Take Your Pick: Hunter v. Davis

 WEEKEND READINGS. • Allen Lockington Column • Subhash Appana continues his series on constitution-making in Fiji with VII:The 1990 Constitution • Robert Yee's Submission to the Constitution Commission 
• Grameem Bank Threatened

Within only a few days of each other we have been presented with two very differing views of Fiji today. First up was Australian Russell Hunter, former Fiji Times editor and Fiji Sun publisher before he was expelled from Fiji in 2008.

In an article published by FijiToday headed “Frank's boat is sinking but he will ride out the waves” Hunter argues that “many thousands of Fiji Islanders who eagerly await their chance to remove him by means of the ballot box are doomed to disappointment.” There will be no elections in 2014. Why? Because Bainimarama “cannot allow a winner other than himself.”

On Bainimarama's multiracialism agenda, Hunter says “The majority of the people he illegally governs do not agree – and not just the ethnic Fijian majority. It will take more than a few decrees to end the politics of race in Fiji.” 

He goes on to say that “ they [the iTaikei] are the ones called upon to make all the concessions to a highly identifiable mono-cultural immigrant  block [the Indo-Fijians] that declines to assimilate“. He then  repeats the notion that the Bainimarama coup was an Indo-Fijian —or worse still an Indo-Fijian Muslim— plot.

Submissions to the Constitution Commission,  he says, show that most people are against  Bainimarama plotters being granted immunity so he will simply impose it, “just as he did the People's Charter he claims won 90% approval from the people.” It was actually a product of wide consultations and just over 60% supported it despite opposition from the Qarase SDL party, the Great Council of Chiefs and the Methodist Church.

Hunter then goes on to say Bainimarama has abandoned the Charter; dismantled ethnic Fijian institutions; and ruined the economy. He doubts there will be an election so Bainimarama will probably have himself appointed President. “Certainly the option must look preferable to an election he cannot win without rigging it.”

That's Hunter writing from Australia.

Then comes another Australian journalist and Grubsheet publisher, Fiji-born Graham Davis who now spends half of every week working in Fiji for Qorvis, the Bainimarama PR consultants. 

Writing of Fiji Day, Davis writes, “In the 42 years since independence, there can have been few Fiji Days more inspiring than Wednesday’s celebration, or one so filled with hope for a better future … Thousands of people – many of them decked in the flag – turned out at formal Fiji Day celebrations across the country.”

Grubsheet watched the march through Suva marvelling at this year’s turnout, reputedly the biggest Fiji Day crowd ever. How fantastic that Suva turned on a beautiful day after the miserable weather of the past. How wonderful that so many people joined the procession, calling out Bula vinaka and Happy Fiji Day to the many spectators along the route. It was a river of blue winding its way from the Flea Market through town to Albert Park, interspersed with the brass bands, kids on their parent’s shoulders, the extroverts breaking into their dance routines to the usual kailas and general merriment.”

Most interestingly, given Hunter's account, Davis wrote of “Bainmarama, seeming relaxed and utterly at ease with the crowd ... And as he stood there, ordinary people, and especially children, started to come forward to shake his hand and be photographed with him. Tentatively at first and then en mass as it became obvious that the PM was thoroughly enjoying the encounter.”

Davis concluded, “It is the antithesis of the image of the feared dictator portrayed by the anti-government blogs. It is the Prime Minister’s political opponents who have cause to fear him at the ballot box when democracy returns. Because Grubsheet has never seen a Fijian leader more relaxed and  connected in the presence of ordinary people. Not Ratu Mara, not Timoci Bavadra, not Sitiveni Rabuka, not Mahendra Chaudhry and not Laisenia Qarase. They all had an element of reserve and awkwardness that is totally absent in Commodore Bainimarama. He will be a star campaigner come election time.”

Only time will tell, of course, but for the moment, take your pick. Glass half empty; glass half full. Things may not be as rosy as Davis claims but  Hunter seems to be describing a different country.

For Fiji Day and other official photos, visit the Ministry of Information Facebook page by clicking here.


Anonymous said…
The first is poor journalism, the second is a gushing paid advertisement.
Yea yea said…
Yep as long as Frank does not have to take question, participate in a debate or articulate a idea he will do great in a campaign. It will also be handy to have his opposition locked up and the full might of the army behind him should anyone look like challenging him. Win, popular or not he is going to be around for a long time. He has a very big motivator and that's staying out of jail.
Anonymous said…
Go for Davis. I was there and he is absolutely spot on. It was a magnificent day. Go Fiji!

