How Aussies, Pommies, Brij Lal, Usaia Waqatairewa & Paul Holmes See Fiji

(-+) HOW AUSSIES SEE FIJI. If the saying "one picture is worth a thousand words" is correct, the Australian media need not write a single word on the situation in Fiji. This one picture, shown as it is over and over again, could persuade Australians that Bainimarama never changes his clothes.  But it's more likely they'll conclude: That's how it is in Fiji, a country ruled by a sour-faced military dictator, with soldiers in the streets terrorising the populace.

I've been criticised for calling this sort of media coverage propaganda but what else can it be called?

However, to their credit the photo was accompanied by a reasonable report that had Bainimarama saying Fiji's stability was his top priority; he was focusing on building a better Fiji not on contesting elections; he had not considered standing in the future elections, but wanted to hand a stable country over to a new government in 2014. He says that process will include ensuring the country's citizens are socially, economically and politically stable, and ready to go to the polls under a new voting system.

Actually the article was almost a direct lift from an earlier FijiVillage report that went on to add the PM's remarks on his return from a tour of the Northern Division (Fiji's second largest island Vanua Levu).  The PM said he wanted to provide immediate relief to the farmers who are facing major difficulties due to some policies of the Native Land Trust Board and the Fiji Sugar Corporation.

(o) HELPFUL COMMENTS FROM UK. High Commissioner Mac McLachlan, speaking at a Queens' Birthday cocktail party on Thursday,  said several important things:
  • Britain stands ready to help "any credible process" that aims to resolve Fiji’s economic and political challenges; 
  • "there is synergy between Fiji’s economic and political challenges – and that it is difficult to resolve one without the other;" 
  •  Britain recognises the challenges Fiji is going through; 
  • There is a need to identify and tackle blockages for progress to be made; 
  • It is important to find sustainable solutions and an enabling atmosphere within which to pursue them.
He concluded by saying his government is aware of the governance challenges confronting many Pacific island nations today. Constitutions and electoral systems that might have looked right when nations gained their independence 30 years ago need to be modernised and amended to meet today’s need.

Such comments, which reflect the diplomatic maturity of Fiji's former ruler, should make the governments of two other former colonies -- Australia and New Zealand -- hang their heads in shame. No wonder Fiji stills holds Britain and the Queen in such high regard.

(-+) FIJI PLANS TO HIGHJACK MELANESIAN SPEARHEAD GROUP. That's what Prof. Brij Lal says.  Read it for yourself by clicking on this link.  What Brij did not say was that this was long after Australia and New Zealand had pushed for Fiji's suspension from the PI Forum and Pacer Plus discussions, despite the obvious reluctance of other Melanesian countries.

Both move and counter-move are likely to undermine the Forum, and possibly change the whole geopolitics in the Pacific as Fiji is forced to look North for new friends.  It could be argued that the first highjackers were Australia and New Zealand.  Like so many issues, the conclusion reached depends on where the mental journey started.

Usaia Waqatairewa of the Sydney-based Fiji Democracy and Freedom  says Bainimarama's annual salary and allowances amount to US$60,000 while "half of the people are living in poverty."  He said  "New Zealand and Australia need to help bring fairness to ordinary people in Fiji. They should do something more to try and push this guy out because he’s not going to go willingly. He’s living there, he’s enjoying the luxury life that he’s never seen before, that he never believed that he could afford before. This guy was entrusted with the responsibility of security and he’s turned it against the very people that’s he’s supposed to be looking after.”

Usaia, Bainimarama's salary and lifestyle is similar to that of former PMs (did you ever criticize them?); his former lifestyle as Military Commander was pretty good; and how precisely do you think Australia and New Zealand should "push this guy out"? RadioNZInternational, what makes Usaia's views newsworthy? His only accurate statement was on the extremes of wealth in Fiji.  It's probably worse than five or so years ago but it's not new to Fiji, and the rich-poor gap has increased in many other countries, including the two countries he calls upon to come to Fiji's rescue.

