Short Briefs: Methodists, School Names, Fiji Times, Tuilaepa, Fairer Lease Payments, Sugar

(o) Methodist Leaders Defied PM: Which Way Will the Dice Fall?  Seven of the 27 churchmen charged with breaking the Public Emergency Regulations face an additional charge of disobeying a directive given during a meeting with the Prime Minister, when he ordered them not to hold the Church conference in 2009. Following the meeting, the Church leaders, who included President Reverend Ame Tugaue and General Secretary Tuikilakila Waqairatu (Photo: Fiji Live), met with the Marama Roko Tui Dreketi Ro Teimumu Kepa in Lomanikoro, Rewa, the hostess and site of the intended Conference, to discuss the Commander’s decision. Prosecutors claim this was a futher breach of the PERs.The Defence lawyer said they needed more time to respond to the additional charge.

It would seem  Government intends to maintain pressure on the Church in the hope that the top leaders (who oppose the People's Charter and the Government Roadmap) will resign (which they have refused to do) or be replaced (which can only be done at an Annual Conference.)  Meanwhile, the ongoing publicity given to the Church leaders is just as likely to win them fresh support as to result in their dismissal, one way or another. Many people know the Church has been heavily political for many years, but there's no way of knowing which way this particular  dice will fall. One wonders whether the  "additional charge" was really necessary.

(+) School Names that Denote Racial Affiliations,  but not schools named after prominent people, are to go.  Education Minister Filipe Bole said the move was part of Government's plan to  “develop a common national identity and build social cohesion” in line with Pillar 2 of the People's Charter. The Minister noted the media is already referring to Fiji citizen as Fijians, irrespective of their ethnicity.

(-) The Attorney General is Dreaming! The A-G says Government assumes The Fiji Times is "happy" with the proposed Media Decree change that limits foreign ownership to ten percent which would leave the Times having to find new owners or close down. This blog accepts the need to limit foreign ownership but it urges Government to increase the foreign stake to 30-40 percent.

Samoa’s PM Tuilaepa
now says Bainimarama has no say or business with either the Forum or its secretariat. He should leave Forum issues to the bonafide elected leaders as small-time unelected thugs are not welcome. He said calling the Commodore a Prime Minister is like calling a scrawny chicken a soaring eagle. [These thoughtful words come to you via  RadioNZ International, ever ready to report consequential news on the Pacific. Older NZ readers will remember the days when  a leading 6 o'clock news item might be that Prince Charles had a cold!]

(+) Backdated Compensation.
An estimated 1,200 public servants  injured during working hours will be paid all outstanding claims backdated to 2001. That's right, 2001!  Following a February directive by PM Bainimarama to clear the backlog, some 823 of 2,201 cases were settled within five weeks. The remaining cases should be settled by the end of  May. Institutional reform and an improved public service are part of Government's Roadmap.

(+) Fairer Lease Payouts. The Land Reforms Committee is looking at ways to ensure fairer payouts to members of landowning units, many of whom have complained their clan heads get the bulk of the lease money. The rest of them have to equally share what is left.

Large-Scale Sugarcane Farms? FSC CEO Deo Saran says `the farmers must become more commercial and profitable to meet modern day demands. Restoring confidence in the industry and inspiring young people to get into cane farming is the way forward for the industry. He announced the FSC is also looking to develop large scale commercial cane farms that will better handle future challenges. Saran welcomed the Fiji National University initiative to offer a a course in Sugar Productionfor comprising 1 year of theory and 2 years of practical training.

Psychotherapist Selina Kuruleca said there was evidence that young people are influenced by the lyrics of songs and violence in movies. She said the entertainment media has the potential to influence negative and positive behaviours, but values taught from a young age would help young people choose between the right and wrong.  The particular relevance here is that many of the "values" that have divided Fiji are also taught from a young age.


