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When Violence Threatens

#63 WHEN VIOLENCE THREATENS   By Graham Davis  – March 19, 2012

Trouble for Grubsheet too

Grubsheet’s burgeoning number of opinion pieces on Fiji are largely designed to counter what we regard as the continuing failure of the mainstream regional media to come to grips with the reality of events there. They’re especially aimed at an Australian audience, to highlight what we regard as the folly of Canberra having turned its back on Fiji since Frank Bainimarama’s coup five years ago. A lot of these pieces are picked up by the mainstream media – The Australian and Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, for instance – or disseminated to a wider regional and global audience through the Pacific Scoop service of the Auckland University of Technology and Pacific Islands Report from the East West Centre in Hawaii.

Some are written as news stories but most are shamelessly opinionated, strong expressions of our own views based not only on on a life-long association with Fiji but having reported political events there for the mainstream media since before the first coup in 1987.

The problem arises when these articles are picked up and republished in Fiji, a country where the separation of news and opinion in the mainstream media doesn’t have a strong tradition. And so it was last week, when the Fiji Sun published a Grubsheet opinion posting on its front page that would have looked very much like news to local eyes. It provoked a wave of outrage, not least from the subject of that article – Laisenia Qarase, the man Frank Bainimarama deposed in his 2006 coup.

As readers can see for themselves in our own comments section, Qarase has gone on the attack against Grubsheet, accusing us of distortion, disregarding the facts and attempting to “crucify” him and his party – the SDL. He’s particularly aggrieved that we’ve accused him of pursuing racist policies in government. As readers can also note for themselves, we stand by that accusation. But we can also sympathise with Qarase that an article on a humble Australian blog site can so dramatically become part of the domestic political debate in Fiji. If any proof were needed of the power of the internet to amplify the smallest voice, then this is it.

Qarase is not only entitled to defend himself but Grubsheet is delighted that he can now do so fully in the Fiji media for the first time in a long time. The Bainimarama government has lifted censorship and a full-blown debate has erupted about the impending discussions on a new constitution and the unilateral abolition of the Great Council of Chiefs. This is how it should be. It’s also Grubsheet’s view that if Laisenia Qarase intends to stand in the promised elections in 2014, his record in government is also a legitimate subject for debate. Against all evidence to the contrary, he’s now running the line that the SDL has always been a multiracial party, didn’t disadvantage other citizens in government and that he’s never believed in indigenous paramountcy. Every village pig in Fiji has suddenly sprouted wings and set off over a moonlit lagoon. But again, Qarase is entitled to put his case. And we’re entitled to put ours.
What is not acceptable are the threats to Grubsheet’s personal safety by Qarase’s supporters. These have come via the main anti-government blog site, Coup Four Point Five, which has been in our sights before for publishing blatantly racist content against the Indo-Fijian minority. These are “journalists” based abroad who not only routinely censor comments they don’t agree with but now facilitate threats of violence against people they don’t agree with. Here’s the first instance, when Coup 4.5 reported Laisenia Qarase’s first press release in response to the original Grubsheet article:

‪I Taukei Dina‬ said..
I hate to be rude but graham davis is so full of shit. I sincerely hope that he does not come to Fiji often and at the same time does not publicize that he is here, for his own personal safety.

March 15, 2012 9:35 AM
And then another in response to a second Qarase press release carried by Coup 4.5
I Taukei Dina‬ said…
March 18, 2012 9:31 PM

Grubsheet has posted the following response to I Taukei Dina ( true Fijian )  on Coup 4.5.
Graham Davis said…
“I’taukei Dina”, I look forward to seeing you face to face in Fiji.
 This is the second time you have threatened me in these columns, assisted by the gatekeepers of Coup 4.5, who are willing to break the relevant media laws relating to the incitement of violence
 You call yourself a “Taukei Dina” – a true Fijian. No, my friend, you are an embarrassment to the i’taukei.
 A true Fijian stands up proudly for what he or she believes in. You don’t. A true Fijian allows others to speak their minds. You don’t. A true Fijian uses their real name. You don’t. 
 The more you do it, the more you show your intolerance for other opinions, your disdain for true democracy and your fear of the power of the pen.
 I’ve seen your face in Fiji before – the face of blind, unreasoning hatred. We all have. But it doesn’t scare me one bit. Time has moved on even if you haven’t.

Let’s see if our response is published. But the racism and violence that Coup 4.5 tolerates and indirectly promotes is the true face of  far too many of the so-called pro-democracy campaigners, both in Fiji and the diaspora. Some of these are the same people who harassed and beat their fellow citizens during the racist coups of 1987 and 2000. Some of these terrorised innocent people, stole their possessions and destroyed their hopes for a prosperous future for themselves and their children.

No-one is saying – least of all Grubsheet – that the current Fiji government is perfect. But its singular achievement has been to confront these racist thugs, to make life safe again for everyone in Fiji and to lay out the blueprint for a multiracial future. For Laisenia Qarase, the real enemy isn’t Grubsheet. The real enemy is the cancer of intimidation and racism in his own ranks.


Anonymous said…
I Taukei Dina is typical of the racist criminals that ran amok during the Qarase era with the support of the standby Army until it turned against them. These crims have always ignored the message, choosing to shoot the messenger. Intimidation and threats of violence silenced the Indo-Fijians for decades and now that the Army has turned against them they have, like cowards, gone underground. I Taukei Dina, should go and flex his muscles in front of the QE Barracks and not try to intimidate those who promote healthy exchange of views. Surely, I Taukei Dina is not for democracy but restoration of the old order to allow him and other "champions of democracy" occasional freedom to loot Suva and other towns, instal roadblocks, and evict and occupy Indo-Fijian homes. It was
state-sponsored terrorism that flourished during the Qarase era, a very sure way of rapid prosperity without having to toil. Thanks Graham for not allowing this bully to intimidate you.
Cleansing the Countryside with terror said…
The terrorising of the countryside which took place not only in 2000, 2001 but also 2002 and 2003 (until the advent of former Police Commissioner Andrew Hughes)was an outrage and should have been described for what is was: state-sponsored terrorism.