In an entertainingly light article, broadcaster and TV personality extraordinaire, loved and hated in equal measure by New Zealanders, Paul writes of his holiday at a Qamea Island resort owned by Kiwis. His comments on the villages devastated by Hurricane Tomas and worker-boss relations at the resort are well worth a read, as is his account of fishing, but most interesting is this extract: "As for Commodore Frank Bainimarama? Well, on the odd occasion when his name has come up, and it hasn't very often, I hear nothing but good. People seem to feel that he is doing well, rooting out corruption in the army and the police.

"There is consternation at the attitude of Australia and New Zealand. Bainimarama has made transport to schools free. This is particularly good for people on outer islands such as this one, where going to school involved a boat ride and then a bus, twice a day. And with us turning up our noses at Bainimarama, the Chinese money is pouring in, wouldn't you know."  Well, I never. This is what they think on Qamea, a small island to the east of Taveuni, and a long way from Suva.

A reader writes:  "High profile NZ broadcaster Paul Holmes (ex NewstalkZB radio host) is an award-winning Herald on Sunday columnist (N Z Herald) and also presents a political programme on TVNZ called Q&A. He has just been to Fiji staying on an island at a resort called Qamea. Today he wrote his usual Sunday column about his present holiday in Fiji. His anecdotal comment on Frank Bainimarama was interesting because he has not been positive in the past – more neutral to negative. No doubt he learnt first hand about the changes that have been going on in Fiji – from the grass roots people. When we were over in Fiji in May we heard exactly the same comments from “mainland” Fijians, Suva to Nadi.

Perhaps Pacific Forum Secretary-General, Samoan Tuiloma Neroni Slade [who Bainimarama accuses of giving false information about Fiji to Forum members] should go and visit this island resort too! I wonder if Murray McCully read the Herald today."


Edge said…
Captured at the very instant he was making a point....

But he also has a very big Bula smile ...
Regime toady said…
Reading the rubbish in this blog confirms that Michael Field was on the mark when he gave you your nickname.
sara'ssista said…
@ croz, my point was that you appear to call any media coverage that is not favourable to this regime 'propaganda' but not pronouncements from this illegal regime where there is no public scrutiny, no way of checking the voracity of comments, figures etc and no way of criticising without a very real consequence which has been made very clear on many occasions by the military themselves to those who dare to object.
MJ said…
sara'ssista, every government in the world puts out press releases on it own record that are "favourable" to itself. Is this propaganda? Probably, but at least everyone knows this can occur and can take that into account when assessing the information. You would be more careful to trust this information until a patern of truthfulness is established. The problem is that the Aust/NZ media and governments are making comments/reporting storiess and trying to say they are from a position of "neutral observers". Cros is just trying to point out that this is not true. Once people are aware that they actually have an agenda, then a correct assessment can be placed on these comments. Funny enough, history is showing that it is the comments/stories from the Aust/NZ media and governments that are one sided, impartial and cannot be trusted.
Kiwi crap said…
Paul Holmes is a bloody idiot. This piece is pathetic so why even mention it?
Peter said…
Thank you Croz for informing us of the extract from the UK High Commissioner's speech.

Accepting there are qualifications implicit in what he says, it is still helpful to see the outstretched hand. The Commonwealth was once called a family of nations. This could still be so, if we decided to act as a family might. We could try to understand why our Fijian cousin took the action he did and help him through. His uniform may be old, but it sports a poppy. Another reminder that we fight on the same side when it counts!
imprimatur said…
Time for a journalist of quality like Alan Little of the BBC to begin informing himself of the Fiji situation. Why have we never had anyone of his ilk here? His programme this week about Sierra Leone's conflict ten years ago and how it was resolved was first class. He asked all the right questions. He also asked all the right questions when he re-visited Bosnia recently and went back over their genocidal war.
sara'ssista said…
@MJ.. yes it all propaganda. Hang on... what came first the coup or the censors?? Even the locals don't know what is going on... so who's fault is that? Please don't tell me that this government is entirely accountable at home and entirely misunderstood overseas. There is NOTHING critical of this regime allowed to be reported at home , at all.
Invuctus said…
Usaia Waqatairewa is one of the many Qarase’s beneficiaries, like pilotfish to sharks these ophidians are parasites who operate on the periphery of society and often incognito but are as parasitical as pilotfish.

