My Visit to Fiji #1

By Crosbie Walsh

If you've been wondering why there have been so few postings lately, I was in Suva for ten days, from Thursday 25th October to Sunday 4th November.  I did not announce my visit because of  personal threats by the more extreme of the anti-Bainimarama people writing on this and other blogs.

 The Ministry of Information paid my travel costs, five days accommodation at Holiday Inn, they provided a vehicle to take me around, and gave me the temporary use of a tape recorder and a “dongle” to avoid the hotel's high charge for internet access. Vinaka, Sharon, Sharleen, Don and the three drivers, especially Freddie.

My wife joined me on Tuesday and we paid all her costs. She proved to be even more helpful than usual. Without her, I would not have known that the only remaining laundrymat is in Raiwaqa and it takes ages to spin dry clothes. I would not have known about changes in the market or tasted vakalavalava again. Nor would men and women in the street have been quite so free to tell me what they think. Looking a little doubtfully at me, an iTaukei waitress told her she did not like the government because of low wages, high costs and possibly being stood on at the Barracks if she spoke her mind.   Others told me they were happy with the government

I know that some of you are thinking: He who pays the piper calls the tune. Fair enough. But I accepted the MOI offer on the condition that I could interview people of my choice. They not only honoured this stipulation; they provided the transport without which I could not possibly have interviewed close to 40 people.

Half of those I interviewed were either in or supportive of government, and half were neutral, undecided or opposed. I talked with the PM for a long 40 minutes, the Attorney-General and two Cabinet ministers, four permanent secretaries, Prof Yash Ghai and two other members of the Constitution Commission, and people from business, Qorvis, the NZ High Commission, the universities, the trade unions, the military, two NGOs involved in constitution education, the media (Fiji Times and Fiji Sun), the judiciary, the religious community, and one chief, Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi.

I did not attempt to meet any of the leaders of the old political parties because their views are already well known and I thought I'd gain nothing from interviewing them. I tried unsuccessfully to speak with Raman Singh of the NFP and Krishna Datt, a former prominent FLP  MP. I would also have liked to talk with someone from Multi-Ethnic Affairs, the Ministry of Lands and the US Embassy, but I ran out of time and the brain can only take in so much in a day. But I did talk with people from the Ministries of Trade and Industry, Health, Education, the iTaukei Land Trust Board, and Legal Aid. I'll be publishing reports on their work over the next few weeks.

Having now "set the stage" I'm almost ready to report. Tomorrow, after golf, I'll start with some general impressions.


Anonymous said…
Right so you didn't talk to anyone elected in the last democratic election ? That's not very balanced.
Croz realist said…
Let's be honest. The PM is a right royal fuck head. He changes the rules at the last minute, he attacks his own appointed chair and commission.
Anonymous said…
Arrh, knew it, you have joined grubby.

Paid propagandist of the Frank & Aiyaz Diktatorship.

You must be so proud Dr. Walsh.

junta scumbags said…
So your missus has joined you as a grubby facist supporter of a human rights abusing junta?
SK said…
I think it's great that you are so upfront about exactly whom you interviewed and who paid for your travel expenses. Note: travel expenses. You were not paid for your time and effort so I do not see how you can be called a paid propagandist. I also note that the Ministry only paid for 5 of the 10 days that you were in Fiji and that the rest was paid out of your own pocket.

It sounds like you were on an exercise to gather information and gain a better understanding of the situation. It's pretty amazing that you were able to speak with such a wide range of people. I look forward to reading your next article. I'm sure that it will be full of information and as always, will be fair and balanced.
Anonymous said…
God, some of you people here are twisted. You are the thuggish louts who inhabit other places and come here to drop your sad insults and move on. You are irrelevant. You are pathetic. You have lost.
Vengeance is ours said…
Croz, this is what you get when you are upfront and disclose any conflict of interest. A right royal belting. They are even attacking your wife! Why? Because they want you to stop commenting on Fiji and hope to achieve that by attacking her. They think you will feel that the whole thing is no longer worth it. They want to shut you down.

