Friday, November 30, 2012

Does UK's Leveson Report justify Bainimarama’s Fiji Media controls? Guarding the guardians - making the print media more publicly accountable.

Does UK's Leveson Report justify Bainimarama’s Fiji Media controls? Guarding the guardians - making the print media more publicly accountable.

Thesis by Thakur Ranjit Singh on content analysis of the Fiji Times between one year rule of Chaudhry Government (May 1999 to May 2000) showed that like the findings of Judge Leveson in UK, the Fiji Times also indulged in irresponsible, reckless and outrageous reporting that assisted in demise of democracy in Fiji.

In light of Rupert Murdoch’s (past owner of the Fiji Times) press scandal, Lord Justice Brian Leveson in Great Britain issued his 2,000-page report which effectively said that the self-regulatory Media Council-type arrangements by press (that Fiji had) was not reliable and workable. He ruled that Britain's unruly newspapers should be regulated by an independent body dominated by non-journalists with the power to levy steep fines.  Judge Leveson’s key recommendation was to create a new print media regulator, which he said should be established in law to prevent more people being hurt by "outrageous" press behaviour that had "wreaked havoc with the lives of innocent people whose rights and liberties have been disdained.” It was heard that newspapers had been guilty of "recklessness in prioritizing sensational stories almost irrespective of the harm the stories may cause." As a result it was essential to have a legally – instituted body that guards the guardians, as self-regulation was not acceptable.

Sensational and racially-divisive headlines of the Fiji Times that created animosity against Chaudhry Government in 1999 [Extract from the thesis]
It appeared that Judge Leveson had read Fiji’s media decree, putting controls and conditions of Fiji’s failed Fiji Media Council, which saw Murdoch’s Fiji Times sold to Motibhai Group. My research thesis “The 2000 Speight Coup in Fiji: An analysis of the role of The Fiji Times and the impact of a partisan media,” []
 like Leveson report, also found many faults with Fiji’s influential and oldest newspaper, The Fiji Times (FT). There is little doubt that the analysis carried out in this research shows that FT did not operate like a responsible and more cautious media in a developing nation where the concept of democracy was still evolving and adjusting to a post-colonial phase and FT’s obsession with racial overtones in its stories divided the nation. All the good things about media being a uniting force were rarely seen in FT. If anything, FT lived to its colonial reputation of being anti-Indian since it was established in 1869. It also displayed traits characteristic of the Propaganda Model where FT was seen to be protecting the interest of the Fijian political elite and the business community. While no proof has come to light to substantiate allegations that some sections of the business community contributed to the fall of the Chaudhry’s People’s Coalition Government, my research indicates enough motives for that to be so and why the majority Gujarati business community wished to see Chaudhry go.

Russell Hunter who was at the helm of the Fiji Timed when Chaudhry Government came to power. Netani Rika trained under him. Hunter's work permit was refused by Chaudhry Government and this created much animosity with the Fiji Times. [Extract from Thakur thesis]
In light of conditions placed by the new Media decree, an interesting feature has been the departure of Murdoch’s News Limited from Fiji and FT’s purchase by the Motibhai Group. What is interesting here is the media ownership which now largely rests in the hands of those people who were accused and suspected of supporting the divisive elements and the ethno-nationalists in the removal of the People’s Coalition Government which was shifting towards a socialistic trend. Fiji’s business Indian community, the Gujarati community now controls almost 90 per cent of Fiji’s print media. C.J. Patel (who featured in my thesis analysis), with Vinod Patel, owns Fiji Sun, while, the Motibhai Group now owns FT. Hari Punja , who also featured in the analysis, has shares in the radio broadcasting group, Communications Fiji Limited. With some of the elites now in control of Fiji media which FT was seen to be protecting, have ended up controlling the Fiji media. This new balance in ownership, coupled with the new media decree would provide rich fodder for an ongoing research to gauge the transition of Fiji media into a “real” Third World media: A Third World media for a Third World nation.

Ken Clark, CEO of Fiji TV in 1999, when his work permit also created controversy with Chaudhry. [Extract from Thakur thesis]
My content analysis of the Fiji Times found many faults with the oldest Fiji media and cited cases of sensational reporting, recklessness and irresponsible behaviour. Among many others, there appeared to be a double standard of scrutiny and criticism of different governments by FT. Its zeal and so called investigative prowess in unearthing scandals and indulging in muckraking were seen to be inversely comparable when reporting on Chaudhry’s “Indian” government and Qarase’s “Fijian” government respectively. While the objective of my thesis was not to determine this question, the difference was so marked that at least three cases showed FT’s favourable stance to a “Fijian” government. These included appointments of a disbarred lawyer, Qoriniasi Bale as Fiji’s Attorney General, non renewal of work permit of Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Peter Ridgway and paying little media scrutiny to Simione Kaitani’s admission of the criminal offence of sedition on the national TV programme Close Up. [This issue to be covered later in Fiji Pundit]. These examples bring into question FT’s media ethics and its claims of being an independent, neutral and free media, as Leveson found the British media.

