Today I look at three examples (and the dissemination of one by RadioNZ International). Tomorrow, or the next day, I'll examine their mischevious postings on former Judge Nazhaat Shameem, the publisher of the Fiji Times, and the Crimes Decree.
Fiji Democracy Now
Fiji Democracy Now has a feature "Father Barr makes more empty promises to the poor" in which it makes several claims:
Claim One. "Fiji’s most disgraceful hypocrite, Father Kevin Barr, has promised he’ll soon award wage increases to the low paid workers of Fiji."
Fact. Fr Barr has promised nothing on what he will do. He speaks as the chairperson of the Wages Council. For those who do not know of Fr Barr, he has championed -- and sought to empower -- Fiji's underprivileged for over two decades, and for this work he is widely respected in Fiji and overseas.Claim Two. "Poverty has exploded under the illegal regime which he supports, so his conscience must be pricking him."
Fact. Poverty has increased, but poverty is not of this government's making. In the 1990s some 25 percent of Fiji's population were below the "poverty line." Today's situation is exacerbated by the the world recession and the isolationist policies of Fiji's neighbours. Its economic options are limited but it has sought to assist the poor in several ways, including the removal of VAT on basic food items, and not increasing VAT as the Qarase government intended to do. The infrastructual actions in Government's Roadmap should help reduce rural poverty, and measures taken should see a sharp reduction in overall poverty in the middle- to long-term.Claim Three. "What this foolish priest doesn’t seem to understand is that a wage increase across the board which he’s promising will simply lead to more devaluation which will further push up the price of imported food."
Fact. The wage increases are not "across the board." They are industry-specific and concern minimum wages only. They are also being introduced progressively to assist employers. The ultimate aim is to increase the minimum wage to the "poverty line" that currently stands at $175 a week. Some 60 percent of workers now earn less than this.
The wage increases could lead to inflation (not devaluation!) but the poor spend all their money in the local economy which should prove a stimulus in some areas. Meanwhile, government's Roadmap includes measures to increase local food production and reduce dependence on imported food.
Does FDN think there should be no minimum wage and no wage increases, even when 60 percent of Fiji's population is living below the poverty line?Claim Four. "This self-appointed expert of electoral systems knows nothing about economics."
Fact. Fr Barr has never made any claim to expertise on electoral systems -- but he does have a Masters degree in Economics!
Sai Lealea's blog FijiCoup2006 reports that a "drunk military goon squad" arrested a number of people, including two former MPs, who were drinking grog (yaqona/kava) at the SDL Party office last Friday night. They were allegedly taken to QEB, insulted, demeaned and eventually released.
The incident, censored by media watchdogs, although not particularly important in itself, does no credit to the RFMF, the Military Council or Government, who need to show that the RFMF is a "disciplined force" not a capricious rabble.
But why do the blogs only publish negative news? In "Write your letters to the Editor here" I have invited Sai to respond properly to another reader who did not agree with his comments, and to reply to my invitation to show a "way forward."
Fiji News Uncensored
Another anti-government blog, FijiNewsUncensored, citing "very reliable source within the Fiji's Prime Ministers office," claims that Bainimarama was so fazed that the army intelligence did not pick up the planning of the "600,000 petition" (mostly organized from overseas) that he is "overcome by fear knowing that his end is near... The madman is breaking loose once more. We will continue to keep you up to date as our people on the ground are completely on red alert. Fiji is in a very dangerous situation right now."
The reality, as explained in earlier postings, is that this totally unreliable petition was a fiction of the political parties deposed by the 2006 Coup and was certainly not signed by a fraction of the 680,000 claimed. Bainimarama saw it for what it was immediately. As for the "red alert," I suspect this is the latest in a sequence of threats, none of which eventuated, intended to destabilise government and keep its opponents happy.
RadioNZ InternationalI see from FijiDemocracyNow that RadioNZ International is still giving credit to the petition by citing its organizer. No mention is made of this blog that exposed the petition (see link above) for what it was. In the interests of informed and unbiased journalism RadioNZI should always cite sources. This it seldom does, leaving this writer to believe it is often "fed" news items by anti-government people and organizations. If it carries on like this, there'll soon be a case to take to the NZ Broadcasting Standards Authority.
P.S. I should have added two other blogs, one that inferred Bainimarama's visit to Ra province was somehow connected with the increase of typhoid; the other claiming that the Muslims had taken over government. What caused the Muslim accusation? President Epeli speaking on the Prophet's birthday. Earlier, it was the Catholics and the Hindus.
Cartoon: Pacific Media Centre/Cafe Pacific