Fiji youth open up about what they expect from this year’s election

By Sri Krishnamurthi in Suva

It’s wrong to think that the youth in Fiji are unaware of the forthcoming election. They are engaging through social media but want a bit more education on the electoral system in Fiji.

“A whole lot of young people are on social media and you can see a lot of campaigning going on via social media, especially by future women parliamentarians,” says Epeli Lalagavesi, a second-year student at the University of the South Pacific in Suva.

“It is creating awareness about them at the same time.


“Digital is definitely the trend and that is happening right now. You see the likes of Lenora Qereqeretabua and Lynda Tabuya making use of the social media platforms to share their message. They are campaigning on these platforms.”

USP second-year student Epeli Lalagavesi discusses the forthcoming Fiji election. Image: Sri Krishnamurthi/PMC/Wansolwara

According to Lalagavesi, social media platforms allow the youth to interact and share their views on the election compared with traditional modes of getting the news.

“You don’t see a lot of discussion by young people because they feel in a physical environment they don’t have a say, but online is where they feel safe. That is their space to share and learn. That is where you have active participation,” Lalagavesi says.


Social media is a safe distance away from politicians, they feel they can engage with them instead of reading it in the third person (newspapers) hampered by media decrees.

Hushed tones
The conversations aren’t spoken in public but behind this wall is where their voices may be heard.

“The conversations are underground essentially,” says Lalagavesi in hushed tones.

“I feel as a young person, youth voices are not heard and this has been echoed since the previous election in 2014.

“I feel there needs to be more awareness of young peoples’ voices, not just during the election but after the election. I feel that after the election, youth are sometimes ignored and not thought of as part of the constituency.”

Lalagavesi says universities have a role to play in the political process instead of being subdued.

“To an extent, I feel the need for universities to also open up the discussion about the election, but it is sort of a no-go zone. We can’t discuss this because the university is not political. If you say something political, it be might be seen as an anti-government institution,” he said.

As a first-time voter, he thinks there isn’t enough education around the electoral system.

Not confident
“I don’t feel confident in voting. The way the whole system works – it’s like you are voting for a party and not the person,” he says, voicing his frustration.

“If I am voting for a certain person, and that person does not have a seat in Parliament then it is of no use. My vote becomes invalid unless I vote for the party.

“We definitely need a bit of education on the electoral system because it will allow us to see how the whole system works. I just know bits and pieces of how the system works. So, voter education awareness will help young voters like myself.”

First-time voter Dhruvkaran Nand hopes there will be more focus on people living with disabilities when a new government is elected. Image: Sri Krishnamurthi/PMC/Wansolwara

Another youth, Dhruvkaran Nand, thinks the great unknown about the elections is intriguing.

“It’s going to be a very interesting election and we are looking forward to that,” says Nand without elaborating.

“I’ll be voting for the first time. My expectation is for a government that comes into power to be accountable and transparent – this will help move the nation forward.

“I am also very interested in people with disabilities. I am looking forward to what the government has in place for people living with disabilities. Creating a disability-friendly environment is very important,” says the young man who is living with a disability.

Words of warning
He has words of warning for those relying on social media alone.

“Social media is a great tool if it is used wisely. If you look at it from a global perspective, countries like India and the US are using those platforms to run their campaigns so that is probably a good thing,” he says.

“But you cannot believe what is on social media unless you have verified the information from reliable sources.”

Other young people show just how much they need to be educated about the elections.

Naomi Saurara of Suva is not interested in the elections because of the uncertain date.

“Right now I have no idea about the election because the election date hasn’t been set,” the Fiji National University student says.

However, her friend Kirisitiana Kula is aware and has read several policies.

Better future
“I have read the policies and some of them are good. It is up to us which government we vote in but I’m not sure what is going to happen after the election,” she says pondering the future.

“It depends on what government the people vote for because if you want a better future then you will pick the right government to take over.

“The young should care about the election because they need to focus on their future and think of others too.”

For Krishneel Krishna, it’s a matter of looking at the best benefit.

“We have to vote for the party which gives us benefits for our education,” he said.

“I will stay in Fiji if the wages are good, but if the wages aren’t up to our expectation then that’s a different story.”

There are many choices to be made when it comes to engaging and participating in a country’s national election. But for these Fijian youths, weighing in on the election is a whole new experience, one they know will have an impact on their future.

Sri Krishnamurthi is a journalist and Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies student at Auckland University of Technology. He is attached to The University of the South Pacific’s Journalism Programme, filing for USP’s Wansolwara News and the AUT Pacific Media Centre’s Asia Pacific Report.

Eliki Drugunalevu and Krishneel Krishna exchange views about the impending election and what it means for youths in Fiji. Image: Sri Krishnamurthi/PMC/Wansolwara

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Pacific student uncertainties over climate impact outweighs Fiji poll

Final year University of the South Pacific student journalist Elizabeth Osifelo, from the Solomon Islands, has witnessed the rise in sea level each time she travels home from Suva. Image: PIFS/Wansolwara

Climate change issues seem to loom larger than the impending Fiji general election in the minds of University of the South Pacific students. Pacific Media Centre’s Sri Krishnamurthi speaks to students about their thoughts.

