Tuesday, October 12, 2010

President's Address, Rika to ANU, Work for Elderly, Fruit Flies, More Anons

PRESIDENT'S FIJI DAY ADDRESS. President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau paid tribute to all the leaders who over the past 40 years had contributed to the development and modernisation of Fiji.On Fiji's relations with the international community, he said, "We have been criticised and shunned by some for determining our own destiny, but we will not be deterred. We will work closely with those who care to consult with us and to understand our deep complexities.We will embrace their assistance in helping us to find suitable solutions [and] to those who have closed the doors on us, we will tirelessly seek through quiet diplomacy to reopen those doors, including those doors of the Commonwealth."

NETANI TO NOT SO IVORY TOWER. During the Viet Nam war, anthropologists in northern Thailand and Laos were unsuspectingly passing on information about the Hill Tribes that helped the US war effort.  Over a longer time period, banks of audio equipment in laboratories at the East-West Center in Hawaii helped students learn hundreds of languages, many spoken by people in politically unstable areas of interest to American Intelligence. Further back, prestigious colleges at Oxford and Cambridge offered scholarships and training for Britain's Third World Elite, and Harvard produced a world-wide generation of right-thinking economists and businessmen, who we now see got it all wrong.

Further south, in Australia the National University (ANU) has  programmes, scholarships, workshops and conferences to inform and support its government's policies and "win the hearts and minds" of  overseas scholars from countries in which Australia has a special interest.  Fiji has moved up this list in recent years. It is largely thanks to ANU that we have heard the opinions of ANU academics, Jonathon Fraenkel and Brij Lal, both vociferous opponents of the Bainimarama government. It was ANU that gave former Fiji Land Force Commander Jone Baledrokadroka a scholarship to research the military. And it is ANU that has just given former Fiji Times Editor Netani Rika a scholarship to write up his memoirs.

The Australian  reports that Rika  will "spend time in Canberra writing his account of the almost four years he has spent contesting military government control of the media." Intriguingly, Rika said, "We were always willing to print both sides of the story. But the censors allowed only one side. In such cases, the paper spiked the stories altogether to spare readers being misled."

I have little doubt he truly believes this but an independent, objective content analysis of the paper from 2006 on (and before for that matter) would, in my opinion,  show most definitely that if both sides were printed, they were never printed equally. I stand by my crude assessment of a 3.5:1 ratio of opposition to Government. Content Analysis is a research method where qualitative data are measured and quantified, in this case by categorising the frequency, placement, coverage, extent and "bias" of newspaper headings and articles.

. "Fiji's self-imposed (sic!) prime minister says his country is on track for elections in 2014 provided the international community does not interfere."  They also provide a "Rika" example of how to publish their side of the story while purporting to report another.  Click here.

KHAN APPLAUDS WORK FOR ELDERLY. Recent efforts by government to advocate issues affecting the elderly should be applauded says FCOSS (Fiji Council of Social Services) director Hassan Khan. He said senior citizens are the backbones of their family and government has done a lot recently to provide better services to them. Khan also commended the work of non-government organizations.

FEAR OF FRUIT FLIES. The Tuvalu Government says the lack of proper quarantine facilities in Rotuma means it has to maintain the suspension of fruit trade with Rotuma. Trade will resume when clearances are obtained from Fiji’s Quarantine Department. A new species of fruit flies has been found in Vatoa Island, a thousand kilometres in the Lau Group, but so far as is known there are no fruit flies in Rotuma, and the ban does not prevent exports of root crops. Direct exports between Rotuma and Tuvalu commenced at the beginning of the year following heavy investment in port and shore facilities by the Fiji Government. Properly controlled it will provide valuable income for Rotuma and cheaper, better food supplies for the Tuvalu atolls.

ANONYMOUS. Far more pro-government and neutral people wishing to comment on this blog fail to use pseudonyms. The ratio of unaccepted pro-neutral to anti- anonymous comments is 3:1. The imbalance shows, giving the impression that most readers are anti-government.

To restore some of the balance, and keep the anon issue in readers' minds, an occasional exception will be made to the rule ... as in this comment: "Gerald McGhie appears to be an eminently sensible man. He would appear to know and understand much that his own Government has failed to grasp. His experience is in all the things that really matter. Why are some not listening to what he has to say?" The comment was on the Weekend Reading, Resolving the Fiji Impasse: Let the Pacific Lead.
Pacific Lead


Scott MacWilliam said...

