Grubsheet’s burgeoning number of opinion pieces on Fiji are largely designed to counter what we regard as the continuing failure of the mainstream regional media to come to grips with the reality of events there. They’re especially aimed at an Australian audience, to highlight what we regard as the folly of Canberra having turned its back on Fiji since Frank Bainimarama’s coup five years ago. A lot of these pieces are picked up by the mainstream media – The Australian and Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, for instance – or disseminated to a wider regional and global audience through the Pacific Scoop service of the Auckland University of Technology and Pacific Islands Report from the East West Centre in Hawaii. Some are written as news stories but most are shamelessly opinionated, strong expressions of our own views based not only on on a life-long association with Fiji but having reported political events there for the mainstream media since before the first coup in 1987.
The problem arises when these articles are picked up and republished in Fiji, a country where the separation of news and opinion in the mainstream media doesn’t have a strong tradition. And so it was last week, when the Fiji Sun published a Grubsheet opinion posting on its front page that would have looked very much like news to local eyes. It provoked a wave of outrage, not least from the subject of that article – Laisenia Qarase, the man Frank Bainimarama deposed in his 2006 coup.
As readers can see for themselves in our own comments section, Qarase has gone on the attack against Grubsheet, accusing us of distortion, disregarding the facts and attempting to “crucify” him and his party – the SDL. He’s particularly aggrieved that we’ve accused him of pursuing racist policies in government. As readers can also note for themselves, we stand by that accusation. But we can also sympathise with Qarase that an article on a humble Australian blog site can so dramatically become part of the domestic political debate in Fiji. If any proof were needed of the power of the internet to amplify the smallest voice, then this is it.
Qarase is not only entitled to defend himself but Grubsheet is delighted that he can now do so fully in the Fiji media for the first time in a long time. The Bainimarama government has lifted censorship and a full-blown debate has erupted about the impending discussions on a new constitution and the unilateral abolition of the Great Council of Chiefs. This is how it should be. It’s also Grubsheet’s view that if Laisenia Qarase intends to stand in the promised elections in 2014, his record in government is also a legitimate subject for debate. Against all evidence to the contrary, he’s now running the line that the SDL has always been a multiracial party, didn’t disadvantage other citizens in government and that he’s never believed in indigenous paramountcy. Every village pig in Fiji has suddenly sprouted wings and set off over a moonlit lagoon. But again, Qarase is entitled to put his case. And we’re entitled to put ours.
What is not acceptable are the threats to Grubsheet’s personal safety by Qarase’s supporters. These have come via the main anti-government blog site, Coup Four Point Five, which has been in our sights before for publishing blatantly racist content against the Indo-Fijian minority. These are “journalists” based abroad who not only routinely censor comments they don’t agree with but now facilitate threats of violence against people they don’t agree with. Here’s the first instance, when Coup 4.5 reported Laisenia Qarase’s first press release in response to the original Grubsheet article:
I Taukei Dina said..
I hate to be rude but graham davis is so full of shit. I sincerely hope that he does not come to Fiji often and at the same time does not publicize that he is here, for his own personal safety. JUST A I TAUKEI WARNING…
March 15, 2012 9:35 AM
And then another in response to a second Qarase press release carried by Coup 4.5
I Taukei Dina said…
GRAHAM DAVIS…COME OFTEN TO FIJI AND WHEN YOU ARE HERE, ANNOUNCE SO THAT THE I TAUKEI KNOW YOU ARE HERE AND WHERE YOU ARE STAYING….p l e a s e !
March 18, 2012 9:31 PM
Grubsheet has posted the following response to I Taukei Dina ( true Fijian ) on Coup 4.5.
Graham Davis said…
“I’taukei Dina”, I look forward to seeing you face to face in Fiji.
This is the second time you have threatened me in these columns, assisted by the gatekeepers of Coup 4.5, who are willing to break the relevant media laws relating to the incitement of violence
You call yourself a “Taukei Dina” – a true Fijian. No, my friend, you are an embarrassment to the i’taukei.
A true Fijian stands up proudly for what he or she believes in. You don’t. A true Fijian allows others to speak their minds. You don’t. A true Fijian uses their real name. You don’t.
The more you do it, the more you show your intolerance for other opinions, your disdain for true democracy and your fear of the power of the pen.
I’ve seen your face in Fiji before – the face of blind, unreasoning hatred. We all have. But it doesn’t scare me one bit. Time has moved on even if you haven’t.
Coup 4.5 published our response but hours later, carried yet another implicit threat.
Dear Mr. Davis.
As a “Fijian” you are the last person to be telling others who is & who isn’t “Taukei” – as for your lecture on Taukei etiquette & behaviour – shove it.
You are wise to be watchful of those who publicly threaten – but be doubly wary of those who don’t.
March 19, 2012 7:27 PM
The racism and violence that Coup 4.5 tolerates and indirectly promotes is the true face of far too many of the so-called pro-democracy campaigners, both in Fiji and the diaspora. Some of these are the same people who harassed and beat their fellow citizens during the racist coups of 1987 and 2000. Some of these terrorised innocent people, stole their possessions and destroyed their hopes for a prosperous future for themselves and their children.
No-one is saying – least of all Grubsheet – that the current Fiji government is perfect. But its singular achievement has been to confront these racist thugs, to make life safe again for everyone in Fiji and to lay out the blueprint for a multiracial future. For Laisenia Qarase, the real enemy isn’t Grubsheet. The real enemy is the cancer of intimidation and racism in his own ranks.