The Truth as Michael Field Sees it: his FRU Article

pinocchio's nose
Pinocchio 's nose--see below*
  In March last year I took journalist Michael Field to task  for  his total misrepresentation of the Crimes Decree, then recently introduced in Fiji, and before that for an article that had typhoid threatening Fiji’s major tourist destination, when it was confined to a remote inland area over 50 kilometres away.   It is time to take him to task again, not because this is the first time in a year that he has transgressed, far from it, but because it is necessary once in a while to remind readers of his prominent role in misinforming the NZ media and public. 
 
In an article this week ,  Field makes three important errors of fact in his report on the Fiji Rugby Union, if indeed they were errors.  Here they are, with my comments: 
 
First, he claimed the  “Fiji's military have taken control of the country's rugby union and in their first move have announced they are to seek forgiveness from dictator Voreqe Bainimarama for causing him trouble. ”   
 
Croz: Rugby, even more than in New Zealand,  is a national obsession in Fiji and many players are or were in the military — but the military has not taken control of the FRU.  Rabuka and Bainimarama were former presidents and the Board  has no more military people on the Board than it usually does. The forgiveness he refers to is  matanigasau,  a formal traditional Fijian means of apology and reconciliation.  It does not translate well into English but Field could have offered some explanation.  The apology will be about FRU mismanagement, not about causing Bainimarama trouble.

Secondly, he said the “Bainimarama's regime forced the old FRU board out of office and refused to give them F$3 million (NZ$2.1 million) to fund their trip to the World Cup.” 

Croz: The Board was not forced out but Bainimarama made it clear that public money would not be forthcoming if the old Board remained. A special general meeting decided a new board should be elected. The old CEO, who was largely responsible for the misuse of funds and a flawed lottery, resigned.  The process was approved by the International Rugby Board.  Field failed to explain why Bainimarama took this position even though most people would agree he was justifiably concerned about the  FRU misuse of public money.  See my earlier postings on  the misuse of money donated for other purposes and the disastrous lottery fiasco.  By not mentioning the  misuse of money and the flawed lottery, Field makes it seem that Bainimarama’s action was personally or politically motivated and had nothing to do the FRU Board’s irregular bookkeeping.

Thirdly, he said “when the International Rugby Board threatened to intervene as the military pressured the FRU, Fiji's rugby unions went through an attempt to elect a democratic board, but still ended up with the land force commander running it.”  

Croz: This is just not true. The Board was elected —and the Chairman was elected by the Board — in the usual way. It was no more, and no less, democratically elected than any other former Board as I showed in the  posting cited below. Field not only failed to report this; he must have known it to be the case.  Neither did he report that the IRB has not questioned the legitimacy of the new Board. 

For the record, here is what I wrote on 2 May:
The newly elected Board comprises nine members: military (2),  police (1),  civil servant (1), lawyer (1), former SDL Cabinet Minister (1), accountant (1), businessman (1), and a former MP (1).   A  former SDL Cabinet Minister, Ilaitia Tuisesi,  was elected Union chairman and a former SDL MP, Ratu Isakeli Tasere, was elected president.   Tuisesi later denied he had been elected chairman.  It was just (another!) rumour; the decision has not yet been made.
Outgoing FRU  chairman Viliame Gavoka  said for the sake of a sport that is loved and followed by the general public, the newly elected board should ensure the mistakes of 2010 are not repeated.

The media and blogs chose to highlight military and police representation — and chose not to mention that two Board members were former members of the ousted Qarase government.  It looks like a pretty balanced Board to me.  Can’t say the same about the reporting.
In my opinion,  the integrity of the media becomes suspect when Field is allowed by Fairfax Media to publish opinion pieces as if they were fact. His FRU article is a polemic; not a news item. Fairfax Media and its editors  surely have a responsibility to the public  to check on the credibility and accuracy of stories, especially when political or other bias may be present.  Its readers, with no knowledge of Field’s background, would reasonably assume they were reading a fair, balanced and accurate account of events.  Which they were not. 

