I tried, I really did try but couldn’t find a single road-block, goon squad or government censor anywhereBy Cameron Slater
I have spent three days in Fiji, a short trip transiting onto my next destination.
After my interview with Voreqe Bainimarama I received emails, threats, and comments that basically said that I didn’t know what I was talking about. That Suva wasn’t safe, that there were government goon squads roaming the city setting dogs onto people and breaking up groups of five or more, and that the media were muzzled by government censors, not to mention the road blocks and general intimidation and subjugation of the general population at the point of a gun. In fact I never saw a gun, at all, and trust me as someone who is interested in such things I was looking.
Well, I can tell you that despite asking and looking for all of these things that we have been told exists by the disaffected and the complicit media in New Zealand, I could find none of those things.
I went to several press conferences where media turned up, asked questions, received answers all without any Police or Army people present.
I stayed at the Holiday Inn across the road from the government precinct, and wandered around freely in those environs. When I went to the government administration building I strolled in, checked with reception and made my own way to the office I was going to, all with no Police or army present.
When I drove to the opening of a new $50 million cement factory there weren’t any road-blocks or travel restrictions, indeed in my last two trips I’ve never seen one.
And when I dropped in unannounced at the offices of the Fiji Sun and stayed for several hours talking with the team there I couldn’t find any government censors, goons, army or police in attendance. I kept asking the staff where the censors were…the editor joked and said they were on a lunch break.
Basically these are all lies.
People go about their business in Suva unfettered.
What is happening in Fiji though is a pride and confidence that despite the best attempts of New Zealand and Australia to thwart their achievements they have stood strong and found a real solution, a Fijian solution, to the issues of the past and that they can move forward with pride, knowing they have broken the apron strings of colonial condescension from New Zealand and Australia.
There is talk on the streets about being allowed back into the Commonwealth and the Pacific Islands Forum, and a belief that the government should reject that. Fijians believe that they have out -grown those organisations, that when things were tough in Fiji that both organisations and their member nations turned their backs on Fiji and now they are irrelevant to Fiji’s growth.
New Zealand and Australia made a grave foreign policy error.
They created a vacuum and nature abhors a vacuum. Fiji has filled that vacuum and now they don’t need either country.
They have new friends, ones who treat them with respect.
I leave here today, knowing that positive change has occurred.
I will come back and observe the elections…and report on that.
Meanwhile don’t believe a word that you hear on RNZI, or from Barbara Dreaver or Michael Field.
People literally spit when their names are mentioned. Their falsehoods have poisoned the country against them.
Fiji has grown up. It is truly inspiring to witness.
Cameron Slater is the publisher of New Zealand’s most popular blog, Whale Oil, winner of this year’s top blog award at the New Zealand media awards. He is a former editor of the New Zealand Truth newspaper. He was born in Suva and has been reporting from Suva this week.