Regarding Netani Rika's move from Fiji to ANU. It is of course pure mythology that universities are or have been ivory towers, if that means unconnected with countries' political economies. This is especially the case where universities see themselves central to the formulation and implementation of government policies, as most do. However universities are also often complex and diverse institutions: it is not often the case that a homogeneous or monolithic 'line' appears over a whole institution. One part of a university may take one direction, and in the case of the military regime and Australian policy toward Fiji become almost blinkered in pursuing that line, while other academics and parts of the institution take other positions on the same question.
Especially where students are post-graduates with considerable employment experience and may even be on leave from important jobs in their home countries, it is unlikely that they will be too greatly influenced by academics who try to sell 'a correct line' against the students' own experiences and views. As a senior ni-Vanuatu public servant, enrolled in a class in another part of the ANU than that where Natani Reka is to be lodged, said just last year: 'I will always be grateful to AusAID, the Australian government and people for the education I am receiving at ANU. However I am also a Melanesian and my loyalties lie back home. We don't agree with Australia and New Zealand on Fiji and the support I have received from AusAID does not change that.'
Who knows-Rika's views may even become better informed by contact with a more diverse range of views as are held by other South Pacific people at ANU, of whom there are quite a few who don't agree with Australian policy either. If not, he is unlikely to influence anyone other than those who already concur with him.
As for the 'old' Fiji Times from the late 1990s, including when Rika was working there, it was largely just 'fish and chips' wrapping paper.

What can Fiji do ? said...


You continue to ask why Australia and why New Zealand and why others are not doing this and that to assist Fiji. Why are they not changing their approach, their stance and why are they not being more flexible and accommodating? These are all good questions and lot of reasonable suggestions have been put forward as to what these countries can do.

The flip side to these questions seems to get very little exposure. Why is Fiji not doing more to get the help of the likes of Australia and New Zealand and the international community? Why is Fiji not altering its stance and remaining completely inflexible? Why does it continue to act like a dictatorship if it does not want to been known as one? Why is it so sensitive to terms like “interim” if it truly is going to step aside in the future?

This is my own top 5 on what Fiji’s current leadership could do (I have borrowed parts of these from ealier bloggers):

1. Be prepared to bring forward the whole Roadmap time table – even as little as 6 months would be evidence Fiji is serious about it and willing to be flexible. Publish the roadmap with clear milestones.

2. Military pledge that they will ensure free and fair elections AND accept the outcome of those elections. Even if a new government seeks to reduce the roll of the military in Fiji’s future

3. Cease the cumbersome, costly and distracting campaign to ‘get’ the former leadership and those considered anti-government. Fiji’ cycle of power and revenge has to stop some time and the military could take the lead in stead of continuing with this childishness. Perhaps when they are not in power (via election or just old age) new leaders will be respectful to them as well.

4. Obviously lift the PER immediately or a gradual lifting of it or part of it over say three month period (that’s me trying to be flexible). Ultimately it contradicts what they say they are going to achieve and will have to be removed before any real conversations can start.

5. PM to personally donate the exact amount his back pay to charity. Perhaps the CCF or a new group that seeks to create reconciliation between races in Fiji? I say this because it is the only real “corruption” question hanging over the PM and he needs to be squeaky clean – real and perceived. Note this is not admitting he is wrong but taking the higher ground.

Croz – I would be very interested in what you and other readers think the top 5 things the Fiji leadership could do to help itself are?

wouldn't it be good said...

PM on the radio in NZ said Fiji was on track for elections in 2014"provided the international community didn’t interfere.”

A few curious issues - he had made it very clear he does not care about NZ, has no respect for NZ and wants nothing to do with them so why does he continue to give interviews to NZ ?

How can Frank say we are on track for elections in 2014 when hi government has said they will do nothing to prepare fro election until 2012.

Why is he already making the election conditional ? Is he already having doubts about 2014.

Wouldn't it be great if he gave interviews in FIJI and reporters where able to ask real questions about his portfolios ? Wouldn't it be great if those same reporters could freely report what he says.

Ooops guess I'm living in fairy land dreaming up that "wouldn't it be good" stuff.

RED DRAGON said...

@ What can Fiji do......?

It is 4 and 5 that are particularly of importance. The PER must remain in place until the Fiji Police are "up and running". They have not been in that place for a very long time. Impunity must end within the Police and they must begin to function in every way in a professional, tax-payer paid mode. Respond to the taxpayers (almost everyone in Fiji except babes-in-arms) and welcome their role as "SALUS POPULI". (Welfare of the People or In the Best Interests of the People - ALL THE PEOPLE). The Police have long been part of the fundamental problem. Police Prosecutors - more so.

5) Everyone at the Top must be 'Squeaky Clean' - in every regard. Be so and be seen to be so. The trust of the people is vested in this. If they fail us - anyone of them - then trust will be completely eroded and it will be so indefinitely. Kiss goodbye to end of PER, democracy or anything approaching Good and Proper Governance. Confidence must return to Leadership and to the Fijian Economy. Safe Pairs of Hands are required - nothing less will do!

Bill Boot said...

