#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: Fiji and Australia: two opposing views

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fiji and Australia: two opposing views

New alliances: A worry to the Australian old guard. pics Minfo

A Climate of Intimidation Prevails in Fiji: Jon Fraenkel

In the five years since Fiji’s military strongman, Voreqe Bainimarama, seized power in a coup, he has liquidated parliament, banned meetings of the Great Council of Chiefs and the Methodist Church, dismissed the judiciary and transformed the media into an obedient servant of his government.

In September, an Essential National Industries Decree severely curtailed trade union rights, and several trade unionists have been taken into custody.

Could it be that, despite that poor track record of repression, Bainimarama is gaining public support? In September, the Lowy Institute released a poll claiming that 66 per cent of Fiji citizens now approve of Bainimarama. ‘Twice as popular as Julia Gillard’, crowed Fiji’s chief censor, Sharon Smith-Johns.

Civil society activists within Fiji have condemned the poll as inappropriate, misleading and methodologically flawed. 

Australian government parliamentary secretary for Pacific Island Affairs reasonably asked ‘If you are sitting at home, in a country where a repressive regime has stripped you of human rights and where people do get taken off to barracks and you get a knock on the door and a stranger asks what do you think of the government, what do you think you’d say?’. 

Writing in The Australian on October 6th, the Lowy Institute’s Jenny Hayward-Jones defended the poll as conveying an authentic voice of the Fiji people. 

The 2011 survey, financed by Fiji-born Lowy board member and investment banker Mark Johnson, was carried out by Tebbutt research. It entailed interviews with 1,032 people in urban areas on Viti Levu, Fiji’s main island. The previous such poll, conducted by Tebbutt for the Fiji Times in December 2008, asked respondents to pick their favoured Prime Minister. Deposed Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase emerged as the most preferred leader (with 31 per cent approval) while Bainimarama ran second (at 27 per cent). 

By contrast, the current poll asked a more loaded question: ‘how good a job do you personally think Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama is doing as Prime Minister?’ The resultant disapproval rating of 8 per cent was way below what most surveys of this kind would expect.

How was it possible to conduct such a poll under conditions of severe media censorship? Hayward-Jones claims that Lowy itself did not seek any direct permission from the Fiji government, but doubts remain about whether the survey was devised in such a way as to avoid responses that might prove politically awkward. 

Had the poll yielded a negative verdict, Tebbutt Research – a Fiji-based market research company - would probably have been hounded out of business, and the pollsters incarcerated. Former editor-in-chief at the Fiji Times Russell Hunter - himself a victim of Bainimarama’s deportations of foreign journalists - alleges that during his stewardship Tebbutt Research often declined to conduct surveys where the results might prove contentious. 

Respondents were also asked how ‘good’ a job government was doing as regards education (82 per cent good), transport (71 per cent good) and health (69 per cent good). It was even reported that 59 per cent thought the government was doing a ‘good’ job on the economy, which has contracted by 7.4per cent over the past four years and which has seen investment grind to a virtual halt. 

Respondents reported that government was doing a ‘good’ job in ‘preparing to draft a new constitution’ (53per cent good) and ‘reforming the electoral system (51 per cent good), both tasks that the government itself does not intend to commence undertaking until 2012.

Those responses either show a giant gulf between perception and reality, or that respondents concurred with whatever was put before them, or that they felt intimidated. The headline 66 per cent approval rating was broken down into 75 per cent Fiji Indian support and, more dubiously, 60 per cent backing amongst indigenous Fijians. Only 19 per cent of indigenous Fijians chose Bainimarama as preferred Prime Minister in the 2008 poll. 

Since then, the constitution has been abrogated, and public emergency regulations have become a permanent fixture. Critics of government have been hounded from their jobs, and for the most part silenced. In one notorious case, a senior military officer was overheard denouncing the government while in South Korea, and charged with sedition on his return. In May, he dramatically escaped from Fiji by sea and sought political asylum in neighbouring Tonga.  

A climate of intimidation prevails in post-coup Fiji. What was once a frank and straight-talking society has now become a place where people are very guarded about what they say, and to whom they say it. Yet, five years after the coup, there probably is more support, or at least grudging acquiescence, than many of the critics would like to concede. 

