The Times They Are A Changin'

* The Heading: For Bob Dylan's lyric, click here.
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In many ways the recent stories of the Fiji Times —and the stories around the Fiji Times— have epitomised the dilemma that is Fiji, with all its apparent contradictions and the need to rethink values and attitudes once taken for granted. If a just way forward is to be found, most dichotomous thinking in terms of black and white, and moral absolutes on right and wrong, can no longer remain unquestioned.

Whatever our attitude to the 2006 Coup and the Bainimarama government, the situation requires that we abandon our rigid right or wrong positions and look for the shades of grey that may produce the outcomes required for a Better Fiji, better than in 2006, better than now. To do this, we may need to compromise in order to stand firm; balance media responsibility against media freedom, and accept the ultimate contradiction: a military-led dictatorship to protect a future democracy. These themes, and more, are raised by where the Fiji Times has come from and where it is, or might be, heading. For these reason it has exclusive coverage today. -- Crosbie Walsh.

FULL TEXT OF SWINSTEAD INTERVIEW by FBC's Stanley Simpson's interview on 6 October 2010 as  published on the Pacific Media Centre blogsite.    Here are three extracts pertinent to our dilemma:

"Yes, we are changing direction. Having watched News Ltd perish in this country, there’s no sense in committing suicide, even with a locally-owned replacement. There is no doubt that The Fiji Times  cannot be antagonistic to the government, What on earth does it prove? But we will ask questions in a fair and balanced way because we will be helping to bring the people to the government.

"The meeting [with Sharon Smith Johns] went well. I presented my credentials, which if I may say so, are pretty good; I said my piece and the permanent secretary said hers. I certainly understood that she was delivering the government’s line and in my short time here I already chosen to support that line. Why? Because most respected people here have spoken to me about infrastructure finally taking shape; about one nation one people, about equality from coast to coast. If you like, you can be cynical about it, but from where I stand —and I first made up my mind about this in 1979 as I left after four years in the chair at the times — the two main communities have to learn to live together EQUALLY, with equal opportunity and equal hard work.

"We have to help people understand that there some highly-educated soldiers walking on this path set by their leader and, given that education, they will all yearn for democratic elections when the time comes. It is, I believe, inevitable and exciting."

HOW AN ANTI-GOVT BLOG SEES IT
. "The new owner, the Motibhai Group and its chairman, Mahendra Patel, and publisher Dallas Swinstead are taking the paper in a new direction —straight into the arms of the military regime— in an effort to win back the favours of the dollar disposers, Frank Bainimarama and Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum."

FIJI TIMES OLD AND NEW (as seen by an Old Timer).  The big test comes when those who were systematically excluded from the Letters Page or the 'Columns without By-Lines' of the former Fiji Times under News Corp are once again admitted if they objectively have something serious and useful to say.

Why  was there no investigative reporting on corruption or organised crime over the past five years or more? None that was of any use to those receiving long-standing, multiple threats? Or of murders linked to organised criminals when relatives of the murdered were still under threat? This was a sign that the inherent "Shoot the Messenger" racism of former executives had dominated their wits. There was a duty, more than a duty —an imperative— to investigate these criminal, intimidatory threats and to report on them.

Particularly, when the Fiji Police were failing in their duty to investigate fully and charge all involved. A mother and her daughter have been obliged to leave Fiji because of this. The Fiji Times staff then refused to report from the High Court on the case and others like it where the matter was 'vacated'. Why was thispermitted? Why did the Police quite happily and obligingly (for the criminals) allow these persons to go free? Until the Fiji Times and other media entities come to terms with this, we must  conclude that the entire landscape was flawed and inimical to justice.


At least, the registration of all phones, mobile and landline, allows for blocking. This is working. Three calls were blocked just yesterday to my knowledge on only one line. They can now be traced. This is the world of le Carre and Frederick Forsyth's novels. With the exception that it is now on the ground in Fiji and has been for more than five years. How could the PER have been removed with all this in play? We need to "get real".

FIJI WITHOUT THE FIJI TIMES IS UNTHINKABLE. Saturday's editorial "A Breath of Fresh Air"  by new editor Fred Wesley.  Republished from CafĂ© Pacific. "It is time to share with our readers where we are and where we plan to go ..."   Read on.


