Bainimarama attacks opposition ‘lies’ for promoting Fiji ethnic hatred

Fiji Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama giving a public address. Image: The Fiji Times File

By RNZ Pacific

Fiji’s prime minister Voreqe Bainimarama has again hit out at opposition parties, calling them liars and accusing them of sowing division in the ethnically diverse country.

Bainimarama devoted much of his speech at the opening of a provincial council meeting in Fiji’s west to sharp criticism of his opponents.

He accused them of infighting, peddling lies and promoting hatred between different religious and ethnic communities.

In his most critical speech yet during election year, Bainimarama spoke out against talk of a Muslim or Chinese “takeover” of Fiji.

He said it made him angry to hear of Muslims being pitted against Hindus and provincialism in the indigenous iTaukei community.

Sayed-Khaiyum defended
He defended the Muslim Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, who he said had made great contributions to Fiji’s development and was a trusted partner and friend.

-Partners-

Bainimarama said Fiji Muslims, like every other citizen, were an integral part of the nation.

He said there was no chance of a Chinese takeover in Fiji and Fiji owed China only 10.6 percent of total national debt.

The prime minister said his government had delivered genuine change and that would be seen in the budget due to be delivered today.

With the election date still to be announced, Bainimarama urged people to use their vote wisely.

The Pacific Media Centre has a content sharing partnership with RNZ Pacific.

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Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

NZ urgently needs to take more Rohingya refugees

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: NZ urgently needs to take more Rohingya refugees

Protests against the Rohingya “genocide” have spread globally. With more than 1 million Ronhinga refugees in Bangladash, the authors argue that New Zealand needs to act now and take in more. Image: Clickittefaq

OPINION: By Sharon Harvey and Sorowar Chowdhury

The plight of the Rohingya people has hit the international headlines again. Following the August clashes in Rakhine State between Myanmar police and army and an armed opposition group, Myanmar has seen an accelerated exodus of Rohingya people into Bangladesh.

There are estimated to be about one million Rohingya in Bangladesh with between 500,000 to 700,000 left in Myanmar. Moreover, since the late 1970s, 350,000 Rohingya have fled to Pakistan, 200,000 to Saudi Arabia and 150,000 to Malaysia to escape persecution.

Others are in Thailand and countries of resettlement such as New Zealand and Australia.

The most recent situation is so tragic that a recent Times Higher Education article called for some of the world’s top universities to cease educational partnerships in Myanmar until human rights abuses, especially towards the Rohingya people have ceased.

Rohingya are Muslims living in Northern Rakhine State (formerly Arakan) in Myanmar (formerly Burma) who constitute an ethnic, linguistic and religious minority. They were stripped of citizenship in 1982 and, subsequently, have been the victims of severe discrimination and persecution.

For the last few years, there has been evidence of Rohingya risking their lives and fleeing Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh and other countries. In August this year, with the insurgence of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, the Myanmar army began a “clearance operation”, characterised as “ethnic cleansing” by the United Nations, that lasted for several weeks.

-Partners-

Amnesty International published a report on October 18 claiming the Myanmar Army operation which involved “widespread and unlawful killing” including rape and other sexual violence and the burning of Rohingya villages, constituted “serious human rights violations” and “crimes against humanity”.

Tragic situation
The situation is tragic and needs urgent international attention.

The underlying problem for the Rohingya people is that Myanmar refuses to accept they are a recognisable ethnic minority and therefore citizens of Myanmar.

While scholars are divided over the Rohingya’s earliest settlement in Rakhine, the 2017 Advisory Commission on Rakhine State led by former United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Kofi Annan, maintained the Rohingya people are an integrated population of Muslims who have lived in Rakhine since at least the Kingdom of Mrauk U, the final Rakhine kingdom (1429-1775), and possibly 600 years earlier.

Others are 19th and 20th-century migrants from Bangladesh and West Bengal of India.

In any case, all Rohingya have been living in Rakhine state for at least several generations and many of them much, much longer. To put this into perspective, Rohingya have been living in Northern Rakhine in some cases perhaps before the Māori settlement of Aotearoa and at least as long as European settlement here.

Moreover, in light of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights conventions relating to statelessness (Article 3) and reduction of statelessness (Article 1), the Rohingya people are entitled to citizenship, their human rights should be upheld, and they are entitled to non-discrimination.

