Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Fiji disinformation blogs



Opinion by Dr Crosbie Walsh

THERE are indications of panic in the anti-blog newsrooms. Despite their efforts to liken the Fiji dictatorship to the military dictatorship in Burma, there have been no protest marches or public immolestations. Ordinary Fijians seem to be going about their daily lives in normal ways.

From the perspective of the anti-blogs, things are moving too smoothly. The Constitution reform process has been generally well received. The media is publishing commments hostile to the "illegal" government by former politicians Qarase, Chaudhry and Beddoes , and even Rabuka has put his two-cents' worth in. The Methodist Church hierachy and the CCF have aired views critrical of government on the demise of the Great Council of Chiefs.

The pathway to the "illegal" elections is now more clearly illuminated. There seems little doubt that the United States - and Australia and NZ behind the scenes - have accepted the announced steps leading up to the 2014 election. And even the economy seems to be picking up.

What does this mean for the anti-blogs? They could change tack and try to steer events closer to how they wish. They could even change to genuine support, subject to certain conditions. But these strategies would not put the SDL back in power or ensure itaukei paramountcy, whatever that now means.

Nor would there be the perks, appointments and scholarships like there were in the good old days. So, as their chances of success diminish by the day, their best option is to take their disinformation to a new level.

"Disinformation (a direct translation of Russian дезинформация dezinformatsiya)", and I quote from Wikipedia,"is intentionally false or inaccurate information that is spread deliberately. For this reason, it is synonymous with and sometimes called black propaganda. It is an act of deception and false statements to convince someone of untruth. Disinformation should not be confused with misinformation, information that is unintentionally false.

"Unlike traditional propaganda techniques designed to engage emotional support, disinformation is designed to manipulate the audience at the rational level by either discrediting conflicting information or supporting false conclusions. A common disinformation tactic is to mix some truth and observation with false conclusions and lies, or to reveal part of the truth while presenting it as the whole (a limited hangout)."

Disinformation, of course, is not new to Coup4.5. Their stories from insider, leaked and "usually reliable sources" have long provided gossipy fodder for their more gullible readers. Remember the protest marches that never eventuated?: The military about to rebel ... The links to Al Queda and the Muslim takeover ... Bainimarama so ill he could not walk unsupported ... Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum's "arrest"... Bainimarama portrayed as Khaiyum's puppet (and unintelligent, untrustworthy, corrupt, incompetent and a liar, as FijiToday repeated only yesterday.)

The blog's latest posting (22/3/12) claims "on excellent authority that a trio [of the Chief Justice and lawyer sisters Nazhat and Shaista Shameem] has already drafted a guiding Constitution and held a secret meeting on New Years Day at the Macau Hotel in Nadi" to discuss the consultation process, the Civic Education Programme, and the composition of the Constituent Assembly. They also had learned "on excellent authority that as suspected, Yash Ghai was chosen by Bainimarama and Khaiyum to head their illegal consultation process because of his profile."

What's so hushhush and sinister about all this? A secret meeting in Nadi when they could have met more secretly in Suva — although, apparently, it took Coup4.5 from New Year's Day to find out? Three lawyers meeting to consider legal guidelines? Thoughts on who could make up the Constituent Assembly? The choice of an internationally respected lawyer to chair the Commission that would hear submissions prior to the meeting of the Assembly?

Does Coup4.5 seriously and honestly think the Constitution Process could happen without forward planning, that participants and agendas would miraculously fall into place, and a lot should be drawn for chairman? There is no story here. Perhaps that's why it took Coup4.5 from January 1 to tell it.

The day before (21/3/12) they published an equally incredulous, but far more embellished, story. This time it was a "leaked report" of a meeting of the Military Council to provide an "exit strategy for Frank Bainimarama cloaked in a new Constitution and the 2014 election." The meeting apparently considered a "paper titled Fiji's Road Map To Political Election 2014 (sent to Coupfourpointfive the day before the consultation process was announced more than two weeks ago on March 9)." But why it was not reported then they do not say.

However, we are told subsequent events (the abolition of the GCC, changes in the Provincial Councils, etc) make the report "too convincing to ignore." The meeting also discussed how Bainimarama could be "out maneuvered" [sic]! Huh! Exit strategy and outmanoeuvred? Submitting the report and the minutes of their meeting to paper would seem to be dangerous given their part of their plot to outmanoeuvre the Prime Minister. The paper (that may be read in full on the Coup4.5 site) really lets the cat out of the blog so I would expect the immediate dismissal of plotters Captain Natuva, Colonel Saumatua and Colonel Aziz on the grounds of disloyalty.

The paper listed seven strategies. Strategy 1 called for an immediate election, and a “People Constitution Forum" spearheaded by the 20 government departments. If this does not happen, Coup4.5's disinformation is exposed.

Strategy 2 called for the PM "to publicly announce this month he will stand for election" and form a new political party. His campaign will be led by "highly professional and political experts." All government departments will be "militarised" and soldiers will be his "campaign runners." Provincial Councils and civil servants will "follow orders." It's no secret the PM may stand for elections but if his election campaign is not as Coup4.5 describes, its disinformation is further exposed.

