Saturday, August 11, 2012

Cheap shot Fiji website takes another beating

How the Fiji Sun reported the SDL submission on Friday, August 10.
COUP 4.5 has hardly been the website to go when seeking informed and dispassionate background as the country goes through momentous and controversial changes leading into the 2014 elections. But this week it took another beating at the hands of Fiji-born and award-winning journalist Graham Davis. And a few news organisations took a credibility drubbing as well. This was part of the summing up on the Davis blog Grubsheet:

DYING OF SHAME By Graham Davis

It’s taken five days for the main anti-regime news website, Coup Four and a Half, to report that the SDL – the party of the deposed government of Laisenia Qarase – is advocating that Fiji become a Christian state. News that a delegation led by the SDL president, Solomoni Naivalu, had made a submission to this effect to the Constitutional Commission broke last Monday.

But while Coup 4.5 has been quick to post other items – including an Amnesty International report critical of Fiji – it greeted the disclosure of the SDL submission with total silence. Finally on Saturday morning, it posted this brief item:
SDL to front regarding the Naivalu submission.
Nothing like the whiff of racism and homophobia to get people stirring the pot again but given Fiji’s complicated history, it is not surprising.
A submission was made to the Constitution Commission this week on behalf of the SDL Party, by Solomon Naivalu and others.
That submission calls for:
1) Fiji to be declared a Christian state
2) Fiji be the official language of the country
3) i-taukei to be known only as Fijian
4) References to sexual orientation removed from human rights laws.
Coupfourpointfive understands despite this presentation to the Yash Ghai team, the SDL Party has not yet made an official submission.
Apart from the extraordinary first sentence that tries to spin the story back on its critics, the anonymous so-called journalists behind Coup 4.5 also aren’t telling the full story. They know – because Naivalu has confirmed it – that this submission and others like it are being presented by SDL constituency committees as a prelude to the main SDL submission due next month.

Naivalu has described it as a summary of the main submission. In other words, all these provisions will be included in a more detailed document. But you won’t be reading this on Coup 4.5, a website with only a passing acquaintance with the truth if that truth doesn’t suit its own agenda.
It’s definitely a case of selective reporting. Which proves that the so called “pro-democracy”, anti-regime elements of the international diaspora are having huge trouble coming to terms with the revelation. It’s clearly such a major embarrassment – a sudden woopsy of elephantine proportions – that they’re just hoping it will go away. Coup 4.5 is clearly struggling with what to say to its multiracial audience, which is routinely treated to contributions from Indo-Fijian anti-regime agitators like Wadan Narsey and Victor Lal.

After all, the party it supports wants to make Hindus and Muslims in Fiji bow to an exclusively Christian form of government. Presumably a Methodist theocracy – given the grassroots membership of the SDL – and the equivalent of an Islamic state elsewhere.

From where Grubsheet sits at week’s end, even some of the SDL’s strongest supporters seem to be dying of shame. They’re being asked to support not only a Christian state, but Fijian as the official language, an end to dual citizenship, only the i’Taukei to be identified as Fijians and an end to the constitutional protection of the gay and lesbian community. No wonder they want to pass by pretending that the stinking parcel of ordure that the SDL has suddenly dumped on the pavement has nothing to do with them. But they can’t ignore it for much longer. Next month, Coup 4.5 will have to report the main SDL submission whether it likes it or not or lose what remaining credibility it has. Which isn’t much.

Strange too, that having run two separate reports that there was “confusion” over whether the SDL had made a submission calling for a Christian state, that Radio Australia has chosen not to report Naivalu’s confirmation. Another case of selective reporting from the Australian public broadcaster? 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Stade Français surprise Pumas in rugby upset

