Being Frank, with a Postcript on Chaudhry and RadioNZI Dishonesty

Last Friday the Fiji Sun reported the PM to say “The people want the general election to be deferred further because they are in favour of my Government.” And then all hell broke loose.

The anti-government blogs had a hay day; most overseas mainstream media seemed to have missed it, thank goodness, but it was picked up by IndianWeekender in Auckland. When I went back to the  Sun, I had difficulty finding it but the news was out in the ether somewhere.

In one voice the Anti's said  Bainimarama was flying his first kite: elections would not be held in 2014.This was his intention all along. He's broken promises before.  In a month or two he'll fly another kite, and then with the "people's approval," he'd rule for life. Pax Bainimaramus!

More moderate opinion, including comments on this blog, regretted the announcement saying many supporters would desert him if the report was true.

Well, it was true, in a way.  The Sun had not misreported him, assuming there was a proper translation from the Fijian or, if in English, he was not thinking in Fijian. The word "people" could be a rough translation of vanua, or i taukei.

The article went on to report the PM on the positive feedback he'd received on his provincial tours ("never before had such major development work been carried out in rural areas and in the outer islands") and then at the end, but given little to no mention by his detractors, he launched into "foreign leaders and former Fiji residents who were against his Government should visit the people on the ground and hear their views."

The next day, FijiLive  published a short piece under the heading "Elections still on in 2014 says PM." Bainimarama told FijiLive his comment about elections was made in light of comments made by the Foreign Ministers of Australia and New Zealand that the situation in Fiji was worsening.“How can the situation in Fiji be worsening when the people in the rural areas actually want a delay in elections,” he asked.

In retrospect, it is obvious his remarks were a response to the foreign ministers and that he was talking about Fijian villagers, not the many ethnic people of Fiji. But at the time there was some ambiguity, and ambiguity produces doubt: the last thing Fiji needs as it seeks to win support, attract investors, concentrate on the Roadmap, and grow the economy.

No irreversible damage has been done but clearly journalists, editors (and censors if they read the article)  need to take greater care. These are not ordinary times. Readers should not be left to second guess the PM's meaning. There should have been no doubt about the context of his remark. Its release should not have provided further ammunition for his opponents.

I noted with interest that the Warriors Rugby League team employs a full-time media manager. Several readers have supported my suggestion that the PM needs better PR. I know this view is not supported by some people in Fiji but if a mere rugby league team needs a media manager, how much more so is this needed for a country under siege?

Postscript on Probable Dishonesty. Mahendra Chaudhry and RadioNZInternational  are either well behind the play (which seems unlikely) or they deliberately read into Bainimarama's remarks what they wanted to read in order to make the most propaganda use of the incident. Chaudhry calls for a referendum to test Bainimarama's comments, taken out of context, and  RadioNZI quotes him, long after the situation was clarified, and published in FijiLive. 

I don't use the word "propaganda" loosely for that is what it seems to be. RadioNZI (Richard?, John?), your credibility is dropping fast. Mahendra, you lost yours some time back when donations from India appeared in your personal bank account.


Kulina said…

If the illegal Fiji PM has any guts and to test the validity of his claims, let him hold Elections as he promised as Fiji leaders are now challenging him to do. But we all know he does not relish the prospect of languishing in prison the moment a democratic government is returned in Fiji. See this news item from radio NZ International"

Radio New Zealand International - 7 June 2010

The Fiji Labour Party says the interim prime minister should hold a national referendum to give legitimacy to his claims that people want elections deferred beyond 2014.

Last week, Commodore Frank Bainimarama said the people of Fiji were urging him to delay his election plans.

He said people were happy with the regime’s focus on infrastructure development, agriculture, tourism, health and education.

But the Labour Party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, says the feedback his party is getting is quite different

“People are quite disillusioned with the ever escalating cost of living hitting them hard. They would like to return to normality. They would like elections and constitutional rule. They want to be free to speak up, they want media freedom and at the moment they feel oppressed.”

Mahendra Chaudhry says there should be inclusive political dialogue to move towards early elections, but he says this is not happening at the moment.
sara'ssista said…

I notice that use certainly don't use the term propaganda loosely, certainly in relation the the pronouncements from this illegal regime. You appear to subscribe to the let take i at face value slavish and craven stance taken by the Sun. Am correct i the this story went to print with censorship in place, perhaps anther thing they can't do right. This self-appointed regime could take a fact-finding mission to North korea to see how it's really done.

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