Scott MacWilliam, how naive can you be, firstly to argue that a post graduate student like Netani Rika won't be influenced by his academics at ANU and that he may even re-evaluate some of his current opinions. You'd have to suspect that if he's going to write an account of his period as editor-in-chief at the Fiji Times, his supervisor may well be Brij Lal, the Indo-Fijian historian who's also a vehement critic of the regime. And let's look at some of the other academics in the School of Pacific Studies. There's Stewart Firth and Jon Fraenkel, both senior researchers with a record of castigating the regime. And most glaring of all, Colonel Jone Baledrokadroka, who's actually a protagonist in the events in Fiji in a very basic and highly political way. Baledrokadroka has still to explain his close ties to the Qaranivalu, the high chief of Naitasiri who's currently on trial accused of masterminding the 2000 mutiny. And he's also yet to give us his side of the story of his own dismissal from the military, accused of insubordination and mutiny. In one of his interviews, Frank Bainimarama says he had to prevent some of his soldiers from shooting Baledrokadroka "on the spot". All this means that the gaggle of Fiji "experts" at the ANU is more a gaggle of dissidents or regime critics whose credibility to comment on current events with any dispassion is zero. Now that Netani Rika is joining them, they can all sit around nodding in ferocious agreement about the justice of their own position. But let's not pretend that this has anything to do with scholarship or academic discourse.

Bill Boot said...

PS, Scott MacWilliam. I do agree with you, however, that the Fiji Times has been only suitable in recent years to wrap fish. Again on Radio Australia tonight, Rika is being described as "acclaimed editor" and being given hero status. This from people who I guarantee won't have ever read the Fiji Times. Pathetic.

Economics of the Uninitiated said...

@ What can Fiji do..?

Immediately abandon the suggested almost upon us 15% wage increase which is completely over the top and makes a mockery of macro-economics at this time. The global economy is reeling still. Fiji inflation is far too high. Such an arbitrary introduction of an increase in wages to any employer in Fiji will be tantamount to saying: Your investment and the risks you have taken in the Fijian economy are worth nothing. The poor in Fiji will suffer more price rises and hikes and jobs will go overnight. This is no idle response. It is being planned now by many local investors who cannot absorb further arbitrary decisions on the economy. Does Fiji want small to medium businesses? Yes or No? Take that decision and then ensure that Father Barr is sent for a longish break to study such businesses in an economy with relevance to Fiji. The damage soon to be inflicted will last a generation. It takes years to create viable businesses with jobs that contribute not only to GDP but also to FIRCA They will not return anytime soon. Once business confidence is culled, not even years of immersion in the "Bottom Line" will bring it back. Investors deserve a just reward for the risks they take. In the Fiji climate, the risks are great and they have not diminished. Not yet. Only a fool would suggest a wage rise at one swipe of 15%. Is there an eye 'on the ball'?

Honour and Principle said...

Congratulations on your appointment to such a prestigious institution. You will be a significant contributor to the real history of Fiji being told. This is the history that will be remembered and recorded. and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that coup perpetrators and supporters can ever do for history to record them other than what they are. Well done Netani - people like you and Jone are what Fiji is really all about - and unlike the coup perpetrators you don't neede guns!!

Servant to The Prince said...

@ Machiavelli's THE PRINCE and Lord McAlpine's THE SERVANT

Lord McAlpine was Hon Treasurer to the Conservative Party under PM Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. He wrote a crib of Machiavelli "The Servant". The title says much about the content. It is a fascinating insight into how a new order may and must evolve. Not in a revolutionary sense (very un-British) but in an evolutionary and carefully managed way. Each step is carefully shepherded so that no undue shocks are delivered to the economy: the economy is the determinant of all. The Servant serves the Prince to the extent that he/she will fall on their sword if required. The ethos of Public Service is shrewdly and deftly analysed and the leadership demands made of the 'Head Honcho'. This small but essential volume should be compulsory reading for any would-be Person-at-the-Top wishing to change the order of things and avoid implosion on the way. Perhaps the most salutary piece of advice is : Promote people you wish to remove to a level of incompetence rather than summarily fire them. At all costs avoid the creation of new enmities which may pose yet greater risk to the survival of The State. "L'etat - c'est Moi". "The Prince" and "The Servant" - a fulsome library of the skills of governance and survival spanning centuries. Two manuals of DIY which were tested in testing times.

Alter ego said...

I have little doubt he truly believes this but an independent, objective content analysis of the paper from 2006 on (and before for that matter) would, in my opinion, show most definitely that if both sides were printed, they were never printed equally.

Go on then! Do it! You've identified what needs to be done and confessed that your own stance is based on a crude guess. So why don't you actually do (or commission) a content analysis?

Seems to me that such an exercise would put the topic of the Fiji Times' supposed bias to bed once for all.

The Fiji Times website has archives. By changing the date in the address bar, I can get as far back as 01 November 2006:

That should make the analysis a bit easier. It would of course be good to have an analysis of coverage during Qarase's term too: just as a comparison.