After all, there is no obvious alternative to Bainimarama on the horizon. Deposed Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase has never looked like a politician capable of recapturing power. His predecessor, Fiji Indian leader Mahendra Chaudhry is before the courts on corruption charges. Even the 2008 Tebbutt poll suggested that Chaudhry’s support had slumped.

But if there genuinely is such popular support, why is the Bainimarama government so scared? Why the need to continually renew the public emergency regulations? If Bainimarama and his information secretary believe that they have extensive backing, why not hold immediate elections? In fact, it was awareness of popular hostility that in July 2009 led Bainimarama and his Attorney General, to cancel all dialogue with political parties and put off elections until 2014.

At that time, they also promised resumption of dialogue towards a new constitution in 2012. And 2012 is now nearly upon us. So soon there will be a fresh test of whether Bainimarama.
Jon Fraenkel is a senior research fellow at the Australian National University
An Abbreviated version of this article appeared in The Australian, 14th October 2011. 

Fiji requires our help now: the time is right 

By Anthony Bergin, Richard Herr and Mark Johnson

Doing Business: Fiji and China

Everyone happy but the people
A WATERSHED is looming for Australian-Fiji relations. 
At the end of the month, Julia Gillard will host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth. 

This will be Canberra's significant opportunity to take a new tack on relations with Fiji before that country's government begins the political phase of its roadmap for a return to parliamentary democracy in 2014.

It is now clear that once the process begins, Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama will hold fast to his own schedule just as firmly as he has done with the earlier phases of the roadmap laid down in July 2009.

Australia has failed to make any impression on the course of Fiji's return to democracy since the December 2006 military coup. In fact, Australia largely created the diplomatic vacuum that has given us negligible influence and seriously eroded our standing in the region.
Canberra demands support for its position from the rest of the Pacific community, who are increasingly showing their sympathy for letting Fiji solve its own internal problems.

Worse for Australia's Pacific leadership aspirations, major allies have increasingly drifted away to pursue their rapprochement with Suva. New players, especially China, fill the vacuum created by this acrimonious fracturing of the region's unity.

Jon Fraenkel's recent response (World Commentary, October 14) to the most serious challenge our regional leadership has faced in more than a quarter-century is for Canberra to do nothing to fix our fractured relations with Fiji, and to refrain from any positive steps towards assisting with the restoration of parliamentary democracy.

A recent Lowy Institute poll of political opinions in Fiji found nearly two-thirds support the present government. If the poll is to be believed, Fraenkel asks, why doesn't Bainimarama not hold immediate elections?

The answer is clear: the Fiji government is working to its own schedule. The government has not replaced the racially divisive constitution that contributed so much to the tensions within Fiji over the years. Nor has it begun to put in place a new electoral system to eliminate the race-based voting that perpetuated these tensions.

These and other political changes were never scheduled to begin before next year.

One might have doubts about the time allowed for these changes, but the Bainimarama government will not embrace the restoration of the Great Council of Chiefs or its racial control of important national offices under the 1997 constitution.

If Australia wants to influence Fiji's path to elections and the return to democracy in 2014, the Prime Minister should take positive steps at the Perth CHOGM for the Commonwealth to re-engage with Fiji.

Most of our Pacific island neighbours want this. And Washington has accepted that the best course for the US is to help Fiji get to 2014 successfully.

A year ago, the Fiji government indicated its receptiveness to getting Australian technical assistance with implementing its roadmap without conditions. It is in the interests of Fiji, the region and Australia that we be there to help the Pacific's key hub state at this decisive turning point. (The Australian)


Time to be heard said...

Great to have supporters but unfortunate that the real voice of the Fijian people is not being heard on The Australian. The paper prefers kaivalagi voices to tell the story of Fiji. Wake up The Australian we don't need kaivalagis putting our world and country to rights. We are capable of doing ourself. Please start publishing the indigenous voice. Thank you blogs.Comment edited on request-C4.5

Anonymous said...

if people really concern of their children future act now , remove baini/aryse from power by any means , 2014 election will be a farce and belive me lot of dirty tricks will be on . out 750,000 people there is not a single man who could do this.shame on Fijians,

Anonymous said...