Other racially-divisive and sensational news coverage and headlines by the Fiji Times [Extract from Thakur thesis]

Therefore controls brought about by Bainimarama government to shackle irresponsible media through media controls are similar in respects about call by Leveson for a more responsible media in Great Britain.

[Full thesis of Thakur Ranjit Singh: The 2000 Speight Coup in Fiji: An analysis of the role of The Fiji Times and the impact of a partisan media can be found at this link:]

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Once Were Farmers:A documentary film (44 mins) on eviction of Indo-Fijian farmers in Fiji - 2004



This film was made by Dr Satish Rai in 2004, after the launch of a report on escalation of poverty among Indo-Fijians. The film explores this issue and relates it primarily with the upheavals caused in the Indo-Fijian community in Fiji after the 1987 coups and more specifically with Qarase government's racist eviction policy of Indo-Fijian farmers. More that 5,000 Indo-Fijian farmers were unceremoniously evicted from their farms. With little resources available to them many ended up in hundreds of squatter settlements that began sprouting in and around the two major Fijian cities and towns like Nadi and Ba. 

This eviction policy contributed greatly to the demise of Fiji's sugar industry from the primary source of revenue generation a few years ago to the pathetic state it finds itself now. Nearly ten years on, poverty among the Indo-Fijian community in Fiji appears to be still on the increase, giving fire to social issues such as unemployment, prostitution, depression, mental issues, suicide and such like. 

This film will give a little glimpse into this issue which has greatly contributed to the social/cultural disintegration of the Indo-Fijian community in Fiji. 

You will note that parts on interview were done by a younger Thakur Ranjit Singh of a decade ago. Larger portion are in Hindi.

Indo-Fijian Diaspora spread worldwide are urged to look at this. Academics, armchair critics and supporters of democracy who support democratic governments are urged to rethink their perception of democracy that Fiji had under Qarase, and how Qarase under under SDL Party and ethno nationalist Fijians disowned and marginalised Indo-Fijians in Fiji under guise and sham of democracy. 


Sunday, November 25, 2012

A media analysis of 2012 IDC coverage in Ba: Questioning the questionable media treatment of the event

A media analysis of 2012 IDC coverage in Ba: Questioning the questionable media treatment of the event

Thakur Ranjit Singh,
Media Relations Limited Auckland

October 2012 (Vol 18 (2) of Pacific Journalism Review, a journal of Pacific Media Centre (PMC) at Auckland University of Technology (AUT) runs my article, titled Fiji’s coup culture 1987-2006: A media perspective. In that article I raise some pertinent issues relating to action or rather inaction and deficiency in Fiji media between 1987 and 2006 that led to so many coups to happen in Fiji and so many false prophets masquerading as a saviours of i- Taukei. I questioned Fiji media’s inability to question issues, raise intelligent and informed discussions and raise knowledge about what people needed to know. In effect, I branded Fiji media of pre-2006 as sleeping on the job, especially The Fiji Times. I raise a rhetoric question; would we have been able to avoid political instability in Fiji if we had more educated, effective, neutral and responsible media?

The main livelihood and economic lifeblood of Ba - sugar mill and sugar industry.
 Coincidently, I raise the same issues when discussing soccer fiasco and the abandoned final at Inter-district Soccer Tournament (IDC) at Govind Park in Ba on the night of 14th October, 2012. While other lessons may be learnt or forgotten, I raise the standard of sports reporting both by Fiji and visiting overseas media, especially from New Zealand. Most media personnel covering IDC in Ba, Fiji over that IDC  weekend were either from Suva or belong to teams Ba have defeated, hence they carry animosity or dislike towards the most successful soccer giants in Fiji’s history – Ba soccer team. Posting comments on my Facebook, I commented that the biggest enemy for Ba Soccer Team is its success and popularity.

