Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Whale Oil- Radio N.Z. perpetrates lies about Fiji petition

Whale Oil recent post on Fiji, analyzes the Radio NZ coverage on the alleged 600k signed petition for a 3 minute democracy in Fiji.

The excerpt:

Radio N.Z. perpetrates lies about Fiji petition

It is a while since I wrote any­thing about the coun­try of my birth, but Radio NZ has finally dri­ven me to it.

Prob­a­bly the sin­gle best site on Fiji is Fiji the way it was, is and Can be. He has got stuck into Radio NZ. Unfor­tu­nately his blog isn’t widely read so I take this oppor­tu­nity to spread the word more effectively.

Before I do I must choke out good com­ment about the recent work of Mur­ray McCully to change the par­a­digm and rhetoric around Fiji.

Now onto the Radio NZ bol­locks.

“Fiji’s peo­ple have been fairly meek and accept­ing in the face of three years of mil­i­tary rule – but not any longer. On Fri­day, they sub­mit­ted a peti­tion to the mil­i­tary regime call­ing for the restora­tion of democ­racy and elec­tions by the end of the year. It was backed by over 680,000 peo­ple – more than 80% of the country’s pop­u­la­tion.

It will be inter­est­ing to see how the regime responds to this. With that level of mass oppo­si­tion, its not as if they can arrest every­one (besides the obvi­ous prob­lem of num­bers, the sol­diers may not be will­ing to arrest their fam­i­lies). OTOH, unless the peo­ple are will­ing to turn their mass oppo­si­tion into colour-revolution-style mass protests, then the regime may not in fact have to do any­thing.”

Now read on to see where this non­sense came from.

RadioNZ reports, with­out prior enquiry, ques­tion or com­ment, that a peti­tion “said to have the sup­port of more than 600,000 peo­ple” has peti­tioned Bain­i­marama to hold elec­tions this year. Link.( See other RadioNZ links below.) And Coup­four­point­five has fol­lowed suit.

So Radio NZ got some info on a peti­tion sup­pos­edly from over 600,000 Fijian cit­i­zens to request a return to democ­racy and silly twat no Mal­colm Har­brow duti­ful starts spread­ing the lie. nor­mally he researches a bit more beyond the issues but his blink­ers are always on over Fiji.

So where did Radio NZ get their info from?

The infor­mant and main peti­tioner was Suliasi Dau­ni­tutu of Quean­beya, NSW, who is linked to the Aus­tralian FijiDemoc­ra­cyNow move­ment. Suliasi said the peti­tion­ers, most pre­sum­ably liv­ing in Fiji, “are afraid to express [their views] openly, so it’s being done through var­i­ous polit­i­cal par­ties … Lead­ers of the Fiji Labour, SDL and National Fed­er­a­tion Party…”

So. This is a peti­tion based on past party mem­ber­ship lists not indi­vid­u­als who have signed in their own right or given par­ties to sign on their behalf. The lists were appar­ently given by these par­ties to Suliasi and then handed by him to Bain­i­marama! I cer­tainly wouldn’t like to belong to a polit­i­cal party, or any other orga­ni­za­tion, which was so free with its
mem­ber­ship list. And if Bain­i­marama is as vin­dic­tive as Suliasi would claim, he isn’t doing his peti­tion­ers any good by giv­ing him their names and addresses. The peti­tion is imme­di­ately sus­pect on these grounds.

Well, well, well three holes in the ground. No-one has actu­ally signed a peti­tion. The peti­tion is made up of mem­bers of oppo­si­tion polit­i­cal par­ties, with not a sin­gle sig­na­ture to sup­port the con­tention that 680,000 or the claimed 80% of pop­u­la­tion have signed the peti­tion. In the num­bers there is a prob­lem to, apart from the obvi­ous that there is no way that the SDL, Labour and the National Fed­er­a­tion Party could pos­si­bly have 80% of the pop­u­la­tion enrolled as mem­bers. Though with Qarase any­thing is possible.

It is also sus­pect on the num­ber of peti­tion­ers claimed:

600,000 by RadioNZ; 685,936 by Suliasi, the main peti­tioner. How does he come even close to his 600,000 made up mainly of those on the party lists?

The adult pop­u­la­tion at the 2007 cen­sus was only 518,000, and the com­bined first pref­er­ence votes given to these three par­ties in the 2006 elec­tion totalled under 240,000. I doubt that more than a few of these vot­ers were reg­is­tered mem­bers of the party for which they voted.

Fur­ther, it can­not be pre­sumed that vot­ing for these par­ties four years ago would result in sim­i­lar num­bers vot­ing for them today,
or the same vot­ers being opposed to what Bain­i­marama has been
try­ing to achieve since 2006. Vot­ing for a party is a lim­ited

Mine does not assume it can speak on my behalf on all issues. But if all 240,000 “signed” the peti­tion, a fur­ther 440,000 for­mer Fiji cit­i­zens and other peo­ple liv­ing over­seas would also need to sign to reach 686,000!

