Thursday, June 23, 2016

John Key's Fiji visit: How a conceited NZ Media let their PM down

Thakur Ranjit Singh

As the NZ Airforce Hercules eased into a very warm Nausori Airport in Fiji with its Prime Minister John Key, Frank Bainimarama, stood tall at the tarmac, with his heads held high on 9 June, 2016.

He has effectively passed a message to Australia, as well as New Zealand that he could survive without their support. So, he did. In response, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has been expedient to play by the new rules: “It’s time to put the past behind us and move forward.”  Indeed, NZ needs Fiji’s support and vote for Helen Clark to be the next Secretary General of United Nations. 

Professor Robbie Robertson from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne summed it well when he spoke about NZ and Australia’s attempt at punishing Fiji and freezing it out of regional blocs. “They assumed in the past they could pressure Fiji and bring it to its knees,” says Swinburne’s Robbie Robertson. “They failed.”

Two neighbouring Prime Ministers, Fiji's Frank Bainimarama, and  New Zealand's PM John Key, sharing gifts in a very cordial atmosphere in Fiji. Kiwi Media let down John Key through their distorted news reporting which said Fiji visit was a disaster for John Key. This is  very misleading and poor journalism on the part of NZ media which failed to report facts.
So did New Zealand media. This was an opportunity for them to appreciate and understand Fiji. But sections of a White Kiwi media has been conceited and vindictive, hence they wasted this chance. And in doing so they did not hurt Bainimarama, but, and let down their own PM, and contributed to him losing face amongst Kiwis back home. Reaction of New Zealand media to Bainimarama’s 2,400 word speech was only confined to some ten percent of that speech which kicked on the butt of a wanting NZ media.  “……there appears to be a substantial body of opinion in New Zealand – led by your generally hostile media – that what has happened in Fiji somehow lacks legitimacy. That somehow, I lack legitimacy and my government lacks legitimacy. This is simply not borne out by the facts. We have moved on but it would appear that the New Zealand media has not.”

On media ban on journalists, Fiji PM said that no one who reported on events in Fiji fairly and in a balanced manner was excluded. While accepting fair criticism, Bainimarama said he “cannot allow the wilful propagation of false information that damages the national interest and undermines our vulnerable economy.” He effectively told NZ media owners to send someone who respected the facts and the right of people to know the truth, and not some twisted concoction. 

Unfortunately, NZ media played exactly the same way Fiji PM had accused them of. Bainimarama’s information-packed speech with essential pertinent facts about Fiji were ignored. It appeared NZ media was running around like chooks with heads cut off, and wailing that they have been kicked in the butt by the leader of a Third World Country. They never covered the other facts that Kiwis needed to know. 

Who said nothing was achieved by John Key's visit to Fiji? NZ media failed to see the positive side of thing and was intent on their own agenda -setting, showing Fiji's democracy in bad light.
This irony was not lost on NZ Herald readers who expressed their feeling in the letters column. One Robin Osborne wrote:” I note with wry amusement the only subject of importance apparently raised at the PM’s visit to Fiji was the return of various media reporters.”  One Grant Anderson raised very pertinent issues that bugged great number of people: “It was disappointing to see that the media coverage on Mr. Key’s visit to Fiji focussed on how Fiji treats some New Zealand reporters rather than other very important issues relating to Fiji and NZ mutually, like Fiji support for Helen Clark and so on.”  In fact TVNZ’s weather reporter who was hosted by Tourism Fiji recently reported from resorts in Fiji. He told more about Fiji than the hordes of reporters covering Key’s Fiji visit.

Perhaps, Professor David Robie, who specialises in Pacific reporting, need to take these reporters for a refresher course at Auckland University of Technology’s (AUT’s) Media and Communications department and train them how to communicate what they missed from Bainimarama’s other 90 per cent of the speech. Anglo Saxons (Europeans) just naturally do not happen to be better journalists than home-grown Fijians journalists.

Fiji PM informed an ignorant NZ media that ten years ago, some Fijians were more equal than others, their votes carried more weight than others and they enjoyed a range of privileges that others didn’t share, such as employment etc.