There has to be something unique in the smell of soils in Ba that it keeps on producing  excellent soccer sons.
 In the finals, Ba appears to have played against 15 players - 11 from Suva team and other 4 the match officials, including a controversial and questionable referee. Two goals against Ba were disallowed in the final. Nobody questioned those. Why these media people are harping about a decision that appeared questionable to the officials and those watching the game. Fiji has no video refereeing; hence human factors, likes, dislikes, discrimination, envy and infallibility do come in. Mai TV’s journalistic standard comes into question as well when the commentator and technical teams over and over played what appeared to be a controversial last minute goal, taken from a fixed camera from only one location. However, Mai TV failed to do the same with two controversial goals that were NOT awarded to Ba. We seemed to have had an extremely partisan media covering IDC. It would help sports immensely if media personnel covering such games, many of who are not qualified match officials, displayed some semblance of media neutrality and dig deeper on issues that thwart sports development in Fiji.

Police and Fire preparedness and pro-active action prevented further trouble during IDC final on 14 October, 2012 at Govind Park, Ba, Fiji
 I commend Fiji Football Association for making a rationale and expedient decision in abandoning the match and summoning the help of Police and fire brigade in case of crowd getting rowdy. Some may see that as an overreaction but thanks to the immediate and effective action and show of force by authorities that prevented more adventurous spectators from taking advantage of the mayhem that was waiting to happen. Had our police and authorities being that effective and vigilance on that fateful 19th May, 2000, perhaps the riots in Suva City and political instability could have been avoided when the police were caught with their pants down due to ineffective leadership twelve years ago. The immediate action and show of force during the trouble at the ground bolstered our confidence in the police force. At the same time it showed good effective leadership of FFA to make timely decision to diffuse a volatile situation. Perhaps this may be a learning curve for sports in Fiji where perhaps consideration may be given to introduce video-refereeing in some crucial games or where too many questions, as in this case, have been raised about standards of refereeing.

While I agree that the referee’s decision is final and walkout should not be condoned, these should be viewed in proper context and perspective. The situation had been made very explosive, even provocative and frustrating for Ba fans who see their team short-changed in a habitual fashion by an apparently partisan decision -making by match officials. This had left Ba fans very frustrated. Apart from two goals not allowed in the final match, there were other questionable decisions against Ba, and media never came on board to question such supposed injustice that was damaging sports development in Fiji.

The slogan of the soccer champs - an envy of other districts. Their achievements can hardly be matched by other teams
In light of general standard of media in Fiji and ethnic media in NZ, this IDC also revealed lack of media’s ability to grasp the technicalities of the game, question any anomalies and report constructively without taking sides, to improve the standard of the game. They should have raised issues about standard of refereeing and resulting frustration that resulted in the "hated" team walking off the field in the final. They may have influenced improvements and avoided abandonment had they been more questioning from day one. Were the media impartial and neutral with a view of reporting anomalies to improve the standard of refereeing? I believe not, as the reporters came with their blinkered and partisan view of teams they supported, or the team (s) they hated. Did they question other questionable decisions of the referee and match officials to prevent the situation that escalated? Why were so many goals by very popular and envied team Ba disallowed in so many cases? 

If one thing this IDC match reflected is the inefficiency and failure of the local and overseas media to be neutral and questioning. Journalistic standards went down Ba river, they all became armchair critics without much knowledge of the technicalities involved and became little Gods. So how can they question decision, many times without the full knowledge of ALL facts? They just shoot off their mouths and shoot the photos without full facts. In sports, a picture can lie, if the other factors linked to the picture are not taken account of. A ball in goal may not be a goal if it was taken in offside situations. Ba had some three such goals disallowed. We do not have journalists parading those photos. How come some media are showing photos of a disputed goal in the final, telling us to believe it was a LEGAL goal, without full facts, and confusion it may have been an offside?

In the past, Fiji democracy has been let down by a partisan, uneducated, poorly trained and inefficient media. Same seems to apply to their game coverage of IDC soccer tournament at Goving Park in October, 2012.


(About the author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is an independent media commentator and heads Media Relations Limited, a communications and media promotions company. While he hails from Ba, his analysis was more to prompt media to assert a responsible and neutral role in sports reporting that develops sporting standards in Fiji. A separate story of a partisan Fiji Times journalist, extracted from social media (Facebook) comments will be presented later.)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Indian migrants, family violence and White Ribbon Day.

Indian migrants, family violence and White Ribbon Day.


Are you bold enough?