COP23, which refers to the 23rd annual Conference of the Parties to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), and Fiji holding the presidency over the last year is the reason university students in Fiji are alarmed at the rapid changes in their environment.

“As someone from the Pacific, there is a strong concern about climate change. The thing which I see in the Pacific as part of climate change is the burden that it is not of our own doing, but unfortunately, we are the losers who are putting it out there,” says Mohammed Ahmed, a Bachelor of Arts student at the regional University of the South Pacific.

“For example, in one of the conventions in which all the countries are represented, there is a decision made to reduce carbon emissions by 10 percent.


“To countries like China and America, which are industrial nations, that’s applicable but to a country in the Pacific which has a substantially insignificant carbon footprint that wouldn’t apply.”

Climate change is foremost on the minds of USP students rather than an impending Fiji general election that has still not had a declared date.

USP Bachelor of Arts student Mohammed Ahmed … “climate change is a burden not of our doing.” Image: Sri Krishnamurthi/PMC/Wansolwara

Koroi Tadulala, a final-year journalism student, is deeply concerned about what climate change means for his generation.


“For the young generation, the issue today is climate change because there is strong focus on Fiji,” he said.

“One of the major highlights that I want to point out is the presidency [held by the Prime Minister of Fiji, Voreqe Bainimarama] of COP23 last year, its Fiji’s advocacy on climate change, and the talanoa concept that was developed and has now become a global thing.

Talanoa dialogue
“I am very concerned about the environment. I took part in the talanoa dialogue. I was at COP23 in Bonn, Germany, as a youth ambassador.

“It was really interesting because we got a global perspective in one confined space. We had leaders brainstorming solutions and innovative ways which we can combat this global issue.”

Regardless of the politics of Fiji, he had nothing but praise for the way his Prime Minister handled himself on the world stage.

“I’d say he has delivered very well as president of COP23. He still continues to fight climate change and he remains active about the issue.”

It worries Elizabeth Osifelo, who hails from the Solomon Islands, because she observes the rising sea levels each time she goes home from Suva.

“I am concerned because I come from a low-lying area, which is by the sea. I always go back home during Christmas and every time I go back, year after year, I can see changes,” she said.

There are similar concerns voiced for the environment in the Solomon Islands.

Eliminating plastic
“I know a lot of Pacific Island nations are in the process of eliminating plastic bags and rubbish like in Fiji and Vanuatu, which has taken the lead in banning plastic bags.

“I hope that the Solomon Islands will come that soon so that we are more active in the way we look after our environment,” she said.

Kritika Rukmani from the nearby tourism mecca of Pacific Harbour could not put it more succinctly.

“I am very passionate about climate change. We, as an island nation, should be concerned because we are very small compared with other countries. We will sink at a faster rate than anyone else,” she said.

Adi Anaseini Civavonovono believes that individuals cannot shirk their responsibility and leave it all to the authorities or the private investors.

“How we look after the environment is up to individuals we cannot depend on government initiatives or climate change financiers. Climate change is a concern not only for Fiji but for the Pacific region because we are the most affected,” she summed up.

Auckland speaker Aneet Kumar, a student working and studying at USP, takes a wider view on climate change. Image: Sri Krishnamurthi/PMC/Wansolwara

Keynote speaker
Having travelled near and far in the past two years and being involved in the NGO sector, Aneet Kumar was invited to Auckland last month to be the keynote speaker at the Peace Foundation’s Auckland Secondary Schools’ Symposium.

Working and studying at the USP, he takes a wider view on the subject.

“As a young person who has been to a number of countries, I can say Fiji has made significant progress in terms of representations on international bodies and agencies like the United Nations. That is one way of dealing with threats to our futures,” said Kumar.

“This week I was reading about our permanent representative to the UN [Satyendra Prasad], who had raised his concerns at the UN Security Council’s Peaceful Mediation process, on the importance of the UN Security Council to consider rigorously and debate climate change issues and issue of disputes between countries. Hopefully something good comes out of it.”

Perhaps the last words on the touchy topic for students comes from Mohammed Ahmed who aptly sums up, “As a person that is concerned about climate change, we have talked a lot but we have dragged our feet as well”.

Sri Krishnamurthi is a journalist and Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies student at Auckland University of Technology. He is attached to The University of the South Pacific journalism programme, filing for USP’s Wansolwara News and the AUT Pacific Media Centre’s Asia Pacific Report.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

NZ must help Solomon Islands tackle unemployment ‘time bomb’, says Clark

Former PM Helen Clark at the National Council of Women conference yesterday … New Zealand should rethink its aid structure. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

By Jessica Marshall in Auckland

The Solomon Islands faces a “time bomb” with a youth unemployment rate of 82 percent and New Zealand needs to do more to help the Pacific country, says former Prime Minister Helen Clark.

Youth unemployment is “one of the huge challenges of our time”, she says.

“They’ve all got ideas, they want to do things, and . . . I really urge our aid programme to focus back on some of these basics again,” she told the annual conference of the National Council of Women (NCW) in Auckland yesterday.

READ MORE: Violence against women is a national crisis: Clark

Clark, former Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is the new patron of NCW and is the author of a new book launched this weekend, Women, Equality, Power.

She said the New Zealand government needed to rethink how its aid programme was structured.


“A country like the Solomon Islands could have a future but it needs investment in its agriculture.”

