NEW ZEALAND: Columnist Ranjit Singh criticises NZ media

Former Fiji Daily Post publisher calls New Zealand media 'parachute journalists' in coverage of Fiji coup

Pacific Media Watch
Thursday, December 21, 2006

Auckland --- Fiji human rights campaigner and newspaper columnist Thakur Ranjit Singh has criticised New Zealand media over its coverage of the military coup and accused the government of hypocrisy.

Singh, a former publisher of the Fiji Daily Post, last night told a public forum organised by the Coalition for Democracy in Fiji that NZ media was ignorant about Fiji affairs and naive about the post-coup reality.

"They shoot their mouths off through parachute journalists who relish in rubbishing things happening in NZ's neighbours without first appreciating the fact that Fiji is not a model of democracy," he said.

Singh said military commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama had saved Fiji from becoming "another Zimbabwe" with serious abuses of human rights and social justice.

He said New Zealand's government and media had lost sight of the basic balance of "democracy and justice".

"Deposed Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase seeks shelter and protection under the cover of democracy and Commodore Bainimarama is in pursuit of justice," he said.

"The commander does not want the 2000 coup criminals to be set free and the controversial [amnesty, lands and fisheries] legislation passed.

"Although it is the right of the government to pass legislation, such rights need to be exercised in the best interests of the nation.

"Democracy doesn't give governments the unfettered right to pass laws that are a clear abuse of its democractic powers.

"In Fiji's case, passing laws to facilitate the release of coup convicts is an insult to the army, an affront to the judiciary and a mockery of democracy."

Criticising the NZ government over what he called hypocrisy, Singh said Prime Minister Helen Clark had not advised Qarase early enough over his "poor governance".

He said Clark could gave advised Qarase on the racially divisive Qoliqoli Bill on fisheries long "before the milk was spilt".

New Zealand's answer would be that it does not tell a sovereign nation how to manage its affairs, he added.

"What hypocrisy? The same New Zealand feels it is alright for it to tell the army commander of a sovereign nation how to run his army."

Other speakers at the CDF forum included Suliana Siwatibau, chairperson of the Suva-based Pacific Centre for Public Integrity, and Green Party MP Keith Locke, a founding member of the democracy coalition.