Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Refreshing view on Pacific coverage

Just read David Robie's comments on the TV3 James Murray blog article. I think it is a really refreshing analysis from your side and that the media in NZ should take cue from it. I think sometimes the media forget that the most striking stories of people are found in the aftermath of a disaster - the human spirit that goes into rebuilding lives, the good souls that lend a helping hand - I think these are the sort of stories that leave a greater impression on the minds of people. Pictures of floods etc are eye-catching but they will fade ... a story of human spirit - that's likely to leave a long-lasting mark ...
Thank you David, for your insight - I hope other journalists find it as refreshing as I have.

Reggie Dutt

1 comment:

PMC feedback said...

The Fiji coup cycle
I have just read a note on the e-mail purportedly quoting you as saying that the military government in Fiji "ousted a government that was accused of being racist and corrupt". As for being racist, Frank Bainimarama has been head of the nation's and the Pacific's most ethnically segregated (i.e. planned to be racist) institution, the Fiji army, and during his more than ten years did nothing to change that - even though it would be quite easy to change - I know the techniques used to keep it the way it was.

As for corruption, the military government under Frank Bainimarama is by far the most corrupt government the Pacific has ever seen. The scale of that corruption puts any other corruption in the Pacific in the shadows.

And he said he was taking over because of "bad governance" - but his has been the worst governance the Pacific has ever seen. The people suffer and fear like never before.

The comment that the proposed electoral system is the only way to stop the coup cycle by "having strong cross-cultural support" is, I believe, not well founded. Most electorates are either overwhelmingly Fijian or overwhelmingly Indian and, whatever the formula, the voting is likely to be on ethnic lines.

NZ cannot criticise this, it has ethnic voting and has had for over 100 years. Australia has no ethnic factor in its voting, which ensures that no Aboriginal ever has been, or is ever likely to be, elected to Parliament or have any say in government.

The new system being called "The People's Charter" is the ideal name for a document the drafters of which were headed by a military dictator, who selected his passive bishop - as deputy chair, and then selected most of the members, then had a paper drafted by beneficiaries of the military dictatorship, and had it taken to villages and towns under police and military supervision.

People were pressured to attend, and handed a paper on which they had to write their name and address, and state whether they agreed to the "Charter" or not, and then sign it and hand it back, open, to the police, military or other officer assigned to that task. So he got 93% "support", as any military dictator would. As Wadan Narsey said in the Fiji Times, it is pure garbage.

The key provisions of the charter (much played down in the version for the international press) are for the military to be made even bigger, to have more control, to have a national spy system under the military, for cabinet to have to consult the military commander, and for the military to retain their "representatives" in each government ministry. The military will force the people even poorer to make the military richer and more powerful. The military can stop any person or party they consider "undesirable" (i.e. their opponents) from standing. It is a planned formula for a permanent military dictatorship under the guise of an electoral system.

Ron Crocombe
Cook Islands

Ron Crocombe refers to the TV3 interview on Pacific coverage. The brief comments attributed to me here in this response were in fact part of a wide-ranging interview and not all my comments about one-sided media perspectives were published, as is usual with an interview of this kind.

However, Crocombe’s long response here does himself no favours by producing some sweeping generalisations unsupported by evidence interspersed with frequent personal innuendo. His view of Fiji is already well represented in the media in Australia and New Zealand. My complaint was that other perspectives are effectively blocked preventing a more informed debate. A recent new blog has started a forum for these wider perspectives:

While Crocombe’s comments on the RFMF are largely correct, this was the case before independence and it remained that way under a series of failed political leaders who entrenched a system of privilege and patronage fostered by British colonial rule foundations. It does not automatically follow that just because Voreqe Bainimarama heads a racially segregated military force that makes him a racist. Instead, what is an extraordinary irony is that the head of a deeply conservative military force should embark on “reforms” designed to restore some semblance of a multiracial future based on equity and fairness out of a fundamentally racist context that reached new heights under the Qarase “democracy”.

Realistically, Fiji is run by a military-backed regime. But by global standards it is a benign one in spite of all the rhetoric and hypocrisy about a “free press” and “human rights”. Fortunately, on both count Fiji has some way to go to match the periods of oppression during the Rabuka coups and the Speight anarchy.

Some of the steps taken by the regime have been designed to maintain stability, prevent unrest and a possible counter-coup. This is inevitable given that it is after all a regime. But the regime’s initiative pluses generally go unreported here – the efforts by the regime over renewal of land leases, minimum wages, removal of VAT and squatter resettlement. Efforts on behalf of the grassroots, not the privileged elites.

Crocombe dismisses the “People’s Charter” consultation as "garbage" yet appears to uncritically accept the “public opinion” as mediated by the conservative chiefs and the Methodist Church as being a credible viewpoint.

I am no defender of any military-backed regime. But I believe the public is entitled to a wider range of perspectives and information about Fiji so that there is more informed and critical engagement with New Zealand’s policies towards the Pacific country. Current policies, I believe, will back the regime into a corner and this will be unfortunate for the region. Any decision to suspend Fiji from the Pacific Islands Forum in May would be a disaster and counter-productive - and the result of rank hypocrisy by the region’s politicians.

David Robie
Pacific Media Centre