Let's try to catch up a bit today. “The Civil Service, Statutory Organisations and all arms of Government involved in delivery of public goods and services will continue to function normally despite the abrogation of the 1997 Constitution,” says a Government of Fiji press release.
These are the comments of Commodore J.V. Bainimarama, Prime Minister as he assured that there would be no disruption in the delivery of public goods and services and that to lives of people.
Commodore Bainimarama said that there will be many changes brought about in the coming days and weeks, which will be all for the good of the people and the country as a whole.
He said that the public need not worry about these changes as they are all meant to improve the delivery of public services through simpler processes, quick decision making and improved handling of enquiries and needs of ordinary members of the public.
In response to an April 9 court ruling declaring the military backed government of Frank Bainimarama came to power illegally when he dissolved Parliament and deposed the government of Laisenia Qarase, the country’s President nullified the Fiji's constitution, fired the entire judiciary and appointment himself head of state and the armed forces. He then re-appointed Bainimarama and swore in his entire government.
Bainimarama, Fiji's military leader, came to power in December 2006, he said, to clean up the corrupt Qarase government. He also wanted to replace what he saw as Fiji’s divisive, ethnic-based politics that pits political parties aligned with indigenous Fijians with parties aligned with the Indian ethnic minority, descendants of cane workers brought to Fiji by the British colonial rulers. It was Fiji's fourth coup since 1987, three of which took place to expand the political power of indigenous Fijians.
Before the events of Easter weekend, Fiji had been under intense pressure from neighboring countries and governmental bodies to hold elections, as Bainimarama once promised. However, government supporters maintain that scheduling elections with Fiji's communal-based electoral system will merely perpetrate the country's track record of ethnic-based favoritism in governance.
Bloggers of all stripes are now sifting through the debris of a completely changed political landscape – one that will see the Bainimarama government remain in power until at least 2014.
One blogger has closed up shop for the time being. To another, the situation remains pretty much the same.
The doomsday headline “Fiji military given OK to shoot civilians.” called out to me from UPI.com. I'm not sure what was more jarring, actually. Was it that fear-mongering, sensationalist headline or the fact that UPI.com's tag line is “100 years of journalistic excellence”? Some international media outlets use old video footage of the 2000 coup with soldiers in the streets carrying weapons. I don't believe a tiny “file footage” in the corner of the screen is fair, either.
As an expat, I don't openly comment on any of the politics in the country and for obvious reason. I see positives and negatives in everything anyway and there is also enough noise out there from other sources. However, one of challenges Fiji will continue to face when not enabling open communications with the rest of the world are stories such as the sensationalist one above. I've received well more than a handful of emails and messages from friends in other parts of the world who appear to be getting warped views of what's happening in Suva.
“Are you safe?”, understandably, is the most common question I hear and I still respond with the stock answer I have always used.
“I feel safer here than on the streets of any big city in the world.”
Fiji is a very safe country, even in the face of some rising “petty crime” which include home invasions and robberies. For tourists, though, this is not a risk and the news they are seeing on TV and the warnings from their governments are, frankly, blown well out of proportion. I'm not saying the situation isn't serious, though. It is serious, but things DO NOT feel unstable at all in Suva right now. Could this change? I suppose it could but I'd like to believe it won't. If I felt that there was a real danger, I would not be keeping my kids in school right now.
Because it has no working framework of the constitution, Fiji's new government has ruled through a series of decrees, including the public emergency regulations, which gives extra search, seizure and detention powers to the police. What has made the most news, however, is the new rules for Fiji’s media, which direct government minders to work in editorial offices approving “pro-Fiji” stories and denying stories that negatively portray the President’s abrogation of the constitution. The government claims the rules are temporary measures to insure the media does not publish material that may “give rise to disorder.” The rules enjoy very few supporters within media circles. (Here's what bloggers think.)
I know I covered this issue previously, but this post offers a different take. Loyal Fijian argues a free media is no one's enemy.
Let the media report freely and without censorship. And with the freedom to report freely comes the responsibility to report fairly.
Media freedom is about Economics folks. Media freedom is what made Rupert Murdoch a billionaire. Media freedom is what made Larry Flynt, the publisher of pornography, a billionaire.
Media freedom means money.