The only people who are in jail are those imprisoned in their bitter old mindset like Russell Hunter.
Anonymous said…
The notion that the 2006 coup was an Indian coup or Muslim coup is deeply offensive and I am astonished that you would say "take your pick" between these two when one has been so blatantly provocative. Hunter is totally ignorant. It was a military coup. The army got fed up with the racism and corruption of the Qarase years and decided to bring it all to a halt. Anyone with contacts with the military knows that the senior officers are united on this. Hunter has clearly never spoken to them or he would know the facts. Croz,
The Observer said…
Vile Russell Hunter has no credibility as a journalist as he fostered and encouraged skirt journalism at The Fiji Times to get exclusive stories while Rabuka was PM. He 'prostituted' one of his reporters, so he is no better tan a pimp. He was sacked by his Samoan employers for nonperformance. He is a nobody in Australia, and trying be a big boy and and make himself relevant in the islands.

As usual, his analysis is rubbish. To claim that 2006 coup was an Indian coup or Muslim coup shows his prejudice and gullibility. It exposes and confirms his dislike for Indo-Fijians, something we always suspected. Indians were used to justify the coup, but who are the major beneficiaries? Either Russell is stupid or ignorant or trying to start a race war in Fiji. I believe he is both vile and stupid. Assimilation is a far more complicated issue than Russell is making out - how many white Australians have assimilated with Australian aborigines?

With the tone of his latest racist post, Russell has confirmed that he was behind an orchestrated campaign mounted by The Fiji Times against the Labour-Coalition government. He should never be allowed back in the country, regardless of who forms government next. We can do without his corrupting influence.

Anonymous said…
...and Davis is no longer a journalist. He is a ad man for Frank and Co.
ha said…
Seriously Croz you would be a fool to accept either. One is from a bitter guy who lost out from Franks coup. The other is a flowerly nothing from the man paid by the coup man himself (albeit via third party).
Anonymous said…
Croz, Graham Davis is a Fijian. Russell Hunter is not. Davis lives half the week in Fiji, Hunter does not. Davis is assisting in the return to democracy, Hunter is not. Why do you portray them as equals?

People are sick of all this negativity. It's also time for you to explain to everyone what your own problem is. Maybe you don't like the fact that the Government doesn't do precisely what you want?
Gutter Press said…
Russell Hunter no longer lives in Fiji because he was forced out at the end of a gun barrel. I hold no candle for his journalism, but he at least lived in Fiji for many difficult post coup years, whilst Graham Davis did not.

Yes, it’s true that Mr Davis is now a Fiji citizen, but when he was originally told to choose between Fiji and Australia he freely made the choice of Australia because it suited him to do so.

It’s unlikely he’ll be asked to choose again but if the incoming elected government decides to do away with dual citizenship, it would be interesting to see which country he (or any other dual citizenship-holder) chooses to remain a citizen of.

The point of Crosbie’s post was not to portray the men as equals, it was to portray them as showing very different sides of the same story.

The point was ‘glass half empty or half full’. Your comment makes you sound as if you picked up the glass and missed your mouth altogether.
Anonymous said…
Davis was quite for a very long time, assumed he was marshalling his award winning best to counter the Marshal Petition.

The regime though has decided to cut the AG loose, no Marshal plan for him.

The stress is killing him.

Anonymous said…
The Marshall "petition" is a joke from a man who is totally injudicious and if he was sincere,ought to have raised his concerns in office, not after his contract wasn't renewed. Some of the content is ridiculous, like his psychobabble about the AG's childhood. But most of it is just malicious, the rantings of a loser cut loose. It was a five minute wonder.
Finger on the pulse said…
I was able to see the logic of much of Russell Hunter's piece right up to the last line when the whole edifice collapsed with his mention of "Operation Jericho". This is the fantasy that an internal resistance movement against the regime will topple Bainimarama. There are elements plotting against the regime but the notion that this is a broad movement is absurd. It isn't happening and won't when people are seeing a much better government than they ever expected. The whole tone of national life in Fiji has been raised but this is something that escapes the attention of anyone who doesn't visit the country like Hunter.

The problem with his overall analysis is that, of course, there is entrenched racism in Fiji which will take a couple of generations to eradicate. But that has already started by having multiracialism imposed from the top. Call it dictatorship but this is merely an extension of the authoritarianism that has always influenced public attitudes in Fiji. I'taukei opinion has traditionally been set by the chiefs and the Methodist Church. They tell people what to think therefore they think. Now the military leadership have taken it upon themselves to seize the narrative by brushing the other opinion makers aside. It's a battle for hearts and minds but there is ample evidence that the military is winning.

They are ruthlessly suppressing any anti-government "resistance" but even this is accepted by most ordinary people and even admired. People are sick of instability and will reward anyone who breaks the cycle. History tells us that ordinary Fijians love a strongman who imposes order. It was ever thus - Maafu, Cakobau right down to the modern era. They also accept authoritarianism so long as it is benign and there is food on the table. This is the paradigm of village life. Grasp that and you have some chance of understanding the Bainimarama phenomenon.