But it doesn’t stop there
The article continued, as Field’s always do, with a repetition of  older news: the detentions of Pita Driti and David Uluilakeba Mara, and, at greater length,   the circulation of the anti-government DVD produced by Australian-based Suliasi Daunitutu who he called  “something of a traditional storyteller.”  Really!  Daunitutu is an SDL-supporter who  arranged the distribution of his DVD through the SDL office in Suva. 
 
Field, who in an earlier article, saw today’s divided  Fiji as a tribal feud between Polynesian Lau and Melanesian Bau (I really can’t believe this!) said Daunitutu was  “winning a big indigenous rural audience by engaging in coded anti-Indian talk.  Indians … support Bainimarama.”  
 
He has absolutely no way of knowing about the level of indigenous rural support and many prominent Indo-Fijians — Wadan Narsey, Biman Prasad, Mahendra Chaudhry, Shamima Ali, and Attar Singh come immediately to mind— are opposed to the Bainimarama government. 

* Pinocchio was a wooden puppet who wanted to be a boy. His nose grew each time he did not tell the truth. 


Comments

Anonymous said…
Terrible stuff isn't it.

Have you read the stuff printed in the Fiji sun, Fiji times or worse FBC stuff lately ? You also won't find any balance and little truth there also.
Frank's nose is bigger than Michael's said…
Croz,

Where was your Pinocchio Nose when we were told we would have elections in 2009?
Where was your Pinocchio Nose when we were told we would have elections in 2010?
Where was your Pinocchio Nose when we were told PER would be lifted after the Media Decree?
Where was your Pinocchio Nose when we were told that Frank would reduce Government Debt?
Where was your Pinocchio Nose when we were told that under Frank we would have 5% annual growth?
Where was your Pinocchio Nose when we were told that Frank would sort out the sugar industry?

Keep that Pinocchio Nose handy and use it whenever the regime tells a lie. It will be on your blogsite every day
Anonymous said…
you can add to that list

- promise of transparency
- no one in the military will benefit from the coup
- detailed roadmap
- national dialogue
Rugby Balls Don't Bounce Straight said…
Crosbie

You may be correct about the various inaccuracies contained in Mr Field’s article. However you might have missed the point of his (or Fairfax media’s) Machiavellian cleverness. By now you will know that Mr McCully complained to the media council in New Zealand about Mr Field’s article and that the Council has condemned it for being inaccurate.

In drawing Mr McCully out to protest that he is not required to make available visas to either Messers Bainimarama or Kean to allow them to watch the world cup it means that whatever future thawing there might be in relations between the NZ and Fiji governments, it is highly unlikely to extend to visas for military personnel to attend RWC 2010.

Therefore, unlike when he watched this year’s Hong Kong Sevens, Mr Bainimarama will have to find some other activity to occupy his time in September and October.

Still, being a Minister with several important portfolios, he will no doubt have ample opportunity to put his time to good use.
Very clever strategy said…
croz
This was a very clever strategy by Michael field. Very clever indeed. It is almost as clever as the planned response by the Lowy Institute and now Rudd saying he won't oppose on-going use of Fijian military in Iraq. All so well stage managed?
Charlie Charters said…
Croz, I have posted on this subject before but sadly what I have written doesn't seem to have altered your read of the situation whatsoever.

I think the thrust of the Field article is correct.

1. The govt did dismiss the FRU board by threatening to withhold the grant of money that is normally passed through to the FRU in the year of their RWC campaign. In previous postings I quoted to you (from the Fiji Sun no less) the comments of Sports Minister Filipe Bole making clear the govt wanted the board and management to go.

I think in employment tribunal terms this would be deemed 'constructive' dismissal: they obviously do not have the power to sack the board but they made clear the RWC would be underfunded unless they got their wishes. Some good, decent men decided in the interests of the sport to stand aside so that Fiji could field as competitive as team as possible. Since this blew up in January, in their media statements all of the visiting IRB officials have confirmed they have no issue with the performance of the FRU management or their handling of IRB funds.