The Interim Government accuses the media of being selective in its reporting of employing individuals who have allegiances to political parties or are using their positions to pursue personal agendas.
Loyal Fijian will let the people decide if certain Fiji media outlets at times have been less than balanced due to the influence of certain persons with agendas to push.
Like many media critics when looking at Fiji’s media, the issue of responsibility arises.
With freedom comes responsibility. Can Fiji's media outlets take a good look within themselves and say they are totally dispassionate in their reporting, their journalists don't have “favored” sources or driven by allegiances to political parties or traditional links?
The best thing the Government can do is to remove the censorship and let the media go about its work.
As we here at Loyal Fijian have said all along, the people are smart enough to sense rumour and innuendo from facts .
Bloggers like WhyFijiisCrying and its clone Solivaksasama which sprung up after the 2006 are now totally discredited due to their rumour mongering and mindless slander.
But the best defence against such bias is to let them talk or write, present your own side of the story and move on .Censorship is not the solution.
The move to impose censorship is an admission that the information machinery of the Government is not doing its job as it should. Get better at the game , dont take the ball and go running home. That never made anyone any friends.
Getting reliable news from inside Fiji – even for those living in the country – has been difficult. By most accounts, all foreign journalists have left the country. With the local media mostly quiet regarding political issues, Fiji's political bloggers have been publishing nearly non-stop.
A few quick updates: Fiji’s government has arrested the president of Fiji's Law Society, a long-time critic of Bainimarama. He may have been arrested for comments he made to an Australian reporter, who was later deported.
The government sent troops to the Federal Reserve Bank in downtown Suva and reportedly fired the Central Bank Governor, who had previously sparred with Baininiarama over the state of the nation’s economy.
The Fiji Times reports that one of its photographers was detained by police for an hour, along with a Fiji TV reporter and cameraman, due to their coverage of a peaceful protest by members of Fiji Law Society. (Raw Fiji News has a few tidbits on the protests.)
James Murray, who writes the Views on the News blog at News 3 in New Zealand, reports that people in Fiji can send information via email to foreign journalists who continue to report on the country from afar: email@example.com
The blog at the Soli Vakasama site is also running a defacto forum for those wanting to get their letters to the editor published.
Pat Craddock, a former journalism professor, writes an open letter to Fiji's Prime Minister in Café Pacific blog, wondering what to make out of news by blogs?
So – only good news can be reported. Wow –perhaps the army can try and shut down Al Jazeera, BBC and CNN too? I notice their reporting doesn't praise the army for their actions.
Fiji journalists must be finding it hard to discover what good news there is to report on the army?
Commodore, your actions this week have surely given a new lease of life to Fiji blog sites. For us in NZ – and Oz and elsewhere – where else should we now look for news on Fiji, but through the blogs? I read tonight on a blog site that the army is taking petrol from gas stations without payment – true or untrue? How am I to assess the truth of this comment – not from the Fiji newspapers, surely? They won’t be allowed to print that type of bad news, even if it is true?
So… a wait until possibly 2014 before the citizens of Fiji can vote for the government they want? Most governments voted by the people, would not get that lease of life with long term promises to improve the lives of their citizens. From 2006 until 2014 is eight years… a long time for a visionary leader to prepare policies of political change. Too bloody long.
[Here is a link to the gas station piece.]
Crosbie Walsh, who writes Fiji: The Way It Was, Is, And Can Be is unimpressed by some of the statements coming from New Zealand journalist (and blogger) Michael Field, claiming Bainimarma is “stoking the coup culture,” (something the PM has promised to extinguish), along with former Fiji military Land Force Commander
Jone Baledrokadroka for an op-ed piece which calls Easter weekend’s events a “a naked power grab.”
Most of what I've read and heard, though understandable, seems poorly considered, and the extreme and provocative comments – by Baledrokadroka, Michael Field, one of the Australian judges, and some of the anonymous bloggers – must be condemned for adding fuel to what could develop into a highly dangerous situation.
I think it important to recall earlier emergency regulations that were heavily applied when first announced, but eased back as authorities became better placed to assess the situation.
Let us hope this will be the case again. That will be the time for reasoned comment — and some release of present frustrations. Meanwhile, the fewer inflammatory comments, the better.