Total Non-Comprehension, Simple Steps for PM, Smaller Islands Sawmills, Fiji Media

I'M SORRY BUT THEY MUST BE ABSOLUTELY THICK. Last Saturday I published an opinion post on the American mid-term election and its relevance to Fiji.  I showed how the media had taken sides against the President, how negative cartoons portrayed him as non-American, and now both were used to persuade a gullible public to vote against the President's Democratic party.   Incredibly, the Fiji anti-government blog Fiji Democracy Now took my posting of these cartoons as proof that I was a racist. They completely mis-read the point of the article and my purpose in publishing the cartoons.

"We have long harboured deep suspicions [they wrote] that the carping coup apologist, Crosbie Walsh, is driven by a white racist agenda. Now, for reasons best known to himself, Croz has publicly and convincingly declared his deep colour-based racial prejudice in a long article illustrated by highly offensive doctored photos of President Barack Obama. Croz, shame on you! We at FDN idolize Obama. And, yes, we might be simple coconuts but we can sniff out the evil odour of racial prejudice every time it wafts under our noses, no matter how much it’s dressed up as something else."

The effectiveness of the "negative" cartoons cannot be doubted. As Gary Younge wrote in the Guardian Weekly (15-21 October: "If Obama can only convince a third of Americans he is a Christian and less than half that he is definitely born in the US, then what chance does he have of convincing them of his plans for health care or revitalizing the economy?”  It seems some people at Fiji Democracy Now are just as gullible as those Americans who think Obama is a Muslim born overseas — which reflects poorly on their powers of perception and analysis.

For the record, I'm also an Obama fan.

WHAT FRUSTRATES ME ABOUT GOVERNMENT. A reader with this pseudonym had  some suggestions to make on Tuesday's posting "Fiji Not a Lousy Place to Live...

"Croz, What frustrates me is government leaves itself wide open for criticism again and again. Why doesn’t the PM take some very simple steps to show his actions equal his words ? Here is a simple list that would go along way to silencing much of the criticism....

1. Announce a reduction in the size of the military. The PM has asked everyone else to do more with less so why leave the military open to criticism, it is a sacred cow and beyond touching. He does not need aggressive targets and could start with something as simple as a 7% reduction in personnel  and 10% in costs over the next two years.

2. Announce initiatives to create a more racially diverse military. This could include the ceasing of only addressing troops in Fijian.

3. Publish annually the remuneration of government ministers (including salary, benefits, and allowances) and  and any government employee earning more than $80k. This is common in many countries and would show he is true about being transparent. Show us there is nothing to hide, please.

4. All government ministers to declare a register of interests. Like '3' above this is common practice in other countries. It ensures the public there are no hidden conflicts of interest.

5. All military persons who accept appointments to government roles be given the choice of either a) staying in the military on their current base military salaries or b) resigning from the military and accepting the salary of the new position. Option a) would be for true secondments of say 6 to 18 months, option b) would be for permanent appointments. The military at the moment appear to be having it both ways. This removes the criticism that so many in the military have benefited from the coup.

6. Other good ideas published many times include: lifting the PER, publishing the ROADMAP, starting work on election reform and dialogue earlier than 2012. These are not new ideas but they are all worth repeating.

The PM has more unchecked power than anyone has ever had in Fiji. He needs to be doing much more to show us he is doing the right thing. There will always be wild accusations thrown around but most people will see those for what they are."

PORTABLE SAWMILLS FOR SMALLER ISLANDS.  Fiji Pine Ltd plans to install portable sawmills in Kadavu and the Lau and Lomaiviti groups in pursuit of mature 30 year-old quality pine timber for export by its subsidiary Tropik Woods,  and as a means of revitalising the smaller islands economies and accelerate plans by Tropik Woods Limited to export superior sawn timber. Plantations on Viti Levu are too young to produce quality timber. Two portable machines, capable of sawing 10 cubic metres in 12 hours will arrive in Fiji within three weeks. Local island labour will be used in the mills which are expected to boost an island's economy by as much as $50,000 a month. Government is the major shareholder in Fiji Pine Ltd.-- Based on 2010, No:1889/MOI.

. Speaking as chief guest at the Fiji Media Watch Workshop "Empowering communities to be responsible consumers of the media" in Suva yesterday Attorney General and Minister of Communications Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the media in Fiji often lacks a balanced coverage on stories and in-depth analysis of issues. Much media coverage given to the interests of the elite and too little to the marginalized groups in society. The situation would probably improve it there were more incentives for journalists to develop in their field. 

FORMER NZ DIPLOMAT GERALD MCGHIE has started his own blog that will post comments on NZ's foreign relations. Click here.


snoopy said…
Croz - anyone who knows anything about you knows you are not racist. You have nothing to worry about. The FDN people are just trying to damage your reputation given the success your blog has had. Shame on them!!!
polticians gone but politics remain said…
The PM has stated in the past his desire and the need to "remove politics" in order to take Fiji forward. Many say this is why he does not want elections to 2014, some 8 years after he took power.