Did it not occur to some­one in RadioNZ that 600,000 is more more than the total adult Fiji pop­u­la­tion of 518,000 recorded in the 2007
cen­sus, approx­i­mately one-third of whom were too young to

Or did they con­sider the daunt­ing task of get­ting at least 360,000 Aus­tralians and New Zealan­ders to sign to get even close to their
600,000? Such a mas­sive peti­tion would have reached the ears of the
media. Why have we not heard of it until now?

Dig­ging deeper, Suliasi’s peti­tion was in sup­port of a peti­tion by Vil­isi
Naduka of Caubati in Nas­inu who first came to pub­lic atten­tion when in Octo­ber 2008 he parked his car across the road at Nabua, Suva, in
protest against the Coup.

Suliasi says the peti­tion was handed to Bain­i­mara last Fri­day
after­noon but Visili says he posted it after pray­ing at the
Methodist Church and pre­sent­ing a copy to the Church
Pres­i­dent, not that the dis­crep­ancy really mat­ters other than rais­ing the ques­tion of what else Suliasi may have got wrong.

Well. the num­bers are cer­tainly sus­pect and so is the fact as to who pre­sented what and when. Sounds like com­plete bol­locks. Time to sell Radio NZ methinks.

The NZ tax­payer should not be sub­si­diz­ing such poor jour­nal­ism. Fancy Labour sup­port­ing such and inept bunch of hope­less fact checkers.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

A Perspective On Fiji.

Thought provoking opinion article from Rajendra Prasad, appeared in Indian Newslink.

The excerpt:

At crossroads of chaos and prosperity

14/02/2010 05:26:00 Rajendra Prasad

Three years have gone by since Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama deposed the Qarase Government.

Much water has passed under the bridge and there is room for conjecture and introspection. Around Fiji, there is calm tinged with uncertainty but not fear or anxiety, as in the past.

People have taken it in their stride. The Interim Government has defied the world and its detractors and has identified a path to accomplish its mission, as specified in the People’s Charter. No one can dispute that the intent and content of the Charter is commendable, more so because it is a product of a military-comprised government. It also promises to re-invent democracy for Fiji that is strong, resilient and fair to all the people of Fiji, removing every trace of racism that was one of the dominant features of the past constitutions.

Vital decisions

In these three years, the Interim Government has taken some vital decisions that no democratically elected government could have in the past.

The banishing of the Great Council of Chiefs and Methodist Church from the political landscape augurs well for the restoration of democracy.

The Great Council of Chiefs and the Methodist Church had become integral part of the political network and were avid sponsors of racism. They were the voice of Fijian ethno-nationalism, where importance was given, not to what was good for the nation but what suited their own ethnic agenda. For 39 years since independence, their influence on Fiji politics was real and toxic.

A historic perspective

On reflection, the chiefly rule and democratic rule, as structured in Fiji was incompatible.

The chiefly rule, as reconfigured during the colonial rule, suited the colonists, who used them to propel the ideals of the colonial government.

In this endeavour, Fijians were enticed to protect and maintain their culture, customs and traditions, as the colonists posed as great protectors of the Fijian race.

The Chiefs were convinced and as the community was neutralized, it facilitated the colonial plunder. The Fijian Administration was established and the Chiefs were at the forefront to keep their people herded within the confines of their tribal areas, eking out a living on subsistence farming.

The Chiefs had their reward for their services, but it did incalculable harm to ordinary Fijians who could not individually or even collectively articulate their future, maintaining rhyme and rhythm with the emerging world for their own good.

Simply, those cultures that remained static, averse to change had embraced poverty and want while those that evolved with times, needs and desires became progressive and prosperous. Fijians were duped by the great colonial lie and the community is still hounded by its negative impact.

The curtain over this period of Fijian history needs to be removed, allowing truth to reveal itself. It was a clever British ploy for ease of governance that left a race of people socially and economically disadvantaged but it escaped censure, as Indo-Fijians were touted by the colonists as the cause of Fijian privation.

This lie gave vent to racism in Fiji to entrench itself. The British hastily left Fiji, leaving Indo-Fijians to suffer the Fijian backlash since independence, which intensified following the coups of 1987 and 2000.

Administration decried

Interestingly, once the elective system expanded and Fijians given the right to franchise in 1963, the role of the Chiefs diminished, as power and authority devolved on the elected leaders.

Dr Rusiate Nayacakalou, a Fijian academic, warned in 1964 (in his book, Leadership in Fiji) that the greatest obstacle that faced them was to realise that there was a contradiction and challenged them to make that momentous choice between changing and preserving their way of life.

He warned them that the belief that they could do both was a monstrous nonsense and, prophetically claimed that its eradication may not be possible, as they had been saddled with it for long.