It is Russell Hunter and the rest of his urban media/human rights clique who are out of touch. Bainimarama has his finger on the nation's pulse and his boot on the throat of the troublemakers. And that is just how most people like it after 25 years of division and chaos.
Observer said…
Now I realise I was not being paranoid for suspecting the Fiji Times of demonising Indo-Fijians while Russell Hunter was its editor. Besides Australia, how well did the Whites assimilate in South Africa or Zimbabwe? This is not to condemn Whites, who were born into the system, but to point out that assimilation is a highly complex issue. In Fiji's case we need to understand it better and try to find solutions rather than apportion blame on one section of the community, because there are two or more sides to an equation. What did previous governments do to foster assimilation? What part has Fiji's political system played? has it encouraged assimilation? Or the opposite.

Not that I expect Russell the pimp to understand. He has always struck me as a simpleton who acts like a smart ass.
rusi said…
The 'army didn't get fed up with racism or corruption' causing the 2006 coup, both are entrenched in the militray. How many more indians have joined the army since 2006?
Anonymous said…
Rusi, you really are an idiot. Joining the army is a matter of choice, though I suppose you could argue that poor Fijian youths have little choice because there are precious few jobs thanks to successive coups. But Indo-Fijians have never shown much interest in military life, aside from the Brigadier General Aziz's of the world. So what? I'm not interested in being a Tibetan monk. Does that make the Dalai Llama any less legitimate because he has no Fijians in his ranks? What on earth is your point?
%$#@! said…
'Indo-Fijians have never shown much interest in military life' yes and i guess thats what they said about blacks not voting in americas deep south. The idea that you could defend this is quite bizarre. The military is just not just predominately native fijian it is only native fijian. So while the regime bleats about 'pluralism' and 'one fiji', they have made no efforts, none, in trying to have military that better reflects fiji's cultural makeup. BTW How many poor indians youths are their that don't fel at all invited to even apply to join the military? Tibetan monks don't have habit of pulling guns on their own citizens and running a country by threats and intimidation.
Anonymous said…
@ Anon 11:33 as a reply this is one of the most laughable and confused explanations I have seen defending the military and claiming that as there are actually no indians in the ranks in the fijian military that is just fine coz they 'aren't interested'. Why are they inclined to be represented in the Police then? The very idea that the rank and file in the army cares about how indians feel or their rights is comical. Just sit down and have a chat with them and you will get a very good idea how attitudes have not changed one bit. the concept that the militray is so enlightend on issues of race is very much a political view, and an after thought at that.
Anonymous said…
Call it what you will...damaging no less.

If it was such a joke,ridiculous,phychobabble, maliciuos,ranting of a looser, and I agree with you on most of that, but it has been one issue that has not been given any treatment, cause it comes way to close to the bone.

This is the arrow that has wounded the regime to the core if it chooses to go into an election. The AG is a liability, absolutely no two ways about that.

Frank has only one option, become President. Flying as politician will be way to risky for him and the country.

But then again, what do I know.
Anonymous said…
Dalia Lama? who would be his equivalent in Fiji? such an odd comment when this nis about equity and diversity.
Observer said…
Any discussion about assimilation needs to be informed by Fiji's history, including the lasting effects of colonial policies, but this would be too much to ask of Russell Hunter. He is, after all, a newspaper man, obviously very poorly read, quite prejudiced given to simplistic analysis and indulging in the blame game rather than offer constructive ideas.

A bitter, twisted and dangerous man who has already harmed Fiji while publisher of Fiji Times, with his grossly inflated sense of self righteousness and intelligence. A lightweight who can't get a job in Australia. Fiji can do without derelicts like Russell. Bainimarama did well to kick him out. Garbage like him should never be allowed back in.

He should preach assimilation to his brethren in Australia, where it is needed more than in Fiji.
Hypocrite said…
Isn't this the same Russell Hunter who aided and abetted the illegal overthrow of a democratically-elected government in 1999 while editor of the Fiji Times?
Anonymous said…
Davis was a balanced journo. He is now in PR. His article was one of observation and fact. It is not controversial in any way. On the other hand, Hunter's piece is the rovings of a little brat who had his lollies taken away. Hunter could get a job with Alan Jones. Birds of a feather....(vested interests)

But Mr Davis, have you seen Aussie current affairs lately? It is akin to an info-mercial. There is no cutting edge stuff anymore. I know you are in PR now, but how about getting the PM to admit his mistakes and provide solutions to such errors. The AG is clearly out of control. The sins of the AG will be visited on the PM, if this is not remedied.

I am sure you are fully aware of this and have a “plan””. As you know, timing is all important. Those who want to assist cannot, as the AG extinguishes their flame in a heartbeat. Time is running out. Change must come soon.

It takes a big man to admit he has made mistakes. Candour is everything. Public opinion of the PM is split. People love the fact that their children now have opportunities, but the same people are baffled by the PM's empowerment of the AG. It appears that the PM may have been compromised. That is fast becoming the only logical inference to draw.
Tim O'Brien said…
Hii, I am impressed from your blog.

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