Above all, in no way ought they or anyone else be the victims of ethnic cleansing.

From the UNHCR’s perspective, there are three durable solutions for refugees: repatriation, local integration, and resettlement.

Since Bangladesh is already hosting close to a million Rohingya and is a low-middle income country, it may not be feasible to integrate all the new Rohingya who have fled Rakhine state since August.

Repatriation very slow
As for repatriation, Bangladesh and Myanmar recently agreed to form a joint working group by the end of November. However, with current documentation issues outstanding for the Rohingya, repatriation could take a very long time.

In the meantime, global leaders, including from the United States, European Union, and UN Security Council, have expressed extreme concern over the Rohingya situation. International pressure on Myanmar needs to be reinforced to expedite the repatriation.

Regarding resettlement, although Bangladesh did not ratify the 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol, it started a third-country resettlement programme in 2006 and this continued until the Bangladeshi government suspended it in November 2010.

However UNHCR, being the global refugee-resettling facilitator, may approach Bangladesh and mediate with refugee-resettling countries to open a special quota for the Rohingya and extend the opportunity to resettle them in third countries.

Because New Zealand is a refugee resettling country and some Rohingya have been successfully resettled here, New Zealand needs to urgently create provision for a special intake of Rohingya refugees, as it has done recently for the Syrian refugees.

The new government has the opportunity to demonstrate its credibility to the world by extending compassion to a community in deep crisis and thereby upholding Labour’s election slogan “Let’s do this”.

Associate Professor Sharon Harvey is head of the school of language and culture at Auckland University of Technology. Sorowar Chowdhury, a PhD student from Bangladesh, is researching the resettlement of Rohingya in New Zealand. This article has been republished by Asia Pacific Report with the permission of the authors and was originally published by The New Zealand Herald.

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Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

Febriana Firdaus wins inaugural Pogau award for courage in journalism

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Febriana Firdaus wins inaugural Pogau award for courage in journalism

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

Jakarta has a new award for courage in journalism honouring West Papuan editor Oktovianus Pogau, who died last year. The inaugural award has been made to reporter Febriana Firdaus, who has extensively covered human rights abuses in Indonesia, says the Pantau Foundation.

“We want to honour our colleague, Oktovianus Pogau, a smart and courageous journalist, who edited Suara Papua news and highlighted human rights reporting. He passed away at a very young age – just 23 years old. We want to honor his legacy by establishing this Oktovianus Pogau award,” said Imam Shofwan, chairman of the Pantau Foundation in a speech to a small gathering at his office.

The Pantau Foundation selected Febriana Firdaus, a Jakarta journalist, to receive the inaugural award.

Firdaus covered Indonesia’s efforts to deal with the 1965-1966 massacres, disappearances and arbitrary detentions. She also covered discrimination, intimidation, and violence against the LGBT community in Indonesia.

“LGBT is a very sensitive subject in Indonesia where many religious communities, including Muslim organisations, still consider homosexuality a psychological disorder. Febriana Firdaus is courageous to stand up for LGBT, to affirm that LGBT is nature, and to expose their side of the story,” said Shofwan.

Firdaus was born in 1983 in Kalisat, a small town in eastern Java, and graduated from Airlangga University in Surabaya in 2007. She has worked for Jawa Pos daily, Tempo magazine and Rappler Online. She is currently a freelance journalist.

Atmakusumah Astraatmadja, a former chairman of Indonesia’s Press Council and himself an award-winning journalist, presented the award to Firdaus, welcoming the launch of the award and congratulating Firdaus.

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‘Proto-fascism era’
Allan Nairn, another award-winning journalist based in New York, gave a speech, talking about courage in journalism in Trump’s “proto-fascism era.”

Nairn spoke about the challenges the press faced in covering a president like Donald Trump, who lies constantly yet was also hugely entertaining.

Nairn noted that the US provides a warning to Indonesia because the same proto-fascists that rose to power in the US were also trying to achieve power in Indonesia, although it was not clear whether they would succeed.

On her blog, Firdaus wrote, “This award is not about me or other future winners. This is a gentle reminder of the name Okto Pogau but it’s also more than about his name. His name represents the unsolved human rights abuses in Papua.

“Every year this award will always remind us about the human rights abuses never addressed in Indonesia since the 1965 massacre.”

Oktovianus Pogau was born in Sugapa in the Central Highlands on 5 August 1992 and died on 31 January 2016 in Jayapura.