He also said when Helen Clark visited Fiji ten years ago, there was no common name or identity. The term Fijian – an English word – was reserved for one ethnic group only. He informed that Qarase regime wanted to introduce an equivalent of Foreshore and Seabed Act that NZ has soundly rejected. It would have undermined Fiji’s tourism industry and turned Fiji into an economic basket case. He said ten years ago, the then government wanted to introduce a reconciliation bill that would have effectively freed those responsible for bringing our nation to its knees in the rebellion of 2000 and the subsequent mutiny in the military. 

Bula, Frank. Kia Ora, John
To stop the racial seed germinating to destroy the nation, action had to be taken. The same elites responsible for 1987 and 2000 political instability were posing another grave threat to national unity.  And so Bainimarama embarked on a revolution to create Year Zero in Fiji. This was to grant every citizen of Fiji a common name, equality and social justice and to move the country forward as one nation, one people.

James Batley was the Australian High Commissioner to Fiji when he was suddenly expelled from the country in 2009 as Bainimarama set out to prove his country’s sovereignty. He still hasn’t been allowed back but has told Pasifik News that Fiji’s new democracy is a work in progress. “I think there’s always been a view in Australian circles that it was unrealistic for Fiji just to flick a switch from an unelected government under Frank Bainimarama to a fully functional democracy straight after the elections,” he says.

It appeared that this sacked diplomat with a black ban has better appreciation of a Third World Developing country. That appeared to be drastically lacking in NZ journalists who were trying to view a Third World democracy with a First World tinted glasses. They still tend to believe that a mere switch on of a button would make everything well in Fiji. They believe they are smart, yet they are so naïve. In fact it appears some may still believe we wear grass skirts in Fiji. Bainimarama requested NZ Government for a genuine cooperation and understanding. He pleaded to Key and his Government to work with Fiji to create a better framework in which to conduct its affairs, which was less prescriptive, more consultative, with better appreciation of the challenges Fiji faced.

Bainimarama told Key what NZ media failed to hear. “We are not New Zealand. We have different challenges and priorities. We are not the New Zealand democracy. Evolved and robust. We are the Fijian democracy. Finally genuine yet still in its relative infancy and with institutions that need to be strengthened. And we are not the New Zealand economy. Our economy needs to have its fundamentals protected and strengthened to empower all Fijians,.” he told Key. A lackadaisical and apathetic NZ media, completely failed to understand and broadcast this intelligence and plea from Fijian PM. 

He appealed NZ to work with Fiji to build those institutions, strengthen its democracy, work with Fiji to improve the lives of Fijians, and help build strong institutions without political bias or interference and help. He pleaded NZ to work with Fiji in a collaborative manner. 

Frank Bainimarama concluded: “Prime Minister, a great partnership is possible, one based on mutual confidence and trust. So I look forward to our talks … welcome to Fiji. It’s been a long time between drinks, as they say - 10 years since we last had a New Zealand Prime Minister here, even though we now welcome over 100,000 Kiwis every year. We hope that like them, Fiji will be where happiness finds you. …”

"Look John, Kiwi media thinks we still wear grass skirts in Fiji, and they think I am still a dictator despite democratic elections. Your media seem to indulge in agenda-setting, showing Fiji in bad light. Your newsrooms in NZ are too white while your country is browning very fast. Your newsrooms need to reflect the colour of the country. To understand Fiji, your mainstream media need to employ some Fijian journalist who understand Fiji. Kiwis cannot appreciate our fundamental challenges. See how they wrongly said your visit was a disaster." 
So, where was the hostility that NZ media reported? Why was it a lost cause for Key? Bainimarama was indeed true in saying that NZ media is very wanting, and always looks to find scandals when it came to Fiji. They failed to report all that which is reported here by an unemployed ethnic journalist in New Zealand. With what is reported here and by blog FIJI PUNDIT, how come sections of NZ media report Key’s trip as a disaster? They indeed deserved that rebuke.

So, if they felt that Bainimarama kicked them in the butt, they fully deserved it. But what was more revealing was that it was John Key’s own White Kiwi media which failed to report on what was achieved, reported negatively, and in doing so, kicked in the butt of NZ PM. The trip was not a disaster. If you understand Bainimarama’s speech, it was NZ media which failed, and was a disaster on Key’s Fiji visit. 