THe people of Fiji DO NOt support this regime and it never will.

Help us get rid of it - PLEASE!

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with the people of Fiji? Too scared to fight for your rights? Will you let these two thieves (Voreqe&Khaiyum) rob you in broad daylight? I am dumbfounded to see what you cannot see!! Will you let these two dictate your lives? I am lost for words!! Please, stand up and fight for the sake of our future generation!

Anonymous said...

Anon@11.05am. Sounds like you support the Chinese doing deals with the government. You wait buddy, the Chinese will take over Fiji, and you would end up crying in the cassava patch.

And please do not refer to Vuaka as a strongman, he's just a pussy being protected by useless pricks in the military.

Anonymous said...

If you followed President's Obama's message to Fiji on the occasion of its Independence Day 2011, you'll recall he stated that his government and people would always offer its hand to the people of Fiji in taking the country forward. It was not a promise to the unelected thugs that consider themselves government under the barrel. At no time did Obama offer assistance to the unelected thugs who continue to hold the country at gun-point. Sir, if you are true to your words and not just another bullshitting Yankee Politician then do something to remove the people from the shackles of oppression which we are currently held under against or wills. Help us stamp out this illegal military regime and evil conspirators NOW!

No apologies said...

The Australian angst is selfish. There should be no confusion here: the people of Fiji have been living under a military dictatorship since 2006 and have been systematically stripped of their rights and the rule of law. There is no out for us because the might of the gun and the dollars (borrowed loans on the back of our children and grandchildren) are keeping the military and those willing to sell their souls and working for government happy enough to help the regime stay in power. We turn to the international community to help us get rid of this government but they are not doing anything real because of their foreign policies. I for one am tired of the Aussie Crawl and the coup apologists.

Anonymous said...

The question Tebbut Research should have asked is..."Do you think Bainimarama is doing a good job at robbing the Nation?"... Of course he is, he has the support of his entire family and everyone else in his pocket like Sharon Smith-Johns and other illegal vulagi vultures feeding off our land at the expense of us docile natured natives.

Anonymous said...

While the people of Veisari will be happy for the $230K they received from Frank's Chinese Business Partners, they need to consider the outcome of their decision. Their land 300,000csm will be excavated. That means the land won't be there after all this what will remain is a huge Chinese Cement Factory, spewing out contaminants on the surrounding communities!
$230K is nothing in compensation for the loss. You people should be getting $230 Million.

Anonymous said...

Please, we have requested twice already not to address Sharon Smith as "Sharon Smith-Johns". Our son died during his marriage to Sharon Smith admist devious circumstances and neither Sharon nor the Fijian public at large should be calling her by our family surname. For one more time, we sincerely request that we do not attach our family name with Sharon Smith ... kerekere vakabibi

Poll Mole said...

The Tebutt poll is being relitigated because it's so widely disputed: in other words it's unreliable. I have just been reading again some of the discussions about the polll and the last one I read before coming to C4.5 was Discombobulated bubu who made an excellent point. An inherent and curious mixture of politiens and inquisitiveness would've resulted in the ordinary Fijian allowing the survey people and answering the survey in similar manner to avoid any difficulties.

paula raqeukai said...

...God will free the people of Fiji from the evils of men who think they can rule this beloved country for their own selfish gains...Glory be to Him...He is our Lord and our Savior...Lord have mercy on them for they do not know what they are doing...but free us from their evil doings...God Bless my beloved Fiji...

Anonymous said...

Good on you Julia Gillard. Please continue your campaign against the "robbers of democracy in Fiji" at the up-coming Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Perth. You and your foreign minister, Mr Kevin Rudd know very well the situation in Fiji. Since 2006 the people of Fiji are being governed at gun-point by an illegal regime. Freedoms have been suppressed.
Other respected leaders will agree with you Ms Gillard, despite those calling for re-engagement, we must stand firm on the issue of illegal governance until democracy is restored in Fiji.

The Oracle said...

