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.

Comments

Same same said…
You should give Fiji's rumors about as much credibility as this governments press and promises. Both seem far fetched but at least the rumors are more creative and entertaining.
PER said…
Croz,

There are some crazy rumors that do the rounds and many can be dismissed. But it is also fair to say that the coconut wireless works faster than any government press and has produced most the big news before it was announced - eg Police commissioner being sent of leave (oops resigned), Elections postponed, problems at sugar mills, mahen being charged are just a few examples.

On the PER who in Fiji had even heard of blog site before this coup ? The Military and PM are responsible for creating interest in online blogs - the day they tried to shut them down was the day everyone one started asking what one was.

The PER is not a good thing in any shape or form. It makes this government lazy and comfortable. Everyday that goes by with the PER in place means another day further from anything like free and fair elections and a better Fiji not closer. It creates the entirely wrong environment.

When was the last time you heard the sugar minister (PM) take a question on sugar ? If we had a free press he would be forced to stand up and address this, be upfront with people and get moving with some actions. He would have to because his political survival would be at stake even with his guns he could not ignore the issues.

I've met ministers who seriously believe the only issue in Fiji was the press - now it's silenced thatey actually think everything is fixed. NO IT's NOT. The underlying problems are still there and you all now have your head in the sand and are enjoying the view. Blinded now and serioulsy deluded if this continues...
PM's dribble said…
Croz,

It's not just the PM needing to play his cards closer to his chest. He actually believes what he says, He thinks he does not need AU/NZ/US/EU....and it's scary.

Also he claims that Fiji has to stand alone yet demands others fix his water, infrastructure and electricity.

He lacks the ability to grasp complex issues. He fails to understand international relations. His own arrogance leaves him exposed to critics.
Economic activity needed said…
Housing for the poor - tick, increaseing min wages - tick, rural serives - tick, sustainability of any of these without economic activity - cross.

Fiji needs to investment and economic activity to sustain real programs and great ideas like these. Sadly that is unlikely to happen while a PER is in place, while Decrees can destroy businesses overnight and courts are seen as influenced by government (real or not).

Sadly economic recovery will not really come untile after elections and they are way to far of in distant land with much of the thought on the ground doubting if they will happen in 2014 anyway.

Mac Patel knows this - that why he purchased the Fiji times to re-cement himself with this military government because he knows they are going nowhere and he knows he need them to protect what he has.
Groupthink said…
Unfortunately the poor of Fiji cannot live on groupthink, rhetoric and spin.
Changing Times said…
Re any lifting of the PER: The regime has always said it's conditional on a change of behavior at the Fiji Times so let's see precisely what Mac Patel is planning to do with the paper. We'll have a better idea on Wednesday, when he names the new publisher. If it's someone with close ties to News Limited, you can expect the same problems to continue. Because central to a better relationship with government is the removal of the FT's current senior editorial team and especially Netani Rika. If Patel can demonstrate to the regime that the bomb throwers at the FT are gone, it's far more likely that the PER will be lifted, or at least the media restrictions component of the decree. I can understand many people taking Rika's side in this long-festering stand-off and it's a shame he has to go. But you just can't begrudge the country's leader the title of prime minister in your editorial pages and expect anything else but trouble. When that's coupled with an explicit threat by Rika to eventually publish 2000 stories that the censors have banned, then it's clear his position has been untenable for a long time. Let's face it. From a reader's point of view, the Fiji Times has been way off the mark all through the turbulent years of Rika's stewardship. The wonder of it all is that successive Fiji Times publishers sent from Sydney allowed things to deteriorate so badly. Not only did they fail to properly manage the relationship with government, they allowed editorial standards to slip. Yes, media freedom is important but the first rule is that newspapers exist primarily for their readers. For Netani Rika, it seems to have been all about him and what he wanted for the country, not about us. Please give us a good read first and foremost, Mr Patel, and make the FT worthy of its rich history and a paper Fiji can be proud of again.

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