News and Comments Tuesday 5 February 2013
NO SURPRISES ON MILITARY. PM Bainimarama has reconfirmed that the RFMF will be represented in the Constituent Assembly and hinted that the military's submission, ignored by the Constitution Commission, has been considered in the new draft constitution. This should not, however, be taken to mean that the military has political aspirations. Land Force Commander Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga says the military as an institution will not support any political party "even if Prime Minister and Army Commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama decides to form a party." But soldiers can "vote for any parties they would want to vote for ...and if military people want to contest elections they will do so like any other political party."
"THE MEDDLESOME PRIEST." NZ Truth editor Cameron "Whaleoil" Slater got a number of things wrong in the recent Fiji Sun article on Michael Field and Fr Barr. I agree totally with his criticism of journalist Michael Field's selective biases, the uncritical "baton-passing" of Field's writings on Fiji by other overseas journalists, and the role of the blog Coup4.5 in disseminating biased and incorrect information about Fiji. I'd also go along with his reliance on Graham Davis as a reasoned commentator on Fiji but I'd also say that Graham is unashamedly pro-Bainimarama and, like Slater himself, politically right wing which could have influenced their judgement on the left-leaning Fr Barr.
But I cannot agree with their argument that Fr Barr's work permit was revoked because of his repeated breaches of his work permit. Slater writes: "Father Barr is an Australian in Fiji on a religious permit which allows him to work for the church and in certain other activities. It does not, however, allow him to engage in politics, something he appears to have forgotten recently with political statements concerning the minimum wage and certain decrees such as the Essential Industries Decree."
It all depends on what you mean by politics, of course, but where has Cameron been for the past 32 years while Fr Barr was writing and working on political issues such as social justice, fair wages, affordable housing, and empowerment of the poor? Not to mention his participation in and support for the People's Charter and as the government-appointed chairperson of the Wages Council? Were these not political? If Fr Barr has been troublesome and meddlesome, as Cameron says. then it must have escaped the attention of successive governments for the past 32 years. Until now.
Cameron also seems to suggest Fr Barr has no right to speak because he has not taken up Fiji citizenship, but he failed to note that until recently dual citizenship was not possible. (By the same logic, Fiji-born Cameron, now a NZ citizen, has surely disqualified himself from speaking on Fiji.)
As for his assertion that non-citizens, and especially churchmen, would not be allowed to take part in politics in New Zealand, this is nonsense. My Mother voted in every election for over fifty years and never took up citizenship or applied for permanent residence. And NZ church leaders have been constantly engaged in the very same social issues that have been deemed political in Fr Barr's case. Think Rev Charles Waldegrave QSO, or Archbishop Sir Paul Reeves.
The whole affair should be put behind us. I am disappointed the Fiji Sun published the article. It only added to the misinformation. Fr Barr has apologized and the PM seems to have accepted the apology. We should move on.
CHRISTIAN STATE: NOT AGAIN. On Sunday the new president of the Methodist Church, Rev. Tuikilaila Waqairatu, delivered a sermon reiterating his support for Fiji to become a Christian state. The call comes as a surprise given that only a week earlier the church said it sought to improve relations with government and government's "non-negotiable" position that Fiji will be a secular state will be no special preference for any religion. Equally surprising is that he chose to deliver the sermon, not to iTaukei whose tradition calls for the unity of vanua. lotu and matanitu (hence the many submissions to the Constitution Commission by villagers calling for a Christian state) but to the Indian Methodist Circuit at the Dudley Church in Toorak. Unsurprisingly, some church members raised concerns on how Rev Waqairatu had used the pulpit to push through his political views on a Christian State. Early on Monday Rev Waqairatu told Fiji Village he would be making a public statement to explain his position but by the afternoon he had changed his mind and refused to comment.
SPEIGHT COUP PLOTTER FEARS FOR HIS LIFE. Maciu Navakasuasua, who was involved in the planning and execution of the the 2000 Speight Coup, and who subsequently imprisoned for three years. has been told he cannot live in Australia and has to return home. The Australian government has denied an application for a protection visa for the whistleblower. Navakasuasua, who works in a mining company as an explosive expert under the name Maciu Naqari, said he feared for his life if he returned home. Navakasuasua expressed disappointment over the decision, saying he was a genuine applicant whose life had been threatened by the 2000 coup supporters in Fiji."The whole of Fiji knows I was involved in the May 19, 2000, coup, and that I was incarcerated on Nukulau for my involvement. Unlike those who are coming to Australia from Fiji and applying for protection, they don't have a life-threatening situation back home compared to what I've gone through and experienced," he said."Failed politicians and businessmen have a gang ready to slit my throat if I ever return home. I can't go home for my life is in danger and my safety is not guaranteed."
Minister for Immigration Joketani Cokanasiga said: "If he is genuine, the government will see how he can be protected."
MASI MOTIFS. A petition is circulating to prevent Air Pacific trademarking/copyrighting 15 traditional masi (tapa) designs. The Fiji Women's Rights Movement is one of the organizations opposed to the Air Pacific action.
EMMANUEL METHODISTS. A small "branch" of the Methodist Church wants the Bainimarama Government to continue in power after the 2014 election.
REPUTABLE AND DISREPUTABLE JOURNALISM. Anyone with any knowledge of journalism education in the Pacific knows Prof David Robie's impeccable reputation earned over many years in PNG, New Caledonia and Fjii. Anyone with any knowledge of the the recent dismissal of Canadian Dr Marc Edge from the USP journalism programme and his hasty departure from Fiji will know something of the chaos he created in his short tenure. He is still at it, promoting himself on his personal blog and on the anti-government blogs. Almost all his writings start and finish with "I" with something about democracy sandwiched in between. I've blocked his personal and vindictive comments on this blog and have otherwise have tried to stay out of the picture.
But I think this article by David Robie on vendetta journalism and Marc Edge's reply worth publishing, despite Edge's obvious errors of fact. Further exchanges may be found on these links: Edge
and for Robie Cafe Pacific and Cafe Pacific.
Robie is also the author of the book Mekim Nius: South Pacific media, politics and education (USP Book Centre, 2004) which gives a history of journalism education in the Pacific, especially Fiji, and the impact of politics and political intrigue. He was the head of journalism at the University of Papua New Guinea and the the University of the South Pacific (Fiji) for a decade.