NEWS LTD STRIKES FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE. With not a cent left invested in the Fiji Times, Rupert Murdoch's The Australian will not give up. Using the same old sources it tells the same old stories about the never-ending disasters occurring in Fiji. If you wish, again, to read about the gagged media, Chaudhry's arrest, Rika's resignation, Fiji Times staff in tears, subscribe to The Australian.  More disasters are promised next week.

But I am unfair, amid the disasters, they reported one contrary view, from the new Fiji Times publisher Dallas Swinstead, who said business in Fiji is "bowling along", and he is impressed by the military leadership.

"It's a helluva undertaking, but very well organised, and however brutal it might seem to us in Australia, it's not all that harsh," he says. "There is no sense here of military control. It's the same old Fiji. I have very early reached the conclusion that what they are doing is right."

He says an editorial about freedom of speech was recently rejected by the censor, resulting in the paper being delayed, and thus losing sales."I did not blame the censor but felt that it was the writer's fault: he could have done a better job."

SWINSTEAD ON THE NEW GUARD  at the Fiji Times.

Comments

Scott MacWilliam said…
The possibility that a military regime may be the precursor to a liberal democratic government is not as exceptional as some may think. Consider the history of England after Cromwell, France after Bonaparte, the USA after the military victory of the north over the south in the civil war, Germany after Bismarck and then again after the Allied Occupation in 1945, Japan after the Allied Occupation also at the end of WWII, South Korea during the Third, Fourth and Fifth Republics-the list goes on including more recently into Africa and Latin America.In many liberal democratic countries, the military's presence is invariably just beneath the surface, used to quell strikes, demonstrations etc. Nothing is predetermined in the relationship between military and civilian rule, despite what those who are romantically inclined care to think. Fiji will be the same, which is why what steps are taken over the next few years to secure a transition to a more substantial democratic civilian government are so important.
trust him ? said…
Problem is you have to believe the PM will give up
his power in 2014. That's a big ask with
his very poor record and hints already that
he does not trust the people and his plan
to have the military still in control.

He just does not do enough to build trust.
He needs to get serious about reconfirming
promises and starting some action.
Alter ego said…
[Swinstead] says an editorial about freedom of speech was recently rejected by the censor, resulting in the paper being delayed, and thus losing sales. "I did not blame the censor but felt that it was the writer's fault: he could have done a better job."

So he thinks the censors have a better grasp of what his newspaper should be publishing than the new editorial team he has put in place?

Good luck keeping your team motivated Mr Swinstead.
sara'ssista said…
@Scott Macwiiliam, i agree there is precedent but these countries also cleansed themselves of this coup culture by going after the perpretrators years after the events and after they had given themselves amnesty. This is great weay to go. No futurer govenrment need feel bound by any so-called laws or amnesty from this regime. They should be patient then go after them in the middle of the night when they all feel comfortable.This will be a final deterrant not the ususal rubbish of placating their wishes again and agin, making concenssion after concession then watching it getting thrown back in your face by a regime that isn't the least bit inclined to negotiate anything. This pro regime bunch seem to think if you just give this regime whatever they desire thathey will just hand over power and go back to barracks , this bunch have sold out the people of fiji very, very cheaply and are all too quick to trade off other peoples human rights. for a seat at the table where they are expected to agree or shut up.Croz in particular could be the information minister in the Aus Govern. telling us how well we are doing in afghanistan and how it is all worthwhile, but wee need to see the 'BIG PICTURE'. Have some spine rather than look for the cowardly 'cup half full' human rights approach.This is not a 'grey area'. You either have rights or you don't.PER is either in place or it isn't, you either have a military or an elected govenrment running the country, not both.
Christmas on its way said…
It's almost Christmas. Once November hits the year is pretty much over. That means 2011 is just around the corner.

We have been asked to accept that work will start on a new constitution in 2012. So that is only a year away. To get everything done in one year including dialogue, discussions, revisions and iterations and assumably some agreement the regieme needs to have all the structures in place on how this will work well before 2012. They need that in place in 2011. Or is it going to be the AG who does the work and military President who endorces it ?

