Rakiraki, Land Leases, Fiji's Prisons, US Presence, Samoa Spat, EU and Sugar, Bruce Hill's "Viliame", Pacific Eye Clinic

WEEKEND READING. ♦ The Allen Lockington column ♦ Islands Business October Cover Story: Sugar ♦ Mosmi Bhim on Grassroots Citizenry, the Media and Democracy ♦ Engaging with Fiji by Sanjay Ramesh.

ALL PART OF THE ROADMAP: RAKIRAKI A NEW TOURIST DESTINATION? Recently gazetted a town, Rakiraki in Viti Levu's Northeast, aims at becoming a tourist destination, according to Town Council interim administrator, Ms Seini Vunivutu-Raiko. And it could well be when improvements to Kings Road are completed.  Rakiraki is about half way between Nadi and Suva on Kings Road, and a convenient stopover spot for a round-the-island tour or for visits to the nearby island of Nananu-i-Ra and other homely tourist resorts. The  town is the site of Fiji's smallest sugar mill, Penang.

Ms Vunivutu-Raiko says roads in the town will be improved next year at a cost of $100,000 and a special zone for tourism is being created on the town fringes. Consultations between the town, the Penang Mill and the Ra Chamber of Commerce should see other attractions to the package that resorts and hotels offer. When the town's 5,000 people and the population of its hinterland are taken together, Fiji's two major races are equally represented in the area, and this also has considerable tourism potential. -- Based on 2010 No:1808/MOI.

LAND LEASE REFORMS.
The Strategic Framework for Change Coordinating Office is now focusing on land reforms to ensure a win-win  situation and equal benefits for both landlord and tenants. Click  here.

NZ AND FIJI PRISONS.  Hamilton Samuels worked in NZ prisons for 24 years. Visiting Fiji for the Marist Old Boys Reunion recently he said he was impressed with the Yellow Ribbon (forgiveness and second chance) programme for ex-offenders, the interaction of prison staff and prisoners (in New Zealand, we were not allowed to talk or shake hands with the prisoners) and the vocational and rehabilitative emphasis in Fiji's prisons. Click here for more information on the Yellow Ribbon Programme.

VIEWS ON US HEIGHTENED PRESENCE IN FIJI.  I said "US involvement may prompt the New Zealand government to change its actions on Fiji, but these changes are likely to be mostly hidden from view and only evident over time. Nothing is going to happen suddenly or dramatically.  New Zealand has dug itself a deep hole with its well meaning but ill-advised policies on Fiji, and it will take quite a time to dig itself out.” Click here.

SAMOA'S TSUNAMI MONEY
.Questions  raised by NZTV presenter John Campbell about missing aid money could lead to legal action by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi. NZ Foreign Minister McCully is satisfied all the money was spent wisely and doesn't want to know any more about it. It cannot escape notice that Tuilaepa is a strong supporter of NZ's position on Fiji and has constantly taken swipes at Bainimarama for his presumed abuse of power.

EU AND SUGAR. The $4.7 million EU fund allocation for the 2007/2008 cane planting program is expected to be fully utilized by the FSC by the end of the year.The balance of $500,000 from this allocation has now been given to the FSC and no further grant is expected from the EU after to the political situation.

The $4.2 million used so far has not been so fruitful as hoped, due to bad weather and the effects of cyclones over the last three years. The allocation of $6 million by Government ($1,000 per hectare) for the cane planting programme has helped growers get through this year.

PM BLAMES DIRTY POLITICS FOR SUGAR PLIGHT. Click here.

ON "By  Bruce Hill For Radio Australia."  Interviewed by Bruce Hill, "Viliame" says he fears for his life but then says if he's sent back to Fiji it's torture and prison, which if true is bad enough but it's not death. So he's become an overstayer dodging Australian authorities — and with the extra  publicity from the ABC programme he's probably improved his chances of being allowed to stay in Australia.

His story started a week or so back when Bruce interviewed him along with two others about ethnic Fijians wanting protection visas.  Viliame says people in Fiji would recognize his voice from this programme, and he's been told military officials had called his Fiji phone number and asked if he was at home. But PS for Information, Sharon Smith Johns, said no-one knows who he is or even cares. "We are simply not concerned with a handful of people in Australia who are seeking asylum or refugee status or whatever it might be," she says."We have bigger things to get on with. There is no persecution."

So we have Viliame stupidly airing his views  on an ABC programme, knowing full well that his voice would be recognized and — if he believes himself — that he would be in serious trouble in Fiji for speaking out against the Government there. And we have a callous Bruce Hill who interviewed him twice despite the fact that the consequences could — if he believes Viliame — be torture, imprisonment or even death. 

Meanwhile, hundreds of the de facto government's opponents, including deposed PM Laisenia Qarase and others far better known than "Viliame", walk free on the streets of Suva. 

