Tuesday, February 21, 2012

It will always be a close call

THIS intriguing photo popped up in the Café Pacific inbox from longtime reader, friend and media educational colleague Pat Craddock, recently in Somalia. His thoughts:

Some of my friends get worried when they leave their phone at home, some worry when they leave their phone in a bus or even by their bed. How, they ask, can I be sure that I have my phone with me at all times?

But no matter where I am when you phone me, wait for a few seconds till I answer. It will always be a close call. As a teacher, I understand that the word “hear” means I need to get close to my ear. My cell phone is the perfect teacher and a close companion.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

French rugby: Once the whipping boys, now the rulers of the game

AN IRISH perspective on this month's cancelled Paris match on a frozen Stade de France, barely three months after the French Bleus almost won the World Cup against the All Blacks. Pictured: Dimitri Yashvili and the tricolore:


By Sean Diffley

Eighty years ago the French were thrown out of the Five Nations and were blackballed for what the other four countries considered wholesale improprieties, such as dirty play and covert paying of their players.

So, from 1932 until the 1946 resumption after World War Two, no French side was permitted to sully the amateur gentlemanliness of the men from Twickenham, Lansdowne, Murrayfield and Cardiff.

And no French engagements with the All Blacks, the Springboks and Wallabies either. Thus, in that 14 years of boycott the French were reduced to playing only the Germans on a regular basis.

It was, wasn't it, a classic instance of fin de siecle -- or the tail-end of a bicycle -- for the French at frosty Stade de France last weekend?

Like the icy reserve described by Harold Wilson in his dealings with General de Gaulle.

"I didn't find references by me to Waterloo and Trafalgar necessarily productive and he has been very tactful about the Battle of Hastings," said the late British Prime Minister.

But, a generation or so later and how things change.

The French, the whipping boys of the 1930s, are now the rulers of the game.

Bernard Lapasset is the chairman of the International Rugby Board, a neat bit of Sarkozy-style diplomacy ousting the popular favourite, former England captain Bill Beaumont.

Eviction process
It was England, back on Easter Monday, 1931, who played the final match of the time in the Stade Colombes, losing to France and then taking a leading role in persuading the other three, Wales, Scotland and Ireland to join the eviction process.

Ireland's game against the French in that 1931 campaign was a loss in Paris by a try (three points back then) to nil. That Irish team contained such notables as Eugene Davy and Mark Sugden at half-back, Paul Murray, Eddie Lightfoot and Jack Arigho in the three-quarters and forwards Jammie Clinch, Noel Murphy senior, Jack Siggins and Victor Pike.

Pike, incidentally was one of 11 children of a Tipperary clergyman; when he'd finished rugby with the French and the rest, went on to become a bishop.

The following year of 1932, with no French involvement, the Irish won the championship.

I suppose most of us will admit the French are the best side in Europe and really would have won the World Cup but for some peculiar refereeing.

But do they really care what we think of them?

Acme of disdain
The conduct at the Stade de France was the acme of disdain.

Was Noel Coward on the ball when he coined the song "But there is always something fishy about the French/ Whether prince or politician/We've a sinister suspicion/ That behind their savoir-faire/ They share/ A common contempt/ For every mother's son of us"?

As for Italy next week, financial problems have meant that only two professional clubs exist now, Treviso and Aironi; the rest have returned to amateur rugby.

Still things are improving and if they only unearthed a few good backs to compliment their tough pack, they would not be easy meat any more.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Coup 4.5 - the Fiji politics of hate


By Graham Davis

MOST countries have laws that prevent religious and racial vilification. Most responsible media outlets – including those on the internet – excise comments designed to inflame religious and racial hatred. But sadly not the most prominent of the websites set up to oppose the government of Fiji’s prime minister, Frank Bainimarama.

That site calls itself Coup Four and a Half – otherwise known as 4.5 – and is supposedly run by journalists. Its name denotes the four coups in Fiji’s post independence history -the two Rabuka coups in 1987, the Speight coup in 2000, the Bainimarama coup in 2006 plus what 4.5 regards as the half coup when Bainimarama’s takeover was declared illegal by the courts in 2009 and he abrogated the constitution altogether, sacked the judiciary and continued to govern by decree.

Now, Coup 4.5 is entitled to oppose the dictatorship, though many Fijians prefer it to the nationalist government Bainimarama overthrew. It’s also entitled to campaign for the restoration of democracy, though many Fijians are happy to accept the regime’s promise to hold elections in 2014. But there’s plenty wrong with 4.5 – unforgivably so – when it publishes the most vile attacks on people based on race and religious affiliation.

Grubsheet has taken the site to task before for publishing comments describing Indo-Fijians as “mongoose” or “mynahs” – the clear implication being that Fijians of Indian descent are imported pests. It regularly refers to the prime minister as “the Baini”, a disparaging play on words on the popular Hindi description of a person of low breeding or class. But now comes something far more grave, an all out attack on Fiji’s Muslims on one of the holiest days of the Islamic calendar – the birthday of the prophet Mohammed.

