News and Comments Wednesday 25 June

FALLOUT FROM BRIG.GEN.TIKOITOGA'S COMMENTS. The main news over the past few days has been in the fallout from the RFMF Commander's comments reported in the Australian media.

In the Fiji Times on Tuesday, Tikoitoga  said he did not admit that citizens had been beaten and tortured by the military, saying instead that his exact words were, "I wouldn't deny that these things happened,"   The distinction may be a fine one but he was not there when the military abused women opposition activists at the Queen Elizabeth Barracks in early 2007.  The officer present, according to one of the women, was Ratu Tevita Mara  now in exile in Tonga.

Tikoitoga did, however, justify unspecified action against those opposing the 2006 military takeover.

"A  lot of these people," he said, "were actually trying to instigate violence by creating anti-government movements or militant groups. They were talking on the radio and so on. If you let them continue to have a voice, you create a potentially dangerous environment. So it was the lesser of two devils," .

If his assessment was correct, action not taken at that time could have resulted in a failed coup. And whatever one thinks about the merits or otherwise of the Coup, strong action against possibly terminal destabilisation is understandable. 

Tikoitoga also questioned the timing of the reports published in "the Herald and The Age ; how what he said was taken out of context, and "how political parties are trying to make comments including the USP people (See 'Crusade' item below.)

The Fiji Times article continued:

"I stand by my statement to the public of Fiji that the Republic of the Fiji Military Forces is apolitical as we are here to do our job and that is what we will stand by."

He said "military involvement or a push from other political parties or commentators to include the military in political discussions would not help the RFMF achieve their apolitical aspirations."

"What I question now is the timing of that paragraph to be put out as we near the elections, it's very mischievous to a point that it has now questioned the integrity of the RFMF in a period where we have quite clearly told the public of Fiji that we want no part in political discussions.

"We do not support any political party and we are ready to accept any government that comes after election and we will respect the Constitution," he said.

"I am sincerely asking political parties and commentators not to take those comments out of contexts.'

He said his full interview to the media organisations were not published.

NEW CRUSADE BY USP JOURNALIST EDUCATOR.  Since the Fijian head of USP's journalism programme went on leave to complete a doctorate in Australia, the programme has seen a high staff turnover.  First was the departure of Canadian "voyager" Dr Marc Edge who resigned or, if he is to be believed, was forced to resign because of  his heavy engagement in Fiji politics.

He was followed by the sudden departure of his replacement for either domestic reasons or because he had a philosophical disagreement with the university's management, depending on who you believe..

And now we have Dr Matthew Thompson who has gone much further than his predecessors by reading too much into what Brig.Gen.Tikoitoga said to the Australian media (see above) and, mainly on the basis of hearsay (he has only been in Fiji for two months), he has accused the military and police of beatings and torture on a scale more reminiscent of Iraq — which not even the anti-Bainimarama blogs have claimed.

I shall say more of his engagement when I have consulted with more people and had time to reflect on the implications of his actions.  I am concerned not simply with what he said and what this may mean for media freedom in Fiji, but also whether a person on a work permit contracted to teach should assume that he also has a permit to be a political journalist, free to comment and take sides on the local political scene, irrespective of its possible consequences for his students and on the institution that employs him.

MINISTRY BACKTRACKS ON PARETI BUT NOT ON RIKA. An other media-related incident saw USP journalist staff, Pat Craddock and Matthew Thompson, crying foul over Islands Business Editor Samisoni Pareti  and former Fiji Times Editor Netani Rika being refused accreditation to the recent Pacific Islands Development Forum meeting. They claimed this was political inference that limited media freedom.

The Ministry of information initially stated that the former was not a registered journalist and the latter's application was lodged five days after the official deadline for accreditation. Samisoni was, however, informed that  Islands Business,  his new employer, was welcome to send another journalist to cover the event. More than the normal security was necessary at the PIDF meeting because of the attendance of the Indonesian President.

Ministry of information Permanent Secretary Sharon Smith-Johns, however, has now  apologised to Samisoni for basing their  decision "on what now appears to be incorrect information.This was the result of miscommunication between the Ministry and the Media Industry Development Authority ... I have launched a full investigation into the matter to make sure that an incident like this is not repeated in the future," she said.

PURSE STRINGS.  NFP  Party president Tupou Draunidalo is urging some 2,000 registered Fijian voters living in NZ  ("who have an important say with their votes and financial influence over family in Fiji" ) to tell their relatives not to vote for Bainimarama because this would "legitimise the coup and encourage the military to think it was acceptable to do it again."  NFP leader Biman Prasad is also in NZ hoping to gather votes.

VOTING FOR THE FIRST TIME. It is estimated that 28% of Fijians voting in September will be voting in an election for the first time.

