.
Our website is http://FijiTimes.wordpress.com – the "so-called-artists" are largely qualified, respected, academic, loyal Fiji Islanders who use their visual arts practices not to run down Fiji but to understand, question and explore their personal relationships with Fiji and our political realities, from their positions of living in diaspora.
Since she joined Manukau City in New Zealand, Ema has been a cultural breath of fresh air. Vinaka vakalevu.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Security forces in Fiji have become increasingly menacing towards people who oppose the regime, including journalists and human rights defenders. Fiji is now caught in a downward spiral of human rights violations and repression.China was singled out as the most serious culprit for ignoring human rights while propping up the Bainimarama regime with aid. This was just a week after Fiji had been fully suspended from the Commonwealth.
Only concerted international pressure can break this cycle.
However, while the 48-page Amnesty report, Fiji, Paradise Lost, described a litany of repression and censorship against the media (and a host of other human rights violations against the public at large) and arbitrary arrests of some 20 journalists under the notorious Public Emergency Regulations (PER) since April 10, other journalists and the media were singling out Australia and New Zealand as the main culprits for failed policies over Fiji.
According to an editorial in the upstart - but increasingly impressive - new Auckland-based Indo-Fijian newspaper Indian Weekender, the West’s attitude to Fiji “has changed the region’s geopolitics”. The isolationalist policy driven largely by “belligerent” Australia and New Zealand has created the power and influence vacuum that China is now happily filling. Wrote editor Dev Nadkarni, a longtime resident of Fiji as a former journalism school coordinator:
Fiji is too important to be trivialised with the insensitive approach that New Zealand and Australia have had toward it over the past two and a half years. It has always been the gateway to the South Pacific and will remain so.
Any attempts to shift it to a neighbouring country like Samoa – which Samoa’s leadership has repeatedly sought – is wishful thinking and well nigh impossible for reasons of its inferior infrastructure, costs and sheer logistics, which New Zealand and Australia simply cannot afford.The Weekender added:
The geopolitics of the Pacific has been in slow ferment for about two decades now with Asian powers like China, Taiwan and Japan playing increasingly important roles in its development. It will now begin to accelerate. And the West’s handling of the Fiji situation since early 2007 has already proved to be the catalyst.Writing in the same paper, academic and political commentator Subhash Appana attacked the “hostility, speculation and demonisation” of Fiji in the Western media, particularly Australia and New Zealand. He claimed most of the NZ reporting was being done by biased journalists who had either “run foul of the coup regime" or had a “hard done by acquaintance”. Before citing a range of alleged biased reporting examples by Television New Zealand, including by Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver, Appana wrote:
Their takes on Fiji have been … tainted. This article analyses blinkered reporting on Fiji in New Zealand, and attempts to place on the public platter a more dispassionate view on the Pacific’s pariah state.He was also highly critical of how most reporters in NZ kept playing a race card in their stories.
Continued reference to Indians and how they ‘support’ this coup is not only lazy, it is unprofessional. If the Fiji Indian succumbs to the human weakness of feeling perverse pleasure at the forced education of fence-sitters and coup-supporters, should he be blamed for it? … The media [in NZ] would do well to rethink the need for balance in reporting.The previous week, the established rival Indian Newslink editor Venkat Raman returned from a seven-day trip to Fiji and published a 24-page “special report”, including a contributed article by self-declared interim Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama. Raman was also scathing about biased reporting in the NZ media.
But the strongest comments came from former Fiji Daily Post publisher Thakur Ranjit Singh in his characteristic feisty style. In a commentary for Pacific.Scoop railing against a press that “did not understand Fiji democracy”, he claimed:
When journalists from Samoa and Tonga have a field day in either the Pacific Freedom Forum or other media outlets in shedding tears for a Fiji democracy that failed to deliver social justice, there was no Indo-Fijian journalist in sight to rebut the nonsense coming out from Polynesian countries which themselves are bereft of the democracy they want for Fiji.Pictured: Amnesty International researcher Apolosi Bose. Photo: PMC/Del Abcede
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
There is an uncanny calmness because people have to continue to work and children have to continue to go to school, so I guess there is also a sense of "life must go on." However, there is also uncertainty, especially with the control of information through the mainstream media, and this is most apparent in rural communities who were already living within the reality of an information and communication gap.AWID: What are women's experiences [like] living under military rule?