When the 9/11 and subsequent attacks took place, it became clear that covert but systematic attacks to terrify and to traumatize various sections of the population were receiving support from institutions of state. They were refusing to act or to mobilise and at times this has continued on to this day.

No one who has experienced a home invasion or land invasion of this kind will ever forget it. This is why thousands have left Fiji for good. They will not return and that was precisely the point of it: ethnic cleansing by another means.Look at Kosovo, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Fiji Police who have served there know that this is so.
Hitler would be proud of C 4.5 said…
The Coup 4.5 journalists, who allow racist, violent, and vicious thuggery to flaunt itself in their columns whilst pretending to be democratic, are nothing short of thugs themselves. Pretending to believe in free speech, but in reality practicing racial and opinion intolerance. What they want is the freedom to express their own opinions while drowning out others' voices by violent means. Free speech? Democracy? I don't think so.
Anonymous said…
Graham, thank you for clarifying that the article run under your byline by the Fiji Sun represented your own 'shamelessly opinionated' views rather than factual news. You're quite right -- the Fiji Sun, in particular, certainly has often shown an inability to distinguish opinion from news. 

Let FS publisher Peter Lomas deny it, but we know that he regularly looks for the most flattering photos he can find to run of Sayed-Khaiyum.  We know Sayed-Khaiyum sometimes publishes tourism articles under another's byline, a direct violation of the Media Decree he drafted and imposed. We also know that Bainimarama has on occasion told Sun reporters outright lies that the newspaper then carried on its front page without even the most cursory fact-checking.

Perhaps I misjudged you. I once wrote that perhaps you think it a badge of honour when your articles appear on the front page of the pro-regime newspaper, in a country where publishers are regularly expelled or gaoled and dare not print offending letters to the editor for fear of being held by the regime in contempt. But now I see that even you recognize that your Fiji Sun article was irresponsible journalism.

You criticise 'Qarase supporters' for threatening you with personal violence. I hope you'll be equally solicitous of the safety of those threatened daily by the regime you support in Suva. 

I'm hoping you'll stop to reflect on how you would react if a military clique overthrew Australia's democratically-elected  government, took away your vote, deprived you of your civil rights, demolished your institutions, etc., and you then had to suffer the pro-despot propagandizing of someone who lives in another country. Imagine an Australia prostrate at the feet of Tojo, which very nearly happened. Then consider how, to some Fijians, that puts you in the category of Tokyo Rose.

You claim that censorship has been lifted in Fiji. Well, to some extent you're right again, I suppose. The soldiers have been removed from the newsrooms. But you're mostly wrong. The past three years of experience, combined with 'public order' and media decrees and contempt actions and the continued imprisonment of publishers still have a very chilling effect on free discourse. I daresay that, for a journalist, you take a surprisingly casual attitude toward the hardships suffered by your Fijian counterparts. 

You've written that a true Fijian stands up proudly for his beliefs. But do that in Fiji today and you could still be arrested, beaten, your home firebombed, etc. 

You've also written that 'a true Fijian allows others to speak their mind'. Does this mean your pal Bainimarama isn't a true Fijian? You've written that he's a kailoma, but that doesn't disqualify him in my book. But he certainly doesn't brook dissent. How is it that you don't see or cannot bring yourself to acknowledge that? Were there a full and free debate in Fiji, I've little doubt that Bainimarama would soon be under arrest for high treason, as he deserves, which is why he'll never allow unfettered debate, if he can help it.

You make the argument that Qarase is or was racist. The argument has some merit. A similar case could also be made against your hero. For all of his rhetoric, he's done nothing to integrate Fiji's armed forces. This suggests that his real agenda might be about something other than racial equality. Perhaps it's about evading justice for the murders he sanctioned in 2000, as recently revealed in the Board of Inquiry report he suppressed and you continue to ignore. 

Graham, I believe you mean well but have allowed your indignation over the transgressions of past governments to blind you to the true nature of this regime. You've been duped, and now you're lowering your own journalistic and moral standards to self-rationalise your reasons for serving as the tool of what is very patently a fascist dictatorship.

s/ Dakuwaqa
Just Desserts said…
With the benefit of hindsight, give or take a year or two, we shall view with horror, yes, horror the attitude and posturing of those who "should know better". Meting out a daily diet of cant when sound analysis is required.

Why should they know better? Because by upbringing and education they have no business in the matter of encouraging mass hypnosis through a Daily Diet of Doping.

It brings to mind the distasteful pirouetting of Diana Mosley and sister Unity Mitford prancing around the Fuehrer while smoke began belching from the gas ovens: the beginning of A Final Solution. Too many 'Final Solutions' in too many places.

We have need of the likes of Alan Little and Fergus Keane to take up our plight. Men of courage, conviction, honour and wisdom forged in the field of reporting from the front in the Bosnian War, thirty years of bloody siege and bombing in Northern Ireland and in South Africa before the release of Nelson Mandela. No one can report upon the reality without having significantly lived it. And 'living it' does not mean parading around with the securely entrenched.

We do our best to stand up to bullies. But there are some who are just not up to it, not anymore. They are simply "done in" with the enduring weariness and the deadly duplicity. The disgusting displays of "in your face" glitz and grubby grab.

The adulators of the oppression of others shall meet their just desserts. Now will it be the Creme Brulee or the Spotted Dick?

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