Crosbie Walsh: Netani Rika off to not so ivory tower
During the Vietnam war, anthropologists in northern Thailand and Laos were unsuspectingly passing on information about the Hill Tribes that helped the US war effort. Over a longer time period, banks of audio equipment in laboratories at the East-West Center in Hawaii helped students learn hundreds of languages, many spoken by people in politically unstable areas of interest to American Intelligence. Further back, prestigious colleges at Oxford and Cambridge offered scholarships and training for Britain's Third World Elite, and Harvard produced a worldwide generation of right-thinking economists and businessmen, who we now see got it all wrong.
Further south, in Australia, the National University (ANU) has programmes, scholarships, workshops and conferences to inform and support its government's policies and "win the hearts and minds" of overseas scholars from countries in which Australia has a special interest. Fiji has moved up this list in recent years. It is largely thanks to ANU that we have heard the opinions of ANU academics, Jonathon Fraenkel and Brij Lal, both vociferous opponents of the Bainimarama government. It was ANU that gave former Fiji Land Force commander Jone Baledrokadroka a scholarship to research the military. And it is ANU that has just given former Fiji Times editor-in-chief Netani Rika a scholarship to write up his memoirs.
The Australian reports that Rika will "spend time in Canberra writing his account of the almost four years he has spent contesting military government control of the media." Intrigueingly, Rika said: "We were always willing to print both sides of the story. But the censors allowed only one side. In such cases, the paper spiked the stories altogether to spare readers being misled."
I have little doubt he truly believes this but an independent, objective content analysis of the paper from 2006 on (and before for that matter) would, in my opinion, show most definitely that if both sides were printed, they were never printed equally. I stand by my crude assessment of a 3.5:1 ratio of opposition to government. Content analysis is a research method where qualitative data are measured and quantified, in this case by categorising the frequency, placement, coverage, extent and "bias" of newspaper headings and articles.
Professor Crosbie Walsh is the retired former director of development studies at the University of the South Pacific. His blog is Fiji: The Way Was, Is and Can Be
Scott MacWilliam: 'Fish and chips' wrapping paper
Regarding Netani Rika's move from Fiji to ANU. It is of course pure mythology that universities are or have been ivory towers, if that means unconnected with countries' political economies. This is especially the case where universities see themselves central to the formulation and implementation of government policies, as most do. However, universities are also often complex and diverse institutions: it is not often the case that a homogeneous or monolithic "line" appears over a whole institution.
One part of a university may take one direction, and in the case of the military regime and Australian policy toward Fiji become almost blinkered in pursuing that line, while other academics and parts of the institution take other positions on the same question. Especially where students are post-graduates with considerable employment experience and may even be on leave from important jobs in their home countries, it is unlikely that they will be too greatly influenced by academics who try to sell 'a correct line' against the students' own experiences and views.
As a senior ni-Vanuatu public servant, enrolled in a class in another part of the ANU than that where Netani Rika is to be lodged, said just last year: "I will always be grateful to AusAID, the Australian government and people for the education I am receiving at ANU. However I am also a Melanesian and my loyalties lie back home. We don't agree with Australia and New Zealand on Fiji and the support I have received from AusAID does not change that."
Who knows - Rika's views may even become better informed by contact with a more diverse range of views as are held by other South Pacific people at ANU, of whom there are quite a few who don't agree with Australian policy either. If not, he is unlikely to influence anyone other than those who already concur with him.
As for the "old" Fiji Times from the late 1990s, including when Rika was working there, it was largely just "fish and chips" wrapping paper.
Dr Scott MacWilliam lectures on development policy in the Crawford School of Economics and Government in ANU and was formerly at the University of the South Pacific.
Pictured: Netani Rika (centre) with forner colleagues at the Fiji Times. Photo: FT.
Check out the views on Pacific Scoop of former New Zealand diplomat Gerald McGhie, who is now an independent commentator and who says essentially that Australia and New Zealand should keep a low profile on Fiji and leave it to other Pacific countries to resolve the impasse - their way.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Monday, February 23, 2009
"AN EXTRAORDINARY verbal attack on a neighbour," says Fijilive. While it is recycling a Michael Field take on Stuff.com over a widely circulated article by Savali editor Tupuola Terry Tavita, it is all fairly remarkable non "Pacific Way" stuff. It also signals a hardening of polarised positions against Fiji's Voreqe Bainimarama and increasing regional frustration. According to the Savali interview, Samoan PM Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has slated the military leader for "lying to the Forum" and his "intention of never relinquishing power and returning Fiji to democratic government".
In his breach of diplomacy interview, Tuilaepa says on Australian and NZ travel bans on those linked to the regime:
Only Bainimarama and his guns control the road to democracy in Fiji. Only Bainimarama controls Fiji's return to democratic rule, not the travel bans.On his "backpay" of F$200,000 in arrears:
That's public money. And yet he has been telling everybody that he needs to clean up Fiji.On aid funding for Fiji:
The last time I looked, neither the United Nations nor the Commonwealth have a fund to prop up unelected dictators and coup-installed military regimes. Because that's exactly where any air money will go in Fiji - to propping up Bainimarama and his cronies' military junta, not the common people who need it the most.About putting military personnel in plum civilian government posts:
That's what madmen who appoint themselves to office do. They appoint other madmen to positions of power.On the gagging of the media and suppression of "dissenting voices":
It's a sign of inexperience. A sign of weakness. Every good government needs alternative views to discern its policies. Those actions are reminiscent of Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler. Well, where are they now? And how are they remembered?On the need for the military - the South Pacific's largest force:
Perhaps Bainimarama fears a combined canoe attack from Tuvalu and Kiribati, its closest neighbours. That must be it.Croz Walsh's critical and informed Fiji blog responded to the "inflammatory" Savali interview by touching on Pacific hypocrisy. He pointed out the Samoan leader's own criticised role in eroding customary land tenure and other highly questionable policies in recent years.
In New Zealand, Gerald McGhie, a former diplomat who now chairs the local branch of the global anti-corruption agency Transparency International, is the latest commentator who has publicly criticised NZ policies over Fiji. Writing in the Listener in an article entitled "Fiji's Gordian knot", he warns "strident" NZ against blind faith in elections.
Elections have so far failed to untangle the complex colonial legacy Fiji inherited, and our sometimes strident attitude is not helping the country reach a solution.What Fiji TV viewers didn't see: The recent Media7 programme on Fiji - but minus the crucial "missed Fiji news" item at the beginning - was rebroadcast on ABC's On the Mat programme on Friday and on Fiji Television's Close Up last night.
While both programmes featured the debate with David Robie, Barbara Dreaver and Robert Khan, a significant contextual component was denied viewers. Exactly the sort of problem with partisan media raised by Media7 in the first place. The missing clip can be viewed here.
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