Talking to rural women also, especially those who have suffered due to the devastating floods in January this year, there is still a sense of reliance on the government to provide, but at another level we are not sure just how much available financial resources the administration has to support the social welfare and rural development needs of these communities. It will be very interesting to see what the outcomes of the national budget for 2010 will look like.
Mainstream information and communication is seriously controlled. Our organisation runs a community radio and is also subject to censorship by the military. We have to send our broadcast log and community news collation to the Ministry of Information prior to each broadcast. We are also intently monitored when we are on air, and on our monthly “Enews bulletin” and “Community Radio Times". This very much reminds me of the media control following the first military coup on 14 May 1987.
However, we are hoping that we can continue with our work, despite there being restrictions on public meetings. We have been able to produce a new “Women, Peace and Human Security” radio series from our visits, as I have been able to conduct rural consultations during the last three weeks and hope that we will also be able to stage the rural broadcasts with our community radio station.
Community or alternative media is a critical space right now. Even if we are only communicating within an 8-10 km radius, it is an important space that we will work hard to retain. Ultimately though, with information and communication channels being tightly controlled, rural women will continue to be further marginalised and isolated.
femLINK Pacific has been advocating the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 which mandates the meaningful participation of women in peace-building processes and this has now been stalled because processes of engagement such as the Political Dialogue Forum do not seem to be an immediate priority of the new order. However, I feel that as the women's movement we need to find ways in which we can continue our work safely.
I will address this from the micro or grassroots level first. Going back to the military coup of December 2006, when I travelled out to meet women in rural communities, there was a sense of isolation from what was happening in the capital city as well as a reality that they just needed to get their children back to school and provide for their families. You need to appreciate that these are women from informal settlements, women who sell at the local markets, who live in squatter settlements or traditional settings, so for them the information and news was very confusing. If we are to make a difference as a women's movement, this is where we need to strengthen our work and efforts.How have women's organisations responded to these challenges?
Right now the feeling is the same, especially since many of the women whom we work with experienced the brunt of the devastating floods in January 2009 and are still trying to put their lives back together, so their immediate priority is their families. On our recent visits the key insecurities identified were economic, health, environmental, as well as human security issues relating to infrastructure like improved roads and water supply.
There is also a sense of fear and uncertainty as with any political crisis. I feel that the military has demonstrated its might very early on and the ongoing detention of anyone who is considered to be a risk in light of the Public Emergency Decree is a way to silence any possible opportunity to publicly denounce the actions - and if you did, with the media control in place, it would be very unlikely that your message would be heard. So we do need to consider alternatives. What is critical right now is to ensure women's realities are not lost in the political maze and that the status, particularly of rural women, can provide critical development benchmarks to demonstrate that we need democratic governance so that women can have a place in decision making for their peace and human security.
There is also a need to link the growing violence, especially sexual and domestic violence to the political realities and how these impact very clearly on the status of women.
Dating back to 1987, following each military or civilian coup, women have responded actively calling for respect for the rule of law and human rights, and these have been acts of peace and non violence. Women have been detained in 1987 and again in 2006 for their work. Women human rights activists in particular were detained and suffered at the hands of the military following the takeover in 2006.What do you see as a viable way to get Fiji back to democratic governance, and what will women's roles?
Women have rallied together, through silent peace vigils which demonstrate our commitment to peace and make the point that we will not be silenced by the acts of the overthrow of any democratic government. We have negotiated at the policy level, as well as by using our women's networks to communicate with other key political players.
Women have documented events, they have spoken out on human rights abuses and they have also been involved in ongoing lobbying and advocacy especially for a formal and mediated dialogue process which would have the support of the UN and the Commonwealth Secretariat. But this is not easy especially as these are new concepts which need to be discussed and understood by the broader movement, by more women.
A challenge has been the diverse viewpoints and perspectives within civil society on the styles of engagement with those who now have political power, and also on the process of the development of a People's Charter which now is the mandate of the current political administration, and so we have to better understand each other in order to be able to move forward collectively.
There is a critical need to continue to strengthen women's capacity as leaders and negotiators during this current period. It is critical for women to understand how to negotiate and proceed through some very new waters, as well as how not to lose sight of the need to attain parliamentary democracy while we address some critical development issues, such as the feminisation of poverty, which is a stark reality right now.Sharon Bhagwan Rolls is coordinator of femLINK Pacific and a women’s human rights advocate. Pictured: FemLINK Pacific's community radio takes to the streets of Suva. Veena Singh Bryar does an interview during a 16-day activist broadcast campaign in December 2008. Photo: FemLINK Pacific.