Lets give the PM the benefit of the doubt for now. He needs to get moving now. We need a detailed plan of how all this is going to work. What international involvement will be requires (and not just asking for money).

As it stands we have no news, no published roadmap (to democracy and free and fair elections) and a PER that makes any free discussion to create a new constitution seem like a long long way off.

Then there is the question of the economy... If it is not turned aorund, if the so called reforms have not taken place does this mean the PM will simply defer the whole process and ultimately elections. Remember the only published road map to date had elections being a certainity in 2009 then 2010.

I'm prepared to support the PM and process. I'm also hopeful however realisticly we would need to see something from the PM to demostrate he as even thought about the whole prcoess before Christmas.
Honesty, smile said…
10/10/10
PM’s letter to People of Fiji

Dear Fiji Citizens,

Let me talk openly and honestly to you. First of all let me clear up 2006. Yes it was a coup and no I didn’t have to do it. I took over government because I didn’t like their policies. They where not including me in decision making and they actually allowed the police to investigate me – they failed to recognise my role in helping them into power. They where not even going to renew my contract – hey they owed me so I had no choice really.

Secondly on corruption - they where probably corrupt – I really don’t know but my guys told me this would wash with the international community plus all the national emergency stuff, acting president etc etc. All rubbish to me but hey I took my now AG’s advice. Not that it played out like we had hope. I should have just walked in and said “I’ve got the guns, I’m the boss, SDL you are gone”. We got to that in the end so sorry about wasting all that time.

Thirdly the stuff I say about a race free Fiji is genuine. I don’t like racists and want everyone in Fiji to be free to worship the military and our nation building leadership capacity. I liked the idea of calling everyone Fijian’s because that way I no longer have a race issue in my own team. They are all Fijian’s – the whole countries Fijians. Problem solved.

Fourthly, now on elections. I have to be honest and say I didn’t mean it in 2007 when I promised elections in 2009 and you will have to wait and see if I mean it in 2014. We picked 2014 cause it seemed way way off and in the end if we do have to have elections (I promise I will try…maybe) by 2014 we are pretty sure Mahen and Qarase will be out of the picture. We though we solved this earlier by proposes to change the voting system but then some smart ass pointed out under any system SDL would probably win again. Actually I liked Mahen, he promised me he would fix everything and ensure those lot we used to call Indians would support me. Can’t believe he was so dumb as to help himself to cash without including me. Anyway he gone and we will deal him in the military way if our new courts don’t work out the way we planned.

Finally now on reforms. Everything is going good. Military can now spend what ever we want now. Not having to report anywhere or be accountable to anyone has really freed up our time. My officers have been able to take up new gigs all over the country. It’s great to be able to reward them with a bit of extra cash. And a couple of them are doing pretty well. Sure they need to be a bit more honest about things. Took me a while to work out we where not crime free with the prisons filling up. My new commiss will fix that, he has yellow ribbon that’s lets guys out and hopefully he can use it to not let people in. Actually it’s only my family and ,military I’m worried about on this front anyway.

I look forward to updating you on the sugar industry later. Much, much later when we have some new execs and directors to blame. On AU/NZ thank goodness they are being so pig headed. Can’t think who I would blame with out them. Keep up the good work.

Actually everybody, keep up the good work. We are moving forward and building a better Fiji.