They will bleed the nation dry for these types of people have not an ounce of morality yet under the banner of Democracy they stand united for their unalienable rights most of which are pernicious to other nationalities that inhibit Fiji.

By their very nature these types of people are duplicitous and more often than not are extravagant but as they bestir themselves for being immoral they show signs that accentuate their ferocity.

While Usia inveighs against this regime improvidence it may be prudent for the likes of him and his ilk’s to take an inventory of their lifestyles most of which can be safely said to be acquired by way of Affirmative Action thanks to papa Qarase.
daucina said…
@ Imprimatur

Of course, asking 'all the right questions' is insufficient. You really need to ask and then follow on right through. Something we appear unable to do with focus and determination in Fiji. Why is this so? Failure here allows criminal conduct and deep seated impunity to set in. That is where we have been and the Qarase 'trusties' who have benefitted from all this are too dishonest and intellectualy compromised to admit so. Heaven help us all if we fail to 'measure up' now? We have some space from crony politicians and their party-hangers-on. This is truly our very last chance!
Anonymous said…
@ sara-ssista 2

You are quite incorrect to say that the 'locals know nothing about what is going on'. Some of us know very well 'what is going on'. You demonstrate by such assertions that you are not here within Fiji and you seem also not to care about the reality of the situation. Were you on the ground, you would be far more circumspect, far more measured in your assumptions. Get to know and have esteem for the truth of the situation. If it proves to be inconvenient, well that should promote a change of position? This is where the solutions will come from.
Anonymous said…
@ Invictus

Yes, a prudent review of what has gone before would not go amiss. For eventually, it will all come out in the wash. All those who have stolen and mis-used public money for their own ends and use will be 'outed'. There is a law of human nature which dictates that such persons usually find their own the fullness of time. A Great Flushing of the System must take place. While it does, things of necessity are uncomfortable and much weeping and gnashing of teeth from afar?
Anonymous said…
The hi-jacking of the MSG is a most logical political manoeuvre. Any self-respecting politician might have seen that looming over the horizon. Was the the Pacific Forum likewise hi-jacked by Australia? So, what is good for the goose is good for the gander. All is fair in "Love and War". This is war! A war of survival. Smart and shrewd operators never allow their adversaries such openings. Consult Sun Tzu, read Machiavelli or Lord McAlpine's crib of same.
sara'ssista said…
FYI... i have an educated family on the ground in fiji that i speak with every week, i am as well informed as anybody here and my point is i should not need to rely o rumour and the coconut wireless to get information on the ground that is not regime propaganda and from a media that has been muzzled, a judiciary that fear losing there jobs and a public service that is rued by self-appointed colonels.
Anonymous said…
It is the quality of information that matters. If the information provided by Media and press over many years has been compromised (and it was), of what use is that? Maybe the silence of censorship is of equal validity? We need to test the quality of information and that means testing all those who purvey it. In Fiji it was compromised and distorted to suit politicians' play for power. The dissemination of information is always weighted. In Fiji, that weighting was deliberately corrupted to suit political ends: to hell with The Truth, to hell with The People and their just and fair requirements. Let them all pay tax so that we may divert it for our own purposes. Sooner or later such a philosophy or creed is the means of its own destruction.
Anonymous said…
Invictus, explain how I have benefited from Qarase???

I have graduated with two overseas degrees self funded and with my parents help. I have got all jobs I have held on merit without any affirmative action program for indigenous Fijians, you can confirm with Shaista Shameem how I got to be Deputy Director of the Fiji Human Rights Commission.

I enjoyed my lifestyle through hard work, I did not come through the back door totting a gun like your hero.

Usaia P. Waqatairewa

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