Oct 5, 2014

The Ethics of Dishonesty in Fiji

A permanent solution to the coup culture in Fiji ?

Published : Saturday, September 27, 2014

The election result was something of a foregone conclusion given the degree of control exercised by the erstwhile dictatorship over all aspects of political life.

Draconian decrees restricting fundamental human rights such as freedom of association, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press meant that opposition voices would have trouble being heard.

Control over the news media was especially important for Frank Bainimarama to gain legitimacy as elected prime minister, and it was assured by intimidation of both Fiji TV and the Fiji Times under the Media Decree. The Fiji Sun and FBC, meanwhile, could be counted on for shameless cheerleading on behalf of the regime.

Scottish writer Andrew Fletcher (1655-1716) observed that “if a man were permitted to make all the ballads, he need not care who should make the laws of a nation.” That was back when ballads were the main means of spreading the news, which even 400 years ago was well understood as the key to forming public opinion.

Now imagine if a politician could both control the news AND make all the laws of a nation. How would you like his chances at the polls?

That was the situation in Fiji for almost eight years subsequent to Bainimarama’s 2006 coup. The only real surprise is that he didn’t take all 50 seats, as he boasted he would. That Sodelpa managed as many seats as it did speaks to the depth of indigenous outrage that will not be going away anytime soon.
The real question is whether Fiji could handle a genuine democracy with a free press, or if the country needs an ├╝ber-authoritarian strongman like Bainimarama to keep control.

Those who claim the latter is true point to the country’s history of coups dating back to 1987. Some blame the press for fomenting the 2000 coup, which on my reading of the record seems specious, at best.

But the fact remains that Fiji’s two solitudes have shown they simply cannot play nicely enough together for a real democracy. Calls for an end to the “coup culture” that has bedeviled the country have perhaps been answered with a militarisation which has seen an elected government laced with army officers.

Combined with restrictive decrees which amount to almost as much government control as during martial law, the result is perhaps a permanent state of coup which will indeed preclude future coups.

Sep 17, 2014

Watchdog hits out at Fiji media ban


Fiji opposition groups say intimidation, lack of coverage means September polls won't be free and fair


Opposition parties in Fiji say intimidation and a lack of media coverage mean the coming elections will not be free and fair.

The September poll will be the country's first since the 2006 military coup in which Frank Bainimarama seized power.

Rear-Admiral Bainimarama has been on been on the hustings promoting his new party, but opposition groups say the political playing field is far from even.

Ro Teimumu Kepa from the opposition Social Democratic Liberal Party of Fiji (SODELPA) says their own election campaign has been troubled.

"Up to this moment in time there are some things that are happening which does not augur well for the free and fair that we are hoping for," he said.
When the party has campaigned in some communities, Ro Teimumu says police have turned up afterwards to question people about what was said.
"When a stranger arrives at a village, you know right away that person does not belong to that village," she said.
"If they come from the police or the military then they believe it's some form of intimidation."

Around the world media coverage is part of any election campaign, but SODELPA says it can't get its message out.
"We normally have coverage towards the back of the paper - after Bainimarama's photo and whatever he has to say on the front page, and then after all the supermarket ads and the sports and film and television ads.
Ro Teimumu Kepa, Social Democratic Liberal Party of Fiji
Ro Teimumu says media censorship after the coup means many outlets won't run comments or stories critical of the government.

"We normally have coverage towards the back of the paper," she said.

"[It comes] after Bainimarama's photo and whatever he has to say on the front page, and then after all the supermarket ads and the sports and film and television ads."

There's also concern that Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum is also the elections minister, which SODELPA says is a conflict of interest.

Their concerns are echoed by the National Federation Party's leader, Dr Biman Prasad

"We're telling the whole world we're holding an election - yet the world must also see there are all these restrictions that are in place which do not allow political parties to engage freely," he said.

Dr Prasad says laws governing the elections, political parties and the media all favour the government.
"People who are opinion makers, academics, NGOs, trade union officials - they've all been barred from taking part in political activities and actually talking about issues," he said.


Independent candidate

If opposition parties are finding it difficult, independent candidates are doing it even tougher.
Roshika Deo and the supporters of her 'Be The Change' campaign lack the funds to buy TV and newspaper ads, and have been forced to turn to social media

"We've been in a military dictatorship and we still remain in a military dictatorship and as a result it makes it hard," she said.

Ms Deo is running as an independent candidate after gaining prominence raising the issue of violence against women and children.
We've had the misogynist attacks, the rape threats...the threats of violence on social media.
Roshika Deo, Independent candidate

The subject matter, her young age and gender have prompted an angry backlash from some communities.