2. Since taking office, the new board has set out its stall. The Fiji Sun (can we assume they have this correct as semiofficial organ of the govt?) reported this yesterday: 'The Republic of Fiji Military Forces Land Forces Commander said the new [Fiji Rugby Union] board would go to any length to ensure that they satisfy Government’s demands before the $3 million funding offered for the Rugby World Cup campaign is released.' In its coverage the Fiji Sun has made no reference to matanigasau (that I could see), an odd distinction given their audience would understand the concept, whereas Field's would not. Instead the Fiji Sun has made clear the new leadership of the FRU will 'go to any length' to satisfy the govt. I throw this marker down for next year's IRB 7s Series: with a board willing to go to any length to satisfy the govt, don't expect Fiji to field a team to any 7s tournament at which visas are not granted for military players. This may have the consequence of Fiji not being invited to take part in the 7s Series on the terms which they currently enjoy (ie. all airfares covered to all events etc.)

3. You are factually incorrect to assert 'the Board has no more military people on the Board than it usually does.' That is simply not true. I have knowledge of the Board make-up since mid-1990s and it has never had two serving army officers and a serving policeman on it. I worked at the FRU from 2001 to 2004 and there were zero serving military or police on the board at that time (the President is not a board position). I accept that their election was done constitutionally but this is significant because with a nine-person board the majority is set at 5: assuming three in the bag plus the PM's nominee vote together, this means the Govt bloc is already at four votes on any issue.

4. You are also factually incorrect to say 'It was no more, and no less, democratically elected than any other former Board'. Again, I would ask you to defer to someone with actual working knowledge of the FRU. In the last 15 years there has never been an election to the FRU board in which a third party has threatened to withhold funding of any sort (let alone $3m) unless that third party's explicit or implied wishes on the election of officers and selection of management were adhered to. Croz, you're just way wrong on these points.

And on a slightly different note, it is Ilaitia Tuisese (with an 'e') not Tuisesi with an 'i', and Ratu Isikeli Tasere not Isakeli.
Croz Walsh said…
@ First three comments ... So the things you write about make it okay for Field to misrepresent the truth? You are like so many other anti-government commentators who do not use this blog to discuss the issues raised but to make their own political statements.
Croz Walsh said…
@ Charlie ... Your email is a welcome relief. At last someone who addresses the question and argues the issue.
I accept that from your perspective you see government's threat to withhold money as a virtual dismissal of the Board and as a means of influencing the election of the new Board. It can, of course, be equally argued that no government would hand over $3m to a Board that had misused the money already in its trust, and conducted a lottery that lost $200,000.
You say the "thrust" of Field's argument was correct, but Field did not mention the reasons for Government concern about the administration of FRU finances. One would have expected this from a responsible journalist.
I am apparently in error about military and police representation, (three on a Board of nine} but two other members are prominent SDL people and you did not seem to think this was worth a mention -- and neither did Field.
Whatever. This is hardly the military takeover claimed by Field but I agree with you that three is a good base for a vote on any issue.
Finally, you use the same argument (the $3m) to say the Board was not democratically elected because this knowledge would influence the vote. You may well be right but I see nothing undemocratic in this. The Commerce Commission and Government were rightly concerned about FRU financial mismanagement, and the Unions and Trustees rightly took this into account in deciding their vote for the new board.

I also found the new Chairman's comment about "going to any length to satisfy the government" a strange way of expressing things, but Filipe Bole had previously said the money would not be released until the Board met all of the conditions for its receipt. I assume the statement referred only to this, and not other Board business.

Thank you for the spelling corrections. My guess is that they came about when I cut and pasted from several sources, but I should have picked them up.

Charlie, I respect your position and superior knowledge of FRU history but I do not agree that the "thrust" of Field's argument was correct. It is what he actually wrote, not how you (and others) may have have taken it, that is at issue. He did not tell the truth and his motives could be considered suspect.
He writes "news" wrapped in layers of opinion. He is entitled to opinions in a feature article but not in a news item that purports to tell the facts.

