With friends like these: Terry Tavita and Kevin Rudd (Photo: TT's Facebook page)

 “See this middle finger. Fark you Palagi” (SCROLL DOWN FOR THE UPDATE – WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE)

Oh dear, some people never learn. Barely a fortnight after having to castigate the Samoan prime minister’s media advisor, Tupuola Terry Tavita, for his racist comments, Grubsheet feels obliged to give him another figurative cuffing. Yes, it’s unpleasant and we’d rather not have to do it, not least because people in white shirts who throw dirt tend to get some splattered back on them in the crosswinds. But this particular “Palagi” – the Samoan word for white people – happens to find it offensive when racial epithets get thrown around freely in the way Terry Tavita does almost routinely. We don’t mind seeing his middle finger but don’t see how the colour of our skin has got anything to do with the quality of our arguments.

Terry went quiet for a period after we highlighted his last racist rant – presumably to test the waters with his patron – but has since returned to these columns as belligerent as ever. He seems especially keen to weigh into the debate over Australia persuading Japan not to invite the Fijian leader, Frank Bainimarama, to the forthcoming PALM summit of Pacific leaders. Readers can find some mildly entertaining exchanges in the comments section of Friday’s posting – “Australia engineers Japan snub”. That is until his latest contribution, in which he again crosses the line with the startling aforementioned comment.

"Tui" the boss (photo: UN)

Terry is naturally delighted by the Japanese snub and so presumably is his boss – the man Terry refers to as “Tui”, prime minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi. Both long ago embarked on a concerted effort to benefit from Fiji’s isolation by trying to wrest the mantle of Pacific capital from Suva and plant it in Apia. They notably tried to get the Pacific Forum to move its secretariat from the Fijian capital to the Samoan capital. But it hasn’t happened and never will, not least because of the huge expense involved but also because compared with Suva, Apia is a sleepy backwater. Pacific bureaucrats favour Suva or Noumea – the headquarters of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community – for their easy access to transport and communications and their restaurants and nightlife.  And after all, Fiji is the preeminent island nation, irrespective of being a political work in progress.

All this rankles deeply with Terry Tavita and his boss, who entertain the fantasy that Samoa is the real seat of authority and wisdom in the region. The rest of us are prepared to indulge them in their adolescent-like fantasy so long as they keep civil tongues in their heads.  But alas – in common with your average problem teenager -Terry Tavita and civility aren’t on the closest terms.

"Stop it! : Lisa Williams-Lahari ( Photo: Fiji Sun)

We highlighted some of his loutish pronouncements in our previous posting. Those we can cope with but the racist comments are not to be endured. Thakur Ranjit Singh – the former editor of the Fiji Post – is a “little Indian”,  even though his family has been in Fiji for several generations. Grubsheet and other Pacific commentators, Crosbie Walsh and Professor David Robie, are Palagi, with its clear inference that we’re not really Pacific people but blow-ins and our pronouncements are consequently not as legitimate. It’s offensive not just to us but to some of Terry Tavita’s Polynesian colleagues. He was pointedly taken to task by Lisa Williams-Lahari – the Cook Islands journalist and media freedom campaigner – but has taken no notice whatsoever of her entreaties to stop making racist remarks and engaging in ethnic stereotyping. Terry – it seems – just can’t help himself.

Natural habitat: the bars of Suva (photo: Fiji Me)

So it’s time to direct a couple of questions over his head to his boss, the Samoan prime minister. Do you – Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi – condone this behaviour by one of your senior advisors? Do you share Terry Tavita’s evident belief that racial epithets are a legitimate part of everyday debate? What steps do you intend to take to stop these outbursts, which are offensive not only to the targets of such comments but clearly to some of your Polynesian brethren?

It seems extraordinary that a Pacific country with any pretensions at all to regional leadership should have such a demonstrable lout as its principal spokesman. Certainly, people like Australia’s former foreign minister, Kevin Rudd, would be giving Terry a very wide berth if they knew who they were really dealing with. There’s evidence aplenty that “Tui” and his media lackey have chips on their shoulders about Fiji. But Terry Tavita takes it further. In the words of one of Grubsheet’s old editors, he’s one of those individuals who can best be described as balanced. He’s got a chip on both shoulders.

FURTHER READING:In September 2010, Tupuola Terry Tavita caused a flurry of comment on the anti regime blog, Coup 4.5, after he came to Suva, ostensibly to attend a conference. To follow is a selection of those comments that accompanied a piece he wrote falsely predicting that Frank Bainimarama would be deposed in 12 months. They were so lurid that 4.5 censored some and was finally obliged to curtail the discussion. And remember, these are Tavita’s fellow travelers in the anti-regime camp. As they say, with friends like these….