"There has been certain older, seasoned people that have not been very supportive," she said.
"They have been created additional barriers for us, have been using a lot of sexist, ageist language.
"We've had the misogynist attacks, the rape threats, you know the threats of violence on social media."

While opposition parties and independents battle to be heard, Frank Bainimarama has no such worries, with every move of his Fiji First Party relayed by the media

Despite facing what appear to be very long odds, opposition figures like Ro Teimumu Kepa say they won't stop campaigning.

"We can just live in hope," she said.

Fiji dictator's true colours

By Marc Edge

Nothing epitomizes the past eight years of media repression in Fiji better than the video of dictator Frank Bainimarama slapping a woman TV journalist in the face last week.

It captures not only the contempt with which Bainimarama has treated the press, but also the brutality with which he has treated people, including and especially women.

Now some of Bainimarama’s staunchest supporters are re-thinking whether he would make a fit leader for a democratic Fiji, as should all citizens in advance of Wednesday’s poll.

3News reporter Amanda Gillies was in Suva from New Zealand to cover the election campaign and approached Bainimarama at a rally.

“Can you promise there won’t be another coup,” she asked the obviously irritated dictator.

“Can you just move away from me?” replied Bainimarama, who told Gillies he didn’t want to discuss the subject. 
Click picture to view video of Josaia (Frank) Bainimarama slapping Amanda Gillies

He first pushed away her microphone, then began waving his hand in her face. “I will move away,” promised Gillies, who courageously refused to be intimidated and persisted as any good journalist should. “But I just want to know if you . . .”

She couldn’t finish her sentence because Bainimarama slapped her in the face, causing her to drop her microphone at the 12-second mark of this clip.

The video, which has been making the rounds on Facebook, has elicited a shocked response from viewers. Bainimarama has been rumored for years to have participated in the beating of women who were arrested for advocating democracy in the wake of his 2006 coup, including one who was pregnant

He also famously condoned the beating of escaped prisoners last year after a video of the atrocity was posted to the Internet. But to watch as the prime minister gives the back of his hand to a woman leads to the inescapable conclusion that this thug is simply not fit for leadership. 

As campaigning culminates, even some of Bainimarama's longest-serving sycophants are deserting his sinking ship. Crosbie Walsh posted a sheepish entry which he labelled a “Personal Confession” on his blog yesterday. “What if I’m wrong,” worried Croz.
When I started this blog in May 2007 it was to offset the distorted reporting of NZ journalist Michael Field, and I was writing mainly for an overseas audience. . . . Since then, as I read about what the Bainimarama government was doing and talked to a wide range of people in Fiji, my position gradually changed. . . . To make matters worse, a number of government-initiated judicial actions seemed personally charged and vindictive. And its failure to have public audits and reveal salaries laid it wide open to further charges by the Opposition.  
If even crazy old Croz is questioning his beloved dictator, then you know Bainimarama is going down. “He’s a military man and he definitely has a very short fuse,” admitted Croz. “Parliament will be a very different environment. If FijFirst wins and Bainimarama forms Fiji’s next government, his power will be limited by law.”
Bainimarama is normally a friendly person who enjoys being with people. I am optimistic that this positive side of his personality will be used to good effect in Parliament, and the “short fuse” kept in check. 
This incident is only the latest in a long line of erratic and even violent behavior by Fiji's self-appointed prime minister. 
Former U.S. ambassador Larry Dinger outlined a litany of abuse in cables made public in 2011 by Wikileaks. Dinger quipped that “a psychiatrist would have a field day with Bainimarama,” reported the Sydney Morning Herald.
The US embassy reports also document cases of rape and sexual assault by military personnel, including at least one instance of a group of detainees forced to engage in group sexual acts. In another case a prominent human rights activist was “felt up” by a senior military officer and was “warned she would receive worse treatment unless she stopped her activities.”
Then, of course, there is Bainimarama’s shameful treatment of Father Kevin Barr, a former supporter who made the mistake of joking in a letter to the editor last year that, given the loans received from that country, Fiji should consider incorporating the flag of China into its flag instead of the Union Jack.

The Catholic priest recounted then receiving a telephone call from an angry Bainimarama, who called him “a f*&^%$ up priest.” Then came the text messages. “F*&^% U arsehole, . . Start saying your goodbyes Father Kevin James Barr,  Australian national, work permit as a missionary, expiry date for permit 31/12/2013. . . Go and be  a missionary in China.”

Tales of Bainimarama’s out-of-control drinking have long circulated around Suva, including one recent incident in which he is said to have publicly soiled himself. It would be understandable if the citizens of Fiji decided on Wednesday that such an idiot, thug and monster is not fit to lead their country.