He won an Indonesian writing competition when he was 14 years old, letting him to travel away from his native West Papua and to take part in a writing course in Yogyakarta, Java Island. He learned WordPress and created his own blog when he was 16 years old. He moved to Jakarta in 2010, studying international relations and becoming a freelance journalist.

Peaceful gathering
In October 2011, he covered a peaceful gathering of thousands of Papuan men and women in Jayapura, discussing their political aspiration to be independent from Indonesia.

Indonesian police used excessive force to disperse them. They fired warning shots, beating and kicking indigenous Papuans. Three men died of gunshot wounds, around 600 were detained and five of their leaders were tried and sentenced to three years imprisonment.

Pogau was upset when seeing that most Indonesian media did not proportionally cover the abuses. He decided to set up Suara Papua (Papuan Voice) on 10 December 2011 — on  international human rights day — to cover rights abuses in West Papua. He made Suara Papua a platform for young Papuans to report and to write their stories.

Pogau also engaged his audience with his sharp political analysis. He used his knowledge and networks to advocate for civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights for ethnic Papuans.

He was also sympathetic to the National Committee of West Papua, a large Papuan youth organisation, which is campaigning for a referendum in West Papua.

In October 2012, when he was covering one of their rallies in Manokwari, he was beaten on a street corner. Several police officers stopped him from taking photos. He suffered bruises and complained.

The West Papua police later apologised but his union, Indonesia’s Alliance of Independent Journalists, refused to help him, arguing that Pogau was also an activist and declaring he had crossed the line between journalism and activism.

Restriction on foreign journalists
Pogau wrote extensively about the restriction on foreign journalists visiting West Papua. He protested against the discrimination against indigenous Papuan journalists and the intensive use of journalists, both Indonesian and Papuan, to be military and police informers.

He indirectly contributed to President Joko Widodo in May 2015 declaring the Indonesian bureaucracy would stop restrictions on foreign journalists covering West Papua.

Jokowi’s command has not been fulfilled completely. He travelled to the US in December 2015, writing about African-Americans dealing with violence and about the similarity of the harsh treatment of Papuans.

The jurors of the award included Alexander Mering (Kampong Journalism Movement in Pontianak, Kalimantan), Andreas Harsono (researcher at Human Rights Watch in Jakarta, Java), Coen Husain Pontoh (chief editor at Indo Progress news portal in New York), Made Ali (environmentalist at Jikalahari in Pekanbaru, Sumatra), Yuliana Lantipo (editor at Jubi daily in Jayapura, West Papua).

The mandate of this award is to exclude a financial gift and a generous ceremony, hoping that it will be sustainable and making jurors concentrate only in selecting a winner. The award is to be announced every year on January 31.

When presenting the award, Imam Shofwan talked about his personal experience with Pogau: “Once he called me on my mobile and I heard gunshots in the background. I told him to run but he kept on talking, asking me to tweet. He continuously tried to bring out rights abuses in Papua.

“He died young but his courage should inspire other journalists.”

Febriana Firdaus and the Pantau award [Bahasa]

Colourful, vibrant Aotearoa rally condemns Trump’s ‘racist, Islamophobic’ bans

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Colourful, vibrant Aotearoa rally condemns Trump’s ‘racist, Islamophobic’ bans

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

Video and images by the Pacific Media Centre’s Del Abcede. Video: Café Pacific

More than 2000 people have taken part in a colourful and vibrant  “Aotearoa Against Muslim Ban” march in New Zealand’s largest city to condemn the “racist and Islamophobic” immigration bans ordered by US President Trump.

The protest rally was held in Auckland’s Aotea Square yesterday in solidarity with those affected by President Trump’s executive orders to implement a 90-day ban on people from seven Muslim majority countries and 120 day ban on all refugees, with an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees.

The Aotearoa Against Muslim Ban coalition condemned the US bans ordered by Trump.

“These border policies are racist, Islamophobic and unacceptable,” said Mehwish, one of the organisers of the “No Ban, No Wall” protest.

“They continue a pattern of white supremacist immigration exclusion in colonial settler countries like the United States. Bill English refusing to call it for what it is – racist – is a dangerously weak response and doesn’t represent the people of Aotearoa.

“Globally, there is an increase in Islamophobia that marginalises and advocates violence against Muslim communities.