Statistics with the police, hospitals and settlement agencies in Auckland, New Zealand reveal that of the migrants, Indians in general and Indo-Fijians in particular have some of the highest numbers on family violence on a percentage basis. If this was said by an outsider, like Paul Henry (TV presenter) or some non-Indian journalist or commentator, Auckland Indian community would jump on them and accuse them of racism. In my case, they cannot do this. Because, despite the claims of some so called “pure” Indian leaders in Auckland and in particular an Indian newspaper editor and apprentice politician that Thakur is not a “real Indian”, are great deal of hot air and hogwash. What do you call the grandson of an Indentured labourer whose both parents were of Indian origin and whose grandfather was born in Karouli, a small derived and poor village in Rajasthan, India where so called Maharajahs still exploit their people? May be a Fijian, and Indo-Fijian, but nevertheless an Indian who could still shame many so called ‘real Indians” with his knowledge of Hindi, mythologies and history. The sad irony is that many such migrant Indians and Indo –Fijians reportedly committing violence against women happen to be Hindus.

Show your support

Hinduism in particular and India in general show very high regard for Goddesses and women in theory and rituals. In Navratam, before Diwali, we dedicate ten days to dance and celebrate women and Goddesses made of lifeless statues of plastics, mortars and stones, founded in mythology and mostly made in China or Brazil. However, the actual living Goddesses in flesh and blood, in form of our ladies - our mothers, sisters and daughters in some instances are still treated as second - class in real life. The cases of female infanticide (foeticide), violence against women and treatment of widows and dowry are still some living examples. The cases of latter one still exist in developed countries, where some cases of dowry have been reported in New Zealand as well. In a recent community project in West Auckland, Indian community worked with Police, Auckland Council and Ministry of Social Development on Family Violence in our community. This was as a wake-up call to our religious organisations to shift emphasis from rituals, festival celebrations, dance and songs to tangible community service, welfare and support for their followers. Having feel-good conferences make leaders famous and win them award and medals but delivers little tangibly to the community. Having business conferences, supporting businesses in name of Hinduism delivers wealth for business community, what do the community with many social ills and their suffering women and children get?

Henderson White Ribbon March, starting at Waitakere Hospital


The White Ribbon March for West Auckland was at 1pm on Friday 23 November, 2012. One would think that our Indian community, with high statistics of family violence, would be represented in high numbers, at least their women. However of the 200-300 people, Indians were prominent by their absence. They are represented by this group or that group, this Mandali, this Sanatan, but nobody came, as if we do not have a problem, or it is somebody else’s problem. I have been challenging our community, especially priests, pundits and religious leaders to make religion more tangible and helpful for the people instead of abstract rituals and blessings which no way solve social ills our community is infested with. In two recent publicised cases, we have Indians who were discharged on bail and ended up committing murder while out on bail.

Indians were prominent by their absence

Indian and Hindu community leaders holding feel-good conferences, celebrating festivals, raising flags with great deal of noise, song and dances need to realise that they cannot sweep under the carpet some evils lurking in the community.

Ostrich syndrome of putting your heads in the sand to escape a problem does not solve your problem. In fact by doing so, we hide our heads but end up exposing our posterior. Shooting the messenger, like they did recently to me, does not solve our problems, neither does it obliterate the fact that we have some grave problems we need to collectively address. Accepting the fact that we do have a problem is good starting point.

 Shakti, a commendable support for women in need of support

On this White Ribbon Day, I pay tribute to many White Ribbon Ambassadors and organisations which come to support our battered, mistreated and homeless women who are victims of family violence. We do have a problem; we will see it once we pull our heads out of the sand.
West Auckland White Ribbon March - Good support from the community. We need more Indians to appreciate and recognise the problems in our community

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Failed leadership in Fiji: Mahendra Chaudhry

Failed leadership in Fiji: Mahendra Chaudhry

Guest Post by Rajendra Prasad (Author: Tears in Paradise: Suffering and Struggles of Indians in Fiji 1879 - 2004)

Cover of the historical book, Tears in Paradise: Suffering and Struggles of Indians in Fiji 1879 - 2004, that Rajendra Prasad wrote after seven years of research.

[This article initially appeared in The Fiji Times on 17 September, 2008.

Fiji has had the misfortune of a silent and a selfish intelligentsia, including the academic fraternities who have opted, barring a few, not to advise, inform and guide the nation, using the various forums. They have, if anything, been more interested in securing their own nests while the nation burnt.

