News, Thoughts, Appeals and a Congratulations at the End of October
The PM's gaffe has titillated the news waves. He said he saw no reason to give development priority to the Northern division where so many people had voted for SODELPA.
I can understand how he feels. Government has poured development money into the Northern Division at a level not matched by previous governments. But no one, and certainly no prime minister, should say this sort of thing.
But that, unfortunately, is the PM's style. Fortunately, his bark is far worse than his bite and his advisers will ensure that all development initiatives are fairly distributed irrespective of how people in an area have voted.
The UN Human Rights Council
The review of Fiji's standing by the UN Human Rights Council has produced two critical statements, the first by Media Development Authority Chairman Ashwin Raj that accused international media of bias in reporting the Fiji elections; the second by Reporters Sans Frontières and the Pacific Media Centre that called for the repeal of the Media Decree and introduction of a Freedom of Information law. My view has always been that no one should demand rights if they are not also willing to assume the reponsibilities that come with these rights. The Raj statement makes no reference to rights and the journlists' statement no reference to responsibilities. They condemned what they called the "blackout" on reporting in the 48 hours before the election and the lifting of travel bans on journalists like Michael Field.
I have no problem with either of these issues. It is not unusual to prevent politicking in periods close to an election day and I doubt their argument that an open media would have cut accusations or instances of fraud. I'm happy with the international observers view that the elections met all reasonable standards and that their was no evidence whatsoever of fraud.
And I most certainly would not allow Michael Field to re-enter Fiji until the shows himself capable of writing reasonably objective news items, or at least being able to clearly state whether he is writing news or opinion, not his usual unstated mix of both.
Fiji and the Pacific Island Forum
A not dissimilar news item was Fiji's "up you" response to the Pacific islands Forum's invitation to resume its membership. Fiji said it was not interested as long as Australia and New Zealand remained members. Fiji said that their role as aid donors gave them too much influence on the opinions and votes of other members.
I would expect Fiji's position to change over time and for it to resume membership, but the two big brothers need very seriously to consider Fiji's objections. With the emergence of the Pacific Island Development Forum and Fiji's Look North policy which has seen it establish diplomatic relations with a large number of countries, Fiji is unlikely to respond favourably to what it may see as bullying tactics. And if other Pacific nations follow Fiji's example, Australia and New Zealand will have even more to think about.
Who really leads SODELPA?
A Fiji Sun article raised the question of who really leads SODELPA, suggesting that Ratu Naiqama and not Ro Teimumu was the real leader. The party rigorously denied this but I have no doubt that Ratu Naiqama will play a major role in the choice of policies and tactics.
Parliamentary exchanges have unfortunately shown no signs of improvement but it is early days yet, once the shouting is over and they get down to work one hopes that all parties will place Fiji's needs, and not their party's needs, first. I looked to intelligent, reasoned people such as Aiyaz Sayed- Khaiyum and Dr Biman Prasad to lead by example and advise their more fiery colleagues to desist from knee-jerk reactions. The speaker's rulings will also play an important part in maintaining the dignity of Parliament.
I have been wondering for some time whether to continue to publish this blog. To a large extent, it has achieved its purpose. A democratic, non racist government has been elected in Fiji, the media and other commentators, in Fiji and abroad, are providing more evenhanded news and critical analysis. This is reflected in the falling number of people reading the blog. Once 10,000 or more people visited the blog weekly; now numbers have dropped to between one and 2000 —sometimes with more visitors from the Ukraine from Fiji!
The blog has now been running for over eight years, typically with between three and five postings a week. I think the need for news from blogs has passed but they can still still serve a useful purpose with articles based on single issues and scope for readers comments. Something like the comments made by Taxi Driver and others on the postings asking what the government and opposition should do. I would do the like two or three people to share the responsibility of continued publishing along these lines. Please send me an email email@example.com if you are interested. It need not to be a lifelong commitment. Short term or a rolling involvements would also be appreciated. I would envisage one major posting a week together with Allen Lockington's weekly column.
Update of my media survey
Some 117 people completed my survey questionnaire which I am now in the process of analysing. I hope to get the article to Steve towards the end of November at which time I will publish a brief summary of conclusions on the blog. Vinaka Vakalevu to all you participated.
A political geography of the election results
I'm hoping also to write a political geography of the elections which will show the locations from where the parties, and where local and the independent candidates, drew their most support. For this I need to be able to map the location of polling stations but so far the electoral office has not replied to my request for help. If anyone has maps of the polling stations, perhaps they could photograph the maps and email them to me. Similarly, if anyone can explain the numbers allocated to polling stations, please let me know.
I know that readers who know him would wish to join me in congratulating Dr Steven Ratuva on his appointment as Professor of Sociology and Director of the prestigious Macmillan Brown Centre at the University of Canterbury.
My S.O.S. to you
So, I am asking to your help in the continuance and ideas on the future direction of the blog, and for your help in locating the election polling stations. Please do not be bashful in coming forward.