Both opinion pieces have some merit and at the same time, both fail to understand that acquiessance is a Pacific thing. A Pacific islander, including Fijians, will not tell you "NO" straight to your face. While Jon Fraenkal's piece goes a long way to pointing out the flaws in the Lowy survey, the second piece is an attempt to convince Australia to accept and deal with a man who raped democracy and who continues to illegaly rule this country - increasingly, with a ruthless fist and highly dubious Decrees.
To add salt to our injuries, the second piece attempts to speak on our (Fiji nationals) behalf, assuming that the majority of us "accept Frank's rule".
If anything, the authors of the second piece should first push for the removal of the PER to enable us, the people of Fiji, to express ourselves freely - without fear of military retribution. Once they've heard us, they can then decide whether their attempts to influence Australian Government thinking is for the benefit of Fiji citizens or for their own self-interests (be it political or economical).
The authors of the second piece also assume (quite arrogantly) that Australia has some kind of "leadership/sherrif" role to play in the region. That's colonialism all over again. Fiji and other Pacific countries should be free to forge new alignments and bilateral relations with whichever country they wish - as Frank Binimarama is doing. The difference, however, is staring us in the face - Fiji needs to pursue these new bilateral relations/ economic links through a DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED government. To Change our Constitution, we also need to be able to do that in a climate which is free from fear of military retribution. Until that happens, all opinion pieces by foreigners should remain that - just opinions.

No Retreat said...

Electronic voter registration machine supplier to be known in November
Publish date/time: 18/10/2011 [12:10]

Share In just about two weeks from now, the government will announce the successful applicant that will supply the Electronic Voter Registration machines.

Acting Prime Minister and Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum gave this update to Switzerland’s Ambassador to Fiji Marion Krupski upon her visit to Fiji.

India will be the country who will supply the Electronic Voter Registration machines.Thats nothing new Sonalevu Khaiyum.....you just tell everybody.

They'll be bribed to rig the election......

Waste of time and money...or they are giving it freely to Fiji.

Khayum remember your days are numbered and thats including the whole lot of the illegal regime...

Khalas Hoige!!!!!

No Retreat said...

Electronic voter registration machine supplier to be known in November
Publish date/time: 18/10/2011 [12:10]

Share In just about two weeks from now, the government will announce the successful applicant that will supply the Electronic Voter Registration machines.

Acting Prime Minister and Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum gave this update to Switzerland’s Ambassador to Fiji Marion Krupski upon her visit to Fiji.

India will be the country who will supply the Electronic Voter Registration machines.Thats nothing new Sonalevu Khaiyum.....you just tell everybody.

They'll be bribed to rig the election......

Waste of time and money...or they are giving it freely to Fiji.

Khayum remember your days are numbered and thats including the whole lot of the illegal regime...

Khalas Hoige!!!!!

The Oracle said...

@anonymous 12:39.
Agree whole-heartedly with you. Sharon is tarnishing Billy (RIP) and the Johns' family name through her unashamed complicity in defending Frank's illegal activities.
If it weren't for Billy's children, close relatives to the Johns family would probably hunt this red-haired fraud down and plant her skinny frame somewhere in Savusavu where old man Eddie can piss on her every chance he gets.
Sharon should have the guts to revert to her maiden name - she was separated from Billy!! Better still, she should just F**K off to where she came from where she is really an unknown (a Joan Doe if you like) - just a face in the 20 million-plus crowd.
May Billy's vu haunt Sharon for the rest of her disgraceful life.

mark manning said...

To me, Fijians today, are no different to the Germans of the 1930's.
@ that point in Germany's history, poverty abounded and jobs were scarce, due in part if not totally, because of Germany's need to recompense other Nations affected by Germany's part in The Great War of 1914 to 1918, commonly referred to as ( World War 1 ).

After many years of poor Government, mismanagement and 3 coups, 1987, 1988 and 2000, Fiji's Economy was stuck in the mud and only a handful of Fijians amassed a fortune, at the expense of their fellow Citizens.

The opportunities which should have been there for Citizens of Fiji, just weren't there and it seemed, were never going to be.

So like Hitler, when Frank came along saying he was going to stop corruption, build roads etc. fijians like the German Citizenry of the 1930's, thought Frank was a God send, not knowing he was basically the Anti Christ.