The reality however is you can remove 'politicians' but you can't remove politics. As we have seen in the last 24 hours, politics are alive and well in this government and this cabinet. By removing democratic process and by banning any debate what you do is drive politics behind closed doors.

Even in the military there is politics. The main difference is people no the rules so they will only ever tell a superior officer what they want to here. This is the PM's biggest weakness because that is how he would like to run the country.
Fiji water & business confidence said…

You haven't mentioned the issues/debate surfacing around Fiji Water. Perhaps because up until now it was only rumour.

What is clear now is Ganilau has said he disagreed on issues relating to Fiji Water and its CEO David Roth. Talk is he was asked to have him removed from the country.

Lets be clear on Fiji water. It's not about the water. It's branding and distribution. That's the reason other manufactures have failed to come anywhere near Fiji Water. Make Fiji Water local and business will go the way of FSC.

Regardless of what happens business confidence in Fiji just took another huge blow. Fancy websites and government promises and incentives mean nothing. If there is a threat that government will overtly interfere in your business, stop you repatriating profits or remove your executives these are all really good reason to not invest.

The former finance minister had Fiji Water in his sights and with his removal the business community sighed relief. It is the Reserve Bank governor who took his place. He already had a go at the banks but the IMF warned him to back off. Most know of his distaste for Fiji Water and a desire to punish them because he was also backing the former finance minister.

By the way more than half of the drinkers of Fiji Water in the USA think it comes from Mt Fuji (Japan) so when i say branding it's the image not Fiji.
Why I quite ? said…
"Why I quit: Ratu Epeli" Big bold headlines from the Fiji Sun - that other paper who tows the military line.

Great I thought. I can read the reason in th article. However in the article no reason is given !
Wai Oh Wai Oh Wai said…
There is disagreement within the government over the handling of Fiji Water and David Roth.
The question is did the PM and the AG have a problem with David Roth alone or do they have an ongoing problem with Fiji Water. If it is David Roth alone then there is some hope but what could a business executive have done to have proved a security threat? We shall never know because there is no transparency over these matters. However, other ex-pat business execs must be feeling nervous at the moment. One consequence of this action will be a further deterrent to investment.
If the Government has a problem with Fiji Water then the consequences for Fiji will be catastrophic. It is the country’s single largest exporter. It contributes about $150m to the Foreign Exchange reserves every year. It employs hundreds of people directly and many more indirectly. It also spend millions branding Fiji as a clean and beautiful country. Over 200m bottles go out every year singing the praises of this country.
One can only assume that the government would not put that at risk. They cannot nationalize the factory or do a Fiji Times style Media decree. Well of course they can, but what do they end up with; the most efficient bottling plant in the South Pacific producing millions of bottles but nowhere to sell them. They can’t use the Fiji Water brand or packaging overseas. And the US Government would not allow them to be imported because they will have taken over a US company by unfair means.
So perhaps they are looking to put pressure on Fiji Water for something else. Who knows but it is a risky game. In the current economic situation the closure of Fiji Water would mean that 2011 is starting with a 3% reduction in GDP.
Whatever the government thinking, their actions are damaging to the investment prospects of the country. Fiji needs growth more than anything and the deportation this week is just another good reason for potential investors to look elsewhere.
Wai the fuss? Simple said…
Wai oh Wai oh Wai, You make some very good points here but ignore a major factor that underscores this whole dispute. That is the refusal of Fiji Water to consider making any further contribution to a struggling national economy when it so clearly has the means to do so. Fiji Water enjoys a ludicrously low level of tax compared to a comparable operation on the US mainland. It's had a tax free holiday for years while other businesses in Fiji have been saddled with a corporate tax of 30 per cent. When the regime - quite legitimately in my view - wanted a levy of 20 per cent on every bottle sold, what did Fiji Water do? Behave like a corporate terrorist by suspending production and exports and putting the whole economy at risk. The regime had no choice but to back down but you can imagine how much this rankles at senior level, especially when we're in such dire straights. It didn't help when Fiji Water's vice president told a US magazine writer that without Fiji Water, the country was "screwed". Hardly the most diplomatic thing to say when its American owners are making millions of tax-free dollars from a precious natural resource that arguably belongs to the nation as well. No-one wants Fiji Water to leave and everyone is proud of the way a wholesome, fresh- tasting product is giving Fiji positive global exposure. But this is a question of fairness and the right of all Fijians to benefit from a huge global business. The miserable Michael Field wrote an appalling piece in NZ yesterday saying the regime wanted to "take over" Fiji Water. This is yet another attempt by this reckless polemicist to wreck the Fiji economy by raising a question mark over the security of foreign investments. And it's utter rubbish. Without its global distribution and marketing network, Fiji Water is just water sitting in an aquifer in Yaqara. What the hell would new local owners do with it? What government wants is a legitimate slice of the company's earnings in tax revenue, just like any other business in Fiji and certainly just like any other business in the US. Does anyone seriously think these guys would be given such slack by the Internal Revenue Service in the US? The Fiji Government originally asked for 20 cents in the dollar of every bottle of Fiji Water sold around the world. Don't want to pay 20 cents? OK let's talk about 15 cents or 12. But for Fiji Water to cry "nothing" and then put a gun at Frank Bainimarama's head, was hardly the smartest thing to do. Its billionaire US owners need to negotiate a way forward in the interests of everyone and not just themselves. Or this is going to get ugly for everyone.
Personal ties said…
Croz, the revelation that Fiji Water executive David Roth was a personal friend of Ratu Epeli's and used to visit his house, adds a whole new dimension to this saga. How could Ratu Epeli have signed the deportation order in this case? It would have been impossible for him to do so and still uphold traditional values, especially if this was all about the regime sending a message to Fiji Water and nothing personal. Given the amount of global coverage this story is getting, the sooner we get a more detailed explanation from the PM, the better.
Speculation and Rumour Mongering said…
Sharon Smith Johns tells us there is a lot of 'speculation and rumour mongering' re the deportation of yet another person from Fii under very strange circumstances. Well sharon, you are the supposed secretary for information. Do you know what information is as opposed to disinformation? The credibility of this regime is deteriorating rapidly. We DEMAND information NOW.
Radiolucas said…
I am not surprised at all. The Fiji Water CEO probably wouldn't agree to a higher tax rate and now has to bear the consequences: summary deportation.

