News and Comments Thursday 29 March 2012
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TIKOITOGA WRONG, CHAUDHRY RIGHT. Land Force Commander, Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga says FLP leader Mahendra Chaudhry was "sacked from his ministerial portfolio [in the Bainimarama] because of nonperformance.” Chaudhry, rightly, denies the accusation. He resigned in August 2008 so that he could contest the 2009 elections that never eventuated. And all media reports at that time with confirm his denial. It is not clear why a military spokesman should be speaking on behalf of Government. One would have thought this would be the role of the Ministry of Information and other Government ministries but if Tikoitoga insists on speaking he would be well advised to first get his facts right.
TIKOITOGA CLAIMS FLP-SDL PLOT. Co. Tikoitoga also claimed the RFMF "knows of plans by politicians to combine to oust the Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama-led Government in the 2014 elections." His remark is important for three reasons: It came from the military that, in my view, should leave such accusations to Government; it was a reaction against a well publicised, and hardly secret, announcement by Chaudhry; and it suggests that Bainimarama will, as many have thought, contest the 2014 as the head of a Government-led party. One hopes the FLP-SDL announcement and Tikoitoga's reaction will not detract from the Constitution reform process due to commence soon. Meanwhile, Bainimarama has urged Chaudhry to channel his remarks to the Constitution Commission (of which Chaudhry does not approve.)
BAINIMARAMA SAYS CONSTITUTION WILL NOT ADDRESS ROLE OF MILITARY. From May to July a civic education programme, in English, Fijian and Hindi, will be conducted to highlight issues for Fijians to think about before they make their voices heard to the Constitutional Commission.
The PM is reported to have "dismissed calls for the Fiji constitution to address the role of the country’s military." It is to be hoped he will changed his mind.
There should be no prior imposition on what the Commission and Assembly can and cannot discuss; and the role of the military, that has been active in all Fijis' four coups, is too important not be be included. If Bainimarama wishes to break the "coup culture" the role of the military has to be clearly spelt out.
I would assume most people would be happy to see a role (a) withstanding foreign interventions and attempts to illegally depose elected governments, (b) assisting during national emergencies, and (c) ensuring that elected governments do not contravene the Constitution, and in other stated ways upholding the Constitution. In each case military action would only be on the instruction of the President and in his absence the Vice-President. The Constitution Commission and Assembly may also wish to at least air the possibility of the military having representation in some ancillary Government body such as Senate, if it is decided to retain Senate in some new form.
PINA MEDIA SUMMIT AND PasiMA. For 40 years the Pacific Islands News Association has represented news media in the Pacific but in 2010 a group of journalists from Cook Islands, Tonga, Samoa and Vanuatu formed PasiMA, the Pasifika Media Association, arguing that PINA had compromised its principles by not taking a stronger stance agains the Bainimarama government. PINA countered by saying more would be achieved by engagement.
This week Bainimarama opened the PINA summit in Fiji which is about “Building a healthy and responsible media culture”. There are sessions on indigenous media ownership, social media, anti-corruption, climate change and non-communicable diseases in the media, and building public trust in media.
Cook Island News publisher John Woods says the summit a “junket” of journalists who have “sold out” to the military regime.The whole gathering is utterly appalling. It’s a sham and they are paying homage to corruption and evil."
Matai Akauola, PINA manager, disagreed. “We are taking a Pacific perspective rather than a white man’s perspective. We need to engage with Governments, to talk and dialogue. We used to not engage and we would make statement after statement but that got us nowhere. We are taking this stance, it might be different, but it is not wrong.” Akauola said accountability went both ways and the media in Fiji needs to “clean up its act” before it can demand accountability from its governments.
“We aimed for 150 delegates, and now we have almost 180 people here. We are just disappointed that our traditional friends from Australia* and New Zealand* cannot be here. We thought politics didn’t play a part in Pacific media but obviously it does.”
“They (Woods, Samoa Observer editor Malifa and Vanuatu Daily Post publisher Marc Neil Jones) can throw stones but they should be here to discuss, not on the outside. We have Kalafi Moala (also a PasiMA member) here, we invited anyone and everyone. And we are disappointed that Radio New Zealand International is not here. We need professionals, academics, all kinds of people to be here and join the discussion.” The Summit concludes tomorrow Friday.
-- Based on Alex Perrottet, contributing editor of Pacific Media Watch.
* But Australia's Graham Davis and NZ's David Robbie are at the Summit so we expect to be able to published more soon.