The best piece of advice my Qorvis boss in Washington gave me when I made the transition from journalist to communications adviser in Fiji was beautifully simple. “When the shit hits the fan and is flying everywhere, stand still. Because if you wave your arms around, you get covered in more shit and spread it even further”. In the Fijian context, this invariably meant trying to persuade the leadership not to respond to criticism and let it pass rather than responding and elevating that criticism and the individual making it.
Time and again, despite my entreaties, the Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, would be goaded by Biman Prasad, Sitiveni Rabuka or any number of other people into a testy response to some criticism or other that guaranteed they were on the front pages and especially of the Fiji Sun, the paper he controls. They had learned the lesson – and the AG hasn’t – that any publicity is good publicity when you’re the opposition trying to cut through. He is placing them in the public eye and making them relevant. So they keep throwing shit and, sure enough, the AG keeps spreading it everywhere. And last week, he again made the mistake, this time with me. Criticising me by name and in the process, handing me the gift of being relevant and driving a huge amount of Internet traffic to these pages.
Knowing the AG’s flaw, Biman Prasad, the NFP leader, specifically told associates that he had named me in the Parliament to get more people to read Grubsheet Feejee. It was a throwaway line in his speech in which he said that a “former friend of the government, Graham Davis, was saying the cabinet was divided”. He also said something I didn’t say – that they weren’t speaking to each other. In Fiji, even the least educated person knows that in the liumuri world of politics, people exchange polite chitchat and smile sweetly at each other even as knives are at the ready.
I would have advised the AG not to say anything. Then I would have passed into irrelevance in the torrent of words uttered in the parliament that day. But as I say, he just can’t help himself. Casting me as a “disgruntled former employee making comments from Australia”, the AG attempted to portray me as someone who had left Fiji angry or dissatisfied (I wasn’t fired, I resigned and with warm thanks from the Prime Minister for my service) and was an outsider speaking from a country where at last count, 96,000 other Fijians live. Not once did he deny a single thing that I had written on the basis of fact.
So what was the point? Immediately, I was news. The AG’s criticism of me was reported by Communications Fiji Limited on its radio network and global “Fiji Village” website and by the AG’s brother’s Fijian Broadcasting Corporation on its local outlets and Facebook page, which gave me the opportunity to respond by again pointing out the glaring conflict of interest of Riyaz Sayed-Khaiyum in being CEO of FBC and also a key member of the FijiFirst elections campaign team.
All the world loves a free kick and, boy, did the AG and his brother give me one. Want to know why they nearly lost FijiFirst the last election? Qori, as we say in Fiji. They are just not as smart as they think they are. The same applies to the trolls making personal attacks on me in these columns and elsewhere, and especially on the basis that I am white and not really a Fijian because I lived so long overseas. Remember, these are often Indo-Fijians who are the first to protest about racism in Fiji and have precisely the same justification to citizenship as I do – being Fiji born. But, naturally white people have fewer rights than they do. This is how they evidently think they can damage me and please the AG.
Over the next two weeks, I’ll be presenting hard evidence that gives the lie to the government’s claim that it is united and proves my original claim that cabinet is divided, largely on ethnic lines, in the wake of the debacle of the 2018 election. This Friday (September 11) what the Military Council recommended to the Prime Minister after the government’s near defeat. And the following Friday ( September 18), Frank Bainimarama names his successor.