Australia's Elite Sources of Information on Fiji

Richard Marles, the Australian Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Affairs, has called the recent Tebbutt poll "ridiculous." The poll showed that 66% of the sampled population thought the Bainimarama Government was doing a good job. Jenny Hayward-Jones of the Lowy Institute that paid for the poll  disagrees. This is what she said of Australia's sources of information on Fiji:

"Just because the people polled expressed views that conflicted with what the Australian government believes the Fiji people think does not make the poll ridiculous. Thanks in large part to the Fiji regime's restrictions on free speech, the Australian government has relied on the views largely of elites – academics, NGO leaders, Fijians with chiefly status, former politicians, some businesspeople, blogs written largely by Fiji citizens residing in Australia and New Zealand – to inform its views of what the Fiji people think.

"With the exception of the occasional taxi driver, the people diplomats rely on for information and opinions tend not to be gardeners, textile workers, nurses, teachers, shop staff or unemployed people. Such people probably don't come to the attention of the regime in Fiji, and they may not feel as fearful as outspoken critics of the regime about the consequences of expressing an opinion.

"Unless there is clear evidence (not just an assumption) that the 1036 people surveyed felt intimidated and lied about their true feelings, there is no reason to dismiss the poll."
Click here to read her comments in full. 

Meanwhile, Amnesty International, relying on these same sources of information,  thought a popular uprising similar to the Middle East and North Africa "is not impossible in Fiji." Amnesty's Secretary General  Salil Shetty was speaking of  what he called "reports of torture and other human rights violations in Fiji" which he said were "worsening.. ... If this level of violation of human rights continues and if people don’t have a voice and if they have no basic freedoms, in my view it’s a matter of time.” Mr Shetty took up his AI appointment in December 2009 and to my knowledge has no firsthand experience of Fiji or the Pacific.


Islands in the Stream said…
@ Mr Salil Shetty and "It's only a matter of time"

What an extraordinary comment to have been made by a person we are given to understand has never been in Fiji? And this individual believes he has grounds on which to base a view?

He ought immediately to resign as S-G of Amnesty International for incitement. Leading people into danger from a safe and secure perch afar, is, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu so gloriously declaimed yesterday "DISGRACEFUL": he was speaking about his own country's deliberate exclusion of the Dalai Lama.

We might well do with a visit from the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu himself. The first is most unlikely given our situation. The second might be expedited by the South African High Commission if they cared to do so? We have no doubt whatsoever that he would 'lighten up' all our lives.
An holistic view of the Landscape said…
Concerning elite sources of information:

Has it not occurred to AI and other outfits like it, that people may have various opinions on a variety of subjects? Unlike views expressed elsewhere, it is not essential a la President George W. Bush to be "With us or against us" on every point.

That is an overly simplistic view which obtains in wartime (enforced). It does not apply to economic or social issues. What is wrong with the "piecemeal" approach of the Curate's Egg: "Good in parts"? Social engineering should be 'piecemeal' according to Karl Popper. It is the safest way to go.

Each issue should be taken on its merits. At present, security of income is the major concern of all Fijians. They do not have a secure way forward but then neither do any of us anywhere in the world? The entire global economy is already immersed in uncertainty and it will demand a very steady pair of hands, unusual and extraordinary leadership skills to see us through what is now poised to become a global economic recession with violent tendencies.

Even in the USA the jobless and the ideological are now marching on Financial Institutions in different cities. This will grow. The system is letting us all down. The system is bust.

Jobless people are hungry people. Father Kevin Barr needs to reflect more on this. His approach, though well-intentioned, is simplistic and....dangerous. Even the Irish are leaving Ireland. Fijians are leaving Fiji. Jobs must be secured and smart policies must secure them.

We need leaders who have the skills imparted by the PPE: Politics, Philosophy and Economics. Law alone is quite insufficient. President Bill Clinton has a PPE (Oxon). Where is his clone?

The policies which are in play now exhibit blinkered and immature thought. They show no political acumen and our situation demands both. There is also ignorance of the constituencies of Fiji. This lack of basic understanding is on show daily.

The Lowy Institute had its opportunity to gather this information in January 2009. It chose then, we must assume, not to listen. Elite views are not always what they seem. After all, Ms Hayward-Jones spoke to someone who had walked to school in Fiji shoeless and to another who had lived and mixed with every community at every level over forty years and campaigned "in the bush". Such opinions must be sifted and seen holistically.