Regards
Frank
sara'ssista said…
BTW Croz. Knowing how painfully openminded and pedantic about how things could be, can you please stop referring to others as 'ANTI-GOVERNMENT'. From what I can see they are not 'anti-government' they are 'anti-military regime' and it's 'illegal appointees' including this 'illegal president'. People like myself are not anarchists but people who believe that this regime is illegal and illegitimate and nothing good will come of it, no matter what the intention is. You know full well this is the case and knwoing how terribly sensituive this PM and his fellow traveller are about being referred to as 'Interim' and how quick you are to defend some disgusting reactions as result of this rather childish argument ,I would have though you would be quick to point out the difference.The difference I suppose is that i won't withdraw any advertising and force you to sell up because of my vanity and desperate plea for legitimacy.
What governent? said…
Croz
You and the few other coup supporters might benefit from, and indeed help move Fiji forward, if you do a reality check? Yes, we have a coup, we have a regime, but we do not have a government. Those speaking against the regime, and one only has to look honestly at the sanctions and all esle that is happening, to know full well that those opposing the regime are not anti government - the government was deposed by men with guns. Those standing up to the regime, such as the former editor of the Fiji Times, are being given opportunities and being heralded by the international community. Those supporting the coup will never have credibility, never be recognised, and are moving into employment oblivion beyond the junta. When the junta is gone, they will be unemployable (those not arrested that is). Your stance is only making it worse for these unemployables - work with us to help them admit their error, help us get the Fiji military back to the barracks, and if possible, but sadly very doubtful, let us all try and restore pride and discipline back into the army, even though it is likely to take at least 2-3 decades?
The battle is over my friend - time to move Fiji forward - it can no longer keep going backwards the way it has been since Dec 2006.
Croz Walsh said…
@ Christmas ... I agree.

@ Honesty .... Clever! I smiled as I always do at a good joke.

@ Sasa'ssista ... Whether it is legal or not, it is running the country and is therefore the de facto Government, and all readers are familar with its use and meaning. I leave it to you to keep reminding us all that it is illegal and illegimate. As for your prediction, it is too early to say but already some good has come of it.
Croz Walsh said…
@ What government? ... This blog has constantly called for lifting PER,more dialogue, and moving forward. On this I am agreed with you. But on nothing else. Many in Fiji do not wish to return to the way Fiji was (mis)governed between 2000 and 2006.
more truth than we admit said…
@ croz and honesty

Funny maybe but more truth in there than most
government press releases. As time goes
by I wonder if the PM will stop the pretences
on why they took over and why they refuse
to give up power.
Red Dragon said…
@ Scott McWilliam

Yes, too few people have read their history. Although the history of other nations is not necessarily a roadmap to the future in any given present situation elsewhere there can indeed be parallels. The recent history of Spain and Ibero-American countries formerly under military juntas can bear looking at and the territory at times seems familiar to anyone who has specialised in this. The removal of certain people who were systematically blocking progress through the deliberate wearing of blinkers (politically-motivated and deeply in error)had become essential to the survival of an nation and its people economically because organised criminals had us by the throat. How had it happened that so many were so deaf and so blind to the actions of organised crime in our very midst? The suffering that has been occasioned has been considerable and as we move on we must take close and analytical glances backwards. The synergy of corrupt politicians/lawyers/journalists/bankers/insurance brokers and insurance companies/hotel developers and operators linked to corrupt real estate agents has been almost overwhelming in the presence of a Police Force which had become visibly and over-archingly 'bought' and sold out - so corrupted that it was in many places dysfunctional and openly operating against the interests of the Fijian taxpayers who wished to justly make complaints with evidence. It is now essential to have leadership of the Fiji Police which is disciplined, leads from the front by example and, more importantly, has been tried and tested. We now confidently expect an overhaul in the performance of the Fiji Police and we would all want to wish Police Commissioner B-G Iowane Naivalurua well in all his endeavours. A fully functioning judicial system staffed with incorruptible and independent judges, magistrates and registrars and an efficient and effective Fiji Police Force will solve most of the pressing problems within a reasonable period of time. The Supreme Court of Fiji convenes this week. The requisite mix is now coming together.
sara'ssista said…
@croz. i would be perfectly happy you referring to this regime as a 'de-facto government', as it is, but it appears you are more inclined not to upset this regime or its supporters than tell it like it is.It doesn't stop you referring to myself and others as anti- regime'.Thats fine.The 'good ' you refer to would be now there is no other opinion or persepctive being canvassed in the craven fijian media whatsovever.Hurrah.
Principles? said…
@sara'ssista

Maybe we should commend you for having such solid and unswerving principles in your determination that all coup perpetrators should be brought to justice, no matter what. If only you had the same outspoken views when Qarase was trying to pardon and stop prosecuting all of the 2000 coup perpetrators I might even believe you. At that time the only strong opposition I heard was from Bainimarama. I just don't believe in your current holier than thou principles, as there was no evidence that you had them when the nationalists/racists were in power. I think that you just don't like that Bainimarama will mean equality for all and the end of the elite taking everything. Your bluster about "illegal and illegitimate" is just a smokescreen.
What government said…
Croz
Are you suggesting that most people in Fiji would prefer a military regime over an elected government? If that is the case why is the shadow jumping PER in place, here draconian censorship, why is the consitution abrogated and why is it that there will be no elections for 8 years since the coup?
It is not up to you and gun carriers like bainimarama to decide what is best for Fiji...it is the people of Fiji.
SOE said…
@ What government.....