Bruce, if you persist in broadcasting this sort of unsubstantiated nonsense, I'll have to conclude you are not as even-handed as you claim. Try balancing this report with something more substantial about Fiji. How about the following item for starters:

FIJI'S PACIFIC EYE CLINIC AWAITS OPENING. The Ministry of Health is optimistic that the new Pacific Eye Centre will open on November 30th as planned. The facility (which cost US$1.5 million was built with support from the Australian and New Zealand Governments and the Fiji School of Medicine) is a first for the South Pacific.  The clinic will have state of the art equipment, and  will be available for over eight million people in the Pacific region, many of whom are struggling with eyesight problems, or battle blindness on a daily basis, often because of diabetes.  Specialists in the field of optometrics will conduct training at the Centre and so start to address the region's chronic shortage of eye specialists. -- Based on 2010, No:1832/MOI.

Comments

The ABC of unsubstantiated nonsense said…
Bruce Hill even-handed? Where's the evidence for that? This is the problem with the ABC, an innate bias against the regime and an almost insatiable appetite for the negative. Bruce Hill has been in Suva for an extended period and must know the truth. Or perhaps he didn't mix with anyone other than the most implacable of the regime's opponents. Either way, allowing himself to be suckered by "Viliame" shows that he's more drawn to dramatic hyperbole than the facts. Hundreds of would-be over-stayers in Australia now see a claim of persecution and torture as the surest way to avoid returning home. And people like Bruce Hill are always willing to give them a platform, firm adherents of the journalistic dictum not to let the facts get in the way of a good yarn. Others at Radio Australia like Geraldine Coutts are just as bad. Her recent interview with Netani Rika is a textbook example of using the leading question to elicit the response you want. If you go back and listen to it, Rika is almost embarrassed to have so much of the story put into his mouth by the interlocutor. It's all rich pickings for someone like Shailendra Singh, the head of journalism at USP. if you want examples of the way the metropolitan media manipulates the situation in Fiji, you don't need to go too much past the ABC and Pacific Beat.
Teflon Man said…
PM BLAMES DIRTY POLITICS FOR SUGAR PLIGHT.

I have a new name for our PM "TEFLON MAN" as it appears nothing ever sticks.

Fiji issues according the PM and his teamm always fall into one of four categories

1. Past governments fault or politics

2. Australia, New Zealand, EU etc fault

3. Natural dissater, GFC fault

4. All other reasons (please refer to only 1, 2 or 3 for valid reasons)

His latest reason on suger is a new and interesting twist though 'dirty politics'. Hang on I thought he had removed politics from Fiji ? Enoughs enough, here is a crazy idea. How about the PM admit...

1. He underestimated the problems in the sugar industry

2. There is no quick fix

3. The new management team HE put in place has failed

4. Chosing not to work with EU has meant urgent funds and assistance has not been available

5. As suagr minister I am responsible

6. I realsie I can't be minister for anything anymore
Sugar sugar said…
I'm not sure about others but I am really really growing tired of our defacto PM blaming everyone else for Fiji's problems.

He is the Sugar minister, he has had total control of Fiji for four years. He said he would fix the sugar industry by 2009. It is now 2010. He has to take responsibility for his failure to have any impact what so over on this important industry.

And...the sugar industry still needs fixing. It's not going to be fixed by a sugar minister who knows nothing about the industry nor by a consultant who has never worked in it.

Here's a crazy idea. Wind up FSC. Sell the mills to one or two of fiji's local manufacturers for $1 and i bet they would have them running in no time. They would be in india or somewhere else in a flash, they would have hired 5-6 real specialists, they would source parts cheaply or second hand and they would have then running in no time.
M.B.N said…
Come on Croz, You know the only reason Laisenia Qarase walks free on the streets of Suva is because he has now chosen to say and do nothing. Lets not forget he was effectively a prisioner on his own island for some time. One word from him and he would be in jail very very quickly. I know it, you know it.

Having him "free" but "silent" is a win win for the PM and Military. International community can't complain he is being wrongly held and he can't mount any opposition to anything government does.
herper said…
Yea, lets all beat up the international press again and forget that Fiji's own press now only reports one side of every story - GOVERNMENTS.
More rain please said…
Hi Croz,

I enjoy your quotes of the week - please keep them going.

I noticed this one from a while back

"A promise is a cloud; fulfillment is rain."

On going about the day to day business of government and looking after underprivlaged it's great to see abit of rain but on progress to free and fair elections I only see cloud.
Black and White said…
Good news on the eye clincic and thanks Australia and New Zealand for your help.

I suggest the PM might a good first pateint. He seems to only see things in black and white.

Next up the anti-government crew should make appointments. They also see things only in black and white.
Alter ego said…
Just checked the link to the story about the NZ prisons officer: you credit Samuela Loanakadavu as the gentleman whose opinions are discussed. The gentleman in question is Hamilton Samuels; Mr Loanakadavu is the journalist's name.