She said New Zealand used to invest its aid programme – in places like Thailand, for example – in the country’s agriculture.

“How much focus have we got on agriculture now?” she asked.

‘No brainer’
“It’s just a no brainer to try to support people back into the value chain.”

She made the call during a discussion on the UN Sustainable Development Goals which Clark was instrumental in developing during her time with UNDP.

Dr Gill Greer, chief executive of NCW, said that the inclusive manner in which Clark went about developing the goals was “not typical of the UN at many times”.

“It was a vision, it is a vision,” said Dr Greer, adding that the goals did not go far enough on the issue of gender.

“The living framework has one indicator, and that is all, and in this room [of 200 people] just think of how many we could suggest immediately?”

Clark replied: “Gender is in every goal”.

Clark also discussed the issue of migrants in Nauru, proclaiming it to be a crisis.

“There is something fundamentally wrong, this is not a sustainable situation and it’s no way to treat people.”

Earlier yesterday, the BBC reported that children had been attempting suicide and self-harm on the island.

The Pacific Islands Forum leaders summit opens in Nauru tomorrow.

Jessica Marshall is a student journalist on AUT’s Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies (Journalism) course.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Lifetime of devotion to Māori and Pacific student success

Tui O’Sullivan (right) with Tagaloatele Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop at the Pacific Media Centre recently when retiring. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

PROFILE: By Leilani Sitagata

Educator and kuia Tui O’Sullivan has recently retired from Auckland University of Technology after close to 40 years of service.

Born and breed up North in the heart of Ahipara, she says choosing to do tertiary study was the right choice for her.

“Growing up as a young girl you were told to pick from three directions – academic, commercial or homecraft,” O’Sullivan says.

“I never had a burning desire to become a teacher, but it just seemed like the best fit for me to follow that path.”

Over the years, O’Sullivan (Te Rarawa and Ngati Kahu) gained a Bachelor of Arts, Master’s in Education (Māori), a Diploma in Ethics and a Diploma in Teaching.

“Coming from a town where you didn’t know names, but everyone was Aunty or Uncle, Auckland was by far a change of scenery.”


O’Sullivan was appointed as the first Māori academic at AUT, then AIT.

Tui O’Sullivan at her recent Auckland University of Technology farewell on Ngā Wai o Horotiu marae. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

Evening classes
She says she taught evening classes on literacy twice a week and had many people from the Pacific wanting to improve their written and oral skills.

“A number of them were members of church groups who wanted to polish up for competitions involving writing and speaking.”

Alongside the night classes, O’Sullivan was involved in the formation of the newspaper Password.

“We formed a newspaper which explained certain things about living in New Zealand, among other things like the Treaty of Waitangi and Māori culture.”

O’Sullivan says there was an increasing number of immigrants to her English classes and Password helped with their immersion into a new culture.

While working in general studies, she says she helped teach communications English and basic skills to full time students, predominantly young men.

However, women started to come along to O’Sullivan’s teaching and the numbers slowly grew.

Tui O’Sullivan (right) with fellow foundation Pacific Media Centre advisory board member Isabella Rasch. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

First women’s group
O’Sullivan was part of the creation of the very first women’s group on campus.

“A senior lecturer approached a couple of us women staff asking if we could keep an eye out for the young women and be an ear should they need that.

“From there Women on Campus developed which looked after the interests of women students and staff members.”

She said they switched the name of the group over the years because what they originally chose didn’t have a ring to it.

“We were called Women’s Action Group for a while, but WAG didn’t sound too good.”

Another first for the university was the establishment of the Ngā Wai o Horotiu marae in 1997 which Tui said she’ll forever remember.

When the marae was officially opened more than 1000 people turned up to celebrate the momentous occasion.

Students and staff at the Pacific Media Centre’s farewell for Tui O’Sullivan. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

Emphasis on diversity
The marae opening signified AUT acknowledging the Treaty of Waitangi and further emphasised the diversity within the university.

“The majority of staff here have had this willingness and openness to support and promote success for Māori and Pacific students.”

When asked what was one of the most gratifying times for her during her time at AUT, O’Sullivan simply says applauding the young people who cross the stage.

“I always seem to end up with lots of those lolly leis because people end up with so many, and they get off-loaded to me.”

O”Sullivan says that over the years she’s never missed a graduation for her faculty regardless of how many there are.

“Seeing students wearing their kakahu or family korowai, and others who have grown to learn more about their whakapapa and their place in the world.

“Those are the most rewarding times for me.”

O’Sullivan was the equity adviser for the Faculty of Creative Technologies and lectured in Te Tiriti o Waitangi and community issues. She was also a strong advocate of the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) and a foundation member of the advisory board for AUT’s Pacific Media Centre from 2007.

She insists she hasn’t left a legacy but has been part of an ever evolving journey that AUT is going through.

Tui O’Sullivan (centre) with Pacific Media Centre director Professor David Robie and advisory board chair Associate Professor Camille Nakhid. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Police claim raid on Papuan students to block ‘Bloody Biak’ film screening

The scene at the Indonesian police raid on Papuan student quarters in Surabaya over the film Bloody Biak. Image:

By Pebriansyah Ariefana in Surabaya

Indonesian police have revealed that police and military officers raided a Papuan student dormitory in the East Java provincial capital of Surabaya in Indonesia at the weekend because the students were allegedly planning to screen the documentary film Bloody Biak (Biak Berdarah).