They say, karma is a bitch.  Sections of NZ media which thinks they are too White showed their dark side in Fiji. Thank God, I am still an “unemployed” ethnic journalist in New Zealand.

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is the principal of blog FIJI PUNDIT and Indian Media Watch New Zealand in Auckland. He has a postgraduate qualification in journalism (with honours) from Auckland University of Technology’s (AUT) and is a former media personality from Fiji. He is a media commentator, specialising in social media, Fiji and local ethnic issues.]

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Elderly abuse: A shame on children who do that

 By Thakur Ranjit Singh, 

[With excerpts from Hindi movie, “Baghban” – the Gardener]

Commercialisation of Fathers' Day has reached very high levels where we sing glories of fathers this day. Our Eastern religions and movements (Hindu, Islam, Sikh, Sai, Hare Rama etc) also sing high glories of our elderly parents and aged people. Our scriptures are abound with good things we need to do to and for our aged, to find salvation -the ultimate "mokcha'.

The Bollywood movie that immortalised obligations and responsibilities of children to their ageing parents, and made great awareness of parental-elder abuse: BAGHBAN - the Gardner. In this movie, Big B and the Dreamgirl as elderly parents were abused by their children, when the father decided to take things in his own hands. I hope we can have such father's teaching lessons to such undeserving children.

Yet, we seem to be the biggest hypocrites when we cannot walk our talk on treatment of our elders, our parents and close relatives. There are many cases of abuse within our communities such as financial exploitation, where migrants use elders as baby sitters and discard them when not needed. Or using up their pensions to pay off their mortgage or for their expensive lifestyle. Exception are where for their own safety or changed circumstances, the elderly are placed in well-organized elderly care facilities. This is something we need to accept as reality in the West and some parents themselves opt to move out to ease the burden on their children. But today, I am talking about many other forms of abuse.

The abuse take various forms. They are: physical abuse, psychological and emotional, financial, scam by strangers, sexual, neglect and abandonment.

Elder abuse (also called "elder mistreatment," "senior abuse," is a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust, which causes harm or distress to an older person."

In Indian culture, parents will suffer in silence, will swallow their tears of despair, but will not say anything that will hurt their children.. Do they deserve to be abused and ignored by us?

The core element to the harm of elder abuse is the "expectation of trust" of the older person toward their abuser. Thus, it includes harms by people the older person knows, or have a relationship with, such as children, a spouse, partner or family member, a friend or neighbor, or people that the older person relies on for services. In my case, I priorities abuse of parents by their children.

Despite the fact that many Indians would wish to sweep it under the carpet, I have first hand knowledge of how some of our people have been abusing their elders wherever they have settled. I know of silent –sufferers within our elderly community because of our culture stops them from talking, and they remain silent and shed tears alone. Their love for their children prevent them from revealing their vice. And many such abusive children have high profile in politics, community organisation and religious bodies. Put the hat on if it fits you, I do not give two hoots about pricking conscience of some ungrateful children, wearing suits and ties and giving big speeches.

I personally know of an Indian elder couple who went back to his home country because his daughter-in-law was abusive of his elderly wife. And the last time I visited their home before their departure, that daughter-in-law (patohia, bahu) was reciting Satya Narayan Pooja to the family. Hypocrisy comes in many forms. When asked why this was not brought to the attention of the son, the father replied that he did not wish to cause discord in his son’s family. Hence, many swallow their tears, as we say in Hindi.

Two older Bollywood movies that depicts forms of elder abuse - Ghar Basake Dekho (Try to set up a Home) and Aap Ki Parchahiyan (Your Shadows-the children)

Indian Cinema and Bollywood has made many exceptional movies to depict this some older ones include Ghar Basake Dekho” (Try to raise a family), and“Aap Ki Parchaaiyan (your shadows). But the latest one, Amitabh- Hema’s Baghban (The gardener) seems to have greater effect on our community.

“Baghban”, the Amitabh Bachchan movie on old age depicted obligations of children to their ageing parents. This movie was reported to have uplifted and pricked the conscience of some children who have ignored their obligations to their ageing parents who sacrificed their happiness and worldly pleasures for a better future of their children. Below I present a rough translation of a father’s lament at the treatment his children had given him, and some lessons of the old and new. This is memorable Amitabh Bachchan dialogue from that movie.

