by journalist Michael Field
Australia’s top diplomat has been expelled from Fiji for “unfriendly acts”. Not that you’d read about it there.
Watching Fiji these days is a bit like astronomy and physics: you can look into the universe and know that dark matter exists. It is just that it is impossible to see. Theory says it has to be there, and that is like Fiji.
Censorship is an almost all pervading thing; anything even slightly critical is blue-pencilled out of existence. However, not quite. If you look carefully at the Fiji media, you can see what is not there, even as in the parallel universe of reality, it exists.
Take the typhoid epidemic. Officially, it is under control and everything is fine, problem solved. Look again, the Fiji media keeps reporting it is all well, every week. Censorship has pushed the Fiji media into black hole, while out here, in the real world, there are other clues that typhoid is not at all well, and not under control.
The thing is, ordinary people are hearing the same things I am hearing now around the crashing health system; it is why the Fiji media keep reporting all is well. They are not going to report that things are deteriorating.
Look at the Fiji media; there is almost no crime other than that which can be spun by the military regime into evidence against previous regimes. So, when an old lady of some earlier fame is gang raped in her Suva old folks home, it does not get into the censored press. It cannot be blamed on former PM Laisenia Qarase; it is here and now.
Another piece of dark matter floating around is the Land Use Decree. We are told that this will lead to a rational and reasonable use of leased land. We are told, repeatedly, about how badly land was used in the past. Again and again, without specific reference to lands being, well, rationalised.
Why is that? Censored Fiji is not being told what is happening.
In fact, the decree is rationalising — and that is not the word — the beginnings of a kind of Mugabe land grab. I know of large well-managed properties around Viti Levu where people aligned with the Bainimarama regime are now getting doubtful orders from the corrupt courts to have land seized. In one case, a prominent military appointed court official has managed to get orders seizing white leased farmland without any compensation to the leaseholder.
Some of it even slips through the censor’s net: Momi Bay and Lagoon Resort in Pacific Harbour. Again, it is not what you read, but what you don’t read. The Black Matter is the name, or names, of the people in the regime who will profit from these seizures.
Bainimarama says corruption has gone; in fact, it is the black matter we cannot now see in the New Legal Order.
Look at the Surfing Decree, proclaiming the waves of Fiji open to all. Well, who could argue that robbing a fat cat’s property and giving it to the poor (or in this case, the lazy surfers of the world) is laudable. Just that Fiji might just find it increasingly harder to attract the fat cats any more.
After all, if the military gun can steal the waves, what about the resorts on the land next to them? Free rooms at Treasure Island; free room service at the Sheraton? Watch out Vomo.
What is notably absent from the censored press is any coverage — not a solitary word — of the discussion and consultation that preceded the Surfing Decree. Dark matter buried in there.
Another clue that all is rotten in Fiji is in Frank Bainimarama’s emergency budget. He said he had to bring it out because of unexpected events that he did not think of in his earlier budget. These included cyclones and rain. Cyclones and rain, unexpected, in Fiji?
In addition, his economic projections were knocked over by a termite outbreak in Nadi. Who does he think he is kidding? Termite treatment costs less than the Chinese weapons he is proposing to buy for the Republic of Fiji Military Forces.
A lot of black matter floating around in those unchallenged ‘budget’ statements. One of which was why wasn’t there money for a rainy day?
Bainimarama says he is going off to the IMF to get $1 billion. However, he says they will only take it up after “placing paramountcy on what is in the best interest for Fiji and her people”.
Why would you state such an apparently obvious thing? It’s simple — as Greece and other much more powerful countries have long since found out; when you are broke and holding out a begging bowl no one cares about your paramountcy. Therefore, you tell the world — like pissing into the wind — that your paramountcy matters. No, it does not, and you will not read that in the Fiji media.
Then, there was the Media Decree. Now that came after 150 minutes of “consultation” with the media industry. The difference between the April draft and the June version is modest in the extreme.
Just before going there though, a small piece of unnoticed context, more dark matter if you like. Two weeks before the decree blitz hit, Bainimarama and his bag peon Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, announced they were off to the Arab League where, the censored media assured us all, the Middle East was about to sprinkle US$50 million in gold on the regime. The censored media said, repeatedly, that this was Fiji’s money to claim.
There was black matter, unreported; the Arabs offered US$50 million to be “shared” among 14 Pacific nations, not just Fiji. Bainimarama delivered a speech to the assembled Arabs that was so bad I doubt even he can remember what he said. Then he and bag boy came home.
Nothing more in the censored media; it has gone, black matter. Don’t mention the Arabs.
Yes, we can determine from that vacant space that Bainimarama got nothing. Zilch. Chances are he even had to pay for his own mini-bar.
Nothing in the media equates with nothing in Fiji. So, they come home and immediately change the subject. They attack the media and Rupert Murdoch in particular.
Have no doubt, Bainimarama is being nasty and vindictive in the most self-destructive way. Investors have had the message driven home with ruthless efficiency; if we don’t like you, we will change the rules. It is robbery, straight and simple. It is also anti-democratic, oppressive and designed to squeeze out whatever independent thought is left.
Michael Field is the author of Swimming With Sharks: Tales from the South Pacific Frontline