On a related note, you seem to be linking to the Fiji Times more since their sale. Do you have any comment on if/how their 'news' has changed lately?
Croz Walsh said…
@ Alter Ego ... Thanks for the correction. I'm not conscious of publishing anything more from the Fiji Times, and no, I don't see any obvious change under the new management. To my taste, they continue to publish mostly "bland" articles that do not address any of the important issues faced by Fiji. I'd hoped to see something more substantial, at least in their feature articles. Perhaps soon, when the new management has settled in.
Time for more of the same said…
Croz, good for you for calling the new regime at the Fiji Times what it is - bland. Nothing will change "when the new management has settled in'. That's because they just rearranged the deck chairs on the Titanic. Fred Wesley seems a nice enough guy. But he's part of the old Fiji Times. The main problem at the paper is still the quality of the writing. Until they fix that by hiring new blood or putting in decent sub-editors, the Fiji Times will remain just as it is.
Interesting Times said…
Isn't it pretty clear from what Rupert Murdoch said the other day that he intends to come back to the Fiji Times when all this is over. "Maybe we can return sometime in the future", he told the News Awards in Sydney, after describing the Fiji Government as "corrupt". Mac Patel was on the Fiji Times board for 30 odd years. He got the paper from News Limited for a song. John Hartigan, the head of News Limited, described him as a close friend. Are they that close that the Fiji Times will just chug along until a democratic government returns with Mac Patel holding the whole thing in trust? The way Rupert Murdoch operates, I wouldn't be in the least surprised.
An Honest Response Please said…
Croz,
I agree with you about Viliame. He probably does not have a worry and you are right that all the anti regime people are walking freely around Fiji.
I do want to ask you a couple of questions and I would like an honest response.
"Do you believe the regime uses intimidation on the people of Fiji?"

A simple yes or no will be fine.
Islands in the Stream said…
@ NZ's well-meaning but ill-advised stance...

Croz:

Why would any well-meaning country be harbouring so many ill-intentioned persons? Those who sought to "enrichisser lui-meme" and to undermine harmonious community relations through over racism and extremism? Is the intention reform? And if not, then what? It is incomprehensible that some have seen fit to run off to New Zealand to take refuge from their past ideological and ethical errors. How is it proposed that they should be returned? To face, in the fullness of time, the newly-appointed judges?
Intimidation for the general good said…
Does the regime use intimidation on the people of Fiji? Yes or no? Well, yes. IF you're intent on lawlessness or formenting trouble by accentuating racial and political divisions. And there are good reasons for that. We all know that until 2006, large sections of the population were being intimidated by criminal thugs and ordinary people could no longer rely on the authorities for protection. Thank God, that has changed. And if these goons now live in fear and get butaraki'd when they step out of line, things are a hell of a lot better than they were.

Yes, it's not ideal to have a system of arbitrary punishment but we don't live in ideal times. We have emergency regulations and the suspension of certain liberties and everyone knows what that means. But frankly, most people I know prefer it that way. The reason for the total absence of civil disobedience in Fiji is a recognition that the general standard of peoples' personal security has improved. And if the thugs we all know are among us fear the military, good luck. Anyone who lived through 1987 and 2000 knows how awful it was to have the local bullies on the rampage, using indigenous rights as a cover for their criminal activities. It didn't happen in 2006 because the military restored the basic rights of ordinary people to remain unmolested.

My view is that if a few civil rights and media activists were taken up to the camp as part of a " program of discouragement", that kind of intimidation is regrettable. But the bigger picture is that Fiji is at peace and the regime is at least trying to eradicate the racial division that has caused all of this and prevented us from having genuine democracy in Fiji. It's not a perfect situation but I think most people agree that it's the lesser of two evils.

And it's not as if those claiming intimidation like Imrana Jalal and Saki Tuisolia are behind bars. Can anyone show me one genuine political prisoner in Fiji? ( And don't bother citing the Qaranivalu or George Speight ). On that score alone, Fiji is streets ahead of even a place like Singapore. There, Lee Juan Yew's main rival, Chia Tai Poh, spent more than 30 years in detention. In Fiji, by comparison, Laisenia Qarase wanders around looking baleful but unmolested. And Imrana and Saki can look forward to a life of luxury on her fat US dollar salary in Manila.
An Honest Response Please said…
Intimidation for the general good

I am not sure that Fiji has become a safer society. There are still home invasions there are still robberies. Fewer of them get reported but they still happen. I am also not sure what the connection is between stifling debate and an increase in lawlessness.

The question about intimidation was for Cros. I would like an answer from Cros because how he answers will give the readers a valuable perspective.
Croz Walsh said…
@ An honest response ... I had nearly completed a reply and then lost it. Too tired to rewrite tonight. Will try again late tomorrow.
sara'ssista said…
@ croz, weren't you asking for patience on the 'settling in' of this regime and it is now going on five years? and all i see is the makings of a new political regime with all the old autrocratic and exclusive tendencies of past eletced govenrments ?Exactly how long will the 'settling in' of this newspaper take, are they not enthusistic engouh toward this government either? now what ? It is not as if they are able to report anything identifying corruption in this regime or comment openly.

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