Rumours, PER, Commonwealth Games, Chinese & Thai Help, Afforable Housing, Wages
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DON'T LISTEN TO RUMOURS. " Don't listen to rumours. They are dangerous." This was the slogan heard on Singapore radio and TV in the early 1960s when this small country was not yet free of racial tensions, civic unrest, and unfriendly neighbours -- a country then not too different from Fiji now.
In a weekend posting ABC journalist Bruce Hill wrote a humourous but telling article on his recent visit to Fiji where rumour abounds. He was correct in inferring that PER (The Public Emergency Regulations) leaves the field wide open for rumour.
But what he did not say, which is equally true, is that some rumour is deliberately manufactured to create political instability, just as it was in Singapore. I would advocate lifting PER to lessen the influence of such rumours, and leave other public order laws to deal with the "manufacturers."
FOR AND AGAINST THE PER. The weekend post generated much comment. Some readers agreed with Hill. Others thought rumour was nothing new in Fiji. I argued that PER should be lifted despite the risks because it would show good faith and win government much needed support from the uncommitted. I thought other laws would contain crime -- and attempts to destabilise government. Still other readers wanted the PER retained. Here is what one of them wrote:
"Will Bruce Hill take responsibility should the PER be lifted for those who decide overnight to invade my compound or my neighbours' next door - eight-at-a-time wielding knives and masked by balaclavas wholly intent upon havoc? Does he or anyone like him fully realise the reality of the situation that is being confronted? Rumours distort the climate of prevailing uncertainty but a premature lifting of the PER would most likely be a return to opportunistic crime and rent-a-mob.
"So easy to advocate for the easy way out when you are not here and not prey to 'what happens next'. Not unlike democratic elections now underway in Afghanistan. More than premature, one might think? Who has the right to exhort people to vote if doing so will expose them to marauding Taliban? Afghanistan is a war zone, for heaven's sake. Fiji is a 'rumour-mongering zone'.
"The smart people work out a way to disentangle fact from fiction. The rest just sail along with the tide of the latest fantastic fallacy robed in the garb of veracity. How else is one to pass the time until 2014? "
OUT BUT IN THE COMMONWEALTH GAMES. Isoa Damudamu will be part of the English Rugby Sevens team in Delhi next month; other Fijians are likely to be members of other competing teams and -- with the exclusion of the Fiji team-- medals for England, Australia, Samoa and New Zealand seem more assured. It is likely a Fijian (or two) will help them to victory.
CHINESE TO HELP DEVELOP VANUA LEVU. A Chinese government Chinese government initiative, sparked in part by the PM's recent visit to China, resulted in a visit by a team from the Chinese Embassy to Fiji's second largest island Vanua Levu (5½ thousand square kilometers, and half the size of Viti Levu) last week. The visit is expected to result in more Chinese investment in the island. Speaking of the visit, the PM said: "We need infrastructure. We need water. We need electricity. Australia and New Zealand and America, none of those nations are going to provide that. We know that now because of their policies towards us, so let's forget about these nations." [It need not be an either/or choice, if only the PM played his cards closer to his chest.]
THAILAND HELPS AFFORDABLE HOUSING. Fiji and Thailand are to sign a memorandum of agreement on housing assistance. The new initiatives will involve NGOs,including the People's Community Network (PCN) and new homes at Lagilagi ('squatter') settlement in the Jittu Estate, Suva. [The original article has been corrected.]
MINIMAL OR MINIMUM WAGES? Wages Council chairman Fr Kevin Barr, reacting to concerns by some business leaders who queried the link between wages and poverty, thinking unemployment a more likely cause, said that while there are other factors that contribute to poverty, the level of wages is the key factor. Many full-time workers, he said, are poor because their wages are below the poverty line, and close to 40% of Fiji's population live below this line. Over a half of full time workers can't afford to send their children to school, they can't afford proper health care and good nutritious food.
He said a fair wage was not whatever wage the worker was persuaded to accept. A just wage was one that a worker to enable him or her to support the family in their basic requirements of food, clothing, housing, education and health care.