Best wishes, Croz
Frank's nose is bigger than Michael's said…
Actually Croz the point I was trying to make was that you are quicker to pick up on certain people’s misrepresentation and or omission of the truth than others.
It seems to me that the PM, the AG, Sharon and the Ministry of Info and the Fiji Sun are able to misrepresent the truth and they will be applauded on this blog. But anyone anti the government who gets the slightest fact wrong is castigated by you. I was not making a political point rather one about the bias of your blog.

For example on your news section today you run the following story
“SUGAR MILL PARTS USELESS. The PM says the $86m mill upgrade work by the Sugar Technology Mission of India last year was no different than "dumping money in the ocean."

You do not mention that the PM omitted to say this upgrade happened under his regime, when his minister was in charge and his appointees were on the board of the FSC.
Croz Walsh said…
@ Charlie ... If that was the point you were trying to make, you should have said so. The "thrust" of your comment was that Field was substantially correct; not that I publish some misrepresentations quicker than others. The example you gave is poor. The NEWS section contains brief factual items. It was not the place to inform readers that the mill repairs occurred since the Coup. This has been stated in several earlier articles, and most readers would have known this, anyway.
grand statements said…
Dear Croz,

Putting aside Micheal's rubbish for a moment I think the bloggers here make a valid point.

Frank lies to us all the time. He has broken many many promises including the very core ones that he made upfront. For example the promise that no military would benefit from the coup and the promise the military government would be transparent and accountable. These now shattered promises had the potential to make this government (self appointed as it is) a very different government. Sadly that has not happened.

I read today that Japan's PM will voluntarily forgoe his salary until the nuclear crisis in Japan is over and that could be 6-9 months. Thats what I call a grand gesture. With so secrecy, controversy and down right broken promises and lies it would be great to see our PM make a grand gesture.

1)50% salary cut until the countries GDP have 4 quarters of growth

2)Publish all auditor general reports

3)From today he will rent and live in his own house (not governments)

4)Resign from all non call positions to concentrate on key portfolios of Finance and Sugar

5)Restrict travel to 4 trips a year, not include family and fly economy until the country can afford otherwise

Doing just one of these would be a grand statement and could seperate him from every other politician and PM who we have had before.
Charlie Charters said…
Croz,

I think you have my posts confused with someone else! I have submitted just the one comment on this subject. 'Frank's nose is bigger than Michael's' is not from me, directly or indirectly.
Anonymous said…
Here is a perfect example of a porky pie. Not sure if it is Frnak or the fijisun (appealing to frank).

"State has the support of the people: PM"

This statement is however a lie. It has no basis. We have no idea if the Pm has sthe support of the peoplen because :

1. He appointed himself, by force
2. There has been no election
3. No opposition is allowed to governmen under the decree

Time to get that pinochio nose out Croz.
Observer said…
Croz
I was at the Fiji Rugby Union AGM as an observer. I was quiet surprised that the names of Military Officer Mosese Tikoitoga was proposed by Nadroga Rugby Union under the presidency of Ratu Tasere, former Fiji Rep and SDL Minister. I expected this to come from fellow officer, Francis Kean, who was part of the Suva Rugby delegation. Suva's only nomination was Cameron who is a lawyer. The other military officer, Mr Cawaki was nominated by the Lautoka Rugby Union. Before the voting, former national rugby captain and life member Mr Cavu asked the all candidates vying for board positions to stand up. The process was very transparent and democratic.
Anonymous said…
The issue is not what Field put into his article but what he left out! The effect is a dishonest article and I am not surprised that Charters does not acknowledge this since he holds strong anti-government views. Even if you hate someone, if you pretend to be a journalist, you must ethically try to achieve a balance. That is, all the truth and not some of it. If I write a story that a man was charged with murder, but omit to write that he was tried and acquitted, have I told the truth? Technically, yes. Ethically and morally, no. I prefer ethical reporting thank you, and so does the New Zealand Press Council.

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