October 08, 2011

Lowy Institute lectures Australian Government

Dr Wadan Narsey

The article by Jenny Hayward-Jones (Executive Director of Lowy Institute) in The Australian (6 October 2011) is a scornful lecture to the Australian Government diplomats, and a slap in the face of all those who suffer under the Military Regime’s dictatorship in Fiji.

With convoluted underhand logic, she transforms the Australian Government’s criticism of the Lowy Poll into a criticism of the Fiji people, and a criticism of critics of Australian Government policies.  She writes:

“COMMODORE Frank Bainimarama once famously told an Australian journalist he did not trust the Fijian people.  Apparently the Australian government doesn't trust them either.”

She further alleges:

           "Just because the people polled expressed views that conflicted with what the Australian government believes the Fijian people think does not make the poll ridiculous.”

So according to Hayward-Jones, criticism of the poll is merely because the poll “reveals Fiji peoples’ views” that do not jell with the Australian Government views of what Fiji people think. 

So what about all the substantive criticisms of the Lowy Poll?  Neither she nor her polling experts  have bothered answering them, either publicly or privately.

She completely ignores the statistical reality that the Lowy Poll results could not represent the views of the “Fijian people” because firstly, the sample polled was a biased urban/peri-urban sample on Viti Levu, totally ignoring all rural people and all Vanua Levu.

Secondly, and more importantly, even this biased sample could not be expected to give honest opinions on frightening questions such as “is Bainimarama doing a good job as a Prime Minister” or “should the Army continue to be involved in government in Fiji”.

Hayward-Jones needs to think a bit more why even Bainimarama told the Australian journalist that he “does not trust the Fijian people”.

Hayward-Jones may not have heard of the Fijian term “liumuri” which political analysts and politicians in Fiji (including Bainimarama) know all too well as a very apt descriptor for treacherous indigenous Fijian politics for the last century and a half.

Indo-Fijians also have a similar term “aage-peeche”  which aptly describes equally treacherous Indo-Fijian politics as many an Indo-Fijian political leader has found out belatedly, to their cost.

Although Bainimarama keeps getting profusely thanked and praised (very prominently in the media) by Fijians all around the country for the tax-payer funded goodies he has been delivering, he quite sensibly does not trust them enough to go to the polls.

Bainimarama has seen what Fijian people did to Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara and Sitiveni Rabuka despite all the goodies they delivered to the Fijian people.

Bainimarama also knows that the very people singing his praises today, were also singing Qarases’s praises before 2006, but were nowhere to be seen when Bainimarama deposed Qarase.

Neither were Indo-Fijian people (except for an intrepid few) to be seen outside the Fiji Parliament, where Chaudhry and his fellow ministers, were held hostage for 56 days in 2000.

Which is why Bainimarama and Khaiyum will hang on to power in Fiji for as long as they can, without any elections, regardless of the huge public support that any Lowy Poll claims to show for him.

Lowy Lesson for Australian Diplomats in Fiji
But this is Hayward-Jones’ expert opinion on how the Australian Diplomatic Mission gets its allegedly biased information on Fiji people’s views:

          “Thanks in large part to the Fijian regime's restrictions on free speech, the Australian government has relied on the views largely of elites - academics, non-governmental organisation leaders, Fijians with chiefly status, former politicians, some businesspeople, blogs written largely by Fijian citizens residing in Australia and New Zealand - to inform its views of what the Fijian people think.
Oh dear. Who is left to give an opinion?  Hayward-Jones reveals all:

            With the exception of the occasional taxi driver, the people diplomats rely on for information and opinion tend not to be gardeners, textile workers, nurses, teachers, shop staff or unemployed people.”

Now, how many “gardeners, textile workers, nurses, teachers, shop staff or unemployed people” were invited to speak at Lowy Institute’s Auckland talk-fest recently? Did you say none?

But Hayward-Jones claims that this latter group “probably don't come to the attention of the regime in Fiji, and they may not feel as fearful as outspoken critics of the regime about the consequences of expressing an opinion”.

So you would expect their views to come through in the newspapers, radio and TV stations?  Oh, they don’t because of the media censorship?  You mean the Military Regime is censoring anyone critical in Fiji, and not just pesky academics at USP?  What a surprise.

