Mills & Military, Natapei & MSG, Journalists Half Right, and Right


. I currently have 14 of these comments, all well argued and reasonably expressed, that will not be published. What a waste! Readers wishing to comment need to write their comment, press the Name/URL button and write their pseudonym, and then click on Publish. 

MILLS WORKING SMOOTHLY NOW MILITARY THERE. Two weeks ago the army placed soldiers on a 24 hour watch at the Lautoka and Rarawai (Ba, photo) sugar mills. There have been no stoppages since.  The placement was in response to concerns about almost daily breakdowns and stoppages.

The officer-in-charge of the military's E Company in Lautoka, Major Petero Tale, said, "While the issue of supposed sabotage has been brought to my attention, I believe that negligence by mill workers more than sabotage is the biggest threat to the industry."  He gave the example of a tank full of cane juice that overflowed into the sea because someone was sleeping on the job and forgot to halt the crushing process."

"We are not there to intimidate anyone. Our presence is simply to ensure the mills run smoothly without unnecessary interference or laxity because the economy of the country and the livelihood of over two hundred thousand people are at stake," he said.

NATAPEI ON MSG. Vanuatu PM Edward Natapei who as chairman cancelled the Melanesian Spearhead Group meeting in July,says negotiations are underway with member countries for Solomon Islands to host the next meeting, probably before the end of the year. His earlier last minute cancellation, almost certainly prompted by Australia,  deprived Fiji of the  chairmanship and forced Fiji to hold a substitute "Engaging with the Pacific" meeting at Natadola.  Under the MSG constitution, the host country automatically holds the chairmanship until the next summit. Natapei's action severely damaged the effectiveness of the MSG and diminished its potential role as a mediator in the Fiji standoff. It will be interesting to see whether Fiji thinks its attendance worthwhile.

FORMER PS LABOUR JAILED. Former Labour Permanent Secretary Brian Singh has been sentenced to a three-year custodial sentence by High Court Judge Justice Sitambaram Pillay Thurairaja after being convicted on three counts of false pretence.

PACIFIC FREEDOM JOURNALISTS GET IT HALF RIGHT. The Pacific Freedom Forum was established "with the specific intent of raising awareness and advocacy of the right of Pacific people to enjoy freedom of expression and be served by a free and independent media." Its Chairman is Susuve Laumaea based in PNG and the co-Chair is Monica Miller in American Samoa. PFF is registered in the Cook Islands.

The Forum is to be commended for much of its watchdog work and its concern about the present lack of media freedom, as it is defined by PFF, in Fiji is understandable but -- with their predisposition to fault the Fiji Government on every move, see Government boggies in every cupboard, and their apparent need to rely on secondhand information--  they sometimes get things wrong.

The recent report on their website, faithfully  copied by RadioNZInternational, cites Deputy Editor Sophie Fosters's "sudden leave" as evidence of "confusion at the top of the Fiji Times [which in turn] is a reflection of the further deterioration of media freedom under the interim regime." Laumaea takes it further saying "there’s no longer an independent news outlet in Fiji."

But how come  Losalini Rasoqosoqo, a reporter for Fiji Sun (a paper the PFF claim is gagged and pro-Government)  reported from Suva about this same "turmoil at the top" before going on to write that "Fellow journalists, speaking on condition they were not named, said they believe Rika was forced to go following a meeting between Motibhai executives and Swinstead." And on Sophie's absence, "There was speculation in the Fiji Times newsroom that Foster was not happy at being bypassed and Wesley appointed." 

The PFF were right about turmoil at the top, but not in this instance about the lack of media freedom or the probable, or at least equally plausible, reason for Foster's absence from the newsroom.

"The doomsday brigade is quickly at it again with its tenacious state gagging scenario at the Fiji Times. Media voices trot out the same tired old media freedom clichés about the fate of the ex-News Ltd newspaper that did so much to dig its own grave.

Café Pacific prefers to keep an open mind and see what Motibhai’s new publisher, Dallas Swinstead, can produce. Give him time. A breath of fresh air and a strategic rethink of how to go about being an effective newspaper faced with the reality of a military-backed authoritarian regime. A real challenge." Full article on Cafe Pacific.

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WEEKEND READING. Allen Lockington's column, Questions from a student on the Fiji Times, Gerald McGhie on Resolving the Fiji Impasse, Crosbie Walsh on Layers of Conmen.


Sugar sugar said…
What does it say about the Leadership and Management of the FSC if a few men in green sudenly mean mill performance is fixed.

Should the military take a presence at FEA, Telecom etc

Or is this just window dressing to shift the blame some where else.

The Military has been in control of the sugar insdustry for nearly four years. What repsonsibility is the sugar minister going to take ?
Alter ego said…
@Sugar sugar makes a valid point.

"We are not there to intimidate anyone. Our presence is simply to ensure the mills run smoothly without unnecessary interference or laxity because the economy of the country and the livelihood of over two hundred thousand people are at stake," Major Petero Tale said.

Classic case of treating the symptom instead of the cause: poor management and morale going all the way up to the minister responsible.
MJ said…
@Alter ego

You are right, ultimately it is the sugar ministers (and the rest of governments) responsibility. But while I see many comments blaming the current sugar minister, where are your comments about the ministers from 2000 to 2006? This is the time that it all went down hill. Once a culture becomes established it is very difficult to change, and the current culture became established over those years. At least the current minister seems to be taking some action, as seen by the recent retirements and the extra "security". We never saw any action from 2000 to 2006.

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