Also, how do we analytically respond to developments at the macro-economic level? Especially when women continue to face the brunt of their poverty situation - poverty of opportunity, information as well as the reality of struggling to pay school fees, rent and other expenses. This is the situation faced by rural women, older women and women with disabilities and other marginalised groups.
So any process must ensure that women are empowered to speak and be heard, especially since we can, as women, also perpetuate the traditional barriers of decision making.
We need to be assisted in this dialogue process. We cannot simply focus on the process of elections. We also need to be able to analytically address poverty which is extremely disempowering to women and affects their engagement in any political process. We need to be able to address issues of security sector governance and we also need to prepare women who are willing to participate in future elections.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
“We are afraid for our lives,” one of the victims, who would not be named, told The Times. "My wife and I don’t sleep at night, we are always wondering when the next bomb will come or when they will come for us with their guns. I have been imprisoned and beaten all over my body and face; they told me that the next time they come for me my wife can pick up my body from the morgue.” This is not Zimbabwe or Burma. This is Fiji, the tourist jewel of the South Pacific and, until recently, the most sophisticated of the island nations in this region.A world away from the Fiji described a couple of days earlier by the Fiji-born Walkley Award-winning investigative journalist Graham Davis. Previously working with the Nine Network’s Sunday programme, Davis, 56, is now a principal of Grubstreet Media. His article, "Dealing with the dictator", in The Australian had far greater depth and insight. As you would expect with a journalist with much better grasp of the root causes of Fiji’s despair. Most journalists are reporting the crisis as if it is something that just brewed a couple of weeks ago, or at the most a couple of years or so ago – when Voreqe Bainimarama staged the first round of his coup and ousted the “democratic” prime minister Laisenia Qarase in December 2006. No sense of the history of the past two decades, or indeed the deep structural political problems and injustice bequeathed to Fiji by the British at independence in 1970. Davis challenged Australian (and other?) media to interrogate the “good guy, bad guy” narrative in a country that under Qarase turned two-fifths of its population into second class citizens.
The bad guys, of course, are held to be Bainimarama and his patron, Fiji's octogenarian President, Josefa Iloilo, who have defied the courts by ruling out any popular vote until they can change the electoral system. The good guys are those calling for an immediate election: a coalition of lawyers, human-rights activists and elements of the local media, plus the man Bainimarama deposed at gunpoint in 2006, former prime minister Laisenia Qarase. It's time to dispense with this simplistic premise because a compelling argument can be made that, in fact, the reverse is true; that Bainimarama and Iloilo, for all their flaws, are embarked on the more worthy crusade. Or certainly more worthy than they're being given credit for by their burgeoning number of foreign opponents. The Fiji saga, by its very nature, defies simplicity, yet stripped to its bare essentials presents the international community with a stark choice between upholding the principle of democracy now and sacrificing racial equality in the process. Wait five years - maybe less if some international agreement could be brokered - and we might get both.His article won applause from Fiji’s chief information manipulator, Major Neumi Leweni, so it’s probably the kiss of death for Davis. In fact, he immediately copped abusive flak from some of the more rabid Fiji blogs. But it is refreshing to have this perspective from Davis, given that most media have not been giving the full story as partially aired on Media 7 and Shine TV this week. Croz Walsh's blog is still the most useful for a running analysis without all the vitriol.
One of the most bizarre events of this week of paranoia and the crushing of free speech was the spectre of the man who started Fiji's coup culture, Sitiveni Rabuka, calling for a free media. Rabuka - who staged both of the original coups in 1987 and then was elected prime minister twice – also called for the regime to relax its crackdown and open the door for foreign journalists. However, to his credit, after the rough times he dealt the press in the barracks' year zero, he mellowed and his charismatic style and openness was genuinely liked by most media people. A contrast to Bainimarama.
Ironically, his military boss (and chief) whom he ousted as a commoner (unthinkable then) in the double coup in May 1987, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, is now Vice-President of the Easter regime.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
One can love Fiji. It truly is unique among the Pacific Islands. After more than 20 years and four or five coups, three High Court judges decided that the acts of the President after the December 2006 military coup were lawful; that the President had reserve power to ratify the acts of the military in the takeover; to grant immunity to those who did the coup; and that he could act without any specific authority derived from the Constitution.
