Another week and another round of malicious political gossip promoted by foreign pundits. This is all getting a bit annoying hence our headline this week.
This time the rumour spread that Deputy Prime Minister Manoa Kamikamica was mounting a political challenge for the PM’s job. The story started to float around a few weeks ago and incredibly, considering what an insane move this would be, it started to grow legs even among some who should have known better.
Perhaps it is a by-product of the traumatic and tumultuous times we have just been through, where even the ridiculous seems possible but this one was particularly crazy.
The DPM’s emphatic “wrong number” shutdown of the story was timely and allowed us all to refocus on, as he put it, on to the real work, “fixing the country”.
BUT there are forces keen to return us to those chaotic bad old days, exploiting Fiji’s active social media scene to promote all sorts of dark and fanciful rumours. The Fiji First party were enthusiastic participants in this space and old habits die hard though one wonders who is paying for this work nowadays.
This latest rumour, YB hears probably came from another place, disgruntled figures who instigated the mysterious single vote from the Coalition opposition parties for Fiji First in the secret ballot of the PM and Speaker. This small group still hold deep grudges against PA and DPM Manoa who they see as being one of the masterminds behind the creation of the People’s Alliance.
They also could not have been pleased by the announcement of plans to make future votes for these high officers open and accountable. This would mean anyone crossing the floor in a leadership vote would be vulnerable to expulsion, further strengthening the position of the Coalition and removing a considerable source of power from this small group.
Before we move on, a comment about these foreign political pundits who fuel much of the disruption. Prior to the change of Government, many of these foreign social media “news” sites played a key role in revealing a lot of what was going on behind the scenes in Fiji. Fuelled by information leaked from within the FF government, by disaffected civil servants and former supporters who could see the end was nigh, they performed a useful role filling an information vacuum left by the local media restricted by media legislation and 16 years of fear that meant that Fijians felt safer leaking offshore then locally.
With the early removal of media restrictions, the local media is steadily retaking this space, breaking stories and asking questions of those in power. And it seems that in seeking a point of difference these foreign social media sites are becoming increasingly hysterical and in some cases destructive, with little concern for verifying facts. In their desperation to “break” stories, they are vulnerable to being exploited by the the disgruntled forces mentioned previously. Remember these groups don’t want to expose themselves to rigorous local debate. They prefer to lurk in the shadows leaking unsubstantiated gossip to these sites who gleefully jump on the chance.
Truth is, this won’t go away any time soon and the local media still has a long way to go in reestablishing trust and credibility, one needs to but be increasingly sceptical of these sites.
PS…. get ready for the storm of abuse coming YBs way from these pundits who don’t enjoy a dose of accountability.
Oh, and on the succession issue within the People’s Alliance. When the party was originally formed the strategy was clear. To topple the incumbent Fiji First Government, they needed a leader who had charisma, national name recognition and was ready to wear the heat that would come with the challenge and there really was only one person qualified. Yes, there were others competent and capable but couldn’t deliver the votes AT THAT TIME.
The understanding was always, and Rabuka as party leader was quite open about this, that his role was to create the space for younger leaders to come through and eventually step up to the top job but that will take time. Health and unexpected circumstances permitting don’t expect any moves in that direction until after the next election.
This week the Budget debate is in full flight, and it will be interesting to observe the quality of the contributions from both sides of the house. For the first time in many years the budget and related documentation has been circulated on time and to both sides of the house AND the opposition received a full briefing from the Ministry of Finance to help them prepare. Note the briefing was from public servants not politicians, a big step forward in reestablishing an open and transparent Government.
In very broad terms, apart from the changes in tax etc, the Coalition Government has delivered a big spending budget, but it seems to be very realistic in the sense that items like for example subsidies to movie producers are recognised for what they really are, taxpayer handouts and so recognised as expenditure not as a tax refund. The issue will be, can we raise the tax revenue to pay for all of this, and that will depend on economic growth and collecting tax revenue. YB hears that recent tax collections are on track to meet these targets so that is a relief and certainly word from those who should know in Government, is that the investment pipeline is looking exciting but ??????????
Stay tuned for the latest news on our radio stations