FBC News has revealed this morning that Fiji will be the data collection hub for India's $127 million Mars orbiter mission, due to be launched at the end of this month.
18 top scientist and engineers from India's International Space Research Organisation are reported to be in the country to identify specified destination points from which two ships will monitor the mission.
But much of the shine over Fiji being the Pacific hub for the mission, has been dulled by the cold reality of its reputation as a pariah state because of the military dictatorship, with its famed water today being criticised as having no place among the elite category, such as Evian.
In an article in the New Zealand Herald titled Does Fiji Water
|Ongoing problems: Fiji Airways. pic Truth for Fiji|
She goes on to say that while celebrities like Paris Hilton and world leaders like Barack Obama drink it and Fiji Water waxes lyric about the process used to collect the liquid nectar, World Nomads reports: "There are two types of Fiji water; ... the ubiquitous bottled goodness and ... the stuff that comes out of the nation's taps, sometimes with shells, frogs and invisible typhoid and gastroenteritis bacteria ... many Fijians have to make do with cracked, broken and contaminated water pipes and a supply which is often polluted after heavy rains."
And again: "But unlike other nations that export their water, Fiji is a developing country and the reality of life there isn't consistent with all that pristine imagery."
Bridgeman refers to an article by the American magazine, Mother Jones, which says: "Nowhere in Fiji Water's glossy marketing materials will you find reference to the typhoid outbreaks that plague Fijians because of the island's faulty water supplies." It also paints a picture of corporate greed (noting the "entities that Fiji water ... set up in tax havens like the Cayman Islands and Luxembourg") and hypocrisy (as evidenced by "the fact that its signature bottle is made from Chinese plastic in a diesel-fueled plant and hauled thousands of miles to its ecoconscious consumers").
Again: "Fiji Water: So cool, so fresh, so bad for the environment? took up the theme. While the company's US-based owners sell "Fiji's best, cleanest water at a huge profit" to well-heeled customers overseas "the people of Fiji suffer under terrible water conditions that have led to outbreaks of typhoid and parasitic infections".
"It was reported in Fiji Water accused of environmentally misleading claims: "Fiji Water enjoys zero tax and when the government tried to impose one ... it [the company] threatened to shut down its factories and move them abroad." It's surely the final insult to discover this company pays no tax in a nation which lacks the infrastructure to supply its own people with safe drinking water.
"Bottled water has long been frowned upon. Symbolic of all that is wasteful and shallow in our consumer-driven culture, it's unnecessary, expensive - and its packaging is bad for the environment. Yet it's convenient too if you're out and about or on the road. But the question remains: is some bottled water worse than others? Is Fiji water so tainted with moral, political and economic issues that it leaves a bad taste in the mouth of whoever drinks it?"
Bridgeman ends the article with the poser: What's your view on Fiji water? Is it exploiting a fragile nation? Or is it providing jobs and a boost to the local economy?"
Debate is underway on 'Fiji Water, the epitome of cool' despite it being imported from a military dictatorship, but one commentator has already zeroed in with this: "Fiji water is just another example in a country where the difference between the have's and have not's is extreme."
The renewed debate and the Mars mission is a very good example of where it's at for Fiji: the regime glories in what it considers opportunities and achievements and raised international profile but it can't get away from the fact it is a military dictatorship and lacks credibility in the eyes of many quarters.
Hence the decision by the European Union to funnel 4 million dollars of training funds for the Fiji sugar industry through the Australian Government’s Australia-Pacific Technical College instead of Fiji as preferred by the regime.
International quarters have supported the country where it can, but it must continue to be cautious about the Frank Bainimarama dictatorship, which only recently, among other things, awarded itself a massive pay rise, and promulgated a Constitution unsanctioned by the people of Fiji, many of whom struggle to live on wages of just $2 an hour while the regime fancies itself as the leader of the Pacific but can't solve the ongoing problems at the national airline.