Arbitrary rule of law, media suppression and constant resignations? This is a shameful way to run a country.

But as Napoleon once said: "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake."
No idea said…
@ what frustrates me.

I think you have your answer today on why government are not doing these simple and sensible things. They are too busy dealing with the big chips on their shoulders about successful business. They have no idea or simply don't care about "investor confidence". It was already very low and today it got shattered beyound repair without a change of government.
Worried said…
@ frustrated

All good suggestions but this government rarely leads with action. They lead with words and occaisionally some small project is linked bank to those words.

It's 4 years in and fair to say they have largely failed on reform and fix the economy (it has declined every year). They have improved on corrupion and racism but taken huge steps backwards on International relations and Investor confidence.

You can't run a country like you run the military. Nor should you believe than former, unelected and failed politicians (Like the PM surounds himself with) offer some magical solution.

I don't want another coup but it's looking very hard to see a way forward for the next 4 years that does not include the economy getting worse.
more happening said…
It seems C4.5 have got quite a few thing right over the last couple of days. I guess if you throw alot of the circulating rumours out there a few a bound to be correct.

It will be interesting to see if Sada returns and stays RBF governor. I suspect yes and most people know he has been pushing for a greater tax take from Fiji water for a long time and that the original 20c in the dollar was his idea. It was actually the AG who agreed the compromise (he hated having to do it but is smart enough to know Fiji needs Fiji Water).

There are lot of stories not getting out there.

Epili would not have 'resigned' over a difference of opinion. If he cared about the issue he would have stayed in the job and changed it. I suspect he was told to resign. It is big news because the acting PM has been told to resign.
Fijian not I Taukei said…
I suspect as usual. Croz Walsh will defer to the comments from the PS of mis-Information and lap whatever excuse she has for the current appalling events. As we have seen even when Croz feels he must criticise this regime,he takes his time and then leaves himself heaps of morality-free wiggle room. But even when she has nothing to say ,as recently, she appears to be last one to know what is happening but she is first to dispute any other version. This is how this regime works with arrogance and impunity and the idea that they have changed anything, is again laughable. I have every sense old Croz will leap to the defence of this regime. and defend to the hilt thier methods by way of saying that it is warranted due to tax dispute and how Fiji Water 'held a gun to the head of bainimarama over the tax incvrease'!!???.This IS a military regime. Fiji Water is successfull despite this regime, not because of it.They have certainly done more for the Fiji brand. Is that in dispute? Perhaps this regime is just unhappy that they were thwarted and getting revenge, not surpising, and i am sure this will be defended too.
Croz Walsh said…
@ Fijian not i taukei ... Oh ye of little faith. See my lengthy posting tommorrow and take heed of the saying 'Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.'

@ Other readers, you will see I have used some of your views in the article written together with 'Others.' You number among the 'Others.'
OFF with the rose-tinted spectacles! said…
@ Absolutely thick.........

Anyone with thoughts of introducing a minimum wage to the Fiji economy at this juncture must be, economically speaking "Absolutely Thick". Former PM of GB Tony Blair only dared attempt this in his second term. It would never be contemplated by the Conservative/Liberal Coalition government in view of the fall out of the global economic crisis and higher levels of unemployment forecast. Are we completely mad? We still have COLA in place which is a crazy, out-of-date concept. We need good economic outcomes, increased GDP and jobs before we contemplate a minimum wage. For heaven's sake, drop the rose-tinted spectacles and Get economically up-to-speed!

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