Hot on this decision by the courts arrives a comment by Pacific Islands Forum Chairman Toke Talagi that the court ruling on the legality of the interim Government and its promulgations will perpetuate Fiji's coup culture.
I am so excited as I really thought that the coups in Fiji were going to end. That's what the National Council for Building a Better Fiji (NCBBF) have been telling me and they must be worried. For just on a year they have been talking about change, peace and progress and a better Fiji for all. The draft charter - all 200,000 copies of them all say in English, Hindi and Fijian - we love you all - Indo-Fijians, indigenous Fijians and Others. I fall into that last category, I am sure.
Fiji is special. There is plenty of generosity and it comes from unusual sources. Mick Beddoes, big in body and even bigger in generosity has just returned the $100 he received from the NCBBF when he attended one of its opening meetings. At that time he obviously believed in building a better Fiji, but then perhaps he thought better of that dangerous idea and left.
Since then he has been accused of taking the $100 meeting attendance money and using it for his own benefit. His cry to the moon and the nation at large that he had to cover his transport costs went unheeded.
So now, the money comes back to the government. The media quoted Mick Beddoes saying that he was requesting a payment of only 46 cents an hour. Good old Mick. We need more people like him. But he could have been more generous and given the money to the poor and his 46 cents too, when he gets it. After all we have one in three people here living in poverty. Even 46 cents buys half a loaf of bread. The poor can fish anyway. Who knows what good could be done with half a loaf and some small fish?
I noted in my newspaper reading that Manasa Lasoro, one of the leaders of the Methodist church was lamenting that many of the prison inmates in Fiji prisons are Methodists. I would advise him not to worry. There are long term benefits. The government pays for food and accommodation of those members who wander in a wayward manner from his flock. That allows more money for him and his leaders to travel around the country band to denounce the People's Charter with its message of love, jobs, housing, education, health care and equal votes.
I would also advise Manasa Lasaro to also see his problems with his wayward flock in relation to the National Census of last year that shows that the Indo-Fijian population has decreased by 27,227. Now, I think many of those people went overseas, as they are obviously not in prison with his Methodist flock. Besides, I assume they were possibly Hindus.
If the Methodist Church waits long enough they will surely get rid of all those annoying Indo-Fijian families who were born here and work hard to educate their children, to toil in the canefields and to worship in small temples that are destroyed in a regular manner, by, I assume, Methodists - no, I had better say wayward Christians.
Getting rid of these annoying people is merely a matter of time and some army support. All we need are more army coups and more time to can raise the migration figures of Indo-Fijian to go overseas until there are none of them left. Then we will have completed two tasks. every Indo-Fijian and their religion too will be gone and
the coups will stop.
But, and here is the irony. We need many more coups before every Indo-Fijian will have migrated to those two horrible places called Australia and New Zealand. There are still 311, 591 Indo-Fijians in the country, according to the last census. We have a task ahead.
How many years will it take - this equation includes - some more racism, certainly a few coups and more education for Indo-Fijians so as to increase the pace of migration and make them more acceptable to New Zealand and Australia.
What names would I advise to sit on any Royal Commission on Fijian Migration? I could start with Mr Qarase and a few leaders from the Methodist Church who for the last two years have been talking as if they are the only Gods and know the correct answers. Yet, these are the very people who befitted from the actions of one Mr George Speight, a former coup leader who is still in prison.
When all Indo-Fijians have left the country, Mr Speight could then instruct the forever increasing Methodist population of the prisons to rise up and protest. And guess what, the army would then have some nasty suppression work to do, while the Indo-Fijians, who will be now Indo-Aussies and Indo-Kiwis will celebrate their Diwali in peace.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Many of the local media in Fiji were quick to seize on the regime handout about the adjudication. Radio Fiji summed it up by saying "controversial journalist Michael Field has been rebuked by the BSA ..." Fiji Daily Post ran an article by Fiji Human Rights Commission director Dr Shaista Shameem, claiming - unfairly - Michael Field "'wings' it when he can" in an article under the headline "The writing on the wall". Even NZPA circulated a piece that largely echoed the Fiji government line that was also run on Field's own media organisation's Stuff website. Kiwiblog highlighted the actual inaccurate statements and sparked a handful of responses, one posting noting that the Fiji regime should be recognised as the "nearest thing there is to a benign military junta". Field himself, according to an email to Pacific Media Watch, regards the reporting "shallow" and the adjudication itself as "interesting". Bruce Hill also gave the issue an airing on Radio Australia's On The Mat.