Comments

Marc Edge said…
Wrong again, Croz. I have never been engaged in Fiji politics, much less heavily. I have, however, engaged in media criticism and analysis, both of which are well within my purview, even when I was teaching in Fiji. I was careful to steer clear of commenting on Fiji politics, especially while I was on a work permit. I resigned under heavy pressure after a months-long smear against me by Graham Davis, David Robie, Vijay Narayan, Arnold Chanel, and yourself, among others. http://crosbiew.blogspot.ca/2012/11/of-pots-and-kettles.html
Anonymous said…
No amount of spin or deceit from supporters or beneficiaries of the illegal human rights abusing military regime will change the facts or silence the media and others from exposing people like Tikoitoga. The man is a disgrace - every time he opens his mouth he puts his foot in it. Whether the Fiji military like it or not they are tainted as a result of the 2006 coup and the subsequent horrendous human rights abuses that have taken place. Tikoitoga and others involved in the military protected thug government (particularly the corrupted judiciary) have put together a sham constitution which gives themselves immunity for their horrendous crimes and acts of treason.
Tikoitoga and the other perpetrators can run but they can't hide. The UN will eventually have to face up to the reality that until those responsible for the illegal regime are brought to justice, the use of Fiji military as 'peacekeepers' is against all the UN should stand for.
Anonymous said…
Tupou is NFP president.
Crosbie Walsh said…
Thanks. I'll make the correction.
Anonymous said…
I think Tikoitoga is right, whoever wins the election is mandated to govern our country and not engage in a witch hunt by trying to change the constitution.
Anonymous said…
Huh? The only witch hunt has been carried out by the military junta. By what mandate did they rape the real constitution and then put their own in place which gives them immunity for their crimes of treason and human rights abuse? Tikoitoga answers to the elected government and not vice versa. He has a lot to learn and would best do so in Naboro.
Two more carpetbaggers said…
There were enough people dealing with the issues raised by Pat Craddock and Matthew Thompson. There was no need for them to jump into the fray. They should focus on what they paid to do. Matthew has been here only for three months so he is still wet behind he ears when it comes to Fiji.

The two academics first duty and loyalty is to USP and USP journalism students who pay their salaries. This is nothing but self-aggrandisement and attention-seeking by two fly-by-nighters using Fiji to build their own international profile at the expense of USP and USP journalism students.

Once more students have been let down because all this ill-thought outburst will achieve is the two academics departure, leaving USP journalism in another fix. These two are surprisingly immature or maybe very smart. Pretending to fight for freedom while propelling themselves into the international limelight.

What about USP journalism students' right to a proper education? What about ethical obligations to your students and employer? Why poke your nose into something that was already being raised by other parties when you knew full well what the consequences would be?

The more one thinks about this, the more it stinks of a calculated move by two canny expatriates.

Welfare of students is secondary for Craddock and Thompson in the larger scheme of things and when it comes to riding the Fiji bandwagon to international fame.

After Marc Edge and Ian Weber, two more carpetbaggers in the well-worn guise of saviours causing financial loss to USP and hardship to students.

USP must be sick of them.

If they do not apologise for their misleading comments, I say sack them.
TIKOITOGA - what you see is what you get said…
Any suggestion the Military are apolitical is laughable. It was the military who removed a elected government and has ruled for the last 7+ years. Equally laughable is the idea that the military will accept the outcome of the election. They definitely will if Fiji First wins, they definitively won't if the new SDL or Labour or any combination is elected. So any reference to being apolitical is only convenient on the fact its looks highly likely that Frank will win. Remember it was Frank who gave the pay rises, all the extra jobs etc to the military and he has promised to protect them forever. Think back to his brother in law to see how he operates - not a day in prison, not one day of lost pay and promoted to senior government roles despite kicking to death a guest at a wedding.

TIKOITOGA wasn't misquoted. He just happens to speak without the quovis polish. There is no doubt he supports beating and torture and intimidation to anyone opposed to him, the military or this government. That is why there has been no investigation into any of these issues. He sees it as being 'their fault' meaning those prepared to have a voice,
Anonymous said…
Before the Military was the backbone of the racist thugs - 1987 and 2000. In 2006 it made an unexpected about turn and trained its guns against these thugs and today they have suddenly become the great defenders of democracy. To these thugs the 1987 and 2000 action by the Military was okay because it enabled them to loot Suva without the risk of being prosecuted for their crimes. No such luck in 2006 and some have been through the prison while Speight, Nata and Ligairi are languishing in prison. If it wasn't for the turn of events, these three would have been Government ministers - what a contrast from being in prison to being Government ministers! This was only possible in Fiji during the Qarase reign and remember some of those that should have been prison for their part in the 2000 coup were members of the Fijian Parliament! And remember those jailed but continued to receive their ministerial salaries - this was the rape of the nation under Qarase. The Military will never be apolitical and Fiji will have to live with it.,
Anonymous said…
What a lot of boko haram drivel! The only person to have raped the nation of Fiji is khaiyum. We still don't know how much he is paying himself as illegal through his aunt's company.
Anonymous said…
Khaiyum needs to keep his little fat puppy tiko on a tighter leash.
Anonymous said…
Thanks Croz for clarifying General Tikoitoga comments. It is really comforting that only Mara did beat and torture pro democracy activist. His guilt is clearly evidenced by his fleeing prosecution for these deeds.
Reality said…
Anon - you are a fool if you believe Tikoitoga will accept any election outcome other than Fiji First winning.
USP Journalism Student said…
We just wish people brought here to teach would stick to teaching instead of involve in politics. There is too much instability in USP journalism. Only the students who pay fees suffer. During Marc Edge time when we have problems, journalism staff Nash Sorariba told students that Professor Sudesh Mishra threatened he will close down journalism programme and sack everybody. He said VC Rajesh Chandra will support his decision. We hope program is not close down as so many problems.

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