Amnesty Imprecision, Walking Out of Poverty, PM Touring Northern Division, Electronic Voter Registration, Al Jazeera Better
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N0188. THE PROTEST THAT WASN'T. I have no complaint with Amnesty International reporting alleged torture for political reasons. This is their job, and I support it. But they should exercise care with what they are told and not inflate the story.
While awaiting their NZ CEO's reply to my enquiry about their sources and steps take to verify what they are told, here is a comment on their latest press release.
Headed "Torture and Detentions in Fiji" (UA:51/11 Index ASA 18/002/2011 Fiji) they report the alleged "detention and torture ... [of] ... seven young men from a settlement outside Suva" and presumed it took place because they were talking about the demonstration (see below) and then went on to say they "feared more people [would] be arrested and subject to torture and ill-treatment in the next few days as the military attempts to prevent plans for a peaceful protest demonstration against the government."
AI tells us "The soldiers warned the young men that they would be killed if they spoke to anyone about their treatment at the camp." Well, they did talk, otherwise we would know nothing about the incident, and the young men are still alive. No further detentions have followed. And no demonstration took place.
The "peaceful protest demonstration" (AI knew it would be peaceful before it took place!) supposed to have taken place on Saturday was discussed in my blog last week (N0169) under the heading "God, Satan and the Beast." These were the words of its organizer who also called ethnic Fijians "God's Chosen People." AI said nothing about the rantings of this man.
Apparently, the military were successful in preventing the protest march, no one turned up, not even the seven young men. Last year's attempt by the the Sydney-based organizer to organize a protest march also failed but whether this was a result of intimidation or lack of support, or a bit of both, we do not know.
From the earliest days of the Bainimarama Coup, anti-government elements have been organising phantom marches and protests. It started with deposed PM Laisenia Qarase who said, "I believe there will be a peaceful reaction by thousands and thousands in the next few days." That was in December 2006.
AI is right in protesting torture —if it took place— but they should be more precise in their accusations and avoid exaggeration. They write, "At least ten" [people] have been detained. If they mean they know of ten, they should say so, and not suppose there are others. They mention "at least two politicians" were arrested but they do not even name them. They write of "severe beatings and other forms of torture." What other forms of torture? Only severe beatings were reported by Sam Speight and Apisai Tawake to ABC's Bruce Hill — and Speight denied he'd been beaten with rifle butts. There was no mention of nail extractions, water boarding, electricity used on genitals. By leaving the accusation vague, readers are left to ponder what could be worse than a severe beating.
I'd also like to know which " settlement outside Suva." If it was Kalabo, the village was a hotbed of support for the 2000 Speight Coup and a proposed rallying point for Methodists protesting the cancellation of their annual convention. And I wonder whether the youths included —or were influenced by— Peter Waqavonovono, President of Fiji’s Young People’s Concerned Network, a long-time government opponent. These details are important because they could shed light on why the military took the youth's actions so seriously.
But most of all AI should be more careful of their sources and the dubious cause they unintentionally support. Otherwise they will be taken as the Mad Hatter holding forth for the March Hare —or, worse still, as the Dormouse. Google Wikipedia if you don't know anything about these characters in Alice in Wonderland. The illustration shows the Mad Hatter and the March Hare trying to put the Dormouse in a teapot.
POSTSCRIPT. RadioAustraliaNews reports Australian-based organiser, Suliasi Daunitutu, as saying the demonstration was called off because of a heavy police and military presence at Albert Park. My information is that they were at the nearby Magistrates' Court "because Qaranivalu was being sentenced and his people were assembled there to await the Judge's ruling." Daunitutu numbered the demonstrators at "about 40 or a little bit over that."
N0189. WORK ON PILLAR 8 OF THE CHARTER. The first of more empowerment workshops organised by Government planned for this year was held at Lami last week. The workshop aimed at enabling people in nearby informal settlements to ‘Stand up and Walk’ and ‘Stand up and Talk’ out of poverty. The five-day workshop was co-sponsored by the PM's Office Poverty Eradication Unit and the People’s Community Network (PCN).The workshops are aligned to Pillar 8 of the People’s Charter for Change, Peace and Progress of Reducing Poverty to a Neglible Level by 2015.
One participant said the workshop "had opened up his mind to social issues that he did not think much about on such as teenage pregnancies, unemployment, glue sniffing and young families who were unemployed." He said he also learnt not to become ‘powerless’ and ‘voiceless’ and to always question ‘why’ things happened in order to get to the root causes of problems. Another said it had helped her to do something about unemployment. -- Based on No.0541/MOI.
N0190. VANUA LEVU TOUR. The PM will tour the three provinces of Cakaudrove, Bua and Macuata in the Northern Division this week to see progress on Government road and agricultural projects.
N0191. VOTER REGISTRATION will probably be done electronically. Acting Supervisor of Elections, Soro Toutou, said under this system they are confident of having an accurate database with all the voter information before the 2014 Elections. He said there had been "some shortfalls in the last General Elections which they are addressing."
N0192. CLINTON SAYS AL JAZEERA HAS REAL NEWS unlike most US media. I wish they'd take up reporting on Fiji. Real news in the international media is desperately needed.