Stade Français scrumhalf Julian Dupuy fires off a pass during the win over the Pumas. Image: Rugby365
CAFÉ PACIFIC departs from its usual socio-political media fare for another rugby interlude. This time to mark the shock victory by the French club side Stade Français over the national Argentinian rugby side Pumas preparing for the new-look four nations Rugby Championship against the All Blacks, Springboks and Wallabies. As nothing has appeared on the English language wires on the weekend game in Buenos Aires – but hundreds of items in French and Spanish - here is a translated brief update from the website:
What a victory! To prepare for the forthcoming Four Nations championship, Argentina chose Stade Français as its sparring partner. And favourites Argentina have been trumped! In front of about 25,000 people in a magnificent atmosphere at the Vélèz Sarsfield Stadium, the Parisian club won 25-21. The result reflected a strong comeback by Stade Français in the last quarter of the game. “It’s an incredible victory,” Stade Français captain Sergio Parisse told ESPN. “We knew that these two matches against the Pumas were going to be difficult, but we have seen a great rugby match in this first game.”
The Pumas led 16-12 at halftime and scored two tries to one. The game marked the return of Juan Martin Hernandez as the Pumas flyhalf, who kicked three penalties and converted a try by Horacio Agulla in the first half. Stade scrumhalf Julian Dupuy, who played in a French victory over the All Blacks in Dunedin in 2009, replied with four penalties. Juan Imhoff added another try for the Pumas in the second half. But a converted Stade try by Laurent Sempere signalled a brilliant fightback 10 minutes from the end of the game. Two penalties by Jérémy Sinzelle sealed the win. Veteran Pumas pivot Felipe Contepomi played at flyhalf for Stade Francais.

The Pumas play Stade Français again next weekend before playing South Africa at Newlands in Capetown on August 18. Stade finished seventh in the French Top 14 last season. In June, France beat the Pumas 49-10 in the second test in Les Bleus' first victory in Argentina for more than a decade.

POSTSCRIPT: The Pumas followed up with a 31-17 (14-7) victory over Stade Français the following weekend and now face the Springboks in their first championship match at Newlands next Saturday.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Sex, Spooks and Wikileaks: Assange and Swedish justice

Photo: Ali Bell
A colleague and Broadsword columnist on the Pacific Media Centre Online now lives in Stockholm. She has been taking a keen interest in the Wikileaks and Julian Assange extradition case.  She has some interesting insights. Check out her introductory thoughts here and then read the rest of the article at PMC Online.

By Ali Bell

I have been asked so many times by folk in New Zealand what Swedes make of the Assange case, I thought it would be clarifying to put it together in an article, but crystal clear it isn't. “The truth” might be out there but nowhere I can swear by.

So much of what is reported is speculation, rumour and online leaks, following it is like following a plot more convoluted than an episode of TV's Spooks, with just as many possible inside governmental plots and backstage international alliances, with attractive “stock characters” as sexy Swedish female patsies or (least likely) honeytrapping spies, and with secrecy in every phonecall nook and governmental-memo cranny.

Thrown in to boot – a momentous hot potato like Wikileaks but with a hard-to-warm-to protagonist, and on top of all this a sexual-crimes case that has us all gobsmacked (including at least one of the victims) and set it in one of the most socio-politically idealistic but judicially flawed countries in the Western world – it would be an enthralling TV show indeed.  24  (or in this case 23 months and counting) eat your heart out.

But it hasn't been 24 hours, and we are getting media fatigue – I know I am – from the case. How long can Assange hang out in the Ecuadorian embassy in London after all?

No Swede I have talked to believes this rape/sex crimes charge comes from a genuine wish to clean up the world for women's sexual safety. (Rapes in Sweden can be as difficult as other Western countries to get a conviction for.)

Everyone mentions the timing of the charges as being far too convenient (in order to get Assange into custody here), and no-one doubts, erroneously or not, that the Swedes intend to hand him over to the Americans and that Assange has every reason to fear this.

It must be noted that the public prosecutor in charge of this case vehemently denies that this is Sweden's intention.

What we do know is there were leaks everywhere – and not just from Assange's condoms.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Ouvéa massacre film gripping tale of betrayal and political opportunism

Kanak militant leader Alphonse Dianou … “played superbly by his cousin Iabe Lapacas”. Image: Rebellion
WHEN THE headlines hit France in April 1988 about the latest saga in “les évènements” down under in New Caledonia, filmmaker Mathieu Kassovitz was just 18. He remembers the gritty images of the Gossanna cave siege on television.

Indigenous Kanaks had massacred a quartet of gendarmes with machetes and shotguns and taken 27 others hostage.

There were also false reports of alleged decapitations and rape on Ouvéa in the remote Loyalty Islands.

But 13 years ago, Kassovitz’s father handed him the League of Human Rights report on the cave siege and he read the chilling real story for the first time.

