Friday, March 2, 2012

Bainimarama condemns Anzac 'neglect' of Pacific



IN THE first extensive interview with Fiji regime leader Voreqe Bainimarama for the past 18 months or so, Fiji-born Australian journalist Graham Davis gives some insights into the commodore's current thinking. Davis highlights the US "open arms" policy in contrast to the Australian and NZ "isolationist" policy towards Fiji. Bainimarama also condemns the "neglect of the Pacific" by Canberra and Wellington in the 25min interview broadcast today on Sky News.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Another Fiji Coup 4.5 clanger?


A PICTURE, as Coup 4.5 says, citing the old adage, paints a thousand words. But in this case, it’s more like a thousand laughs. As if anything was genuine about this image – another death by a thousand pixels with Photoshop is more like it. Just look at the floating coconut tree and absence of shadow and the cross-hatched grass for a start … What is astonishing, too, is the gullible level of readers – 41 apparently taking this image at face value at the last web count. No wonder we are lost in a fog of propaganda over this coup. This was Coup 4.5’s justification under the headline: Fiji's self-appointed PM naps at the beach:
No idea where the picture was taken or what the occasion was - or even if there was one. But as they say, a picture paints a thousand words. We leave it to readers to draw their own conclusion. The picture ... and the caption .... has been printed as it was sent to Coupfourpointfive.
Baini drinks while country sinks

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Covert trip reveals rule of law ‘lost’ in Fiji


Cartoon by Marc Snyder - thanks to Fiji Island Mermaid Press.

By Eduardo Reyes in the Law Society Gazette

A SECRET fact-finding mission to Fiji has concluded that the rule of law "no longer operates" in the country. The independence of the judiciary "cannot be relied upon" and "there is no freedom of expression", council member and Law Society Charity chair Nigel Dodds reports in Fiji: The Rule of Law Lost.

Dodds visited Fiji on a tourist visa in late 2011. Following the 2006 coup by Voreqe Bainimarama, ruled illegal by its court of appeal in 2009, Fiji is ruled by decree through emergency measures renewed every 30 days. Fiji (pop. 850,000 people) is currently suspended from the Commonwealth.

The report claims that Fiji’s Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, has been central to ending the rule of law by limiting the power of the courts and ending the independence of legal sector regulation. Fiji’s late President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, revoked all judicial appointments in 2009. Dodds’ report reveals the extent to which the government depends on the appointment of judges and senior law officers from Sri Lanka on short-term contracts.

Chancery Lane’s human rights adviser, Courtenay Barklem, notes: "Judges have to have security of tenure. We don’t know how these judges are being selected."

Meanwhile, the country’s largest commercial law firm, Munro Leys, once the government of Fiji’s main provider of legal services, no longer receives government instructions, independent sources told Dodds.

The 2009 Administration of Justice Decree removed the jurisdiction of the court to hear or determine a challenge to any government action. This has now been supplemented with a practice direction, seen by Dodds, pinned to the walls of the courts, noting that the Chief Registrar will terminate any such case that slips through the net.

Dodds told the Gazette: "I found a significant number of lawyers endeavouring to do the best for their clients in intolerable circumstances. They deserve tremendous credit."

Previously criticised by the Law Society in open correspondence, a professional accreditation regime remains in place whereby the government issues practising certificates, Dodds reports. In 2011 the government refused to permit Fiji’s Law Society to hold its annual meeting.

Dodds’ subterfuge was deemed necessary following the refusal of the Fiji government to admit an International Bar Association delegation to the country in 2009. He funded the trip personally.

Fiji’s High Commission did not provide a comment on the report in the time available.

Stop Press: Check out the Graham Davis/Russell Hunter/Victor Lal/Crosbie Walsh media debate on the alleged "four would-be coups" of Bainimarama here.

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:

COWARD HAD IT RIGHT - FRENCH HOLD US IN CONTEMPT

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



NOT SO VEILED RACISM

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.

Grubsheet
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.

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