Tambaksari Sectoral Police Chief Police Commander Prayitno claimed that security personnel went to the Papuan student dormitory in order to prevent an incident such as one that occurred in Malang earlier in the week from happening in Surabaya.

“[According] to information we received, they announced on social media that they would show the film Bloody Biak. So we went to the dormitory to anticipate this,” he said.

However, the planned screening of the film Bloody Biak on Friday was cancelled, and replaced by a screening of World Football Cup matches.

“If the discussion had still gone ahead. Apparently the film Bloody Biak [was to be screened] which tells the story of the massacre of Papuan people. I don’t know if this was true or not”, he said.

A joint operation by hundreds of TNI (Indonesian military), police and Public Order Agency officers (Satpol PP) raided the Papuan student dormitory located on Jl. Kalasan No. 10 Surabaya on Friday.


The dormitory is home to hundreds of students and Papuan alumni from various tertiary education institutions in Surabaya.

Security personnel sealed off the Papuan student dormitory because of suspicions that there would be “hidden activities”.

Inside the dormitory, they were to hold a discussion and wanted to screen the film Bloody Biak that evening.

On July 6, 1998, scores of people in Biak Island’s main town were wounded, arrested or killed while staging a peaceful demonstration calling for independence from Indonesia.

Earlier last week on July 1, police violently closed down a discussion by West Papuan students at Brawijaya University in the East Java city of Malang marking the 47th anniversary of the proclamation of independence in 1971 by the Free West Papua Movement.

Police claimed that they closed own the discussion following complaints from local people.

Translated from the story by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the article was “Film Biak Berdarah, Alasan Polisi Kepung Asrama Papua di Surabaya”.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Former PCF media intern welcomes Pacific newbies on NZ exchange

Adi Anaesini Civavonovono of Fiji (left) and Elizabeth Osifelo of the Solomon Islands (both of the University of the South Pacific) against the green screen in the television studios during their visit to Auckland University of Technology this week. Behind them are the Pacific Cooperation Foundation’s Suzanne Suisuiki (partially hidden) along with AUT students Leilani Sitagata and Pauline Mago-King. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

By Rahul Bhattarai

It was a case of Pacific meets Pacific in AUT’s School of Communication Studies this week as one of the inaugural winners of the Pacific Cooperation Foundation internships welcomed this year’s new batch of four student journalists from Fiji, Samoa and Solomon Islands.

Pauline Mago-King of Papua New Guinea was a final year communication studies student in Madang when the internships began and she visited New Zealand in 2015 thanks to PCF.

Now she is a master’s degree student at Auckland University of Technology doing research into domestic violence and non-government organisation responses in her home country.

She says she knew the flexibility of the AUT programme was just right for her – “especially when you come from a country where there aren’t enough opportunities for a student to gain experience.”

AUT’s Pacific Media Centre hosted the PCF internship students and director Professor David Robie welcomed them, saying “we‘re just a small programme but with quite a reach, we have an audience of up to 20,000 on our Asia Pacific Report website”.

The PMC, with a small part-time team, covers the region with independent news as well as conducting out a discrete media research programme.


Three of the students on the two-week internship in New Zealand come from the University of the South Pacific and the student newspaper Wansolwara – Elizabeth Osifelo (Solomon Islands), Salote Qalubau and Adi Anaesini Civavonovono (both from Fiji). The fourth, Yumi Talaave, is from the National University of Samoa.

The interns toured AUT’s communications facilities, including the state-of-the-art television studies and control room.

Pacific Media Centre student journalist Rahul Bhattarai and University of Samoa’s meet King Kong on the AUT television studio green screen. Image: David Robie/PMC

They then visited AUT’s journalism newsroom and media centre.

The students also watched the final editing stages of a short current affairs documentary by two AUT students involved in the PMC’s Bearing Witness climate change project.

Hele Ikimotu and Blessen Tom travelled to Rabi Island in the north of Fiji in April and filmed the documentary Banabans of Rabi: A Story of Survival in the hope of spreading awareness about the impact of climate change in the Pacific.

Their lecturers, Jim Marbrook and David Robie, hope to enter the documentary into film festivals and an earlier video by the students as part of the project gives a glimpse of life on the island.

Suzanne Suisuiki, communications manager of PCF, says these kinds of internships provide the opportunity for Pacific students to gain wider exposure and better understanding of media.

“We wanted interns who had a sense of appreciation of the media industry,” she said.

She plans to next year expand to the wider Pacific region, including Tonga and Papua New Guinea.

Two students were also selected from New Zealand to go to Fiji and Samoa.

The Pacific Cooperation Foundation internship students with Pacific Media Centre students and staff at AUT this week. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Duterte says as ‘parent of nation,’ he can order detention of ‘tambays’

‘Father of the nation’ President Rodrigo Duterte defends his order against loiterers. Image: Malacañang

By Pia Ranada in Manila

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines has cited the power of the state to act as parents of persons needing protection as a defence of his order against “tambays” (loiterers).

“Of course, I can accost you. Under the power of parens patriae, you are the father of the nation. I can always give an advice for people like minors,” he said yesterday during a summit in Davao City on the southern island of Mindanao.