Were they?
Abhorrent regime said…
I note that Jenny Hayward Jones refers to the military junta and I quote as 'the abhorrent regime'. That sums it all up for me. All the evidence I need to plead for sanctions to be substantially increased?
Support said…
There is still the mystery of the regimes hesitation if it comes to elections: With all the support that Bainimarama regime seems to have they could have allowed elections as early as 2009 and legitimize their rule. Bainimarama could have travelled to the Rugby World Cup and provide the cheer these low Flying Fijians quite obviously lacked.
Anonymous said…
I love this article.
Anonymous said…
Please answer this!

Why the PER?

Absolutely everybody knows there will not be a rebelion. The army still has the guns. Without per one has always had to get "permits" to march or have a large "public" meeting.

With the PER removed, there would be an avalanche of opposition views.

No different from what any democratically elected government has faced.

Given the opportunity to test these fellows in public debate, I would have the regime in a position of defending "most popular government ever". Having the freedom to challenge these fellows would improve their performance and reduce the bitterness.
Those who where supporters and now longer are, are the most bitter. They are angry at themselves and really angry at the betrayal.

At this moment, very moment, this junta and its lackies are spending my tax dollars. They give me absolutley no opportunity to try and at least have some say in how my money is spent.
Me and mine are liable for debts that I have had no say in incurring.

What we have is a ruthless dicatorship. We brought on ourselves.
We have spoken off and speculated on how a benevolent distatorship might work for Fiji.
Lee Quan Yew's name has always been the name bandied about.
So there has always been fertile ground for a dictator.

WE have been down every road,the only way is back, but there is to much pride yet for that.
There will be no RAMSI for us, although I nearly fell over when a young Lauan businessmen said it was the only hope for Fiji.
He said he hated self government. Nothing was ever fair.

Hey lets go talk to Obama.
Purto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, Marshalls......Fiji?

or maybe , Tibet...Fiji?

moce Jo.
Anonymous said…
It is preposterous that a person of such high authority should dismiss an authoritative poll. Perhaps Richard Marles should organize another poll and send it circulate it among the chiefs, Methodist Church hierarchy, the indigenous elites and those that were the members of the Qarase Government! Sixty-six percent approval is indicative of one fact that people value leadership that works in the interests of the country and not selected few. Bainimarama Govt may not be perfect but it is better than most racist Govts of recent past. Despite the approval rating, the majority is still keen to have an elected Govt. Doesn't this show that people had the freedom to express this view, which is against the present Govt? And yet, some claim that people could not freely participate in the Lowy Poll!
Jenny's response is balanced and Martin's - truly "ridiculous!".
sister saras said…
The PER is there for a very good reason. Imagine what the Methos would have done when they came to know that the meeting has been cancelled. 2000 style march and mayhem again? History repeats itself, as they say. This is only an interim govt and it has the late President's mandate to take the country to democracy after the necessary reforms, by Sept 2014. As per the peoples charter, this govt in on track and delivering what was required of it. What difference will it make if the PER was lifted? The sun will still rise and set. We will still drink grog till the wee hours of the morning. Lifting PER will only help those who want to disrupt the good work done by this govt thus far. I dont want to name them but we all know who they are.
Anonymous said…
Re:An holistic view of the Landscape said.

Who cares what Karl Popper thinks? Sounds like grandstanding academic mumbo jumbo to me. Keep it real and relevant.

I would rather listen to Father Kevin Barr than a western educated elite who has just completed 'development studies / Intl relations 101'.

Sorry, I'm not convinced by your simplistic argument. It is based in fantasy and is 'dangerous'.
Nit Picking said…
@ Anonymous and 'who cares.....

How silly of you! Because it is always necessary to listen to all views and angles of reasonable opinion. Your determination to do otherwise suggests a partially closed mind which is always dangerous and unhelpful. Do you wish to help? Or merely obstruct?
sara'ssista said…
I see she didn't feel it necessary to defend the ousourcing of polls to a friend of the fiji ps for 'misinformation'. I rather liken this ps to the spokesman for gadaffi, mr ' nothing to see here, everything is just fine and going to plan'. I am sure he would have provided advice and helped with the poll too given his experience of being 'in touch with the feelings and democratic aspiriations of his people'!
sara'ssista said…
Speaking of the dalai lama, let's see him invited here and see what happens! What's the prediction with new big brother china least aus and nz have the balls to let him in and speak his mind.
anonymous said…
@ sara'ssista...

I think you will find that former PM Helen Clarke did not meet with the Dalai Lama in NZ. She chose to meet with him on Australian soil.What does that tell you?

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