Media muddle said…
Croz, I don't understand why you are advocating 30-40 per cent foreign ownership of the media when it seems pretty clear that there is no local entity capable of taking over the Fiji Times. As if News Limited will surrender control to people who know less about the business than they do. I notice the AUT people in NZ saying their preference is for News to keep the Fiji Times. That's because any journalist knows that only a strong proprietor with a solid financial base and editorial background can successfully run a media business. I've heard Yasana Holdings or someone from the Gujerati business elite touted as a prospective owner of the FT. Can we trust these guys to maintain any editorial integrity under the circumstances? They've got no idea about the separation of their own interests from that of any media outlet they might control. I'd be interested to hear you expand on your ideas in this area. But I'd much prefer News Limited and the regime to reach an accommodation than see the FT sold off to someone who knows nothing about the media. It's the old saying of "be careful what you wish for". The FT might be a lot worse in a couple of years time and that would be a tragedy for the country.
Video violence said…
The lovely and very smart Selina Kuruleca is right to say that violence in young people can be induced by song lyrics and what they see in movies. But let's face it. Things have really deteriorated in Fiji since the introduction of television in the late 1980s and especially the widespread penetration of video and DVD players. Think about it. Even in 1987, most people relied on the radio for their entertainment and everyone got their information on the first coup from Radio Fiji. Now, all manner of violence and pornography is available if you really want it. And no wonder violent crimes and the sexual assault of women and children has gone through the roof. A few years back, the very wise Radike Qereqeretabua went public with his observation that the fall in the standards of behaviour in Fiji could be directly linked to the introduction of television. Some people cast him as a stick-in-the-mud but now we have a more formal appraisal from Ms Kuruleca that supports Radike's original contention. We need a much higher standard of family viewing on television in Fiji and a vicious crackdown on those who deal in illicit video violence and pornography.
Methodical division said…
The Methodists have only got themselves to blame for their current predicament but I don't agree, Croz, that the regime wants the current leadership to resign. What it does want is for the leadership to formally repudiate and dismiss those senior clergymen identified with indigenous extremism, especially Manasa Lasaro and Tomasi Kanailagi. It is they who should be resigning from the church to spare it from the government's wrath. But they're not going anywhere because this is a political not a religious struggle against any notion of a truly multiracial Fiji and any threat to indigenous supremacy. The fact that there was any rebellion at all from the grass roots of the church demanding that the leadership resign shows that the Methodists are divided and this crisis is far from over.
Croz Walsh said…
@ Media muddle, I think local capital has the wherewithal to buy 60-70% of the FT at what would probably be a fire sale price, maintain current standards and do no worse on editorial integrity. But I'd prefer the FT infrastructure to remain as is. Hence my pitching a figure the Government might accept, much more than 10% but with the majority shareholding in local hands. Other countries -- Australia, Canada,for example -- place restrictions on media foreign ownership. The FT's response to events in Fiji since 2006 show why many governments are wary of foreign control of their media.

@ Video violence. Vinaka. It's thoughtful, concerned comments like yours that lift this blog above its competitors.

@ Methodical division, I agree. Careless of me to lump all the leadership together. Kanailagi and Lasaro are the key figures. Why doesn't Tugaue at least distance himself from them by publically renouncing the past actions of the Church under their leadership? I see the British Methodists are fasting again. Someone in Fiji has told them it's religious persecution.
Kumala Vula said…

It is of course religious persecution that is happening in Fiji under an illegal regime. That is the truth that needs to be admitted to by you and others.

In fact Samoa's elected PM has it right in labelling the illegal regime in Fiji as it should in his latest interview thus:

But Tuilaepa says it's highly unlikely the Secretariat would want to operate “under the thumb” of an unelected military regime. “Especially a regime that has done away with the rule of law, democratic government, an independent judiciary and suppression of the media and freedom of speech. It’s against the exact fundamental principles the Forum was founded on.”

The road to redemptioin for the illegal regime is clear as set out by the Forum, Commonwealth and key allies - Return Fiji to democratic elections. If Frank has the courage, which we all doubt, he can take off hi Commodore uniform and run in the Election too to see how many few votes he would get.

