There’s nothing like free publicity and I got it in spades today from the Fiji Sun, which is clearly stung by my criticism of it for completely ignoring the Taiwanese government’s account of the attack by two Chinese diplomats on one of its representatives in Suva and running only the improbable Chinese Embassy account.
The Sun dedicates the whole of page 2 to me, which is rather odd when the main premise of the article is to dismiss me as irrelevant. Nemani Delaibatiki – who I’ve cast as the Attorney General’s manservant – does all the usual propaganda tricks, including half truths, selective facts and casting me as Australian to marginalise my local relevance when I am a Fiji-born Fijian. The white-haired Sage of Rewa is actually a New Zealand citizen who spent many years working in the NZ media. So this is just one of a number of instances in the article in which boulders are hurled from the glass house of the Beijing Sun headquarters in Gorrie Street.
Nemani Delaibatiki has no ethical compunction in publishing a photo of me from my private Facebook account – which he has access to as a “friend” – deliberately trying to portray me in an unflattering light. It shows me drinking wine at my home with the clear intention of reinforcing the depiction of me by my critics over the years as a drunken rake. Yet I am clearly enjoying myself and the photo gives the lie to Nemani’s contention that “Davis is a bitter man sitting alone and unnoticed in Sydney after his life on the expatriate gravy train ended”. Yes, I am sitting alone in the photo he chose from my private Facebook account but it is not a selfie and the grin on my face and the tidal height of my glass doesn’t exactly scream bitterness.
It is not worth canvassing all of the personal observations in the article ( “flying business class” is a pejorative?) but I take grave exception to my depiction as “anti-Chinese”, which is defamatory and totally without foundation. My quarrel is with the Chinese Communist Party, not the Chinese people, and this is an ugly smear for which Nemani Delaibatiki has no evidence whatsoever. Unlike the Fiji Sun, I sided with the Taiwanese democrats against the dictatorship in Beijing but I am categorically not “anti-Chinese”.
The notion he advances that I am “not widely experienced in the Pacific islands” is similarly risible. In my four decades in journalism, I have reported much more widely in the region than the Rewa Sage. This includes multiple stories from Papua New Guinea (including the Bougainville civil war), Vanuatu, Hawaii, the independence struggle in New Caledonia and most of the momentous events in Fiji over the years, even before the coups of 1987, plus multiple stories and interviews with Frank Bainimarama, Sitiveni Rabuka, Mahendra Chaudhry, Timoci Bavadra and all manner of other Fijians. I have also interviewed most of the leaders of his adopted Kiwi homeland, beginning with Norman Kirk in the 1970s. And of course, I know so little about the Pacific Islands that I was actually promoted as a Fiji Sun columnist for several years when the paper republished my Grubsheet pieces and regularly put my beatific countenance on its front-page banner to sell the paper.
Aside from Nemani’s personal hatchet job, the Fiji Sun also rehashes the Prime Ministers ill-tempered denunciation of me from last month with the clear intention of portraying it as new. It doesn’t carry the date the PM delivered the statement, written for him by Qorvis and the AG. Yet repeating it is clearly designed to drag the Prime Minister into the Fiji Sun’s little pantomime to give it some semblance of credibility when it has none. Wheeling the PM out has all the hallmarks of the AG, who routinely used the PM’s mana to add lustre to almost anything when I worked for him.
Let’s get this right, Delaibatiki: My quarrel isn’t with the Prime Minister, who I have repeatedly said is the best person to unite the country. All along, I have made it clear that I am siding with the Military Council and a significant proportion of the cabinet in pressing for the reform of the FijiFirst government, including the removal of the AG, to make it more competitive and avert defeat for Frank Bainimarama at the next election in 2022. He almost lost in 2018 and those pressing for reform are convinced he has no chance of winning in 2022 with the AG still in place. So that’s the agenda and sooling the PM onto me when I am actually working to protect his position benefits Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, not Frank Bainimarama.
Among the most risible of Nemani Delaibakiti’s claims is that the AG doesn’t control the Fiji Sun. He may not control the business side of the paper but he controls its editorial content, telling it what stories to run and where to place them and what stories not to run. And no amount of dissembling and spin from the Rewa Sage can alter that fact. I am willing to attest to this under oath at any official inquiry and you can bet Nemani Delaibatiki won’t be doing the same.
But when will the Sun and its patron, the Attorney General, ever learn? You don’t publicly elevate your critics, and especially when you are trying to cast them as irrelevant. That was the basis of my advice to the Fiji Sun several years ago to stop attacking the Suva lawyer, Richard Naidu – an incident Nemani Delaibatiki raises in his attack on me. I gave that advice informally as part of my professional duties at the time and it is advice the Fiji Sun would have done well to heed about a lot of its targets, long after the “bitter Australian” had gone.
Far from being bitter, I am, in fact, deeply grateful to the Fiji Sun and Nemani Delaibatiki for devoting the whole of Page 2 in the Fiji Sun today to make the point that I am allegedly irrelevant. Because it has underlined the fact that as a source of information and venue for discussion, Grubsheet is arguably more relevant to the national debate than ever before. In the past 48 hours, more than 12,000 people have accessed the articles that have irked Delaibatiki and his patrons – as well as all of Grubsheet’s other coverage – and like the Prime Minister’s attack before it, it doesn’t get any better when comes to marketing a nascent website.
I am bound to get another big readership spike after all this publicity. And when Fiji Sun readers are pointed in the direction of Grubsheet, they will learn of the one truly significant thing about this whole episode that the Sun doesn’t mention at all in its Page 2 photo spread of me – that they corruptly suppressed a major story of global significance because of their business relationship with the Chinese Government. It’s called an own goal. Vinaka.