In doing so, they have abrogated their moral obligation to share their knowledge and wisdom to transform a beleaguered nation. Meanwhile, the people silently acquiesce to change without adding their voices to it. The educated and informed virtually spawned a nation that relied on the voice of politicians many of who were not fit even for election to the Rural Advisory Councils in Fiji. Yet they made it into Parliament, turning it into a den of unemployed, unemployable and misfits. The Indian political sector witnessed grave degeneration of quality of leaders, selected to represent them in the Parliament. The Fiji Labour Party (FLP), in contemporary politics, is viewed as representing Indian interests. It replaced NFP that was the voice of Indians until 1999 when it was routed from the Parliament when FLP won all the Indian communal seats.

Historically, the life of the pioneer generation was violently consumed on the altar of girmit and subsequently, the Colonial rule treated them with contempt and facilitated massive exploitation of the Indian sugar cane farmers by the CSR Company. The Colonial Government, in a bid to keep them divided, discreetly promoted racism to keep the two major communities divided. When it left, Indians could never escape its consequences. Racism continues to simmer and occasionally fanned into flames and Indians are its worst victims. Sadly, Indians are now the victims of their own leader, Mahendra Pal Chaudhry. He has done nothing to destroy the edifice of racism in Fiji. Through his belligerence and arrogance he helps fuel it into conflagration from time to time.

The FLP leader transformed the party into an authoritarian organisation. He is the darling of simple and gullible sugar cane farmers of Fiji. They see him as their champion and to them he speaks like one, saying exactly what they want to hear. He wields a powerful sword that has left many headless bodies in his trail. Statistical analysis has shown that most of these unfortunate souls were educated, articulate and resisted or were a threat to his dominion. Nationally, he projects himself, as a great advocate of democracy but is bankrupt in practising it. He has trampled upon it and jubilantly joined those who slaughtered it.
Chaudhry's choice of parliamentary colleagues has clearly shown his utter contempt for meritocracy. Indeed, meritocracy is the soul of democracy. The academics, intellectuals and those who could be a threat to his position have effectively been silenced and systematically disabled. It is largely because of the degenerate culture of Indian politics that such people do not want to soil their names. He is the master tactician in the art of playing gutter politics. In two decades, he achieved the pinnacle of success, becoming the undisputed leader of the Indian community but not without chaos and controversy. Chaudhry and controversy remain inseparable. 

Rajendra Prasad delivering his talk during Girmit Remembrance Day in Auckland on May 20, 2012 in Auckland

Chaudhry may have succeeded in achieving his ultimate crown in becoming the undisputed leader of the Indian community but the community paid a very heavy price for their choice. Major issues like land, sugar industry, unemployment and poverty remain unresolved. With his confrontational and aggressive approach, he is not likely to make any positive impact in resolving these issues. Meanwhile, those who are suffering, as a result, continue to suffer with no hope of sun ever shining on their lives. Suicide rate among Indians is among the highest in the world thanks to their leader!

To his credit, Chaudhry does attend a lot of funerals but does not realise that some of these unfortunate lives were lost because he failed them. For the families it is a time of great sorrow but for him it is an opportunity for a speech and shake hands with his victims and delude them further that he is not a villain but a saviour. In this vicious cycle of Indian politics, lives have been lost, families needlessly separated and destroyed and yet they faithfully relied on the wisdom, honesty and integrity of a leader who betrayed them ruthlessly.

Fijians intensely dislike him. In 20 years, Chaudhry has only been able to befriend Tui Ba, a chief with big title but limited influence and beyond him he cannot represent the concerns of his community with other Fijian chiefs and Fijian leaders and get sympathetic audience. He operates with a serious handicap and he cannot deliver and does not give a damn. Since his ascension as the leader of the Indian community, race-relations in Fiji has just ebbed away. What more he has never been able to unite his distressed community and, in fact, keeps them divided so that there is no threat to his domination. Chaudhry has absolutely no understanding of the harm and pain he has caused, as a result, to his community and the nation of Fiji.

The massive eviction of Indian farmers, following the expiry of land leases, was not because the landowners needed the land but because of their support for an insensitive and inconsiderate leader. Chaudhry came from a trade union background into politics and remained like a bull in a china shop demolishing and destroying everything of value. Proudly dubbed the Robin Hood of Fiji by Commodore Bainimarama when he was appointed as Finance Minister in the interim administration, it eventually came to light that indeed he got from the rich but failed to share with the poor! However, he has not changed his tune, continuing to project himself as the champion of the poor and dispossessed in Fiji.
Even in the realm of FLP, democracy does not exist. The master's voice is always projected as a collective voice of the FLP. It is the ultimate refuge for the master from where he recuperates when mauled or launches his missiles on his adversaries. His weapons are provocation, confrontation, deceit, distortions and lies weapons that have failed to improve the plight of Indians in Fiji. As a leader of the Indian community he has done incalculable harm to their image and race relations in Fiji, behaving with arrogance and complete insensitivity towards others.

