April 05, 2012

Fiji attacks international flood coverage

Last updated 14:35 04/04/2012

Fiji's military regime has launched an attack on international media coverage of this week's deadly flooding saying it was aimed at pandering to anti-regime sentiment.

Seven people died in this week's floods and an 11-year-old boy remains missing, feared dead.

But concerned at the impact of the news internationally, the military regime and the Fiji Visitors Bureau (FVB) are trying desperately to save their Easter business.

FVB this morning issued photos of a cleaned up, tidy, but empty Denarau Island resort near Nadi captioned "ready for guests".

But the oddest comment came from the regime's military appointed Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum who told state controlled radio that the media should stop sensationalising on the flood disaster and report only the facts.

He also implies in a tweet that New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully and his Australian counterpart Bob Carr have their facts wrong.

"We need to be able to ensure that you also as the media organisations are reporting the facts, not sensationalising or pandering to overseas interests or a particular political point of view," he said.

"Because at the end of the day it is essential that those people in particular who suffered, who cannot access their homes, who have not been able to get to their homes or not able to get to their jobs are able to do so quickly.

"And the way that you do it is to be able to restore things to the normal way in which we do things as quickly as possible."

Dictator Voreqe Bainimarama and senior figures of the regime have also been using Twitter accounts set up by a Washington PR firm, Qorvis Communications.

"AG urges Foreign Affairs Ministers of Australia, NZ & journalists to report accuracy; in natural disasters, people's lives at stake fair," @FijiAG says.

And in another: "AG says eliminate 'politics' from reporting; inaccurate facts can risk human lives."

Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association in a statement issued by the Ministry of Information says it is "business as usual" in Fiji.

"As regular visitors to Fiji know, the country is extremely resilient and once storms or rains pass, Fiji is back to normal in a matter of days," tourism permanent secretary Elizabeth Powell said.

While Air Pacific was able to fly 3000 people out of Fiji during the floods, she said, full services had now resume to fly people back in and around the country.

Roads and bridges from Nadi International Airport "are passable, as nearby river waters have receded to normal levels."

While the military regime says one thing internationally, for different message is given domestically.

"This is to advise those travelling from Sigatoka to Nadi and from Lautoka to Nadi that Nadi Town will be closed to all travelling public as a major clean-up will be undertaken to clear dirt and debris within the central business district," the Information Ministry says.

Bainimarama has ordered soldiers in to clean up Ba town which was badly flooded.

Bainimarama's latest tweet uses a photo taken of an unknown Fijian man smiling as he paddled down a flooded street in a bath-tub.

"Filled with hope as Fijians preserve happiness and love for their country in the face of adversity," @FijiPM says.

Neither the Fiji regime nor the still tightly controlled Fiji media have revealed the identity of the man in the bathtub, or what happened to him.

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