There is a loophole in our laws through which treasonous acts can be carried out with impunity. This loophole was discovered by the father of coups in Fiji, Mr Sitiveni Rabuka, who got himself immunity from prosecution for the 1987 coups.
Till today, Rabuka can't stop gloating about his cleverness in getting immunity, which is glorified through the weekly opinion columns in the daily media.
George Speight also got himself immunity from prosecution in 2000 - but his immunity came with conditions. Imagine if George Speight had not violated the conditions, he would have been like Sitiveni Rabuka - gloating about his unprosecuted crime every week.
It was no surprise when Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama [pictured] and his comrades secured immunity as a first step, even before they created an interim regime.
They remembered the lesson from Rabuka.
What do we do about this loophole in our laws? It is essential that we have an Executive Head of State with reserve powers that can be utilised in times of emergency. But surely, granting of immunity for treason and takeovers of government should not be a permissible activity for any President.
Rabuka's legacy lives on through the taint on the office of the Fiji President.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
"We know there are a lot of PIs around the world who are dying to watch Kiwi films and that kind of stuff," Will explained. When asked why he kept the establishment of the channel secret, 'Ilolahia told the Pacific Media Centre's Dominika White that he had wanted to wait until his organisation had something concrete. "To be honest, I came here to hear about the competitors. That's why I got up and said it," he said. Under the moniker of Kiwi Television, the new channel will be available at: http://kiwitv.streamstaging.co.nz/ (yet to go live). Check out Will's response.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
In offices they listened and watched as Fiji TV carried the court findings live and radio boomed out around the nation. On the streets they listened. On the island of Laisenia Qarase, people were glued to the live radio broadcast.
It was Judgment Day - and a big one too.
Qarase lost his case. The Fijian Constitution still stands and that’s that.
The President has direct powers to rule. He has used them and he has the right to use them until the next election is ready.
He was given a long lead time – at least no date was hinted at for the election. When the time is ready for the elections, it’s ready.
Bainimarama must be laughing all the way to his office today, dancing and firing guns in the air. The kava bowls will be filled over many times.
So goes the judgment. And there was not implied - but direct criticism - voiced against both Australia and New Zealand for their travel bans against the interim government.
As for the judge who read the judgment, it took him around two hours in all with a break for coffee and biscuits. And was it wordy? – Oh yes.
We had references to precedents in England, Scotland,
the Philippines, Colonial India and World Two in Burma.
I heard the name John Locke and 1688. I lost the plot now and again, and returned to it between my cups of coffee. But then the three judges needed breaks too.
At the end of the judgment, the judge apologised to the various legal counsel for small typographical errors, and said he was would send electronic correct copies to them during the afternoon.
He also gave a gentle barbed reply on trees, conservation and paper to a counsel who asked about getting a corrected printed copy of the judgment.
The Fiji interim regime wasted no time in calling for cooperation and support for its election plans and constitutional legal specialist Professor Bill Hodge, of Auckland University, says many governments previously opposed to the regime can now be expected to recognise the government as legitimate.
Meanwhile, University of the South Pacific political scientist Steve Ratuva has done a handy analysis on the real power plays at work in Fiji - something vastly better than has been seen from the local flacks for months.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
The fall of free-to-air ratings continues apace, and, with it, the vast resources needed to deploy large teams into the battlefield to mount comprehensive audience-gripping coverage. This relentless quest for real-time war drama has much to answer for, shifting increasingly precious resources away from more nuanced and informative reportage.
In Maniaty's view, "big" media is struggling to sustain "comprehensive coverage". He reckons the "smaller-scale, independent output of video journalists" is becoming the new trend-setter.
In other content in PJR, Robbie Robertson reviews two new challenging books on the Pacific (and Asia) media, which should have the flacks talking, while Sarah Baker and Jeanie Benson offer a refreshing take on NZ media reporting of Asian crime - "The suitcase, the samurai sword and the Pumpkin". The edition is jointly published with the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (ACIJ).