Chaudhry also cannot work under others, with others and, those under him usually look for the nearest exit. A serious setback? You would think so. He does not think so; as long as he wields power it does not matter. He joined the NFP in 1987 and formed a grand coalition and shafted it, he joined the Qarase Coalition in 2006 and was on the point of derailing it when the military executed the coup. He joined the interim administration and clearly showed he is not a team player but a wayward member who just cannot and must never be trusted. As secretary of Public Servants Association he contributed to the growth of a body disproportionate to its need and wanting in productivity. However, when he became the interim Finance Minister he turned around and claimed that the civil service was too big and too lazy! Hypocrisy? It is an understatement!

Today, Indians' future in Fiji remains critical. Poverty, insecurity and despair hound the community, while their champion has been able to establish a personal economic empire that will remain an elusive dream for many. What Indians need is a leader who can demolish the walls of racism and promote multiracialism, establish harmonious relations with Fijians and gain respect and trust of Fijian leaders. There is no place for politics of aggression, confrontation and provocation in Fiji but politics of cooperation, conciliation and consensus. In this regard, Chaudhry is a perfect contradiction, operating without conscience or compassion. In two decades, Chaudhry has not mastered the basics in dispensing his services as the leader of the Indians and there is no hope that he can or will change.
Admittedly, any person noted for his arrogance, belligerence, aggression and provocative approach can never receive sympathetic response from Fijians. In the Fijian culture, respect, humility and modesty remain revered virtues that must be observed when interacting with them. Ignorance of these communal values on the part of Chaudhry, as the leader of the Indian community, has been the reason for Indians being subjected to hostile and retaliatory measures from Fijians. Relevant to this, a close friend of mine made a pertinent comment that in two decades, Chaudhry was not been able to re-negotiate and restore a single terminated lease of an Indian farmer but he contributed, directly or indirectly, to the termination of leases of hundreds of farmers that displaced thousands of Indians from their land and homes. A majority now lives in the squatter settlements around the country.
Comparatively, observance of basic values had endeared Jai Ram Reddy to Fijians and he had, in co-operation with Prime Minister Rabuka achieved resounding success within a very short period of time, giving the nation the much-lauded 1997 Constitution that was unanimously approved by the Great Council of Chiefs, the Senate and the Parliament. Yet, the same Constitution was repudiated by the so-called champion of the Indians, Chaudhry, claiming that Reddy had sold the interests of the Indians and, yet on his own he was not capable of achieving anything except accelerating the eviction of his supporters from land that they leased from Fijian landowners for several decades!

Sadly, Indians believed Chaudhry's despicable lies and voted for him en masse in the 1999 elections, resulting in Indians and Fiji losing Jai Ram Reddy, now a judge of the International Court of Justice, a respected leader who had the potential to work with Fijian leaders, unite a divided Fiji and help make it the most dynamic nation in the Pacific. There is no political leader now in sight who can resurrect the dream, unite the peoples of Fiji and fulfil the dreams and aspirations of the silent majority.

The hostile reaction that Chaudhry received on a recent radio talk-back show is indicative that Indians have awakened to his villainy and will react with wisdom and courage to face someone who betrayed them mercilessly. It is for Indians now to arise, awake and send Chaudhry into the political wilderness (or to Australia!) and pray that he never returns and there is also peace there! Chaudhry will go down in Indian history as the most controversial leader who failed his people and the nation of Fiji!

[Rajendra Prasad is the former town clerk of the Ba Town Council and the author of book "Tears in Paradise - Suffering and Struggles of Indians in Fiji 1879-2004". The views expressed are of the author and not necessarily of  Fiji Pundit blogsite.]

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Monday, November 19, 2012

FREEDOM OF SPEECH UNDER THREAT IN INDIA - Indians punish two girls for private Facebook postings

Indians talk a great deal about democracy, but kick in the teeth of freedom of speech. These are not real Indians, but real hypocrites. This sounds similar to (déjà vu of) Indian lynch mob, consisting of Indian leadership, one Indian media and an Indian Labour MP after my position in Waitakere Indian Association. I had merely  raised issue of corruption, mistreatment of women, caste and dowry and other ills which belittle us. I had similarly put it in my Facebook posting. Wonder if Indian Newslink will stand for freedom of speech or dubious laws which thwart freedom of speech and shame the biggest democracy on earth.