‘Scary step towards facism’
Fahad, another organiser of the protest, said: “Singling out Muslims and people from specific Muslim-majority countries is a scary step towards fascism.”

Another organiser, Nisha, said: “We should not see the executive orders in isolation. Deportations and immigration restrictions have been in place for years.

“Rather than seeing Trump as an exception to the rule, we need to question the political and systematic racism that treats minorities, people of colour and immigrants as the ‘dangerous others’.”

Aotearoa Against Muslim Ban calls for the New Zealand government to increase the refugee quota, oppose and divest from wars in the Middle East, provide adequate resources for migrant and refugee communities and condemn these racist and Islamophobic immigration bans.

Amnesty International in yesterday’s protest. Image: Del Abcede/PMC The antidote for “Fear, Anger,Hate”. Image: Del Abcede/PMC “Be brave”. Image: Del Abcede/PMC “Build bridges, not walls.” Image” Del Abcede/PMC

Wadan Narsey: Are there two sets of prosecuting rules in Fiji?

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Wadan Narsey: Are there two sets of prosecuting rules in Fiji?

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

ANALYSIS: By Wadan Narsey in Suva

In 2016, two of Fiji’s main media organisations, the privately owned The Fiji Times and state-owned Fiji Broadcasting Corporation, came to public attention, for the wrong reasons — laws regarding ethnic sensibilities in multiracial Fiji.

The international community needs to note that taken together, they call into question the neutrality of Fiji’s prosecuting, regulating and defending institutions.

I make no statement on the neutrality of the judiciary presiding on the case currently — the public can make their own minds up when the judgments are given.

The Fiji Times (Na Lalakai)
On the 27 April 2016, Nai Lalakai (the Fijian vernacular publication owned and published by The Fiji Times) printed an article by one Josaia Waqabaca who pointed out that a petition had been handed to Aiyaz Khaiyum (Fiji’s Attorney-General) to either engage in a “veisorosorovi” (a formal indigenous Fijian reconciliation) with indigenous Fijians or leave Fiji.

The article also alleged:

“The Muslims are not indigenous Fijians. These people are the very ones who have invaded various countries, including Bangladesh in India, and have committed murder there and raped the women and abused their children, until they have come to power, and are now in possession of it.”

The generalisations about Muslims are abhorrent to most decent Fiji citizens and me, while the statement conveniently ignores that some indigenous Fijians are also Muslims.

The Director of Public Prosecutions promptly pressed charges, not just against the article’s author (Waqabaca) and the editor of Nai Lalakai editor (Anare Ravula), but also against the editor of the English language daily, The Fiji Times (Fred Wesley), to whom Ravula reports to, the Fiji Times publisher (Hank Arts) and Fiji Times Limited as well.

The charge was that they made or caused to be published, a statement in the iTaukei language Nai Lalakai newspaper that was likely to incite dislike, hatred or antagonism of the Muslim community.

While the original charges were laid in August 2016 with Magistrate Shageeth Somaratne presiding, the case has dragged on (justice delayed is justice denied?), with the presiding judge being changed at least once.

Opposing the bail variation for Arts
The DPP’s Office has subjected itself to even great public scrutiny through their opposition to a request for a bail variation by publisher Hank Arts.

The State Prosecutor and Deputy DPP (Lee Burney) alleged that the charges against publisher Hank Arts were “serious” and he should not be allowed to travel to New Zealand for two weeks.

No doubt the presiding judge will decide whether the charges against Arts are serious.

But why on earth would the DPP’s Office think that this responsible elderly citizen, who has not a hint of a criminal record, might abscond in New Zealand?

Arts had even offered his two properties in Fiji and his FNPF balance as surety, basically his life savings.

Even more, two prominent Fiji businessmen with unquestionable reputations in Fiji (David Aidney and Jinesh Patel), had also agreed to be Arts’ surety and not travel abroad while he was away.

But not just the previous magistrate, but also the current judge, Justice Thushara Rajasinghe, concluded that these financially massive sureties were not enough to grant the bail variation.

The judge’s judgment cannot be called into question by mere mortals like me.

But the treatment of Hank Arts and Fred Wesley by the DPP’s Office is extraordinary when viewed alongside the contrasting treatment accorded to the CEO of the government-owned Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (FBC) in a comparable situation of the division of responsibility between the producer/editor and the CEO.

