Political Round Up for the Second Week of May
News this week continues to bore. One has to look deeply for honest dialogue and even deeper for policy. Personalities, or more accurately, attacks on personalities continue to dominate the news.
Ro Teimumu "not really" campaigning
The opposition attacked Bainimarama for campaigning before the Fiji First party was registered and mixing his roles as PM and party candidate by offering development money for votes.
Now, SODELPA General Secretary Pio Tabaiwalu spokesmen denies claims by Fiji Live that it is using vanua protocol to garner votes for its party president Roko Tui Dreketi Ro Teimumu Kepa, who is also one of Fiji's paramount chiefs, when she visited villages in the Western Division this week .
“It is not really a campaign,” he said. “We are following traditional protocol, where the Marama Bale na Roko Tui Dreketi has personal connections to chiefly houses in the Western Division. We haven’t started our campaign. We are here to request them personally for our candidates for the future. It is just productively relevant for her to present her traditional sevusevu to chiefly houses in the Western Division so that it opens the door for our candidates to campaign.” Tabaiwalu said the party will visit other parts of Fiji in the coming weeks.
The A-G should resign?
Calls have also gone out from the FLP and NFP (not to mention Wadan Narsey) for the resignation of the Attorney-General who is also the Minister responsible for the Elections. His recent appointment as the General Secretary of the proposed Fiji First party is claimed to create a conflict of interest. The A-G replied that former PM and SDL leader Laisenia Qarase was also Minister responsible for elections and asked why the FLP and NFP did not complain then. “What are their policies” he asked, “not this side circus.” In a statement released today, former PM Qarase denied that he or any of his predecessors were ever ministers of elections. The position was only created after 2006.
Party shifts say something about the quality of Fjii politics, the dearth of principled policies, and the character of some of those who aspire to be part of government. While it is not unusual for people to change their party allegiance (Tupeni Baba has moved between three parties, Mick Beddoes and Mahendra Chaudhry two (if his early support for Bainimarama is counted) but now Nirmal Singh has created a new speed record.
He fell out with Chaudhry some while back and left or was expelled from the FLP, depending on who you believe. A week or so ago he was a senior member of the union-led PDP but he then left or was expelled (depending on who you believe) and this week he joined SODELPA. Given how few Indo-Fijians are members of SODELPA, he has improved his chances of becoming a parliamentary candidate.
PM's line up tarnished
The PM's line up was also tarnished this week with the resignation of Bijal Prasad who only last week was announced as a Fiji First Vice-President. He stepped down because of an undisclosed 32-year old larceny charge and prison sentence.
Mr Prasad said he did not disclose the information earlier because under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Irrelevant Act 1997, records after 10 years are expunged., adding that his non-disclosure fell short of the high personal standards expected by the PM.
Prasad and Chaudhry
It would appear that the conviction came to light thanks to Mahendra Chaudhry who said he only raised the issue about Prasad’s conviction and sentencing for larceny after Prasad made some allegations against Chaudhry.
Not principle or justice, note; just revenge. Prasad had been FLP Nadi Branch president for a number of years, during which time Chaudhry did not “raise the issue” and he nominated him to be a senator after the 2006 elections.
Fiji Village added salt to the wound by reporting that Chaudhry was convicted for a hit and run accident in 1978 which resulted in the death of a woman. And so it goes on. Tat for tat, with a little bit of encouragement from the independent media.
Chaudhry will appeal his sentence and conviction and says he will remain the FLP leader until removed by the people who elected him, even though holding the position contravenes the Political Parties Decree. His lawyer wants the appeal fast tracked so that Chaudhry can contest the election.
Beddoes to the fray
Mick Beddoes has again written to Ashwin Raj, Chairman of the Media Industry Development Agency (MIDA) protesting the pro-government bias of the Fiji Sun. The letter includes a preliminary content analysis which shows the Sun favoured government 8:2 in terms of position on page, size and number of items. Content analysis, in the hands of the uninitiated, is not the simplest of research tools to use.
I commend Beddoes for supporting his argument with research but it is very possible that he has may omitted one important variable: the amount and newsworthiness of news being generated by government compared with the opposition.
The Sun's poll this week asks a new question: “Q4. Do you think Mick Beddoes should be making so many complaints? “Anwers: No 80%, Yes 20%.
But then those polled should realize Mr Beddoes complains on his own behalf and on behalf of the UFDF, so one may expect more than an unusual number. Just as one may also expect a government to have bigger coverage than an opposition.
I'm sorry he went on to ask what Raj, MIDA employees and board members are paid. This is an unnecessarily aggressive question that detracts from his main point. Once again, as with so many adversaries in Fiji, legitimate questions get mixed up with personalised attacks.
|\Edge (r) with rocket. From his blog.|
Over the Edge
But that is not all. Former USP journalism head, Canadian Marc Edge, who was obliged to leave USP following complaints from his students about his erratic behaviour and political statements, has a special posting, now circling the anti-government blogs, that attacks the personal integrity of the MIDA chairman.
He does this by reference to a 10-year old University of Hawaii thesis he claims shows Raj to be anti-democratic (Raj discussed the difficulties democracy faces in countries like Fiji) and by aspersions to Raj's sexual preferences.
Forgive me for stooping to personalities but I can't resist saying that the accusations are even less valid or relevant than if I called Edge an egghead just because he is bald.