So much for freedom of speech: Mumbai girls jailed after Facebook post about Bal Thackeray which 'hurt religious sentiments'

A seemingly harmless post on Facebook questioning Mumbai shutdown after the death of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray has landed two girls in trouble.
The Palghar police in neighbouring Thane on Sunday arrested Shaheen Dhada and her friend Renu charging them with hurting religious sentiments, apparently under pressure from Shiv Sainiks.
The police action has evoked widespread outrage. The girls were also charged under the IT Act.
Markets in Mumbai were closed to mourn the death of Shiv Sena Chief Balasaheb Thackeray in Karad, Maharashtra
Markets in Mumbai were closed to mourn the death of Shiv Sena Chief Balasaheb Thackeray in Karad, Maharashtra
'People like Thackeray are born and they die daily, and one should not observe a 'bandh' for that' is what Shaheen Dhada wrote on her Facebook
'People like Thackeray are born and they die daily, and one should not observe a 'bandh' for that' is what Shaheen Dhada wrote on her Facebook
Shaheen had reportedly written on her Facebook wall that "People like Thackeray are born and die daily, and one should not observe a 'bandh' for that".
Renu was arrested for liking the post. The two were on Monday produced before a court which sentenced them to 14-day judicial custody.
However, they were granted bail soon after they furnished personal bonds. While the police were prompt in arresting the girls, they are still dragging their feet in apprehending the men who vandalised the hospital owned by Dhada's uncle at Palghar.
A mob of suspected Shiv Sainiks had on Sunday vandalised the facility after the girl posted the comment.
Terming the police action against the girls as absurd, Press Council of India chief Markandey Katju asked Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan to look into the issue.
He also demanded immediate action against the policemen involved. Chavan, on his part, said: "I have just come to know about the details, I am looking into the matter."
Congress spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit parried questions on the issue, saying it was something to which the Maharashtra government would respond. "I have no idea. We will find out," he said.
Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy also condemned the arrests, demanding that the CM apologise for reckless disregard of the Constitution and fundamental rights by the state administration.
The police have now gone on the defensive and said they had no choice after the Sena activists complained.
"Over 500 Shiv sainiks had come to the police station. They had the printouts of the Facebook message and the addresses of the girls. Since it was a sensitive issue after the death of Bal Thackeray, we initiated the action," Ramdas Shinde, sub-divisional police officer, Palghar, said.
When asked whether the charge of hurting religious sentiments against the girls was appropriate, Shinde said: "Though the offence did not hurt the religious sentiments in the proper sense of the word, it hurt the sentiments of a particular group." 

'Don't throttle dissent'

Telecom and IT minister Kapil Sibal said he was deeply saddened by the arrest of the two girls over the Facebook post questioning Mumbai's shutdown over Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray's funeral and said the IT Act should not be used to throttle dissent. "I am deeply saddened.

Labour Leadership tussle: Worse than a lion is an injured one – what we call in Hindi “Zakhmi Sher” (An injured lion)

Labour Leadership tussle: Worse than a lion is an injured one – what we call in Hindi “Zakhmi Sher” (An injured lion)

As the sail of Labour leadership scuffle collects air, there is an anti-climax as the attacker David Cunliffe takes the air out of sails by saying he supports Labour Leader David Shearer (for time being). Hurray, Shearer wins the battle by default. However, as I mentioned, the WAR IS FAR FROM OVER. Come February, there will be similar story, and war will be over by election of a new leader- David Cunliffe.

Wellington political scientist, Ryan Malone has predicted that come 2014 election, Labour Party will have a new leader. I concur with him. We have problem today because some 18 months ago, David Cunliffe committed the error of not rolling over Phil Goff. After Goof stepped down, we saw the wrong David elected as the party leader and subsequent constitutional change which gives more power to the people and local electorate councils (LECs). This was after LECs felt that their MPs overrode their wishes in choice of a new leader.

However, some (yours truly included) feel that the right wing media, leaning towards National Party, has an agenda in this leadership conflict. Whosoever wins the leadership battle, National party will be a winner. As a process of agenda-setting, right wing media created an imminent scenario of a coup and created a news frenzy of leadership battle in Labour conference when one did not exist. TV cameras were placed in such angles that they always reported news from a leadership battle perspectives and fanned the smouldering ashes.