Parens patriae, which is Latin for “parent of the nation,” refers to the power of the state to act as the parent of a person when their actual parents or guardians are neglectful or abusive.

READ MORE: Photos, death certificate show Genesis ‘Tisoy’ Argoncillo beaten to death

“If you are unruly, go home or you are arrested. That is the police power of the state. Let them contest that in the Supreme Court,” he added.

His turned defensive apparently after reading in his briefings of senators “postulating” on his controversial order for police to “pick up” loiterers.


Within days of his order, thousands were arrested for loitering supposedly while also violating local ordinances on curfews, drinking in public, smoking in public, and public nudity.

“Tambay” Genesis Argoncillo died in police custody from “multiple blunt force trauma”. Image: Rappler cellphone

One such “tambay,” Genesis Argoncillo, died in prison from multiple blunt force trauma.

Duterte also said he had read the recent Social Weather Stations survey that found that fear of robberies, unsafe streets, and drug addicts had risen in Mindanao, his home island.

No order to ‘arrest’
Twice in his speech, he insisted that he did not tell police to “arrest” loiterers.

“I never said arrest them, napakaga gago (such fools) … Why don’t you just listen, i-rewind mo yung sinabi ko (rewind what I said),” he said.

The exact words of Duterte’s order on June 14 are: “My directive is ‘pag mag-istambay-istambay sabihin niyo, ‘Umuwi kayo. ‘Pag ‘di kayo umuwi, ihatid ko kayo don sa opisina ni ano don, Pasig’. Ako na ang bahala, ilagay mo lang diyan. Talian mo ‘yung kamay pati bin–ihulog mo diyan sa ano.”

(My directive is if there is someone who stands by, tell them, ‘Go home. If you don’t go home, I will bring you to the office of – there in Pasig.’ Leave it up to me. Just put them there. Tie their hands together even the – drop them at –)

Duterte’s exact words referring to loiterers in a September 2017 speech were: “Tignan ‘nyo may maglakad pa ba na – eh ngayon, sabi ko sa pulis, ‘Pikapin mo.’” (See if there’s anyone walking around – now, I told the police, ‘Pick them up.’)

The Philippine National Police, however, appeared to interpret the President’s words as an order to take loiterers allegedly violating local laws to prisons and detaining them.

The President is known for his stream-of-consciousness style of speaking in which he often does not complete sentences or does not elaborate on confusing, sometimes contradictory messaging.

Loitering ‘not a crime’
Duterte admitted in his Friday speech that loitering “is not a crime” but that he can arrest persons for drinking in public.

“If you are drinking diyan sa alley, ‘yang mga (in the alley, in the) squatters area, if you are there making a sala (living room) out of the roads there, ‘tang-ina, huhulihin talaga (son of a bitch, you will get caught),” he said.

After Duterte’s order, there was a reported case of a group of friends detained by police who were told the only reason for the action was Duterte’s verbal command.

Argoncillo, the 22-year-old alleged “tambay” who was killed in jail had been arrested for supposedly causing “alarm and scandal”.

Pia Ranada is a Rappler journalist.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Timor-Leste finally has a government. But what happens now?

By Guteriano Neves in Dili

After nearly a year of political deadlock resulting from a minority government, and a divisive political campaign, Timor-Leste is set to have a stable government after an early election, held last Saturday.

The forthcoming government will face an uneasy task in delivering on the promises made during the campaign.

The result of the election brought four parties to be represented in the Parliament. The Aliança de Mudança para o Progresso (AMP), led by resistance leader Xanana Gusmão, won an absolute majority in the latest polls, securing 34 seats out of 65 seats in the Parliament.

This will be sufficient to pass the programme and budget in the Parliament, both of which the previous minority government failed to do. Frente Revolucionáriu de Timor-Leste Independente (Fretilin) came in second, maintaining its 23 seats despite a significant increase in the number of votes.

The Democratic Party and Frenti Dezenvolvimentu Demokrátiku (FDD) – a new political force – secured five and three seats, respectively.

The result sets Timor-Leste up to end nearly a year of political impasse resulting from the previous minority government. The country can now expect have a stable government for five years to come.


Having a stable government is one thing, but delivering on political promises is another. The latter is not easy, given the context in Timor-Leste.

Strong opposition
At the macro political level, the government is expected to face strong opposition from the opposition bench in the National Parliament.

Outside of parliament, the government will face enormous pressure from the public to deliver the promises made during the campaign. This includes delivering good quality infrastructure, high quality public services — mainly education and health — and building an economy that can employ a significant number of the young population.

The last point is critical for Timor-Leste’s long-term peace and stability.

The biggest task is economic: striking a balance between current domestic consumption and long-term investment, in a context where the current government reserve is depleting.

In general, public and private consumption in Timor-Leste have been growing during the last 10 years, becoming the engine for non-oil economic growth. One could view the growing domestic consumption level as an increase in purchasing power and wellbeing.

However, this growth is primarily fueled by public spending, using petroleum revenue.

Increased consumption also incentivises the emergence of small private sector activities, primarily the wholesale and retailer industry in Dili. This sector provides a large proportion of jobs in the private sector, particularly in Dili, according to the Business Activities Survey.