Lurid tales of a barroom bruiser ( photo: Pacific Scoop NZ)

Siti said…

Well i can tell you from a very reliable source (me) who witnessed first hand that TTT spent most of his time in O’Reillys bar getting drunk, in fact he didnt make most of the conference in Suva, turned up late wearing dark glasses and suffering from a hangover! so obviously his ‘source’ of information was a drunk at the bar at O’Reillys!!!!! nice one

SEPTEMBER 2, 2010 3:13 PM  

 Anonymous said…

OMG I’ve met the writer!!! we partied together in Suva last week..he came for a meeting or something..he’s a nice guy and kept buying drinks for all of us….the only problem i had with him was his body odour and the fact that he kept trying to pull some tranny..a Miss Venezuela or something..someone from a gay pageant…weird but apparently a mate of mine that was in Samoa reckons that’s how they like it in Samoa..on top of that though, the guy’s a good drinking buddy!

SEPTEMBER 2, 2010 4:16 PM  

 Anonymous said…

Well the writer was in Fiji recently and had to be thrown out of Dragon’s Niteclub after he kept following this young Tongan girl to the toilets…he ended up in Birdland and got thrown out after starting a fight with some Samoan USP students…some of my samoan friends were pissed off because he was paid by the samoan govt to attend a meeting in suva but he ended up late every morning with dark shades and then back at it again in the arvo at the USP CRC Club!

SEPTEMBER 2, 2010 5:46 PM  

 Pacific in the Media said…

Comments on the social manouverings of the writer while gathering information in Suva for this story for Pacific Scoop, will not be posted at this time.-C4Editor

SEPTEMBER 2, 2010 7:51 PM  

 Anonymous said…

Sorry to see that the personality and the flaws of the writer (terry tavita) is impinging on the message, ie there is turmoil in the midst of the illegal regime. Was he really the best person to deliver such a story? From talk about his adventures in the haunts of suva, it would seem he was not. Or is that typical journo behaviour for you? Wjatever the real story has been blurred by the fact TTT has no credentials covering Fiji, thanks to him being at the bid of the Samoan PM and its newspaper. Perhaps Samoa but not Viti . too many enemies anyway so he should’ve kept his nose clean while on assignment. Comment edited-C4ed

  terry tavita said…

a friend just directed me to this site..well of course i was at o’reilly’s, of course i was at dragons, of course i was at birdland and traps, millenium, the chinese place at the corner of victoria parade and others you people didn’t mention..i have to work every night..and a journalist’s second office of course is the bar ya know..that’s where you get the scoop..not some blo-ody workshop..the truth is i did meet a few nice birds during that trip, but i don’t remember following them to the toilet or ever getting kicked out of dragons..hihi
 as of the story, well, ului’s gone, teleni and driti’s gone..so i wasn’t too far off the truth..

cheers mate,

POSTSCRIPT MAY 25TH:  The invective continues to fly out of Apia so read no further if you’re a minor or queasy about strong language. We’d like to have our own “sealed section” like certain magazines but WordPress doesn’t offer the option.

It’s curious that tough-talking Terry appears to have something of an anal fixation. How else to explain the common thread that runs through his insults? Grubsheet “is a nobody. You and Thakur ain’t good to wipe my arse with”, says our cuddly correspondent. Grubsheet can “shove your pen up where the light don’t shine”, presumably the same spot. Someone else is a “dumb anonymous little shitbag” and Terry ” don’t give a shit”.

What would a psychiatrist make of this, along with the strange allegation of the Samoan PM’s acolyte following people into toilets? He doesn’t deny it, merely says he can’t remember. Does this all go, ahem, deeper than Terry’s infamous potty mouth?  “I think we should be told”, went the celebrated line in Private Eye, the British satirical magazine. But on second thoughts, maybe not. Clearly a case of TMI – Too Much Information, as another famous saying goes. Mmm.

FURTHER READING:  Perhaps there’s something in the DNA of media advisors to the region’s leaders that make them predisposed to insulting behaviour. The antics of John TcTernan – the advisor to Australian prime minister Julia Gillard – are revealed in this piece by Paul Sheehan in the Sydney Morning Herald.  McTernan and Terry Tavita should enjoy swapping their choicest bon mots at the next Pacific Forum summit.