The famous and memorable Amitabh Bachchan speech from "Baghban" which is translated here
I am going to talk about…” conflict arising between the days gone by and the days to come… about the broken relations between two generations. It’s about the drooping shoulders on which some children had once sat to see the world….about the trembling hands that once held the hands of their children as they taught them to walk…about the parched lips that once sang lullabies . But which have been silenced now.

Times have changed. Life has changed. If people of my generation will recall we were always caught up in ties and in relations that yielded nothing.

Our father was God. At our mothers’ feet lay heaven. And now, now people have become very sensible. The new generation is very clever and practical.

 For them, every relation is like a ladder on which they will step to rise further in life. But when they have no use for the ladder anymore, with the rest of broken furniture in the house, old vessels, old clothes and newspapers, (kachra) they are dumped in the attic.

However, life does not take you up like a ladder. Life grows like a tree. Parents are not the steps on a ladder. Parents are the soul of ones life – they are roots of life.

However big the tree is, however green and filled it is, it can’t stand on its own once its roots are hacked.

With all humility and respect, I ask today, the children for whose happiness a father spends every penny of his hard – earned money with a smile, those very children when the father’s eye-sight weakens, why they hesitate in giving them light?

Parents are not the steps on a ladder. Parents are the soul of ones life – they are roots of life. Children perhaps forget what is our present today will be their present tomorrow. If we are old today they will also grow old someday. The question we ask today, they will ask tomorrow.”

If a father can help his son to take the first step in his life, why cannot the son give his father support when he is taking the last few steps of his life?

 What crime is it of the parents who have devoted all their lives to their children that they are given tears and loneliness? If they cannot give us any love, who gives them the right to snatch love from us?

 What do these children think? The parents God has united in love, can they separate and force them to lead a life of misery and despair? Is it for a day like this that a man seeks children?

Children perhaps forget what is our present today will be their present tomorrow. If we are old today they will also grow old someday. 

The question we ask today, they will ask tomorrow.”

Indeed, an eye - opener for the children who have been abusing their elderly parents in one way or the other. God does not reside in dead statues in temples or other religious institutions, or dancing to music of keertan or bhajans, or running Ramayan mandalis. God resides at the feet of your ageing parents. Please some people, stop acting like first class hypocrites, dhongees.

Please, make a start. You will grow older, and the questions we elderly ask today, you will ask tomorrow… jab tak hai ke akash pe chand sitaare, bhagwaan salamat rahe, maa paap hamaare…. (till we have sun and moon in the skies, we pray to Lord  to give good life to our parents….song from ‘Aap Ki Parchaiyan)

Even if one son learns from this, my objective would have been achieved. Hail our elders and parents.



Thursday, June 16, 2016

Happy Birthday, Radio Tarana: Vatan ki yaad - Memories from back home

Thakur Ranjit Singh

Radio Tarana – a radio station which saw its genesis at 5pm on 15th June 1996 has achieved momentous status in its 20 years of existence. And one of the continuing achievements has been proudly maintaining New Zealand’s number one place as its Hindi Radio Station. However, with diversity and demographic mix of People of Indian Origin (PIOs) from around the globe, the expansion and adjustment was necessary, and that record now stretches to still being New Zealand’s number one Indian Radio Station.

Robert Khan, Managing Director of Radio Tarana - he has steered the station to the level no ethnic media has achived
”…Vatan ki yaad dilaati hai…” (Reminds you of the home country)..this used to be the promotion theme song often played on Radio Tarana , and it rings so true. There is something unique, some belongingness with Radio Tarana that it reminds you of your home country, be it India, or especially Fiji, because the format rightfully mirrors our stations in Fiji, and many announcers are Fiji-trained Fijians. One of the hallmarks and perhaps marketing tools of Hindi Radio Stations in Fiji has been free death messages. This has become norm with all Hindi Radio Stations worldwide with links to Fiji, and Radio Tarana follows this tradition.  What reminds Indo Fijians of their home country is the music and song that is played at end of all death maalik tere bande hum…(Oh God, we are your children). That is the same one that has been played at Radio Fiji and its predecessor, Fiji Broadcasting Commission for some fifty years. That is what we mean, bringing the best from back home - the memories and tunes we grew up with, what we call vatan ki yaadein.