Poverty line
Growing domestic consumption has also contributed to the reduction of the poverty level. Nonetheless, 41 percent of Timorese still live below the national poverty line, and many households still depend on the government’s cash transfer programmes.

Therefore, maintaining the current consumption level is important for short-term growth and maintaining the well-being of individual households.

Meanwhile, the public sector is the biggest contributor of investment in Timor-Leste.

Currently private sector investment is still less than 10 percent of the total non-oil GDP. Therefore, the government’s investment has been critical for economic growth during the last 10 years, and job creation in the construction sector.

In the last decade, the government focused its attention on physical infrastructure, primarily electricity and roads. There are political as well as economic reasons for this.

The public demand for infrastructure resonates throughout the country, and the existing infrastructure is deteriorating rapidly due to poor maintenance. The economic rationale is that public investment in infrastructure is necessary to enable an environment for the private sector to grow.

But Timor-Leste needs to give more attention to long-term investment in its people. Education and health services, particularly, serve this purpose.

Health, education challenges
In the last decade, as the government prioritised physical infrastructure, public investment in health and education has been relatively low by regional standards.

While there have been significant improvements in many indicators, the issues of malnutrition and education quality are still big challenges.

In education in particular, there is an immediate need to improve the basic supporting infrastructure. Teacher training is widely regarded as a critical issue, but it requires long-term approach.

The country will pay a high economic and social cost in the future if there is no significant improvement in these sectors.

Finally, the country also needs to work on its institutional framework to support long-term development. Various organisations, laws and regulations, and policy frameworks, both formally and informally guide the way actors behave by creating economic incentives.

The roles of different institutions are critical, including the parliament, judiciary, ombudsman office, and anti-corruption commission. The government also needs to strengthen internal control mechanisms to strengthen accountability and efficient use of existing resources.

Extra-parliamentary oversight mechanisms, such as investigative journalism, critical voices from NGOs and academics, and space for public participation, will contribute here.

Striking a balance
In order to strike this balance between short-term and long-term goals, the government needs to be realistic, pragmatic, and strategic in choosing instruments and setting targets. A significant proportion of domestic consumption is public consumption.

The government’s intervention could focus on unnecessary public consumption, where spending cuts can be made in order to improve efficiency in public spending.

As for physical infrastructure, it is necessary for the government to focus much of its attention on basic infrastructure, such as roads, water and sanitation, and the infrastructure to support public service delivery.

There is a need to revisit all investment projects, particularly big projects that do not have clear investment returns, which could become “white elephant” projects for the country in the future if the economy does not have sufficient capacity to operate and to maintain such assets in the long run.

In the last 10 years, thanks to petroleum revenues, the government was able to adopt a “frontloading fiscal policy” to boost domestic consumption and finance largescale public investment. Nonetheless, having disproportionate public spending creates loopholes for misappropriation of public resources, particularly when coupled with less efficient public administration.

Consequently, certain groups of people profit disproportionately from the contracts. Unnecessary spending discourages productive activities and inflates the prices of goods and services, thus affecting resource distribution within the economy. This adversely impacts the government’s intention to develop Timor-Leste’s non-oil economy.

Since petroleum revenues have declined steeply, there is a need to impose certain fiscal disciplinary measures to constrain the temptation posed by available cash in the Petroleum Fund.

Not appropriate
Budget cuts do not sound appropriate in a context where poverty is still significantly high, and public spending is the engine to keep the economy moving.

But without fiscal discipline, Timor-Leste would be more likely to repeat the same policy that has been ineffective in responding to the country’s needs.

The new government needs to be more pragmatic and realistic in deciding how much to spend, setting the sectoral priorities, and acknowledging the tradeoffs involved.

These tasks are not easy, but they are not impossible. It requires decision makers to be realistic in spending and setting targets, strategic in choosing their policy instruments, and courageous enough to bear the tradeoffs resulted from policy options.

Guteriano Neves is a Dili-based policy analyst. This article was first published by The Diplomat and is republished with permission.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Timorese vote in fresh general election after tense campaign

By Michael Leach in Dili

After a tense month-long campaign and two rest days, East Timorese cast their votes today in the Timor-Leste’s latest parliamentary elections. With the campaign characterised by considerable bitterness between the major parties, much is at stake.

Despite narrowly prevailing at the election just nine months ago, the Fretilin-led minority government failed to gain parliamentary support for its programme and budget during 2017.

The president — also from Fretilin — dissolved parliament and called today’s poll.

READ MORE: Choices sharpen in Timor-Leste

The East Timorese electoral agencies, short of funds after last year’s election and the parliamentary impasse, have risen to the occasion extremely well.

And, in a remarkable testimony to Timor-Leste’s young population, the electoral roll has grown by 3.1 percent to 784,000 voters, with around 24,000 voters turning 17 in just over nine months since last July.


Last year’s campaign came in the wake of a national unity government involving informal power-sharing between Xanana Gusmão’s CNRT and Fretilin. But relations quickly soured after an election that Fretilin won narrowly with 23 seats to CNRT’s 22.

In the end, Fretilin was only able to attract the Democratic Party, with its seven seats, to its minority coalition government, giving prime minister Dr Mari Alkatiri 30 seats in the 65-seat Parliament.