Meanwhile, in other blood-letting about the Fiji media and politics, former Fiji Daily Post publisher Thakur Ranjit Singh has been riled by Kamal Iyer's one-sided monologues in the Fiji Times about life under the regime. He has written an alternative view of balance and fairness. Singh also takes a potshot at conflicts of interest in the Fiji media.
- BSA upholds complaint against Radio NZ
- Standards body slams Field
- The writing on the wall - Shaista Shameem on Michael Field
- Kiwiblog on BSA ruling
- Full text of BSA adjudication
- A crying need for a 'balanced, neutral and fair' media in Fiji - Thakur Ranjit Singh
- On The Mat features the Michael Field adjudication
Monday, September 8, 2008
Fiji is funny. The coup is now generating humour and the past politicians are becoming hilarious. Eighteen months after the coup of December 2006 Laisenia Qarase, the former Prime Minister was kicked out of government, his government house and his government car. He has now realised that something is wrong and become so incensed that he filed a treason complaint with the police on the grounds that the December 6 coup was illegal.
Treason. Doesn’t the word make you cringe, go pale with fear at being hanged, drawn and quartered or at least exiled for life to the island of St Helena where you will view the house where Napoleon Bonaparte contemplated his glorious past, France, freedom and failure?
Qarase lodged his treason claims against a formidable group of people that include the Interim Prime Minister who led the coup, the Chief of Police who was an army officer and part of the coup. Oh, yeah, did I forget to tell you it was the coupmaster who made him Chief of Police.
But there are civilians on the alleged traitors list too. It includes the aged and dignified Catholic Archbishop Petero Mataca and the 45 members of The National Council for Building a Better Fiji (NCBBF). One name on the list is John Samy, the gentle spoken boss of the NCBBF Secretariat who has led the way writing the People’s Charter with its message of love thy neighbour.
Dear John also appeared on the front page of (The Fiji Sun, September 6) with his photograph and the headline "Coup was illegal: Samy". He denies saying that, but it brings a smile or scowl to the face, but which face or faces!
I’m not sure who all the 45 members of the NCBBF are but they include Mahendra Chaudhry, who must have got wind of the treason charge as he resigned from the council a few weeks ago and is now defending himself with a phalanx of political jargon. There are another 44 other people on that guilty council list. They include academics, traditional chiefs, business people, trade unionists, a woman from an NGO and a priest who has spent many years helping the poor.
Obviously this is a meddling priest. We all know that there only around half the nation live in poverty or damn near it. This priest says so little about the other half of the population. Now, there is prejudice for you, and as we learned from Qarase – treason!
Mick Beddoes, the former leader of the Opposition, is an interesting guy. Big in body, bold in voice and so convinced that he is right. He has now publicly supported the treasonous charge brought by Qarase and company against the army and those nasty NCBBF members.
But, wait, there is more. If you had watched the Fiji TV news on Monday, September 8, there was a news item saying that Mick, the man, has joined the NCBBF when it started. He attended the meeting, took the allocated allowances and then resigned. So Mick, the man must also want to be in court in the defendants’ box when the treason trial begins. Good man, that Mick is, he recognises the error of his ways, and is preparing to suffer the consequences. I don’t know if he is Catholic or Methodist or whatever, but on St Helena, I am sure the Archbishop will give Mick good Christian counselling.
This Mikado story took another turn today. A former Fiji police commissioner said in a serious voice, so we would not laugh, that it would be difficult for the present police commissioner to be impartial in his investigations of the Qarase accusations, when he is also mentioned in the complaint, as being implicated in the coup.
Let me end with Major Lewini, the government spokesperson who seems to be
always lost for words, but who can make up for it with scowls and a few mumbled key phrases. Today he inferred that Qarase and his team are having foul fun and no good would come out it. Other men make the humour, Lewini is the straight man. We do need a reality check in Fiji, or at least in Suva, where all this stage cavorting is going on.
Last Sunday on TV, the interviewer was conducting a serious discussion on proposed new rules for the next general election. He said to one of the participants who was talking about recreating part of the political past, that the boat has already left the wharf. A neat metaphor.
The way I see it, the boat left the wharf during December 2006 and it’s getting further away. It’s difficult to see when it’s going to return and when it does, will it hit the wharf with a great wallop and damage both the people and the goods on board?