The all familiar logo of Radio Tarana
My first contact with Radio Tarana came in 2003 when Pravin Kumar, Managing Director of Lotus Money Exchange made my contacts with Pawan Rekha to speak about my Girmitiya ancestors in May 2003 during Girmit anniversary. At that time I was still resident in Fiji but had come here for a visit, and had an emotional talk and talk back on history of Girmit, the indenture. This was followed three years later in 2006, when we again got together and did a live radio broadcast to mark Girmit anniversary, by when I had migrated to New Zealand. One of the highlights was the presence of the well-respected Fiji school teacher and maternal grandfather (Nana) of Managing Director Robert Khan, octogenarian Master Sultan Ali. He enlightened us about early history of Fiji. Ali was a well-respected school teacher in and around my hometown of Ba. We were fortunate that in 2015, when Minister Kubuabola attended Girmit Day organised by Fiji Girmit Foundation of NZ, Radio Tarana did a live telecast of the proceedings.
The heart of Radio Tarana, Pawan Rekha
Radio Tarana well recognises its role as the custodian and archivist of Indian history in New Zealand. They have pledged to preserve recordings for coming generations for research and education purposes. So we can be rest assured that our achievements and history will be accessible to our grandchildren in 50 years’ time. And its generous sponsorship of community functions shows it fulfilling it role on a wider sphere. A radio station plays a more important role in community apart from news, music and entertainment - and that is community development, community’s wellbeing, community partnership, a historian and a voice museum. 
Hemant Parikh, an old timer and the face of Radio Tarana

Radio Tarana features multi lingual religious music and discourse in the mornings, news, interviews, birthday announcements, community and death messages throughout the day, and favourite music from 50s to the present era, and much more. That much more, among others is multi-lingual programmes that, among others include Urdu, Punjabi, Tamil and Gujarati. Radio Tarana is essentially a music station featuring a range of popular Hindi songs from the past and present era with local as well as overseas artistes.

The "Captain" of Radio Tarana, Saten Sharma, pictured here paying tribute to Guru of Radio Stations in Fiji, Anirudh Divakar.
A Radio station need not try to establish its popularity by wishing to remain bearer of good news. Media, be it print or broadcast, survives from public audience and hence owes it a duty of care. They need to be watchdogs of the community and public morals. We have grave issues about family violence, mistreatment of elders, abuse of women, abuse of employees, especially Indians and other social ills in the community. We have some other ills imported in this country by People of Indian origin from their countries of birth. Hindi Radio stations need to emulate English stations like Radio Live and News ZB which have no fear in openly having talk-back shows on issues affecting the community. It is hoped Radio Tarana is bold enough to venture in this area.

We happily note some changes coming in with new breed of radio announcers on board. They seem to be bolder and asking those hard questions. They have become bolder and changes are on board. The other day I was somewhat surprised to hear a talkback on “menstruation” (period) of women and their suitability for religious activities in this period (pun intended). This shows that they have developed and matured, and for this I salute Robert Khan for giving more leeway to the station.

Overall, New Zealand’s People of Indian Origin are today richer for the fact that they have now three 24-hour radio stations in their own language. Among the three, Radio Tarana stands tall, has won numerous awards, and has been the first ethnic radio station to stand proudly with the mainstream ones. It has also done much to ensure upkeep of culture, and have still maintained the dignity of Hindi language that goes over air. The only thing they need to be careful is that we do not understand some of Valmiki or Tulsidas Hindi language. For example, most Indians do not know that ‘Saamling” means gays, and ‘Sthai Sachiu “means permanent secretary,  “prashanic karyawahi “means disciplinary actions,  and others like “sakraatmak, nakraatmak, baam panthi, praja tantra…and many more are Greek to many of us, especially the new generation. While using these hard Hindi, they may help educate us by repeating its English meaning. As they say, the purpose of language is communication.