Rejected programme
Within weeks, the remaining parties had formed the Parliamentary Majority Alliance (AMP) a coalition controlling 35 seats, and had voted down the government’s programme and budget.

Fretilin feels aggrieved that it did not receive parliamentary support after narrowly finishing ahead last year, despite an alternative coalition having been ruled out publicly by Xanana Gusmão in the immediate wake of the July election.

For its part, the AMP feels bitter about Fretilin’s parliamentary tactics last year, which delayed the second presentation of the government programme and prevented it from falling before the six-month mark, when the president could dissolve Parliament and call fresh elections.

AMP figures feel that their alliance should have been installed in government during the life of the Parliament. How these issues have influenced the voting public will be known tomorrow.

This year’s campaign has been marked by the resurgence of the “history wars,” the clash between the two wings of the East Timorese resistance during the Indonesian occupation.

The AMP has reunited Xanana Gusmão and his CNRT with former president Taur Matan Ruak’s Popular Liberation Party (PLP), which were at loggerheads during the 2017 election. Both were leaders of the armed resistance, Falintil.

The campaign has been frequently depicted as a contest between the armed front and members of the diplomatic front, who were outside the country during the occupation, including prime minister Alkatiri and key diplomatic figure Jose Ramos-Horta, who has thrown his weight behind the Fretilin campaign.

Hurt by attacks
Though he has not responded to them, Ramos-Horta has evidently been hurt by the attacks on his legacy, some of which have sought to diminish the contribution of those who struggled for independence in the international arena.

This division over resistance history has lent an unpleasant air to a campaign that has also been marked by exchanges of personal slurs between the major party leaders, including some outbursts of anti-Muslim sentiment directed at the Fretilin leader Dr Mari Alkatiri, and fractious personal debates on Facebook.

From the east of the country have come reports of rock attacks on AMP caravans in Viqueque, bringing back memories of the divisive 2007 election, which occurred in the wake of the 2006 political–military crisis.

The AMP parties have also complained of low-level attacks in Laga region of Baucau, were temperatures still run hot over the death of dissident veteran Mauk Moruk in 2014.

Yet the campaign has been remarkably peaceful on the whole, with colourful mass rallies of party supporters generally well behaved throughout most of the country.

The campaign has also been marred by a handful of accusations of favouritism and irregularities against the electoral agencies, prompting the head of the National Electoral Commission (CNE) to publicly defend the organisation in press conferences.

Several complaints originated on AMP’s Facebook page, including concerns over printing errors in the ballots, which were quickly identified and cancelled, and suspicions about meetings between CNE and political parties that turned out to be part of routine investigation of previous complaints.

Closely watched
The CNE has responded quickly and satisfactorily. With domestic and international observers closely watching the process and extremely professional electoral agencies, there is very little scope for manipulation.

The CNE and the Technical Secretariat of Electoral Administration have done an excellent job under trying circumstances with limited budgets.

While the parties have discussed differing visions for the future, especially during the series of TV debates, considerable energy has been diverted into personal and historical debates within the small political elite. The new AMP alliance brings together two parties that ran last year on fundamentally different development agendas, and it remains to be seen how the CNRT’s focus on major infrastructure spending can be reconciled with the PLP’s more grassroots focus on basic development spending on health education and agriculture.

How voters have received this new combination will be known tomorrow.

For their part, supporters of Fretilin and the Democratic Party (PD) have been on friendly terms throughout the campaign, suggesting the alliance seems to be holding, though this relationship could be easily revisited in the interparty negotiations that follow the election.

The AMP is a formidable coalition of parties that received 29.5 percent, 10.5 percent and 6.5 percent last year: a total of 46.5 per cent. It could also receive the support of the Democratic Development Front, or FDD, the coalition of the smaller parties most likely to exceed the 4 per cent threshold required to get seats. This is not certain, though, and there are at least some rumblings of dissent from one of the parties inside FDD. On the other side, Fretilin received 29.7 percent in 2017, and its PD partner in the minority government received 9.8 percent.

No polls have been taken to indicate the likely result tomorrow. As a baseline indication, if last year’s vote is notionally combined into the new party coalitions that have formed, the AMP would start with a nominal allocation of 33 seats — the minimum majority required.

Favourite on paper
In turn, Fretilin, PD and the FDD would receive 21, six and five seats respectively. If FDD cannot clear the 4 percent hurdle, these notional numbers rise to 36 for the AMP, 22 for Fretilin, and seven for PD.

The AMP therefore starts as favourite on paper, but the outcome tomorrow can easily change from the 2017 results., As a rough guide, Fretilin requires a swing of just under 4 per cent (if FDD does not take seats) rising to more like 6 per cent if the FDD gains seats and backs the AMP.

These are clearly challenging targets for Fretilin, though not impossible, especially in the former case. It may be that the smaller coalition becomes instrumental in the final result if things run close.

Some longer-term trends are striking. At a forum on the elections I conducted in Dili on Thursday, younger Timorese commented that though they are often reluctant to openly criticise their resistance-era leaders, young people are more interested in the development policies of the government and how they will help to create future jobs.

There was also a sense in last year’s election result that while resistance-era legitimacy remains important to political fortunes, it is starting to offer diminishing returns for East Timorese leaders as the median age of the voting public falls, and voters look for solutions to entrenched development problems.