Dr Tupeni Baba, a Fijian academic and politician, echoed similar sentiments, referring to reports of the Burns Commission (led by Sir Alan Burns) and the Spate Commission (led by Oskar Spate), which criticised the system of Fijian Administration.

Cyril Belshaw, in his Social Change in Melanesia (1954), claimed that the Fijian Administration was archaic and operating in a world of unreality, and that it was a major factor holding the development of Fijian people.

Despite successive reports decrying Fijian Administration and claiming that it was inhibiting Fijian participation in the social and economic advancement, every government rejected the recommendations and shelved the reports.

In essence, the reports favoured ordinary Fijians but disadvantaged their political leaders and Chiefs who felt that the removal of the Fijian Administration would liberate Fijians, ending their domination and harvest.

Conviction, not consent

Understandably, with such advantage and backing from the Chiefs, Fijian Administration and Methodist Church, the Fijian leaders could not be expected to change the status quo.

Yet, the change was vital for the good of ordinary Fijians, Indians and the nation.

The Bainimarama mission is seen by many as the medium for that vital change.

It is accepted that conviction and not consent is the best course for the nation and all citizens of Fiji. To most people, the means justify the end and to others the end justifies the means. Politicians rarely make hard and difficult choices for the greater good in contemporary politics.

Commodore Bainimarama can do it because he does not need anyone’s vote or favour. Establishment of true democracy is his magic mantra, eliminating racism. Bravo!

Some observers say there was no other way for a quick fix to Fiji’s terminal democracy because forces of instability had dug deep into its structure and those that should have removed or kept them out, had embraced them.

While they relished the power and perks that went with it, ordinary citizens of Fiji were left to grapple with poverty, unemployment and bad governance. This cycle had to be broken as Fiji’s political system was self-destructive.

Some have said that it positive changes cannot be brought about by the Indo-Fijian initiative but by Fijian initiative.

But no one could have prophesied five years ago that the military would play such a decisive role. Indeed, in rebuilding the edifice of democracy in Fiji, it requires careful preparation of its foundations to ensure that it remains relevant, resilient, robust and in the safe hands of those who would promote and defend its ideals and not in the hands of those who, by default, exchange prison cells to being members of Parliament.

Divergent views

I had written in similar vein earlier and had the privilege to share briefly views of some friends who differed with my views. I reconsidered my views in light of what they said. I respect their views but remain unconvinced. Some have taken refuge under the slogan, “No coup is a good coup!”

I wonder if people with such belief truly hold that every democracy is a good democracy, when rogue democracies litter the political landscape of the world. I was rightly asked as to what guarantee I had that Commodore Bainimarama would fulfill his promise. I cannot give any such guarantee but I, like many, hope and wager our trust in him and the Interim Government to fulfill its promises.

I do admire the courage, conviction and passion of the Interim Government to pursue an onerous task against difficult odds. The world opinion is stacked against it and there is a simmering discontent among those who have been displaced, their beneficiaries and supporters.

Misused freedom

In its desire to achieve its objectives, media freedom has been curtailed and the judiciary reconfigured and is claimed to be pro-establishment. These ripples are more noticeable now but were always there in Fiji’s so-called democracy.

Further, the law fraternity is peeved at losing its right for self-regulation of the profession and is now subject to scrutiny by the Government-appointed Registrar. Some have been disciplined and some are awaiting their fate with understandable anxiety.

The Fiji media has problems with the past governments and the last Qarase Government had substantially applied the muzzle on the media to make it pliant.

I believe that freedom of the media is one of the most abused rights in world where good, robust and genuine democracies have been its greatest victims. Slanted, biased and skewed editorials feature everyday in every part of the world and yet the media escapes censure for its imprudence.

Freedom is the unfettered right of the media but the proverbial pen has the might of the sword to cause irreparable damage, death and destruction. I hold that the Interim Government should be assisted in its endeavour to restore a true democracy in Fiji.

A challenging journey

Interestingly, New Zealand and Australia are now conceding and realise that little else can be done. There are positive signs and credible evidence that corruption, inefficiency, lethargy and incompetence within the civil service are on the decline in Fiji.

Citizens are gradually coming to terms that the Interim Government is working towards making Fiji a better place for everyone. Some knocks and setbacks unfortunately, are inevitable in that journey.

However, the greater picture must not be lost. The Interim Government has generally ruled with understanding and compassion where it was seen as fair and just to people of all races, contrary to the post-coup ‘democratic governments.’

Opportunity beckons and Fiji stands at the crossroads, lured to the highway to reconstruct the edifice of democracy that gives shelter to everyone, irrespective of race, religion or culture.

Rajendra Prasad is a thinker, author and columnist. His views may be contested but seldom discounted.

Email: raj.prasad@xtra.co.nz

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