Perhaps the next time around, Fijians will give their government a chance to catch up and repair the damage done by these criminals, but from what I'm seeing, it seems that Fijians are as prone to the propaganda of the Regime as the Germans were in the 1930's.

Fiji may never recover from the dishonesty and greed which has taken place in this coup of Frank Bainimarama's. His supporters should all hold their heads in shame for what they have helped him do to Fiji and the futures of the Children and Grandchildren of Fiji.

This is not all about money and Politics and greed, a lot of it is about jealousy, power, the quest for Authority and ego.

Indeed, the Germans of the 1930's, made the same mistakes as many fijians are making today.

" He who forgets the past, is bound to repeat it " !

mark manning said...

Will this be the new Fiji :-


There is hope :-

Anonymous said...

What is happening in Fiji has already been completed and achieved in Australia and New Zealand.Its happening all over the world. The army is the tool to achieve their? goals. Its the 1 world order whether you like it or not and no one is going to stop it. All the leaders of the world are working together though they are seen to be opposing. Don't believe the politicians, they are all of them of one mind and are moving forward to the goal. The end of all this has already been decided.

Anonymous said...

Mark Manning with his view on Fijians-and his comaprisons. I have just one simple statement to make for Mark -could you kindly help the Indigenous peoples of Australia. They are now dying from diseases faster than the rate of white Aussies giving birth! A few years ago the White Ausie Govt wanted to renew the leases on Indigenous peoples land in the Northern Territory-when the black owners refused-the Federal Govt stopped all funding! Till to date they still have not been given funding back-and the Indigenous owners are now dying-yes dying from diseases and lack of basic human requirements including shelter,food & water!Please don't come and preach to us about Fiji-the Indigenous Fijians might just be happy with Bainimarama for all you know. Bainimarama might have had a coup but comparing him to Hitler is way way off the mark! If any compasrisons to Hitler is made it should be made against the back drop of what White Australia is still doing to the Blacks in their own home land-killing them off slowy in the 21st century!

Anonymous said...

Mark Manning you once commented that you you were born in England! Pity you don't have some knowledge of English history-it took the English over 800 years of Kingship & Church rule to finally wake up that all was not well!Democracy didn't just happen overnight in England-so why should a Pacific country that was famous for waring tribes up till the late 1890s come to accept it based on your say? Do you see which form of democracy Fiji should have-theres one up in P & G where votes are bought ie is with cash & pigs etc out in the open & nothing to hide , where one person sits down and ticks all the ballot forms for the clan! Maybe we could have the same in Fiji!

Anonymous said...

@Mark Manning...

Bainimarama preaches equality for all Fiji's races and has demonstrated that on many occasions.

Qarase and those in his government preached Fijian (and that is not the current definition of Fijian) dominance above all other races in Fiji.

So who really should you be comparing to Hitler????

Anonymous said...

With electronic voting no one has to go to the polling booth. The current illegal regime will do the voting on your behalf anyway. The final count is already decided just like the recent polling. Good luck Fiji.

Radiolucas said...

@ Anon 12:16am

"Bainimarama preaches equality for all Fiji's races and has demonstrated that on many occasions."

Are you joking? Frank & Co may preach all they like - for all I know, they preach about love, light and goodness but what they PRACTICE is something else.

Torture, summary imprisonment, legislative bullshit and corruption are only a few of their favorite things.

I never cared much for Qarase's politics - but remember - you could have always voted for someone else, with Frank there is no such opportunity - so don't bullshit about racism and nazis.

Frank is a dictator, nothing more, nothing less.

Holler for Fiji said...

Well said The Oracle.

Anonymous said...

Why would the government go to all the trouble of insalling electronic voting to rig a future election. The SDL showed that it was all very simple under the previous system. Just print many more balllot cards and stuff them in the boxes with SDL ticked. There was one constituancy with over 101% voter turnout!!! Ha Ha Ha

Anonymous said...

Electronic voting maybe ok in affluent society-like whare? Most country including Canada and the United States are still doing it in the old ways of people ticking the ballots.If electronic voting is introduced in the next election,i'm not at all opposed to the ideas>Lets start by going back to the poll?

Taukei. said...

Old Navajo saying.

Do not be alarmed or concerned about fools who talk 'colours'.

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