Thursday, August 28, 2008
The Fiji military had only a few warm days of love from the public after they had executed the fourth coup in December 2006. Many Fijians and Indo-Fijians welcomed the army intervention into their lives as they watched Prime Minister Qarase and his government leave their official homes and hand over their government issued four-wheel drives.
The army quickly accused Qarase of corruption. Chief Justice Fatiaki was also accused of corruption and suspended on full pay, but 18 months on little has happened to prove either man guilty or innocent. The courts seem clogged up or fogged up in their decision-making. They have still even answered the basic question - was the Constitution abrogated when Bainimarama and his gun-toting soldiers took over the nation? The government was kicked out with guns pointing at them, the President dismissed and then reinstated. Yet we have had a key organisation like the Fiji Human Rights Commission saying the Constitution might still be in place and we should await a decision from the courts. Really!
Even a number of judges are convinced the Fiji Constitution has gone the way of all flesh, and they are not waiting for the High Court to tell them otherwise. Justice Gerard Winter said the “risk to the maintenance of the rule of law was too great a price to pay” and Justice French questioned the ethics of taking up a job in Fiji with the comment that “it comes at too high a price”.
The military has been active during its reign. CEOs have lost their jobs overnight. Others have been appointed, then dismissed without warning and replaced. This has been the modus operandi in Fiji for the last 18 months. Two expatriate publishers working for the two main newspapers have been deported on the first plane out of the country without their families. The full reasons for deportation have never been given.
An army officer soldier is now the police chief. TV has an army officer watching them on a daily basis. Journalists get regularly taken to the army camp to be intimidated with soldiers strutting around, enduring long interrogations and spending time in a cell. The most recent case was a newspaper journalist who was several months pregnant.
Files are seized without warning from offices during sudden raids. Few files are returned and few charges have been laid. The feeling among thinking citizens is that the army is gradually tainting its reputation by acting as if it always has had the moral high ground. The most recent example was when the army commander, who is also the interim Prime Minister, collected just under $200,000 for his untaken leave. In any other organisation he would have been forced to take the leave or he would have lost it.
The army decided to make its own summer. It established a 45 person committee to prepare a People's Charter, a modern Fiji Magna Carta to help the poor and oppressed, make jobs and eliminate racism and corruption. The People’s Charter is to reform Fiji and lead it onward to a prosperous and harmonious future. That is the sales pitch. It proposes to help the poor and there are certainly enough of them. One third of the nation lives below the poverty line. Many of them struggle to make a livelihood in dirty inhumane conditions. Five years ago a survey identified 182 squatter settlements, today there are more than 200 with a population of around 100,000. According to Wadan Narsey, an economist and academic, the poor have been expanding at 1% a year since 1987. Mr Rabuka, are you listening?
When it was drafted it was to be presented to the people for their approval. Many good citizens agreed to help with its work – academics, lawyers, church officials, business people and some NGOs. The draft of the People's Charter devised by the National Council for Building a Better Fiji (NCBBF) is now out and about and being distributed around the country. There are 200,000 copies printed in three
The draft charter has numerous recommendations for improving health, education and helping the poor, but there are only a few recommendations in it requiring legislative changes. One key proposal is for the electoral voting system to be reformed to a proportional representation system with each person having only one vote for one candidate in any general election. Racial elements in the voting system are to be dismembered.
All citizens will be called Fijians and all government records reflecting racism will be erased. And at this moment a huge campaign has begun by the NCBBF to spread the word around the country about the content and principles in the draft charter. The public are invited to read the charter and attend a series of public meetings. At the end of these meetings the public will be offered a form to sign saying that they approve or disapprove of the charter. On the surface this seems a harmless action, but both the Secretariat boss of the NCBBF and an academic of the University of the South Pacific have publicly said that if more than half the population think the Charter is a good idea, and they say so by ticking the approval part of their forms, this action could be seen as taking part in an unofficial referendum. If over half the nation says they approve of the charter ideas the military will love them and so will the NCBBF.
While the NCBBF seems to be full of good men and women who are doing their best to lead Fiji forward by “change, peace and progress”, it is apparent that the hard work of consultation and listening to the views of the nation means damn all to the military, who have already made their minds up that the charter will become the blueprint for developing Fiji.
Now events have moved towards a bitter winter of discontent. The military want the charter to be accepted. Other groups want it to fail. Former Prime Minister Qarase has denounced the charter and he has a big following with his political party. The Methodist Church with its dubious record of supporting previous coups, but not the present one, has become moralistic and pure and talks about democracy. This is the most important church in the country as far as the indigenous Fijians are concerned. Recently, NCBBF took around copies of the charter to the Methodist church office only to have them refused and returned.