Fiji is bleeding so are its people so the sooner sanity is restored the better.
Church politics said…
Croz, the reason Tugaue can't condemn Lasaro and Kanailagi is that they've got him by the dog collar, or something worse, and he doesn't have the mana to do so.. He only governs with their consent because as former presidents of the church themselves, they have immense sway over the rank and file. We've seen before in deposed president, Josateki Koroi, what happens when even the head of the church deviates from the nationalist agenda. None of this is a secret to anyone with the barest knowledge of church politics. The regime certainly doesn't need a lesson in Methodist politics and knows exactly what it's doing. It's the ridiculous British Methodists and their hand wringing Christian brothers in the Uniting Church in Australia who don't understand they're being taken for a ride. If the British Methodists want to starve themselves in protest at "religious persecution" in Fiji, they're even more misguided than I thought. All this is a reflection of the deviousness and cunning at the top of the Fiji church. Some of the hierarchy are blameless but others are nothing more than political rabble-rousers under their lily white shirts and vestments.
Kania na kumala vula said…
If we're not allowed to talk about shooting people anymore, will somebody please stoke the fire so we can boil and eat the loathsome kumala Vula. This guy or gal certainly ain't kakana dina. As an obvious stooge of the SDL, his contributions aren't exactly brain food. Invariably, his finger is either solely on his own pulse or lodged up his fundament. And he/her has the gall to talk about sanity?
Scandal monger said…
One thing is certain right now about the Fiji Times. The top echelon of Its parent, News Limited, will have little time to devote to its problems given the rugby league scandal that has rocked the company this afternoon. The disclosure that the News Limited owned Melbourne Storm have been deprived of two previous premierships because they paid their players secret amounts above the NRL's salary cap has rocked the whole of Australia. And if you think I'm exaggerating, check out the major Australian news websites. For the sports mad Aussies to find that the top team in their beloved rugby league got there by cheating is devastating. News Limited is embroiled in a major crisis that will make the prospect of losing the Fiji Times seem like a minor inconvenience.
Proud Fijian said…
Just saw that - Melbourne Storms stripped of its title in 2007 and 2009 and cannot accrue points this year.

Prize moneys retrieved and fines. Just shows the ethics of these coporation.
Illiterate Fiji Times nonsense said…
If anyone doubts that the Fiji Times is an illiterate rag, check out the following story from its website tonight.


FIVE Methodist ministers and two church officials have been implicated in an additional charge.

The seven are jointly charged with 20 other members of the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma, for holding meetings contravening the Public Emergency Regulations orders.


"Implicated in an additional charge"? What the hell is this? There's no "implication". They've been charged with an additional offence. What gets me isn't so much the abysmal grasp of the English language on the part of the reporter but the fact that this kind of howler gets through whatever quality checking process the FT has in place. Or maybe it doesn't have one at all? The Fiji Times is an absolute disgrace and an insult to the intelligence of all Fiji citizens. What are Anne Fussell and Netani Rika doing about it? Sweet FA. They deserve to lose their jobs immediately.
Fair's fair said…
Proud Fijian, your selective comments about the Melbourne Storm and ethics of News Corporation show up a lack of ethic on your own part.

The report quotes NRL CEO David Gallop as saying that, “The most damning indictment is the systematic attempt by persons within the club to conceal payments from the salary cap auditor and, it would now seem certain, from the club’s board and FROM ITS OWNERS (my capitals), on an ongoing basis.”

I don’t hold a candle for News Corp or any other news media but such blatant hypocrisy on your part can’t go unchallenged.

If you (as we all do) want News Corporation/ FT to start showing reporting ethics then surely it would be best for us to demonstrate to the journalists and editors that we, the reading public, are capable of rational, logical thought and won’t be taken in by biased coverage. Unfortunately your derogatory, throw away remark will only go to foster the media’s evident belief that we’re all unthinking idiots who will accept whatever they chose to put in front of us.
Corruption Fighter said…
@ Croz

You're right to say any sale would be at fire sale prices. What you don't add is that the arsonist thinks he's going to buy the Fiji Times.

Other countries may, as you say, have media restrictions, but no democracy could introduce a bill like this media decree, expropriating the owners of a business by changing rules without warning.

The message this sends to all potential investors is clear: "if we don't like you, you have no rights.",
Croz Walsh said…
@ Corruption Fighter. I don't like the 10% limit either, but what other country has a newspaper in such a powerful position to influence public opinion where that newspaper has been so hostile to the country's government? The FT has been consistently hostile to Government, to the point of extreme bias. You may think this was its right (which I would dispute), but in retrospect you will agree it wasn't very sensible. They could have published an occasional article about the some of the good things governnment was doing.
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