Sunday, September 28, 2008
They had absolutely no idea. Few of them knew very much about Fiji, except that it was a South Sea island where they went for a holiday. Very few of them knew much about the political system or the names of the leaders. So it was a surprise for us, and I think it was a big learning experience for the Australian and New Zealand journalists. The NZ journalists had a little more knowledge about Fiji than the Australians, because NZ had closer contacts. Fiji got a lot of coverage on New Zealand radio and in NZ newspapers even before the [1987 Rabuka] coup. But Australian newspapers never reported anything that happened in Fiji, as far as I remember, unless it was something sensational.Has anything changed that much? Picture: Mason/Pacific Journalism Review
Sunday, September 21, 2008
And now the Fiji Sun is idolising itself for the muckraking feat of their absentee award winners - publisher Russell Hunter and investigative writer Victor Lal. Hunter, booted out by the Fiji military-backed regime in late February, and UK-based Lal, were honoured at the annual FAME media awards in Suva at the weekend over the inquiry into Mahendra Chaudhry's controversial offshore accounts and tax issues. The judges said: "Mr Hunter’s leadership and support for Mr Lal and the Sun’s editorial team provided the professional context for what is arguably the best example of investigative journalism in the history of the Fiji media." No doubt this was an excellent piece of investigative journalism worthy of an award. (And The Fiji Times also deserved recognition its own parallel investigation and naming the then accused minister - leading to publisher Evan Hannah also being deported.) But to devote the entire front page to a back-slapping effort is over the top coverage for any newspaper. News or merely PR hype? And there is another dimension to this saga, as former Fiji Daily Post publisher Ranjit Singh rightly points out, in that the Fiji media never pursued the corrupt practices of the Qarase government with the same zeal reserved for Chaudhry. Cafe Pacific would also take issue with "arguably the best example of investigative journalism" in Fiji claim.
There have been several muckraking achievements over the years in Fiji. But the dearth of investigative work in recent years has masked this. What about Yashwant Gaunder and The Review's dogged investigation of the National Bank of Fiji, for example? Have our scribes forgotten about this already? Three leading Australian investigative journalists - Wendy Bacon, Peter Cronau and David McKnight - had this to say back in 1996 when they awarded the first Pacific Investigative Journalism award to The Review for its July 1995 edition:
The article pieced together the maze of relevant facts, unearthed new information, and interviewed major players in the matter, to provide the reader with a compelling account of corruption and incompetence within a country's major financial institution. The journalist used a range of investigative techniques from relentless pursuit of a wide range of sources, to researching companies and individuals associated with the bank. The story added to the public understanding of a major political and business crisis in Fiji society.
As one Fiji newshound noted today about the ongoing significance of that report into Fiji corruption (backgrounded well in a Pacific context by lawyer Richard Naidu):
This was the first and best example of investigative journalism in Fiji. The Review obtained and published the ‘confidential’ Aidney-Dickson report on the National Bank of Fiji. Through the publication of the report, the nation came to know that their national bank was technically bankrupt. The Review published an exhaustive, 14-page account. It also publicised the full list of debtors and amounts owed. Businessmen, politicians and relatives and clients of the bank’s employees had been fleecing the institution unnoticed. The names of companies and individuals read like a "who's who" list in Fiji and created a huge furore. The subsequent loss of Rabuka’s SVT government in the 1999 election was partly due to the scandal. Losses eventually amounted to more than $350 million. The economy has never quite recovered.
A disappointing aspect about the media's performance in reporting the FAME awards is that while they are self-congratulatory about their own successes, they're reluctant to give credit where credit is due to their rivals. Not one newspaper (or radio station or website) has given a satisfactory overview of the awards. The Fiji Media Council ought to step in and run a "neutral" news report on its website to be fair to everyone. (Only the 2007 winners were listed on their website when checked today).
Other key winners:
Print Journalist of the Year- Stanley Simpson
Radio Journalist of the Year- Vijay Narayan
Television Journalist of the Year- Anish Chand
Business Journalist of the Year- Stanley Simpson
Student Journalist of the Year- Riteshni Singh/Nanise Nawalowalo
Best News Website - The Fiji Times