Stategy 3 would see no old political party stand for election, and a qualification test for all candidates. This is also possible. It has been talked about for some time, and no one would be surprised if the Constitution Assembly ruled along these lines.

I'll leave readers to read the rest, most of which I find unsurprising. Most "accusations" have been announced or anticipated already. It is only their interpretation that makes them seem sinister. But, as we now all know, "A common disinformation tactic is to mix some truth and observation with false conclusions and lies, or to reveal part of the truth while presenting it as the whole."

Expect much more of the same as time rolls on.

Retired professor emeritus Crosbie Walsh was founding director of development studies at the University of the South Pacific and publishes a Fiji analysis blog.

Coup 4.5

'The King and I' - a tribute to the late Tupou V of Tonga



WITH THANKS to Alex Perrottet of Pacific Media Watch:
The death of King George Tupou V was unexpected for all – especially for family and close friends.

Neil Underhill is an Honorary Correspondent for the British government to King Tupou V. He is also a close personal friend.

Born in Fiji, he has lived most of his life there and frequently travels to Tonga to see the King. He strongly disagrees with those who describe “HM” as eccentric and instead remembers him as a man of “impeccable dignity”.

Monday, March 19, 2012

When violence threatens - Grubsheet under attack


Fiji Sun March 14 front page.

By Graham Davis

GRUBSHEET'S burgeoning number of opinion pieces on Fiji are largely designed to counter what we regard as the continuing failure of the mainstream regional media to come to grips with the reality of events there. They’re especially aimed at an Australian audience, to highlight what we regard as the folly of Canberra having turned its back on Fiji since Frank Bainimarama’s coup five years ago.

A lot of these pieces are picked up by the mainstream media – The Australian and Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, for instance – or disseminated to a wider regional and global audience through the Pacific Scoop service of the Auckland University of Technology and Pacific Islands Report from the East-West Centre in Hawaii. Some are written as news stories but most are shamelessly opinionated, strong expressions of our own views based not only on on a life-long association with Fiji but having reported political events there for the mainstream media since before the first coup in 1987.

The problem arises when these articles are picked up and republished in Fiji, a country where the separation of news and opinion in the mainstream media doesn’t have a strong tradition. And so it was last week, when the Fiji Sun published a Grubsheet opinion posting on its front page that would have looked very much like news to local eyes. It provoked a wave of outrage, not least from the subject of that article – Laisenia Qarase, the man Frank Bainimarama deposed in his 2006 coup.

As readers can see for themselves in our own comments section, Qarase has gone on the attack against Grubsheet, accusing us of distortion, disregarding the facts and attempting to “crucify” him and his party – the SDL. He’s particularly aggrieved that we’ve accused him of pursuing racist policies in government. As readers can also note for themselves, we stand by that accusation.

But we can also sympathise with Qarase that an article on a humble Australian blog site can so dramatically become part of the domestic political debate in Fiji. If any proof were needed of the power of the internet to amplify the smallest voice, then this is it.

Qarase is not only entitled to defend himself but Grubsheet is delighted that he can now do so fully in the Fiji media for the first time in a long time. The Bainimarama government has lifted censorship and a full-blown debate has erupted about the impending discussions on a new constitution and the unilateral abolition of the Great Council of Chiefs. This is how it should be. It’s also Grubsheet’s view that if Laisenia Qarase intends to stand in the promised elections in 2014, his record in government is also a legitimate subject for debate.

Against all evidence to the contrary, he’s now running the line that the SDL has always been a "multiracial party", didn’t disadvantage other citizens in government and that he’s never believed in indigenous paramountcy. Every village pig in Fiji has suddenly sprouted wings and set off over a moonlit lagoon. But again, Qarase is entitled to put his case. And we’re entitled to put ours.

What is not acceptable are the threats to Grubsheet’s personal safety by Qarase’s supporters. These have come via the main anti-government blog site, Coup 4.5, which has been in our sights before for publishing blatantly racist content against the Indo-Fijian minority. These are “journalists” based abroad who not only routinely censor comments they don’t agree with but now facilitate threats of violence against people they don’t agree with. Here’s the first instance, when Coup 4.5 reported Laisenia Qarase’s first press release in response to the original Grubsheet article ...

Read the attacks and response on the Grubsheet blog.

For Laisenia Qarase, the real enemy isn’t Grubsheet. The real enemy is the cancer of intimidation and racism in his own ranks.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Papua's Freeport miners tell their struggle stories


A clip from the documentary Alkinemokiye.

Ika Krismantari

THE VOICES of local workers in the world’s largest gold and copper mine controlled by the US-based mining giant Freeport McMoRan in West Papua can be heard loud and clear in a new documentary that chronicles the biggest strike in the company’s history.

Alkinemokiye is the latest feature documentary from filmmaker Dandhy Dwi Laksono. It captures the fight of 8000 workers for increased wages in what is believed to be the longest and most widely joined strike since the mining company began operations in Indonesia in 1967.
Other West Papuan updates:

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.

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