But please! Keep up the good work. We need voices of reason even more and you are one of them. You must fight on or we will drown in the wave of propaganda that these people have unleashed against Bainimarama because he took away their privileges and sent them packing. They deserved it. They have gone.
Anonymous said…
Keep up the good work Professor. I admire you for your fortitude and grace in allowing these sour grape holders to actually find space in your blogsite. Look forward to your "take" sir. Vinaka.
Aminio Matawalu said…
Mr Walsh thank you for your interest in Fiji. If possible can you please write a piece on the Govts. finances and how much the ministers are making since we (the public) are paying for their salaries.
Anonymous said…
Am pleased that things were not as bad as one may have been led to believe following your post yesterday announcing your safe arrival back home. Thought that you were being a bit paranoid. Pleased that you were able to have your good lady with you there for some of the time.
One criticism - not interviewing people because their views are already well known is a lame excuse for not meeting them. Not if you want to retain a balanced perspective of things. But then we all are in some way unbalanced.
Lesley said…
This comment says more about you Croz realist. No need to use the F word.
"To use foul language means that one is not intelligent enough to find other words?" (BK)
Seaqaqa Farmer said…
Did you get a valid work permit???

Will you be declaring in your NZ tax returns as such.

Hmmmm so will the MOI be publish all the details of expenses etc about your junket.
Did they get 3 quotations for your hotel accommodation?
Did the drivers get paid overtime pay while wait hand and foot for you?

Could they not have gotten another consultant to do this job for them, for free.
Is the PS MOI even allowed to hire foreign correspondents willy nilly??

Why was this not tendered out by Fiji Procurement Service who are required to tender out any procurement even for 25 kgs of grass pasture seeds ( approx $45 value , tender doc cost $50 to uplift).
rusi said…
Of course we have regime supporters seeing nothing in getting airfares and accom paid for by the very regime they support. I do respect Croz for at least telling us, but the rest is a complete disgrace and farce to say that there was 'on condition that you interview who you choose' and went out of your way to speak with paid cronies of the regime. (as if they were going to let anything slip??!!)
%$#@! said…
i would be interested to hear what you thought was the 'benefit' of interviewing a coup leader who accepts no fault, who demands compliance, accepts no accountaability and appears now to even attempt to influence/intimidate the very organ he created to create a new constitution. Any scoop? Thanks 'Sharon' for helping Croz to confirm as he new all along, the others were worse and we should all be thankful.
LiveWire said…
In your latest post you derided Dr. Mark Edge's valid criticism: " he publicly attacks me. I am an Adjunct Professor of the university so he is publicly questioning the integrity of a colleague: not what I have written but what I might write. This is not normally accepted behaviour in academia."

However, you also choose to question the integrity of Dr James Anthony in an earlier post.

I cringe to see the duplicity in your comments and marvel on your ability to vacilate, from glossing over the apparent sins of Madraiwiwi and to crucifying the honesty of other straight shooters who have correctly pointed out the errors in Ghai's judgement and your own.

Are you able to hold yourself up to peer review?
junta thieves said…
Will you and your wife be returning the money given to you by the illegal junta. This is nothing but theft from the fijisan people?
Lesley said…
Your mum needs to wash your mouth with soap.
Crosbie Walsh said…
@ Seaqaqa farmer, Rusi,Junta thieves ... Get one thing straight. Some expenses were met by the MOI and these I honestly declared. I was paid nothing. Not a single cent. My wife's expenses were not paid for by the MOI. The visit cost me close to NZ$2,000 and took up ten days of my time. The costs of my previous trip three years ago were met entirely by me. The blog you are reading does not take paid advertisements. It has been operating for close to five years and is read by up to 4,000 people a day. I spend on average 2-4 hours a day on the blog, and sometimes much more. If my visit to Fiji had been a consultancy, the least I would have been paid is US$500 a day plus a per diem and expenses. This is the truth, not what you have alleged in your accusations. You should not let your misgivings about the Bainimarama government cloud all your thinking on Fiji, and those who in writing about the situation there, may, or may not, reflect your own perceptions.
Anonymous said…
Looking forward to your Fiji report and please allow me to say Bula Vinaka to Fijians....of all ethnicity. Oh and Happy Diwali. Won't be home this year to wait for my neighbors delivery of sweets.

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