Is FBC privileged?
In November 2016, complaints were made by members of the public (Peter Waqavonovono, Seni Nabou and Jope Tarai) against the state-owned Fiji Broadcasting Corporation to the Police, Media Industry Development Authority (MIDA) and the Fiji Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission (FHRADC), about the allegedly racist contents of an FBC programme Wasea Bhasha in which the host Nemani Bainivalu said in the Fijian vernacular words to the effect that Fijian education was lagging because:

* iTaukei did not speak English; some teachers drank grog all night and came to work lazy; if only iTaukei boys concentrated on their studies and not play, they too could reach universities and graduate.

Bainivalu is also supposed to have said that  “many iTaukei boys roam around in the night with their mobile phones, wasting time”  and that  “Indo-Fijian boys and girls do not roam around in the night”.

The complainants claimed that the content was tantamount to “explicit racism” insinuating that iTaukei people are inferior because they fail in universities because they spend more time participating in sports and that iTaukei people are academically poor because they do not know how to read in English.

The Citizens’ Constitutional Forum issued a statement noting that “promoting broad generalised comparisons between Fiji’s major ethnic groups without facts to base them is irresponsible journalism.” The CCF urged MIDA follow on with necessary investigations and recourse.

The Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Ro Kepa, called on the CEO of FBC to resign and for an investigation to be made.

The Leader of the opposition National Federation Party (NFP), Professor Biman Prasad,  asked if MIDA was being neutral and asked him to resign from one of his two posts so that he could do an effective job.

Government reactions
The Chairman of MIDA and FHRCAD Ashwin Raj stated that that the Wasea Bhasha episode contained generalisations and stereotypes that lacked “accuracy, balance and fairness about social progress of the iTaukei community”.

But he concluded that “the programme failed to meet the threshold for inciting communal discord.. There was no overt call to violence. …  there is no pattern of hostility towards any community…  The journalist has offered a public apology in all of the three major languages admitting negligence on his part as the producer and presenter of the programme.”

Raj determined that the issue would not be referred to the Media Tribunal.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (New Zealander Christopher Pryde) considered laying charges against the Wasea Bhasha producer and presenter (Bainivalu), the chief executive officer (Vimlesh Sagar), and the acting manager (Mohammed Faiyaz Khan).

He concluded: “In order for a charge of inciting communal antagonism to succeed, the broadcast must have been of such a nature and sufficiently egregious to justify the sanction of the criminal law. In other words, the broadcast must do more than simply insult or cause offence to people. .. the item does not reach the necessary threshold for a reasonable prospect of conviction were the matter to go to trial”.

He announced regally “I decline to sanction a prosecution”.

Contrasting the two cases
It is clear that many indigenous Fijians took offence at the ethnic generalisations.

But I might even largely agree with the sentiments expressed by Cristopher Pryde and Ashwin Raj on the content of the sentences being translated by Nemani Bainivalu, Bainivalu’s statements were made as examples in a mere language translation programme, probably based on Nemani Bainivalu’s own personal observations and views. They were not presented as definitive statements by an FBC expert on the issues.

My personal view is that some of Bainivalu’s statements on ethnic behavioural differences are probably correct in general (for example the detrimental effects of not speaking English, drinking grog excessively, playing sports excessively) and can be backed by survey data from the Fiji Bureau of Statistics and Ministry of Education.

One of Bainivalu’s statements is anecdotal (which ethnic community in general roams around more at night) while one is probably incorrect (which ethnic community wastes more time on mobile phones).

But the real issue is not the content of Bainivalu’s translation examples, but the contrasting approaches taken by DPP Pryde and MIDA Chairman Raj to the Fiji Times case, as to who exactly are charged for mistakes made by subordinates.

The approach with FBC
In the FBC case, it is reported that the DPP considered laying charges against the Wasea Bhasha producer and host Nemani Bainivalu (as expected), but only against the acting chief executive officer Vimlesh Sagar and the acting manager Mohammed Faiyaz Khan.

There was no mention of the possible charging of the CEO of FBC, Riyaz Khaiyum or even of the board members of the FBC or the relevant government minister who are ultimately responsible for FBC, just as some Patels are owners of The Fiji Times and are being charged.

Riyaz Khaiyum hedged that it was an “unfortunate choice of words by the producer/presenter that was in total contradiction to the intention and policy of FBC as a responsible national broadcaster”.