So, the Lowy Institute thinks that ordinary Fiji people will honestly give their opinions on Bainimarama and the Army, to totally unknown interviewers appearing on their doorstep?

And you will then have a good idea of what “all Fiji people” think of how well Bainimarama is doing as a Prime Minister and whether the Army should continue running the country?

I remind that the national poll on the Charter allegedly received 92% approval, yet John Samy (one of the driving forces behind the Charter exercise), apparently admitted to the American Ambassador  that the results were obtained through intimidation.
Hayward-Jones needs to think a lot more about the draconian censorship in Fiji that stops anything negative from appearing in the media.

Two weeks ago, all 10 articles in one newspaper on the ANU/USP Fiji Economy Update were censored.  They were reporting on only mild and constructive criticisms of the Military Regime’s economic policies.

None of my writings can appear in the Fiji media, even if they are about far-away Japan.

But of course, writings by Graham Davis or Croz Walsh or any local academic sympathetic to the Regime can appear in any Fiji media, and they do.

Now, no doubt, any article by Jenny Hayward-Jones will feature prominently in at least one rag in Fiji, which calls itself a newspaper.

Hayward-Jones’ concluding paragraph
Hayward-Jones’ concluding paragraph really takes the cake in logic.   According to Hayward-Jones, to doubt the results of the Lowy Poll in Fiji must lead to the following conclusions:

The lessons we have to draw are that the Fijian people should not be asked to express their views and that critics of Australian policy towards Fiji are unreasonable.

You have to wonder if Canberra really is committed to freedom of speech in Fiji or only to the kind of speech that confirms the views of the Australian government.

The Executive Director of the Lowy Institute does herself no credit with such illogical attempts to defend the results of an indefensible opinion poll.

These convenient results she very selectively uses to support her real policy advocacy which is that she would like the Australian Government to change tack, re-engage with the Military Regime in Fiji, and end all the sanctions.

The Lowy Think-Tank Advice
In summary, Hayward-Jones’s advice to the Australian Government is: Let us give in to a Military Regime that has shown no interest whatsoever in returning the country to democracy, transparency, accountability etc which they keep trumpeting through their Charter, while totally ignoring and contradicting them in their everyday policies and actions.

Her real advice: Let us give the clear message to the military in all Pacific Island and nearby countries: they can
  • treasonously remove their elected government on totally spurious grounds;
  • change the judiciary and pass decrees so they cannot be legally challenged on anything;
  • buy off the army by promoting your incompetent army officers trained to uncritically obey orders, into key government positions and increase the salaries of all the rest;
  • co-opt enough disaffected citizens from within the country and abroad into your government machinery (especially religious leaders) to give it credibility;
  • appoint as many white faces as possible to give international credibility;
  • get leading business houses on your side by giving them the lollies they ask for;
  • get all the Business Councils with Australia, NZ, Canada, China, India, etc to ask for “normalcy” so that their business and profits can flow as usual (who cares about human rights and good governance in Fiji);
  • misuse hundreds of millions of tax-payers funds and stop all govt. audits on their own misdemeanors;
  • wreck as many organisations as you can control, with no explanations to the public;
  • get morally bankrupt persons to serve on an Audit Committee which in 2011 is looking at little pot-holes in 2004 while ignoring the craters of abuse since 2006; 
  • totally silence the people through Military Decrees and media censorship;
  • pay themselves multiple ministerial salaries;
  • use financial blackmail to get rid of critical academics at the University;
  • hang on to power long enough;
  • know that even for Super Powers like US and international “human rights preachers” like UN, democracy and human rights in Fiji or PNG are not as important as their international strategic interests in obtaining Fijian soldiers as cannon fodder in Afghanistan or Iraq;
  • and frightened by the China bogeyman and its unstinting support of military supplicant dictators;
  • eventually, even the Australian and NZ governments will give in and compromise with them.
But that would indeed be a sad day for the fundamental principles of basic human rights, law and order, and constitutionality in Fiji and for the rest of the Pacific.

Lessons for the Pacific
No doubt, the military hierarchies of resource-rich countries like PNG and Solomon Islands (once RAMSI is gone), are looking at Bainimarama’s kingdom, his international bravado, and frequent globe-trotting with great admiration and envy. 