This wasn’t in the comments section of the site but in the main editorial column. And it deserves to be read in full, not only to appreciate the appalling nature of the attack itself but to appreciate why the Bainimarama regime is so determined to stamp out this kind of racial and religious intolerance in Fiji once and for all:
Fiji is going through a false scenario of reforms and modernisation to have a new Fiji. This was reiterated by the PM in his address during the November 2012 budget. Sadly it is bound to end up with civilization with darkness.

The truth is Muslims, through Aiyaz Sayed-Kaiyum, is [sic] colonising Fiji. They are deceiving the people of Fiji using nice phrases and words such as modernisation, a new Fiji without corruption, transparency, fairness to justify their staying in power. Look at what has been happening:
  • Muslim [sic] riding hard on power (RFMF)
  • Rule by decree
  • Increase in the number of key positions in government being given to Muslims or those supporting Khaiyum
  • Weakening of Fijian institutions and culture and land ownership
  • Nepotism
  • Recruiting of non-Fijians, especially kaivalagis, to weaken Fijian’s capabilities
Wake up Fiji. Wake up to the radical changes in our beloved peaceful and friendly country.

Regrettably, Banimarama will not do anything: only he knows why it is, 'Yes sir, three bags full sir!'
[Image of the hate figure Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum inserted by Coup 4.5.]

This grubby little offering isn’t just inflammatory but utterly false. Muslims constitute just 7 percent of the population of Fiji – some 54,000 in a country of 860,000. They are hardly “colonising Fiji”, as the anonymous author of this rubbish asserts. There is one Muslim cabinet minister – Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Kaiyum – and one Muslim officer – Brigadier-General Mohammed Aziz – in the RFMF, the Republic of Fiji Military Forces. These are hardly “Muslims riding hard to power”. In fact, they’re total exceptions in their own fields in a population utterly dominated by Christians and Hindus. So the notion that they pose any “threat” is risible.

There’s also a puzzling reference to the “recruitment of non-Fijians, especially kaivalagis, to weaken Fijian’s capabilities”. Kaivalagi is the indigenous term for a white man or European. On the latest figures available, a mere 0.4 percent of Fiji’s population describes itself as European, under 3000 people in a population of 860,000. Perhaps the author was referring to the recruitment of American PR people or the odd expatriate lawyer. But this is clearly even more of a furphy than the claim about Muslims.

Simply put, Coup 4.5 – with this base offering – has become the local equivalent of a Nazi hate sheet. It’s designed to provoke and exploit the long-standing and deep-rooted fears of uneducated indigenous Fijians and turn them against Muslims in particular and Indo-Fijians in general. And it does that in the crudest way possible – to spread the lie that indigenous people are being marginalised in the land of their birth and robbed of their jobs and land.

There is also the implicit message that Fijians could be forced to abandon Christianity and live under the diktat of an Islamic state. How? Because Coup 4.5 positioned this vile piece of misinformation right next to the text of a routine message from the Prime Minister to Fiji’s Muslims to mark Mohammed’s birthday. The contents of this were totally inoffensive – indeed, sentiments universally shared of unity and tolerance. Yet it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Bainimarama’s adoption of the Muslim customary greeting, "Peace be upon him”, when referring to the Prophet, was being exploited to carry a deeper message of a leader dancing to the tune of both the Muslim religion and his Muslim right hand man, Khaiyum.

Or as the “article” put it – “Yes, sir. Three bags full, sir!” Presumably no “no sir’ – as the nursery rhyme usually goes – because, in 4.5′s view, Bainimarama never says no to his attorney-general.

Who are these people? Well, they’re always anonymous but are said to be a group of Fiji journalists running their site out of Auckland, with contributions from members of the deposed SDL government, ex civil servants and a hard core of anti-regime “human rights” advocates. One thing is certain. As well as permitting overtly racist content on the site, they routinely censor any comments they don’t agree with – unbridled hypocrisy from a site that continually castigates the regime for its own censorship of the media.

The wonder is that some of 4.5′s content is written by respected journalists and academics who are Indo-Fijians to boot. There are contributions from the Oxford-based Victor Lal – arguably Fiji’s finest investigative journalist – and from the economist Professor Wadan Narsey, currently working in Japan after falling out with his superiors at the University of the South Pacific.

recently asked Professor Narsey how he could possibly have anything to do with a website that carried overtly racist content. His response was that he’d been told by the “journalists” at 4.5 that it was preferable to allow people to “let off steam than have them bottle it up”.

How any responsible person can accept such a notion is frankly beyond Grubsheet’s ken. This is bottled venom that would bring prosecution in New Zealand – the country from which Coup 4.5 supposedly operates – and, for that matter, in all of the bolt holes of the disaffected Fijian diaspora. Imagine the furor if any Muslim in Fiji had launched a similar attack on local Christians, and on Christmas Day? It’s inexcusable and unacceptable. No buts.

An abbreviated version of this article has subsequently appeared in the Fiji Sun.

SEQUEL: Predictably, the Coup 4.5 article has triggered a wave of anti-Muslim sentiment in the comment sections of the blog, along with a series of personal attacks on Grubsheet for having the temerity to criticise the piece.