The A-team of Indian Radio in Auckland- TEAM TARANA
As a media critique, I am wary of Media, especially our Indian media, and do not please easily. However, when I say we are proud of Radio Tarana and its activities in the community, it comes from deep inside me. Therefore, we are content with the fact that there still remains a radio station that we can trust, rely upon and overall, which reminds us of good things back home-…vatan ki yaad dilaati hai….. And that is…Radio Tarana. 

Aayushmaan Bhava, Cheeranjeevi Bhava-Happy Birthday, blessings and a very successful long life. Vijai Bhava-may you remain number one

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is the principal of blog FIJI PUNDIT and Indian Media Watch New Zealand. He has a postgraduate qualification in journalism (with honours) from Auckland University of Technology’s (AUT) and a former media personality from Fiji. He is a media commentator, specialising in social media, Fiji and local ethnic issues. E-mail:]

Sunday, June 12, 2016

When Fiji vegetable farmers get short-changed by Auckland middlemen: Are they being cheated and exploited?

Thakur Ranjit Singh

As the NZ Airforce Hercules took off from my neighbourhood at Whenuapai Military base in Auckland, and eased and glided into a warm and damp Nausori Airport, it was a historical flight in some respects. When John Key stepped out onto Nausori Airport tarmac he became the first New Zealand Prime Minister to visit Fiji since Voreqe “Frank” Bainimarama displaced Qarase. He took control of Fiji Government. However, I refuse to call it a “coup”. This is because no army commander gives 18 months’ notice to the government of an impending coup. But that is another story, some other day.

Frank Bainimarama leading John Key into into VIP lounge at Nausori Airport. In the background is NZ Air Force's Hercules.

One issue they spoke about was trade imbalance. But above that was price imbalance. From the secret dairy of FIJI PUNDIT, this is what was reported by my spy, Guru Ghantaal, who overheard the conversation between the two leaders:

Key: Bula, Frank, nice to be in Fiji from the freezing Auckland and a boiling Auckland housing crisis.  I needed to escape from that heat I created. Lack of action from my government caused this unfortunate situation. But there are some other biting problems here. My secret agents from Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) visited Suva Market. They reported on overabundance of vegetables, in particular bhindi and baigan, which are in big demand by Fijians and other Indians in Auckland. My GCSB officers (spies) tell me that your bhindi costing a dollar in Fiji is sold for up to $20 Fiji dollars per kilo in Auckland, and same applies to other vegetables. Your vegetables in Auckland now cost more than our beef, chicken, fish and lamb.

Eggplant, or Baigan, which when bought in Fiji by bag-full, may cost as low as 50 cents per kg, but they are sold for Fijian $20 in Auckland, only three hours flight from Fiji, with freight costing around $1 per kg. How does 50c escalate to  $20 is our concern. There is over-abundance of Baigan  in Fiji, and is rotting in markets, but unwarranted greed by Auckland importers is killing its demand and Fiji market potential in New Zealand.
Frank: Kia Ora, Karua John…Sa, this is no good, is that really so? Are Fijian farmers short-changed by your importers?

Key: Sure, Karua.  You see, you are selling 10 kg bags of NZ onions and potatoes very cheap in Fiji. Kiwi onions and potatoes should sell for around $150 under the same pricing formula that Auckland importers apply on of Fiji produce. NZ apples should sell at $45 per kg in Fiji under reciprocal pricing. Something is very wrong in your vegetable export market, just like our Auckland housing market.

Frank: Very frankly talking, John, I was unaware of this daylight international robbery. I hear FIJI PUNDIT blog and NZ Fiji Trade Bulletin talking about this. I cannot trust Kiwi journalist. FIJI PUNDIT is one Fijian journalist I can trust in NZ. My Government will look into this. Talking about journalist, I will save that scud missile for later use……..

And as they entered the VIP lounge, our spy lost the other part of the conversation….. But now on those uncontrolled Fiji vegetable exports to New Zealand.

Bora or Cowpeas also sell for Fijian $20 per kg in Auckland. If proper market gardening is done, and greed of importers in removed from pricing, demand can go up and Fiji exports can be increased. Some selected few importers appear to have a cartel and fix high prices, stifling demand. We call upon Fiji Government to intervene.
As somebody who studied journalism, and various models of it, I became deeply interested in Investigative and Development Journalism. In Investigative journalism, reporters intensively investigate a story over a longer period with a view to producing a report based on careful research, analysis and evaluation. Those complaining about media freedom in Fiji should know there is nothing stopping them from being smart and efficient, and probing on issues affecting economic development.