If Bainimarama can successfully run George Orwell’s Animal Farm in Fiji, so can they (they also must have lots of “Khaiyums” waiting in the wings for such opportunities).

Australian and NZ capitulation to Bainimarama is all they would need to start them off on their own glorious quests to “save their countries from corrupt politicians”.

If they need an accompanying ideology, they also can promise to bring any one of electoral or economic or political or social equality to all their hundreds of scattered  backward tribes.  

Someone, somewhere, some tribe, some group, will believe them and rise to their defense, which can be given great prominence through the total media censorship of opposing views.

But of course, their army officers will also need at least eight years at the helm, like Bainimarama (2006-2014), or perhaps more, given that their people appear to be “less educated and advanced” then Fiji people! (yeah, don’t laugh).

Perhaps Lowy Institute should do a region-wide poll in PNG, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and other Pacific Islands, and ask their people if they would like a popular Military Government like Bainimarama’s?

The Lowy Institute could approach the Melanesian Spearhead Group to finance such a poll, given their love for Bainimarama.

They won’t even need to ask those countries for permission to conduct the poll: the Tebbutt Poll Manager in Fiji claims they did not ask the Fiji Military Regime for permission and the Ministry of  Information claims they did not know anything about the Lowy/Tebbutt Poll!   Yep, pigs and elephants fly as well.

With friends like the Lowy Institute and Jenny Hayward-Jones fighting to get oppressed and censored Fiji peoples’ voices heard by the Australian and NZ Governments, who needs enemies?

Post-script on the Lowy Poll Results
According to the Lowy Poll, 91% of the respondents are being honest when they said to strange interviewers on their door-step that Bainimarama was doing a very good, good or average job as Prime Minister, when under his five year reign:
  • the economy has failed to grow (effective loss of more than a billion dollars in income); 
  • the sugar industry is in dire straits, with hundreds of millions of FNPF and Reserve Bnk funds wasted on a failed FSC mill refit;
  • FNPF has lost hundreds of millions through bad management of large investments;
  • FNPF pensions are going to be reduced drastically;
  • $300 millions of EU money has been withheld from sugar industry reform;
  • hugely expensive foreign debts are acquire unnecessarily
  • The Military Regime is playing “Monopoly” with large Fijian companies like Fijian Holdings Limited with no accountability to shareholders;
  • massive billion dollar deals (like the Waila City) are being plotted with little evidence of financial viability or Planning Office approval or public accountability;
  • trade union rights are totally being gutted;
  • Fiji’s relationships with all her traditional partners (Australia, NZ, EU, Commonwealth, Forum Secretariat) are in tatters.
  • Fiji’s sports people are denied participation in the Commonwealth Games
  • Fiji’s religious groups are more alienated from each other than ever before.
  • military interference in the national rugby organisation and team which may have contributed to the debacle at the RWC and trauma for the rugby-mad Fiji public.

No Fiji Prime Minister has ever visited such blights on Fiji people: not Ratu Kamisese Mara or Timoci Bavadra or Sitiveni Rabuka or  Mahendra Chaudhry or Lai Qarase. None of them would have survived an election after such a five year “performance”.

The Lowy Poll also sees no problem that at the same time that 91% of their Poll respondents thought that Bainimarama is doing a good or average job, 95% of them also stated that the following human rights were important to them:
  • the right to freely express yourself
  • the right to freely vote in national elections
  • the right to a fair trial
  • the right to a media free from censorship.

Yet the Bainimarama Regime has severely curtailed all these basic human rights.


Anonymous said...

This is a dogs breakfast.

ex Fiji tourist said...

Once again, a great analysis of a dishonest, amateurish attempt at a poll.

Total reject said...

Jenny Hayward Jones is a total f-wit - a failed and useless DFAT reject!!!

Ram Sami said...

People make up their own minds, Narsey. You cant tell them which way to vote.

Anonymous said...

The Lowy Institute is hardly impartial (even though they claim to be non partisan) given that Frank Lowy and most of his sons are on the board. You would have to take their polling and interpretation of their polling with a grain of salt. You do not get a job at the Lowy Institute unless you are well right of centre and prepared to support the big end of town.