When asked if FBC TV has checks and balances in place for the program before it goes on air, Riyaz Sayed-Khaiyum easily passed the buck, alleging that Nemani Bainivalu eventually became responsible for the content of the show, implying that he himself, the CEO or his organization was not in any way responsible.

While the DPP thought that the charges against the FBC were not “egregious” enough (Pryde’s obfuscating version of “outstandingly bad” or “shocking”), the FBC CEO Riyaz Khaiyum thought it bad enough to terminate Bainivalu’s contract.

FBC then ran a slot on TV in English, Fijian and Hindi in which Bainivalu admitted abjectly that he had “acted irresponsibly” and said he had resigned, when he could have also asked “why only me?”

Before you rush to compare it all to Pontius Pilate washing his hands off the matter, remember it was not Pilate but the Jews who  crucified Jesus, whereas here it was Riyaz Khaiyum himself who gave Bainivalu “the boot” rather than taking any responsibility himself.

But more important than futile biblical comparisons, the Fiji public needs to ask why the DPP’s prosecution of the five entities associated with The Fiji Times case was so different when it came to those higher up.

The book is thrown at The Fiji Times
Every Fiji citizen with common sense understands that the language proficiency requirements of vernacular papers means that in practice, it is the vernacular editor who makes the day to day decisions on the content of each issue before it goes to print, just as the FBC CEO alleged for his program producer, Bainivalu, before it went to air.

In practice, neither the English edition editor, nor the publisher nor the owners of the parent publishing company can be reasonably expected to have direct daily roles in the vetting of content in the vernacular, as they cannot reasonably be expected to know the vernacular language enough, just as I doubt if FBC CEO (Riyaz Khaiyum) has any in-depth knowledge of the Fijian vernacular, enough to vet its sophisticated content.

Nevertheless, in The Fiji Times case, the DPP chose to prosecute not only the article author (Waqabaca) and the Nai Lalakai editor (Ravula) but also the English medium editor (Fred Wesley), the English-speaking publisher (Hank Arts) and the (English-speaking) Gujarati owners of The Fiji Times Limited.

Whether the English-speaking publisher Hank Arts and Fiji Times editor Fred Wesley can be held responsible for allegedly racist content in the vernacular newspaper they do not vet in practice, will be decided by the presiding Sri Lankan judge, even if cynics note that it will be under the constitution and media decrees that have been imposed on Fiji without the approval of any Parliament (before any generalisations are made about Sri Lankan judges, note that at least one Sri Lankan judge – in the Soko case- has gone against the political tide).

Note that there was no explicit call for violence in the Nai Lalakai/Fiji Times case either, a fact deemed by Ashwin Raj to be pertinent in not charging FBC’s producer/presenter of Wasea Bhasha.

But the public can legitimately ask, and indeed, if they want a free media in Fiji, it is their deep social responsibility to ask: are there different prosecuting standards for The Fiji Times CEO and for the FBC CEO?

Is the more severe and protracted treatment of The Fiji Times by the DPP’s Office intended to intimidate them further than has already occurred?

The public (and researchers into Fiji media) are reminded that Riyaz Khaiyum is the brother of the Attorney General (Aiyaz Khaiyum) and he not only became the CEO of FBC in “unusual” circumstances after the 2006 military coup, but his editorial policies have arguably favored the Bainimarama Government, while receiving preferential financial assistance from Government, assistance denied to their primary television competitor (Fiji One) or the private radio communication companies like Communications Fiji Limited.

The peculiar roles of Pryde, Raj and Riyaz
Historians of contemporary Fiji will one day put under the microscope all the many individuals (such as Christopher Pryde, Ashwin Raj and Riyaz Khaiyum) who have kept the Bainimarama regime ticking over.

Christopher Pryde appeared in Fiji soon after the 2006 coup and quickly assumed prominent positions in the military state’s apparatus, despite the military government being declared illegal by the 2009 Fiji Court of Appeal, a judgment never reversed.

Six years ago, Ashwin Raj was relatively unemployed or underemployed at the University of the South Pacific until two economics professors (no prizes for guessing who) prevailed upon the USP Vice Chancellor to offer him more substantive work, which he eventually obtained under a belligerent and aspiring Deputy VC of USP managing USP’s STAR project (now apparently gone into a Black Hole).