A French military force of some 300 had been deployed in a retaliatory “invasion” of the island and the report detailed atrocities and summary executions that had left 19 Kanak hostage-takers dead in a dawn assault on 5 May 1988.

Kassovitz (La Haîne and Café au Lait) noted then how an elite police counter-terrorism unit negotiator, Captain Philippe Legorjus of the CIGN, was a central character in the disturbing events.

“I knew then there was the material for a wonderful movie and the script was virtually written,” Kassovitz recalled in a Femail interview. “The dramatic structure was in the report of those 10 days.”

Director Mathieu Kassovitz as the negotiator Captain Philippe Legorjus … “inspirational and credible”. Image: Rebellion
Many obstacles
On his first trip to Ouvéa to explore the possibility of making the movie, it seemed many obstacles could block getting such a project off the ground.

“Ten years had passed but people were still withdrawn into their grief. The subject was tabu. There had been no closure,” he says.

“There was a lot of religious and political in-fighting within the Kanak community.”

A decade on and 25 film scripts later, against all the odds and being forced to make the film on the French Polynesian island of Anaa instead of Ouvéa, a courageous 136min testimony to the Kanak struggle and search for justice has been finally achieved.

The film was released in France last November with the title L’Order et La Morale – a play on words from the title of the Legorjus autobiography, La Morale et l’Action, and on a statement by the hated Minister of Overseas Territories Bernard Pons, who said rather cynically: “Sometimes some deaths are necessary to uphold order and morality.”

Last night, the gripping docudrama was screened for the first time at the New Zealand International Film Festival – under the English-language title Rebellion, which loses the nuances of the French name.

But the film was never shown in New Caledonia on general release in the largest cinema chain. The Pacific territory's French operator refused to screen it.

Smaller cinemas played the film to packed audiences, both Kanak and French.

Inspirational performances
The movie succeeds with the inspirational and credible performances of both director Kassovitz as the frustrated but professional lead character Legorjus – who tried hard to seek a peaceful solution to the hostage crisis – and the Kanak pro-independence militant leader Alphonse Dianou, played superbly by his cousin Iabe Lapacas, aged only six at the time of the tragedy.

Negotiator Legorjus – who is also taken captive – and Dianou ironically form a trusting bond of fraternity and understanding and the French officer is released in a bid to broker a deal.

But tension builds as the film covers the 10 days of negotiations until the expediency of the power struggle between rightwing Prime Minister Jacques Chirac and socialist President François Mitterrand in Paris over the imminent outcome of the presidential elections takes over. Mitterrand calls for negotiations – but in reality orders the full catastrophe assault on the cave to free the hostages.

He wins the election.

Legorjus feels betrayed and subsequently resigns from the elite force after the assault. Dianou feels betrayed and is horrendously allowed to die from his wounds from the cave firefight.

Other Kanak prisoners were simply killed in cold blood.

And the Kanak community feel betrayed by both Legorjus and the pro-independence FLNKS. This sense of betrayal ultimately led to the assassination of charismatic FLNKS leader Jean-Marie Tjibaou and his deputy Yéiwene Yéiwene a year later in a ceremony marking the anniversary of the martyrs.

History lesson
Pastor Djubelly Wea, whose character features in the film giving Legorjus a Kanak history lesson while manacled to a coconut tree, was the assassin. He never forgave the FLNKS leadership for failing to negotiate on their behalf. (Although the FLNKS villain portrayed in the film is Franck Wahuzue).

Wea (played by relative Macki Wea) in turn was gunned down by Tjibaou’s bodyguard.

Having reported on the Kanak independence struggle for several years, watching Rebellion was an emotional rollercoaster for me. (In fact, I shared a hotel room in Manila at a “peace brigade” conference with Wea just months before the assassination).

Gossanna cave was tabu – and the film portrays traditional “custom” and beliefs very evocatively. In Kanak tradition, a promise made face-to-face is never broken.

Legorjus promised that the militants that they would live, a pledge that his superiors sabotaged for political capital. 

I don’t believe the militants ever intended to harm their captives – they were simply negotiating leverage after things went wrong in the Fayaoué hostage-taking. In fact, as portrayed in the film, the hostages were about to be freed anyway.

At the time, I wrote an account in my book Blood on their Banner – the blood being that symbolised by the Kanak flag as being shed by the martyrs of more than a century of French rule.

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