Here’s a sample that has all the hallmarks of fascist propaganda – the bigger the lie the more believable, for those inclined to believe in the first place.

Freedom Seeker said:
While the followers of Islam seek to control the country- through subtle infiltration into the senior executive management of Fiji’s leading corporations and conglomerate companies- they will not be too pleased to discover that the religion they so vehemently follow with extreme devoutness – is, in fact, a sham.

There is increasing archaeological and documentary evidence being discovered which clearly shows that Islam was developed by the Vatican for the sole purpose of eliminating Jews. While many may be shocked by this revelation- there are a group of people who are privy to the authenticity of this fact- in fact, they may even hold key evidence and documentation which exposes Islam as a false religion- and an offshoot of the Roman Catholic faith.
Another made accusations of child abuse.

Coup 4.5 could excise this but won’t, even as it censors political comments that don’t suit its agenda. In other parts of the world, accusing the Prophet of child abuse and claiming Islam is a construct of the Vatican to eliminate the Jews carries the potential to spark rioting, fatwas, even Jihad. Yet at Coup 4.5, it’s all a legitimate part of the debate. The politics of hate.

Fiji-born Graham Davis is an award-winning Australian journalist who has reported widely from around the world. He blogs at Grubsheet.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Pacific Journalism Review - a new regional media resource

PACIFIC JOURNALISM REVIEW - the only media research journal in the South Pacific - has been publishing in the region for the past 17 years. It was launched originally at the University of Papua New Guinea and then had a life at the University of the South Pacific. But it is now published by AUT University's Pacific Media Centre.

Apart from the many academic research offerings, the journal has attracted many Pacific journalists, such as the Taimi Media Group's Kalafi Moala in Tonga and Savea Sano Malifa, editor-in-chief of the Samoa Observer. International authors have included John Pilger and Robert Fisk.

Some 679 research articles and reviews have been published by the journal and more are being added to the archives. In the past, the journal articles have been available by subscribing to the hard copy edition or the online databases, but now the archives will also be available on the PJR website (long after publication on the subscriber databases in Australia, New Zealand/Pacific and the USA).

Topics include digital media, Fiji coups, environmental journalism, indigenous media, investigative journalism, media freedom, media law and ethics and media ownership.

Check out the PJR website, but login and create your own account to get access to the best content:
Pacific Journalism Review website
If you want quick access on a Pacific subscriber database, go to Niustext

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fiji floods disaster - message from Rotary

FIJI needs all the support it can get after the devastating floods that have hit the western parts of the main island of Viti Levu. The country declared a state of emergency today as the death toll rose to six. Here is a message from Alan Eyes, Rotary's district governor 2011-12 (and incidentally brother-in-law of Café Pacific's publisher) about the flooding. The pictures in the Nadi area are thanks to the Rotary team in Fiji:
You will be aware of the flooding currently being experienced in Fiji. It seems the worst has passed for the north, with Nadi experiencing many problems, and the worst yet to come for the Ba area.

Information from Bob Niranjan, our Fiji liaison on the district leadership team, is the Fiji people and support agencies are better prepared than in the past. Unfortunately, there have been two deaths [now six] and 1000 people [now more than 3500] in evacuation centres. Five towns have been closed now for two days with no road access.

Rick Eyre, president of the Lautoka Club, has been visiting evacuation centres and notes people in high spirits and again well prepared. He has not had to hand out any emergency response kits at this stage. He tells me that so far the flood levels are less than the last occasion and mercifully there are not the high winds which in the past have caused much of the damage.

Bob Niranjan, Warwick Pleass, AGs Shaheen Asgar and Ian Curtis are liaising with the Fiji Rotary club presidents. The role at this stage seems to be one of assessment and preparation for Rotarians to act as may be required.

PDG Stuart Batty, of Rotary NZ World Community Service, is liaising with the D9920 team in Fiji and MFAT officials and stands ready to travel to Fiji. Good supplies of Emergency Response Kits are in storage in Lautoka and Suva ready for deployment as may be required.

The Fiji team will keep me informed of happenings and any ways we in other parts of District 9920 may be able to assist. I know you will all join with me in wishing well our Rotarian friends and the people of Fiji.

Alan Eyes
District Governor 2011-12
District 9920, Rotary International
Many thanks for your efforts, Alan and the Rotary team.

As money is urgently needed, donations would be appreciated to the Rotary New Zealand 2012 Fiji Flood Appeal via:

Rotary New Zealand World Community Service where there is a PayPal credit card facility, or

• Internet banking telegraphic transfer to Westpac Banking Corporation, Wellington, NZ account number 03 1702 0192208 02 (international donors will also require Swift Code WPACNZ2W, IBAN Code 031702) for account name RNZWCS Limited (Rotary New Zealand), and include reference Fiji Flood , and/or donor name and club.

• Cheque made payable to RNZWCS Limited posted to PO Box 20309, Christchurch 8543, New Zealand

Donations are tax deductible within NZ.

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