The young people at the forum also felt that the direst warnings of potential trouble if one side or the other loses tomorrow have come from political insiders themselves, with most ordinary people confident that the national police can manage any post-election troubles.

Young voters also said Dili’s noisy and active social media has played a mixed role — allowing more opportunities for debate, on the one hand, and especially for women’s and young people’s voice to come through, but also distributing fake news and rumours, and not fully representing rural voices.

Potential sleeper trend
Another potential sleeper trend is the changing attitude of the Catholic Church to the major parties. The Church responded positively to the concordat with the Vatican orchestrated by the PM of the previous national unity government, Fretilin’s Rui Araujo.

Despite occasional slurs against Mari Alkatiri, most of the older political leadership from the 1970s does not identify strongly with the church, though younger Timorese broadly do.

As tomorrow’s poll approaches, both sides are supremely confident of victory in their public statements. Either way, it is likely that Timor-Leste will be in good hands, and the real issue as always will be how the unsuccessful parties accept the results.

After last year’s uncertain result, East Timorese will be hoping for a clear and decisive outcome.

Dr Michael Leach is Professor of Politics and International Relations at Swinburne University of Technology. This article was first published by Inside Story.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Student journalists speak up – not all glamour but risky in ‘real world’

Student journalists Iliesa Moceituba (left) speaks to Carolyn Kitione at the University of the South Pacific’s World Press Freedom Day seminar yesterday. Image: Wansolwara

By Laiseana Nasiga in Suva

Final-year student journalists at the University of the South Pacific took centre stage at this year’s World Press Freedom Day celebrations in Fiji by participating in a panel discussion about media freedom and the challenges being faced.

USP’s journalism programme gave student journalists the platform to speak on these pressing issues yesterday rather than be spoken to.

Carolyn Kitione, a journalism and psychology double major, highlighted the risks and conflicts that journalists faced in their profession.

“When we are out in what people like to call the real world, you’re forced to realise that the things that you read about in the newspapers are a possibility of things that might happen to you as journalists,” she said.

“People talk about the glamour of having to travel but nobody wants to talk about the stones that are constantly thrown at us. People want to glamourise the interviews that we had with someone but not the substance of what is said or written.

“In the sort of environment that we live in, there is genuine concern of people getting hurt both physically and emotionally.


“There are chances that we could never work a day of our lives in the field that we choose because of one mistake.

Risks faced
“There are essentially risks that we face and conflicts that we are exposed to and when we talk about conflicts we are not necessarily talking about violence, we’re in the profession of watching our backs.”

There was also a discussion about media freedom in Vanuatu which was shared by Telstar Jimmy, who studies journalism, and literature and language.

Jimmy said although there was more press freedom in Vanuatu, there were also serious risks.

“In the 2013 Global World Press Freedom ranking, Vanuatu came seventh out of the 14 Asia Pacific countries and that was due to little regulation or censorship on the media,” she said.

“Even though this was so, the media workers were threatened and assaulted by people in power and that continued to rise from 2010 up to 2015.”

Jimmy also highlighted ta threat of citizen journalism for professional journalism.

“Even though we have one of the most free press environments in the Pacific, there is also a threat in terms of upcoming challenges. One of these would be that through citizen journalism, online media would give rise to more fake news and therefore degrade professional journalism in mainstream media,” she said.

Online freedom
Another student journalist, Elizabeth Osifelo, talked about freedom of information online, the challenges and the way forward for the media in the Solomon Islands.

Contrary to the challenges faced by the media in Fiji, Osifelo said media was free in the Solomon Islands, although there were certain challenges that existed.

“Social media today in Solomon Islands has a really good flow of information but the challenge here is that it only serves a small fraction of our population. The mainstream media also heavily relies on these networks for information,” she said.

“Another big challenge is the ‘big man’ system in the Solomon Islands and asking sensitive questions of the people regarded as a ‘big man’. Culture is a very challenging element for journalists in the Solomon Islands.

“When you do that, compensation is bound to happen and you will end up having truckloads of people arriving at your doorsteps [asking for] compensation.”

Fiji’s Media Industry Development Decree 2010 and its influence on press freedom were also discussed by student journalist Koroi Tadulala, who also majors in literature and language.

“In order for us to achieve press freedom, we must advocate for the removal of constraints that hinder the work of the media. We can talk about press freedom as much as we want, for however long we want, but as long as the constraints are in place, we will never be able to achieve true media freedom,” Tadulala said.

Tadulala also called for the removal of some provisions of the Media Decree.

People’s voices needed
USP’s deputy vice-chancellor (learning, teaching and support services), Professor Richard Coll, said it was important to recognise World Press Freedom Day because most citizens believed it was an important part of a democratic society where people’s voices needed to be heard.

Dr Coll said academics were also encouraged to make social commentary on areas within their expertise.

“I think that is an important part of the university as a media policy and since it deals with media issues, it’s better to speak about your area of expertise,” he said.

Journalism programme coordinator Dr Shailendra Singh said it was important for student journalists to participate in the World Press Freedom Day event because it was part of their studies and a platform to create awareness about issues facing the media.

“It also informs them about the situations in other countries and allows them to make comparisons with their own counties,” he said.

Laiseana Nasiga is a final-year student journalist at the University of the South Pacific.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media