In fact one reader put a comment on a NZ Herald story on leadership change and said: “I wish the media would butt out and stop trying to influence the politics of this country, they are there to report the news, not to analyse it, and try to influence voters. If some reporters feel so strongly about things let them put their money where their mouth is and stand for election themselves.”  One hopes the First World media of NZ would stop muckraking and agenda-setting and stop destabilising Labour party.

I fully agree with John Armstrong, NZ Herald columnist who said: The last thing Shearer needs is to make a martyr out of Cunliffe among the wider party membership. But those sanctions always remain an option. The Shearer camp is instead seeking to crush Cunliffe as a political force by destroying what is left of his credibility.

I hope that David Shearer and his supporters in the Labour caucus heed this warning on the afternoon of 20th November, 2012, when a leadership battle will fizzle out because the ambitious leader will not put up his hand – not for now. You ask hunters who go out on Safari. It is dangerous game to kill a lion. But it is MORE DANGEROUS to injure a lion and leave it lurking in the forest. It will pounce unexpectedly when it have had its rest and mustered its energy. I hope the Labour Party does not commit this cardinal error of punishing or banishing David Cunliffe for displaying some antics of democracy which a civilised New Zealand stands for.

When Chris Carter hinted a leadership change, wrong David got elected.

When Chris Carter hinted a leadership change, wrong David got elected.

Shearer may win the battle on 20th November to clinch leadership; the war is far from over.

As Julia Gillard shafted Australian Labour Party leader Kevin Rudd when caucus there saw that Rudd could not lead Australian Labour into the next government, it was a hint to New Zealand Labour to do something because so was true for Phil Goff.

However, while Chris Carter became the fall guy, Labour caucus was too afraid for bloodbath, and a coup against Phil Goff never happened. He finally stepped down, and out of the three David’s for the leadership, the wrong one got elected. Reportedly the popular choice directed by local electorate councils (LECs) was for David Cunliffe when some members of caucus went against the wishes of their LECs and voted David Shearer. That is what prompted constitution change, giving powers back to the people and not leaving all decisions at the whim of caucus.

I know this because I helped a stalwart labour supporter prepare submission for change in Labour party constitution. Following was submitted to Labour Party when members and public were asked suggestion for change:

The Party’s organisation is at all time low. We do not currently have enough people at grass roots level working on philosophies of Labour Party and it being articulated prominently to people out there. It is important to do so because we have an extremist right wing media working for the National government. We have to get down to our grass roots membership and explain our philosophies. It is important for labour party to take control of daily news media. They have a dwindling membership. They have local newsletter drop-off but they are mere opinions of MPs or list MPs. They come up with their own opinions. They are there not because we like them but they are there to represent the views of their membership and articulate our policies.

Our problem is that we are more of centre left and become almost right-wingers. We need to be back where we belong. Labour Party is in a situation where tail is wagging the dog. In a particular electorate, members gave specific directive about leadership choice to their elected MP but the MP went against that directive of his own membership because of vested interests. Dissatisfaction is being expressed about this erosion of democracy but little appears to be done and our membership is voting with their feet, resulting in dwindling membership.

It is the last election of the leader, whereby peoples wishes were ignored by caucus, led to the constitutional change. This change has consequently led to erosion of power from the caucus, and given back to electorates.

The leadership tussle in Labour Party will not end with a roll call on 20th November, 2012. Much speculation is by media and there is much ado about nothing in this battle because there will be no opponent and David Shearer will win the battle by default. However, the war is far from over. Change is inevitable.

My prediction is that Labour Party will be led by another David come elections in 2014.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

RADIO AUSTRALIA: Commentator backs Fiji regime's role in 'coup culture' change

FIJI: Commentator backs Fiji regime's role in 'coup culture' change

Fiji commentator Thakur Ranjit Singh ... critical of past media role in Fiji. Image: PMC
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Item: 8146
MELBOURNE (Radio Australia / Pacific Media Watch): An outspoken Indo-Fijian commentator and former media publisher has given his support to the interim regime's efforts to change the country's 'coup culture'.
Thakur Ranjit Singh is a former Fiji Daily Post publisher and an Indo-Fijian political commentator, who now lives in New Zealand.
Since 2006 Singh's comments that Fiji's media is part of the reason the country kept having coups, and his support of the interim government, has seen him repeatedly attacked by those who oppose it, and led to him being described as a coup apologist.
Recently he published an article that looks at the island nation's coup culture since 1987 and the impact of the media there, and it is likely it will result him becoming a target once more.
Presenter: Campbell Cooney
Speaker: Thakur Ranjit Singh, Fiji media commentator