It was not long before the Bainimarama government discovered that Raj’s gift of the gab requiring the public to futilely buy dictionaries, would be a great asset as Chairman of MIDA.  Indeed, media censorship, intimidation and media funding biases flourished under Ashwin Raj’s benign gaze, while he pounced on any allegedly anti-government statements, such as the so-called “kerosene and water” comment by Ratu Timoci Vesikula at a village meeting.

Then Ashwin Raj was also appointed as the Chairman of the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission, apparently or conveniently choosing not to recognise the many possible conflicts of interest in the two roles (“power corrupts absolutely”?).

The public might note (if they care) that the websites of both MIDA and the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission are virtually empty of serious content, probably an accurate reflection of the extent to which Ashwin Raj is fulfilling his responsibilities to the wider Fiji society (although no doubt pleasing the Bainimarama government).

Raj has made no public statement about the curtailment of the basic human right of Hank Arts to travel abroad for two weeks for an important family occasion — the marriage of his stepdaughter — despite his giving more than ample sureties.

Riyaz Khaiyum was once a good journalist and we oldies will remember his penetrating and humorous interview of Prime Minister Rabuka while both were jogging on the Suva Point sea front after the 1987 coup.

One of the sad outcomes of all of Fiji’s military coups is that the smears generated by the coup leaders inevitably sticks to even the well-intentioned citizens who choose to support illegal governments, their laws and their unfair prosecutions (no doubt personal benefits also help).

History may be harsh on coup supporters and accomplices who think that a few “good things” done by the coup makers justify the coups, and their own behavior.  But that is no comfort to those who continue to suffer the ill effects of coups and even more into the future when the huge increase in public debt has to be paid.

Especially when Fiji history proves that such individuals will merely brush off the dirt before they depart, scot-free and with their ill-gotten gains, to their eventual peaceful permanent abodes abroad, which follow rules of law and social behavior that they so readily helped to trash in Fiji.

An even bigger tragedy for indigenous Fijians and their future, is that those that remain in Fiji will be forgiven in “true Fijian tradition” and welcomed back into the fold, without ever fully and honestly revealing,  atoning or being punished for their sins.

While the carrots have always been there for those who have supported coups, there have been no sticks to discourage future coup makers.

The incarceration of George Speight is merely a reminder to sleeping historians to explain why that one jailed sparrow does not represent the caging of summer.

Academic and media commentator Professor Wadan Narsey blogs at Narsey on Fiji – Fighting Censorship and this article is republished here from his blog with permission.

Trump’s immigration policy has little impact on Indonesia, says Kalla

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Trump’s immigration policy has little impact on Indonesia, says Kalla

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, deplores the immigration policy issued by newly inaugurated United States President Donald Trump, says Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla.

The policy bans citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen from entering the United States.

However, Kalla said Indonesia would not issue any statements against the policy at the moment, as it did not have any direct impact on the country.

“The harsh reaction came from US citizens, as it [the policy] threatens their unity and basic values, because Americans are originally immigrants. For us, there is no great effect as we are not included there [among the blacklisted countries] but it can add more suspicions, especially against Muslims,” Kalla said.

The vice-president added that Indonesia would keep its doors open to refugees from any Islamic countries, including facilitating immigrants headed to Australia via the archipelago.

“We are open [in terms of] refugees, where our previous experience was to accept all – be it the Rohingya, or from Afghanistan – we accepted them,” Kalla said.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo earlier called on Indonesian citizens residing in the United States to remain calm, as the ban did not affect their presence there.

“We are not affected by the policy. Why should we worry? ” President Joko Widodo said on the sidelines of a work visit to Boyolali district in Central Java on Monday.

Widespread chaos
Trump’s executive order on immigration, issued last Friday, set off a political and legal crisis just a week into his presidency.

The order indefinitely bans Syrian refugees from entering the United States, suspends all admissions of refugees for 120 days, and blocks citizens of the seven listed Muslim-majority countries from entering for 90 days.

The ban caused chaos in the immigration system and at airports in the United States and overseas, which also prompted protests and legal action.

There were several protest rallies over the weekend against the immigration policy in several major US cities, including Washington, Boston and New York.

House of Representatives Commission I lawmaker Sukamta said he deplored the US immigration ban and he urged the Indonesian government to act as a bridge between the Islamic world and the current US government.

Trump’s policy seeks to protect the United States from radical Islamic terrorists and puts a temporary ban on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and North Africa.