Ironically, this event was caught on cameras and made the 6 pm news. The Methodist leaders rejected the Charter without even discussing it. Some traditional chiefs have also come out against the charter. Each day the newspapers have yet another article about the charter and numerous letters.
So where do we go from here? There are meetings planned by the NCBBF to take place in most of the towns and villages in Fiji. Here they will gather public opinion. Their hard work comes to a peak in October when the President will be presented with the draft of the People’s Charter and any amended recommendations. It will then be up to the ailing President and the army commander to say what the next moves will be. My guess is that the army will quickly want to get the electoral system changed to one with proportional representation. Only then can an election day can be scheduled and the military will be able to say with a straight face that they are planning to return the country to democratic rule. In the meantime they bluster, bully the media and blame Australia and New Zealand for not supporting a coup!
What will to be decided after October is crucial to Fiji’s future. Decisions made by the President, the army commander and his hidden supporters will clearly be undemocratic, but they should lead towards a sunny summer day of democracy in either 2009 or 2010.
Do the citizens of Fiji live in hope? All, I hope, live so.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
“While there is a clamor for a political identity at the national level there is also demand for distinctive ethnic diversity. The search for political equilibrium in Fiji’s communal democracy has been constantly subverted by indigenous ethno-nationalism, justified by the ideology of paramountcy of Fijian interests.”
The 2000 coup brought to surface a lot of contradictions of communal democracy. “But the State system has not in itself changed despite the change in ideological and professional focus of the military from being an institution of indigenous rights to one which serves national interest."
The 2006 coup was an attempt to transform the identity of the state in a fundamental way through institutional reform and a proposed charter, he said. And now the debate is on about the legitimacy of this approach.
Fair enough, but this is journalism 101 - one of the fairness foundations of journalism that reporters grow up with. It is in the interpretation of fairness where the credibility gap begins. She complains that journos in the Pacific don't know enough about the difference between "coverage" and "cover-up". And she reckons that the "worldview of owners" is too influential. On her checklist for journos is:
- "There is no such thing as objectivity of perspective; there are only subjectivities, including prejudices, and these must be kept firmly under control to protect journalistic professionalism.
- "The right to a fair hearing is a requirement in reporting a story..."
In her book, there is far too much "manipulation" by media in the Pacific. But the chapter is generalised with no specific examples of her claims. In her adjudication in the Hunter and Hannah complaint (filed by "Opposition Leader" Mick Beddoes), there is an attack on an alleged "conspiracy" involving the New Zealand government - highlighted today by the Sunday-Star Times.
Meanwhile, media freedom in the region continues to deteriorate with Cook Islands News publisher John Woods becoming the latest journo to face the wrath of bureaucratic or judicial vindictiveness. He has been convicted of contempt in the High Court on Rarotonga over the breach of a suppression order related to a Manihiki land controversy.
Mike Field and others have also reported on the police raid on Fiji Television to block a Close Up current affairs programme featuring Rajendra Chaudhry that irked the regime.
Friday, May 2, 2008
What should be the eve of a global commemoration - when we celebrate the contribution of all forms of media to development and the empowerment of communities - we are reminded that we live in the shadow of a power that chooses to control the way in which information and communication is developed and delivered.
We live in a time when all people, but especially rural and remote communities, should be able to freely access a range of information, as well as feel safe and confident to share their viewpoints, in order to actively engage and participate in the the return to parliamentary democracy.
Given the current campaign of the National Council for Building a Better, this action does not augur well to enhance the opportunity for a diverse range of viewpoints to be shared.
It is not the basis from which we will hear from the ordinary people, who are suffering the most (in silence) who have the biggest stake in defining the road to sustainable peace.
This is not freedom.
This does not provide the political platform for peace and stability.
Fiji's current leaders need to be reminded once again "that you cannot shake hands with a clenched fist".
Earlier this afternoon, the Fiji Media Council held an emergency meeting and chairman Daryl Tarte issued a statement saying the council was "shocked and dismayed" by the mockery of the deportation. It added that the latest move against the media had come when the nation's media industry was still trying to come to terms with the expulsion in February of Fiji Sun publisher Russell Hunter, another Australian expatriate.
Pictured: Evan Hannah (right) being escorted out of his Tamavua home in Suva by officers last night. - Fiji Times Online.