Development Journalism is something, which a developing country like Fiji should emphasise can benefit from. In the traditional press, journalists tend to report government press releases and quotes but leaving little space for analysis or evaluation of development projects. This entails qualitative analysis and evaluation of issues to reveal pros and cons of such issues for the benefit of the public. A feature on development journalism, among others, may cover issues such as economic development, agriculture and primary industry growth, export markets etc. Why do some journalist just feel that journalism is about political divisiveness? Universities in Fiji need to focus on this model of journalism. This will help improve Fiji’s economic potential. We need more stories helping economic development and telling positive people interest stories.  

Daruka in Auckland sells for Fijian $22. per kg. Perhaps Fiji cane farmers should abandon cane farming, and go into daruka farming. While sugar cane sells for some $80 per tonne, Daruka sells  for $22,000 per tonne at this price in Auckland.

With this in mind, I tried using some Fiji media to help me get to the root of this issue. However, their reporters appear to be comfortable in old divisive media, and were not cooperative. I detailed the problem to them: local vegetables were costing only a few dollars in Fiji, there was glut of vegetables in Fiji markets, but the greed of importers in New Zealand has placed these vegetable beyond our reach. Hence Fiji’s agricultural potential is curtailed.

My concern is that there is no logical progression of prices from that paid at the farm gate in Fiji to the retail prices paid in Auckland shops. Consequently, people are now buying frozen produce from India. For example, Bhindi from India sells at one-third of the price of Fijian produce. These are diced, frozen, packaged and transported thousands of kilometres to New Zealand and yet the retail price is extremely attractive to the consumer. This has brought direct competition between market produce from India and Fiji. I am eating Indian bhindi, at NZ $5 per kilo instead of Fiji imports at $15. It is possible that Fiji may be pricing itself out of market, as people opt to buy cheaper Indian produce. Comparatively, Fiji has enormous advantage over India like transport cost and delivery of fresh produce to New Zealand. However, the greed of middlemen, including retailers in Auckland may be doing incalculable harm to a lucrative New Zealand market.

This is a typical scene in Fiji markets , with an abundance of vegetable at relatively very cheap price. However, they are selling at price of gold in Auckland. In fact these vegetables are more expensive than chicken, lamb, fish and beef in Auckland.
Fijian and Indian population in Auckland is some 90,000, almost equivalent of population served by Ba and Lautoka markets. Imagine the gain to Fiji if produce rotting in Fiji markets could be diverted in an organised method by some government agency, to boost Fiji exports to New Zealand. I am to understand some Biosecurity unit at Nadi Airport has become a money-spinner for the government rather than promote farmers export, because of the exorbitant price it charges for compliance issues. Fiji government assists cane farmers, why not also promote untapped vegetable exports to New Zealand? The aim should be to replace private sector greed of profiteering with government assisted boost in helping Fiji economy while providing much-loved vegetables at reasonable and affordable prices in Auckland.

Long Beans imported from Fiji also cost some $20 Fijian Dollars per kg in Auckland.
Perhaps Fiji Government need to revive something equivalent to the disbanded National Marketing Authority (NMA), but with credible qualified people. Perhaps it can commission the Central Planning Office, in conjunction with Ministry of Trade and Agriculture, to investigate on centralising and consolidating vegetable exports to an expanding Fijian Diaspora, including Australia. They should recognise the failure of private sector, where the greed is stifling Fiji’s potential in agriculture.

And we hope some Development Journalist in Fiji will pick up this issue and explore ways of boosting income of Fiji vegetable farmers. Instead of rotting in Fiji, organised marketing and government controls has huge potentials. Hope media will report on development issues on John Key’s visit to Fiji rather than barking at the wrong tree.

[About the Author: Thakur Ranjit Singh is the principal of blog FIJI PUNDIT and Indian Media Watch New Zealand. He is a qualified journalist, a postgraduate scholar (with Honours) from Auckland University of Technology’s (AUT) and a former media personality from Fiji. He is a media commentator, specialising in social media and covering Fiji and local issues neglected by the mainstream and side stream media.]