Indeed it is up to the people of Fiji..and only to us! But how we get to a government of choice is the Half-a-Million-dollar question. What do you suggest? Go down the May 2006 path again? That would be a terrible mistake...and end up with a similar result? A stolen election, perverted from the time the ennumerators set foot in the door! A mockery of a democratic election at every stage. How do we know? Because some of us have worked in Fiji elections off and on since the mid-1970s. We have also worked elsewhere in elections - where the democratic formula does work and has an acceptable outcome. In Fiji, from 1995 onwards democratic elections were little short of a charade. More than that, they were a travesty of justice and an affront to any concept of good governance. What was more galling was the introduction of observers from the EU and the Commonwealth come to gloat over this fiasco and pronounce it "Free and Fair". The ultimate betrayal of Fijians in Fiji by outsiders? Let the ANU and its coterie of malcontent, post-graduate scholars, paid for by the Aussie Taxpayers to propagate their unwholesome world view, dwell on that for a while. No questions to be asked about the provenance of their funding? Not likely. Who is re-educating Whom? One is led to wonder. And Why?
March of Folly said…
@ sara-ssista

You appear to have completely overlooked that the 2000 upheaval was a terrorist enterprise not only in execution but also in conception. In the year prior to 9/11, this was the term that no one dared apply. Looking back, we now know that that is what took place: hostage taking in Parliament with parliamentarians held hostage including a Prime Minister for 56 days at gunpoint by a rabble led in the main by a mob of renegades. What more do you want to demonstrate that the landscape of Fiji was forever tainted and corrupted by that betrayal and subsequent events? A mutiny then followed in which loyal soldiers were killed in cold blood. That is what terrorism is and it is self-propagating. Dare to look it in the face and call it by its name: TERROR.
Swinstead's Folly said…
Congratulations
Swinstead has taken only 2 weeks to reduce the Fiji Times to a rag supporting a coup. No wonder Fiji is going backwards at such an alarming rate. Very sad for the young who have little future in the absence of democracy and international respect.
sara'ssista said…
@principles...i happily agree with you and i am more than happy for them to go back as far as Rabuka and gaol the lot. Please don't presume to think i just adjusted on my moral compass in 2006. I am entirely consistent. And i have never defended previous regimes. I am happy for their to be commission of inquiry (by a government of national unity) to investigate anyone who is living , quite frankly. The major players can be gaoled and the more junior players (i was just following orders) can get get suspended five years setences how is that for ya?? And i don't feel need to provide 'evidence of anything' to anyone.The smokescreen is the joke about holding out for 2014 and then with some miracle things will change. No they won't , the militray will be sitting , just waiting for any opportunity to get 'involved'.This is not their role and people like yourself has let this happen, not me.
anti-goverment or pro-dictator said…
@ sara and @ croz

It seems only fair that if this site continues wih labelling eveyone who is not 100% supportinve of this defacto government "anti-government" then everyone else including you croz should be from here on labelled "pro-military dictatorship"
coup in NZ said…
December 2011 (only two months away)....

The New Zealand Navy have just disposed the key Government in a blooddless coup. A Public Emergency is declared by the Navy who now claim to be the sole decision maker in the country. They appoint themsleves to the roles of PM and place their own at all levels of government and the public service.

One brave NZ newspaper tries to cover the events.

Croz, will you be looking at that paper and asking why they didn't have a equal balance of articles and quotes that support the Navy's coup and removal of the elected government ?

Or will you be more worried about the general implications to NZ as whole as a Navy struggles to work out how the heck to run a country ?

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