Showing posts from May 10, 2009

(+) Government Helps Rotuma Development: Trade Links with Tuvalu

This week is an important one for Rotumans. Some 128 years ago, on May 13th, its chiefs ceded the island to Britain. The occasion was fully reported by the Fiji Times but there was only perfunctory mention of the island's export developments. Compare its report, that makes minimal comment on "positive" Government's role, with the exuberance of the Fiji Daily Post, and the comments made by Rotuman Maj.Gen. George Konrote. Click map to enlarge.

Fiji Times: Rotuma Builds Up to Export Market
Dalo, cassava and kumala will be among the first exports from Rotuma to Tuvalu expected to begin in July. And to boost capacity in the lead-up to that date, the Rotuma Island Council has been given $100,000. Commissioner Eastern Tomasi Tui, who is on the island at present, confirmed the grant would be used through the Rotuma Island Council. This after the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries recommended the council set up a business arm to, among other things, operate as an exporter…

(+) Why Shouldn't the Government Have an Assured Media Presence?

Reactions to the Government announcement that it will start a TV channel and purchase pages in the Fiji Sun have, predictably, been blown out of proportion by journalists. They could, of course, be correct in seeing these ventures as 'sinister, 'a desperate act', and 'ruining this industry,' but it is just as likely that the Fiji Government wants to get its message across to the public, believing that, judging from the Fiji media's record, it is otherwise unlikely to be given a fair go.

Click here for the opinions of Australians Tim Pankhurst, Commonwealth Press Union's Media Freedom Committee, and deported Fiji Sun publisher Russell Hunter, RNZI interviewer Kerri Richie, and Government spokesman Neumi Leweni answering her questions.

The Government TV channel will be on air for seven hours a week. Fiji has one free-to-view channel, Sky Fiji's three channels, and Sky Pacific's umpteen channels. If viewers are bored or annoyed with what Pankhurst called…

(-+) Media Bias? Decide for Yourself: Two Reports on Development at Navai Village

Two journalists, Geraldine Panapasa from the Fiji Times and Robert Matau from Islands Business, both visited remote Navai village, close to Nadarivatu in upper Naitasiri, last week. They travelled together, listened and spoke to the same people, and wrote reports so different you'd wonder they were describing the same village. Geraldine's title "From Potatoes to Kava" dwells on landscape, social commentary and events in the 1960s and mid-1970s, with a some hints of government action and inaction in 2009. Robert's "Turning Nadarivatu into a Green Bowl" also has some "lighter" content but his main focus is on today's Government initiatives to foster green vegetables production and Navai development.

Compare also Geraldine's report of what villager Lepani Mudu had to say:

"Two years ago, the Minister for Agriculture, Jainend Kumar visited the village and told us he would provide assistance to help us with agriculture production for ex…

(+) Media Restrictions: Like it or Not, the Government Does Have a Point

Breaking News:Radio NZI reports that the Fiji Government will soon sign an agreement with Fiji TV for a government channel to broadcast from two to seven hours a week. Government also plans to sign an agreement with the Fiji Sun to include a 12-page weekly report on Government policies and programmes. A new media law decree is also likely to be introduced when the emergency regulations expire next month.

Government stands internationally condemned for its "infamous" Emergency Regulations -- and restrictions on "media freedom" that were the main purpose of the regulations. Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF) would even like to see the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) remove its offices from Suva because of current press censorship.

There is no question that, in normal circumstances, the media should be free, and no question either that in all circumstances the media should publish fair, honest, informed and balanced reports. Anything less is media negligence, media l…

(+) Rev. Manasa Lasaro Detained: Let All the Worms Come Out of the Woodwork

Today's Citizen's Constitutional Forum (CCF) press release condemned "the arrest and detention of people by the police and military, including "a Methodist preacher." I agree with their general position, but on the CCF's "Methodist preacher" and NZ journalist Michael Field's "churchman" we should be better informed of the man whose human rights we seek to protect.

"Lasaro," Field writes, "is a well known indigenous nationalist linked to the Taukei movement which supported the first coups [in 1987] of Sitiveni Rabuka. He played a key role in getting Sunday observance as compulsory during Rabuka's era. He has also called for the creation of a Christian state, expelling ethnic Indians."

But Lasaro's story does not start or end there. He helped organize the protest parade that "coincidentally" coincided with Rabuka's storming of parliament. He became an important Rabuka "lieutenant" and …

(-) Australian PM's Statement on Fiji

To read in full, click here.

Kevin Rudd's main points (with my attempts to correct inaccuracies appended) were:

"It is not the Forum which has walked away from Fiji ...Bainimarama [did not attend] the last two Forum Leaders meetings ... no constructive engagement with the Forum’s Ministerial Contact Group ... has visited Fiji twice ...the officials-level Fiji/Forum Joint Working Group remains in existence – but Fiji has stopped attending its meetings."

" ... the real tragedy is what is occurring on the ground to the good and proud people of Fiji ... he has moved to sack the judiciary, censor the media, prohibit free assembly and step up intimidation of the Fijian people. All the normal checks and balances on government have now been eliminated." [cw. Yes, this is very serious, but the judges were not sacked and all checks have not been "eliminated." The judges were appointed under 1997 Constitution provisions, and their appointments lapsed with its Abr…

(o-) Human Rights Watch's Cloud Cuckoo Land

"... work around the edges of the possible; demanding the impossible entrenches attitudes -- and leads nowhere."

Erudite Elaine Pearson, Human Rights Watch (Asia Division) deputy director, says its "not too late for Fiji's interim government to reverse the path it has taken, and return the country to constitutional rule." The New York-based organization has written to President Iloilo urging him to annul the decrees he has made since April 10. Here are some extracts from her (to me, incredibly naive) interview on Radio Australia

Q. But 'isn't the path you're suggesting in direct opposition to the path taken ...? Why should they consider that path?
A.Well, I mean I think that if Fiji wants to be taken seriously by the international community, and I think if there is sustained international pressure there, then really they should look at their commitments to the citizens of Fiji ... really the steps that we are asking for, it is very easy for them to ta…

(B) Separation of Church and State: New Methodism* and the Police Force

Nine weeks ago on February 20th I published a post commenting on Police Commissoner Esala Teleni's "Police Christian Crusade Against Crime." At that time allegations were made that non-Christian officers had been forced to attend Crusade parades, and that officers who converted to the New Methodist Church, run by Teleni's brother Atu Vulaono, were being promoted. It seemed, at that time, the reports were false or exaggerated. New allegations surfaced last week.

The question of the separation of church and state is a contentious issue in Fiji. Many ethnic Fijians perceive their identity as embedded in the traditionally inseparable union of vanua (land), lotu (church) and matanitu (state). This belief underpins their support for their chiefs and church, and on more than one occasion has resulted in calls, by Fijian nationalists, for Fiji to be delared a Christian state, the absolute sanctity of Sundays, Christian teaching to underpin government, the denial of permanent…

(B)How Independent is the Judiciary?

This background (B) post compares how judges were appointed and lawyers registered before and after last month's abrogation of the 1997 Constitution. The issue of concern is the independence of the judiciary.

The Chief Justice and the Attorney-General. Under the 1997 Constitution the Chief Justice was appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister following consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. Judges were appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission following consultation by it with the Minister and the Sector Standing Committee of the House of Representatives responsible for matters relating to the administration of justice. Since the military takeover the President has received advice on the position of Chief Justice only from the Interim PM and his Cabinet, most especially by the Attorney-General, Aiyaz Khaiyum (photo), a lawyer who is also Minister of Justice. The positions of attorney-general and minister of ju…