Monday, March 31, 2008
One of the film’s central ideas is that Sitiveni Rabuka’s coups of 1987 ignited a wave of religious extremism and anti-democratic politics.
These have played out as coercive and repressive agents in Fijian society in the years since.
Rabuka was a Methodist preacher and regularly invoked God as being the hand that guided him to oust the Fiji Labour Party-led government with strong Indo-Fijian support in favour of indigenous Fijian interests.
Asia Downunder journalist Bharat Jamnadas says many Fijians are ardent churchgoers and evangelical influence extends from the pulpit through to Parliament.
Friday, March 21, 2008
"The murder of this openly gay couple is still clouded in rumour and political mystery. Scott, a fourth-generation, Fiji-born European, was the repatriated prodigal son of a powerful colonial family. As the Director-General of the Fiji Red Cross, he had gained international attention during the coup of 2000 when he went to the assistance of hostages trapped in Parliament for 56 days. Guided by John Scott’s brother, Owen, the film features friends of the couple, lawyers, Fijian gay activists, and seasoned Fiji observers. The film also includes interviews with the family of 22-year-old Apete Kaisau, who was ultimately charged with the killings."
Shortly after the festival release, a shorter (44-minute) broadcast version of the film, entitled Murder in the Pacific, will air on New Zealand’s TV3 and Australia’s SBS-TV.
Pictured: Speight's gunmen "escort" Fiji Red Cross director-general John Scott from Fiji's Parliament building in 2000.
Friday, February 8, 2008
A couple of other Kiwi journos-to-be - Aroha Treacher (AUT) and Will Robertson (Massey) - have also been busy over there. Living in rumah kos, student lodgings, Dylan has just turned in a few pars about a nearby sweatshop:
Just down the street is a place we refer to as a sweatshop. A small metal door that leads off the alley shows a small cramped room about 5m by 5m filled with desk and sewing machines, always humming. Every morning when we wander past we get followed by friendly 'salamat pagis' that carry on even when we are long gone, in the evening its 'salamat malams'. A friend that works for the Jakarta Post interviewed a few of the friendly workers one day and this is what she found. First of all it is a legitimate, to a point anyway, factory and the people are, as it seemed, happy. Full blog: Our local Jakarta sweatshop
Sunday, November 4, 2007
Both civil society groups have been strong critics of the post-coup regime. Ali told the Fiji Times that the FWCC acted constitutionally and denied being part of any assassination plot against members of the interim regime as well as senior members of the military. She said her movement was a human rights-based organisation and had no problems being questioned by police because all its activities were lawful. She added that all books were properly audited and there was no way any funding of an alleged assassination plot against Bainimarama and other members of his regime could happen.
"Every financial transaction is recorded in our books and we welcome any check by anyone interested," she told the Fiji Times. Heffernan told Radio NZ the regime should come clean with any evidence it had. Until it did so, this was just an "alleged plot". She also called for evidence of any plot in an interview with the Fiji Times, saying she believed it was also an attempt to divert attention from the military's failed attempts to have soldiers and police murder suspects in the Sakiusa Rabaka case leave the country under a United Nations mission to Iraq.
Ali said nobody deserved to be beaten up when being questioning over a criminal allegation.
Millionaire New Zealand citizen Ballu Khan was admitted at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital - and is under heavy guard - after injuries suffered while in military and police custody on Saturday night. He was denied access to a lawyer over the weekend. New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark has condemned the abuse of human rights.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
In her PJR paper, Sophie says that while some blog content was racist, defamatory, provocative and irresponsible, the argument for a free, responsible press has also been also strengthened as an option worth maintaining in any society. This edition of PJR has been produced jointly by the USP journalism programme and AUT University's Pacific Media Centre. PJR cover cartoon by top Kiwi cartoonist Malcolm Evans.
Incidentally, in the latest Reporters Sans Frontieres world press freedom index, bloggers are reported to be threatened as much as in international media.
- Voreqe no 'leper'
- Military blamed over blogs
- Bainimarama: People's charter could remove government
- Stand up to Oz, NZ 'bullying', says Labour
- Fiji Daily Post's report on the blogs - lifted by the newspaper verbatim from Pacific Media Watch (two days earlier)/Pacific Media Centre (four days earlier) without acknowledgement
- Sophie's actual article at Pacific Journalism Review
- Doubt hangs heavy over Fiji election
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